Wednesday, May 30, 2012

February 1967: Doomsday!

The Avengers 37
Our Story

The Avengers are all trapped in big glass canisters as the Ultroids prepare to siphon off their powers and transfer them into their own bodies. To pass the time, they get to hear about Ixar, the alien king who lost a war and had his mind put into a computer. His quest for power led him to Earth. The Avengers escape and quickly overpower the Ultroids, until Ixar assimilates all of the Ultroids’ strength into himself and becomes a big orange fighting machine. The Avengers battle him to a standstill until the Black Widow makes Ixar an offer he can’t refuse and he returns them to Earth, zooming off in his spaceship to conquer other worlds.

PE: So Ixar craves super powers and to that end he and his Ultroids search the galaxies and the best they can come up with is the 1967 version of The Avengers?! This was the most powerful band of heroes the earth (or any other world) had to offer? A super soldier, a fast guy, a woman who can do hexes (I’m still a little confused about that), an archer, a tiny complainer, and a 10-foot scientist given to mood swings. Were the Fantastic Four on vacation? Between The Altoids and The Mimic, Roy Thomas really dug villains who absorbed powers in early 1967. Throw in The Super-Adaptoid over in Captain America and you have virtually nothing else lately.

Wanda edges out Janet for Marvel
babe of the month.
MB: Bolstered by the real Pietro and Wanda, as opposed to last issue’s faux Witch, it may be said—per Quicksilver—that “now, truly, the Avengers are at full fighting strength once again”; in fact, with the Widow on the periphery, and Hercules on deck, I’m wondering if Roy is going to feel the need to start pruning back. While I won’t necessarily finger the number of our beloved Assemblers as the culprit, this issue does have a crowded feel to it, between the sketchy Heck art, which often looks cramped, and Roy’s dialogue-heavy script, which further clutters the panels. Since Roy started out winding up the Living Laser outing, this two-parter marks his first all-original effort…and it must be considered a fairly modest one, despite some interesting ideas.

Jack: It's not fair to have that nice Gil Kane cover and then everything goes to Heck inside. Didn't the Ultroids beat the heck out of the Avengers just last issue? This time around, when they get out of their glass prisons, they knock out the Ultroids in short order. And what's with all of the Marvel heroes ending up in Europe? Maybe Daredevil can fly the Avengers home.

Fantastic Four 59
Our Story

Mr. Fantastic alerts the world’s allied military leaders to be prepared with everything at their disposal, in case the Fantastic Four fail to stop Dr. Doom. Then he locks himself in his lab, determined to find a solution. Meanwhile, the Latverian ruler uses his newfound cosmic power to make examples of his supremacy, at different places around the globe. He turns back an attack of incoming bombers by causing their metal to dissolve in a cloud of corrosive acid; he creates 24-hour bouts of total darkness and bitter winter. Doom’s ego has become so big that he feels the Silver Surfer (or anyone else), whose power he has stolen, aren’t even worth the time to dispose of. Reed thinks he has a possible solution; a device that when it strikes it’s victim, will make them weaker the angrier they get. He tests it out on Ben, successfully, who when struck by the flying prototype, is angry enough to hit Reed, but too weak to do any damage. Johnny, meanwhile, is convinced that if he practices controlling his speed, and the power of his flame, he’s the only one who will be able to stop Dr. Doom. Wyatt Wingfoot, fearing for his friend, radio’s F.F. headquarters to get their help of convincing the Torch otherwise. In the Great Refuge, Black Bolt signals his people, summoned together, to go to the shelters beneath the city. His plan is to unleash his greatest power to shatter the barrier surrounding them: his voice. He succeeds, thought the city is in shambles. It is decided that Black Bolt and his family will venture forth into the outside world; the rest of their people will rebuild the city and await their return. All but Maximus, the ruler’s mad brother, are pleased. Reed’s weapon, with Ben’s help, is nearly complete, as the world awaits the next attack of Dr. Doom.

JB: Well, for the first time I can think of, the title proper, “Doomsday,” has no exclamation mark! Oops. On a minor note, I love the look of the title banners the Marvels of the time used. Likewise, I’m enjoying the contrast the work of inkers Sinnott and Colletta creates with Kirby’s art in the F.F. and Thor mags respectively. Some nice panels like the one of Black Bolt flying over the city, and when Dr. Doom enters the Surfer’s cell (a kind of visual “devil and angel”). The evil Doctor may be unintentionally giving the world time to prepare their defenses, but his playful acts of wickedness are entertaining.

MB: This is another one of those issues that’s as much a warm-up for the grand finale as anything else, but there’s so much going on—lovingly depicted by Kirby and Sinnott—that one can’t in good conscience complain.  Doom’s stolen cosmic power is so close to godlike that the whole exercise seems like a more elaborate do-over of the recent Cosmic Cube storyline in Suspense, with the attendant problem of how our heroes can possibly overcome it.  Of course, the fact that Black Bolt has finally freed the Inhumans from imprisonment in the Great Refuge is likely to have major ramifications, especially with the six members of the royal family and court going out among us humans; meanwhile, Wyatt’s level-headed loyalty to the Torch is heartening.

