Wednesday, July 25, 2012

October 1967: The Coming of MODOK!

The Avengers 45
Our Story

The citizens of New York honor the Avengers with an Avengers Day in Central Park. In attendance is the Super-Adaptoid, who uses the powers of all of the Avengers to launch a dangerous attack--until he short circuits and keels over!

MB:  Looks like reports of Heck’s exit from this book were exaggerated, although we get Colletta carried over as inker, and since Roy’s script for “Blitzkrieg in Central Park!” doesn’t quite hit one out of the, uh, park either, that makes this issue pretty average all around.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve always liked the Super-Adaptoid, who I don’t think is used to best advantage here, especially with so many panels devoted to who will show up when for Avengers Day…and what they’re wearing.  The fact that so much of the drama derives from the possibility that several of our characters may be stepped on at any moment, while the rest of the cast stands around and waits, also helps make this less than the “blitzkrieg” I was hoping for.

PE: Pure misery. Roy wastes seven pages with "Where's Cap? He should be here now! I can't wait around! I've got things to do!" and Stan has a hell of a time trying to keep track of that almighty chronology, so important in some titles but disregarded in others (Professor Matthew can attest to that after last month's Tales of Suspense/Strange Tales crossover/debacle), with little notes here and there that the action depicted takes place before Tales of Suspense #95, during The Mighty Thor 145, and after The Avengers King-Size Special #1. I'll just take his word for itJanet Van Dyne shows up to the shindig in her brand new sports car, with a brand new outfit raided from Penny Robinson's foot locker, and no one on her team calls her out for snobbery? Five million clams and she's not donating it to starving children in Latveria? What kind of superheroine could she be deep down? Next she'll be dating that other multi-millionaire philanthropist Tony Stark, the guy who makes his dough selling bombs. Not sure what's worse this issue: the crazy hip with-it lingo ("That far-out flivver is Endsville!") or the sudden rash of thees and thous that have brokeneth out amongst all our characters. I'll forgive The Super-Adaptoid as he's siphoning off the others and can't help himself (although he should be talking hipster jive as well) but the fact that four of The Avengers now talketh liketh thith is distracting beyond belief. Don Heck, whom I've defended in the past (albeit the distant past), reminds us all why we're so happy to have Big John Buscema as the new regular penciler on The Avengers. Study closely the panel above right. Is Thor bald on the top of his head? Is the helmet too small? Skewed a bit? Is the wing attached to his golden mane? And just what is going on in the panel reprinted above left? Is Goliath punching 'Dapt while in the air even though the panel preceding and following show his feet on the ground?

Jack The best scene in this issue was when Janet shows up in her snazzy new suit and the photographer's comments make high-pockets jealous.

PE: LOL- scene of the zine: The Wasp and Goliath/Ant-Man fight to the death with 'Dapt while shrunk down to the size of insects while their partners stand around and direct traffic: "Please ma'am, our partners are waging a battle for the earth, so don't step on them!"

Hercules: Is there nothing we can do?
Hawkeye: Not as long as they remain ant-size!
The Readers: Step on him, you dolts!

Tales to Astonish 96
Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Our Story

Namor is more bloodthirsty than usual as he plans to attack the surface world.  Cooler heads prevail and he settles for attacking the Plunderer before declaring all-out war.  While his mission is dangerous, Namor finds time in between fighting off monstrous snakes and a sea monster to visit his mom’s grave before battling the Plunderer at his home base.  Dorma follows her man, only to be struck along with him by the Plunderer’s weaponry.  Namor briefly fights and knocks out the villain, only to be caught after he tries to find out Dorma’s condition.  Our story ends with his capture as the villain is about to lead his horde on to further pillaging. 

Even as a lad, Namor had amazing powers of perception.

MB: Colletta’s portfolio seems to be expanding like kudzu, to ensnare not only the Avengers but also Namor (as it did when Gene Colan launched this strip in #70); fortunately, Everett’s pencils largely withstand the assault.  By the time this issue of TTA was reprinted in Marvel Super-Heroes, Subby’s own book had been cancelled for almost a year and the Hulk was clearly in the ascendant, so it’s a bit of a shame the cover was redone to feature him instead.  I’m no big fan of the Plunderer—or, for that matter, his idiot brother—yet that shot of Subby rising from the sea to confront him on Skull Island is pretty atmospheric, and although Kev looks suitably dopey, most of the interior art is solid, with a nice sea monster and penguins.

Jack: I am not sure I agree with Lord Vashti that the Plunderer is a "menace to all who dwell on this planet." Seems to me like he never gets very far with his schemes. And by the way, Namor's mom looks like a blue Jane Russell.

Tom:  This would have been a nice story with a good finale if only it had ended after Subby punched out the Plunderer.  In the span of a two-part story, it would have ended an exciting adventure that Daredevil would have taken three whole comics to fulfill.  As it stands now, it’s getting closer and closer to an appearance by Ka-Zar and that is making me nervous!  It’s hard to take this match-up seriously when, according to the Marvel Universe handbook, Namor can lift around 85 tons.   The Plunderer looks like he would be lucky if he could pick up a garden gnome.  

