Friday, July 8, 2011

January 1963: Introducing Stan and Jack?

Fantastic Four #10

Our Story

While plotting the next issue of The Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee bemoan the fact that they don't seem to be able to come up with any more classic villains for the pages of FF (a contention I would second) and yearn for the days when Doctor Doom wasn't hurling out to space in some time/space continuum. Just as they're voicing their concerns, Doom shows up at the door and commands the duo to phone Mr. Fantastic and have him come to the Marvel office to discuss plot outlines. Once there, Doom uses his magic to transport Reed to his lab where he explains to him how he came back from that incredible freefall into space.
Seems Doom was rescued by a race of aliens called The Ovoids (probably so named because of their oval-shaped heads) who brought him to their home planet of Ova and taught him how to switch brains with another person. They then transport him back to earth. Doom's plan is to switch brains with Reed and then destroy the Fantastic Four.
Once he's established trust with the other three, Doom gives them a bullshit story about a reducing ray he's been working on that will maximize their powers (in the case of Ben, make him human again). The three turn suddenly selfish and fight over who will be first to bathe in the ray. What Doom has neglected to tell his "partners" is that if the ray is kept on, they'll shrink to nothingness.
Meanwhile Reed/Doom has escaped his prison and tries to convince his teammates he's the real Mr. Fantastic. Beginning to believe him, Johnny concocts a way to find out who the real Reed is.

Peter Enfantino: Beginning to end, this is one gigantic WTF? This is the closest thing to a DC hero story of the late 1950s than anything Marvel did before or after. Dinosaurs in space suits. Dr. Doom at the Marvel offices. Back in the early sixties, these types of stories were the norm for Green Lantern, Batman and Superman. In the Seventies, these kinds of stories at Marvel were known as "The Dreaded Deadline Doom." The writer, against the deadline, would concoct some goofy concept and pump it out as soon as possible, usually with stock art (flashbacks were standard in these tales). You can take this story two ways: Stan and Lee had already run out of ideas ten issues in (I'd argue it happened earlier than that, but we'll call it ten) and really had no idea what to put into their now-monthly comic book for January 1963. Has to be a scary situation for a writer and artist of a hot comic book. Gloriously stupid as it is (the comic book equivalent of a Larry Buchanan film), it kept me entertained from start to finish.

JS: I'd blame that on all the Westerns you were reading, if you weren't enjoying those so much. I have to give Stan and Jack credit for going to great lengths to explain how Doom, last seen hurtling through space on an asteroid, found his way into the Marvel Bullpen, but in retrospect would have preferred it if Doc Doom just showed up for his latest adventure with the FF.

PE: All the Thrilling Three had to do to know that Reed (as Dr. Doom) was telling the truth about the brain transferal was check out how much eye makeup Dr. Doom (as Reed) was wearing.

JS: I think the giveaway is that Doom-as-Reed doesn't even look like Reed.

PE: Way to dress Reed down, Sue. In front of an audience, she basically tells Reed he may not be the guy for her as she's not made up her mind. Romantic lines spill from Reed: "Erm, I just thought you and I...that is, might, you know...I don't know..." He's called Mr. Fantastic for his elasticity rather than his way with women.

JS: Rather than speculate why the ladies might call him Mr. Fantastic, I'll let that thought sit with our readers...

PE: Reed specifically tells Johnny not to use his heat on the jammed door as it could trigger a nuclear explosion. The kid does it anyway, citing a new trick he'd never used before (and, in fact, didn't even know he could do!), and Reed ruffles his head and exclaims "Good job, Johnny!"

JS: There are times when it seems that Reed Richards must have gotten his schooling from a correspondence course.

PE: The pinnacle of evil, one of the icons of the super-villain, genius unmatched, Dr. Doom uses the line "Okay, sister, You're asking for it!" Never in my wildest dreams...