PE: Seems a nifty device that Reed has created, a gizmo that makes its target weaker as it gets angrier. Why not try it on The Hulk? Surprising that Stretcho didn't give it a ten-dollar name like the Ire-Inducer or the Anger-Manager. If I were an Inhuman, I'd be awfully confused by Black Bolt's messages. His "impending disaster" stance is the same as his "let's all go topside and join the humans" stance. Of all the Inhumans, the one most fascinating to me is Mad Maximus. I'm very interested in seeing where his story goes. 

The Mighty Thor 137
Our Story

Sif, the beautiful goddess who is sister to Heimdall, displays for Thor the battle skills she has developed over the years. As enchanted as much by her as by her talents, Thor shows his own skills are none to be ignored. Both however, fail to notice the imminent danger that has surrounded them: a legion of trolls, at war with Asgard, and seeking prisoners. Though not long a match for Thor, the creatures nonetheless escape to their subterranean depths with Sif, and Thor gives pursuit into the maze of tunnels. He loses track of them, but has been led into a trap; appearing before him is Ulik, a hideous monstrosity, and most powerful of all the rock trolls. Sif, meanwhile, is brought before the somewhat less frightening but equally hideous king of all the trolls, Geirrodur, who has plans for the feisty goddess. He renders her unconscious with a gas (the vapors of quietude), and sends her to Grak, the troll guarding their invasion shaft, a tunnel centuries in the making that will lead them directly into the heart of Asgard. The Mighty Thor has other things (or A thing) to contend with. Ulik’s strength is as powerful as legend has told, and armed with two metal hand pounders, he gives Thor a fight for his life. When the titans are at a stalemate, Ulik vanishes in a beam of light, and an apparition of King Geirrodur appears. He tells Thor that Sif has been sent to Earth, held captive by Ulik, and there she will die if he doesn’t go to her rescue; while Asgard may well fall in the Thunder God’s absence if he does. Thor reasons that Sif is in need of more help, and disappears in a spinning vortex to arrive on our planet. Grak opens the invasion shaft, and the troll invasion begins in earnest. What Thor doesn’t realize, is that Geirrodur knows his secret… a certain Dr. Blake!

“The Tragedy Of Hogun!” is revealed in the Tales Of Asgard this month, as Thor and the Warriors Three come across the bound form of Saguta, one of Hogun’s countrymen. Before he dies, Saguta reveals it was the wizard Mogul who thus tortured him, for daring to leave the tyrannical rule his people have been placed under. An enraged Hogun shouts out a challenge, and Mogul indeed appears, only to taunt them, then be whisked away by the magic Jinni Devil, who is his slave.

JB: There are some villains in each comic that are truly unforgettable; for Thor, Ulik is definitely one. The full page when he first appears is startling, and Kirby/Colletta depict him as something that would make even Thor’s stomach turn. The battle is the best since Thor and Hercules went at it, and he wasn’t exactly mopping up the rock floor when Geirrodur whisks Ulik away. I like the mystery too: how does the troll king know Thor’s secret identity? -Why have they risen up now, after all this time? -Wasn’t Thor’s own hammer forged by the (same?) trolls in ages past? And ok, why does Ulik’s armor seem to disappear and reappear in the first few panels of their fight?

MB:  Okay, so we’re hitting the romantic reset button here with Thor and Sif, who seems to be a fitting companion for the Thunder God in every sense…although the machinations of the Rock Trolls unfortunately leave little time for dalliance.  The good news is that their plan for the invasion of Asgard offers the opportunity for a passel of splendid Kirby/Colletta visuals, from an establishing shot of their long-in-development invasion shaft and a look at the classic Kirbyesque Troll weaponry to the melee with Thor and Sif and that stunning full-page reveal of Ulik.  Being a god and all, Thor doesn’t have too many villains who really give him a hard time, but they’ve obviously set Ulik up as one of them, and I remember him and King Geirrodur from later adventures.

JB: The issue is memorable for two other reasons. Sif is clearly one; she’s a spirited feisty gal, and mighty easy on the eyes (and correctly called the sister of Heimdall, not Balder, as they said in her first appearance in Journey Into Mystery # 102). The second is the interesting background of Hogun, and the events that have led to his being called the Grim. Possibly the sixteen pages of the main stories helped make their pacing fast and furious, and the TOA are great background, but a full twenty pages for the main event would have been nice.

PE: Well, now that Stan has dispatched the space opera hijinx and is concentrating on Asgardian threats, this title once more goes to the top of the "to-read" pile each week. Leave the cosmic adventures to the FF. Thor only proves he's all man since his broken heart (due to lame Nurse Jane) lasts all of three seconds before he does an imitation of a Tex Avery character at the sight of Sif. Kind of creepy when he mentions he used to babysit her but I guess immortals have a different concept of age anyway. The declaration of war by Geirrodur in the climax is brilliant. This is the kind of story that transformed Marvel into the best comic book company in the mid-1960s. You wouldn't see multi-issue arcs like this over in Superman or Batman.

The Amazing Spider-Man 45
Our Story

Conquest of the earth by reptiles is the plan on The Lizard's mind. To that end, he's letting loose hundreds of snakes and crocodiles, all willing to do his bidding. Only thing standing in his way is The Amazing Spider-Man but, with one arm in a sling, how much good is the wall-crawler?