Our Story

Things are getting pretty chaotic as the High Evolutionary’s animal humanoid creatures, the New Men, barge into his lab just before he can experiment on Bruce Banner.  The Evolutionary is unhappy that Banner can’t just automatically change into his green alter-ego to aid him in his defense.  Armed with a sword and shield, the villain fights valiantly against his creations until Banner does finally change into the Hulk.  Mortally wounded during the fight, the Evolutionary has no choice but to use his own machine on himself to forward his own evolution into a cosmic being of the universe.  He ends up changing the New Men back into their original forms and then drops the Hulk back off on planet Earth.

Wait--didn't we see this on Star Trek?
MB:  I’m sorry to see this promising storyline, with its clear echoes of H.G. Wells’s Dr. Moreau, end so quickly, especially considering the super-lame villain who will dominate the next few interminable installments.  The New-Man’s puzzlement over Dr. Banner’s transformation was amusing, and it was quite a switch to see the High Evolutionary, who usually seems to feel above mere physical conflict, grab his mace and wade into the fray.  Circumstances clearly compelled him to alter his plans frequently during this sequence, and it’s only fitting that he winds up becoming the subject of his greatest experiment, but in spite of his attaining oneness with the universe, and that deus ex machina ending, we’ll be seeing more of H.E. down the road.

Tom:  The High Evolutionary outperformed the Hulk in his own title as the story seemed to shift into spotlighting his dramatic change of bodily forms.  I really liked this ending.  It’s kind of hard to call the High Evolutionary a villain when in the end he came off as more of a misunderstood weirdo.  I was a little surprised to see that he was a normal looking human underneath his strange outfit.       

Jack: Not much to say about this story other than that it was pretty cool! I am getting a little bit tired of these cliffhangers that are resolved in two seconds in the next story, and I'd like to have seen Hulk have to figure out a way to get home from the distant planet rather than having the High Evolutionary snap his virtual fingers and transport him back to Earth, but that's just minor stuff. I'm enjoying the Severin/Trimpe art and I am very glad that the Hulk has learned to speak more eloquently.

The Amazing Spider-Man 53
Our Story

Always in the right place at the right time. Peter Parker is attending a science exposition of a new missile nullifier with Professor Warren and Gwen Stacy (please hold your "ahas" for 95 issues) when the device is stolen by Doctor Octopus. Peter makes a mad exit and is able to change into his Spider-Man costume just in time to stop Doc Ock from escaping. During a battle atop a high building, Ock drops the Nullifier onto a crowd of onlookers. Spidey is able to hurl a tracer onto Ock and then catch the gizmo before it does any harm. Unfortunately for Spidey, Ock finds the tracer and attempts to turn the tables on the wall-crawler by planting a bomb on a fake Doc Ock. Fortunately for Spidey, he listens to his spider-sense and sniffs out the booby trap just in time. Unfortunately for Doc Ock, his headquarters is destroyed. Fortunately for Doc Ock, there's a nice little widowed matron who has a room for rent. Any guesses on that matron's identity?

PE: Monday morning quarterbacks know that this is the beginning of a relationship between Otto Octavius and May Parker, a weird bond that will escalate in the 1970s to the horror of her nephew. There's also the strained relationship between Peter and Harry to keep an eye on while Mary Jane just seems to be spinning her wheels right now. You'd never know from the last handful of issues that she'd become a major player in this title.

MB: Despite being behind it all, Dr. Octopus wasn’t too much in evidence during the Master Planner Trilogy, so I was doubly excited to see Ring-a-Ding get his first crack at one of my favorite villains, although Ock’s current taste in eyewear leaves much to be desired. I don’t remember Otto sporting these goofy goggles when last seen, and interestingly, when this cover was completely redrawn for the Marvel Tales reprint, they were swapped for his traditional specs.  The stuff with the science expo was nifty for several reasons:  it recalls the circumstances of Spidey’s creation; it puts Peter and Gwen more on the proper romantic track; and, for those of us reading with 20/20 hindsight, it nicely foreshadows future events involving Professor Warren.

PE: The Monday morning quarterbacks can also read into Professor Warren's longing gaze at Gwen Stacy and his "You're bringing Miss Stacy? I certainly admire your choice, Parker!" can be viewed two ways: he's a love-starved old professor hot for one of his cute students or he admires Parker for surrounding himself with intelligent friends. I'll opt for the latter since there's no way the seed of what was to come a decade later was being planted as far back as 1967. I doubt Gerry Conway caught the spark much earlier than the reveal but I give him lots and lots of credit for reaching back and using an existing character in such an inventive way and it's fun to imagine and read into what is there. The Professor Warren saga of the mid-Seventies has been both praised and pissed on through the years. I stand firmly on the former side and can't wait to get to that era. 

