Wednesday, February 8, 2012

October 1965: Get Me to the Church on Time!

Daredevil 10 

Our story

A mysterious villain known only as the Organizer has gotten a crew together to take New York City by storm. His henchmen are dressed up as an ape, a frog, a cat, and a bird. Each of these criminals has a skill that the Organizer uses to pull off daring thefts and heists. Foggy lets Matt and Karen know that he has been selected by the third party for the upcoming elections as a candidate for D.A. They all go to a yacht party where he introduces them to all the big wigs who are associated with the reform party. Foggy’s old classmate Deborah, from high school, is at the party--she is all over him and a romance looms on the horizon. The Frog-man criminal tries to crash the party, but Matt dresses up as Daredevil and they battle in the ocean. The villain makes his escape after detonating a grenade. Later on, the Bird-Man tries to steal the third party’s campaign funds, only to be thwarted by Double D before he luckily escapes back to the Organizer’s secret hideout. The four animal men are addressed by the Organizer via monitor. Pissed off that Daredevil has become a nuisance, an evil scam is concocted. While on hero patrol, Daredevil is alerted that a man is stuck inside a bank vault. He helps open it to save the man, but it was all a ruse as the Cat-Man was waiting for him in the vault. The other animal men attack and Daredevil has to flee, making the cops think that he was part of the heist. The newspapers report that Daredevil has become a wanted suspect. Foggy invites Karen to a party that Deborah is throwing for him. While they are there the animal crew crashes it, kidnapping Deborah. Double D tries to stop them and punches out Cat-Man so the police can put him in custody. Worried that the Cat will talk, the Organizer dispatches Ape-Man to kill him with a grenade. Daredevil is able to stop him and follow the villainous Ape Man back to his headquarters. While eavesdropping on a ledge, he finds out that Deborah is in cahoots with the villains in an attempt to control Foggy.

PE: This goofy little masterpiece is the type of story Mighty Comics ran in the mid-1960s ("Steel Sterling vs. The Monster Master," as collected in High Camp Superheroes, Belmont paperbacks, 1966). You can throw all believability right out the window with this one and just relax and enjoy. The bad guys' real-life names all have something to do with their aliases: Hawk becomes Bird Man, Monk becomes Ape Man, 'Frog' Le Blanc looks like a frog and, to further the coincidence, used to be a frogman for the Navy! Even the cartel's name is uninspired. As Cat-Man later tells the police: "I'm a member of a gang called 'The Organization' ... The head man is called 'The Organizer'!" You can tell Wood is having a blast. The cameras on the villains' chests are dubbed "Creepy-Peepys." Matt Murdock falls overboard and instantly becomes Daredevil (I can shut down my "sense of belief" long enough to accept the body suit but how in the heck did he put on the mask before hitting the water?). The Organizer, meanwhile, must be comics' most generous ringleader. His animal men screw up every assignment they're given and yet the hooded villain constantly peps them up (like a motivational speaker) with "Great job, fellas!" and "Well, you've done a wonderful job, Pig Man." These sixth-tier bad guys couldn't steal free brochures from a corner stand without messing things up. This all adds up to one of those classic stories where you don't really care if it doesn't all add up.

Tom: Got a lot going on in this issue. It was pretty good, but I’ll have to reserve judgment until the next issue’s conclusion. So far, Wally Wood appears to be equally adept at writing as he is with drawing, though I suspect he may have just came up with the plot for this one.

PE: Quite the ringing endorsement from Stan "The Man" Lee on the credits page. He acknowledges that Wally Wood has always wanted to write a story and he, being the big-hearted guy he is, agreed to the demand. "What follows is anybody's guess!" exclaims Stan to the bewildered masses screaming out for more Lee masterpieces.

Jack: Ape Man? Cat Man? Bird Man? Frog Man? Are you kidding? I enjoyed the story, though the art seems to go back and forth between seeming more Bob Powell’s work and more Wally Wood’s work. Wood supposedly wrote the script and did the art over Powell’s layouts, but it looks like Powell’s work in many places more than Wood’s. The best way to tell is to look at the girls, and they are not up to Wood’s usual standards of beauty. I did like the Yacht party and the corny villains—Frog Man’s alter ego looked like something out of Mad Magazine. What else would The Organizer call his band of ne’er do wells but The Organization!

PE: The continuing romantic Marvel morass gets more and more complicated every story I read. It's not the situations that confound, it's the interchangeable characters. If I'm confused, I can only imagine how Jack, Stan, Don, Wally and the gang felt. What keeps Matt Murdock from accidentally calling Karen Page Pepper? Literally, the two women are the same. Here, we get Karen simultaneously wondering if Foggy is really in love with her or is using her to get to Deborah and wondering if Matt will be at the party. It takes a lot of notebook paper to keep all these soap operas straight, believe me.

Fantastic Four Annual 3

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The day has finally arrived! Reed Richards and Sue Storm are getting married. Or maybe they’re not, if Doctor Doom has anything to say about it—and he does. In his castle in Latveria, Reed’s formal rival has a weapon to make every super foe in the known Earthiverse do his bidding: a powerful emotion charger. It fans the evil in the hearts of evildoers everywhere, leaving them with one thought—revenge! Lucky for the Fantastic Four, every hero in town is on the guest list too. Nick Fury and his Shield agents have a brainwave camera to foil the Puppet Master’s attempt. The X-Men arrive in time to send the Mole Man and his subterraneans back down where they belong. Dr. Strange sends the Red Ghost and his apes to another dimension. Thor flies by as the Super Skrull jets into town (is this Thor #142 yet?). Captain America and the new Avengers deal with the Cobra and Mr. Hyde, the Enchantress and the Executioner. Daredevil makes probably the biggest save, maneuvering a runaway truck loaded with a vortex bomb bound for the Baxter Building off a pier at the dock; it gets there just in time to send Attuma and his invasion force back to the bottom of the sea. It is the Watcher, however who finally wants to see the wedding and get on with his day, and decides to put a stop to the madness. He whisks Reed away to his home world, and gives Reed a crash course on how to use a device even more amazing than Dr. Doom’s emotion charger. Forbidden to interfere directly, the Watcher has bids Reed to use the device and save the day. Returning to Earth, Reed does just that, sending each and every bad guy back in time to before they launched their attacks. Their memories, including Dr. Doom's, are wiped clean of the incident, leaving an exhausted Reed and Sue to finally tie the knot.

