Wednesday, May 2, 2012

October 1966: Rhino on a Rampage!

Fantastic Four #55
Our Story

Reed, Sue and Ben return home to the Baxter Building. With no new emergencies awaiting them, Reed and Sue decide to continue their honeymoon, while Ben heads off to see his girlfriend, Alicia Masters. He learns that she has gone to her shorefront retreat to work on her sculpting, and heads off to see her. Timing may be everything, but it’s not always our friend. The Silver Surfer, who has been confined to our world by Galactus, has used his uncanny abilities to find Alicia, the first human to have shown him kindness. Alicia had been thinking how Ben loved to hear her music when the Surfer, seeking to understand the antagonistic ways of humans, sought her out. To a jealous Ben, however, the simple answer is…it’s clobberin’ time! Ben sends his cosmic rival through the wall, and while not understanding the Thing’s motives the Surfer is willing to oblige. Still hotheaded, Ben nonetheless realizes he’d best get the Silver Surfer to a battleground less likely to hurt Alicia or anyone else. He takes off on the jet-cycle he arrived with, managing to get to a less-populated warehouse area of town. Wyatt Wingfoot and Johnny meanwhile, readying themselves to leave the Himalayas, spot a group of people evacuating their home valley, and stop to investigate. A little later by firelight, they meet the “monster” who’s been scaring the natives away—Lockjaw, the dimension travelling dog that belongs to Crystal. Johnny’s convinced that if Lockjaw could escape the Great Refuge, there must be a way to free the other Inhumans trapped there. Back in New York, Reed and Sue, notified by Alicia, step in to hammer some sense into Ben’s head. Finally the Thing gets it that Alicia feels no more than kindness towards his sky-faring rival. He gives a half-hearted apology, and the Surfer gives Ben some flowers as a parting gift to him and Alicia. JB: What is it about a good knockdown fight in a comic that’s so much fresher than in a movie? Maybe it’s because we get a chance to hear all the thoughts and words of the boneheads involved, which gives a little gentler feel to the frenzy. I’m not a big fan of drawn out battles on film, but we seem to all agree it works here. 

PE: The superhero misunderstanding. Perhaps Marvel's most overused plot device just five years into the run. One superhero is led to believe another is up to no good so, instead of asking questions, there's the attack. Usually it ends with a "Golly gee" and a handshake until the (inevitable) next time. Very few times does this rancid old cliche work but this is one of the handful. The battle between Ben and The Surfer is a classic. Stan and Jack could be the masters of manipulation when they wanted to be and they really wanted to be with this story. They take a semi-hero (remember this is only The Surfer's second appearance and his hero-card hasn't arrived yet) and make him the sympathetic character while taking one of the stars of the book and making him a meathead we can't possibly root for in this battle. That's a tough switch-up to pull off and the team succeeds with flying colors.

MB: Although the Surfer is more of a “Zap!” than a “Pow!” kinda guy, I’d rank a knock-down, drag-out between him and the Thing alongside bouts involving, say, the Hulk or Thor, and this one’s been brewing for months, due to Ben’s misreading of the Surfer’s friendship with Alicia.  The Surfer’s nonchalant dismissal of the imbroglio, Reed’s dressing down of Ben, and the latter’s meek acquiescence are all good character stuff, and as usual, Jack and Joe match Stan every step of the way; they are now as stable a creative team as on Thor.  Meanwhile, back in the Himalayas, Johnny and Wyatt learn what I should have guessed before, i.e., that Lockjaw might hold the key to unlocking the Negative Barrier (nĂ© Zone) that surrounds the Great Refuge.

PE: I'm amazed that Lockjaw knew who Johnny was. Hopefully, the love-struck Torch and Crystal will similarly recognize each other since they've gone through a few school grades since their "ever-lastin' love" began and was put on hiatus. Understatement of the year comes from Wyatt Wingfoot after pal Johnny Storm opines that if they could discover Lockjaw's secret of transporting ebtween dimensions, they could follow him: "That may be more difficult than it sounds, Johnny."

JB: Ben and the Silver Surfer are such opposites; both are characters that were exceedingly fresh, and remained so for Marvel. I remember the cover as one of those I saw on the wall of my old comic store, thinking “I gotta have that one!” You don’t want either one to lose. Alicia’s artsy beach view hideaway looks like Norman Bates might be hanging out downstairs; he didn’t have this to deal with!

PE: Cringe of the month when The Thing calls The Surfer "Whitey."I'm not sure he'd get away with a similarly racial  comment when addressing The Black Panther.

PE: In the Bullpen Bulletins, we get the first word on The Marvel Super-Heroes, the animated TV program featuring Captain America, Thor, Sub-Mariner, Iron Man, and The Hulk, using actual panels from the original Marvel comics. Though the show was short-lived (three months and 65 episodes), it would live on through syndication and has a sort of kitsch classic feel to it.

