|Daredevil uses his Snooperscope to listen|
to conversations all over the city. Snooperscope???
The Amazing Spider-Man 25
Professor Spencer Smythe has created the perfect toy for J. Jonah Jameson: a robot that can seek out and destroy Spider-Man. Realizing that if he's caught by the machine while as Peter Parker, the world will know his secret, our teenaged hero is constantly looking over his shoulder. Finally, the robot arrives at Parker's high school, coinciding with a call-out by Flash Thompson. Though he knows it will make him look chicken, Peter must flee to find shelter so he can change into his outfit. Finally able to make the change, Spider-Man must fight a seemingly unstoppable foe with tentacles of unbreakable steel.
PE: Must be a slow week at The Daily Bugle if Jameson would pay Peter Parker for photos of a bungled car heist. But Parker does a good job coming at JJJ with a new angle: the pics make Spider-Man look bad since the cop got the job done without him.
JS: It's one thing for him to hate Spider-Man, but Jameson has been crossing the line into super-villain territory.
PE: With all this constant hatred JJJ throws Spider-Man's way, one angle never seems to be brought up: the legal ramifications. How can Jameson constantly send life-threatening danger Spidey's way and not have to answer to the law? Doesn't anyone ever find out about Scorpions and Spider-Slayers? Why doesn't ditzy Marvel girl, Betty Brant, so concerned with Spider-Man, call up a rival publisher and let him know what's going on in her boss's office?
JS: There's a rival publisher in this town? I figured the Daily Bugle was the only game in town, or Parker would be going elsewhere with his photos.
PE: I'm not a fan of the romance triangles that seem to muck up the pages of 1960s Marvels but, in this issue, I like the playful/bitchy exchanges between Liz Allan and Betty Brant. And it culminates in a funny tease from Steve and Stan.
JS: I still don't see what Peter sees in either of these gals.
PE: How could Smythe's robot wheel itself down a New York street without causing a panic or alerting the police? It's also tough to swallow that Peter is able to make a life-like dummy of himself (in uniform) to fake out Smythe and JJJ. Those panels sure make that empty suit look filled to me.
JS: I think with the FF, Daredevil, Spidey and the like in town, a robot walking down the street might not raise eyebrows.
JS: I don't get what the motivation was behind hiding MJ. If you want to keep the reveal hidden, don't introduce the character. By covering her face in a few panels, it feels like they're planning to reveal her as someone we've already met.
PE: John Romita's version of Mary Jane Watson, which we won't see until #42 (November 1966), is so iconic I'm glad we never had to witness an MJ with nine inches between her eyes. The bit we see of her towards the end makes her look as if she's got a Vampira-ish waist and the hips of a very big girl. Ditko sure could draw that Spider-Man though!
JS: I guess that's as good a reason as any for obscuring of her face...
PE: Professor Spencer Smythe will end up building several Spider-Slayers before eventually dying of radiation poisoning. His son, Alistair, will take over his father's research.
JS: Those mad geniuses will never learn...
PE: A letter from "Fabulous" Flo Steinberg, Stan Lee's secretary apologizing for the repeating of a fan letter (and Stan's response!) in two successive issues of ASM (#22 and 23). Flo would later go on to work at Captain Company (Warren Publishing's mail-order division) after quitting her job at Marvel, and publish her own underground comic book, Big Apple Comix.
Fantastic Four 39
PE: An interesting concept, the loss of the team's powers (and one that will be revisited again and again as I recall), but the idea of Reed creating gizmos that reproduce the powers is laughable. So, let me paint a picture:
- Doctor Doom attacks.
- Johnny Storm runs and hides so he can put on his green outfit and then lights himself on fire.
- Ben Grimm runs and hides so he can play with the joystick that operates his Thing robot.
- Who knows what Reed Richards does since his mechanical arms seem pretty inflexible.
- Sue runs and hides and throws her voice. Since she never contributes much to the fight anyway, they don't miss her.
JS: I kept waiting to find out that we were wacthing Doctor Doom in a Reed RIchards outfit building a set of FF-Doom Bots.
PE: Doom has waited years to get his hands on Reed's supersonic air-displacer vortex (or is it a votex) machine! Here's a gizmo that Stretch created "to aid in weather control" which can "generate the force of a dozen hurricanes". Seriously, how many times do you think that's come in handy? Then, later on, we actually see saliva foaming at the madman's mouthhole when he stumbles upon "Richards' force beam projectiles" which zero in on its target's heartbeat. Did Reed leave a study manual laying around The Baxter Building for all to see? Did he publish the blueprints in Popular Mechanics? How does Doom know what these gizmos are called, their use, and yeah, he's a bright boy, but how does he know how to use them so quickly? There's no hesitation on his part.