PE: Stan and Jack goofiness galore! A seasoned, evil, notorious super-villain of the first tier, Doctor Doom, actually admits to owning an Emotion Charger! No wonder he keeps it behind his Murphy Bed. SHIELD has a brain-wave camera that can detect when someone's mind is under control? Super-duper!, but I could have told Reed how to safeguard his wedding day. Dr. Strange pops up and banishes The Red Ghost and his Super Apes to another dimension. Why not simply have the Doc hang out by the door and transport any bad guy who shows up to the Dreaded Doorways of Dogma or wherever they'll end up? I know. I know. No story then. Alright, then I'll just admire all the new weaponry on show here: The Red Ghost's Electrode Scrambler (perhaps a little too close to this month's Molecule Scrambler Ray wielded by Titanium Man?); Hydra's Vortex Bomb; The Mandarin's brand spankin' new Nerve Ray Ring (I wonder which other ring this replaced?)

JS: Don't forget the Watcher's Super-Villain vaccuum.  Which I guess is the only way you can resolve a story of such epic scope and still leave time for the wedding ceremony.

JB: I expected to be overrun by all these villains and heroes in this issue, but what the hell… I just had a good time! I don’t think there’s ever been one of these all-cast stories that’s actually a great comic, but this one was a lot of fun. Maybe we should just direct newcomers to Marvel University to this tale to get an introduction to every title all at once, and they can pick their favourite one from there. I like the Enchantress’s short do, and my lol villain moment was the Super Skrull, due to face off with Thor again in a couple of years. Apparently Dr. Doom’s emotion charger has no space/time limits; where was Loki hiding? I thought it a little unfair that Stan and Jack were the only wedding guests to be turned away; maybe they’ll get revenge in the coming months.

PE: Despite the plethora of good guys and bad guys this is an average Marvel comic book, no more or no less. Each villain is introduced and dispatched within a given amount of panel space. The artwork looks rushed for what is being touted as the most super super spectacular ever written! One shining moment stands out however: the appearance of Attuma. Blink and you'll miss the blue-skinned Atlantean who has intercepted Dr. Doom's emotion telegram aimed at Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Attuma and his army rise from the bog of New York's waterfront (which should have killed them all in the first place) just in time to be the recipient of Hydra's runaway Vortex Bomb! This brief, but priceless, passage reminded me of Peter Bogdonavich's What's Up, Doc?, wherein all manner of silly coincidences collide for 90 minutes.

MB: This is one of those kitchen-sink stories that can be great or terrible, but since it’s Stan and Jack (who give themselves a cameo and sneak in an Irving Forbush name-check), and the occasion is the wedding of Sue and Reed, I’m not going too far out on a limb to classify this one closer to the “great” end of the spectrum. Not much to say about the plot, since there barely is one aside from “At Doom’s behest, virtually every major Marvel hero and villain squares off before Stretcho and Sue tie the knot in a big two panels.” It’s interesting to note that Spider-Man, Marvel’s biggest star outside the FF, gets only two panels himself, and to see how poorly some of those other characters Kirby doesn’t normally draw, such as the Mandarin, look.

PE: The roll-call for Marvel heroes is virtually complete, missing only Namor and Hulk who, Stan tells us in two footnotes, are busy with adventures of their own. This smells fishy to me as no other Marvel hero this month stops in the middle of their own adventure and makes time for Sue and Reed's wedding. It seems ironic to me that Stan and jack litter the aisle ways with heroes but not with the guy who'd be most natural at raising a hand come objection time: Namor. I wonder if the two titans of four colors simply forgot to include the Tales to Astonish co-stars. As for the line-up of villains, only one omission stands out for me: how could Paste Pot-Pete be left off the roster? It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for the matrimony to register in the regular monthly title.

Tom:  Okay, maybe this wasn't the grestest issue ever, but it is definitely historic. I've always been a big fan of these issues that tried to throw everyone in the universe into the story. You get to see some unlikely match-ups like Dr. Strange vs the Red Ghost. I agree with Peter that the omission of Namor is a little surprising. It would have been cool for the Hulk to have made an appearence but not having him show makes sense since Banner's identity as the green monster is still a secret. A fun read that's a classic in my book.

PE: In addition to the 23-page lead story, this 72-page monster gives us reprintings of "Captives of the Deadly Duo," the Doom/Namor team-up from issue #6; "A Visit with the Fantastic Four" and "The Impossible Man" (both from #11).

The Amazing Spider-Man 29

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The Scorpion busts out of jail and decides to make good on the promise he made to put both J. Jonah Jameson and The Amazing Spider-Man in the ground. Meanwhile, Peter Parker's having girl problems again when Ned Leeds returns from Europe and sets his sights on Betty Brant. The Scorpion attacks JJJ at The Bugle but, luckily for the publisher, Spidey arrives on the scene before much damage can be done. During the melee, Betty is "emotionally upset" and Ned, acting the hero, takes her to the doctor. Enraged by Leeds' actions, Peter/Spidey amps up his battleground tactics and makes The Scorpion sorry he ever decided to bust out of jail. In our finale, we learn that Aunt May could just be hiding a medical condition from her superhero nephew.

