Wednesday, April 25, 2012

September 1966: The End of The Green Goblin??

Daredevil 20
Our Story

After a night of uneventful hero patrol, Daredevil swings into his alter-ego’s law office, where he is attacked by three thugs who are looking for Matt Murdock.  Double D beats them up but lets them escape because he is curious as to why they are hunting him.  He leaps back to his apartment, where the same thugs show up and shanghai Daredevil in his guise as Matt Murdock. Next thing he knows he’s on an airplane heading for a castle on a strange island.  Once they land, Daredevil learns that the person behind the kidnapping is his old enemy, the Owl.  The villain has taken Murdock hostage because he is known as a great lawyer and can take part in a mock trial where he will represent the defendant, an old ex-judge named Lewis, who sentenced the Owl to prison after he was first defeated by Daredevil.  Matt does what he can to bring some legitimacy to the proceedings, but it’s pretty obvious that the fix is in as the Owl, acting as the judge, makes his own rules.  The jury is comprised of other criminals who Lewis has sentenced during his career.  The hoods would just as soon kill Lewis and be done with him except that the Owl keeps dragging things out in an attempt to torment him.  Matt Murdock asks if he can find a witness to speak in the defense’s behalf.  The Owl laughingly lets him go search the island to find someone.  Once outside, it doesn’t take long for Matt to change into his Daredevil costume.  He storms back into the castle for a brawl with the goons.  The story ends with the Owl using some slick pool balls to trip up Double D so that his henchman can subdue him. 

Jack: Though Stan’s note says that Gene Colan takes over the art chores because John Romita was busy drawing the Spider-Man Special, the fact is that this issue starts Colan’s wonderful run on this title. I am not the only professor here who loves Colan’s artwork, and Frank Giacoia’s inks enhance it as well as anyone would until Tom Palmer inked Colan in the 1970s on Tomb of Dracula.

Tom:  I don’t know, man . . . this might be the worst issue of Daredevil I’ve read up to this point.  Somehow, no matter how this story wraps up, I don’t think my opinion will change much.  Gene Colan is always welcome as a guest artist, but for a guy who drew a creepy-looking Dracula, his Owl just looks like an overstuffed dork.  Going so far out of his way to punish a judge who sentenced him to prison is a bit of a stretch, even for some kooky super-villain.  Too bad the Owl didn’t invest all this time and energy into defeating Daredevil, the guy who got him caught and sent to the big house in the first place.
Jack: Is this the first full-length book Colan drew for Marvel? He was doing half-length Sub-Mariner and Iron Man stories. I have to wonder if this was a bit of a rush job, what with all of the full and half-page illustrations. Still, the cinematic quality of his art and the use of shadows get me every time.

PE: Hard to believe this thread-thin storyline will be stretched over two issues when it barely sustains interest over one. Perhaps it's Frank Giacoia's inks, but Gene Colan's art is not among his best work, resembling Johnny Romita's art more than Colan. That's not an insult to Jazzy Johnny, just an observation. There's not a trace of noir-ish element that highlight his work over at Iron Man and Sub-Mariner. It also looks nothing like the fabulous DD art we'll be seeing from Gentleman Gene when he's freed from Fearless Frank's grasp beginning in #26.

Jack: I love the Owl and am thrilled to see him return! I also love the idea of the trial by villains. Has anyone else noticed that spelling errors are getting more frequent? “Intolerable” is misspelled (on page 19, panel 5) in the Essentials reprint but fixed in the Masterworks. Go figure. Also, does anyone else think the section pictured to the left looks like the work of Jack Davis? I wonder if Colan had help.

MB:  Confirming my expectations about Romita, Colan is supposedly pinch-hitting for him while he finishes the Spider-Man Special, yet since DD will become Gentleman Gene’s signature character, I am frankly not expecting to see Romita returning any time soon.  Giacoia provides some nice continuity, especially with the figures of Hornhead himself, although I was a little surprised to see the Owl pop up instead of the Gladiator and the Masked Marauder, having apparently deferred their dastardly vengeance until another day.  The Owl is one of those villains who has to be handled just right, as Joe Orlando did with his debut in #3, but fortunately Colan’s shadowy style is resolutely right for the task, and everything seems to mesh beautifully art-wise.

Jack: I was reading All Star Comics from 1941 and was reminded of Dr. Mid-Nite, the first blind super hero. I had thought Daredevil was original in that way, but I should have known that very little in comics was original after oh, say, 1941 . . .

The Mighty Thor 132
Our Story

Thor arrives at the outskirts of the Rigel system and is met by a group of the colonizers.  He demands they release the space lock set up by the Rigelians to aid Tana Nile in the invasion of Earth.  The colonizers’ refuse; when they realize they haven’t the power to stop Thor, a robot called an Indestructible is sent forth to do the job.  Able to withstand even the fury of a cosmic storm created by Thor’s hammer, the Indestructible is only defeated when Thor forces back its arm and it is struck by its own gamma-powered immobilizer beam.  At that moment a beam from the Black Galaxy destroys a nearby Rigelian battle cruiser.  The Grand Commissioner, leader of the colonizers, formulates a plan.  He intercepts Thor who is about to throw his Mjolnir at the space lock (which Tana Nile is using to slowly move Earth out of its orbit).  The Grand Commissioner convinces Thor that the menace within the Black Galaxy, which is getting more powerful all of the time, will soon venture forth and be as much a menace to Earth as it is to Rigel.  Thor agrees to go into the Black Galaxy to vanquish whatever foe lies within.  In return, the Rigelians will release the space lock from Earth if the Thunder God is successful.  Thor is accompanied by a Rigelian robot recorder to track the data from their trip.  Jane Foster, meanwhile, still under Tana Nile’s hypnotic suggestion, travels far away from New York by plane.  Just as the recorder determines that the Black Galaxy is a bio-verse composed of living biological matter, the hero and the recorder confront what they have been looking for:  Ego, the Living Planet.  