JS: I think it's worth noting that Doom's mask comes off in this issue. Unfortunately, the only ones to get a glimpse of his visage (Stan and Jack) never bother to describe or illustrate it.

PE: Alicia Masters puts in her obligatory girl friend scene, with The Thing gushing about her incredible sculpting abilities. I'll say! Alicia has crafted remarkable likenesses of the FF's foes (Moleman, Dr. Doom, Sub-Mariner, Skrulls, and Miracle Man) without having seen them. That Ben Grimm must have given her incredibly detailed descriptions! And where's her evil uncle, The Puppet Master in that crowd?

PE: The Ovoids have oval heads. Somewhere out there in the vast Marvel Universe live the Obloids, the Squaroids, the Rectangoloids, and the Hexagoids.

JS: From egg-heads to Ovoids... setting us up for the string bean skulled Impossible Man next ish!

PE: Is Latvia located right next door to New York? The Three manage to make it there in no time to break down Doom's castle wall.

JS: You think Stan and Jack have time to deal with such details?

PE: Johnny Storm whips up a "heat mirage" reflection of a stick of dynamite being used in a nearby construction site. Say What?? If I was stuck in the body of Dr. Doom and I wanted to convince Sue Storm I was Reed Richards, I'd just tell her all the things I didn't try on her in the back of the Fantasti-car! She'd see through the ruse in no time!

JS: Clearly, this time out, we've seen the last of Doctor Doom. He (literally) shrunk into nothingness.

PE: On the fan page, we get a letter from G. B. Love, another of the founding members of early comic fandom. Love would go on to publish the landmark fanzine, Rocket's Blast.

Journey Into Mystery #88

Our Story

After Thor hurtled Loki to Asgard a few months back, we see that Odin, ruler of the Norse gods, has sentenced him to stay in the Golden Realm forever. That doesn’t seem like such a bad punishment, but Loki is determined to avenge his defeat and ignores his fathers decree. First he uses his magic to spy on his half-brothers whereabouts (in so doing he realizes that Dr. Blake and Thor are one and the same), then he turns himself into a snake and slithers past Heimdall down the rainbow bridge to Earth. This time, he knows just where to find Thor/Blake , and challenges him to a battle in Central Park. Loki’s plan this time is to trick Thor into giving up his hammer, and to imprison the weapon in a force field. With the aid of a pre-hypnotized Jane Foster (threatened by a tree turned tiger—can’t say I recall when this ever happened to me), he succeeds. After Thor turns back into the good doctor, Loki sets about having a great time turning people into white “nothings”, cars into ice cream (now there’s some practical magic), etc. Once again Thor outwits his half brother by using a life size Thor dummy, and making it appear to Loki that the hammer is no longer I the force field. When Loki lifts the field, DR. Blake jumps out from behind the dummy to grab the magic hammer once again. After a short skirmish, Thor catches Loki (now in the form of a pigeon) in a tennis net and personally escorts him back to Asgard.

JS: Okay, so a few issues back I let it slide when Loki turned people into negatives. But turning people into blanks? Did 60s comic fans fall for these two dimension inflictions on would-be three dimensional people?

JB: A nice cover to start off with. This issue makes clear that Thor and Loki are both Odin’s sons, but doesn’t yet reveal the story behind the god of evils’ origin. In these early Loki issues, it’s pretty simple battles, but as time goes on, Loki gets more and more clever.

JS: My problem with giving a character unlimited power (turning trees to tigers, buildings into ice cream) is that they almost always conveniently don't use it when their plans are thwarted.

JB: I wish Jane Foster would hurry up and show some, well…something other than daydreams.

JS: Or stop fainting just as Thor's secret identity is revealed...