The Amazing Spider-Man 41
Our Story

J. Jonah Jameson's astronaut son John has returned from a trip infected with some kind of space spore. Afraid that other governments will want to kidnap John and study him in an effort to get ahead in the space race, he is appointed Secret Service bodyguards. Turns out the threat was real but the G-Men won't do much good against the enemy who comes calling: a rogue headhunter in a Rhino costume calling himself (what else?) The Rhino. With all the power of a tank and a nasty temperament to boot, The Rhino looks to nab Jameson Jr. and sell him to the highest bidder. Luckily, JJJ Jr.'s lucky charm, The Amazing Spider-Man, has something to say about that. In the meantime, Spidey's alter ego finds his life changing, seemingly, by the hour. The college freshman buys himself a motorbike (we here at MU refuse to call it a chopper-PE), discovers that Gwen Stacy looks swell now that her eyes are a little closer together, Aunt May's considering moving out, and the dreaded meeting with Mary Jane Watson seems to be on the horizon at last. No way out!

PE: Is John Jonah Jameson III the most accident-prone astronaut ever to walk in space (and soon the moon)? Can't this guy go up with out having some calamity bring him down? True Believers will remember that Spider-Man had to save his tin-foiled hide in his very first issue, now he's infected with space spores (which we'll see transform itself into something more mysterious next issue), and we all know what will happen to him in seven years time (well, those who don't, hang in there for a bit and we'll cover that at a later date).

PE: In the Personal Dilemma Department, we're finally clear of all that Betty-Peter "Does he really love me"/"Oh, she doesn't even know I'm alive" nonsense that we've had to wade through for 35+ issues but it seems to have been quickly replaced with "I'd love to have my own apartment but who'd give Aunt May her medication every night"/"Boy, I'd love to move in Mrs. Watson, but who'd make Peter's bed?"

MB: For once, this issue’s promised “new era” is no hype:  Peter’s wheels and self-assurance with Gwen, the tantalizing prospects of closure with Betty and moving out of Aunt May’s house, the return of future Man-Wolf John Jameson, and the introduction of a major villain all cement the sense that The Romita Years have begun in earnest.  John is as congenial as his father is curmudgeonly, and with campus protests already a reality—as we saw several issues ago—a man in uniform may be a tad more palatable if he’s an astronaut.  I think the Rhino more often fought the Hulk (a good match) in later years, but he’s a literal heavy hitter, and the wealth of unanswered questions surrounding him make us welcome his almost immediate reappearance.

PE: That Rhino turns out to be a formidable foe but we wouldn't know that just yet from this adventure. Perhaps we'll get a better picture of the foe in the next couple issues. He goes down pretty easy once Spidey gets a bead on him. Speaking of which, his armor may be bullet-proof but I couldn't help but think that if the cops really wanted to take him down, one good headshot would do it. The NYPD must have been squeamish in those days. They're certainly not very bright as, in our final scene, one of the cops notes that they can't remove the armor. Another cop asks him what they should do when The Rhino wakes up and rips apart the precinct. "We'll worry about that when the time comes!" is his reply. And happily, my favorite comic gal of all time, Gwen Stacy, begins to lose that hard outer shell she's been encased in since her first appearance as a The Hills Have Eyes-esque mutant but she's still not the beautiful doll we'll come to love in the few years she has left on earth. Not with that weird hairdo, at least.

The Avengers 33
Our Story

The Sons of the Serpent hold Captain America captive, telling the Avengers that if they interfere with the evil group’s plans the red, white and blue hero will die. This is turning into a publicity victory for foreign leader General Chen, who is visiting the United Nations. The Avengers attempt to battle the Sons but are forced to face an audience, ostensibly to admit that they support the hate group. Goliath turns the tables with a patriotic speech but the crowd follows the lead of Captain America, who turns up and voices support for the Sons. Cap is an impostor, of course, and the real Steve Rogers helps the Avengers defeat the baddies, whose leader is revealed to be none other than General Chen.

MB:  Heck is still in need of a better inker than himself; the art isn’t a train wreck, but it ain’t what it could be, and while we’re in the debit column, that “Hail the Sons of the Serpent! Hail the Supreme Serpent!” sounds way too familiar.  With Cap’s life in jeopardy, I’ll give Jan the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s joking when she laments not having a thing to wear to the Klan—uh, Serpent—rally, and it’s nice to see Hawkeye lash out on behalf of, rather than at, Cap for a change.  The story in general and the ending in particular felt rushed, most notably the last-minute interpolation of the Widow, and I suppose there are readers who, more acute than I, saw coming miles away the revelation of the Imperial—uh, Supreme—Serpent as General Chen.