Tales of Asgard finds the weary warriors of Asgard victorious, having freed the land of Muspelheim from the conquest of the barbarian Harokin.  The injured warrior has fought his last battle, as the Black Stallion of Death appears to take him to Valhalla.  

J.B.:  The weird science of Thor continues in Part Two of the Rigelian space trilogy.  Mind thrusts, nullified molecular vacuums, and gamma-powered immobilizer beams abound.  We meet the Rigelian robot recorder for the first time, destined to become a great companion of Thor in the coming years.  The full-page photo of Ego might have scared some young kids in the day! 

PE: As I stated in my comments for #131, I'd prefer to see Asgardian menaces and more Herculian appearances rather than Fantastic Four space opera but, having said that, we get a good story and my interest was raised with its startling climax. It's one of those classic rambling tales that Stan and Jack told during the 1960s: "Well, there's this race of aliens come to earth to dominate mankind but that's just the kick-off to the real danger!" I like plot lines that confound my expectations.

J.B.:  If this sci-fi epic is a little too off the beaten path for some Thor fans, a read of Thor Annual #2 will set things to right.  The Tales of Asgard has a memorably haunted feel when the Stallion of Death approaches.

PE: A very prescient thought balloon over a cop's head when an officer observes Tana Nile in a pink mini-skirt and thinks, "What in the name of J. Edgar Hoover is that?"

The Amazing Spider-Man 40
Our Story

Having unmasked himself and The Amazing Spider-Man, The Green Goblin tells the wall-crawler his origin in minute detail. Widowed and left to fend for himself and son Harry, Norman Osborn finds himself wrapped up in his work and becoming an absentee father. When his business partner, Professor Stromm, takes out an off-the-books loan from their company, Osborn finds the perfect way to get rid of him and strengthen his power by calling the police. Stromm is hauled off to jail and Norman is left with a drawer full of notes for new formulae. Testing one out, Osborn unwittingly sets off an explosion which puts Norman in the hospital for several weeks. Doctors diagnose Osborn with brain damage but the prognosis is open to debate according to Norman who sees himself reborn as brilliant. Obsessed with the idea of becoming the greatest super-villain of all time, he crafts a suit and tinkers with some of the machinery around his factory and voila, The Green Goblin is born! All the while Gobby talks, Peter Parker is loosening the cables that bind him but, just before he's freed himself, The Goblin breaks his bonds and reveals that he'd rather fight Spider-Man in a fair fight than simply kill him. Not one to pass up an opportunity, Parker dons his Spidey costume and the battle begins. The battle ends when The Goblin stumbles into an electro-chemical charge and awakens with amnesia. Thinking it for the best, Spidey strips the man of his Goblin outfit, rescues him from the burning building and turns him over to the waiting police. He tells the officers that Norman helped him defeat The Green Goblin.

PE: Since The Green Goblin is the Marvel equivalent of The Joker, he's always been my favorite villain in the MU. Having said that, his origin is very by-the-numbers and seems rushed. The only welcomed variants being that the explosion doesn't actually give Norman Osborn powers, a la Bruce Banner or any number of Marvel characters, and that the guy is insane and irrational (also very much like The Clown Prince of Crime over at DC). I'm sure this origin was fleshed out sometime in the then-future. The climax is brilliant since, otherwise, Stan had painted himself into a corner. How else do you proceed with a villain who's insane and knows your secret identity? Either he ruins your life or you kill him. It would be fascinating to know when exactly "The Man" came up with amnesia as a cure. And Spider-Man's decision to let bygones be bygones and let Norman Osborn free (sans his GG costume) is a strange one considering all the damage he'd done and the fact that this "cure" might not be permanent.

JS: Bizarre gizmo time as The Green Goblin uses a "Retroscope Helmet" to project images of battles with Spidey. We in the business call it "padding the panels." Though these are images originally drawn by Ditko and re-imagined by Romita, it gives Stan an excuse to pad a couple pages with flashbacks. This issue also sees the return of Betty Brant in a cameo that serves as nothing more than an extra bit of the afore-mentioned padding. Does she love Peter? Does she love Ned? Will JJJ give her her old job back? Same-o, same-o.

MB:   I first read this classic in Stan Lee’s Bring on the Bad Guys, without the benefit of having part one (although it can stand on its own just fine), and in my mind’s eye, I will always see Norman Osborn with his face dripping sweat, whether in civvies or unmasked in his Goblin outfit.  Stan’s script skillfully portrays both Spidey’s existential “even if I win, I lose” dilemma—knowing that the shock of having Gobby reveal his identity might prove fatal to Aunt May—and the tightrope he walks in order to keep Osborn talking as his well-told origin unfolds. I enjoyed the ritualistic touch of their having to be masked for the “final” confrontation, superbly executed by a Romita who has found his feet fast, and while Osborn’s amnesia might seem a tad too convenient, Marvel obviously wasn’t ready to start killing off any major characters…just yet.

