Wednesday, August 22, 2012

February 1968: At Last! Namor vs. The Hulk! Winner Takes the Title!

Strange Tales 165
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
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Riding to Fury’s rescue, Dugan spearheads an epic aerial attack on the Yellow Claw’s Sky Dragon, while the cowardly Claw himself orders Voltzmann to cover his escape and kill Nick with the Ultimate Annihilator. Fury is freed by Dugan just in time to whale the tar out of “Voltzy,” removing his omnipresent shades to reveal a badly scarred face, but then takes his own lumps from the Claw, who has used his robot replica “duplikeds” to create a diversion. En route to his getaway ship, the armor-plated Claw shrugs off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new Magnetic Pelfrag Shooter with an anti-charge force, mercilessly bludgeons the unprotected Fury with his metallic blows, and laughingly leaves our hero in a crumpled heap as he flies to safety.

MB: Fearless Frank is back, after Wild Bill pinch-hit for him last issue, and he and Jaunty Jim go all out with that two-page spread of the S.H.I.E.L.D. “buccaneers” pouring out of the Helicarrier to board the Sky Dragon, plus the full-pager of Fury taking it in the gut from the Claw’s spiked fist. Dum Dum looks a little off, in a way that I can’t quite quantify, but with compensations like the shadowy, quintessentially Sterankoesque shot of Nick at the bottom of page 9, I consider the old walrus as collateral damage of an acceptable kind. I love the monolithic effect of Fury slumped over the title to next issue’s yarn, and hope we’ll get the story behind Herr Voltzmann’s scarred visage (reminiscent of countryman Strucker); in any case, the showdown promises to be a doozy.

PE: That Voltzmann reveal is a winner, with Steranko avoiding the usual uber-melodrama of a final panel shocker and instead almost un-patching the bad guy offhandedly. The elevation of Steranko's story-telling skills continues with this wall-to-wall action yarn packed with full page pin-ups of he-men and snarling villains. It's a pity that today's PC crowd won't stand for an Oriental villain (at least one that embodies the 1940s view of the Oriental villain) as The Yellow Claw would make a snazzy bad guy for a big-screen Nick Fury adventure.

Jack: The full-page and two-page spreads are pretty, but where's the beef? The story moves so slowly in this series that characters never seem to get developed. I know it's just a comic book, and Steranko's art is always crying out to be blown up to poster size, but sometimes I wish he'd slow it down and give us a little more depth.

Doctor Strange
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How long can you stay fresh in that can?
Dr. Strange passes through a subterranean tunnel and invades the lair of Yandroth, a bald scientist whose machinery fails to defeat the sorcerer. Magic spells and a sock to the jaw seem to defeat Yandroth, but then Dr. Strange is confronted with his fearsome creation--Voltorr!

MB: Victoria who? Hey, I’m just kiddin’—after all, La Bentley gets an entire line of dialogue during her single-panel appearance this issue, even if it is a total cliché that appears to have been lifted from Lady Dorma’s Little Blue Book. The thing that has always bothered me most about this story is actually no fault of its creators; it’s just that when I see the last-page shot of Voltorr brandishing what looks for all the world like a pair of electrified drum sticks, I think of him as some sort of mad percussionist, recalling that widely reproduced still of the kid from The Tin Drum. That said, the magic vs. science stuff is always fun, and Adkins is in there punching with his solid artwork, e.g., the shot of Doc facing Yandroth’s “devilish device.”

Jack: Does it seem to anyone else like the Dr. Strange series has devolved into "can you top this?" every issue? You may have defeated Yandroth, but how about Voltorr?!?