Tales to Astonish #39

Our Story

The insect world is abuzz with the menace of The Scarlet Beetle, a strangely glowing bug who, due to an atomic accident, has a brain roughly "equal to a human's." Whether we're talking Reed Richards' equal or Jane Foster's equal is not revealed. The Scarlet Beetle declares war on mankind and it's up to the mini-sized Ant-Man (who might be little but retains his man-sized strength) to thwart the master plan. (Didn't they just establish that he has ant-like strength a few issues back? Now they want him to have his normal human strength despite being shrinkey-dinked? -JS) Things don't go well though, when the Red Bug gets hold of Henry Pym's growth formula and grows to super-size and commands his legions of killer insects. Termites eat through telephone poles! Spiders bite city officials! Grasshoppers lug dynamite!
But all is not lost. Thanks to Pym's army of DDT-laden ants, peace is restored to the free world.

JS: Time out Green Bay. Is it just me, or is Ant-Man making out with a wasp (not The Wasp) on the cover? I guess most people miss that when befuddled by the English speaking giant beetle.

Peter Enfantino: I stopped myself before noting how ludicrous it was that the army of ants was armed with DDT-guns.

JS: That's where you felt the story became ludicrous? Did you not notice that the arch villain is an English speaking beetle?

Strange Tales #104

Our Story

Johnny Storm is at the bank when he witnesses a stickup by self-proclaimed "Master Criminal" Paste-Pot Pete! The Torch sends a flaming figure to follow Pete, but the Picasso of Paste escapes by motorcycle after sealing a police car shut with paste from his gooey bucket and squirt gun.

The Torch follows PPP to a nearby missile base, where the villain steals the government's latest missile, knowing that any Red Nation would pay a fortune for it. Pete flees by truck and the Torch gives chase, but his flame passes its time limit and peters out.

Paste-Pot Pete glues the Torch to the missile, which accidentally is launched. The Torch manages to extricate himself just before the ICBM blows up over water (a mushroom cloud goes unnoticed). Pete briefly battles the Torch before hitching a ride on a passing jet (via a pasty rope) and escaping a sticky end.

Peter Enfantino: I know we're talking about a comic book where a teenager catches on fire for fun and fame but the scene in which Johnny shoots a "stream of flame too thin to be noticed" that then transforms into a duplicate of himself stretches credibility even for this old Marvel Zombie! Then, to top it off, he "wills" the flaming dupe to follow Paste Pot Pete as he makes his escape. So the Torch is telepathic as well? And how does Pastey know the figure flying above him is harmless?

JS: Who'd have thought I'd be longing for talking insects. Paste-Pot Pete? 

PE: Larry Leiber's science class continues with our first look at a Delta-Cosmic Missile, the most powerful rocket ever invented! Paste Pete unloads his specially-designed paste cannon and shoots at the rocket in mid-blast-off. Who builds these super-villain weapons? Is there a storefront you go to where the items hang from the wall like a Home Depot? Or do the nefarious baddies build these things all by themselves?

JS: The best thing I can say about these stories from Strange Tales and Tales to Astonish is that they're thankfully short.

PE: The story is badly written but I liked the art for the most part. Ayers' inks on Kirby's pencils this issue gave the strip a retro-look as if we were reading an adventure of the original Torch from the 1940s.

Jack: I also liked the closeup of Johnny Storm attached to the rocket. This is a preview of better art to come in the FF.

PE: Lucky for Pete, that super-sonic jet was flying overhead low enough for him to latch onto. Doubly lucky for him, no bones were broken when he let go over the ocean and did a swan dive into the water. Trebly lucky for him, he had hired a guy on a boat to pick him up in just the spot he let go.