PE: I've defended Don Heck's art more than I've trashed it but someone has to explain to me what's going on in the panel right above me. Is this a display of expressionistic art (is it a sideways angle or are the serpents levitating?) or just a wild screw-up on the easel? Go ahead, turn it sideways and see if it makes any more sense. Professor Matthew's favorite "large superhero who used to be a real tiny superhero" Goliath loves to keep everything close to the vest despite being a member of something called a team. Count how many times he says a variation on "I can't tell you right now but trust me" to his co-workers. I picture the guy being cagey about disclosing the whereabouts of the TV Guide.

Jack: This story moves along nicely and Heck’s art is bearable. I like the focus on Captain America, and it seems like adding Goliath, the Wasp, and Black Widow to the mix has made the Avengers a more interesting team.

Tales to Astonish 84
Namor, The Sub-Mariner
Our Story

While suffering from amnesia, Namor comes under the control of Number One of the evil Secret Empire. Using a transceiver around his neck to communicate with him, Number One sends Namor out to New York city to destroy the Hulk. It’s not easy for Namor since the entire police force is after him. After getting shot a few times by the law, he breaks into a clothing store to dress up and blend in. Namor walks around the urban jungle without much of a clue as to where to find the Hulk. He stumbles upon a movie theater that advertises newsreels that show the Hulk in action. Figuring that this might give him some type of clue to the monster’s whereabouts, Namor goes in to watch. When Number One communicates with him on the transceiver to monitor his progress, fellow movie patrons overhear and eventually recognize Namor. Once again, he has to flee the police. In a huge coincidence, while flying above the ocean, he bumps into Krang’s battle ship. Krang shoots him with one of the ship’s guns, causing Namor’s memory to come back to him. The story ends with Namor giving chase once again to Krang with Dorma in tow.

Tom: This is the first Sub-Mariner story that I’ve read that I can say just flat out sucked. After taking on the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, Iron Man, and God-like Titans that rule the sea, I’m pretty sure Namor can handle the New York City police department, so there wasn’t much suspense going on here. Oh well, I guess all these stories can’t be winners. Still, can someone please explain to me what the hell is going on with the Secret Empire? I thought Number Nine was the new top dog in the organization? Why does Number One hate the Hulk so much? Maybe all will be resolved in the Hulk story . . .

PE: "There are times when words are truly unnecessary... when pictures can tell the story so graphically... so dramatically... that we shall not intrude with superfluous wordage upon the illuminating illustrations which follow..." We're then treated to the dramatic display of Namor putting on a shirt in a department store he's broken into and a cop taking a shot at him. There were certainly more dramatic episodes in this entry that could have gone without "superfluous wordage."No such thing as continuity in this strip this month. Somewhere in between TTA83 and 84, Number One decided Namor's prime objective was to destroy The Hulk. No reason is given. So Subby spends the entire issue hoofing the streets of the city looking for the big green guy. No luck. In what would be called coincidence in real life but what we here call "writing yourself out of a corner," the Fish-Man nearly flies right into the ship of Krang, which is now hovering above the clouds for some reason. Krang and Dorma are still fighting over the merits and demerits of Namor like an old married couple resigned to living in a huge metal salad spinner. Krang blasts Namor and that clears his head of Number One and we get a big banner letting us know that the newly enraged Sub-Mariner prepares for the battle of his life while we wonder which battle that may be. Krang and Dorma? Hulk? Number One? TTA Sales Figures? Stay Tuned.

Jack: That is some crack police work on page two, when the beat cop is sure he’s spotted Subby. How many other guys are wandering around the Big Apple in green swim trunks with little wings on their ankles? I wonder if Stan had to write the caption on page three after he got the art to explain that Subby is not bullet-proof but .45 caliber shells don’t bother him? Contrast this story with the Hulk story that follows to see how much better Colan was at draftsmanship and storytelling than whoever was responsible for this month’s adventure of Jade Jaws. Ayers’s inks are not a good fit with Colan’s pencils, but the underlying work is so good that it really doesn’t matter.

Our Story

The Hulk leaps around in a state of confusion. At first, he longs to see Betty again, but since he can’t find her, he remembers that he used to be friends with the Avengers and searches for them to help him. He leaps towards where he last remembered seeing them and ends up in New York. Rick Jones sees in the news that his green skinned buddy has been spotted in the Big Apple. To get there to help him he answers an ad in the newspaper for someone who is willing to drive a car down to New York. The guy paying him to do so warns him not to look in or open the trunk. Even the stupid Hulk knows that he can’t walk around the city looking the way that he does without setting the citizens in a state of panic, so he breaks into a large men’s clothing store to disguise himself in a raincoat. He then wanders into the same movie theater that the Sub-Mariner is in, from this same issue’s previous story, in time to see him being chased out by civilians and cops. All the screaming and commotion upsets the Hulk and he eventually blows his cover. The story ends with Jade Jaws evading the police and leaping away from New York City.