PE: I know that it's been established that the Marvel prison wardens are about as intelligent as the Marvel nurses but... seriously, Steve Ditko expects us to believe that his captors will hand over The Scorpion's outfit to him because he's been acting up and think maybe if he's geared up, he'll calm down. Bad idea on so many levels. Other than that obvious glitch in good sense, this is an enjoyable thriller and, coupled with Scorp's debut (back in #20), builds the foundation for what would become one of Spider-Man's most formidable foes. Even the "General Hospital" sub-plots of the return of Ned Leeds and interchangeable affections of Betty Brant (Ned or Peter? Peter or Ned?) don't bother me here as much as the same kind of nonsense that permeates Daredevil and Iron Man. I'm more annoyed with the "vile JJJ" overkill. We get that the guy is a nasty skinflint and an egotist but it seems as though every panel he populates in this installment exists only for the reason to pile on the egregious behavior.

MB: This story became an ex post facto collector’s item because, until it materialized in Marvel Tales #168 in 1984, it was the only Ditko Spider-Man issue never reprinted, due to the absence of the comic-book equivalent of a viable negative. Taken on its own merits, it is unremarkable despite the return of a great villain, the Scorpion; alas, J.J.’s “I hate Spider-Man but only he can save me from my own evil creation” shtick seems like a rehash of Scorpey’s debut in #20. True to form, they probably brought him back a little too soon, then—if the Marvel Comics Database is to be believed—overcompensated by shutting him out for five years, after which he appeared in Captain America #122 (2/70), and didn’t come home to Amazing until #145 (6/75).

PE: Well, that's a shame then as I think this villain, with a little bit of seasoning, could have been every bit as evil and insane as The Goblin. I have fond memories of The Scorpion/Mister Hyde team-up in Captain America and The Falcon #151-152 (July/ August 1972) as it segues beautifully into what I still consider to be the best written comic story arc of all time.

JS: I'll cast another vote in favor of The Scorpion, although I'd like to better understand how his tail works. It seems to grow or shrink as needed to fit within any particular panel.

PE: (SPOILER ALERT) Aunt May's gonna die some day! Aunt May's gonna die some day! Here we get the second in a series of "health incidents" that will spin wheels for the next fifty years.

JS: Mark my words, when she does go, she'll be back.

Journey Into Mystery 121

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Returned to Earth by Loki last month: the Absorbing Man. His mission: defeat Thor. Crusher Creel absorbs every metal and rock he can get his hands on to gain the upper hand. While the people of New York flee the streets, he grows to giant proportions, able to change his size by absorbing enough material. Jane Foster is still held prisoner by the mysterious hooded man, watching the battle on the TV. In Asgard, no one suspects that Loki has imprisoned Ularic, and with many of the realms warriors out on routine patrol, his plan to overthrow Odin gets a step closer.  While Creel can return every blow Thor throws at him (including the Uru hammer), he can’t match the Thunder God’s skill. Only when Thor stops to help a small child, does the Absorbing Man knock Thor to the ground, apparently unconscious. Round one victory for the bad guys.

In Tales Of Asgard, the Odinship is drawn closer and closer to the “Maelstrom” that are the stone Pillars of Utgard. Reaching out from the sea, the rocks are said to be the “feet” of the dragon, waiting to destroy any sea vessel foolish enough to approach. A mutiny is barely held in check.

JB: Continued tales may have given Marvel comics much of their greatness, but possibly this Absorbing Man saga, which goes on for another two issues after this, could have been condensed a little with no ill effects.  If we didn’t have the TOA, the battle might have drawn a yawn; or we could have some more supporting character development.

PE: I actually liked this one enough to anxiously await the next pulse-pounding issue. It beats the hell out of the three-part yawn being passed as an "epic" just finishing over at Fantastic Four. This is now the best display of Kirby in a monthly comic. I find Crusher Creel to be an... absorbing villain. The panel where he cries out to Thor "You won't get a chance to hurt me again, ya hear?" made me think of a wounded child. Like The Avengers, Thor should have talked Tony Stark into cleaning up his messes. The amount of damage he does to city streets and buildings displaying the awesome power of Mjolnir is disturbing.

JB: Still, this installment of the four- months of “Pop Art” productions offers a good deal of just that. The cover is impressive. The kid at the end wasn’t even afraid - anything for an autograph!

MB: With the preliminaries gotten out of the way last issue, the rematch between Thor and the Absorbing Man is a worthy tussle, even if Creel’s ability to mimic Giant-Man seems a bit out of left field, however photogenic it may be. Again, the Kirby/Colletta team seems better suited to this book than to certain others, and is on especially fine display in “Tales of Asgard.” But even as one “who had the good fortune and foresight to read Thor [sic] #120,” I’m confused by the scene with Jane, as I guess I’m supposed to be—who was that masked man?
PE: Two good points there, Professor Matthew. How did Crusher suddenly gain the power of height? Is Stan/Jack trying to say that if The Absorbing Man absorbs a whole bunch of stuff he can get real big? That hooded man scene seems to have changed tones form #120 when he almost seems to be a friend of Jane's or at least someone she knows. Now there's an "air of menace." Could it be the father she thought long dead (who somehow survived the explosion at the steel mill he worked at) come back to blackmail Jane into talking lame Doc Blake into operating on his volcanic face? Stay tuned.