Fantastic Four 71
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Hearing the sounds of battle, Sue enters Reed’s lab. At first she thinks they’re dead, but soon realizes they’re just unconscious. No time for thought however, as coming straight at her is the Mad Thinker’s deadliest android! Turning invisible, Sue is lost from the android’s attention for a moment, as it contemplates who and how to destroy next. A shot from Reed’s electi-force beam doesn’t hurt the android, but it does revive the others. While the android comes for her, not all is lost; Reed’s menta wave-bolt (from last ish) has returned Ben to his normal self. Conclusion: It’s Clobberin’ Time! While a fall from the heights of the Baxter Building doesn’t hurt the android either, it gives the others time enough to realize that Ben’s back in the saddle. The android rockets back upstairs, and seems to have an answer for every method of attack. Gas renders Ben temporarily unconscious, and blasts of cold eventually capture Johnny in a block of cold crystal, snuffing his flame. Reed has gotten Sue to comparative safety, where he orders his pregnant wife to remain. Returning to the battlefield, he’s just in time to see the android dangling the torch less Torch out the window, and grabs them both. Zapped by the android, Reed thinks fast, and leads the lifeless killing machine into the doorway to the Negative Zone, which comes in handy when you want to get rid of difficult-to-defeat enemies! Crystal arrives, and the exhausted crew seems to be on the mend, until an angry Reed announces he and Sue are done with the Fantastic Four.

JB: Another multi-panel cover, like a movie with too many stars, seems to promise a lesser issue, but we can kind of forgive that, as once again we think, “how’re they gonna get out of this mess?” I’m sure they would have found a way even if Reed hadn’t opened the Negative Zone door to send the android off to see Blaastar (nice panel by the way). The most stunning news of the issue is Reed and Sue’s resignation from active service, although who knows how long it will last!

MB: Although I’m not a fan of multi-panel covers, this one accurately conveys the frenetic nature of the interior, as Stan and Jack wrap up our Bad Ben tetralogy with the aptly titled “…And So It Ends…”  We certainly get off to a cinematic start, with the back-to-back full-page shots of Sue’s shocked reaction and the grim tableau that confronts her, while action-lovers have nothing to complain about since, like last issue, this is mostly one big slugfest.  The epithet “It’s clobberin’ time!” is unusually welcome—signifying as it does Ben’s return to normalcy— even if the subsequent misunderstanding with Reed (which, along with Sue’s “Must it always be…like this…?,” presumably contributed to his last-panel shocker) is a little bit too contrived.

PE: The thirteen-part "epic" Ben Goes Bananas storyline reaches its much-anticipated and prayed-for conclusion about three pages in but could have dragged on another two or three issues had Jack and Stan not shown pity. We can almost sense the dreaded Marvel Misunderstanding rearing its ugly head when Ben snaps out of his delirium to face a fighting-mad Thrilling Three. Thank heavens it's dropped after a measly five panels. I do like how, in one panel, Reed says The Thing would say anything to save his skin but, two panels later, he tells The Torch that Ben would never lie to them, no matter what spell he was under. Um, where has Stretch been the last umpteen issues? As for the shocking conclusion - it was only a matter of time before Stretch and Inviso-Girl would announce retirement since their partners have hung it up several times already. Observant letter writer John Arvites of Illinois asks Stan if inker Joe Sinnott wasn't mistakenly credited for Fantastic Four King-Size Special 5. Stan reveals that it was in fact Frank Giacoia. Prediction: The Mad Thinker will return in Sub-Mariner #14 and that appearance will be just as yawn-inducing as this one.

The Avengers 49
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On Mt. Olympus, Hercules discovers that the rest of the Immortals have been banished to an unknown limbo by Typhon, one of the ancient race of Titans. Back on Earth, Magneto is so anxious to get the band back together that he addresses the U.N. General Assembly, demanding a separate nation for mutants. When chaos erupts, a stray bullet grazes Wanda, causing Pietro to join forces with Magneto. The Avengers--now reduced to Hawkeye, Goliath and the Wasp, ponder their sudden loss of strength while, on Mt. Olympus, Typho succeeds in banishing Hercules along with the rest of the immortals and setting his sights on conquering Planet Earth.

MB: “When Stan and Roy saw the pulsatin’ pencils for this action-packed ish,” says the splash page, “they insisted that nobody—but nobody—could do justice in inking them but artist Big John Buscema himself! So hang on, frenzied ones—Avengerdom will never be the same again!!” Add in the fact that a long-coverless original of this is among the first comics I ever owned, and you’re talking about one hell of a seminal issue. It’s still one of the best I have read since I started contributing to this blog: every page is like a painting, easily blowing away all previous Buscema art here and on the Hulk to set a new standard of excellence, while Roy’s script matches him beat for beat, putting the Avengers on the ropes and setting up the 50th issue.