JS: I think it's the same logic behind how a Super Villain's name is known by everyone when they make their first appearance.
PE: I still can't figure out why Daredevil is so much quicker than a normal, sighted hero. I get the "blindness elevates the other senses" angle, but that shouldn't make him faster. There are three successive panels in mid-story where The Man Without Fear saves Ben Grimm, Sue Storm, and Red Richards by racing to knock them out of the way of advancing vehicles. I'm not sure why The Four didn't move of their own power but Stan makes it seems as though DD has the speed of Quicksilver. Here's another question: Since he's so dolgarned hyper-sensitive, could he guess the secret identity of any hero he's around? Has that ever been addressed?
JS: You'd think he'd be able to identify someone by their heartbeat, which would allow him to know someone whether they're in costume or their secret identity.
JS: We get another weird Kirby collage this issue. I don't know whether to think of those as lazy, since he has to draw less, or inspired for his creative approach.
The Avengers 17
The New Avengers begin their first day as a team utilizing the "play room" and getting to know each other's powers (all the while bickering, of course) all the better to become one fighting unit. Their training is interrupted by a giant robot which tells them the whereabouts of The Incredible Hulk, who they desperately want to join their ranks. Flying to the desert mesa where The Avengers fought The Lava Men months before (in The Avengers #5), the team is unaware that the real menace is hidden below their feet. Turns out The Mole Man is back in town and he's the owner of the giant robot that's brought them out to the desert. When a trapdoor opens in the mesa, the super-team fall far down into the earth's very bowels and come face to face with a monster that Quicksilver describes as "so horrible it can't exist." Indeed, a fifty foot diapered Minotaur was not what the doctor ordered for rest and relaxation. Meanwhile, The Avengers intended target, The Hulk is not far away battling The Leader.
PE: I had to stifle a laugh when Captain America chides a greedy Hawkeye (who wants to take a vote for leader of The New Avengers) that "when you've been an Avenger as long as I have, you'll have the right to speak out that way." Let's do the math: Cap was thawed out in #4 and became a member in #5. That's 12 issues (or about 12 weeks in Marvel time). Not what you'd call a veteran, so hang in there, Hawkeye, your time is comin'. Scarlet Witch seems to have an amazingly flexible waistline. Maybe that should be her power. Speaking of powers, The Mole Man has a new weapon, "The Ultrasonic Vibro-Wave Machine" which, Moley promises, will reduce The Avengers' mighty muscles to mashed potatoes.
JS: So in the sixties, Marvel gals wore corsets underneath their costumes. These days, the corsets are the costumes.
JS: The giant robot they fight reminds me a lot of ROM: Spaceknight. More on him in 10 years or so... I know I can't wait!
PE: Don Heck's "staggering," machine-filled training rooms leave little to be desired when compared to the Kirby-illustrated gizmo palaces we're accustomed to. The Avengers' "play room" looks filled with multiple copies of the same machine with a few dials and knobs. Nothing that, as Stan gushes, "staggers the senses."
JS: At least we get some variety to the pages and panels here.
PE: No good reason is given for the attack on The Avengers by The Mole Man. Isn't he crossing some kind of line visiting a rival super-team of The Fantastic Four? How is it that Cap knows more about Hawkeye's arrows than the archer himself? And I need to see a depth chart for The Scarlet Witch's powers. She makes scrap metal out of Mole Man's incredible Vibro-Wave in a matter of seconds. Seems as though she's the muscle the rest of the group is lacking.
MB: Although I’ve never thought much of Moley as an opponent for the Assemblers, and the constant cross-cutting to next month’s Astonish was a bit bizarre, I enjoyed the Quartet’s baptism of fire a lot. Stan’s script somehow gets to the heart of what it means to be an Avenger, what makes the team unique, with the early itch to supplant Cap quickly giving away to a proper respect for his matchless leadership (“We found our true strength together!”); there’s something stirring even about the way they address one another as “Avenger.” I know Heck’s taken lots of knocks around here—not all of them undeserved—but maintain that he is an admirable Avengersartist, especially for this era, with a real feel for the action as well as the varied cast of characters.