PE: For a moment there, while Spider-Man is deliberately attempting to make The Lizard angrier, I thought maybe Reed Richards had made a fleet of his Anger-Disturbo Ray and shipped them out to all the superheroes in New York but then comics would get pretty boring wouldn't they? I've gotta believe there's more of a story to that dopey blank-balloon panel (reprinted below) than Stan wanting his fans to get in on the act. DEADLINE DOOM strikes again? An oversight? While I like The Lizard as a villain, this story wasn't among the better Spidey tales in the Romita era so far. It's a by-the-numbers fight-it and right-it issue with a heaping helping of "I feel so sorry for myself" to add the cherry on top.

MB:  Even without a dedicated inker, the Lee/Romita team is so smoothly firing on all cylinders already that I’m playfully tempted to ask, “Steve who?”; we’ve been on a steady and nutritious diet over the past seven issues of gorgeous gals and major villains both old (the Green Goblin, the Lizard) and new (the Rhino).  Mary Jane, on whom the romantic spotlight seems to be falling at the moment, is a polar opposite of the more maternal Betty, whom we wish well in her planned nuptials with Ned.  Spidey’s friendship with the Connors family was always a special one, and this issue provides a pleasant reminder of how Peter’s above-average intellect can complement—or, in this case, compensate for a diminution in—his superb physical prowess.

PE: No way Spidey would get away with grabbing a croc by the tail and using him as a bludgeon on his reptilian pals these days. ASPCA and PETA would be on scene in seconds to shut him down, end of mankind be damned. Points to Perky Petey for musing that his (SPOILER ALERT!!) future wife, Mary Jane Watson, is "pretty as a pumpkin seed, but just as shallow." Even though that statement makes no sense whatsoever, I know what the kid is trying to say.

Tales of Suspense 86
Iron Man
Our Story

Iron Man comes to the rescue of Happy Hogan, who disguised himself as his hero and was captured last issue by The Mandarin. The Mandarin has modified his deadly rings and has more than one trap awaiting Ol' Shellhead in his castle. Once I.M. has eluded the deadly traps, he throws down his gloves and challenges The Mandarin to a hand-to-hand battle. Despite his expertise in martial arts, Mandy is no match for a man in an armored suit. I.M. locates Happy in a basement dungeon He also finds out that the Oriental madman has set a missile on a course for an American military base but, with a little of his engineering ingenuity, Iron Man is able to replot its course... right to The Mandarin's lair (KABOOM!!).

PE: There's a moment here very reminiscent of Ditko's famous panel of Spider-Man lifting the machinery (back in The Amazing Spider-Man #33) where Iron Man pushes against the closing walls. I had to laugh out loud when Shellhead tells The Mandarin he's taking off his iron gloves so he can battle with his foe man-to-man. Umm, what about the rest of your armor? Nicely done ending where Tony Stark shows a little coldbloodedness by rerouting the missile to strike the Mandarin's castle, knowing full well his enemy will be there when it does. I'm sure it won't be long before we find out that a/ The Mandarin used his Tele-porto ring to beam him to another spot or b/ the back door was open. Exciting installment here and, as Professor Matthew notes, it could have done with a few more pages at the climax.

MB: As if to compensate for the current Daredevil, GiaColan gets a meatier—if paradoxically shorter—narrative to illustrate; any tale that starts off with Shellhead and his arch-enemy exchanging death threats clearly can’t be all bad.  Gentleman Gene amps up the tension with his jarring panel layout on page 4, and if we needed any further proof that he is an Iron Man artist par excellence, the suitable-for-framing full-page shot that follows provides it in abundance, as Tony totals the Mandarin’s trash-compactor gadget.  Stan’s bellicose dialogue matches Colan blow for blow (“I’ll shatter your worthless iron shell and peel it from you like a crumbling cashew nut!”), and my only complaint is that the serial format forces a hasty ending.

Captain America
Our Story

Captain America fights his way deep into Yashonka, a weapons-developing base inside (COMMIE ALERT!) Russia, searching for SHIELD Agent 60. Determined that Cap will not escape and tell all the decadent democracy-loving countries in the world of the new, deadly weapons they've created, the Yashonkians throw everything in the book at our star-spangled hero, including a giant robot. Able to shrug them off, Cap takes an electro-shaft right to Agent 60, disguising himself as Commie Colonel Kuro Chin. By the time Cap has reached 60 though, the agent is a shell of his former self, broken down from stress and fatigue, and can help no longer. He bids Cap good luck but, in the heat of battle, makes a surprise appearance and saves Cap's skin, taking a fatal bullet in the process. The Z-Ray is destroyed and the agent's death was not in vain.

MB:   Alone among Marvel’s split books, TOS maintains a consistent creative team this month, with Stan scripting and Giacoia inking Kirby’s and Colan’s work on Cap and IM, respectively.  I’m playing catch-up, bereft of the previous tale, which sadly featured Hydra and Agent 13; I’m hardly heartbroken over missing an appearance by Batroc, but it’s an open question whether I’d rather see a story with no super-villains, such as this, or a third-tier heavy like the Leaper.  Instead I’ll focus on enjoying Agent 60’s heroism, plus the endearing goofiness of a yarn in which atomic weapons are deployed with wild abandon, and S.H.I.E.L.D. uses the code names “Shield Star” and “Eye-Patch,” which nobody would ever figure out, right?

