Wednesday, August 10, 2011

August 1963: Jack Davis in Rawhide!

Journey Into Mystery 95

Our Story

“The Demon Duplicators”

After Thor has created a raging thunderstorm in Asgard to save their crops from drought, he returns to Earth for a fascinating experiment. Dr. Don Blake has used his medical genius to create a green android, and in his absence (Thor has to be here), Blake has asked fellow scientist Professor Zaxton, a theoretical physicist, to make a public presentation. Operated by a remote control, Zaxton demonstrates how the android is not only almost indestructible, but also brilliant. It uses its IQ of 375 to solve the world’s most complex math problem, then stands calmly as Thor strikes it with his hammer—to no effect. However, Zaxton, moving all the dials at once on the remote control, is informed by the android that this has short-circuited his mechanism, and he’s going to explode! Thor manages to bind the android in metal with his hammer, and sends him up into the atmosphere in the nick of time. Baroom! Don Blake returns to his office to find that a jealous Zaxton, having deliberately caused the android’s demise, has taken Jane Foster hostage until Blake will help him perfect his own invention—a duplication ray. Using Jane as blackmail, Zaxton convinces Blake to help him improve the duplication machine so it will work on living things. After a long night of work, the two scientists succeed, only to have Zaxton turn on Blake (having transformed to Thor), and duplicate the Thunder God. Of course, any duplicates created are identical with one exception; they have the opposite of the original’s nature. And Zaxton knows Thor’s secret identity now. To avoid harming anyone else, Thor flies away to do battle elsewhere with his double. Zaxton slows Thor down by duplicating a building in his path, a series of airliners in his way, and even a third Thor to protect number two from his hammer blow. Finally at the mercy of his doppelganger, Thor braces for the impact of two (duplicated) Mjolnir’s. They pass right trough him! Recalling the hammer’s inscription, …”if he be worthy”… which the duplicate clearly is not, Thor realizes the duplicate could have no real power, and takes the upper hand, hurling his hammer at the vaporizing double. Zaxton creates a double of himself to confuse Thor. But when the frantic scientist falls backward over a bridge to his death (duplication machine too), too fast for Thor to save him, the world is left with a benevolent Zaxton, now free to put his genius to use to help mankind. Thor finds and frees Jane, and returns to Asgard to stop the rains.

JB: I always liked this issue; it’s full of some crazy improbabilities. For example, when did Don Blake learn to build androids (you mean the life-size Academy Award?! -Peter)? And one that Thor’s hammer couldn’t even affect? Or why would “turning all the dials at once” on the remote control cause the android to blow up? On the other hand, the conclusion that the duplicate would be powerless due to its evil nature seems plausible given the hammer’s inscription.

PE: I'm assuming here, Professor Jim, but Robert Bernstein, aka R. Berns, was writing both Iron Man and Thor strips at the same time. Seems as though he may have mixed his Blakes with his Starks?

JS: The only thing more ridiculous than Blake making Androids in his spare time is Zaxton's multiplier machine. And what does he do with it? Find himself a beautiful woman (not Jane Foster) and duplicate her? No. He increases the feral cat population in the Marvel Universe. Surely  that's going to come back to haunt someone.

JB: On page one that’s the longest-handled Mjolnir I’ve ever seen! Maybe Joe Sinnott had a phobia about tools.

JS: Make that three longest Mjolnirs (there's a line I never imagined I'd write in my lifetime). They seem to be more of the sledge hammer variety.

PE: Let's keep track: two hammer thuds on the ground brings a rainstorm, three sends it on its way, four smacks and you'll get lightning bolts, five an intelligent nurse.

JB: You’d think Odin could start his own rainstorm. I guess Stan and Jack were still figuring out what powers and limitations the gods had.

JS: I think someone turned in a 12 page story and were told they needed 13.

PE: Sinnott's art here is dreadful but, incredibly, the writing is worse. I know this is aimed at kids but the dialogue elicits groans. "R. Berns" must have assumed his audience would either be looking at the pretty pitchers or skimming. My pessimistic side tells me he really didn't care. Marvel couldn't have been paying much in those days and, put in his position, would anyone have given their all? Two words: Steve Ditko. 

JS: Are we failing to note a Marvel milestone with this issue? At least in the superhero titles we've primarily been focused on, I think this issue includes our first visit from the grim reaper with the death of Zaxton?

