Wednesday, August 1, 2012

November 1967: Cap Steps Down!

Daredevil 34
Our Story

Daredevil fights desperately against the Beetle and a group of armed thugs who are working for him. While he does his best for awhile, he eventually gets defeated when the Beetle clobbers him over the head with his metal glove and wing. Instead of outright killing the hero as his minions would prefer, the Beetle comes up with the idea of taking him to the World Expo in Canada. While there, in front of everybody, he will unmask Double D in an ultimate display of humiliation. As the bad guys load up Daredevil into a van and take off for the Expo, the Beetle hides the valuable necklace he stole last issue underneath a panel inside the vehicle. Daredevil can sense what he’s doing, though, and knows exactly where the Beetle is hiding the priceless necklace. On the way to the Expo, the Beetle tells his story to his crew about how he was just an ordinary scientist until he decided to create his metallic costume while working as a master mechanic in a factory. It’s show time at the Expo as the Beetle makes a big production of the hero’s unmasking and sets up his own display advertising what he’s about to do. The television camera crews are filming in anticipation. Daredevil comes to life before the evildoer can reveal his identity. He battles and beats the bad guys without much of a problem now that he is completely rested. Foggy even gets into the action by slugging the Beetle a few times. In the end, the Beetle is arrested and the priceless necklace returned. 

Tom: Remember last week when I said that I had a newfound respect for the Beetle after he defeated a groggy Daredevil? I take it back after the supposedly ruthless villain let Foggy punch him around in front of everybody. His reason for allowing him to do so was because he didn’t want to lose the crowd’s sympathy?! Do they hate Daredevil in Canada or something that I’m not aware of?

Jack: I think it was all part of the French Canadian movement to remove English influences.

Tom: While I’ve definitely read more exciting origin stories then the Beetle’s, his genesis is one that was sort of satisfying in its own simplicity. After all, a true bad guy like the Beetle would create his costume of terror on the company’s time, not his own.

Jack: I have to wonder if Stan or Gene took a weekend trip up to Montreal for Expo '67 and then used it in these two issues!

MB: I’ve spent so much time in recent months/weeks knocking the work of everyone but Gene Colan on this book that it’s a pleasant surprise to have relatively few complaints. Yes, Tartaglione’s inks still have that rough-and-ready look that makes me long for Giacoia, but I may be getting inured to them, and although Stan never met an unlikely plot twist he didn’t like, this one had some nice touches, like Hornhead playing possum to recharge his batteries and Foggy’s uncharacteristic moment of valor. I’m sorry we never found out how the Beetle’s tour of duty with the Collector ended, and his whole plan to unmask DD at Expo 67 seems kind of sketchy, yet we get some enjoyable fisticuffs, and Karen enhances the scenery on any side of the border.