PE: It's been quite a while since we were able to fly the full-fledged COMMIE ALERT! flag hereabouts. It's good to see that Stan and Jack still knew who the enemies of the good ol' U.S. of A. really were. I was too young to know why we were always getting the "duck and cover" drill in elementary school (by the time I got to Junior High, I guess they'd figured out my desk wasn't going to save me from a mushroom cloud) but now, reading all these Marvel Comics, I can see why. Everyone and their Aunt May had a nuclear device. Some countries evidently had Z-Rays as well. It's interesting to note that Stan has still not given Agent 13 a name. Nice touch when Agent 60 breaks down under the stress he's been under for years as a spy. Not everyone has Cap's nerves of steel. Despite its brevity, I really liked this installment. Lots of action, a little bit of expository. I'm on the phone to Marvel Pictures to remind them of this story for Captain America 2 (due in 2014!).

MB: I can’t resist relating this anecdote:  in the mid-’70s, Marvel Double Feature reprinted these TOS stories, but unlike Marvel Super Heroes (which reprinted Astonish), it did not pair the two stories from the same TOS, with Shellhead running some seven issues ahead of Cap.  Many reprint mags used the original covers, so some chowderhead decided to put this one on MDF #3, conveniently forgetting that although it contained A story from TOS #86, it did not contain the Cap story there illustrated.  Well, the cover was just generic enough that it might not have mattered, if it weren’t for the fact that seven issues later, he or she or some sibling in chowderdom used the same cover, with minor color changes, for MDF #10, which did include the Cap story it depicted—way to go!

The X-Men 29
Our Story

While goofing off on a 'snow day,' the X-Men inadvertently stir up the Super Adaptoid, who combines powers of four of the Avengers. Meanwhile, the Professor's black sheep, Mimic, isn't coming around to the whole team-player concept. When Xavier gives him the boot, he runs into the S-A and offers to join up and become a Super Adaptoid himself. Things don't go as planned, and the two mix-and-match villains end up knocking heads. In classic Marvel fashion, by the end of the grudge match, Mimic has learned the meaning of true friendship

PE: Oh heavens! Our splash could been reprinted in the 1970s in the special "The X-Men Went to Riverdale High School" issue of What If? And, can I ask this silly question: Bobby the IceMan has a run-in with The Super Adaptoid, runs back to tell the others, and they don't believe him? Let me go back through the previous 28 issues quickly and catalogue all the other-worldly and super-powered foes these X-dopes have fought. Why in the world would this green menace stir disinterest and disbelief?

"Archie! Betty and Veronica are lookin' for you!"
JS: The Super Adaptoid that combines the powers of four of the Avengers? What an appropriate villain to match up with Mimic, the loser who combines the powers of the X-Men. Does anyone else find this to be particularly lazy character creation? At least the Super-Skrull, who combines the power of the FF, was original when he came on the scene.

PE: Finally, after all this time we get to see Maneuver 2-C. Definitely a smoother play than 6-F but not quite as jaw-dropping as Jean Gray's 36-Double D. Another dreadful issue, this one topped off by a confusing twist at the climax: The Mimic loses his powers. Since we weren't clued in to the reason, I was surprised Stan "The Man," reduced to editor on this title, didn't order a blank panel and chime in at the end that readers could write their own finale! Another Marvel Madness First! Gawdawful art by Werner Roth (not a first) reduces some characters to sticks, others have malformities. Just look at the leg on Jean Gray (to my left). How does she sit down when she has no bottom?

JS: With all of the X-boys layered up for the winter, I want to know if it's Cyclops leering stare that keeps Jean's naked legs warm. 

Daredevil 25
Our Story

No sooner has our hero disembarked from a plane back in America, then he becomes spectator and unwilling participant in the antics of a new villain. Equipped with bouncing springs under his feet, the bad guy can leap about without any policeman being able to catch him. As the villain hops away, Daredevil can only hope to run into him again sometime in the future since there was no chance during this encounter for him to change into his hero costume with all the witnesses around. Matt has an even more pressing matter: what to tell Foggy and Karen when he meets up with them again at the law office. Since abandoning Karen at the boxing match to face the Android, he hasn’t so much as called or written them a letter. Someone who has supposedly written a letter, though, is Spider-Man, letting Matt know that he is aware that he is Daredevil. His two law office mates had opened the letter addressed to him when they weren’t sure if he was ever coming back. Matt at first lies to Karen, saying that because of all the pressure he was under, he needed to take a vacation out of the country and gave an usher a note at the arena that he was supposed to give to Karen to explain everything. When confronted with Spider-Man's letter, Matt comes up with the excuse that he has a twin brother, who Spider-Man must have confused as Daredevil. Foggy has a real hard time swallowing this as he and Matt have been friends for a very long time and Matt has never once mentioned having a twin brother. Matt goes so far as to disguise himself later on as his twin brother to fool Foggy and Karen. While this charade has been going on, we learn that the new villain is a toy creator. Donning a new costume to make himself look like a frog, he dubs himself Leap-Frog and goes on to commit thefts across the city. At the end, Daredevil tracks him down. The Frogger puts up one hell of a fight, but in the end, Daredevil prevails.

Tom: This issue was sort of a hybrid of the worst this series can offer and the best. The best is represented by some slam bang action and good artwork. The worst, well I’ll let my fellow professors handle the task of pointing out the stupidity of the Matt’s twin angle. I’d elaborate further, but thinking of it too much will cause blood to shoot out of my nose. While I liked the Frog villain to an extent, didn’t they have a guy dressed up as a Frog not that many issues ago?