PE: The Green Goblin's retirement actually lasted quite a while, surprisingly. We won't see him again until 1969's The Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2 and he won't grace the pages of The Amazing . . . until the infamous non-Code approved "drug issues" #96-98 (May-July 1971). The novel approach taken by Stan, the "death by amnesia," will become tedious after three or four uses. After all, there are only so many ways you can get conked on the head and regain your super-villain memory.

Fantastic Four 54
Our Story

Grateful to the Fantastic Four for helping him defeat his enemy Klaw, the master of sound, the Black Panther gives his friends many gifts to express his gratitude. They share a game of baseball and enjoy a piano concert in their honour. When it comes time to leave, Johnny decides he wants to spend the rest of his school break going to the Great Refuge and attempting again to shatter the barrier that keeps the Inhumans  (including Crystal, the girl he loves) imprisoned. Wyatt Wingfoot asks to accompany him, while Reed and Sue go off to spend some time alone, and Ben returns to New York. The Black Panther gives the Torch and Wyatt a spherical craft to travel in, powered by friction-induced magnetic power. Johnny and Wyatt find the craft is perfectly comfortable inside, despite a sandstorm on the outside. The sandy ground beneath them gives way and the ship falls deep into the Earth. Unharmed, they exit the craft and find themselves in an ancient chamber, where they find a man dressed in a bizarre suit. He calls himself Prester John, the Wanderer, and he had been placed in a life-supporting “chair of survival” seven hundred years ago by the men of Avalon, a race thought to be mythical, who sadly were the cause of their own destruction. Although Prester at first seems hostile, he turns out to be a man of ethics who means no harm to anyone. He has with him a powerful weapon he calls the Evil Eye, a mysterious hand-held device of great power. When Johnny sees that one of its powers is to create and shatter an unbreakable barrier (as Prester had earlier put around, then removed from Wyatt and Johnny) he uses his flame to grab the eye. While all this transpires, inside the Great Refuge the Inhumans try to find a way to shatter the barrier around their land that Maximus, Black Bolt’s brother, has created. But Maximus has gone mad (or pretends to be?) and will not help them. In a desperate effort to free his people, Black Bolt harnesses the energy around him with the help of his cyco-electronic chamber, to power an absorba-bomb that hopefully will have the power to shatter the dome. The strain causes him so much pain, he screams--the first time in ages he has made any vocal sounds. Back with Wyatt and the Wanderer, they pursue the flying Johnny in the spherical craft. The Evil Eye hadn’t been properly turned off, and it will soon explode. Wyatt fires a light ray that knocks it from Johnny’s grasp seconds before it explodes. Johnny laments that perhaps it would have been better if he hadn’t been saved.

JB: It’s a lot of fun seeing the F.F. get a little chance to unwind, if only for a little while, with the Black Panther in the baseball game. They don’t get many minutes of peace; however, as Johnny is tortured by his desire to see Crystal again. Prester John is an unusual character; I hadn’t read this one before so I wasn’t aware of his part (or of the Evil Eye) in the Avengers/Defenders war. Wyatt has worked his way into the comic almost like an extra member of the team. I don’t know, however, how politically correct the exchange between him and Johnny would be today (“flaming ranger,” “oversized Tonto,” and my fave, “they went thataway!”).

PE: A solid issue, full of memorable images: the extraordinary baseball game that opens our story; the hamster ball given to Johnny and Wyatt to fly across the country in; our first image of Prester John, which reminded me a lot of the Space Jockey in Alien; and maybe most of all, cynic though I may be, the heartbreaking sight of Johnny Storm collapsing when he realizes he can't save his beloved Crystal (though I do have to remind all concerned that he saw her for a total of three or four panels in one issue and probably couldn't pick her out of a line-up now).

MB: Yet another noteworthy introduction, this time of Prester John and the Evil Eye; for those like me who worship at the altar of the Avengers/Defenders War, the importance of the Eye could scarcely be overstated.  I’m only surprised that, instead of merely accepting the gyro-cruiser from the Panther, the Torch didn’t ask T’Challa if he had something in his high-tech bag of tricks that might penetrate the dome, especially when he’s sitting atop the world’s biggest supply of vibranium, which might logically have some effect.  Any red-blooded American male would welcome Sue in that va-va-voom dress (a gift from the Panther in exceptionally fine taste) on the top of page 7, and it’s nice to catch the quasi-newlyweds feeling frisky after the ballgame.

Strange Tales 148
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Our Story

A frantic Dugan pulls Fury from the flames after an explosion in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s detention section, where he was interrogating the raiders from A.I.M., and then learns that the “dying” figure is actually an L.M.D., substituted before the prisoners were blown up via remote control.  Realizing that their own method of creating artificial men in hydroponic chambers is inferior, A.I.M. intends to capture an L.M.D. and restore their credibility with Them, while Count Royale arranges a diversion in which Fury is brought before a board of inquiry by the Council of Free Nations.  But the ambition of their star witness, Agent Sitwell, turns out to be a ruse, and Fury parachutes from the Helicarrier in time to meet Dugan and counterattack A.I.M.