PE: One of the biggest cheat stories I've ever encountered. Cover boy The Hulk is only in a few panels and that's to fight The Leader, a sequence that's being repeated in his regular title (Tales of Suspense #69) as Stan informs us. There's no reason whatsoever for 'ol Greenskin to feature here. And please tell me why The Mole Man would use his fancy contraption at the climax, when he's decided he can't beat The Avengers, to transport them back up to the surface world. Why not transport them to some underground cavern where they'll never find their way out? It's no wonder these super-villains never beat their enemies. They're obviously not smart enough to think these scenarios through. And I'm still wondering why The Mole Man initiated the attack in the first place. What did he stand to gain?
Journey Into Mystery 117
The trend of continuing tales has spread into Tales Of Asgard. “The Sword In The Scabbard” finds Odin showing Thor and Loki a crack in the huge Oversword of Asgard (called the Odinsword mainly in the comic’s run), which if ever unsheathed, will spell the end of the universe. The mission for Asgard’s finest now is to find and destroy the cause of this menace.
JB: I usually think Of JIM #117 as a kind of letdown after the last few issues, but it’s not a bad tale in it’s own right. Certainly it’s far superior to the “Red Communist” issues back in the early Thor stories. It takes us for a cruise before the epic Destroyer tale coming up next month.
PE: I question the MIghty Thunder God's sensibility in changing to lame Doctor Don Blake simply because he's finding it hard to maneuver through the jungle due to his flowing cape. One well-placed mortar shell or land mine and no more Blake/Thor. We get a little bit of Loki time this issue. That's a good thing. It's more than just the usual "I should be yonder king of Asgard"as Loki is left alone with his thoughts for a time and we see just how screwed up this individual is. Talk about bad childhoods. It's these rare moments, a few panels stolen here and there, that have fleshed out Stan and Jack's characters and made them the classic icons we revere today.
JB: I always liked the Odinsword as a springboard for a conflict; it returns in future issues. We see the Norn queen again commiserating with Loki, until even she’s appalled by his evil ways and departs. They haven’t referred to her as Karnilla at this point, nor given any hints of her love for Balder.
PE: I did find it curious that the Viet Cong didn't know who Thor was. No newspapers down that way? Equally curious (and rather dopey if you ask me) is Doctor Blake's reluctance to identify Thor from a picture the army has taken, even at the threat of torture. What's the big deal? "Umm, that's Thor, the God of Thunder." It's just that easy. The reveal of the Commander's true identity is one that I should've rolled my eyes at but I thought was a nice twist anyway. Not so with the heavy-handed communism sermon at the climax. Stan must have pictured little boys waving their American flags and chanting "Down with communism!" at school rallies.
Tales of Suspense 66
JS: Is that the head of the Easter Bunny that Attuma is wearing?
PE: As much of an emotional pounding as Stark gives Happy Hogan, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Stan was actually grooming the glorified chauffeur to be a turncoat or a super villain. At the very least, he should change his name to Melancholy Hogan. Stark comes off as such a wuss this issue. I don’t see Bruce Wayne standing back and taking the tongue lashing from the Senator that Stark takes here. And the politician’s act is layed on way too thick for my tastes. One or two ribbings about being a “irresponsible playboy millionaire” is fine but this guy goes on for panel after panel. We get it. He doesn’t approve of Tony’s lifestyle.
JS: If he took the time to install roller skates in the outfit, I don't find it hard to believe that he might have implemented features that might actually be of value, too.
PE: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the rare metal that surfaces this issue: Nautilium (or, as its known by its scientific shorthand, Nah!). It’s so rare in fact that Attuma uses all of the known Nautilium in the world to make one rocket bomb. How he knows that there’s no more of the Nah! left is anybody’s guess. When exploded in earth’s atmosphere, Nautilium changes the density of the oxygen we breathe, making it difficult for humans to draw a breath but easier for Atlanteans to survive on a conquered surface world. I’m not sure why Attuma wants to rule the surface world in the first place, other than the usual Marvel clichés: he’s a bad guy and he has to conquer.
JS: I think he's after the money they'll make selling the fishbowl helmets that the human slaves will need to breathe.
JS: One of these days he needs to pull a Robert Downey, Jr. and own up to being Iron Man, once and for all.