PE: Yep, it's official. Not Brand Ecch was a spin-off of Daredevil. Can't wait for the obligatory team-up of Leap-Frog, The Owl, The Beetle, and The Porcupine.

Stan adds another tier 

MB: The Leap-Frog? Seriously? And the sad thing is, he may not even be Exhibit A in the case for awarding this issue a Landmark Dopiness shield, thanks to Matt’s quick-as-a-whip creation of twin brother Mike. That’s right, he hasn’t had enough trouble juggling two identities, not to mention trying to keep Foggy from getting iced when he “borrowed” one of them without asking permission, but now he’s gotta conjure up a third one, and a sighted person at that, which threatens to put us into the realm of the worst Hollywood screwball comedy with these inevitable plot machinations. The stalwart GiaColon art team does its best to distract us from this silliness, and their Karen Page is certainly one smokin’ hot secretary, but let’s face it, they’re only human.
It would have fooled us too
PE: This issue continues the dizzying spiral into depths of inanity heretofore explored only by the writer of The Human Torch and Ant-Man strips back in the day. Since the writer of those blights and this are one and the same guy I suspect that, now and then, Stan "The Man" Lee liked to blow off steam and remind the world that these are comic books, after all, and aimed at six year old boys and thirty year-old men with... issues. How else to explain a "super-villain" whose power lies solely in the mattress springs on the bottom of his flippers (BOINNNNNNG!!), and a hero who creates a twin brother as an alibi. How long before Foggy's impersonating Mike Murdock? Stan's only mistake was having Matt Murdock as a passenger on the plane in our intro rather than as the pilot! And what exactly was the point of Froggy's display of "power" in the first few pages? To strike fear into the hearts of the NYPD officers who've faced The Hulk and Galactus time and time again? Can you see this seventh-tier bad guy getting stuck in the carpet as he's heading out the door? More than any story I can remember in our tenure, "Enter: The Leap-Frog" screams DEADLINE DOOM!

Jack: What a bunch of grouches you cats are! I dug this issue the most. Mike Murdock is one swingin' cat and the Leap-Frog made my heart skip a beat. Seriously, the art is so good that I thoroughly enjoyed this harmless tale. This is the Gene Colan I loved from Tomb of Dracula.

PE: Professor Jack, I've already granted that two-week respite you asked for. No need to prove to us you really need it!

Tales to Astonish 88
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
Our Story

Attuma is back with a vengeance as he, along with his barbarian horde, attacks Atlantis once again. And once again, he and his cronies are defeated by Namor. They go back to their underwater hideout to sulk. As Attuma gives them a pep talk, a spaceship flies above earth. Unseen aliens talk about searching planets for intelligent life. They pass up Earth, though, not having the time to check it out. In the back cargo compartment of the ship, a giant metal robot, called the Servo-Robot, accidentally falls out of the ship all the way into the earth’s ocean. It floats into Attuma’s turf, so naturally he and the barbarians attack it, believing it was sent by Namor. Lucky for them, the robot hasn’t been programmed to attack anyone yet, since their swords and weaponry are useless against it. They tie the Servo-Robot up with seaweed and Attuma is able to open up its control box. He’s able to program the robot so that it obeys the sound of his voice. Our story ends with Attuma planning on using his new toy to kick Sub-Mariner’s ass.

Tom: These are the kind of stories I like. Whether or not that shows that I have bad taste I’ll have to let my fellow professors be the judge. It’s always nice to read the standard tale that throws a curve-ball once in a while. This issue’s story starts out being the typical Namor versus the barbarians clash, then has a sci-fi/alien twist thrown in. I just kind of wish the robot looked a little more menacing.

Jack: Wild Bill Everett is perfect for this strip if we can't have Gene Colan. It's pretty funny that Stan tells us this will be an action-oriented tale just like they used to do in the Golden Age. So many other Marvel stories are just long philosophical discourses.

MB: Despite having ceded Dr. Strange to Marie Severin, Bill Everett would continue to pencil—and sometimes ink—this strip on and off almost through the end of its run here in TTA. After last issue’s concluding pageantry, Stan drops us in medias res with an abrupt attack by the always-welcome Attuma, whose wish for a mighty weapon is soon answered with the servo-robot (evidently from the Sleeper school of pincer-handed robots). My college writing instructor used to say that, since coincidences do happen in real life, it was okay to have a plot set in motion by one, just not resolved by one; this story passes that test, although we do have to suspend our disbelief to accept that said barbarian could master the alien controls.

Hide your tin cans, denizens of Atlantis!
PE: That's one heck of a suit of armor the Servo-Robot has on if he can fall from outer space (itself quite a deed) into our atmosphere and then into the ocean in a matter of two panels (we know it's in a span of seconds because the alien bozos are still talking the whole time). He's lucky they taught swimming lessons to robots back on Alterius-29 of the 14th Nebula. As Professor Matthew slyly notes, that Attuma's not just a pretty face. He takes one look at the Servo-Robot, tells his guys where the control panel is and then rewires the whole gizmo. One thing we learn this issue is that earth is a shortcut between the 35th and 36th Nebula. That may come in handy for Reed Richards at some point in the future.