PE: But does anyone in the Marvel Universe stay dead?

Tales of Suspense 44

Our Story

Helping out an old archaeologist buddy of his as Iron Man, Tony Stark stumbles on the tomb of Hatap, The "Mad Pharaoh." Hatap blackmails Stark to accompany him to the past where he plans to overthrow Cleopatra and take control of her kingdom. Forgetting that the jaunt may be dangerous and a one-way trip, Tony Stark enthuses to himself that this may be a really fun adventure and accompanies Hatap back to B.C. Egypt. Once there, he pops on his Iron Man suit and escapes The Pharaoh's grasp. It's only a hop, skip, and a jump to a Comics Code-regulated romance with Cleopatra for Marvel's Number One Horndog, Tony Stark.

JS: If you're a billionaire socialite like Tony Stark, aren't you going to do your globe trotting with battery back-ups? Or at a minimum, carry the appropriate outlet converters for when you have to plug in to the hotel room socket?

PE: So Hatap wants to stay in suspended animation for 2000 years and has Cleopatra's men embalm him? Good trick. But why not 100 years? And why the (Don) Heck does he want to travel back in time to rule Egypt when there's an Egypt ripe for the taking in the present day? I... need... to... know! He obviously had Cleo's guys entomb him with a transistor radio as he immediately recognizes Tony Stark as "one of the greatest scientists of the 20th Century." I'd have wanted an all-around genius like Don Blake but I guess Stark would do in a pinch.

JS: I think it's fair that immediately following his reanimation, he'd grab the latest edition of the Cairo Times to find out what brilliant inventors were visiting Egypt.

"Just deserts" Early example of punning?
PE: The fantastic elements of the story aside (time traveling and healthy embalming), I'm most amazed by how many gizmos Tony Stark can fit into his little attache case. A fully-functioning Iron Man suit plus transistor-powered jet engines and water boot propellers.

JS: This is turning into a landmark month for ridiculousness. It's bad enough they give Iron Man the opportunity to go back in time, but does he once consider how all the havoc he wreaks will impact history? And what happens when an archaeologist unearths his briefcase?

PE: The Mad Pharaoh meets a grisly end but, since he has no fluids in his body, not a particularly bloody one. Sadly, this would be the only appearance of Hatap, the Mad, Embalmed, 2000 year old news junkie.

JS: I don't know what I have a bigger problem with: a) Cleopatra falling in love with a tin man, or b) Stark's ability to use the magic amulet to return to 1963 without taking off his metal gloves, or c) Iron Man feeling the need to install casters to his suit to roll in the sand, when he clearly has a perfectly reasonable flying mechanism. I think we've hit a low point with Iron Man. Things have to start looking up with the Avengers right around the corner. Don't they?

Strange Tales 111

Our Story:

"Fighting to the Death with the Asbestos Man"

Professor Orson Kasloff, a brilliant scientist, wants to profit from his genius by teaming up with criminals.  He decides that the only way to be taken seriously is to defeat the Human Torch!  He fashions a suit of asbestos and becomes The Asbestos Man.  His first battle with the Torch is a success, but Johnny soon figures out a way to beat him and the rematch doesn't go so well for Professor Kasloff.

JS: What's with the Dick Tracy villains this issue? Did Dick Ayers outsource those panels to another artist?

Jack:  I think we can credit those to Ayers, as well as Sue Storm's fetching beehive hairdo.

JS: Kids, don't try this at home. Asbestos is bad. Later in his short-lived career, I believe he came to be known as Cancer Man.

Jack:  Next time I'm on Long Island, I plan to look into the real estate market.  There are an awful lot of mansions and castles that must be up for sale, what with their owners incarcerated after trying to take down the Human Torch.

Our Story:

"Face-to-Face with the Magic of Baron Mordo!"

Baron Mordo, former pupil of the Master, wants to be the most powerful magician of all.  Entering a trance, he sends his spirit image to Tibet, where it causes the Master's servant to poison him.  Dr. Strange senses that the Master is in trouble and sends his spirit image to help.  Strange and Mordo's images battle each other until Strange tricks Mordo and wins the battle.

JS: So I'm getting the sense that Stan and Steve were still getting a handle on the whole astral projection thing. I just don't quite envision two sorcerers' astral projections engaging in a virtual fistfight.