Fantastic Four 67
Our Story

 In a desperate attempt to find the trail that will lead them to Alicia, Reed has studied the images he captured with his heat-image tracer of her going “through the wall” to…where? The key is in duplicating the pattern on the wristband worn by the man named Hamilton who led her. Ben helps for a time, but really all he, Sue, Johnny and Crystal can do is wait for the calculations to be complete. Finally, after two days, and some special equipment from Tony Stark, Reed comes up with the answer. Alicia meanwhile, accompanied by Hamilton, wanders through the labyrinth of Lock 41, where the being that Hamilton and his scientific peers have created lurks. The intention is still for Alicia to find Him and do a sculpture. As the as yet unseen being gives them a couple of warning blasts to keep them away, Hamilton gradually makes Alicia aware that the plan of the he and his fellows had was not so well-intentioned, and that they planned to use the being they created, and others that they planned to duplicate, as the tools for the scientists to rule over mankind. Though extremely powerful the being still feels vulnerable. He senses the good within Alicia and allows her to approach, while some tentacles emerge from the rocky ground to hold Hamilton back. Alicia follows his voice, and indeed finds Him. He is encased in a full-size cocoon, almost ready to be released in his final form. The sensitive and brave blind girl can likewise tell he is not a thing of evil, but has been protecting himself from the heartless men who created him. By this time, Reed, Ben and Johnny, leaving the girls behind, emerge into the so-called Citadel of Science that is the site of all this activity. They are greeted by guards, whom they quickly subdue, and who they force to tell them where to find Alicia and Hamilton. By the time the terrific trio catches up to Alicia in Lock 41, the being has emerged from his cocoon. Being able to read the minds of others, he knows what his creators had really intended, and sets about an energy buildup that will destroy the Citadel of Science and the evil within. He protects Alicia, who he knows to be inherently good, from immediate harm, and she escapes, carried by her love Ben, with Reed and Johnny, back through the transfer grid to the Baxter Building. Finally, he emerges; a handsome, orange-skinned humanoid—the last site the scientists will ever see, and takes his leave from humanity for the present time, as the destruction is complete around Him.

PE: How in the world did Reed Richards get all the detailed schematics on his blackboard from just the one picture of the bracelet? I know he's the smartest guy on the planet but, after all, this is the guy who can't figure out that Sue would be a much better partner if she went to the mall and hairdresser after they face Doctor Doom or The Mole Man. She'd want to get the damn altercation over that much faster, right?

JB: I found this a very satisfying story, as the suspense builds until we finally see Him. I’m not yet familiar with all of his future encounters, but I’m having a hard time not spilling the beans about his appearance in Thor in the not-too-distant future. The chances of a bunch of evil men creating a complex as the Citadel of Science, or of Reed duplicating the wristband from just a few images, seem unimportant next to the epic nature of this fascinating origin. Funny too, that the ladies agreed so easily to stay behind and mind the store, when they have as much power to help effect a rescue as the boys do. I love the full-size illustration of page 10, with Alicia, perhaps the real hero of the story, finding kinship with another misunderstood soul (like the Silver Surfer).

PE: Another in a long line of classic stories, the origin of Him/Warlock almost gets lost in the more famous tales from this era. An obvious variation on Shelley's Frankenstein, the story evokes the same pathos: Sympathy for a creature who may be very dangerous but never asked to brought into the world and Anger for the scientists who created Him out for their own selfish reasons. Amazing that this is the same title we were slagging only a few months ago as unworthy of the "World's Greatest Comic Magazine" banner that's flown on each cover since its fourth issue. Now there doesn't seem enough superlatives to lay at the feet of a book that treats its readers as if they have a bit of intelligence and patience. That last virtue comes in handy here even for this 50-year old reader who doesn't want to wait until (who knows when?) to find out what happened to Him. Jack and Stan seem to be so ripe with ideas for this strip that they introduce one concept and then lay it to the side to explore new territory. "Just wait and you'll be rewarded!" I can hear The King say from his drawing board, pipe in hand. "All in good time!"

Strange Tales 161
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Our Story

Fury continues his flashback, relating how he and Cap (whose gravity-nullifying harness failed) were saved from fatal plunges by, respectively, Lady Liberty’s crown and the FF.  Nick tries desperately to stay alive, evade the invaders, and stall them as Mr. Fantastic equips Cap with an Electro-Amplifier Rifle, but his attempt to place a bomb on the Id-Paralyzer fails, because its effects are too strong.  Restrained and thrown into the harbor, Fury is rescued and freed by Cap, whose use of the rifle buys Nick enough time to blow up the machine, while causing the Blackout of ’65; Jimmy Woo identifies the mastermind as his old nemesis, the Yellow Claw, now revealed to be watching their every move as he hatches his next sinister plan.

MB: Once again, we see precious little of Jimmy during the sequence framing Fury’s story, but we do learn the identity of his mystery villain—in fact, it’s plastered all over this spectacular cover, so it’s a little ironic that Steranko drew it himself, since it wrecks the “big surprise” in the two-page reveal that ends the episode.  Steranko resurrected Jimmy, the Claw, and his niece, Suwan (who loves Woo), from a short-lived series published by Marvel’s ’50s predecessor, Atlas Comics, and drawn by Kirby and John Severin, among others.  He’s clearly a knock-off of Fu Manchu, and in fact Fu’s creator, Sax Rohmer, wrote a novel called The Yellow Claw, but he’s a grand, grandiose villain, and as usual the battle with his minions affords the opportunity for some splendid visuals.

PE: That two-pager is a humdinger indeed, reminding me of The Golden Age that spawned The Yellow Claw (almost Everett-ish). I'd have preferred a little bit more Claw this issue though as the flashback is just another ho-hum "Fury saves the world in the Nick of time" story. Some of the pages looked a little to busy for me this issue (especially page 3) and Steranko is still having problems drawing the faces of some of the characters (Cap's okay as he's behind a mask). The coloring almost caused my brain to melt in a few spots, resembling  a water color paint-by-numbers board in some panels. I'm very much looking forward to next issue though.