PE: The 10-page format works against a well-written and intriguing series such as Captain America. You can almost feel the ideas bursting at the panels. Jack and Stan revel in the World War II landscape. It’s gotta be easy for them since it’s a retread; they did it all twenty years before. But most readers of 1965 comic books didn’t know that. There weren’t Masterworks collections of 1940s Captain America as there are today so these stories seemed fresh to our young eyes. Truth be told, they still seems fresh to me. Jack and Stan are in their best cinematic form. You can almost see the celluloid unspooling before your eyes in a series of stark, powerful storyboards. I must confess here and now that before I began this journey through Marvel's output in the 1960s, I didn't fully appreciate Jack Kirby's masterful grasp on illustrated action and adventure. My tastes have always been a bit darker (Ingels, Wrightson, Alcala, Neal Adams) due mostly to my love for horror over superheroes, but my eyes are growing wider as we get to each new milestone.
|The power... the drama... the King!|
JS: Stop interrupting my narrative!I had to laugh each time Skully threw that in Cap's face. I think it's safe to assume Cap wasn't impressed by the Skull's origin.
The Torch and the Thing
Johnny, Ben, Dorrie and Alicia are shopping in a large department store when Alicia touches the face of a strangely life-like mannequin. A store employee pulls her hand away roughly, earning Ben’s wrath. To apologize for his rudeness, the clerk invites the foursome to visit his sculpture exhibit and studio. Descending to the building’s sub-basement, he reveals that he is the Puppet Master, having undergone plastic surgery. When the Torch and the Thing arrive at his studio, he traps Ben with a giant clamp and uses a mannequin to shoot freezing blasts at Johnny, extinguishing his flame. Our heroes use their wits and physical attributes to escape, and the villain is turned into a mannequin by his own strange ray!
PE: Aside from a startling, Ditko-esque splash page of The Torch, this art is just as good as anything Bob Powell has done for Marvel so far. His homely Alicia Masters makes one wonder if it's not The Thing that is blind. In today's comics, a character would never get away with the line "I can tell by the way you fingered my mannequin that you are interested in sculpture..."
|The only noteworthy moment in an otherwise dive to the bottom|
Jack: Terrible story, terrible art. The Puppet Master looks like a cross between Lex Luthor and Uncle Fester! He speaks in abnormally low tones to escape notice by his own step-daughter, which makes very little sense. Maybe Mike Esposito used the Mickey Demeo pseudonym because his inking was so bad!
|With a mouth like that, surely The Ice Queen must be a very popular gal|
PE: But can't you appreciate the master plan of a genuine genius villain, Professor Jack?! The Puppet Master goes to the trouble of undergoing plastic surgery just so The Thing and Torch won't recognize him! He then sets himself up in a department store for... I don't know, how long?... and sits and waits and hopes that the two will shop in this particular store with their girlfriends (perhaps he sent 50% off coupons only to Alicia and Dorrie?). Meanwhile, in the basement, he builds not only a "ten-ton nuclear- powered automatic clamp, which is capable of exerting over 100,000 pounds of concentrated pressure," and a mechanical ice queen that is "constructed to shoot high-powered jets of super-cooled air... air frozen to a temperature of 240 degrees below freezing" but also whips up a new formula that turns flesh and blood into stone (Attention: Grey Gargoyle, your lawyer is on line one), all without drawing the attention of the othr inhabiants of the building! He's also been eating a lot of pasta in order to gain about fifty pounds to throw the Deadly Dull Duo off his scent. This is a masterpiece of dopiness and wins my "Alternate Classic of 1965" award.
|How about a wig?|
Rather than having been defeated by Mordo and Dormammu, Dr. Strange transported himself to another dimension, one where he can’t be found. Mordo is crestfallen, Dormammu plans to await Dr. Strange’s reappearance, and Clea pines away for our hero, who awakens in an unknown dimension where danger lurks. He finds himself smack in the middle of a power struggle between two witches. He rests in order to recover his power, determines the source of the evil witch’s strength, and destroys it. Using the power he gains from shattering the witch’s mystic globe, Dr. Strange embarks on another journey across dimensions.
|Does Dr. Strange just do a header|
onto the globe to smash it?
Jack: The headpieces on the witches are just silly! Their whole story is a little bit too much like a fairy-tale for me. As Glenn pointed out in the comments, Ditko’s art on the Dr. Strange strip is consistently better than his art on Spider-Man. Once again, this is an example of the serialized story format working very well for Marvel.
JS: I was a little disappointed in this, particularly after the last few issues. I hope this was just filler and things pick back up next issue.