Strange Tales

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

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Fury, who’s had a million-dollar bounty slapped on his head by Hydra, examines the saucer captured last ish, and receives from weapons design a tricked-up hat, tie, shirt, and armored suit. In the Balkans, a Hydra traitor and three S.H.I.E.L.D. agents die in a vain effort to pass a microfilm to Fury, who tells Agents Dugan and Jones that it contained the location of the launching site for the betatron bomb Hydra is about to put into orbit. While they mount an aerial search, we’re introduced to über-exec Leslie Farrington and his flunky, Brown, either of whom may be the Supreme Hydra, and the S.H. clashes with his daughter, Agent “G.”

MB: I’m a sucker for those overhead multiple-image screens, which remind me of The GREAT John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May, so that was a nice note on which to open. The scene with Stark’s unnamed Q-clone reminds us how much the ’60s spy milieu is indebted to 007, and this episode gives us a good sense of both the life-or-death stakes and the global reach of the conflict between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra. But it earns the Sloppy Scripting Award for the appearance of fellow ex-Howlers Gabe Jones (also glimpsed on the security detail with Fury in the concurrent FF annual) and “Dum-Dum” Dugan as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with no explanation whatsoever.

Jack: The James Bond copying is getting out of hand with the obligatory segment where “Q” shows Bond—I mean Fury—all of the new gadgets he’s invented. By the way, if every Hydra agent who fails is killed, what’s the point of signing up? What are the perks? Was this the 60s version of Al Qaeda, where they were promised virgins in the afterlife? What are Dum Dum and Gabe doing working for SHIELD? The head of Hydra appears to want to take over the world for his daughter because they used to be poor. I am a little disappointed in this pedestrian motive!

JS: I think Fury might disagree that having several agents fire at him at point blank range is the best way to demonstrate that his suit is bulletproof. I guess all the shooters were wearing the same designer outfits, since they were basically shooting directly at each other from all sides...

PE: SHIELD spares no expense to keep their head honcho in one piece, including a hat that has a mirror in the brim! Quite a technological advance there. I believe I was the lone holdout last issue. I believe I was the lone holdout last issue as far as Severin's art goes. I'm sold now. I love the feel of an old newsreel Severin gives this strip. Yeah, it's a complete rip-off of Bond but it's got a goofy earnestness to it that 007 never had.

JS: I'm still picking up a G.I. Joe vibe, but it's just one more interesting thing to enjoy about the series.

Dr. Strange

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Seeking the meaning of Eternity, Dr. Strange probes the Ancient One’s mind, battling barriers and traps before he can establish trust and learn the secret. Once he finally gains the knowledge he needs, he flies off to a secluded spot, where he speaks a potent spell and walks through a door to another dimension.

Jack: A very good story with nice Ditko art—this quest is finally getting somewhere!

JS: Praise the lord and pass the cupcakes! Of course, if the Ancient One held the secret to contacting Eternity in his head, did Strange need to go and get it for him? I do look forward to seeing how this wraps up.

MB: Zowie! Steve and Stan kick it back up a notch—and then some—as Doc finally makes a breakthrough in the quest for Eternity. Since fully half of the pages in this story are devoted to Strange seated at the Ancient One’s bedside, Steve keeps things interesting to look at by visualizing some of the sorcerous elements (e.g., the shield created by the Ancient One, the mental images of himself that Doc sends into his brain, Strange’s hallucinations), and by giving the proceedings a cinematic feel with multiple “camera angles,” most notably that atmospheric bird’s-eye-view shot in page 4, panel 5. I like that we’re reminded of how powerful the Ancient One really still is, when we’re used to seeing him depicted as a feeble, frail old man constantly at death’s door.

Tales to Astonish 72


Our story

The quest for the Trident continues as Namor tries not to let the giant seaweed monster destroy him. Knowing that the creature is too powerful, Namor quickly swims around him in a circle which creates a powerful whirlpool that traps him temporarily. Before the monster can escape, Subby finds a metal trap door that he must use all his strength to open. Inside, a small fish with a diamond in its mouth approaches with the next clue. Neptune’s voice can be heard resonating from the fish. Namor knows right away that the diamond is the next clue and that he has to go to the farthest reaches of the ocean to find the Diamonds of Doom. Back at the palace, Krang has been continually spurned by Dorma, who he wants to force to marry him. He tortures her with poison gas before making an example of her to all the peasants, banishing her to the realm of the faceless ones. Krang’s guards hand Dorma over to Zantor the merciless. Zantor is a kind of keeper of the faceless ones. He lowers an entrapped Dorma into their lair and it appears she is doomed, as the mysterious castaways start to approach her from the shadows. While this is going on, Namor reaches the diamonds of doom. Much to his surprise, some type of monster doesn’t await him, guarding the treasure. The diamonds themselves are the real threat; as Namor gets near them, they start to sap his power, making him black out, and possibly causing his death.

Tom: The creators threw in a couple of nice touches to keep this serial moving along at its exciting pace. The whole Dorma and Krang scenario got switched up before it started getting old. I’m curious to see what these faceless ones look like next issue.

PE: It's nice to see a female supporting character in the Marvel Universe, albeit one in peril, who has a little more to her than "Does he love me, do I love him" or the standard good looks and nothing much else. Lady Dorma's sub-plot plays out almost as intriguingly as Namor's.

 Jack: Has anyone else noticed that Subby talks like Thor? They both seem to have attended the same British public school. Though Namor’s quest is beginning to get repetitive—he locates the next thing he seeks, there is a scary monster there that just about defeats him, he defeats it and moves on—the good writing and excellent art make these stories enjoyable. I love the subplot with Lady Dorma, especially Zantor, who looks like a late 60s movie villain!

Tom: Namor’s whirlpool concoction was a bit of a letdown for the conclusion of the battle against the seaweed giant, but I’m being picky. It was a good move to have the diamonds as the hazardous danger themselves, instead of some other giant monster. 