Hulk #5

Our Story
Marvel releases another Hulk issue with two tales of awesomeness! Our first epic, creatively titled "Beauty and the Beast," begins with Thunderbolt Ross, his military lackeys, along with Dr. Banner and Jones, viewing action slides of the Hulk. From far away, underneath the earth's crust in a subterranean lair, we first meet would-be world conqueror, 'Tyrannus.' Through images he observes Betty Ross. He proclaims that this woman will help him rule the world! The evil doer changes from his Caligula attire into more modern earth clothes before he goes to New Mexico. Under the guise of being an Archeologist, Tyrannus befriends Betty and they make a date to go searching through some caves. Bruce and Rick meet Tyrannus at Betty's cabin right before the couple leaves. Bruce is suspicious yet he doesn't know why? They follow Betty and Tyrannus secretly. As they go deeper into the caves using Tyrannus's specialized tricked-out cave-mobile, our villain seals off a portion of the cave as he kidnaps Ms. Ross. Tyrannus reveals that his diabolical plot is to use her as leverage for when he and his geeky army of little, yellow mutants invade earth. Through projection he tells Thunderbolt that if Betty is going to survive, he better not have any opposition from the U.S. army. When Rick and Bruce come upon the sealed cave section, they return to their hideout and change Bruce back into the Hulk. Once they go back and break the seal, the heroes get knocked out by some gas Tyrannus sprays them with. The Hulk wakes up in an arena where he is forced into combat against a cheesey robot that he quickly dispatches. Before he can do any further damage, the Hulk get blasted with a ray gun. Tyrannus and his crew put the Hulk to work as a slave which he complies to, only because Betty is still captive. Rick finally starts pulling his weight as he finds and sets Betty free. They go tell the Hulk and the big guy cuts loose, going on a rampage. He knocks over several walls, pillars, until the ceiling collapses and buries Tyrannus. The Hulk, Rick, and Betty drive out of the cave to safety after stealing one of Tyrannus's vehicles.

The second story, "The Hordes of General Fang," starts out with tough guy Thunderbolt Ross finally being able to use his crappy Mr. Freeze rocket gun to capture the Hulk. It works horribly as the Hulk is only suspended in ice briefly, before breaking out and escaping. Meanwhile, in the made-up 3rd rate country of Llhasa, an evil band of guerrillas, led by General Fang, takes over a small village. The wimpy high priest, or whatever he is, leader of the country, doesn't have the resources to clean up his own back yard so he pathetically goes on the radio, asking for another countries help. Bruce feels that he must stop the chaos to prevent WWIII and takes Rick along with him to the country to restore order. The Hulk, and keep in mind with Banner's brain, comes up with the brilliant idea of dressing himself up as a Yeti to prey on the bad guy's superstitions so that they fear him. Fang's crew retaliates with a dragon projection which the Hulk jumps threw and destroys. In the end, the Hulkster decimates the mini-militia, takes General Fang to a remote island, and drops him there, knowing that his enemies army's routinely patrol that particular island. I need a drink.........

Peter Enfantino: That Rick Jones is such a dumbhead!

JS: I want to know who was writing this stuff? There are more words per page than in the entirety of some of the other books of the period. It makes me wonder if Stan was getting some help (I never said good help) on the side.

PE: When I saw Hulk's slave garb in this issue I flashed back on the very popular World War Hulk arc a few years back (which in turn took me back to the classic Jarella arc of the early 70s).

Jack: I really like Kirby's art in the first story. Whenever Tyrannus or his minions appear, it looks just like something out of the 1970s Kirby Eternals series.

PE: The Ben Grimm dialog ("Ain't nothin' I can't do, squirt—and don't forget it"; "This is where I lower the boom" etc) coming out of the mouth of the Hulk is numbing and just makes me glad that Stan and Jack wised up later on.

Mr. Bruce Banner looks quite stunning in his smoking jacket and ascot.

PE: Betty Ross finds out the Hulk is nothing but a softie but then gets amnesia at the climax so she won't remember all the good deeds the big green lug did for her. On the bright side, there wasn't much in her brain to be wiped clean.

JS: I think she suffers from Jane Foster disease.

PE: Interesting that the team decided to give readers two adventures in each issue of The Hulk rather than padding one. This would be admirable if the stories were any good.

JS: What's interesting is the second story ends with The Hulk indicating he'll be around for a long time, a bit ironic considering he was one issue away from a lengthy hiatus (and return as the back-up character in Tales to Astonish).