Giant-Man still has not regained his shrinking power after having been blasted with an alien’s ray gun from last issue. He practices out in the wilderness. While at maximum height, a plane appears to crash into him purposely. Not only does big Hank avoid the plane from doing any damage to him, but he also catches the pilot who bails out, so that he doesn’t fall to his death on the ground. Giant-Man accidentally falls and knocks himself out when his head hits a tree. The pilot of the plane is revealed to be Hank’s old foe, The Human Top! Angry that his life was saved by his most hated rival, the Top leaves the scene after realizing he couldn’t bash Hank’s skull in with a mere rock while he’s in his giant form. Hank wakes up and goes back to the lab to tell Jane about his interesting day. He works on his helmet so it automatically makes him 35 feet tall, which is when he is at his tallest without weakening. He also has a construction crew build a 35 foot high door in his lab for him to enter and leave. Meanwhile, in another part of town, the Top is working on his own costume, adding wings that allow him to fly along by spinning. The villain then dons a disguise, impersonating a news reporter, to gain entry into Hank’s lab. When his true identity is discovered, a brief skirmish ensues, with the Top kidnapping and taking off with the Wasp as his captive. An enraged Giant-Man promises to give the villain an ass-whooping of epic proportions once he catches up with him next issue.
Tom: If big Hank doesn’t totally punch the living hell out of the Top next issue, I’m going to be very disappointed.
Jack: Vince Colletta does his best, but Bob Powell’s art sometimes slips hopelessly into a 1940s style, such as in the panel where the Human Top gets ready to take off. All that’s missing is “and away we go!”
Tom: Call me diabolical, but it seems to me that the Top just wasn’t vicious enough to take full advantage of a passed out Giant-Ham. He could have gouged out one of his eyes with a stick, or set fire to the plane or surrounding trees and turned Hank into a Giant barbecue. I’m sure he had a lighter on him since all super-villains probably used to smoke back then.
Bruce Banner and Glen Talbot are falling off a cliff after being pursued by Mongolian mercenaries from last issue. Banner turns into the Hulk in time to save himself and the unconscious Talbot. Leaving Talbot behind, the Hulk leaps away, continuing on a long journey that instinctively brings him back home, to a military base in America. The Hulk finds a bed at the compound and goes to sleep. When the Hulk transforms back into his human form, Banner wakes up to see himself surrounded by military troops, including Thunderbolt Ross. He is taken into custody, where Rick Jones pays him a visit. Talbot is rescued by the Air Force and brought back to the states. Even though they are pretty sure that he might have defected over to the commies, Bruce is taken from his cell to go to Astra Island, because he is the only one that can work his Absorbatron weapon that renders the H-bomb useless. The evil Leader has been observing what has been transpiring. He shrinks hundreds of his pink humanoids down to microscopic powder, and then sprinkles them all over the isle. Talbot and Banner are dropped off at the isle and then the Leader sets his humanoids to grow back to their normal size and attack. Talbot puts forth a valiant effort but is easily subdued. Once Banner is attacked by the pink creatures, he turns into the Hulk. Two of the humanoids grab the Hulk and release a knockout gas that stops the Green Goliath cold. The ending shows that the Leader is heading towards the isle in his spaceship, joyous to not only have captured the Absorbatron, but also the Hulk as well.
Tom: Things are moving at a pretty exciting pace so far. Next issue should prove to be interesting.
Jack: Mickey Demeo (Mike Esposito)’s inks look terrible over Kirby’s pencils. This was not a good month for Mickey/Mike, whose work on the Torch strip was also sub-par.
Tom: It’s too bad that the creators thought it was necessary to bring back slick Rick Jones in for a cameo. The Avengers must have gotten tired of him loafing around their headquarters, mooching food and running up 1-800 sex lines on the phone bill.
Jack: Hulk/Banner/Hulk/Banner—the changes are coming too fast to keep up with the supply of purple pants!
|Who would ever think he was a Red spy?|
Also this month
Modeling with Millie #39
Patsy and Hedy #100
Patsy Walker #121
Rawhide Kid #46
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #19
June 1965 was the month that Marvel began printing the names of the M.M.M.S. (Merry Marvel Marching Society) members. Each title carried 25 different names. Astounding that last bit of info. Digest it. Each comic title carried the same ad yet it featured different member names. Only a few of the June titles actually carried the "name-calling" ad but it would become a regular feature of every Marvel title beginning in July. Which means at least 225 fans per month got their fifteen minutes of fandom fame.