Wednesday, August 17, 2011

September 1963: Avengers! X-Men!

X-Men #1

Our Story
In Westchester, New York, Professor Charles Xavier is training 5 young students with mutant abilities to use their skills for the power of good. Beast, an agile yet hulking brute; Angel, a winged teen; Iceman, the antithesis to FF's Johnny Storm, and team leader Cyclops, with his optic blast. The boys welcome newcomer Jean Grey, aka Marvel Girl, to the fold just in time to face their soon-to-be arch nemesis, Magneto, master of magnetism.

JS: Ice Man, who looks more like a snowman (and appropriately dons button eyes and a carrot nose at one point), didn't start out with his chiseled look he would become famous for. But what really stands out is, in an effort to make him look like part of the team, they give him the blue and gold booties to wear.

PE: It's tough to read this initial effort without thinking about where the road takes these characters. It's a solid story save all the "sometimes even superheroes don't get along" in-fighting that, thanks to Fantastic Four, I've had up to here. A lot of solid dialogue here as well. This is not your average Marvel superhero comic book. It's got a message to deliver (one that flies right in the face of the usual Stan/Jack "can't trust them stinkin' commies" diatribe), one that I'm not sure was really absorbed by its target audience.

JS: While Scott (here 'Slim') Summers (aka Cyclops) would ultimately go on to connect with Jean Grey, in this premiere issue all the boys (except Bobby Drake the snowman) express an interest in the lone female member of the team, and you might think that wealthy socialite Warren Worthington the Third would stand the greatest chance, at least until his huge wings, concealed within his sharp business suit, come out.

PE: My favorite bit of dialogue is Professor Xavier's near-slip when he's talking about the "evil mutants." What do you suppose he nearly said?

JS: It's interesting to note that this first appearance of our young heroes ends with them earning the respect of the military. I'll be anxious to see how quickly the tables will turn, and the mutants are vilified by society.

PE: I've never read these particular comics, as X-Men was never my cup of tea (even when it took off in the mid-70s) but I enjoyed the first two films and I'm looking forward to having the blanks filled in for me.

Journey Into Mystery 96

Our Story

“Defying the Magic of Mad Merlin”
The crypt of the ancient Merlin has been discovered in England and is subsequently transported to the New York Museum to be studied. Don Blake isn’t especially interested when he and Jane hear this on the radio. Little does he know that soon . . .

The next day at the New York Museum a team of scientists are baffled at how perfectly Merlin has been preserved. Conveniently they leave the tomb alone to discuss the mystery and, therefore, don’t see Merlin “wake up.” Actually the occupant of the tomb is a mutant, possessing powers such as telepathy, levitation, and teleportation -- which to the ancient peoples of King Arthur’s time, seemed like pure magic.

Merlin’s plan was to fake his own death and to be awoken from his self-imposed comatose state when the air from the opening of his tomb would revive him. His intention is to show the world his “magic” and to become the real power behind the 1963 government. Merlin sets his plot in motion by changing the course of an experimental missile at Cape D’Or. After Thor interferes and puts it back on course, Merlin, perceiving Thor as a threat to his plan, appears at the White House and challenges Thor to a battle.

Ironically it is Loki who tips off the Thunder God to the fact that it is Merlin who set the missile awry. Thor wastes no time in appearing at the White House to take Merlin up on his challenge. Neither a missile of the Washington monument or bringing to life the statue of Abraham Lincoln can stop Thor. He changes into Don Blake gambling that Merlin will believe that it is only one of endless forms Thor can transform into. Convinced that his own sorcery is no match for the Thunder God’s power, Merlin agrees to return to his crypt and put himself into a coma for another thousand years.

JS: The scraping of the bottom of the villain barrel continues, as Merlin is brought out of Arthurian times. If they keep it up, Thor may soon be relegated to also-ran status alongside Torchy and the Ant-Man.
JB: Merlin is one of those fascinating characters of history about whom you wonder, well did he exist or not???? Actually he is a fictional character based on a number of historical and legendary figures. He first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Historia of Regum Brittannie” in the early 1100’s.