Jack: This is another suitable for framing art issue, with no less than four full page panels in a twelve-page story--and one of them is a two-page spread! I love a good Asian (Oriental is no longer P.C.) menace and this fits right in with the June 1967 release of You Only Live Twice, as Prof. Matthew well knows!

Doctor Strange 
Our Story

Baron Mordo banishes Dr. Strange to the World of The Million Perils, where the good doctor sees some freaky sights and battles escapees from 1950s Marvel comics before rescuing Victoria Bentley, a woman he saved from Mordo once before.

MB: In this episode, once again written by “Ramond” (sic) Marais, we welcome aboard new artist Dan Adkins, who, to my eyes, seems much more assured with his maiden effort than Marie Severin did after eight months.  There’s a crisp clarity to his work that I find quite bracing, making Doc especially look really sharp, and although none can equal Ditko’s cosmic landscapes, Dapper Dan’s have their own epic quality, which looks more like pulp sci-fi than hallucinogenic wizardry.  While I lament the ongoing marginalization of Clea, surprising in retrospect for a character who later became so pivotal, I welcome the return of old chum Victoria Bentley, who—if I recall correctly—becomes a significant supporting character in her own right.

Jack: Now that we know Dan Adkins was a big swiper, I see it everywhere, from the Ditkoesque vistas to the Wally Wood face on Ms. Bentley. Perhaps Honorary Prof. Glenn can illuminate the source of some of these nice-looking panels?

Tales of Suspense 94
Iron Man
Our Story

Thinking Iron Man down for the count, Half-Face and Titanium Man leave their nest to find a helpless village to destroy. The plan is kill as many innocents as time allows and blame it on the American jet fighters that are heading their way. Unbeknownst to the deadly duo, ol' Shellhead has a few volts left in him and, after splicing into a nearby generator, is soon hot on the heels of his adversaries. He finds them just in time as Titanium Man is about to mow down several villagers. As Iron Man desperately battles T.M. to the death, Half-Face spots his long-missing wife and son and has second thoughts of turning this little 'burb into ashes.

MB: This month, Dan Adkins not only kicks off his tenure on Dr. Strange, but also supplants Giacoia as Shellhead’s inker and proves himself resolutely capable in that capacity as well, complementing but never obscuring Gentleman Gene’s signature style.  I’ll set aside my previously expressed perplexity over the Titanium Man’s newly enhanced stature to savor the solid artwork, Iron Man’s customary ingenuity in finding a way to vanquish his larger and stronger opponent, and the ongoing mystery of the interloper at Stark Industries.  All of this plus a happy ending for Half-Face and his family (I’m assuming I.M. and those villagers weren’t really speaking the same language when he rescued that father and son)—so, what’s not to like?

PE: I thought the Half-Face family revelation a bit pat but otherwise this was a snappy entry. Though there was never any doubt the village was going to be saved, having Half-Face suddenly stumble over Mrs. Face and Little Half was a little silly even for the Marvel Coincidental Universe. Add to that the fact that Shellhead will let Metal Mouth wander off scott free, trusting that the guy who minutes earlier was going to murder an entire village has seen the light and will now work at the Village Rec Center twice a week, makes this one a tough one to swallow. I get the feeling Titanium Man is playin' possum. 

Captain America
Our Story

The Agents of A.I.M. decide the only way they have to defeat MODOK, a weapon of their own making, is to unleash Captain America upon him. Since MODOK is holding (Sharon Carter) hostage, Cap is only to happy to set aside his ill will towards the men of A.I.M. until his girl is safe. Beamed right to its doorstep, Cap at last faces the monstrous MODOK, half man-half machine-all mean, with a huge, deadly cranium that issues blast rays but seems no match for a few guns as A.I.M. agents finally take out their new master. Not being the grateful types, the yellow-costumed baddies then turn their sights on Cap and (Sharon) but these two super athletes prove they're a winning team.

PE: I loved loved loved the second panel (reproduced above) showing the AIM agent being told he can't kill Captain America. Flipping up his weapon, with an almost audible sigh he whines "MODOK! MODOK!! We never get any fun with that guy around!!" I didn't love love love that MODOK's debut lasts only a couple of pages before a fairly anti-climactic climax. We all know MODOK will be back fairly soon but he proves to be something of a pushover this time around. I wonder if the anonymity of (Sharon Carter) was deliberate on Jack and Stan's part. Was it to build mystery and get the fans talking or was it just an oversight? How could Cap fall so madly in love with a woman he knows only as "Hey You!" Well, Johnny Storm did it but at least he knew Crystal's name.

MB: I felt an excitement while reading this episode that is difficult to quantify, but seemed due to more than merely seeing Lee and Kirby reunited on Cap, as though the strip had truly come into its Silver Age own, rather than feeling like warmed-over Golden Age stuff.  Certainly the debut of MODOK (whose name, for those of you not averse to peeking ahead, is an acronym for “Mobile Organism Designed Only for Killing”), a durable and uniquely Kirbyesque villain, has a lot to do with it, and I’ll never turn down another helping of a reborn A.I.M.  I liked the idea of A.I.M. using Cap as a stalking horse to rebel against MODOK, but I still find it hilarious that Agent 13 expends so much energy NOT telling Cap her real name.