Tom: This may very well be the worst crossover comic book I have ever read and that’s saying a lot. This issue served no purpose whatsoever. The only thing we learned in the Hulk story was that loser Boomerang failed again in his attempt to steal the Orion weapon because Talbot threatened to blow them both up rather letting him have it, thus turning Talbot into a big hero. Other then that, this all felt like a big waste of time. Maybe originally the Hulk and Namor were going to bump into each other in a peep show in Times Square and duke it out, but Stan got too afraid of the censors? Also, maybe some of my older fellow professors can enlighten me, but was it that common back then for people to take out ads in the newspaper for someone to drive a car for them out of state? If so, it sounds like a decent way to make some side money for a part time job. Unless Dazzler or the Faceless One is in the trunk of that car Rick is driving, I’m not all that thrilled with excitement. Hopefully I’ll get a spell of amnesia like Namor and forget this entire issue.

 PE: Two pages in, Stan almost loses me with the most egregious error ever committed: he has The Hulk suddenly think to himself: "I need help. The Avengers will help me!" Say what? Since when does The Hulk trust anyone, in particular a super-group who did nothing but pound on him the last time they met up? That thread is dropped only a few pages later. The entire story is schizo but clearly the result of an impending deadline and no story or art at the ready. We're subjected to an alternate look at the events that happened in the Sub-Mariner story that opened this issue. Subby's looking for the Jolly Green Giant and they're mere feet away from each other in the movie theater they've hidden out in but neither knows it. The Hulk even mirrors Namor's theft of street clothes to hide himself from puny humans. In the end though, the story is really about nothing, a problem that Stan has now and then. He even questions himself through his big green gorilla in a telling final panel. Free to do...what? indeed. Where could this strip go that it hasn't already month after tedious month? And what the hell was in the trunk of the car?

Jack: The art is by almost the whole blamed bullpen, and it shows. What happened this month? Daredevil had three inkers, too. This story is a mess where nothing happens. I understand that Bill Everett was a great guy, a comic book pioneer, and a good friend to Kirby, but his work on the Hulk series so far is not enjoyable.

PE: Art on the bullpen is credited to "Almost the whole blamed Bullpen!" According to the indispensable Grand Comics Database, the following artists and inkers had a hand in "Rampage in the City": Jack Kirby, Bill Everett (I assume the Boomerang flashbacks), Gene Colan (the panel reprinted from the Sub-Mariner story), Jerry Grandenetti, Mike Esposito, Sol Brodsky, John Tartaglione, and Dick Ayers. Sheesh! If you're going to use that much talent, give them a story to craft art with.

The Mighty Thor 133
Our Story

The Mighty Thor, accompanied by the Rigelian Recorder, have entered the Black Galaxy to find what the colonizers fear the most (and none have lived to tell about)—Ego, the Living Planet. Ego is composed entirely of living biological matter; he can, and does reshape himself into almost limitless different forms at will. In order to better communicate with his humanoid visitors, Ego transforms his landscape to an Earthlike environment, and a portion of “himself” into a humanoid form.  Elsewhere, the Grand Commissioner, true to his word, orders the space lock to be removed from Earth, and Tana Nile to return to Rigel.  Jane Foster likewise is having a new adventure; she meets two men, Porgia and Tagar, who Endeavour to enlist her service as a teacher for a mysterious, as yet unknown purpose. He reveals that his random destruction of a few of the Rigelian’s ships was a whimsical test of his power, and he plans to venture forth and conquer all of space!  He realizes Thor is an example of one of the far more powerful foes he will have to face, and he uses the Thunder God as a template to create a humanoid form of an anti-body creature, which he plans to duplicate and send out in space to carry out his plan.  Despite Thor’s defiance, Ego dismisses the Thunder God and the Recorder, and the visitors are forces to flee a giant title wave into an opening that takes them beneath Ego’s surface.  Soon they are attacked by an endless number of the humanoid anti-bodies. Thor eventually shrugs them aside; only to be barraged by a wind of debris that buries the Recorder. When Thor risks his own life to rescue him, the Recorder notes, that for the first time, he feels an emotion… one of gratitude. Calling on his ability to summon all the elemental forces of which he is master, Thor makes one last-ditch effort to smite the omnipotent Ego. His long shot works, and the living planet, humiliated that he could be humbled, even momentarily, by another living being, vows to never again venture forth from the Black Galaxy. Thor carries the Recorder, as they fly off, headed for Rigel.“Valhalla” is the destination for the fatally injured barbarian leader Harokin in Tales Of Asgard. As his people prepare to him, in fine warrior garb, to mount the Black Stallion of Doom, the dreaded Hela, Goddess of Death appears to send him on his way to eternal battle, the fate that awaits all worthy warriors -- eventually.