JS: Wow. JFK actually makes a full panel appearance in this issue. And sadly, that's the highlight.

JB: This Thor story is a lot of fun, although Merlin suffers a similar defeat as villains such as Loki and Sandu before him. Next month marks some important changes in the development of Thor. Stay tuned!

Avengers 1

Our Story

Trapped on The Isle of Silence, evil Loki hatches a plan to lure his half-brother Thor back to Asgard to do battle but actually starts the engine that becomes the world's greatest super-group, The Avengers! When Loki manipulates The Hulk to do some major damage, the green-Skinned Goliath is blamed once again by his human tormentors, Rick Jones smells a rat and sends an SOS to The Fantastic Four. Loki intercepts the plea and sends it to Don Blake. The lame doc isn't the only alter ego to get the message. Iron Man, Ant-Man and The Wasp all hear Rick Jones' call to arms and come to help pronto.

Meanwhile, hiding out from the authorities, The Incredible Hulk is disguised as Mechano, the circus clown robot in a traveling three-ring. Once the super-heroes gather at the circus, a battle royale ensues. Each superhero tries to talk sense into The Hulk (by first trying to beat his brains in and then insisting they're "only trying to help" the big lug), but he's not buying what they're selling.

Up in Asgard, Thor has his hands full with the scheming Loki who throws killing vines, silent trolls, and erupting volcanoes at the Thunder God but the Mighty one at last emerges triumphant and heads back to earth, Loki in tow, to explain his half-brother's treachery to his comrades. The five heroes decide to join forces to combat evil (and bad villain names) as The Avengers!

PE: I'm not sure I understand Loki's plan. He wants to lure the Thunder God back to Asgard to fight him so he has the half-wit Hulk accidentally destroy a train trestle so that Thor will hunt down the Green Goliath?

JS: Who'd have thought that Rick Jones' Teen Brigade would be the instigating force behind the creation of The Avengers.

PE: How did The Hulk manage to pass himself off as a robot to his circus bosses? And where did they "find" him? I need answers now.

JS: This reads a bit like every other Thor story with an overabundance of cameo appearances. It's all a bit contrived to get all the characters into the same room at the end and declare themselves 'The Avengers.'

PE: Carrying over the inanity of the Ant-Man strip, a "lone ant" notifies Ant-Man of a really strong robot working at his circus: "Bzzzz, Wow, there's a big green clown carrying a cage of elephants and tigers... bzzzz. Is this our guy? Roger!" Ant-Man then has millions of ants dig directly beneath Hulk/Mechano so that the big clown will sink! These are fast-acting ants.

PE: As with The Fantastic Four, we're given a very weak first issue compared to what we know will transpire in years to come. Ludicrous events, reconstituted dialog, and weak heroes (Ant-Man and The Wasp?) saddle a ho-hum storyline and so-so artwork by The King. In my opinion, The Avengers' "Golden Age" is several years off, when Roy Thomas rescues the book from mediocrity and infuses it with a life and character. That's for another day's blog though.

Tales to Astonish 47

Our Story

Taking a night off after busting up a diamond robbery, Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne aka The Astonishing Ant-Man and the equally Wondrous Wasp, take in a hot-blowing trumpet man known as Traco. After the show however, Traco decides his pay is for the birds, man, and robs the theater manager. The tiny terrors take the musician down to the ground with a nasty sting from The Wasp. The manager promises not to press charges as long as the now-unhip blow-master takes a ride on a silver bird to India and stays pat. Not such a good idea since India is home to The Great Ghazandi, a world-famous horn-blower and sorcerer who can hypnotize a cobra with one blow of his trumpet. Ghazandi teaches Traco all he knows and the humiliated trumpet man heads back to the US with an evil plan: he'll blow his way to a radio appearance (you know what I mean) and hypnotize all of New York, leaving the populace helpless while he loots and pillages. This sounds like a job for The Fantastic Four. But they're busy with The Super Skrull so the job will have to get done by the two smallest heroes in the Marvel Universe. Good luck with that.