PE: The return of the Iceberg rocket!! An incredibly deadly weapon with but one purpose: to turn the Hulk into a giant ice cube. Alas, Thunderlips Ross never bargained for Hulk's amazingly temperature and the ice cube melts in a matter of minutes. Back to the drawing board.

Jack: I think the idea of Banner turning into the Hulk whenever there's trouble is a big reason why this series is about to be canceled. They didn't know what to do with the Hulk.

JS: So why not give him Superman's super-breath.

PE: I thought Fantastic Four was wacky but this one had me ROTFLMAO! Let's see, how about some of these classic moments:

1/ While on a flight to Llasa (which, for some reason, issues a plea on Bruce Banner's local radio station for help), The Hulk and Rick Jones have to make an emergency exit...which they do while thousands of feet in the air, where the oxygen would be a tad bit thin for Rick, but miraculously the plane doesn't take a dive!
2/ The Hulk then jumps from one island to another while Rick Jones hangs on for dear life. If he's not dead from lack of oxygen or frozen, his bones have been crushed from the massive percussion!
3/ But I saved the best for last. To defeat the army of General Fang, Hulk packs the Abominable Snowman suit he always knew would come in handy (but forgets the mask). It works but not in the way he'd planned as the soldiers take one look at the Hulk/Grinch and laugh themselves to death.

JS: Where the Wild Things Are, indeed...

Rick Jones dares not tell Hulk how stupid he looks

Also this month

Gunsmoke Western #74
Kid Colt Outlaw #108
Linda Carter, Student Nurse #9 (final issue)
Love Romances #103
Millie the Model Annual #2
Millie the Model #112
Tales of Suspense #37
Two-Gun Kid #61


In the double-length thriller, “The Other Kid Colt” (Gunsmoke Western #74), our misunderstood hero only wants to enjoy a nice steak and a hot cup of joe in a new town. Aware he’d be recognized anywhere, the Outlaw strips off his signature vest and hat and rubs Indian dye in his hair to disguise himself. He then waltzes in to town to enjoy his supper. As anyone knows by now, this poor guy can’t just walk into a town without causing trouble and this one is no difference. While enjoying his meal, the saloon-bustin’ Butler Brothers make a bit of noise and make a mess of the Kid’s food. This doesn’t sit well with Colt and he wastes no time moppin’ the floor with the lot of them. Impressed, the townfolk offer Kid Colt the vacant sheriff’s job and, thinking “what the heck,” he takes it. Changing his name so that no one will suspect who he really is, life is good for Sheriff Colt Kidder until someone spots Kid Colt on the edge of town and reports him to the sheriff. Realizing his “three hots and a cot” is history, he rides out and makes good before the town can lynch the imposter. An entertaining story, aided by its extra pages, with the usual solid Jack Keller work. I will say, for the record, that Kid Colt must be running out of new towns to wander into by now. And if you were wanted and recognized in every town you visited, wouldn’t you get some new clothes?

And Stan needed to stop typing “If’n we catch Kid Colt, Outlaw, it’ll put our town on the map” every story as well. That cliché opens “The Kid Goes East (Kid Colt Outlaw #108). The Kid is in a jam again and decides he needs to get the hell out of Dodge so he hops a freight train to New York. But, alas, as we witnessed in our last story, trouble just seems to seek out Kid Colt. Arriving in New York, he saves a woman with a runaway carriage. Turns out it was no accident and the woman, a rich heiress, is the target of her money-grubbing uncle. Seeing The Kid as an obstacle, the uncle sets Colt up and has the cops after him in no time. All’s well in the end though when Kid runs the uncle down in the street and breaks the heiress’ heart by pulling the old “It would never work between us, sweetheart. We’re too different.” angle. Perfect example of why extra pages don’t always work when you’ve got a badly written and poorly illustrated tale. Jack Keller is credited with the art but this looks nothing like his previous work. These characters look like they just stepped out of Archie and Jughead, with Moose Mason standing in for Kid Colt.