Jack: Of the five comics I'm reading each week (month), The Avengers is the most consistent in quality. This is interesting, because Roy Thomas's scripts on the other titles are not very good. However, in The Avengers, he's doing a great job of setting up multiple story lines and having them intersect in interesting and unexpected ways. Right now, there are at least three main plot threads weaving around each other, and it's fun to read. Buscema's art is also very strong, as Prof. Matthew notes. 

The Amazing Spider-Man 57
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Though he's finally defeated Otto Octavius (just before Marvel retitled the comic The Amazing Spider-Man featuring Dr. Octopus), The Amazing Spider-Man finds himself without a memory. Forced to find refuge where he can, our favorite web-slinger struggles to search for clues to his identity. Meanwhile, J. Jonah Jameson catches the ear of Ka-Zar, who is vacationing in New York, and convinces him that Spidey is a menace to be dealt with. Ironically, the only man Spidey can turn to for help is JJJ's son, astronaut-turned-Colonel John Jameson, who's convinced our hero really has lost his mind. Harry Osborn discovers a spider tracer in Peter Parker's closet and becomes convinced that his roommate has been kidnapped by the wall-crawler. Soon the news goes out on the street and "Spider-Man, Menace" once again becomes a rising chant. During a ferocious battle with Ka-Zar and his cat Zabu, the wall-crawler is stunned and presumably drowns. Could this be the last issue?

PE: Considering how many times these super-heroes are struck down by amnesia, you'd think they'd plant a card in their utility belt reading "You're Tony Stark. You have a billion dollars in the bank. Just head for 123 East Main Street and have a good time until your memory comes back." I'll have to do some research but I don't think there are any Ka-Zar guest appearances that warrant the words "you'll never forget" on a title banner. In fact, if history didn't show I'm wrong, I'd say a guest appearance by Lord Plunder and his sabretooth would sound the death-knell for a title. It certainly shows that Stan had no idea where to take this silly arc. Stan does stop just shy of having Spidey forget how to eat or sleep but compounds troubles by introducing Marvel Plot Contrivance #1: The Misunderstanding Which Leads to a Hero Clash. Ka-Zar can't stand or trust JJJ but decides, what the hell, I'm going to go attack this Spider-Man character in a city I don't even live in. Speaking of silly, in what universe would a city allow a man with a prehistoric animal on a leash?

JS: The best scene in this aberration is Harry Osborn discovering the spider tracer while nosing around Pete's closet. But even that goes sour when Harry jumps to conclusions. It doesn't get much more ludicrous than Spider-Man's voyage through New York, looking for someone to help him with his identity, inadvertently stopping at the windows of every one he knows! Why did Stan leave Aunt May out of the journey? The personal stuff was always top-notch in The Amazing Spider-Man and, in an issue like this, saves the title from being Daredevil or The X-Men. Hot on the heels of Harry's discovery and Gwen Stacy accusing Spidey of harming her buddy/boyfriend Petey comes the 57th consecutive collapse of May Parker (a character flaw record broken only by the 59 consecutive heart attacks suffered by Tony Stark) and a doctor who diagnoses the old bat and, honest to gosh, says something along the lines of "the only thing that will make this woman well is to know her nephew is ok!" Do they teach that stuff in Med School? If so, sign me up.

PE: To put a bow on this odiferous package, we get a sub-par art job co-penciled by Romita and Heck. Believe me, you can tell where the Heck Don contributed.