PE: Two of Ant-Man's flying ants now have names: Korr and his faithful brother Foss (after Ron Foss?). Wouldn't the rest feel slighted? Or will Zupp, Norr, and Blupp be introduced next issue?

JS: Ladies and Gentemen, the Zanti Misfits!

PE: Holy coincidence! Henry and Janet are told the story of the great Ghazandi, a "mystic and scholar of ancient phenomena" at the beginning of our adventure and, wouldn't you know it, the thieving trumpeter, Trago, happens to seek out the very same mystic after being banished to India. Zounds! The Marvel Universe was very small in 1963. And, while I'm on the subject of The Great Ghazandi: I never imagined a trumpet to have a hypnotizing effect on anything, let alone a king cobra.

JS: What's with Don Heck's art in this issue? Granted, I'm reading the Ant-Man B&W Essentials, but this had the look and feel of those DC Mystery Books you're always raving about.

PE: Writer H. E. Huntley's dialogue is on the money for 1959, ding-dong daddy-O, but really gone fat cat by 1963. It's hard to believe the generation before mine actually talked like this, yo.

JS: Dude just wants to swing...

PE: Another dastardly, powerful villain done in by wasp stings and the itchiness brought on by ant-bites. When the Marvel heroes got together for a beer on weekends, were these two even invited?

JS: See The Avengers (elsewhere this month)!

PE: Another dreadful Ant-Man story to throw on the fire and keep you warm during a cold winter night. A bit better (but definitely lacking in the original story department) was "The Smiling Gods." Unfortunately, the professors here at the University don't have the time or space to discuss the back-up stories in Strange Tales, Tales of Suspense, and Tales to Astonish. By this time, Strange has gone to a superhero double-feature (and the other two titles will soon follow) and so the science fiction shorts, once a good chunk of Marvel's output, see their heyday coming to a close (only to see a resurrection by Marvel in the early 1970s). But I still read these 5-pagers now and then when they look interesting. Stan Lee and Larry Lieber provide what little story there is to "The Smiling Gods" but it's Lieber's and Matt Fox's striking art that stands out in this long-forgotten piece. Fox contributed 11 fine covers to the Weird Tales pulp in the 1940s and worked his magic on plenty of pre-code horror strips for Marvel. His art looks a lot like that of Basil Wolverton's and, equally, must have been an influence on more than a few underground artists teething on mainstream comics in the early 1960s. Why the hell not give the main strip to Fox? Was his style so radical that kiddies would have been put off by it? Maybe so. Lieber and Fox would team up again this month in Tales of Suspense with the even more Wolverton-esque "I Come From Far Centaurus."

Tales of Suspense 45

Our Story

After a mishap at a racetrack, Tony Stark is pulled from burning rubble by one Howard "Happy" Hogan, a former boxer turned Good Samaritan. Out of gratitude, Stark offers the job of chauffeur to Hogan. Happy happily accepts. Later, Stark, as Iron Man, discovers Professor Shapanka attempting a robbery from the Stark Vault. He lets the professor go but banishes him from the Stark facility. The professor vows revenge via his experimental immortality serum, which allows Shapanka to transform himself into a giant icicle.

PE: Professor Shapanka proposes ice-suspended life just months before Marvel's most famous popsicle is thawed out in Avengers #4.

JS: An issue that can't get here fast enough, in my opinion.

PE: A peculiar story this. Most of its running time is taken up with introductions of "Happy" Hogan and "Pepper" Potts, a rundown of Iron Man's abilities, and the explanation of the Nutty Professor's experiments. There's also several panels devoted to "Just wait until I get my frozen mitts on Anthony Stark. I can just picture it now!" imaginary action. Not much room for the real action. In fact, Frost is dispatched via a handy dandy "miniature furnace" affixed to Iron Man's belt. Psshew, that was close!

JS: Lest we go a month without another classic character revelation! I do hope that they ditch the rocket roller skates...