Now you see it
Now you don't
MB: This story was not only laid out but also scripted by King Kirby, pinch-hitting for a vacationing Stan the Man, with both pencils and inks by Don Heck, who does a decent job despite Fury’s on-again, off-again five-o’clock shadow (check out the top of page 7 if you don’t believe me).  The uniformed and high-tech agents of A.I.M. prove to be a viable alternative to Hydra, substituting yellow suits and helmets for green robes and hoods, although their veneer of respectability gives them an advantage the nakedly evil Hydra did not have.  Sitwell is a new enough character that, at this stage of the game, we really don’t know what his true intentions are, and Jack gets a lot of comic mileage out of Fury’s exasperation with such Sitwell-centric hijinks as the 3-D X-ray gun.

PE: I'd have liked to hear the many uses of a gizmo that lets you see your enemy as a skeleton but, unfortunately, Nick Fury began grousing before we could learn more. Art aside (Heck is still the wrongest choice for this strip), this installment brings us back to the exciting world of S.H.I.E.L.D. we experienced in the first few chapters. A coincidence that The King scripted this one? Probably not. Nice twist climax that I never saw coming. It's time to clear the playing field of "secret organizations." The Secret Empire, Them, A.I.M. And, I assume, at some point we'll be seeing the return of Hydra. Confusing even for this so-called adult.

Jack: Kirby gets credit for the script and layouts, but this story is unremarkable. That must have been some vacation that Stan Lee took! We’ve been hearing about it for a couple of months now. What an ego! As for the story, I was glad to see that Fury was not really mad at Sitwell. I like young Jason!

Doctor Strange
Our Story

Dr. Strange is ready to go after Kaluu, who has stolen the book of the Vishanti. The Ancient One cautions him and explains why Kaluu is so dangerous. More than 500 years ago, in a hidden land in the Himalayas, the Ancient One and Kaluu grew up together and discovered how to harness mystic energies for their own use. Kaluu grew power hungry and took over as leader, making war on a neighboring village. The Ancient One banished him, but the barriers that had held him captive for so long were destroyed when Dormammu clashed with Eternity. The Ancient One senses that an attack from Kaluu is imminent.

Jack: I subscribe to Will Eisner’s theory that the best sequential art (comics) exists when words and pictures can’t be read separately without losing meaning. This story reads like a short story that Denny O’Neil wrote and then Bill Everett illustrated. Other than the very brief frame, it has nothing to do with Dr. Strange. The story is interesting and the pictures are well drawn, but this really doesn’t seem to belong in a Marvel comic—more like Classics Illustrated.

MB: After a transitional issue in which he seemed to be emulating Ditko’s work, Everett is now letting his own style come through, although unfortunately I’m less partial to the relatively cartoony Golden Age look he quite naturally delivers.  Newly solo again, writer Denny O’Neil turns in a somewhat lackluster effort, which failed to get this reader excited about our allegedly formidable newest villain.  Of course, the fact that the origins of the Ancient One and Kaluu are intertwined (à la the Black Panther and Klaw over in last month’s Fantastic Four) gives the latter some mythic heft, as does his purloining of the Book of the Vishanti from right under Strange’s nose, but overall, I found him neither visually nor dramatically interesting.

The Avengers 32
Our Story

The Avengers return to New York and Goliath immediately sets out to find a cure for his extreme size, aided by a black scientist who works for Tony Stark. Meanwhile, a hate group known as the Sons of the Serpent is running rampant, striking fear into the hearts of racial minorities and foreign-born. They beat up the scientist helping Goliath and soon capture Captain America. Their challenge to the Avengers: support their organization or never see Cap alive again!

Jack: Here we see what happened when Don Heck started inking his own pencils, and it’s not a pretty sight. I want to give a big round of applause to the people at Marvel for starting to introduce black characters like Bill, the scientist. The Sons of the Serpent are a creepy bunch who would stick around a long time, if memory serves.

PE: Stan wises us up to the terrors of the KKK (here the Sinister Sons of the Serpents) which, considering how popular that particular group of gentlemen was at the time, was a pretty ballsy move on Stan's part. I'm sure sales of The Avengers were hurt in the South. "The Man" also reminds us that a lot of the bad guys didn't come from within but also from without as we get a particularly nasty panel of a beat cop being dressed down by a stinkin' COMMIE!! The SS (ooh, they could be Nazi stand-ins as well, didn't think about that!) become yet another secret organization to gob up the pages of Marvel Comics. We've got too many of them right now between AIM, Them, The Secret Empire and now The Sinister Serpents. Nick Fury makes an appearance, still clean-shaven, so evidently the action here takes place between panels 47 and 50 of Strange Tales #148 (go ahead, count the panels, I dare ya) and I'm supposing that Captain America, by this time, has said "to hell with the secret identity" as he walks into Fury's meeting room, stock full of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, as Steve Rogers and reveals his undergarments with no guilt or shame.

MB: Counterintuitive as it may seem, Heck is not the best choice to ink his own work, even if his pencils do produce flashes of brilliance—like the “you’re beautiful when you’re angry” Jan in page 6, panel 5 and that magnificent shot of Hank on page 11—yet there is enough happening here to compensate, e.g., the return of the Widow and the debuts of Bill Foster and the Sons of the Serpent.  The SOTS are distinguished from A.I.M. et alia by having more of a public presence and a specific, shall we say, platform, although racism seems to be merely their stepping-stone to power.  It’s obviously a convenient coincidence that Hank’s assistant is black, but Bill will prove to be an enduring character (and star in his own short-lived title, Black Goliath, a decade hence).