The Mighty Thor 149
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Thor’s battle with the Wrecker is a one-sided one; with his power reduced by Odin, the Thunder God is soon pushed aside. Heading to the bank for a quick payday, the Wrecker is interrupted by our ailing hero who just won’t quit. Neither will his supporters Balder and Sif, who watch helplessly in Asgard via the enchanted crystal in the Chamber of Visions. The loyal duo convince Odin to look for himself, but in that brief moment, the crystal has been stolen by Loki, who has taken it to the Norn forest, to hide it from curious eyes. Still forbidden to return to Earth to aid Thor, Odin grants Balder and Sif’s request to travel to the Norn Kingdom to find Loki. Thor lures the Wrecker away from the bank to fight amidst a more deserted neighborhood, and in so doing wrests the crowbar from his foe. The Thunder God gets a few more moments respite, but the Wrecker gets his crowbar back soon enough—and topples a building on his exhausted Thor. Digging through the rubble the villain finds his opponent, apparently dead.

In the hidden kingdom of Attilan, Agon, ruler of the Inhumans, tells his nineteen year-old son Black Bolt, who has lived in virtual seclusion because his voice could shatter the entire city, that he is old enough to meet his family. Medusa, Gorgon, Karnak and Crystal all understand Black Bolt’s predicament, but his brother Maximus sees the meeting as a chance to bait his brother. The pattern is established that will carry into adulthood for them all.

MB:  Fond as I am of a good scrap, especially with a villain as formidable as the Wrecker, we seem to be a bit heavy (as it were) of late on these all- or mostly-action tales, which make me long for a little more plot.  It’s interesting that the Wrecker now attributes his newfound power to Loki, rather than the Norn Queen, and I’m sure that when Dean Enfantino completes his doctoral thesis about the problems of uprooting entire buildings or city blocks, it will contain an appendix on the likelihood of toppling such a structure with a crowbar, be it enchanted or not.  I am finally getting a taste of the Inhumans back-up feature, and am delighted to see that it’s inked by Sinnott rather than Colletta; no surprise that Br’er Maximus was just as much of a butthead in his youth.

PE: Though it could be argued that, as Professor Matthew points out, this is wall-to-wall action with hardly any "title advancing," it's well-executed and suspenseful. Not many times have we seen  our heroes this helpless and the final image of a broken and battered Thor is particularly disturbing. Sif and Balder's undying loyalty for The Thunder God and their attempts to sway Odin's mood once more fill in the background bits admirably. But, oh, those mood swings...

JB: The cover of this issue reminds me of Thor #141, except that the panels used here aren’t the same as inside. However that doesn’t stop things from getting a little tiresome. Sorry, I just can’t see the Wrecker as a decent opponent (wait’ll you see him get what’s coming next month!). Again, Balder and Sif steal some scenes without even trying too hard; and the Norn Kingdom looks to hold promise of a good adventure. Our trip through the 140’s has been very mixed; luckily things are about to turn around…

PE: When it came time to fill out the birth certificates, The Inhuman parents obviously had a flair for the dramatic ("I think I'll name this one Gorgon!") but poor Crystal got the mom and pop with no imagination. She can't turn to crystal. Did Medusa's ma know her hair would be "mystical" with one look at the ultra-sound or did it take some time for the curls to work? The story itself is an exciting one, with the standout scene obviously being Maximus using Crys as a human shield.

Daredevil 37
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Daredevil is easy pickings for the diabolical Dr. Doom after having gone the distance in a brawl with the Trapster last issue. Even though he tries to fight him off in the subway tunnel, and during a limo drive that the villain later takes him on, our battle fatigued hero is easily knocked back into compliance. Once he is at Dr. Doom’s Latverian Embassy, the entrapped Double D is subjected to various forms of mind torture such as believing he has been shrunk down to the size of a toddler. In the end, Dr. Doom reveals his sinister plot to Daredevil: he will use him to destroy the Fantastic Four. He switches minds with Double D and leaves him stuck in a plastic tube. Daredevil can only watch helplessly as the evil Doctor heads out to kill the Fantastic Four with his mind in Daredevil’s body!

Tom: Dr. Doom definitely makes this comic classier even though I kind of got the impression he was slumming it in a series that usually showcases such D-list villains as the Stilt-Man, the Beetle, the Marauder, etc. A goofy ending, but it does leave the reader in suspense.