PE: I found the story very slow but, oddly, the ending rushed. There's a big battle going on and suddenly the Most Powerful Being in the Galaxy screams "Uncle." It's not a Living Planet with an Ego that pushes my unbelievability button though. Very Ditko-esque art in some spots. The Living Planet looks more like one of Doc Strange's "other dimensions" than the usual Kirby foreign landscape. Tagar and Porgia obviously don't read Journey Into Mystery comics. If they did, they'd believe Nurse Jane Foster when she exclaims "You must have the wrong person!" when they search for a "teacher" for whatever nefarious scheme they have up their sleeve. And why in the name of coincidence would they pick Jane? If they've discovered the secret that her lame boss moonlights as a Thunder God, I'll be more forgiving but there are more intelligent women out there - take Betty Brant, Karen Page, and Peper Potts for instance.

JB: I used to think of this issue when I was a kid as kind of the quintessential Thor art issue; now A number of other ones seem just as good, but the double pager when Thor and the Recorder arrive on Ego’s surface is pretty spectacular, as is the ominous cover. You’ve got a point Peter about how Ego is sent packing so suddenly; Thor’s powers are extensive, but sometimes Stan and Jack used that to their convenience. Still, Ego has been so isolated he just might be humiliated by the possibility of defeat, something he may never have considered before. 

MB: For some reason, these early-’70s Marvel Spectacular reprints omitted the past two issues, so I’m playing catch-up with this whole Rigellian Colonizer storyline, but what interests me is how much—and how well—the book has started to fuse SF with mythology.  Contrary to some of the early issues, in which Thor fought mundane Midgardian villains who seemed rather beneath him, the Thunder God now appears almost dwarfed by the events surrounding him.  Of course, this allows Jack to cut loose with amazing artwork that tempts us to rename the medium from “comic” to “cosmic” books, and to create with Stan such memorable characters as Ego and the redoubtable Recorder (making me regret the pages devoted to “Tales of Asgard” even more).

JB: Mathew—glad to see you’re enjoying the sci-fi aspects of the Rigel trilogy. I’ve never found they contradict the more mythological approach of previous sagas in Thor; it made sense to me that he’d have to encounter other types of beings, especially as the crossovers in the Marvel universe get more complex.

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

A.I.M. appears to have successfully captured a Fury L.M.D. right from the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters when, during their getaway, it is revealed as Nick himself, who leads the counterattack.  His “fatal” plunge from the Helicarrier also fooled Royale, but no sooner has Sitwell followed the count to A.I.M.’s lair when the place explodes. The “vacationing” Jones returns from his undercover assignment busting up the Secret Empire (see Astonish #83 if you have it, although I don’t), which we learn is also a branch of Them, and just when you think things couldn’t get any more complicated, Fury is inspired to check out the files of Hydra, where he, Dugan, and Jones find evidence suggesting that Them is Hydra reborn.

From left to right: Dum-Dum Dugan, Nick Fury (?),
 and the newly-Latino Gabriel Jones
MB: “Who says this isn’t the Marvel Age of surprising bylines,” muses editor Stan on the splash page, and he doesn’t get any argument out of me, with a rare artwork credit for Golden Age vet Ogden Whitney, working over Kirby’s layouts, and a script by “Denny” O’Neil, despite being billed as “Dennis” in this issue’s Dr. Strange story.  For better or worse, Whitney’s style is consistent with the cartoony glop that has mostly passed for artwork around here since the Severin era, and while it’s presumably not his fault (they weren’t crediting colorists back in those days), Gabe is a shade of gray that I doubt any human being has ever sported.  We can only pray that Stan will soon thin the herd with these evil organizations, and be glad that he didn’t work in the Sons of the Serpent.

PE: I'm still tryin' to figure out at what point Stan thought it would be great to have four secret organizations rather than one. Several times in the past (and in this issue as well) it's been noted that Stan has no idea who's who. Denny O'Neil contributes a text and dialogue-heavy adventure that, while not scaling the mountain of near-perfection the first couple Nick Fury installments achieved, gets us a bit back on track after falling far behind in a morass of inanity. That art, though, is another matter. Assigning chores to an artist best known for the fat-boy funny book, Herbie (published by ACG), is perplexing. 

Come back Don Heck, all is forgiven
Jack: Two-Gun Kid and Millie the Model artist Ogden Whitney pencils and inks this story over Kirby’s layouts. Once again, a bizarre choice in a month where it looks like Marvel’s bullpen was in chaos. I guess Stan’s recent vacation was a bad idea. I have to admit that I really don’t know what the heck is going on in the Nick Fury series at this point. How long till Steranko?