Golden Age MODOK
PE: The inspiration for MODOK obviously comes from an 8-page pre-code horror story Kirby drew, with Joe Simon, for Black Magic #30 (May-June 1954) and reprinted by DC in Black Magic #1 (November 1973). Prize Comics was another of the lesser companies that found itself in financial straits when the Comics Code boom was lowered. The company is perhaps best known for publishing Dick Briefer's Frankenstein series and the Mad rip-off, Sick. Black Magic in the 1970s was resurrected by DC for two reasons: to cash in on their exclusive contract with "The King" who had flown the Marvel coop a couple years prior and, no doubt, to cash in on Marvel's successful horror/sf reprint titles. The first incarnation lasted 50 issues while the reprint series a mere nine.

The Mighty Thor 145
Our Story

Having been defeated by Thor, Balder and Sif, the Enchanters Brona and Magnir surrender to the local authorities and are locked away in prison. In Asgard, Odin has returned triumphant; the third Enchanter Forsung having lost their battle of powers that blazed across the heavens. The victory has left Odin in a bad mood, and the fellows of Asgard can do much more than tremble in silence as the All-Father rants on. His first act is to banish the two remaining Enchanters to limbo; leaving a confused police precinct looking at an empty cell. Next, he calls upon Thor and his fellows to return to Asgard. Balder and Sif oblige, but Thor tells his father he wants to remain on Earth, more conscious than ever of the good he can do there, both as Thor and Dr. Blake. The Thunder God gets denied both: his father indeed lets him stay on Earth, but stripped of his Asgardian power and unable to transform into his human alter ego. Feeling like not much more than a man with some extra heft, Thor decides to find a job like anyone else. As fate would have it, the job he applies for (as a circus strong man) is not what it seems. The circus is the infamous Circus of Crime, and the role Thor is applying for is really just a cover, as the circus needs someone powerful to help carry out their master plan. Thor is attacked first by a huge python, and uses his strength to contain it. The rest of the group appears: a gorgeous lady named Princess Python (for obvious reasons), a human cannonball, a clown, two gambinos, and the leader, the Ringmaster. Seeing that Thor (who he thinks is just some muscleman who’s chosen to play that role) may be of use to his Circus of Crime, the Ringmaster hypnotizes Thor. He then gets Thor to lift a huge rock bull and carry it a given distance; a mock task that mimics the crime the circus plans to commit: stealing a bull of the same size that’s made of solid gold. Waking Thor from his trance, the Ringmaster hires the Thunder God, who remembers nothing of the test he just performed.

This is the last Tales of Asgard installment. Having vanquished the forty horsemen of Satan  (thanks to Volstagg) the Asgardians have only to find and defeat Mogul, who plans to unleash the deadly Spotted Plague on his people. Alibar, the surf-made-warrior who became our hero’s ally, has learned from observing Mogul how to use some of his spells. His knowledge, plus a secret spell from Hogun, destroys Mogul, freeing Hogun’s people. They return to Asgard leaving Alibar as the new, improved king.

JB: It seemed a little out of place that Brona and Magnir just hand themselves over to the police without any objection, a far cry from the colourful trio we met two issues back. The big gripe has to be Odin though. Thor seemed to expect that Odin was going to object to his staying on Earth, and does he ever. You can hear Thor thinking, “What did I do this time?” when Odin flips out. Maybe it’s boring being omnipotent and Odin secretly wishes he could be free of his kingly duties. The scenario made for a fine cover however. The finale of Tales Of Asgard is overdue, although the mini-strip offered some fine moments. Curiously, rather than yet give Thor a full twenty pages, the title is replaced by another mini-title next time around.

PE: His battle with Forsung seems to have left Odin in one of those "Hey, it's been four months since I last cast Thor from Asgard! Time for a change!" moods. I'm not sure why he's so adamant about having the Thunder God in Asgard anyway. It's been a long time since I read the initial issues (about a year in MU time) but wasn't it Odin's idea to have Thor on earth in the first place? Well, it's obvious he's not going to ask questions as he's Odin and what he says, goes. Looking at the unfortunate selection of villains this issue, my feelings are best summed up by the thoughts of Thor in panel 6 of page 13: "To think...Might Thor, immortal of Asgard... would so soon descend... to this!" Considering all the classic stories Jack and Stan have been filling this title with lately, I can certainly excuse a stinker now and then. Just as long as we're not in the beginning of a long arc involving The Ringmaster and his Circus full of seventh-tiers.

JB: You’re quite right professor Pete, even the best titles have some off days, and Thor is entitled to one here. I always felt like the Ringmaster and the Circus of Crime were possibly the dullest of all Thor villains, so if they’re meant to emphasize the sad state of his situation, they do indeed. Princess Python is pretty nice to look at; couldn’t she do better than get messed up in this lot?

The X-Men 37

Our Story

The head of Factor Three has managed to capture the X-Men in a trap. They are brought before a jury of their enemies. In classic villain fashion, the X-Men will be used to trigger World War III... or will they?

JS: I know that the X-Men I know and love are a few scant years away, but with each subsequent issue I appreciate why the title was initially mothballed.