Jack:  This is not as good as the first Dr. Strange story, but it's still very different from everything else going on in the Marvel superhero line at the time.

JS: I find it somewhat amusing that all three characters basically spend the entire story sitting in their respective locations.

Jack:  I think I'm going to start sending my spirit image on business trips.  I am not sure how to do the expense reports, though...

Fantastic Four 17

Our Story

Still smarting from the escape of Doctor Doom (in their previous adventure), The Fantastic Four use every power they have to track down the metal-faced villain. Unbeknownst to The Four, Doom is already monitoring their every move with a group of "followers," beings who float directly above each member. Reed Richards is on to their enemy's plan and quickly dispatches the Macy's Day Parade wannabes. Enraged, Doctor Doom does what every FF villain should do to get results: he kidnaps Alicia Masters. Doom's ultimate goal is soon revealed. Not millions of dollars in gold. Not possession of a Gamma-Ray. Not even his own Marvel title (that would come a decade later). He simply wants a post in JFK's cabinet!

The FF are having none of that nonsense and they invade Doom's secret fortress (hidden in the clouds over New York) where they find chambers designed to snuff out each of them.

PE: The warehouse of "Reed Richard's Inventions That Get Used Once and Then Never Again" must be housed in a second Baxter Building. This issue Stretch builds a launching pad for Ant-Man (why he needs this is anyone's guess since Anty's constantly calling on ants to cushion his fall) and a "highly refined radar set, extra sensitive to human flesh covered by steel"!! I'll be keeping tabs on the latter to see if it's ever used again. It should come in handy.

JS: This issue marks the first appearance of a presidential forehead.

PE: Could this be the first Marvel Comic multi-part story? usually the stories are inclusive to an issue and have no carry-over. Though it's minor, the events here build on those in 16.

JS: I don't think this is much different than some of the consecutive Sub-Mariner stories we saw earlier on. I assume the first real multi-parter is still a ways off.

PE: Johnny Storm expands his powers yet again to include throwing "sonar heat waves" to detect Doom's armor. And did I say the Sub-Mariner was outwearing his welcome? Five appearances from the Doctor already and none were very memorable.

JS: To be fair, we've got what, like 25 Human Torch appearances, none of which are particularly memorable either.

PE: In the letters pages, we get the return of Paul Gambaccini and Ron Foss.

JS: You really need to get out more.

PE: I really need good stories to talk about is what I need! Which brilliantly segues into---

Tales to Astonish 46

Our Story

Bored out of her skull because there's no crime in the city, The Wasp begs Henry Pym to take her to Greece, land where mythology was born. Once there, they discover that the local fishermen are being terrorized by a cyclops. The one-eyed giant is kidnapping sailors and junking boats but what's the real story? Turns out that aliens from the planet A-Chiltar III (Chiltarians?) are in the neighborhood, planning an invasion and have rigged up one of their super-robots to scare off the locals. If there was ever a job for the world's tiniest, most worthless, superheroes, this would be it. Wouldn't it?

JS: Iron Man goes to Egypt 2000 years in the past, so why not let Wasp and Ant-Man vacation in Greece. How else could they encounter a space alien-controlled robot cyclops?

PE: Another titanic script from the pen of H. E. Huntley. A shame his reign was so short. But, realistically, could I expect better from another writer? There's no excitement in anything Ant-Man and The Wasp do. I'm sure the powers that be came to that assumption 48 years before I did since... well, just keep tuned.

JS: Do I have to? I know of at least one reader who admits to being a fan of the Ant-Man & Wasp. Anyone else out there? Can you at least let us know when and if the good stories start?