Thank goodness Tales of Suspense #37 serves up a good old-fashioned “giant monster from outer space” story after so much weak sf in the last few issues. “Haag! Hunter of Helpless Humans!” is an effective enough take on The Most Dangerous Game done monster style. Haag comes to earth looking for big game, using his transporter beam to capture humans and beam them up to his hovering ship. When the army gets wind of what’s going on, they attempt to blast Haag out of the sky but his handy-dandy invisible shield makes his ship indestructible. Mankind seems doomed to be cherry-picked for sport until a big-game hunter gets the bright idea of trapping Haag’s spacecraft in a net and forcing him to surrender. This is the kind of story I would expect Jack Kirby to handle art chores on but here we get rather mediocre Steve Ditko

In “The Killer and the Kid” (Two-Gun Kid #61), most of the “action” takes place in the courtroom after Matt Hawk attempts to clear a man of a robbery murder charge. It’s not a recipe for success and I’ve got to believe that the readers let Stan know that. Kids want more Bonanza than Perry Mason. I know I do. Best piece in this issue is the diagram of Two-Gun Kid’s amazing four second costume change. Pure brilliance!


  1. I wish I'd had some of these early Hulk issues- they sound like a blast! Likewise the Tales Of Suspense and Tales To Astonish; they sound like great fun even when they're bad. I'm hoping that my sweetie Jane Foster will soon show everyone soon she's more than meets the eye. So far she's become the yardstick for dumbness!

  2. The first real comic store we had in Victoria, B.C. (at least in the 70's) was called Astonishing Books And Comics. It was a little place in the front of a building that had a suite in the back where the owner lived. He had comics covering every square inch of wall in comic bags. I remember thinking at the time he must have had every comic ever made! The one I wanted most was Journey Into Mystery #112, where Thor battles the Hulk. It had a price tag of $3.25, and I thought it was a lot!

  3. I remember going into NYC in the mid 70s with my father & sister and walking about 50 blocks up to Supersnipe. My dad didn't have money for the subway but I wanted to go to the famous comic store so badly that we walked. I don't recall much about the store, though!

  4. Well, let's hope JB, that your real life sweetie does not represent the same imbecility that your paper one does. I'm beginning to really really worry about your taste in women.
    Wow -- I sure wish Loki would come around here -- it's warm out and I'd like my house to be ice cream! I think these villains just don't think well under stress. They need time to plan their bizarre tricks (I think I'd like to turn JB into a paper hero so he could be stuck with Jane Foster for the rest of his life! I think he may deserve it.)

  5. Now, now.....nobody deserves to be stuck with a paper Jane Foster. Not even Paste-pot Pete.

    The first comic store to open up in my town was when I was in eighth grade. It was called, "Legends of Comics." A sleazy wannabe Mafia guy ran and owned the place. An uncouth moron that would spout out about how tough he was while wearing a stained 'Wolverine,' t-shirt that was several sizes to small. Me and my school chums would prank call him routinely, hurling racial slurs at him. Eventually he had enough. He bought a caller i.d. which was pretty rare for 1992. The cops just made us promise not to do it again. When the store owner wanted to press charges they told him to "get a life."

  6. That Two-Gun kid diagram has got to be one of the stupidest things I've ever seen in a comic book.

  7. I can imagine getting dressed like the Two-Gun Kid into my uniform in the morning. I think those time saving gadgets may actually trip me up a bit! I don't think I would be able to get ready in five seconds but you never know until you try it . . .

  8. Takes Scoleri four seconds flat to get on his Chewbacca outfit in the morning.

    First comic store I ever frequented in the early 70s was the legendary Comics Collector Store in downtown San Jose, run by the equally legendary Bob Sidebottom - Google him! - a veritable paradise!