Doctor Strange
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Kaluu has bound Dr. Strange and the Ancient One with mystic forces. Dr. Strange frees them but the Ancient One tells him that he must stay in his domain to remain powerful for the battle (kind of like when Barney Rubble could only sing well in his shower). Kaluu offers to be merciful, admitting that his beef is with the Ancient One rather than his disciple. Dr. Strange refuses to withdraw and the Ancient One gets weaker as the battle rages. Dr. Strange holds off Kaluu for a time with his cloak and amulet, but eventually the villain sends a powerful spell to destroy everything inside our hero’s sanctum. Yet when Kaluu explores the Strange mansion, he finds his adversaries have escaped! 

Is he referring to Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, Joe Orlando . . . ?
Jack: More Bill Everett. This strip is going nowhere fast and the cartoony art doesn’t seem to fit with 1966 Marvel comics.

MB: Much as I respect the creator of the Sub-Mariner, the team of O’Neil and Everett isn’t selling me; the Ancient One appears to be alternately—and at random—either sitting on or engulfed by some sort of flying carpet, and I still think I’d prefer a Kahlua to more of Kaluu.  On the plus side, the fact that after all these years we actually get a look at, say, the oft-invoked Demons of Danak [sic] is kinda cool, whether they live up to your expectations or not.  Never thought I’d pine for the realism of Steve Ditko, but if anything Everett’s characters seem even cartoonier, although at least our hero comes off the best despite his persistent cowlick, with a sort of John Barrymore look to him, even if I find disobeying his mentor out of character.

The X-Men 25
Our Story

The X-Men maintain their gender bias as they drop former member Jean Grey off at her new college. As is to be expected, the orphanage next door is on fire, giving them something to do for a couple of pages. Meanwhile, in the jungles of South America, El Tigre has stumbled across the treasure of Kukulcan, and part of a magic amulet. He heads to New York to acquire the second half of the pendant, where he runs afoul of our mutants. When he acquires it, El Tigre loses his Mexican peasant outfit and finds himself Kukulcan resurrected!

PE: Mighty Joe Young must be out of town so the X-kids are left to rescue tots from the rooftop of a burning orphanage. I hope sometime in the near future, Professor X will explain to his muties (and Roy will explain to us) just exactly how those metal tentacles, that leaped from the wall to catch the Prof as he took a tumble, work. Did he rig the entire mansion with millions of tentacles or do they psychically follow him around and burst through the drywall when he's heading for the carpet? And in the Department of Equal Opportunity Offense: The Angel, worried that the three Hispanic villains have harmed The Beast, exclaims "If those bushy baboons have harmed him, I'll make them wish they'd never left the jumping-bean farm!" Needless to say, you probably wouldn't catch that phrase in today's comic books.

JS: Every (random) time the Professor decides to walk, I have to ask myself why then. It never seems to be when it would be most helpful. Hmmm... I'm going to head downstairs to see the boys. Better use my magic legs! Although if he's only walking where he's installed his safety tentacles(?), maybe it all makes sense.

PE: El Tigre, with his cowboy get-up, resembles one of the really bad villains that would populate the pages of the early 1960s Marvel westerns.

JS: I always wonder why Scott's optic blasts will destroy just about anything—with the exception of his eyelids or hands...

Tales of Suspense 82
Iron Man
Our Story

Iron Man is attacked in the skies of Washington, D.C. by a newly-renovated Titanium Man. TM's mission is to stop IM from testifying before Senator Byrd's congressional committee. Shellhead finds it extremely difficult to hold his own against an obviously more powerful foe. Things escalate when Titanium Man turns his sights (and electric beam) on Tony Stark's right-hand girl, Pepper Potts.

PE: Basically 12 pages of battle scenes, interrupted every three or four panels with interjection from a peanut gallery congregated below the battle. I could have done without the interruptions but I guess Stan felt he needed to propel the story with crowd exposition. Unfortunately, there's nothing really to say other than "Gee, that Iron Man guy is swell!" Once Pepper Potts and a newly-svelte Happy Hogan (obviously foregoing the dozen donuts he usually has each morning) arrive on scene, it's very clear why we've got so many "innocent bystander shots." To paraphrase Iron Man when Pepper Potts becomes the object of Titanium Man's affection: "Marvel Universe women! Can't live with 'em, can't put 'em in a paper bag!" By the way, if Paul McCartney happens to be reading our blog, I have a question. Paul, you're a smart guy. Why settle for a third-tier villain like Titanium Man for a song (albeit a flip side)? Wouldn't "Magneto and Green Goblin" flow easier over the tongue?

MB:  As the new Titanium Man trilogy continues, the inks switch from Abel to Giacoia, who is thus handling both halves of this issue, yet they aren’t dramatically different, still preserving the Dean’s unique style.  My only quibble would be that Giacoia’s Iron Man occasionally resembles the Michelin Man more than Abel’s lithe version, but Happy looks a lot better than Heck’s sad sack, so it’s a treat to see him up and around—and not a Freak—after his medical woes.  If I have relatively little to say about the story, it’s due not to a lack of quality but to the fact that, as with this month’s Daredevil, it’s basically a wall-to-wall slugfest between our two Metal Men (the conclusion to which I do not have, although my money’s on Shellhead).