MB: Giacoia has lobbed the ball back into Tartaglione’s court, while reverting to his S.H.I.E.L.D. duties, but the break seems to have done “Tarty” (yes, I actually saw him referred to that way on a Bullpen or letters page) some good. Colan’s rendition of Dr. Doom, of which we see quite a bit, is excellent, and that full-page shot of him and Galactus—whom I would not have expected to play to Genial Gene’s strengths, regardless of inker—is nothing short of spectacular. You’ve gotta give Stan some major credit in the chutzpah department for the DD/DD match-up, and except for the body-switching business, about which I’ll have more to say next time, he keeps it interesting without going too far off the rails; the best part is…there’s no sign of Mike Murdock.

Jack: Colan really carries this issue with his terrific work on Doom, Galactus, and (of course) Daredevil. Like so many Marvel comics lately, this issue seems like a long prelude to next issue, and the body-switching is never a good idea, as I pointed out in a prior post in reference to an issue I can't recall. Didn't work with Lou Costello and the Frankenstein Monster, and I predict it won't work for Victor Von Doom.

Tales to Astonish 100
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The Sub-Mariner monitors the Hulk’s burial under an exploding mountain via one of his special monitors. Namor reasons that the green monster could be the perfect ally since neither of them seem to have any friends left. As Namor heads to land, in a bizarre coincidence, his enemy the Puppet Master spies him. The villain is thinking along the same lines as the Sub-Mariner except he creates a puppet of the Hulk in order to get the beast to kill his nemesis. After making the Hulk puppet, he orders the Hulk to burrow his way out from under the mountain. General Ross, his daughter Betty, and Rick Jones are on scene to witness the Hulk’s escape. Rick tries to talk to his old buddy, but since this is a mean Hulk, under the Puppet Master’s control, he smacks the teenage kid aside like a flea. Namor shows up to offer his hand in friendship. Once he is face to face with the Green Goliath, even Subby can tell something is amiss with the brute. On the Puppet Master’s orders, the Hulk attacks the underwater Prince and an epic fight ensues. The two gifted warriors exchange punches like calling cards, with both giving as good as they get. The fight on land usually goes the Hulk’s way, with Namor occasionally being able to lead the brawl into the ocean where he gains the upper hand. The end finally arrives after Namor wins in the water, causing a swell of water to launch the Hulk back onto land where he is so exhausted that he changes back to Bruce Banner. Namor finds him and leaves Banner since he doesn’t realize that the two are one and the same. Also, the resulting tidal waves crash into the secret headquarters of the Puppet Master, apparently causing his demise.

Tom: While it’s easy to be negative and bring up a lot of obvious things wrong with the storyline for this particular issue, I’ll leave that to my fellow professors since, all in all, this issue is probably one of my favorites, so far, as we trudge through the Marvel archives. My favorite confrontations have always been between bad guys versus bad guys and while neither of the two stars/combatants in this tale could really be labeled a villain, their anti-social and arrogant demeanors make them close enough for me. While I’ve always like the Hulk better than Namor, I surprisingly found myself rooting for Subby during this skirmish. Maybe it was because the Hulk was under the command of the annoying Puppet Master? Thankfully, someone in the bullpen decided to make the Hulk very similar to his usual self for the titanic battle, instead of being a brain dead servant under the villain’s command which is usually the case when this putz bad guy makes an appearance.

PE: For the first time in the six plus years of Marvel history we've covered, we get a truly epic "Hero vs. Hero" story. None of the previous superhero misunderstandings (Avengers v. X-Men, Spidey v. DD, Thor v. Hulk, etc.) have been handled this perfectly. Sure, there are the usual silly coincidences (Namor decides to make Hulk his buddy just as the thought pops into the head of The Puppet Master--who's looking more and more like Zippy the Pinhead with each appearance--that ol' greenskin should give a walloping to Subby) and Marie Severin makes The Hulk almost handsome in some panels but I can excuse all that and revel in what would stand as the most exciting clash of titans in history right up until Godzilla met Megalon.