PE: Iron Man's Rogue Gallery of Crappy Fourth Tier villains continues with Jack Frost (who narrowly misses being dubbed "The Walking Snowman" by a terrified passerby). Prison must not have reformed Shapanka as more than a decade later he'd return to menace Iron Man with a new suit and moniker (Blizzard, Iron Man #86, May 1976).Three years later (in Iron Man #123), he joined forces with two other lower-tier bad guys, The Melter and Whiplash (whose stock only went up slightly with a screen appearance in Iron Man 2) and has been seen here and there since. I don't see Jack/Blizzard lighting up silver screens any time soon.

JS: Are we sure that's not Bobby Drake of the X-Men moonlighting as Jack Frost?

PE: I must admit to being confused. Is "Kitty" from Page 8 in reality "Pepper" or are these two separate characters? I assume the hard-working R. Berns may not have had a proofreader looking over his shoulder.

JS: Until now...

Fantastic Four 18

Our Story

On the home planet of the fifth quadrant of the Andromeda galaxy (aka Skrull Central), a nefarious plot has been hatched: another plan to take over Earth by the Skrulls. This time, one of their scientists has devised the perfect weapon: a Super-Skrull, a creature able to ape the powers of all Four Fantastics. The Super-Skrull plants himself atop the Baxter Building and takes on the Four one at a time, beating back the best the heroes can give him. Only after Reed detects a power ray beam emanating from that aforementioned quadrant does the team take the upper hand, delivering the final blow with... a well-placed foot from The Invisible Girl.

PE: Not a lot to talk about here. Uninspired story, rehashing several of the FF story lines from previous issues. Team bickers, does some shopping, villain shows up, villain gets the upper hand, villain is dispatched. The only difference here is the silly way the Super-Skrull is defeated: Sue Storm trips the Skrull and the alien tumbles into a well-placed crater. If there's one thing to take from this issue, it's that Kirby (and Ayers) are getting better on this strip. The recognizable traits that make this title one of the Marvel milestones are starting to show up a little more often. Now if we can only mesh story with art.

JS: Our boy Reed goes full Plastic Man this issue, turning into a sledge hammer at one point.

PE: Sue's hairdo threatens to take over any panel it appears in.

JS: One thing that stands out for me in these early issues is how stupid the Skrulls look. They eventually look a lot cooler than they do in their initial FF appearances.

PE: On the fan page, letter writer Paul Weinstein of Portsmouth, Ohio asks who came up with the bright idea of featuring the title characters in the little box in the left hand corner of the cover. Our Fan Page editor (Stan?) fesses up that it was Steve Ditko's brainstorm. There's also a rave from Ronn Foss, editor of the re-titled Alter Ego-Comicollector.

PE: This is as good a place as any in this blog to mention that, while in London, I picked up Grant Morrison's personal history of the superhero, Supergods (Jonathon Cape). While the "history" is pretty much a rehash of everything you've read before (I'll presume you know your stuff if you're reading this blog) -- DC royally screwed Siegel and Schuster, Bob Kane was a glory-grabber, Prof. Wertham was the devil, etc -- Morrison's theories and opinions on the long-underwear wearers is amusing and insightful. Truly, a few of the passages have made me stop and reconsider my stance on some of these early strips. Obviously that stance does not include Ant-Man and The Torch, I'm afraid. Good read.

Fantastic Four Annual #1
Our Story

The first family of the Marvel Universe is not surprisingly the first to have their own king -sized Annual. And unlike what I think would become the norm, this wasn't chock full-o-reprints. The main story features our pal and Sue Storm's boy-toy Namor the Sub-Mariner, who's finally found his way home. We also get a re-telling (not straight reprint, mind you) of the meeting between the FF and Spider-Man from the first issue of web-head's magazine. Last but not least there's a rogue's gallery with those the FF crossed paths with over the course of their first year and a half.
JS: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this issue features our first ever two-page spread. Gotta fill those 72 pages somehow...

JS: I had to look twice to confirm this was Reed in bed and not Sue expecting Namor to burst in through the window.