Tales to Astonish 83
Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Our Story

The Sub-Mariner is off in a rage as he stalks Krang and Dorma, who he still believes has betrayed him for his nemesis.  It’s back and forth as Namor attacks Krang’s ship.  He either almost stops it or comes aboard before Krang is able to deter him by means of the various weapons and technology with which his ship is equipped.  No matter what, though, Namor will not be denied as he comes back time and time again with increasing fury.  As their battle goes on, we learn that the Number 1 bad guy from the Secret Empire has been watching from a penthouse.  He plans on using a Lobotomizer gun on Namor to get him under his control so he can rebuild his organization.  Desperate and scared, Krang breaks out a nuclear missile and shoots Namor.  The powerful weapon knocks Namor far off towards the seashore.  Number 1 goes to retrieve him and finds that Namor already has a case of amnesia from a concussion caused by the bomb.  Our story ends with Number 1 telling Namor that he is his friend, and that the entire human race is his enemy.
Jack: Kirby is back with a vengeance, and the story is very dynamic, though Dick Ayers has a bit of trouble in the latter pages with some of the facial details. I have been reading Kirby: King of Comics, a book I highly recommend to Marvel fans, and I just have to say that Martin Goodman was a jerk!

Tom:  A good issue that would have been better off with a final conclusion or a more thrilling cliffhanger.  The jury is still out on whether the Secret Empire is a formidable threat to super-heroes.  So far, they seem to be doing more backstabbing amongst each other than coming up with and carrying out any real dastardly plans.  We’ve already seen Namor fall under a villain’s control a couple of issues ago--do we really need to see it again? 
Jack: Those little wings on Subby’s ankles really bug me. Has anyone else noticed that Marvel heroes can’t fly without help? I wonder if that was a conscious decision to be different than Superman.

PE: I got the strangest sense of Deja Vu with this story. Those crazy, star-crossed fishfolk lovers, Dorma and Krang, have been stuck in that Sea-cruiser for months. No food, no drink, no potty breaks. They could be riding around in circles for the rest of this title. Who knows? I can't even remember why they got in the thing and where they were going in the first place, though Stan does his best to jam the entire back story into a few thought balloons for the sake of those of us who may have dozed off. A huge amount of those "Mad-Lib"-esque weapons this issue. I suspect when Stan was late for a deadline he'd open the dictionary, point his finger at several words and come up with such fancies as: Sonic Vortex Ray, Metal-Molecular Camouflage, Hydro-Force Blast, and Fission-Powered Shock Blast Mortar.

"Did I leave anything out?"
Jack: When does Krang’s pink skin stuff wear off? And what is Number One doing hiding in the Sub-Mariner strip? How will his cohorts in the Hulk strip ever find him? I sense a crossover coming.

PE: In the land of Marvel, coincidence is king department: At the beginning of our adventure, Krang mentions that Namor has a soft skull that's susceptible to amnesia. I'm familiar with the fact that Subby lost his memory way back when we were re-introduced to him in Fantastic Four #4 (itself a monument to coincidence), but no mention of it since. So it's little surprise, shortly after the reminder, when Namor suffers a soft skull injury and develops amnesia!

Our Story

After rescuing Betty Ross from the Boomerang last issue, the Hulk takes her up into the mountains for safety.  It’s here that he shows his soft side by providing her with a fire and shelter.  The Hulk leaps off into the sky to find food, but the military spots him and starts shooting.  As usual, they are no match for the Green Goliath.  After wrecking some army weaponry and vehicles, the Hulk sees that Rick Jones and General Ross are in their company.  He grabs the two of them and takes them back to where he is keeping Betty.  As Betty pleads with her father to show the Hulk mercy, since he may be Bruce Banner, the monster gets confused and leaps away.  During this time, Boomerang, in order to redeem himself with the Secret Empire, goes off and attacks the military base that houses the Orion Missile.  Talbot and his troops look unable to stop him.  Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Secret Empire, Number 2 orders that Boomerang be sentenced to death for his previous failure.  Number 9 disagrees with him, leading to a heated argument where Number 2 accuses him of having murdered Number 5.  Number 9 is prepared, however, and knocks them all out with a stun grenade.  He boldly proclaims that he will now take down Number 1 and become leader.  

Tom:  The Boomerang is back and he looks more like the mascot of a fast food burger chain than ever!  Unfortunately, that’s probably about the most exciting thing to happen in this tale.  Well, except maybe the further implosion of the Secret Empire as Number 9 starts to claim power.  It looks like that bet I made in a boast during last issue’s critique might come back to haunt me.  Hope I still have those Black Goliath comics in my parents’ attic. . . 
Jack: This is one of those stories that meanders around aimlessly for awhile and then really ends with a bang. I never thought I’d see the day when General Talbot began to have compassion for the Hulk. Way to go, Stan and Bill!

PE: The cross-pollination continues! While Number One is scouting talent in the Sub-Mariner strip, Number Two (that sound you hear is the five-year-old in me snickering when Number Nine says to his higher-up, "Yes, even though you have reached the rank of Number Two, I say you're wrong!") is making a move up the corporate ladder by offing his competition (Numbers 3-9, I assume). A fascinating crossover experiment that may see both strips meeting in the middle somehow. Thunderbolt Ross thinking he may be starting to understand why daughter Betty has fallen for a large green man? Sounds like a take on Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? Say it isn't so!