Jack: Gee, what says "Super Special 100th Issue" more than another appearance by the Puppet Master? I am a bit concerned about Rick Jones's self esteem, since he refers to himself as a Nobody from Nowheresville. You'd think that someone with the influence to set up the Teen Brigade would be beyond this sort of self doubt by now.

Tales of Suspense 98
Captain America
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Arriving at the jungle lair of The Black Panther in The Panther's special jet, Captain America is fired on by a mysterious "Solar Bolt Ray." Upon landing, the star-spangled avenger is attacked by The Panther's guards but is finds quickly it is only a test to make sure he's the real Cap. The Panther reveals to Cap that the reason he was called to the jungle was the menace who wields the deadly ray. Cap learns that the deadly ray is only a tip of the iceberg as The Panther reveals that high above the earth orbits a Solar Heat Projector, capable of wiping out a large land mass with one blast. When the duo attempt to take over the land base of the satellite, they are captured and the true identity of the villain is revealed to be Baron Zemo!

PE: Holy Coincidence! The lovely SHIELD agent who will one day be known as Sharon Carter is in Wakanda when her beau arrives. It's amazing to think that the lovely (Ms. Carter) has been a mainstay around these parts already for two years and remains anonymous. I'm up for a re-appearance by Baron Zemo, a villain I never get enough of, perhaps because of his Golden Age roots (yeah, I know, true believer, that he didn't actually appear in the Golden Age until Avengers #4 but he's still retroactively of that era). I think, by the way, that it's Cap who acts rather rashly when he sees the Panther's men approach and thinks "I can't be sure of their intentions..." and attacks anyway. This, after riding in a jet for several thousand miles, without knowing intentions. Doesn't jibe. It's a decent first act though.

MB:  Joltin’ Joe Sinnott is joined in the inking chores this month by Syd “The Kid” Shores, who (per the Bullpen page) “illustrated many of our top strips during the First [sic] Golden Age of Comics,” including Cap’s itself.  It’s also old home week in the villain department, as shown by the climactic reveal of Zemo as the bad guy behind the solar heat projector, which—among other things—anticipates Blofeld’s orbital laser in Diamonds Are Forever.  I found the Panther’s demi-abduction and testing of Cap to be overly reminiscent of his introduction in Fantastic Four #52, although I guess T’Challa’s expressed concern that he might be facing an impostor is justified by all of the recent shenanigans surrounding Cap’s “secret” i.d.

PE: As noted with Strange Tales, Marvel begins to "flip" the anthology strips to coincide with their covers so Cap headlines the title for the first (and last) time.

Iron Man
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Captured by The Maggia and tortured by Whiplash, Iron Man must resort to visual trickery to save his fat from the fire. But that ol' debbil, low batteries, soon proves to be our hero's downfall.

PE: Iron Man has an Image Reproducer built into his armor that he's never used before? Stan probably should have thrown one of those "lucky I just crafted this last week in my laboratory" thought balloons over the Avenger's head and I'd have not thought twice about it. Whiplash proves to be one of Shellhead's dumbest villains as he believes that he's suddenly surrounded by a roomful of Iron Men. How long has Jasper Sitwell been wandering the grounds of Stark Enterprises looking for Iron Man? Hours? Days? Long enough for Morgan Stark to whisk away his billionaire playboy cousin to The Maggia. And this is SHIELD's new boy wonder? Silliest scene in a Marvel comic this month has to be Tony Stark's legion of gal pals (aka The Stepford Birds) demanding that Iron Man find their sugar daddy.

MB: This installment might best be described as a holding action by I.M. and our stalwart Lee/Colan/Giacoia creative team, since other than offering himself up as a target, Shellhead does little but delay the inevitable with the use of his image reproducer.  Nick Fury looks pleasantly kempt in his one-panel cameo, while the stuff with Jasper and Tony’s parade of inamoratas—presumably the fruits of his whirlwind romances in #89—is goofy fun, in addition to planting that raven-haired beauty who seems better able than most to connect the dots between the absences of both Stark and Iron Man.  In short, this story falls squarely into the vast middle ground between potboiler and classic, with solid GiaColan artwork as its strongest asset.