MB: Seaweed Man—now there’s a villain to strike terror in the hardiest of heroes; I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot of him in future issues. Namor certainly doesn’t seem like too much of a proto-feminist, the way he was barking at Dorma in our first installment (“Unhand me, woman! Have you forgotten that none may touch the royal personage??” Okay, this guy’s sleeping on the couch tonight!). But it is interesting to see that she literally gets equal time, with exactly half the pages devoted to her many trials and tribulations with Warlord Krang.


Our story

The military continues its barrage on the Hulk as he is trapped in the cave. With little recourse, he accepts the Leader’s offer of safety and the two are transported to the villain’s secret hideout in Italy. The Leader gives the Hulkster the guided tour as we see his army of pink humanoids milling about, with new humanoids being hatched from eggs, instantly fighting each other as they are bred for combat. The Hulk doesn’t want anything to do with the weirdo Leader’s plans of world domination. He tries to attack him but is knocked out cold from sleeping gas that the Leader was secretly and slowly subjecting him to. When the Hulk awakens, he feels the change coming on into Banner. This will lead to his death because of the bullet still lodged in his skull. He tries desperately to forestall the transformation by using the Leader’s technology, with no luck. Figuring that if he’s going to die he might as well go out with a bang, the Hulk starts wrecking the joint. The Leader sends some of his humanoid goons to stop him as the story ends with the Hulk passing out after a brawl with them. 

Tom: While last issue kind of lagged, this story was better, with a bit more insight into the Leader and his kooky plans. I liked his bizarre laboratory, especially since we get to see him working on some amphibious humanoids for when he goes after Namor’s kingdom once the above-water countries are under his control. The Leader was probably getting a little bit ahead of himself, though; as I am pretty sure an epic war between his army and Namor’s never materialized.

Jack: If Hulk has Bruce Banner’s brain, why does he speak like a palooka half the time? By the way, the art still stinks!

Tom: The Hulk’s surly demeanor, with Banner’s brain in partial control, is a nice surprise. I’m sure we are all aware of how the Jade Giant has had quite the identity crisis over his brief tenure at Marvel so far. My favorite incarnation of the Hulk was in the 1980s, when they made him gray-colored with a street thug attitude. Much better than the dumb caveman Hulk of the 1970s, in my humble opinion. You can almost kind of see a little of the gray Hulk incarnation in this issue. That General Ross sure is a genius. His latest suspicion is that the Hulk is a robot created by Banner. What?!

PE: Stan hypes in the final panel that in the next issue the strip will take off in a somewhat different direction. I hope "The Man" means we're about to buckle up and take off from the land of mediocrity.

Avengers 21

Our story

The Avengers are getting along about as well as The Fantastic Four, as Hawkeye continually needles Captain America, leaving Quicksilver and The Scarlet Witch to keep the peace. In the Amazon jungle, a soldier of fortune left over from Baron Zemo’s band finds his way into Zemo’s old hideout, where the Enchantress helps him become super strong by way of the same device that had created Wonder Man. The new bad guy is dubbed Power Man, and he and the Enchantress return to New York to wreak havoc with the Avengers. The combination of Power Man’s abilities and The Enchantress’s spells makes the Avengers look like a bunch of rowdy fools, and the City Council passes a law declaring them a public menace and ordering them to disband! Old military man Captain America, not one to buck authority, fears this is the end of the super group he has now run into the ground.

PE: The team spends most of the story holding each other back from pummeling each other.
Scarlet Witch: Hawkeye, stop teasing Captain America. 
Hawkeye: I'll blacken his eye. pretty lady. Just watch me.
Cap: I'm tired of your impertinence, Hawkeye, I'm gonna pound you, son.
(Here Scarlet Witch intercedes by blasting Hawkeye with a hex)
Cap: Be careful, Scarlet Witch, we're partners after all. We don't want to hurt each other.
Sheesh, what crap this script is. 

The Enchantress attended the Stan Lee
School for Naming Villains.
MB: I’ve had the Marvel Triple Action reprint of this story since 1973, which means that for several years it was probably the earliest Avengers issue I’d seen. That goes a long way toward explaining my fondness for the REAL Power Man—not that Cage guy—whom I’d met in (wait for it) Avengers Special #1, and especially for Heck, whose work I thus encountered early on under the best possible circumstances, i.e., inked by Wood. It would be some time before I made the acquaintance of Wonder Man in #152, so the fact that Erik Josten’s powers tied in with his didn’t resonate with me per se, but I thought Power Man’s origin was well-handled in general, and of course I’ll never turn down a visit by the sexy Heck/Wood incarnation of the Enchantress.

A Wally Wood
Scarlet Witch.
PE: Well, The Enchantress would look nicer if she wasn't constantly portrayed as a talking head in the corner of a panel. Even Stan makes light of the "Power Man" moniker. He says he hopes everyone likes the latest villain as Marvel's running out of words to put with "-Man." I think it takes a lot of imagination to go from Wonder man to Power Man.

Jack: Don Heck’s pencils must have been pretty tight, because this doesn’t look very much like Wally Wood’s work. Again, look at the girls—The Enchantress and the Scarlet Witch do show signs of Wood’s loving care. It’s funny that The Avengers have an emergency fund to pay for all of the damage they cause. I also wonder where The Executioner is, since Power Man is hitting on The Enchantress pretty hard! This issue’s letters column includes a missive from Mike Friedrich, who would later write for Batman.

Not to worry--she doesn't go for humans.