The Mighty Thor King-Size Special 2
Our Story

Asgard is putting on the Tournament Of Titans, a rare championship when warriors from the ends of the universe come to contest their prowess in battle. The prize: suits of golden armor for the winners. A beacon of light is lit so that everywhere in the cosmos the invitation will be seen. Thor, Fandrall, Hogun, and Volstagg prepare to enjoy the celebration on the eve of battle. Forbidden to battle until the games begin, four brothers from the World of a Thousand Galaxies ignore the rules, making bullies of themselves. Brok the crusher, Tyr of the blinding blade, Galp of the steel arm, and the dwarf, Drom the spirit weaver, are stopped by Thor and the Warriors Three, who agree to battle their counterparts in the tournament. Loki and Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man, who are still sentenced by Odin to float, frozen endlessly through space, see the beacon of light. Loki hatches a plan: he uses the power of his thoughts to go to Earth and enter the shell of the Destroyer, in the temple where it had been buried (back in JIM #119). Alive again, the Destroyer, animated by Loki’s spirit, vows to go to Asgard and take the life of Odin himself. Unaware of the danger, those in Asgard begin the tournament with the warrior’s charge, where the two opposing teams gallop on horseback headlong into battle.  Unknown to Thor and his companions, Drom the spirit weaver has cast an enchantment whereby the opposing warriors multiply at each defeat, creating an unfair advantage for the brothers. When it appears that the Asgardians are near defeat, they have a chance to reclaim the victory for Asgard by taking up the personal challenges they had discussed before. Unaided, the four brothers are soon cut down to size by our heroes. It is then that the real danger appears: the Destroyer, who dispatches Heimdall effortlessly, and enters the golden city. While his appearance causes all others to flee, the Destroyer faces a valiant challenge from Thor, who holds Odin’s creation at bay for a time. Just as it seems as if time has run out, an astral form returns and resumes it natural state: Balder the Brave. Odin, sensing that it was Loki in the Destroyer’s body, had sent the brave one searching through space for Loki’s location. Odin sends a beam of forgetfulness to the God of Evil, and the form of the Destroyer collapses. Celebrating the victory and bravery of his people, Odin makes every Asgardian's suit shine of gold so that the memory of this day will never be forgotten.

JB: Thor Annual #2 is a whole heck of a lot of fun. It’s too bad that it was the last original Thor Annual for a number of years. The whole concept of an Olympic type competition for Asgard and warriors from many other realms lends a less serious, but not too light, slant to the story. I like that Thor wants to sneak off with the Warriors Three when Odin is remembering his own youthful exploits. And how satisfying to see them teach the boastful brothers from the Thousand Galaxies a lesson.

PE: I love the scene where Odin is rambling on about the glory days of his youth and Thor is trying to shush The Warriors Three, who are trying to get the Thunder God to come out and play. The scene works comedically probably because the Thor strip is usually bereft of anything resembling comedy (other than the unintentional humor of Nurse Jane Foster). But funny stuff there be here, including a riotous "battle scene between The Mighty Thor and The Warriors Three on one side and on the other Tyr, Galp, and Brok. When the Voluminous Volstagg notes, with false sadness in his voice, that there is none to fight him, a fourth opponent pops up: a dwarf. Volstagg immediately pipes up and challenges the little guy to battle, much to the amusement of all present.

MB: I don’t know where this annual—whose new material clocks in at almost twice the length of a monthly installment—is supposed to fit in Thor’s continuity, except that it clearly takes place after the banishment of Loki and the Absorbing Man, now mysteriously unhitched, in #123.  By virtue of its larger canvas, it plays like a steroid-enhanced hybrid of a regular episode and “Tales of Asgard,” with the latter’s larger panels and leisurely narrative style, and since the Lee/Kirby/Colletta creative team is consistent throughout, the synthesis is seamless.  I’ll always welcome an appearance by the Destroyer (especially now that Loki is pulling the strings, rather than that great white hunter), and it’s nice to see the Warriors Three involved in the main action.

JB: Once again, I like that the Destroyer really is unbeatable to all but Odin. Poor Heimdall doesn’t even get to participate and then gets zonked by the Destroyer. And I have to admit, it’s nice to have Loki get back in the scene; a while ago I was so tired of him I wouldn’t have said that.

PE: Its place in continuity threw me for a loop as well, Professor Matthew. During the aforementioned "come out and play" scene, Thor has his head gear doffed and looks like he could be a teenager. That's what I immediately took it for a "Tale of Asgard," but the Absorbing Man/Loki presence throws that theory out the window (and it's funny that Stan and Jack didn't involve The Absorber in the drama somehow, leaving him to float through space). As I said way back in my comments for Destroyer's first appearance (Journey into Mystery #118, July 1965), I prefer the movie incarnation of Destroyer, which does not have the power of speech and is, to me, much more menacing for that. The film also repositions Destroyer as a creation of Odin who carries out his orders from Asgard. In this comic version, he's a defender of Earth turned rogue thanks to Loki. The first thing Destroyer has to say when he's released from his underground prison is "Just wait'll I get my silver paws on that old man Odin!" All these nits aside, this is a great story, rousing and exciting. So Say I!

The X-Men 24
Our Story

The school loses its co-ed status as Jean Grey is forced by her parents to attend a real university (where real students like Johnny Storm attend classes). Meanwhile, the Locust arrives in town and begins giving bugs the Henry Pym Gi-ant treatment. It wouldn't be the MU if the Locust didn't also happen to be Professor Bug, I mean Hopper, a nutty professor at Jean's new school. The X-Men (not to mention the army) battle the Locusts Giant bugs, and after the he sees the error of his ways, Professor Hopper is left to wander off, supposedly to turn himself in to the authorities.