Captain America
Our Story

Captain America has been re-living the "Golden Years" yet again in his head. This time the memories seem to be taking on physical form. Several of his old enemies (and one young partner) materialize before him in The Avengers Mansion. The strain and the exhaustion prove too much and Cap collapses. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents digging through the rubble of Issue 149 of Strange Tales find the barely-breathing Count Royale and one of AIM's deadly contraptions, a device that resembles S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Life Model Decoy Case. When we return to Avenger Mansion, we're horrified to find that a creature calling itself The Adaptoid has duplicated Jarvis and now sets his sights on the comatose Star-Spangled Avenger.

PE: I assumed at first this was another of those "it's all illusion perpetrated by Iron Man to keep Cap on his toes and in good battle shape" stories that Marvel did "so well" in the old days but I'm happy to announce that it's anything but. It's a crackling ten pages of action and plot surprises. Kirby and Giacoia mesh perfectly and the Adaptoid seems, at first glance anyway, to be a fascinating villain. To think we're only a year and a half removed from The Sumo! Marvel Butler of the Year Jarvis asks Captain America if he can draw a bath for him. Not sure what Cap means when he says "No thanks, I'll take a shower -- single-handed" but then I'm not sure I want to know what goes on in The Avengers Mansion after dark.

MB: It’s interesting to compare Giacoia’s consistently fine work on this strip with Colletta’s rough-hewn grandeur in Thor and Sinnott’s polished perfection in FF; each gives Kirby’s pencils his own distinctive yet satisfying flavor.  Seems Count Royale survived that blast in Strange Tales at least long enough to name our new villain, the Adaptoid, whose introduction appears to be the sole point of a rather lightweight tale, especially since Cap already thought he was losing his grip three issues ago.  Now, I’ll admit I haven’t tracked this to date, but is there any correlation between Avengers Mansion as it is periodically depicted here, complete with Jarvis, and in their own magazine, because to me they look like different locales.

PE: And how does the meek-looking Jarvis come to have the power to lift Cap in his arms when our hero passes out? Has he taken some kind of super-servant formula? I must admit a smile crept across my face as what I thought was a bit of a gaffe on Stan's part became a legitimate surprise ending. Doing a little research I find, according to Tom Defalco in The Marvel Encyclopedia (DK Adult, 2006), that Jarv was a champion boxer in the RAF during World War II!

Daredevil 21
Our Story

Caged like an animal by the dreaded Owl, Daredevil has to come up with an escape plan fast. The Owl positions the entrapped hero over a bottomless pit and presses a lever so that the bottom falls out. Daredevil clings to the cage momentarily, but the Owl then activates it so the cage turns red hot. Using his special club to throw a whip around the cable that is holding the cage in mid-air, our hero is able to acrobat himself to safety. Daredevil then beats up a few henchmen before chasing the Owl into his secret lab of mystery. Once inside he sees the experiment the villain has been working on: a giant mechanical robot owl that is supposedly unbeatable. Even though it chases Double D around for a bit, it doesn’t take our hero long to notice that it is being controlled by the Owl from a separate remote control set-up. Daredevil knocks the villain away and they both leap on the out of control robot as it soars into the outside air. Meanwhile, a volcano that will destroy everything has erupted on the island. The criminals make their escape and leave the old judge behind. The Owl escapes when he flies away on his own. Daredevil uses the robot to pick up Judge Lewis and they sail off into the sky as the island is doomed.

Tom: A somewhat decent follow up to a plot that I wasn’t crazy about to begin with. Even the staunchest Daredevil supporters among my fellow professors would have to admit that that robot owl is pretty stupid looking. Even the Mole Man and the Leader, who have had some pretty cheesy mechanical henchmen in their criminal careers, would have been too embarrassed to deploy that thing in a showdown.

MB:  For some reason, Colan has a trio of “delineators” in this issue, billed simply as “Fearless Frank, Darlin’ Dick [and] Wild Bill”; it would be a nifty parlor game trying to identify which pages were inked by Giacoia, Ayers, or Everett, but I am nohow sharp enough to attempt that.  This is also noteworthy as that rare example of what could honestly be promoted as an “all-action issue.”  That’s right—no set-up, no subplots, no interludes, no romance, no epilogues, no Foggy, no Karen and, for that matter, no Matt, just twenty solid pages of wall-to-wall Daredevil vs. Owl and thugs, with the hapless Judge Lewis caught in the middle, and a cliffhanger in which the Judge and Hornhead escape from an erupting volcano atop a giant electronic owl…like wow.