Our Story

Now we know why he did not run for re-election in '68.
It seems as though the Hulk might now be in the clear from being regarded as a national menace. Surrounded by squawking news cameramen, he does his best not to let his temper get the better of him. Military troops are also still on hand in case he goes berserk. The whole world is watching. President Johnson writes a special delivery letter to General Ross in which he leaves the Hulk’s fate up to him. If the Hulk is deemed innocent in his eyes, then Ross may grant him a full pardon. The villainous Boomerang has been watching from above and would prefer the Hulk go back to being hated so that he can isolate him more easily and kill him. Using one of his explosive throwing discs, Boomerang hits the Hulk and the pain causes him to freak out. The Hulk mistakes the attack as the work of the newsmen and military troops. He throws things about and leaps away in a rampage. Thunderbolt Ross tears up the President's letter and declares the Hulk a danger to society. Boomerang lures the Hulk into the far off mountains for battle. Using another one of his special weapons that is filled with knockout gas, Boomerang slows the Hulk down so that he’s moving in sleepy slow motion. To finally kill the Hulk, Boomerang blows up a dam and then flies over the Hulk to gloat before he drowns. The Green Goliath isn’t beaten yet, though, as he punches the nearest boulders into dust, causing a sonic boom that knocks Boomerang onto the other side of the dam. The monster leaps over to discover that Boomerang's rocket shoes no longer work and his leg is broken. Boomerang  pleads for the Hulk to save him from the oncoming tidal wave of water. Because of the effects of Boomerang’s gas, the Hulk can feel himself turning back to Banner. On instinct, he grabs the villain and leaps away. Unfortunately for the Boomerang, the Hulk no longer has the strength to hold him and he gets dropped into the ravine below. The story ends with Bruce Banner exhausted and passing out of the ledge of a mountain.

Tom: Here I thought that Boomerang was just a loser villain taking up space until he got traded to Spider-Man’s comic in return for the Hulk series getting the Rhino. It turns out he was a very pivotal character in making the Hulk’s life a miserable wreck. For that alone he should have gotten more of a beating then he did in this issue’s finale. A pretty solid tale as far as Hulk stories go.

 MB: This is the earliest work I’ve seen by Gil “Sugar-Lips” Kane, who would be the final victim of the Hulk’s notorious revolving door for artists. Like Colan, he had a distinctive style that was by no means right for every strip, yet while I wouldn’t call Kane’s Jade-Jaws definitive (a vexing question in itself), I do think it’s a shame that he didn’t get more than four issues in which to flex his emerald muscles, and Buscema is admittedly a tough act to follow. As for the story, having the Hulk’s chances for LBJ’s dangled amnesty dashed by a low-rent villain such as Boomerang—who wimps out before paying the price with his apparent death—is a cruel irony, even though we were fully aware that Greenskin’s heroic status was inevitably temporary. 

The Marvel U staff late on a Tuesday night.
Jack: Eli Katz--I mean, Gil Kane--penciled the Hulk story in Tales to Astonish 76 under the pseudonym of Scott Edward, but looking back at that issue there is little to no evidence of the great Mr. Kane's signature style. This issue is completely different, and I love it! I am a huge fan of Gil Kane's art. While his Hulk is a little jarring after the classic Romita look of the last few issues, his dynamic storytelling more than makes up for it, and Boomerang never looked so good.

PE: Well, he was a hero for those twenty seconds before that ol' debbil, the Marvel Misunderstanding showed up. He's got that to hold on to. Thunderlips Ross' 180 degree changes are dizzying to say the least. Last issue he was ready to bomb the *%$# out of the Hulk, then he pushes his daughter out of the way to kiss the Green Goliath. Now, he's back to his ol' lovable self, nastily shredding Hulk's pardon without a moment's hesitation. Since I've cheated and snuck a peak at The Boomerang's future appearance sheet, I know he's not really finis but his "death" scene is very effective, all the moreso as it's of his own making.

Strange Tales 153
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Our Story

During a rare shave, Col. Fury recaps his debt to Hydra’s only female member, who saved his life, but the car in which Sitwell and Jones are trying to take her to safety is blown up by Hydra agents. As Fury and Dugan fly to their aid in the captured saucer, the new Supreme Hydra attains “the ultimate hiding place” by assuming the identity of captured S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Bronson. Jasper and the three ex-Howlers are reunited in battle with Hydra, pitting the new portable electro-image distorter against their armored Hydra-Piller vehicles, yet when the reinforcements summoned by Dum-Dum rescue the rescuers, Fury has no idea that the man he recommends for a citation for his heroic role in the battle is really his incognito nemesis.

MB: For neither the first nor the last time in Marvel’s Silver Age history, Smilin’ Stan has turned the writing chores over to Roy Thomas (briefly, as it turns out), while the daughter of the late former Supreme Hydra, Arnold Brown, has acquired a first name, Laura, in the process.  This is the final issue to feature Kirby’s layouts, and since it’s always wisest to keep one’s expectations low, I’m praying that the pure Steranko artwork doesn’t disappoint me when it arrives next month…albeit encouraged by such flashes of soon-to-be greatness as that atmospheric close-up of Fury in page 12, panel 5.  Making the new Supreme Hydra a master of disguise really starts to pay off in this installment, with “Bronson” assigned to protect Laura after bailing out Fury et alia.

PE: Well, let's hope the great Steranko isn't as encumbered by word balloons. I'm a big fan of story myself, but there's hardly any room to let the Steranko vintage breathe here. The characters almost seem to be dodging these deadly white clouds of dialogue. And deadly some of them are. Roy's falling into Stan's lame one-liner routine here. When Dum-Dum observes that a crowd of "creeps must be agents of Hydra," Fury exclaims "I didn't think they wuz sellin' girl scout cookies." I'll bet that line has come out of the mouth of Benjamin Grimm more than once.