MB: I can only imagine how bewildered my ten-year-old self must have been with this story, reprinted in #85, at a time when I knew nothing about three of the four evil mutants on the “jury”:  the Blob, Unus, and the Vanisher.  The opening freefall sequence strongly anticipates the classic X-Men #95, and helps bring the Factor Three storyline—an ambitious undertaking, yet so firmly relegated to the back burner in the recent issues I’ve since acquired (#34 and 36)—into the forefront again.  Andru is back, this time inked by another Avengers mainstay, Don Heck, and if the results are a bit sketchy, the overall storytelling is more sophisticated than the Roth-penciled nonsense of a year or so earlier, and feels more like the X-Men I would come to know and love.

PE: I've got a hunch that if you're on a plane going down, most superheroes wouldn't opt to open the cabin door and jump out. I think Roy was exaggerating just a tad when he described as "heart-stopping" the sight of the four seventh-tier villains that are sitting on the jury. If I'd been one of the X-Kids, I'd have sighed with relief. "Well, it could have been Magneto!" Which reminds me, where has that guy been? Without peeking, I'd say he's about due. My favorite "ridiculously titled weapon" of the month: The Oblivio-Ray. That joins past nominees Neutro-Ray, Inducto-Ray, Vita-Ray, and The Ray-Ray. I love The Changeling's head gear. That TV remote could come in handy some day.

JS: Yeah, when you get an all-star cast of villains assembled, you assume that the puppet master will be (well, not the Puppet Master) an A-lister.

Jack: I see way more of Don Heck than Ross Andru in this issue's art, though Andru's trademark wide eyes pop out here and there. The overall theme of mutants condemning the X-Men for siding with humans is a good one and would essentially recur for the next several decades as the X-Men became the most popular Marvel property. I don't know why everyone is so down on this series--I think it's pretty good!

JS: Hey Mastermind—why the long face? (Sorry, I couldn't resist...)

Daredevil 33
Our Story

Daredevil stumbles upon the villainous Beetle attacking an armored truck.  He tries to stop him but, after a short brawl, the Beetle knocks him out after throwing the hero into a brick wall.  Daredevil wakes up after the Beetle escapes and goes back to the law office.  It’s there that he talks Karen and Foggy into joining him on a vacation to Canada while he’s disguised as his alter-ego’s fake brother, Mike Murdock.  The train that the trio takes to Canada happens to be transporting the most precious necklace in the world.  The Beetle snatches it away from some guards.  Daredevil gives pursuit and the Beetle leads him on a long chase all over the rocky hills.  Once he reaches an old town, Double D is ambushed and subdued by some thugs working for the Beetle.  The story ends with the bad guy trying to decide our hero’s fate.

Tom:  I think the Beetle might be my new hero after wasting Daredevil like he did in the beginning of this issue.  Seriously, though, I found the Beetle to be a much more credible  threat than I did back in his Strange Tales appearance.  The chase between him and Double D through the rocky terrain was some pretty exciting action.    

MB:  Okay, forget what I said about Daredevil Special #1 preceding this, since we’re told it takes place only hours after last issue to account for DD’s exhaustion, though I think Stan may have been similarly sleep-deprived when he wrote it.  Other than changing up the bad guys (and the Beetle seems like a good match for Hornhead, if a little full of himself for a guy whose track record is frankly not that great), everything else has stayed static, from the creative team to the silliness quotient, and I won’t even enumerate all of the reasons why the Mike Murdock tape-recorder scene is so far-fetched.  I see we’re promised the Beetle’s origin next ish; hope they also disclose where he’s been since he was doing the heavy lifting for the Collector in Avengers #28.

PE: I won't belabor the idiocy of the tape-phone conversation either other than to note that it's not possible for Froggy to call Matt's line and get the tape recording if Matt's phone is off the hook. What I will belabor is the stupidity of Madam-in-Waiting Karen Page and the lawyer who never actually does anything Foggy Nelson. "Mike" Murdock has been around several issues now and these two dopes have never questioned why the twins are never in the same room together. Matt might as well have told the duo that he has a Siamese twin! At least Stan notes how ludicrous it is that DD is beaten by The Beetle because he hasn't slept in two days yet The Man Without Sleep goes home, throws out the idea of the Expo on a whim, hops on a train and then decides to battle The Big Metal Bug even more sleep-deprived. Someone a little more in tune with 1967 beatnik chatter (I'm looking at you, Professor Jack) will have to clue me in as to what the following exchange actually means:

The Beetle: Something wrong, Daredevil? You're not afraid of a little water, are you?
Daredevil: Not afraid, exactly! I just hate to waste it when it's not even a Saturday night!

Jack: As any Bugs Bunny fan knows, Saturday night is the night for one's weekly bath. Personally, I can't get enough of Mike Murdock, though the Beetle has never been much of a villain. I think I would enjoy anything Gene Colan drew at this point--I read this issue wishing I could read a Colan-illustrated EC story!

Also this month

Fantasy Masterpieces #11 (Final issue; becomes Marvel Super-Heroes with #12)
Ghost Rider #6
Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #11
Millie the Model #154
Brand Echh #3
Rawhide Kid #60
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #47

Raise your hand if you remember . . .


  1. Is Kirby just drawing a 20-page FF, a 15-page Thor, and a 10-page Cap at this point? No wonder the quality is so high. It seemed like he was doing about 80 pages a month a few years ago.

    I vividly remember Black Magic #1 from 1973 and that big head!