JS: Is it fate accompli if your last name is Hopper that you either need to pursue a career surrounding rabbits or entomology?

PE: If there was one iota of intentional humor in this issue, I'd hazard a guess that Roy Thomas was having one over on us all but, no, I believe this rip-off of a really bad science fiction flick (Beginning of the End, 1957) is 100% serious. Giant locusts are nothing compared to the silly guy with the beard and an insect suit. All it takes in the Marvel Universe is a big brain, unlimited funds, and a grudge to become a sixth-tier villain. This one's a hoot. Unfortunately, readers obviously didn't agree since Schistocerca Gregaria Man won't make another appearance until The X-Men #72!

JS: Once again, after risking their lives in battle, the X-Men gather around Professor Xavier to pontificate about how they sure hope the evil villain doesn't return, after they let him basically walk away. Perhaps the kids need to spend a little more time hanging out with the Avengers or Fantastic Four to pick up some tips on how this whole super-hero thing is done.

Tales of Suspense 81
Iron Man
Our Story

Tony Stark (or Toni Stark as he's addressed on our splash page--PE) has decided that no man can avoid his own government's calling so he'll give in to Senator Byrd's demands and testify before the committee. He decides to make a dramatic entrance as Iron Man and so he eludes police at the airport and rockets off for Washington in his armor. Meanwhile, as Iron Man ponders what the COMMIES will make of the news, the COMMIES just happen to be monitoring reports and decide this is as good a time as any to get revenge on the Golden Avenger for defeating their armored hero many months before. Having completely redesigned Titanium Man's armor to absorb the blow of a D-3V Missile (serious business!), it would seem that, yes, it would be the opportune time to humiliate Iron Man and America in one fell swoop. T.M. is launched in a rocket speeding at several times the speed of sound and arrives in Washington just as our hero does. Breaking out of his supersonic transport, Titanium Man launches himself at Iron Man and the fun begins . . . next issue.

PE: The perfect example of an issue where nothing happens but set-up. That's not necessarily bad if the next two sequences in this trilogy provide some excitement. There's a little too much of the old "I know I should testify but I really don't want to" back-and-forth in Stark's head and I'm not sure I understand the thinking behind having the cops drive you to the airport and then making a very public exit as Iron Man, all the while worrying about the fallout from a media unmasking. The only thing missing in his mental checklist is wondering whether Pepper Potts loves him or not and whether she'd be happier with Happy (or foggier with Foggy?). The art's a bit off this issue from the usual stellar Gene Colan Iron Man. Can't put my finger on it but Colan's shades aren't noir-ish enough (I had this same problem with Gene's work on this month's Daredevil as well) and if there's one thing I need, nay, demand from Gene Colan, it's lots of shadows. Don't get me wrong, he's still a very close second to Kirby in September 1966.

MB: By now, Colan has completely made this strip his own, and while the Titanium Man’s armor has admittedly benefited from a redesign, it’s still interesting to see how much more menacing Shellhead’s commie counterpart looks in the hands of Gene and Jack.  Come ’67, you’ll be able to compare the respective depictions of Ultimo, here in TOS and in the oft-cited Avengers Special #1, by Colan and his predecessor, Don Heck.  I realize that Tony will not only beat T.M., but also pull a rabbit out of his helmet to avoid revealing his i.d. to all of Congress, yet his resolve to do just that, if necessary, seems curious; I suppose that for a guy who’s kept such a big secret for so long, the prospect of unburdening himself must be tempting.

Captain America
Our Story

The Red Skull holds the ultimate weapon - The Cosmic Cube! Before setting to ruling the world, The Skull pauses to show Captain America a display of The Cube's power by creating a being out of the elements around them - a creature dubbed The Man-Thing! Cap makes quick work of the patchwork critter but he still has to deal with the power afforded The Skull by his new toy. Just as he's about to be blasted into atoms, Cap pleads with The Red Skull to spare him so that the Star-Spangled Avenger can serve him as a slave for the rest of his life. Not being the most bright super-villain from his Nazi-infected neighborhood, The Skull umps at the chance to have Cap answer his telephone and bring round the Rolls. Of course, Cap will have none of that and very quickly shows The Skull what's on his mind. When the island they're battling on starts to split apart, Cap manages to wrest away The Cube from his enemy and toss it into the sea. The Skull follows but is seemingly drowned under the weight of his armor.

PE: A fabulous adventure from start to finish. Though The Cosmic Cube is in its infancy, you can tell already it would become an icon in the Marvel Universe. So powerful and deadly yet so mysterious. We need to learn more about its origin. Thankfully, Stan won't make us wait too long as the deadly device makes a return appearance next issue. I'm of two minds concerning The Red Skull. I love the villain but Stan has yet to prove to me that a Nazi is a relevant villain in 1966. I realize the quandary Stan faced: The Skull personifies the 1940s Captain America but the readers at the time clearly didn't want vintage Cap or faux-vintage Cap for that matter. They wanted contemporary tales of a fish out of water. The Skull just doesn't fit yet.