Jack: And that's the problem I have with the SHIELD stories--the dopey dialogue. I really find it hard to believe that the leader of the top spy agency talks like one of the Bowery Boys. Does Fury ever stop talkin' like dis? Wot a meathead! If I wuz him, I'd get someone ta teach me sum better diction.

Doctor Strange
Our Story

Trapped among the Mindless Ones, that old horndog Dr. Strange is distracted by what he thinks is Clea, on whom he seems to have a major crush. He battles the Mindless Ones, using fists and sorcery, and finally breaks free of their dimension, only to find that the Clea he has rescued is actually a Mindless One in a disguise cooked up by Umar, who is running the show from afar.

Dr. Strange, Master of Kung Fu
MB: No longer doing double duty on Doc and Namor, Wild Bill Everett has here been supplanted by Marie Severin, whose older brother, Golden Age vet and sometime S.H.I.E.L.D. artist John Severin, died on February 12 at age 90. But Stan the Man is staying the course for the moment, and although Umar’s power is clearly considerable, it’s a bit more interesting to watch the duel of wits in which she and Strange are engaged over poor Clea’s fate, plus the Mindless Ones are always good value in my book. Marie’s style is more painterly (for lack of a better word) than Bill’s; since I believe she’s settling in for an eight-issue stint, we should have ample opportunity to see how well it meshes with the character in the months ahead.

Jack: For some strange reason I really liked Ms. Severin's art in this issue. I did not think Bill Everett was a good fit for the Dr. Strange strip, so the change is welcome. The Mindless Ones crack me up. All they ever do is fight! Kind of like Congress.

Also this month

Fantasy Masterpieces #7
Ghost Rider #1
Marvel Collectors' Items Classics #7
Millie the Model #59
Patsy and Hedy #110 (final issue)
Rawhide Kid #56
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #39


Not to be confused with the cursed hog rider introduced in the 1970s, The Ghost Rider was Marvel's attempt to cross-pollinate the superhero and western genres. This incarnation of Ghost Rider was based on a character created by Ray Crank and Dick Ayers back in 1949. Roy Thomas, Gary Friedrich, and Ayers streamlined G.R. for the 1960s and gave it a go, thinking the superhero half of the zine would bring in more readers. The first four issues featured a new 17-page G.R. story written by Friedrich, penciled by Ayers and inked by Vinnie Colletta and a back-up reprinted from a pre-hero Marvel western title. The G.H. story in issues 5 and 6 were expanded to 20 pages. The most intriguing aspect of the title may be the 5-pager, "The Tough Ones," in the final issue, written by future Batman superscribe Denny O'Neil. Pencils on "The Tough One" were handled by Herb Trimpe (his third Marvel job after work in Kid Colt, Outlaw #134 and 135), just a year before becoming the definitive artist on The Incredible Hulk. The experiment lasted a mere seven issues and the first six were reprinted in 1974-75 as Night Rider.

Jack: Can we get some love for the final issue of Patsy and Hedy? 110 issues and never a word from the faculty. Black Goliath never made it that long . . .

PE: No, really, Professor Jack, the vacation is yours!


  1. Jack (and the rest of you Patsy-boosters) need not mourn her. It will be less than ten years until La Walker starts shaking things up as the Hellcat in AVENGERS #144, and a mere five until she first resurfaces in AMAZING ADVENTURES #13.

  2. And what of Hedy? Did she become a superhero? How about Millie? Did she get hit with radioactive eyeliner?

  3. This just goes to show that Marvel knew how to milk every last drop from its characters. I believe Millie was responsible, later on, for getting Karen Page hooked on smack and luring her into prostitution.

  4. Good God, it's Mike Murdock, the absolute nadir of Marvel's Silver Age! Besides the utter inanity of the concept -- that Matt would dream up such a lame secret-identity-saving scheme, that Karen and Foggy are gullible enough to buy into it, that Lee and Colan actually thought this was an idea worth killing trees for -- it's the EXECUTION of the silly charade that's so gob-smackingly cringe-inducing. What I still can't figure out after all these years, did the creators/culprits actually think this is what a contemporary hipster would look and sound like? With his loud (but still VERY "square") clothes and "swinger" patois, he's like a refugee from a bad 1930s screwball comedy. I mean, the guy's a total DORK. That had to be intentional, right? And yet, Karen kinda gets a mini-crush on him over the next few issues! So -- What. The. EFF.

    Afraid DAREDEVIL just jumped the shark, big-time. Put on your life-jackets, ladies and gentlemen, rough seas ahead...

  5. You, sir, have been No-No-Prized for letter of the week. It's only coincidental that I happen to agree with every one of your words!

    Martin Goodman was interested in two things … sales figures and covers. There was a basic, unwritten rule for Marvel comic book cover design … get the hero and the villain on the cover, and have the hero face the reader. It's unclear if this dictate came from Goodman, or from Stan Lee, who, for most of the 1960s, acted as Marvel's Art Director. The rule was often bent, but rarely broken. Sometimes covers were altered or completely redrawn to conform to this “rule.” February 1967 is as good a place as any to examine the “rule” so let's take a look.