  2. There are a couple of things I want to write about this week, so I'll get the easiest one out of the way first.

    With Dr. Strange, Dan Adkins takes on the biggest challenge of his comic book career, namely, assembling whole pages from panels traced from various Ditko Dr. Strange stories. As always, "Dapper Dan" is up to the challenge.

    Here's page 1 of the Dr. Strange story in ST #161, and its source material.

    Years ago I stumbled upon a post by someone who listed the panels swiped to make up page 3 of this story. So, for the first time anywhere on the internet, here are the panels placed next to Adkins page for comparison.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  3. Hon. Prof. Glenn-

    As usual, your contributions help to make MU a more informed place to visit, thank you. Was Stan aware of what was going on with Dan Adkins? Was Adkins encouraged perhaps? What, if anything, has Ditko had to say about someone basically riding his long coattails in such a bold fashion?

  4. Over the years, I've read many interviews where Stan gave artists starting out at Marvel a few comic books to show them what he wanted. Gil Kane was told to imitate Kirby, so he imitated Kirby's explosive action. Later, under the same directive, Barry Smith aped Kirby's style, but, when Dan Adkins was given the Dr. Strange book, he was told to imitate Ditko. In Adkins case, he took the suggestion literally, and gave Stan exactly what he asked for. Stan was probably too busy to notice what was going on in a minor strip like Dr. Strange, and I don't think Ditko has ever commented on Adkins.

    I'm reminded of a very funny gag cartoon that appeared in The Comics Journal, showing Neal Adams in a discussion with the IRS. The IRS investigator tells Adams that he is perfectly entitled to claim Rich Buckler as a dependent. :)

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  5. When I first started seriously reading and collecting comics in '73, for some reason I didn't fully appreciate the reprint books. I dutifully bought and read them, but there was always in the back of my mind the feeling that they were "leftovers" -- I'd much rather be reading a "new" comic. That changed in the summer of '74, when the "Him" sequence was reprinted in MARVEL'S GREATEST COMICS. I was so blown away by the art, the stories, the insanely imaginative concepts -- MCG jumped to the top of the short list of comics I most looked forward to ever month. Suddenly, the then-current run of FF started to feel like "leftovers" -- basically re-telling the same old stories (and Rich Buckler often re-using figures and faces from Kirby's prime
    period) with much less panache.

  6. Some quickie observations:
    Wouldn't "Blitzkrieg in Brooklyn" make more sense? Well, for fans of alliteration like myself.

    Doesn't Hawkeye realize Thor's hair isn't curly? Oh wait, he's being ironic! I get it!

    The Super-Adaptoid (who I always found cool) is a doctor? (Oh, that's a stretch, sorry.)

    Lord of the Loincloth Ka-Zar gets a bad rap in this space. I'm nervous for February!

    Amazing Spider-Man: Greatest comic book ever. Period.

    Fantastic Four: Second greatest? Certainly the best Kirby art ever, and the most epic story lines back in this era. Well, there's always What If?......

    Awesome Strange Tales cover! Now we now where Cap went!

    MODOK! My daughter loves him on the animated Super Hero Squad show!

    Sorry, but that Thor cover looks like a Breck ad.

    Roy Thomas + X-Men = Bad news for everyone.

    Is there an art team Prof. Matthew doesn't know?


    Stan Lee, 1968:
    " ... Then the artist goes home...or wherever he goes...and he draws the thing out, brings it back, and I put the copy in after he's drawn the story based on the plot I've given him. Now this varies with the different artists. Some artists, of course, need a more detailed plot than others. Some artists, such as Jack Kirby, need no plot at all. I mean I'll just say to Jack, 'Let's make the next villain be Dr. Doom'... or I may not even say that. He may tell me. And then he goes home and does it. He's good at plots. I'm sure he's a thousand times better than I. He just about makes up the plots for these stories. All I do is a little editing... I may tell him he's gone too far in one direction or another. Of course, occasionally I'll give him a plot, but we're practically both the writers on the things. "

    The following text was condensed and edited by me from an article “A Failure To Communicate” by Mike Gartland.

    Here's a link to the full text:

    And for those who have never seen them, here's one of Kirby's pencilled pages showing the notes he supplied for Stan to follow.

    When FF #67 hit the stands, no one realized this story would be the end of an incredibly productive run.

    Jack Kirby was becoming disenchanted with his position at Marvel and his working relationship with Stan Lee. Over the previous year, Marvel received a great deal of publicity; articles in newspapers and magazines hailing Lee for his new and innovative style, and how the readership wondered how Lee "came up" with characters like the Hulk, Thor, and Spider-Man, among others. Jack was tired of submitting stories with his margin notes for direction, being either changed or ignored by Lee.

    Jack wrote the story as his take on Objectivism. What Jack had read of Ayn Rand had him thinking about the philosophy and its pitfalls. Jack probably did not consciously think, "Here's my answer to Ayn Rand"; he just wanted to write a good story. But in Jack's original version, the scientists are well-intentioned. They are attempting to create a totally self-sufficient being, based on Rand's absolutes. Of course such a being would be totally intolerant of those who created him.