PE: And who is that mysterious maiden? I'll just say that hers is an interesting, though far-fetched, story that will be revealed to us in the years to come. On the Mails of Suspense page, future screenwriter Bob Gale (the Back to the Future trilogy) tries to explain Marvel chronology and does a pretty good job for a teenager. Gale would write issues of Daredevil and The Amazing Spider-Man in the 2000s.

The X-Men 41
Our Story

The dynamic duo of Hank and Bobby are out on a date with the gals when they encounter a Sub-Human in the subway. The Sub-Human, nicknamed Grotesk, is actually Prince Gor-Tok, a subterranean pissed off at the human race for essentially killing off his love Princess Ingar. Seriously, I'm not making this up. To add insult to injury, the story drags on to the next issue.

MB: A recent Bullpen Bulletin notes that after illustrating the Buck Rogers newspaper strip during a leave of absence, and “returning briefly some months back to help us in a pinch,” George Tuska has re-upped for good, here lending his services as inker to the erstwhile Avengers combo of Thomas and Heck, with results more Heckian than Tuskaesque. It’s reassuring to see that Grotesk (Gor-Tok, aka the Sub-Human) obeys the Marvel villain-naming conventions (“I seem to have supplied my assailant with a brand new cognomen!”). But it’s disheartening that when this issue was reprinted in #89, the “Origins of the X-Men” back-up feature was replaced with “For the Rest of Your Life!,” a brief Lee/Ditko SF “zapper” from Amazing Adventures #11.

PE: You can almost believe that The Beast plucked the moniker "Gro-Tesk" right out of the air until you find out this dope's name in the old world was Gor-Tok, Son of King Krono (later in the story he even lengthens his new handle to Gro-Tesk The Sub-Human). Professor X seems to have taken a page out of Odin's Handbook: Rule 68-A, Be really testy with those around you and don't explain yourself. They'll forgive you by the next issue. The back-up feature really shouldn't have been titled "Origins of the X-Men" after all but, maybe, "Early Stories of The X-Men." This installment is hardly an "Origin of Cyclops" as it spends most of its blissfully short running time documenting the origin of The Living Diamond (formerly known as Jack O' Diamonds). In any event, this is nothing more than a normal-length adventure chopped into smaller bits. Why Stan decided the main feature should be pared down is anyone's guess.

JS: I for one have grown to appreciate the shorter tales. Or I guess I should say I have grown to appreciate the shortness of the tales.

Jack: Good thing no one called him ugly, or he would have gone around referring to himself as "UGH-LEE." They also put really thick black lines around Grotesk's word balloons, I guess to show that he had a really deep voice??? As for The Living Diamond, do his fingernails and hair grow? And, if so, how does he clip them? Are the clippings valuable?

JS: I'm pleased to point out that we're now within 100 issues of one of the greatest X-Men story arcs of all time!

PE: On the letters page, we get contributions from future Marvel writer and humorist Fred Hembeck, future Batman letter-hack (and, in the mid-1970s, Batman and Detective Comics letters page editor) Guy Lillian III, and a (perhaps not the) Saul David.

Also this month

Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #13
Millie the Model #157
Not Brand Echh #6
Rawhide Kid #62
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #51


  1. Professor Jack: Five comics per month? Geez, here I am reading and commenting on an average of a dozen mags per post. No wonder my own blog is languishing unattended...

    Anyway, glad we see eye to eye on the Assemblers. And while I agree that Roy got off to a slow start in some cases, you'll find in the weeks/months ahead that he also does a particularly good job on DR. STRANGE, SUB-MARINER and (all too briefly) CAPTAIN MARVEL.

  2. Naturally, I am mindful of Jack's additional (and impressive) bare*bones duties, as well.

  3. A few art-related notes this week:

    GLORIOUS pencils and inks by Big John on AVENGERS! Though several inkers meshed superbly with Buscema over the course of his career (Sinnott on FF and THOR, Giacoia on SUBBY, Our Pal Sal on SILVER SURFER, et al), I've always preferred those rare stories where Big John inked his own pencils. There's just no comparison.