JS: While we get an origin of the Sub-Mariner out of the epic tale (Homo Mermanus, anyone?), there's nothing that makes this particularly worthy of the additional page count.
PE: Just when I thought Kirby and Ayers' rendition of The Thing was starting to get better (in the monthly title) ... one step up and two steps back!

The Amazing Spider-Man 4

Our Story

Things are not going Spider-Man’s way these days thanks to J. Jonah Jameson. The Daily Bugle’s surly publisher has all of the city’s residents seeing the wall-crawler in a different light. That includes criminals, smart enough to use Spidey’s bad rep against him. Into this tangled web happens the latest super-villain in town: The Sandman, aka Flint Marko, who can break down his body into particles of sand or make himself hard as rock. Seems Marko happened into the same kind of accident as Bruce Banner (escape from prison leads to atomic-testing beach!). Spider-Man’s first run-in with Sandman doesn’t go well as his Spidey-mask is ripped and, fearing his secret identity might be discovered, he has to make a quit exit stage right.

Humiliation mounts as Peter Parker finds he has to learn how to mend his costume on his own, has to break dates with pretty Liz due to superhero schedule conflicts, and can’t get advance money from JJJ so he can perfect his webbing formula. Tough times for arachnids only get tougher when The Sandman coincidentally decides to hide out in the very high school of one Peter Parker. Bizarrely, the Sandman’s only demand for a principal held hostage is to be given a diploma. Luckily, before it gets real ugly (the principal is detailing New York’s AIMS testing), Spider-Man to the rescue, armed with…a vacuum cleaner.

PE: Though The Sandman remains to this day one of Spider-Man’s great villains, that sketchy origin spells Stan falling back on old habits. We’ve got a heck of a lot of victims of nuclear, gamma, atomic, neuron bomb testing running around the same city. Are there any normal human beings left?

JS: No, and once again his initial powers are described in such a way that he's darn near invincible.

PE: The Sandman/Flint Marko character became part of the nail in the coffin of the Sam Raimi-directed Spider-Man trilogy. Raimi (though more than likely the studio) fell victim to the same disease as the Batman franchise – too many crooks in the kitchen. Spider-Man 3 featured Sandman, Venom and the new Green Goblin, leaving no time for a good story.

JS: For my money, The Sandman is one of the sillier villains in the Marvel Universe.

PE: Our first look at Betty Brant, who hopefully does not do shooters with Jane Foster on a Friday night. And our first hint at a high school crush: Liz.

JS: It seems like Ditko put extra effort into making Liz stand out in every panel she was featured in.

PE: Sandman is so dangerous he’s dispatched with a vacuum cleaner? Let me establish an early rule: Flint can’t regroup his molecules unless he’s got room to do it.

JS: Unsung highlight of the issue—catching JJJ with his pants down.

PE: We hear from Paul Moslander on the letters page. Moslander edited and published the early comics fanzine, Jeddak, which saw work by future comics pro, Mike Friedrich.

Strange Tales 112

Our Story

"The Living Bomb"

The Torch shows off for the people of Glenville but they respond with dirty looks, due to the smear campaign being waged by TV commentator Ted Braddock. Meanwhile, aquarium caretaker Leopold Stryke fancies himself The Eel. He steals a bag marked "Project X," which turns out to contain a miniature radioactive atomic pile. Johnny saves the day by flying high above the Earth and absorbing the full force of the atomic explosion. He is saved from death by one of Reed Richards's new machines, and "the nation goes wild in a spontaneous demonstration of happiness and relief."

Jack Seabrook: This stellar script was penned by future World Series hero Joe Carter.

JS: Somehow I doubt that.

Jack Seabrook: Braddock's complaint that the Torch is a publicity hog seems pretty accurate, based on Johnny's behavior.

JS: How is it there seems to be no end of this flaming dreck? At least the kids reading Strange Tales back then got the benefit from the back-up stories, that almost assuredly had to be better than these, right?