    Here's Don Heck's original cover for Avengers #37.

    It breaks the basic rule. Cap, Goliath and Hawkeye have their backs to the reader. Gil Kane was asked to come up with a new cover, and he basically drew the same scene from the reverse angle, so that we can see everyone's faces.

    For FF#59, Jack Kirby has everyone facing the reader, but the villain is nowhere to be seen. Instead, the cover highlights Black Bolt, and the escape from the Great Refuge. We'll call this one “minor rule bending.”

    Thor #137 has a classic Kirby battle scene. Thor is shown side on, but dominates the cover. Another minor infraction.

    It's not hard to see why Stan liked John Romita. Since starting on Spidey, his covers have been near textbook examples of the rule, and #45 is a perfect example … the Lizard and Spidey against a simple yellow spider web backdrop, with superb coloring by Stan Goldberg. I can still remember how vividly this cover stood out on the news stand.

    Try twisting your upper body at a 90 degree angle to your lower body. That's what Cap is doing on the cover of TOS #86. It looks like Jack Kirby is literally making Cap bend to the rule, forcing him to face the reader. If drawn in correct alignment with his lower body, we'd see Cap's back, and the back of his head.

    The X-Men cover features the two villains slugging it out, with no heroes in sight. To avoid breaking the rule, the X-Men are added to a sidebar down the left hand side.

    No rule breaking on Daredevil #25, and just a minor hickup on Tales To Astonish #88 with Subby standing side-on. For Strange Tales #153, Nick Fury obeys the rule and hogs center stage, facing the reader.

    Check out your favorite Marvel covers, and see if they obey, bend, or break the “rule.”

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  7. Fantastic Four: I've been moving house for the past few weeks, didn't have internet, but did check out Marvel University from work, without posting. At home, instead of surfing the net, I watched some classic TV. Actually I watched the greatest TV show ever made … The Outer Limits, and noticed something. The FF storyline where Victor Von Doom seemingly befriends the Surfer, causing him to drop his guard, allowing Doom to steal his powers is incredibly reminiscent of The Bellero Shield, where Sally Kellerman does the same thing to the Bifrost Alien, stealing his power to create an impenetrable shield. Plots from The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, and The Prisoner found their way into the Marvel Universe, why not a concept from The Outer Limits?

    Thor: I'm no fan of Vince Colletta. His generally slapdash work, and penchant for erasing backgrounds and figures ruined many pages of Kirby artwork. However, when he was good, he was very very good, as we can see in this page from Thor #137.

    Here, Colletta does everything right. We have holding lines, spotted blacks, attention to detail, and Collettas scratchy penmanship works to advantage here, giving Ulik a nice grungy appearance. Instead of working against Jack Kirby, he works with him. This page, and Gene Colan's outstanding Ditko homage in Iron Man made for some exciting reading back in the day.

    Daredevil: “Aw, c'mon Foggy. You've known me for years. I'm blind. How could I possibly be Daredevil? That letter must be from some prankster pretending to be Spider-Man.”

    This simple explanation could've spared us from the worst storyline in Marvel history. The less said about The Leapfrog, the better.

    Hulk: I'm a big fan of Gil Kane's work on Green Lantern, but I never did like his rendition of the Hulk. Kane's own scrathy thin line inking style can take some of the blame, but I'm not sure that Joe Giella or Sid Greene would've improved things to any great extent, had either of them made the trip to Marvel when Kane jumped ship.

    Matthew: I wonder who was in charge of Marvel's reprint department in the 1970s? They seem to have done a great job messing up the classics. I picked up a few Thor reprints to fill holes in my collection, only to find pages missing and storylines dropped.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  8. (Professor) Glenn: How fitting that you consider The Outer Limits the greatest TV series of all-time! Professor Tom and myself were bloggers there before Peter invited us to come on board at Marvel University. I never thought of the current F.F. storyline as borrowing from OL (The Bellero Shield), but you're right, it has definate similarities. Interesting about Vince Colletta; I always thought of his scratchy lines as attention to detail, I didn't know he erased backgrounds at times. He certainly became sloppy at times, but I'm still a big fan.

  9. Jim: It's interesting that the greatest TV show ever made spawned "We Are Controlling Transmission" the greatest TV show blog ever made.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

    1. Glenn: You might as well give in and join Marvel University; once Professor Pete gets his claws into you, it's just a matter of time!

  10. Glenn: Having had some (minor) involvement in creating WACT, I am now basking in largely reflected glory.

    With you all the way on Colletta. I grudgingly admire his work on THOR some of the time, but usually his name in the credits just makes my heart sink when I see it.

    Re: DAREDEVIL, didn't they add insult to injury by never tying up that dangling plot thread of Spider-Man's letter?

    Re: those pesky but beloved reprints, I finally figured out why they seem to do worse damage in some books than in others. If I'm not mistaken, the typical split book of this period featured one 10-page story and one 12-page story, for a total of 22 pages, whereas the typical solo book had only 20. The Procrustean reprint mags, with a fairly consistent 19-20 story pages, simply lopped off whatever they needed to make the reprints from ASTONISH or SUSPENSE fit their cruel, cruel beds. And we were the unwitting victims. So MARVEL DOUBLE FEATURE and MARVEL SUPER-HEROES are by definition the worst offenders there.

    Thanks, as always, for your uniquely informed viewpoint.