Fantastic Four 43

Our Story

The conclusion of our trilogy finds finds Reed and Sue making an escape from the Frightful Four. Reed having attached anti-gravity discs on Medusa, the Trapster and the Sandman (with the Trapster’s paste), only the Wizard and the Human Torch are free to pursue them. With a likewise anti-grav Ben in tow, the soon-to-be-married Richards hop in Johnny’s sports car and head for the Baxter Building. The plan is to get Ben where Reed’s own machinery can reverse the effects of the Wizard’s Id machine, which enhances the darker side of the human mind, and has turned the already bitter Thing against his teammates. The Human Torch, apparently converted to the dark side as well, is only faking—Sue having diffused the Id machine before the evil F.F. could use it on him. They get suspicious when the Torch isn’t much help in thwarting Sue and Reed’s escape. When Medusa and the Wizard find the Id machine has been tampered with, they subdue Johnny. Reed and Sue have their hands full getting an angry Ben into an experimental chamber. Finally they do, and gas Ben so he’s unconscious. Reed gets to work on “fixing” Ben’s mind, at the risk of doing more damage if he fails. The Thing wakes up, and smashes free of Reed’s equipment, causing a deadly electrical buildup. Everyone gets out of harms way, but it’s unclear whether an unconscious Ben has been helped or harmed. More trouble is on the way; landing atop the roof are the Frightful Four. The Sandman seeps through some tiny cracks in the roof and breaks the ceiling above to let his cohorts enter the Baxter Building.  They have the Torch floating outside, attached to a human-sized anti-grav disc, and the Wizard threatens to let Johnny drop to his death unless the good F.F. surrender. Ben wakes up, and, surprise… he’s one of the good guys again! He grabs the Wizard, smashing his anti-grav master control. Johnny does drop, but can flame on now, and flies to his teammates aid. The Frightful four are taken by surprise and defeated. All, that is, except Medusa, who manages to escape. 

JB: Fantastic Four. Frightful Four. Or five, or six… There’s so many it’s hard to keep track! Ben’s somehow the most appealing member, good or bad. If the bad F.F. didn’t have so much in fighting, they might have fared better. 

PE: I love the Miniature Resonance Cap "which will have the effect of dynamite on an oil fire." The little weapon that could looks like a toddler's roll of TNT.

JB: I’ve always liked the Sandman, and thought of him as an F.F. villain, even though he got his start as a Spiderman foe. Medusa’s quite a cutie; it’s no wonder Johnny doesn’t have the heart to stop her from escaping. Even the police don’t believe it’s really Reed on the phone at the end!

PE: I'm not sure what The Wizard means when he says "Now we're ready for our greatest attack -- our final victory." 

JS: Wizard—you just completed your final virtory! What are you going to do???  (I've got my money on Dislneyland.)

MB: At last we’ve reached the finale of our ever-shifting matchup between, uh, lessee, the Frightful Six and the Fantastic Two, although we now learn that Johnny was merely shamming, thus displaying more gravitas than expected from the literal hothead, and I like that this was withheld from the reader as well as the other characters. Between big-domes Reed and Wingless, there’s an overabundance of kool, Kirbyesque frammistats on display, so the battle for the mind and soul of Benjamin J. Grimm comes down to who has the better frammistats; you do the math. The Torch goes two steps back by letting Medusa escape, and if the cover-up is worse than the crime, his over-sensitivity on the subject is perhaps the greater annoyance…but I speak with the 20/20 hindsight of knowing that Medusa will turn out to be a hero in the end, and that we’re going into a major Inhumans mode once we’ve got this wedding business out of the way.

PE: Who's the egghead running the desk down at the 31st precinct? Why, it's Sgt. Donnegan! I was somewhat disturbed to see that The Fantastic Four have been stealing from The X-Men's playbook. I know that X and his mini-Xes are invited to the wedding and all but does that give Reed the right to call out "Plan R" to Sue during battle? Of course, Stretch had to rewrite that particular move since it was originally designed for a guy with really big feet. Here it simply means "Sue, use your invisible force spheres." Why he can't just tell his fiance what's on his mind I'll never know.

Tales of Suspense 70

Iron Man

Our Story

Iron Man is still locked in mortal combat with The Titanium Man as part of a televised smack-down, devised to pit the good (USA!) against the evil (COMMIE ALERT!). Of course, the big-hearted Iron man never imagined a Russkie would cheat and use weapons not in the fight manual but, alas, he'll learn very quickly. But Tito's not the only pain in Tony Stark's iron-clad butt as the Countess de la Spirosa is intent on paying back the millionaire playboy in spades for standing her up. She breaks into Tony's hotel suite (does Stark rent a room or just buy the hotel?) and discovers his experimental power pack. Sensing this is something big that she can use against him, she steals it just as the Shell-headed dope discovers he's forgotten to bring it along to the fight. Luckily, Happy Hogan agrees to track down the naughty Countess and brings Iron Man the device. Determined to get the gizmo to Shellhead, Happy ventures out onto the battlefield and is blasted when Iron Man ducks from a Molecule Scrambler. Vowing to avenge his fallen gofer, Iron Man stands tall and strides toward The Titanium Man. To Be Continued.

PE: Senator Harrington Byrd is fast becoming a clone of J. Jonah Jameson (the Senator even sports the clinching cigar). His irrational hatred of Tony Stark and, as an extension, Iron Man has become laughable. Also laughable is the fact that Iron Man forgets his new gizmo back at the hotel. Could a brain the size of Tony Stark's actually forget such an important device? Then he has the nerve to think to himself, after he's sent his bodyguard/chauffeur/drink stirrer Happy Hogan after his jilted bad girl, "If only Happy hadn't failed me!" Excuse me, you absent-minded clod? Though the fight between Titanium and Iron Men smacks of a heavyweight bout, I'm not sure America would put its name behind what could end up being murder. Am I being naive?