Jack Seabrook: Dick Ayers continues to do his best Kirby impression, including some panels of heads floating in the air.

JS: To me it still feels like he's doing his best Chester Gould...

Also this month

Kid Colt Outlaw #112
Millie the Model #116
Modeling with Millie #25
Patsy Walker #109
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #3
Two-Gun Kid #65


The people of Eagle Pass have double trouble in their midst: Kid Colt Outlaw and the thief named Bennington Brown, whose other vocation happens to be hypnotism. Brown spends his idle time robbing stagecoaches and banks with the local sheriff powerless to stop him. Only Kid Colt and his uncanny knack of shooting people in the shoulder, feet, finger or, in this case the gun barrel (anywhere but a major artery) can defeat the villain in a showdown. I've read dozens of Marvel westerns so far for the Marvel University and can safely say this is the worst yet. Jack Keller's roller-coaster art jobs (veering from fabulous to forgettable) hit an all-time low with "The Unbeatable Mr. Brown" (Kid Colt Outlaw #112). I'd be insulting if I said the characters in this little drama look as though they've stepped from the pages of Archie and Jughead but then I wouldn't know which side I'd be insulting.

Matt Hawk is called to Fort Henry to defend an officer accused of selling the Fort's medicine for profit. Hawk gets the man off but he's so enraged he vows revenge on the Fort, selling weapons to the Indians as long as they attack. But he saves the best for last, giving the chief a vial of 19th-Century steroids and transforming him into a Native American Hulk. The Indians storm Fort Henry but the giant is knocked to his knees by the Two-Gun Kid's fighting prowess. There's a good story hiding in some silly dialog and laughable scenes (this comic taught me that a man can smother the explosion from seven sticks of dynamite with his body!). The art (by Dick Ayers) has an unfinished look to it. "Nothing Can Save Fort Henry" (Two-Gun Kid #65) is a mildly-entertaining western but that's about all.

In September 1963, Marvel's best-written comic does not involve teenage spiders or gods of thunder, but rather a band of World War II heroes. Reading an issue of Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos, at times, is tantamount to reading a novel. The dialog balloons threaten to white out entire panels (something like the comic version of a Howard Hawks film) but in this case that's a good thing. Involving plot lines, interesting characters, adult themes, these elements and more make Sgt Fury a genuinely fascinating experiment by Kirby and Lee. The art here is top-notch as well. Jack Kirby's pencils are brought to vivid life by Dick Ayers' inking (if I didn't know better, I'd have guessed that Alex Toth had a hand in the inking). "Midnight on Massacre Mountain" (Sgt Fury #3) is three storylines thrown together: 1/ The Howlers must take a beach in England: 2/ Mission accomplished, they go into a pub to blow off steam; 3/ Once out of jail, they're onto another suicide mission (where Fury meets up with our only "stretch" of credulity: Reed Richards) when they're given the assignment of taking Massacre Mountain. There's the added danger of a spy in their midst who somehow gets advance word to the Nazis on Fury's every move. There are a few things to quibble about (the Nazis don't say much German besides "Mach Schnell" and one character remarks that heroes in World War II movies will cast pretty boys like Tony Curtis - years before Curtis came to Hollywood) but overall this is solid storytelling. Something about World War II brought out the best in the comic writers as was evident in Fury's newsstand rival, the equally compelling and intelligently-written Sgt Rock, a series running in DC's Our Army at War and a character that Fury is very obviously patterned after.

JS: I noticed that in an ad in The Avengers for Sgt Fury, they likened it to a team book a la The Fantastic Four. Particularly interesting in that here we are, almost 50 years later segregating it from the superhero titles of the day.


  1. Oh, wow. This beautifully demonstrates one of the things I love about Marvel University: I may have known a lot of this stuff before, but not the context and timing of it all. Case in point--I never knew (or forgot, if I had tumbled to it pre-M.U.) that my two favorite team books debuted the very same month. I was always partial to team books, although the FF always felt more like a family, so I didn't think of them that way. As you've intimated, X-MEN got off to a far better start than many a book, which suits the high level of quality it displayed for so many years. But even champion Assemblers-booster moi must agree that they had a far less auspicious premiere. Oh, the future, though...