    This week / month sees the start of two regrettable trends that will continue for many months: Heck pencilling over Romita layouts on SPIDEY, and Syd Shores starting a fairly long-ish run inking Kirby on CAP. I've defended Heck here many times, but his contributions to SPIDEY are weak tea -- apparently the idea was to give Romita a leg up on his deadlines, but it's a flop. He's essentially "ghosting" for Romita, not trying to draw the strip in his own style, and the finished product ends up being neither fish nor fowl. Esposito's workmanlike inks ain't helping either. Can't wait for Jim Mooney to jump ship from DC...

    Syd Shores' inks on Kirby -- oh brother. Heavy-handed, mushy, overly rendered -- all the savage grace of Kirby's pulsating pencils get tossed out the window. Stats of Kirby's pencils from these issues occasionally show up in John Morrow's excellent KIRBY COLLECTOR mag, and every time I see 'em, I just wanna cry, thinking about what might have been had Stan and Co. found a more sympathetic inker for the King.


  4. Appreciate the amplification on the artwork situation, B.T. I believe I've read that Buscema preferred to ink his own pencils, although obviously any of the three inkers you cited--especially Joltin' Joe--is fine by me as an alternative. And while I am less bothered by those two "regrettable trends" than you are, I agree they are not ideal. I don't think Heck diluted Romita's style all that much, but have fond memories of Mooney's forthcoming inks, and look forward to revisiting them in the weeks ahead. Finally, I find Shores's inks uneven at best, particularly compared to the Sinnott grandeur that preceded them.

  5. Although I can't stand Heck's inking on Spider-Man, I must confess I don't have the similar problem with Syd on Cap. In fact, next week (or the week after -- it all blurs after a while) I mention that Shores' inks give Kirby's pencils a nice 40s-ish look to them. Again, I must point out that, as far as inkers go, I'm an ignore-amus. Thanks for commenting, B.T., we love the insight.

    As for Professor Jack's workload, I'll just say the man keeps me sane. About 75% of the layout of this blog is in Jack's hands (the other 25 to fate). He's also responsible for the layout of Batman in the 1970s and kicking me in the ass when I get lazy as well as his bi-weekly Hitchcock analysis. How he does all this and remains president of the Worldwide William Shatner Fan Club (only one member but that's not the point) is beyond the realm of reason.

  6. The WWWSFC is accepting new members. The password is "Denny Crane."

  7. Regarding who does what, most of the credit for formatting and layout should go to Professor John, who takes everyone's screwed up formatting and text and makes sure it's all the same typeface, size, color, etc. Without his Tuesday night labors this thing would never get published every Wednesday!

  8. We have yet another rejected cover. This time it's FF#71. Kirby's original version featured the Torch on the offensive, but was replaced by a four panel cover showing each member of the FF battling the android. Changes were made to the second cover before publication. Most of the background behind Reed and Sue was removed, the Torch's flame trail was altered to show more of the android, some of the shading was removed from the android's legs at bottom right, and the explosion in the centre of the page was whited out. A more faithful version eventually found it's way to Marvel's Greatest Comics #54. Decades later, Joe Sinnott inked the rejected pencils, and it appeared in print as the back cover of The Jack Kirby Collector #18.

    I saw that ad for “We're Only In It For The Money,” but my 13 year old self couldn't figure out exactly what it was. The blurb mentioned LPs, and there was a coupon to be filled out and sent to something called “United Mutations” but, unusual for an ad in a comic book, there was no request for any money ... not that I had any spare cash, or knew how to buy stuff from the U.S. anyway. I'd never heard of the Mothers Of Invention (was that the name of a band) had no idea who the person at the top of the page was ... and the ad doesn't identify him. I was puzzled.

    I don't consider myself to be all that susceptible to advertizing, but I never forgot that strange ad, and a couple of years later I stumbled upon a Mothers Of Invention L.P. and became a lifelong Frank Zappa fan. Since I'm also a lifelong Jack Kirby fan, what could be better than both of them in the same picture. Kirby and Zappa together ... sometimes the universe does make sense.

    All the best.

    Glenn :)