    In the first part of the story, the scientists attack the being in an attempt to control him. This violates one of the doctrines of Objectivism. Also, the scientists conduct the experiment for the benefit of mankind … another violation. In the end, the being destroys his creators because, to him, they are evil. They tried to destroy him. Remember, in the eyes of an Objectivist there is no gray area between good and evil. Jack may have wanted to show us the vast difference between Altruism and Objectivism.

    (continued in Part two)


    When Stan saw the first part of this story, he felt that changes had to be made. He didn't see any villain, so he had to come up with one. He could only choose between the being or the scientists and went the "Mad Scientist/Sympathetic Creature" route. Stan always had photostats of Jack's artwork sent back to him, with Stan's dialog added, so that Jack could remember plot continuities, and see how Stan was interpreting the stories. When Jack received the photostats for issue #66, he wasn't pleased. The entire reason for the story had been gutted, replaced with a standard comic book plot, and he was now forced to change the rest of his story to support Lee's version.

    The story Jack wanted: "Create a superior human and he just might find you inferior enough to get rid of," became "bad guys try to take over world and get their comeuppance." A few years earlier, Stan and Jack had long plot discussions and the stories were kept simple. As read in the now famous interview with Stan in “Castle of Frankenstein” magazine, Lee gave little input to the stories produced during this time, having full confidence in Jack's ability to come up with new characters and situations. Jack was mostly working on his own, with Stan often not knowing what was coming up in the next issue.

    Unfortunately, Stan considered Jack's input as "plots," whereas Jack thought of them as "stories," meaning that was the writer, not Stan. As Jack was left to his own devices, Jack found it more and more intolerable to accept the changes that Lee would make, and take credit as the writer of his stories.

    With the conclusion of this story, Jack decides that he has given Marvel enough new characters, devices, and situations. He had seen too many of his creations and/or stories changed against his wishes or taken away from him.

    From November '65 to November '67 Jack was pretty much writing the stories on his own, and plotting other books that he wasn't drawing. In this period he spearheaded a “Cambrian Explosion” of major new characters and new concepts. After November '67, you get the exact opposite; many secondary characters, but very few memorable ones.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  9. And the casual passersby (or even the MU fanatic) once again asks "Why is this Glenn guy not contributing to the body of each week's post?"

    Why? indeed!

  10. Glenn, did Kirby and Ditko ever discuss Objectivism? One would think Lee would have been in favor of it with his constant Commie-bashing. I love Kirby as much as the next guy, but I still think his work in collaboration with Lee was better than what he did later, when he was credited with writing. I would not compare Kamandi favorably with Thor, for example.

  11. I've never read any account of any discussion between Kirby and Ditko about Objectivism, but it's fair to assume that such discussions would've taken place, and that a lot of Jack's knowledge, and initial curiosity about the philosophy came from Steve. About 35 years ago, I worked alongside an Objectivist, and trust me, I knew his views on everything.

    Politically, Kirby was a Liberal Democrat, and I understand that Stan, although being Conservative, held fairly moderate views, so he was somewhere in the center, and any Objectivist worth his salt would have views somewhere to the right of Attila The Hun. I think it was Mark Evanier who noted that Stan was stuck in the middle. His views were too far to the right for Jack, and too far to the left for Steve.

    I think Kirby peaked at Marvel too. The stuff from FF #44 to #67 and Thor #120 to #144 just blows me away. There are just so many great ideas, and Kirby's artwork peaked at this time too IMO.

    There's no doubt in my mind that Jack needed a scripter, (so did Ditko) and everyone needs an editor to keep an eye on us to keep everything on track. In Stan Lee, Jack had come close to finding the perfect Editor/Scriper for his needs. Had Stan not changed Jack's stories (and as Editor he was perfectly entitled to do so) and not taken credit for Jack's creations, Jack's peak might've continued through the rest of the 1960s, and he may have stayed at Marvel.

    Here's another example of Stan changing Jacks intentions.

    This is page 2 of FF Annual #3 with Jack's notes visible at the top of the page.

    Panel 1: Doom mad at FF being happy – since Thing beat him up. He rips paper.
    Panel 2: This hurts his hands and makes him angrier … he'll get even.

    Kirby's plot follows on from FF #40, where the Thing crushed Doom's hands. Doom's injuries force him to stay on the sidelines, using an “Emotion Charger” to compel others to do his dirty work. Stan ignores this plot element and has Doom simply continuing his quest to destroy the FF. However, look at Kirby's illustrations. In panel 2, Doom is clearly in pain after tearing up the newspaper, and in panel 3 activates the charger with his foot, then in panel 4 has to operate it with his elbow.

    At DC, Kirby was hell bent on not having his work altered by others. His stories suffer in the scripting department. Jack's dialog is quirky to say the least, but, the best issues of New Gods are right up there with his best Marvel stuff. It just doesn't manifest itself on a month to month basis.

    In retrospect it's a shame Kirby didn't take Joe Sinnott with him when he went to DC, and hire Mark Evanier to script and edit his work.

    I agree that Kamandi is far from Jack's best work, (I liked some of it) but, ironically, it was Jack's best selling title at DC.

    Here's a link to an article about the origins of Kamandi.

    Peter: Gene Colan did draw one E.C. Story, “Wake” published in Two Fisted Tales #20. The best I could do was find the splash page on this website.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  12. I wonder if Professor Glenn might be Jack Kirby from beyond? Or Stan Lee? Or Roy Thomas?