    Let's not forget the introductions of two solid villains (I always considered Super-Skrull a real badass)--although that may be a poor word choice in the case of the Sandman. It will be a long time before I forgive the way they ruined ol' Flint in the awful third Spider-Man movie (not to be confused with the awful third X-Men movie, despite the fact that the second film in each series was among the best comic-book movies ever, in my opinion). Once again, Pete's right on the money there.

  2. Peter-

    I'm with you regarding the X-Men. It always seemed to me that the folks at Marvel pandered too much to the teenage readers with this series. Hey, look gang! Here's a bunch of misfits hated by society just like you!

    So, mutants are feared and mistrusted by the masses, in this make believe universe, but orange rock monsters, gods from other dimensions, and a mysterious man in a flying iron suit are okay with everybody else? Not to mention the various kooks and weirdos running around in leotards committing vigilante street justice with no government sanctioning. Nah, I ain't really buying it.

  3. This has to be the best month for Marvel yet! The original X-Men run was OK, but for me the 1970s relaunch blew it away. Was the Hulk's appearance in Avengers #1 his first since his own title got canceled? Or did he pop up in FF in between? Much as I love Avengers & X-Men, it still smacks of Martin Goodman-induced copying of the JLA and the Legion of Superheroes over at DC...JLA was really taking off at this point, having just brought back the Golden Age heroes in the Earth Two story arc. Hmm, if only Stan the Man could think of some Golden Age heroes to bring back (stay tuned in a couple of months for a surpise guest star in The Human Torch!).

    1. From what I've read, Goodman instructed Lee to copy Marvel's own success with knockoffs of the FF & Spider-Man, which were to be the X-Men & Daredevil, due to debut together. Alas, Bill Everett fell behind on the art for DD and needing something to fill in for the delayed DD mag, Lee got Kirby to knock out in very short order the Avengers. At least Lee had the great sense to leave both Spider-Man & Dr. Strange off the team as they just would not have fit in, anymore than the Hulk did.

  4. Mathew -- I agree with you about the Super-Skrull, I always thought he was awesome. I always found the Sandman to be a visually arresting characters Take for example the cover of F.F. #61.
    Regarding Merlin the magician in comic books, I liked him a lot better in Jack Kirbys' series The Demon, one of his early seventies D.C. efforts.

  5. The Sandman was actually one of my favorite superheros for a time when he was reformed back in the 1980's, up until his relapse into villainy in the early 90's. Him and the Thing had some pretty good brawls over the years, until an issue of 'Marvel Two-In-One' where they bonded in a tavern over some brews.

    The 'Blizzard' isn't that mediocre of a super-villain. He was killed in 1987 by an evil, futuristic Iron Man. Another criminal took up the identity after that, whom also got his ass handed to him by several different heroes.

    The second Blizzard was briefly given his chance to shine as a member of the Thunderbolts awhile back. Unfortunately for him, after a fallout with fellow villain/teammate 'Speed Demon,' he was beaten unconscious and tied up naked to a bridge. Okay, crappy fourth tier villain is a pretty adequate description.

  6.'s an interview with Larry Lieber where he bashes Matt Fox pretty good. I always liked the Lieber/Fox art, it was different than the other Marvel stuff at the time. It's about halfway down the article.

  7. Mikey!

    Thanks for bringing that Leiber interview to my attention. I must have that issue around her somewhere but it's packed. I won't say anything bad about Leiber (until forty years after the fact like he did) other than to say I think Fox made Larry's stuff look better than it was. My opinion, of course. Thanks again and thanks for leaving your comments on our blog.

  8. Love this blog, I just discovered it. I wanted to point out, since nobody did here, that the "Joe Carter" who wrote the Torch issue was really Joe Shuster. He wrote two of them (and maybe you mentioned it in that review, but I haven't gotten there yet).

  9. Scott, does this mean it was not the future World Series hero?