PE: This reads like one of those low-budget Amicus films of the mid-70s: The Land That Time Forgot, At the Earth's Core, The People That Time Forgot, and now The Island with the Big Robot Owl. Not a one of them was entertaining. This isn't exciting so much as frenetic. We have no idea where it's leading us because, I'm sure, neither did Stan. By the end of the story we can't even remember why there's a judge on the island. The good news is that Frank Miller is only 137 issues away. Best line that makes no sense in this issue: looking up at the giant owl, Daredevil thinks "How in the name of Perry Mason am I gonna fight a thing like that?" What does Perry Mason have to do with this? And, while I'm on the subject of dopey pop culture references, I hope we're at the end of our "Soupy Sales shoutouts" in just about every title. Did Soupy own stock in the company?

Jack: I love Gene Colan’s art on this strip, especially his use of large panels. I think he uses fewer average panels per page than any other Marvel artist, at least as of October 1966. As for the script, I think that Stan Lee had better watch out for obesity advocates, the way he has Daredevil throwing around insults regarding the Owl’s girth—“chubbins,” “pudgy,” “tubby,” etc. For my money (and in my memory) Daredevil is how ‘60s Marvel comics were supposed to look.

Also this month

Fantasy Masterpieces #5
Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #5
Marvel Super-Heroes King-Size Special #1
Millie the Model #142
Rawhide Kid #54
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #35


Marvel adds a fourth reprint title to its roster, Marvel Super-Heroes King-Size Special #1, which reprints Avengers #2,  Daredevil #1, a  text story featuring Captain America from Captain America Comics #3, and a Human Torch vs. The Sub-Mariner tale from Marvel Mystery Comics #8. Though MSHKSS would end up being a one-shot, Fantasy Masterpieces would be retitled Marvel Super-Heroes  after its 11th issue. Speaking of Fantasy Masterpieces (I was), the fifth issue features three full-length Golden Age Cap adventures and three pre-hero SF tales from JIM, ST, and TTA.

Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #5 features the reprinting of Fantastic Four #8, and tales featuring Iron Man (from TOS #42), The Watcher (TOS #50), Dr. Strange (ST #116), and The Hulk (Hulk #4).


  1. Hullo, Peter! Sir Paul here. Jolly glad you liked my song, but you can blame the choice of villain on me late wife Linda.

  2. When Pym returned to the Avengers as Goliath was when I first began to like the character. In a very short time he became one of my favorites. So any negative things you have to say about Henry Pym from this point on, I disagree with. (This blanket disageement is active from now until Avengers # 75.) 'Nuff said.

  3. Professor Pete, with my luck, some clown will use your remarks regarding Goliath to diagnose paranoia and justify his ruination during The Shooter Regime! As for the TV GUIDE, I keep telling you it's the location of the remote control that needs to be kept top-secret.

    Didn't find Daredevil's reference to legendary defense attorney Perry Mason out of place, considering that Matt had just been serving as the defense attorney in the "trial" of former Judge Lewis. Nice to see that Amicus and ERB give us yet another area of common ground.

  4. Sir Paul-
    You are a cheeky thing laying your mistakes at the feet of that sweety of yours. I love you anyway. Stay tuned for the McCartney-a-Day blog coming soon!

    Everybody's got their favorites. You hereby have my permission to ignore all the snarky comments that will come out of me from here until Avengers 75 (whatever happens then). Professor Matthew seems to get by.

    Professor Matthew-
    Was the ruination during the Shooter Apocalypse or later during Ultimates? I had no idea that Pym took the wrong fork in the road that early in his career. I'd like to say that I can hardly wait to get to the Shooter era but it would be a big fat lie.

  5. MB: issues 131 and 132 of THOR were skipped over in the MARVEL SPECTACULAR run because they'd been recently reprinted in THOR ANNUAL#4.

    Just re-read the whole Rigel / Ego run myself a few days ago -- technically, from a story structure stand-point, it has to be considered a hot mess, but it's also wildly imaginative and entertaining as hell. Personally, I don't think Stan had anything to do with the plotting of this particular arc; this is 100-proof Kirby Kosmic Kraziness, exactly the kind of thing he'd do later on in NEW GODS and THE ETERNALS. He sets up a fantastical story situation brimming with outlandish concepts and intriguing new characters, then halfway through the story he comes up with a completely DIFFERENT outlandish concept, loses interest in his original idea, bounds off on his exciting new tangent and hap-hazardly tries to tie it all together in the last few pages.

    Poor little Tana Nile! After all the build-up, she never really DOES anything -- spends most of her time getting mocked by the cops at the local precinct.

  6. Paste-Pot: The ruination I spoke of was c. #213, during the Shooter Apocalypse, although for all I know, things got even worse later on. FYI, Hank and Jan temporarily left the group in #75, returning in #90 (per the MCDb).

    Anonymous: Thanks so much! Did not know that.