MB: Just in the nick of time, Giacoia returns to help King Kirby polish off the first Cosmic Cube arc, and the two make beautiful music together, especially when depicting the Skull’s Cube-enabled flights of fancy.  Stan skillfully extricates himself from the corner into which many a writer has painted himself:  if you provide your villain with an all-powerful weapon, then where do you go from there?  Fortunately, he knows—as does Cap—that when said villain is an egomaniac like the Skull or, say, Dr. Doom, he is susceptible to that kind of “But what fun would that be?” reasoning with which heroes have saved themselves countless times; the Skull being apparently drowned by the weight of his own golden armor is a nice touch.

PE: Obviously this Man-Thing is not the swamp creature Roy Thomas created for Savage Tales #1 in 1971, only an early use of the term. The moniker must have stuck in Thomas' head when it came time to christen his answer to The Heap.

Also this month
Kid Colt Outlaw #130
Marvel Tales #4
Millie the Model #141
Millie the Model Annual #5
Modeling with Millie #49
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #34
Two-Gun Kid #83


Marvel Tales #4 reprints the entirety of The Amazing Spider-Man #7; the Torch story from Strange Tales #102; the Thor story from Journey Into Mystery #86; and from Tales to Astonish #39, the classic breath-taking edge of your seat ride known as "Vengeance of the Scarlet Beetle" starring the equally breath-taking Ant-Man!


  1. Have to agree re: the implausible trial-by-Owl storyline (while sharing Professor Jack's enthusiasm over his return in general), but respectfully disagree with Professor Pete on the GiaColan art team, which I feel will serve this and Shellhead's strip well for months to come, once Frank gets fully into the groove.

    We're on the same page regarding Johnny's carrying such a big, uh, torch for Crystal on so short an acquaintance, which always bothered me. Professor Jim, just to clarify, the Evil Eye will play a major part in the Avengers/Defenders War (indeed, it is the object of the exercise), but Prester John will not, although he does pop up again elsewhere.

    Yes, Virginia--uh, Paste-Pot--your wishes regarding the Secret Empire/Them/A.I.M./Hydra situation will come true. Just hang in there...

    Alas, the Assemblers, at least, will be on a steady diet of undiluted Heck for quite some time. And yes, Cap has the most laughably un-secret identity in the whole Marvel Universe.

    Love the Mad-Libs concept--absolutely spot-on--and agree that a mute Destroyer (one of the film's highlights) is preferable. In fact, I'd forgotten until I re-read these early tales that he ever spoke; that may change later on. But I believe he WAS established as Odin's creation when he was introduced here in JIM.

    I don't think you truly can count X-MEN #72 as an "appearance" by the Locust, since the book was in reruns by then, and just reprinted #24.

  2. Sort of looks like Colan may have just done the layouts, with Giacoia doing the rest. I seem to remember an issue of The Avengers that Giacoia pencilled and he did a pretty good job.

  3. For some time, Stan Lee wanted to change Peter Parker, making him less of a nerd, and more like a regular teenager. With Steve Ditko gone, he got his way, and in the hands of John Romita, the book looks more like the 1960s, and less like the 1940s. The updating of Parker's personality, and the slicker, more modern look will propel Spidey to the top of Marvel's sales chart within the year.

    The plot itself is a Ditko remnant. Stories revolving around the unmasking of criminals seemed to fascinate him, but, as we know, a nobody, not Norman Osborn was supposed to be under the mask. The comics code, or potential problems with the code, may have played a part in this story too. The amnesia bit is pretty weak, but the alternative, having Osborn killed in a fight with Spider-Man was probably not an option. Besides, the “person dies just as they're about to reveal a big secret” had been done earlier with Professor Stromm and the Crime Master, but their deaths were the end result of a heart attack and a run-in with the police.

    Speaking of the Comics Code, here's a link to page seven of the Hulk story in TTA #83. Don't read any of the word balloons, just look at the pictures.

    Looking at the panels, an ambitious member of the Secret Empire decides to kill his colleagues by hurling a bomb at them. The perpetrator is unharmed because he's wearing armor plating under his robe.

    Now, go back and read the word balloons. According to the script, “Number Nine” stuns everyone long enough to take over the organization before they regain consciousness. Gotta suspect the Comics Code wouldn't allow mass murder in a funnybook, and Stan, seeing the potential problem, made a slight change to the storyline. BTW, I always wanted to see this scene acted out in a spy movie.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

    P.S. I haven't read a Spider-Man comic book since some time in the early 70s. Is Aunt May still alive?

  4. Once again I'm fairly stunned at the amount of kick-ass comics Kirby was able to bang out in a month -- full fantabulous issues of FF and THOR, plus a CAP 12-pager, plus a SUBBY 12-pager, PLUS a THOR ANNUAL! By Jingo, when did the man sleep?

    Re: Colan / Giacoia -- I've always considered Giacoia to be one of Colan's most effective inkers, both on DD and IRON MAN. Prof. Pete, you mark my words, once John Tartaglione takes over DD a few issues from now, you'll be BEGGING for Giacoia to come back :)

  5. Thanks to Batmania, the people at Harvey decided to get back into the Superhero business. They tapped Joe Simon to supervise the creation of a “Thrillers” line of books, and he recruited the then unknown Jim Steranko to come up with some new characters. Steranko had tried to get work at Marvel six months earlier, but was turned down. In September 1966, “Spyman,” Steranko's first published comic book work appeared on the stands. For the full story, follow this link to an excellent article on “Dial B For Blog.” There's even an Outer Limits connection. :)

    All the best,

    Glenn :)