JS: I did a double take when I saw the carnival panel I was sure I read before, and sure enough, we even get a liner note that Stan swiped them from the previous issue. Gotta give 'em credit for being forthcoming about being lazy. Or respecting that that kids might actually notice!

PE: I can just picture Stan Lee's office at the Marvel Bullpen: notes tacked all over the wall to keep him straight on which villain has which deadly ray: Mole Man - Flatulence Charger. Doctor Doom - Ionic Pentameter Displacer. The Mad Thinker - Encephalon Neuro Microwave Thought Enhancer. The Titanium Man - The Molecule Scrambler Ray. Picture this: Stan realizes he's mixed his notes up and suddenly the ray gun The Mad Thinker invented in FF #5 is being used by Rama-Tut in Avengers #14 but it's too late to stop the presses. Stan Lee spends the next two months just waiting for the mountain of mail from George R. R. Martin, Don McGregor, Roy Thomas, and all the other Marvel kiddies, screaming for his head. What a life!

JS: Good thing they scheduled those 10 minute rest periods in their fight. Without those, Iron Man surely would have been doomed.

PE: Iron Man warns Happy he's not safe on the battlefield and then ducks as Tito sends a molecularly scrambled ray his way, leaving Hogan right in the path. I'm not sure what a molecule scrambler is supposed to do (and why it's not in the weapon cache of The Molecule Man) but Happy's head is still where it's supposed to be. Monumental cheat at the climax as Happy Hogan is all but pronounced dead. Was it his clone? His twin brother from Ireland, Hoppy? A hologram devised at the last second by Iron Man to make Tito think he has the upper hand? Whatever it is, I smell revisionism as soon as we meet again next issue. My money is on amnesia. Hogan will never remember that he discovered Iron Man's secret identity.

JS: What? Happy — not dead? I refuse to believe it! I have to say the scene surprised me, so I'll go on believing it until the next issue.

Captain America

Our Story

Discovering that Bucky has been taken captive, Captain America heads for "the most desolate part of Britain" and mysterious Greymoor Castle. There, the traitorous Dr. Cedric Rawlings seems hellbent on teaching his home country a lesson for spurning him. Cap arrives at the castle and finds Bucky strapped on a stretcher loaded with explosives. Before he can release his sidekick he's attacked by Nazis dressed in suits of armor and gassed. Cap, Bucky, and Rawlings' sister are loaded into the V-2 missile, now aimed at 10 Downing Street and Winston Churchill.

PE: I've gone from thinking that the World War II scenario would be the perfect breeding ground for the imagination of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee to thinking maybe a contemporary climate might do this strip a bit of good. The exit of Kirby probably has a lot to do with that vibe and the addition of George Tuska, who has never floated my boat, can't help. Too much of his art has that "Dick Ayers taught me everything he knows..." look to it, his figures interchangeable and indistinct.

JS: I was initially excited to see that they were starting this issue off with the plane takeover that happened offscreen last issue.  Until I turned the page and realized they intended to cover that in the splash page and two additional panels. At that point, why evem bother? They must have had the pages to fill.

MB: This appears to be the first time we’ve seen Golden Age vet George Tuska’s work in the Silver Age, providing finished art over Kirby’s layouts. I don’t remember him coming up before, except as the guy alluded to back in March for having reportedly punched out Bob Powell, but given the almost-decade-long run on Iron Man in his future, perhaps Tuska had the last laugh. In this first Suspense outing, he neither embarrasses nor distinguishes himself, and in truth, the same might be said of Stan’s run-of-the-mill script.

PE: I had to laugh when Captain America enters the creepy dungeon where Bucky is being held, trussed up like a present at George Michael's 50th birthday party, hears Bucky's muffled "Mrrff...mrrffff...mmmrrrfffffff!" and uses the "experience of a thousand battles... the caution of one who has been both the hunter and the hunted" and perceives there might just be a booby-trap here! It wasn't the big black Ajax bomb with the lit fuse strapped to Bucky's midsection? The dynamic between Steve Rogers and his suspicious Army Sergeant (who's convinced that Rogers is a deserter) will be resuscitated years later by Steve Englehart when he has Steve Rogers join the police force and clash constantly with Sergeant Muldoon (who may or may not be a crooked cop - Stay Tuned!).

JS: Gosh. The Nazis decide the mad doctor's sister will share the fate of Cap and Bucky. Will said mad doctor sit back and watch as his sister is strapped to a rocket? I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that we haven't seen the last of Celia or our dynamic duo.

Also this Month

Marvel Tales #2
Millie the Model #131
Modeling with Millie #42
Patsy and Hedy #102
Patsy Walker #123
Rawhide Kid #48
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #23
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos Annual #1


Marvel Tales #2 (72 Big Pages!) features reprints of: X-Men #1, "The Ringmaster" story from Hulk #3, "The Origin of Dr. Strange" from Strange Tales #115, the Lee/Ditko sf story "A Monster Among Us" from Amazing Adult Fantasy #8, and The Avengers #1. In addition to a new Lee/Ayers/Giacoia story, Sgt Fury Annual #1 also reprints issues #4 and 5 in their entirety.


  1. What is it with people running out onto battlefields and bomb testing sites? If it's not Rick Jones, it's Happy Hogan. One thing I love about Marvel is the bold, sweeping titles on the covers. Look at this month's: "A Prince There Was," "Within the Monster Dwells a Man," "The Bitter Taste of Defeat," "Lo, There Shall Be An Ending," and "If This Be Treason." These sound like Stan was sneaking a look at the Protestant hymnal, if not cribbing from the King James Bible.

  2. I'm just surprised we didn't see "If There Was a Prince," If There's a Bitter Taste, Then It's Defeat," and "If This Be a Monster Dwelling Within This Man."