Also this month

Kathy #24
Modeling with Millie #24
Patsy and Hedy #89
Patsy Walker #108
Rawhide Kid #35


and her brother aint half-bad neither!
While trying to outrun a posse, The Rawhide Kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time when "The Raven Strikes!" (Rawhide Kid #35). The Raven is a goofy hombre dressed up like a bird who robs lonesome riders out in the desert. Rawhide ends up penniless and on his behind after being bushwhacked by the birdbrain, but worse he's trapped by the posse and thrown into jail by the local sheriff. Rawhide makes one of those bargains only he, Two-Gun and Colt can make: if the sheriff will release the desperate outlaw, he'll hunt down The Raven and bring him back for trial. The sheriff thinks that's just a splendid idea and completely trusts Rawhide to keep his promise. While heading out of town, Rawhide goes sweet on a purty young thing named Nora whose brother don't take kindly to his sister's affection for a known outlaw. When Rawhide catches up to The Raven and unmasks him, no reader will be surprised at the revelation. It's a ridiculous revelation, but the obvious one. Writer Ron Zimmerman who would revamp The Rawhide Kid in the 2003 mini-series, "Slap-Leather" obviously didn't read some of these early adventures (or didn't care). The new guys coming in always seem to want to erase what came before. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not. End of sermon. Jack Davis' art has looked pretty good on some of these 1960s westerns but here it's a bit too cartoony (though the panel below looks as though it could have been lifted from one of Davis' Tales from the Crypt classics). If cowboy boots had shoe laces...


  1. Sorry to have to put on my bad-cop hat here, guys, but first of all, I believe the accepted Marvel spelling for the name of Thor's hammer is "Mjolnir" rather than "Mjolner" (unless, in those early days, they were inconsistent about that as they were about so many things, e.g., Peter "Palmer"), and second, wouldja for cryin' out loud learn the difference between "its" and "it's"? I know things are kinda free and easy in the blogosphere, but man! This IS a university, after all. What would Professor Warren say? (Answer: Nothing--he hadn't been introduced yet!) Again, apologies for being nitpicky.

    And, for the record, I am an unabashed fan of the Pyms (before Shooter got his greasy mitts on them). But admittedly they, like various other aspects of the Marvel Universe, had yet to hit their stride, which they probably did in my long-term favorite book, THE AVENGERS.

  2. Thank you professor emeritus Bradley! I've made those corrections. As you can see, what we really need are teaching assistants to proof our work. ;)

    I do hope you're right about Mr. & Mrs. Pym ultimately redeeming themselves... bring on The Avengers!

  3. My pleasure. Of course, the wedding was a ways off yet, but I think that once they tied the knot, the Pyms were among the few married superheroes around, at least in the M.U., and they appeared to have a more fun relationship than, say, the Richardses. I loved how when Hank was in his Giant-Man/Goliath phase, Jan called him "Highpockets"; it's hard to envision Sue calling Reed "Stretcho" or the like, as Ben did. And it was suggested that there was a nice sexual spark between them, another thing that seemed less likely with the somewhat starchier Reed (much as I loved him)...although, God knows, little Franklin Richards had to be conceived somehow!

  4. Professor Bradley!

    I've been just as annoyed with my fellow professors's diction as you, my friend. Its' a wonder they can find there keyboard sometime!

  5. Whate did thhat Bradly guy say about are dicktion?!

  6. IMHO, Asbestos Man falls into that, he's soooooo lame he's kind of 'cool,' category. I'd rather read a series starring him then the Human Torch.

    Many conspiracy theorists believe that he was responsible for the death of Steve McQueen.

  7. I love the Jack Davis art on Rawhide Kid! Does anyone know how the art assignments were handed out at this point? When did the fabled Bullpen develop? I suspect Kirby and Ditko were chained to their desks and the rest were freelancing, but I'd love to hear inside information.

  8. I think I need help. I rented a power-washer today and partway through cleaning the patio I started to think that this would make a pretty good villain for the Human Torch. Power Washer Man! I have cleaned the patio and now the only thing left for me to do is to defeat the Human Torch!

  9. This just in-
    Jack Seabrook needs a vacation :>

  10. Jack-

    Lol! It all depends on how cool the costume looks or doesn't look.

  11. Hmmmm -- in JIM if the hammer only works for those who are worthy -- how come the duplicate hammers worked so amazingly well for the time period before Thor realized they shouldn't work?

    I loved the Iron Man (Suspense) heading back to Ancient Egypt. Now I'm not an Egyptologist, but I am an archaeologist and methinks there are some big assumptions being made in this comic strip! Very very entertaining though. Somehow I feel kind of sorry for Hatap's inglorious end though.

    To Jack: I don't know if you need a holiday -- you may need to become a comic writer though because your idea is not really all that far off from some of the superheroes and villains I've read about recently! Plus wouldn't everybody be so clean?!