  3. As Marvel expanded its line, Stan Lee needed to expand the bullpen, and sought out artists capable of working “Marvel style.” For Daredevil, he tapped Golden Age great Bill Everett, the man who launched The Sub-Mariner back in 1939. In an interview with Roy Thomas, Everett recalled that Jack Kirby had already drawn the front cover, designed the character, and devised the billy club idea. Everett proved to be unreliable, delivering the pencilled pages at the last possible second. Daredevil's first issue was his last.

    Next up was Joe Orlando, an excellent artist who learned the hard way that he could not work Marvel style. Frustrated by vague plot conferences with Stan Lee, and a lack of clear instruction, Orlando found that he would turn in a job, then, typically, have to redraw five of the pages at Stan Lee's request. To Orlando's way of thinking, he was drawing 25 pages or more, only getting paid for 22, and Marvel's page rate wasn't that great to begin with. He left after three frustrating issues.

    Enter Wally Wood, E.C. legend, and a man capable of illustrating AND writing a story. With minimal input from Stan Lee, Wood was off and running, plotting stories and even redesigning Daredevil's costume, creating the all red outfit familiar today. However, Wood made the same discovery as Steve Ditko. Wood was paid for 20 pages of artwork, while Lee payed himself for writing a complete 20 page story, and gave himself sole writing credit. Wood protested, and demanded credit as Daredevil's writer.

    The blurb on page one of Daredevil #10 reads “Wally Wood has always wanted to try his hand at writing a story as well as drawing it, and big-hearted Stan (who wanted a rest anyway) said okay.” How insulting. Shades of the blurb on page one of Spidey #25 four months earlier, where Lee joked about letting Steve Ditko plot a story. Wood went one step further than Ditko, and told Lee that he wanted payment for his share of the writing. Lee balked, and Wood walked, after inking Bob Powell's pencilling on Daredevil #11.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  4. Thanks, Glenn! Daredevil may have had a revolving door for artists, but it sure had some of the best art of any Marvel title at the time!

  5. And Don Heck's work on THE AVENGERS lost a great inker in the process. I hereby nominate GlennME as the newest member of the MU faculty, since he obviously knows a lot more about this stuff than some of us do!

  6. Glenn, the President and Dean of Faculty--or, as I call him, "Paste-Pot"--evidently shares our thinking in this matter, and would love you to contact him at his super-secret e-mail address ( Hope you will see fit to join us, since I'm consistently impressed with your expertise.

  7. I would gladly welcome a new addition to staff!

  8. Thanks for the kind offer to join the faculty, but for the time being, I think I'll just continue the way I'm going, posting whenever I can.

    A few observations:

    How different were Marvel comics in the 1960s?
    Picking up on everyone's comments, particularly about reading these 1960s books as reprints, I've come to the conclusion that I'm a lot older than most of you. I was 11 in 1965, and read, and collected the books currently under discussion when they were new. If you weren't there, you can't begin to imagine just how different Marvel comics were back then. We laugh at the endless internal bickering and personal problem plotlines today, because they've been done to death. In the mid 1960s, they were still new concepts. With continued story arcs, and powerful graphics, they were nothing like the books produced by D.C. at the time, aimed mainly at kids under the age of eight.

    How could books like“Strange Tales” possibly sell 200,000 copies a month?
    I know what you're thinking. Ditko's Dr. Strange was great, but the character almost never featured on the cover, and was buried at the back of a book that led with tenth rate Torch and Thing stories, drawn by anyone who happened to walk past the Marvel offices at the wrong time.

    In the mid 1960s, on a typical month, there were eight new Marvel Superhero titles on the stands. For less than a dollar, you could pick up the next installment of the entire Marvel Universe. Readers didn't have to discriminate. The quality of each title fluctuated from month to month, but that didn't matter, because it was all part of the big picture, and still cheap entertainment, unlike today, where you'd need a second job to afford to buy every title on the Marvel roster.

    How was Jack Kirby able to draw and plot so many pages?
    I have no idea.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  9. Glenn-

    The invitation remains open if you change your mind. You're a bit older then me (I was born right as FF #1 was hitting the racks) but I can still remember the thrill of going down to the local soda fountain, Pronto Pup. The Pup had a bar that you sat at and ordered your Pronto Pup (basically a hush puppy) and Coke, all the while surrounded on three sides by shelves stacked full of thousands of magazines and comic books. That's where I'd buy my Eeries, Creepys, FMs, and Marvels every few days. The Pup had so many zines that you could literally go every couple days and there would be a new assortment. How do you explain that feeling of joy to a new generation that has their magazines delivered to them wirelessly on their kindle?

  10. Thanks, Glenn. It's always nice to be reminded of what made Marvel so special back in the day, and I like your point about the fluctuations in any given book being less important than the whole. Indeed, the very idea of the Marvel Universe as a semi-coherent world created (more or less) by a single writer, credit squabbles notwithstanding, also differentiates it from DC, whose major characters were created by a diverse group of people over a period of many years. I don't know if we'll ever come to a point where we feel like every single book is firing on all cylinders at once, and of course our opinions on all of that will vary among us anyway, partly by age (I was born in '63, as I believe Professor Jack was as well), but to use the current parlance, "It's all good."

  11. Professor (almost) Glenn: I've been negligent in adding my appreciation of your very knowledgable comments. Thanks for adding a lot of info to fill in the picture of the Marvel universe of the time. I'm in the same age range as Professors Matthew and Peter; born in 1964. I got a lot of these issues when I was a little older, in the mid-seventies at my local comic store. What a delight it must have been to get them all for around a dollar in one month! Thanks for continuing to add to the fun.