Fantastic Four King-Size Special 5
Our Story

Sue Richards gives her teammates a scare when she passes out, but a quick recovery eases the tension. Ben cuts the scene, heading out on the Jet Cycle to visit Alicia. In a nearby building, a man cowers in fear before a tall, armor-clad figure, who berates him for delivering what he calls “component five” to the wrong address. Calling himself Psycho-man, the intimidating figure subjects the terrified man to a fear ray from a portable machine (which has buttons marked fear, doubt and hate). The device is a miniature version of a larger scale machine that will be Psycho-man’s  greatest weapon, one that will make whomever it strikes be confronted with his greatest fear, doubts or hatred. The helpless man jumps from a window to escape the images he sees, even though he knows they are in his imagination. This treatment sparks a hint of rebellion in Psycho-man’s three henchmen, who call themselves Live Wire, Ivan and Shellshock. While having some interesting weaponry of their own, they are not immune to the powerful doubt ray that Psycho-man, safe behind his armour, fires at them. His leadership thus established anew, Psycho-man and his cohorts go to retrieve component five from the address it was mistakenly delivered to: the home of a blind girl named Alicia Masters! And it just so happens that her boyfriend Ben Grimm, has stopped by for a visit. A shot of the fear ray finds Ben fighting his greatest fear, a monster that represents his own power out of control, and that he can’t defeat, despite his best efforts to protect Alicia. Rendered unconscious, Ben and Alicia are left unharmed, as Psycho-man and his men head to his remote Caribbean hideout, there to use this last component to complete the full-size mind-ray machine. Amazing events sometimes cross paths, as this time, when an island the Inhumans have landed on is the newly purchased, newly named Panther Island. You guessed it! The leader of the natives on said island is the Black Panther; who seeks to see who has landed on his shores. A misunderstanding initiates a brief battle, until Black Bolt steps in to signal a peaceful halt. The silent leader of the Inhumans senses danger on a nearby tiny rock island, and forms a molecular bridge so they can all reach it, as the Panther learns that the Inhumans are friends with the Fantastic Four as well. Karnak finds the weakness in the rocky surface and shatters it to reveal a dome housing a secret man-made consruct. The group is stunned by a shockwave from the domes interior, where Psycho-man has constructed his hidden labyrinth. Back in New York, Ben urges Reed, Johnny, Sue and Crystal to help him find his former attacker, and can’t understand Reed’s hesitation; that is until the leader of the F.F. breaks the big news: Sue is pregnant! After a bit of happy hooting and hollering, Ben, Johnny, Crystal, along with Triton, use Lockjaw’s power to transport them to where the villain they seek is hiding, and where the other Inhumans and the Black Panther, are already facing the attack of Psycho-man’s three henchmen. Soon the reunited group face visions of their own fears, courtesy of Psycho-man. An undefeatable giant yellow monster, a wall that grabs Karnak’s hand, a superior panther-like creature are all things that stem from their inner fears. The unexpected arrival of Gorgon, and his subsequent shock waves, causes the visions to disappear, and the group finds the control room where Psycho-man is waiting. Black Bolt zaps the full-size machine, and Psycho-man tells them his origin while holding the threat of his portable mind-ray to keep them at bay. He is actually a microscopic being from a world he calls Sub-Atomica, whose race studied Earth from inside an atom, determining it would be an easy conquest for his people’s overflowing population. In the distraction of the story, the Black Panther jumps Psycho-man, smashing the portable mind-ray machine, causing the suit of armour to collapse, empty, the threat of Psycho-man gone; forever?
JB: Despite all the improbabilities, I enjoyed this story. The big cast actually worked well together, keeping things interesting with the changes of scene. We have the first insight into Sub-Atomica, which we’ll see again in the future-- a cool concept that could be scientifically possible. Ands congrats to Sue and Reed; they thought crime fighting was complicated before!

MB:  I tried to like this, especially since it did not suffer from the padding problem that plagued some recent annuals, but I had several concerns, e.g., even the great Joe Sinnott seemed to be off his game, with several shots of Ben (whose Pogo-esque “Yowf!” I simply adored) looking quite out of character.  Those three stooges the Psycho-Man employs are about on par with the Triumvirate of Terror, and his abrupt introduction could have been handled with an aura of mystery but instead just seemed haphazard, with the eleventh-hour exposition not very satisfying.  I might have bought the fact that the Panther’s new island just happens to be the Inhumans’ current hangout...but not that it ALSO just happens to be Psycho-Man’s headquarters.

Our Story

“The Peerless Power Of The Silver Surfer!”

Soaring over the skies of Earth, the Silver Surfer ponders why humans attack other living beings for sport, and what our race has done to be confined to this planet, when he senses a being crying for help nearby. He enters the building from whence it emanates, a deserted laboratory, and finds it is a living computer, longing for human form. Unknown to the Surfer, it is actually Quasimodo, the nearly perfect, thinking computer that the Mad Thinker created, and that the villain left for “dead”, when the Fantastic Four defeated him last year. The Surfer knows none of this, and finding what appears to be simply a soul in distress, uses his cosmic power to give human form to Quasimodo. Sadly, the computer who longed to truly live follows the only path he was programmed to do: destroy, starting by blasting the Surfer with the ray from his destruct-eye. It, or he (?), then sets out on a rampage, and renews his battle with the Silver Surfer who comes to stop him. But the cosmic being is far more powerful, and merely wanted to allow Quasimodo the chance to change his ways. No such twist of fate happens this time, and the Silver Surfer uses his cosmic energy to consume Quasimodo. Finally at peace, truly dead this time, Quasimodo remains only as a statue above a city clock, a reminder to the other humans of the soullessness of power without purpose.

JB: Welcome back Quasimodo! Has it really been a year? After suffering such loneliness, one would 
think that a computer of such near-human capacities might have been rendered more merciful. Alas, we can’t all be as noble as the Silver Surfer, and a curious villain gets the only reward possible: an ending. I kind of felt sorry for him though. And I can’t help but wonder after unsuccessfully trying my son’s skateboard the other day, how does the Silver Surfer do what he does on that board?

JB: This Is A Plot? I asked that too after reading said spoof of Stan and Jack at work in the Marvel Bullpen. And those nine full-page (one a two-pager) Pinups make this annual a pretty special one. Only 25 cents in those days; what can you get for that now?

PE: "This is a Plot" must have been slotted for Not Brand Echh! and slipped in here because Stan and Jack had three empty pages and no more pin-ups to parade. Whatever the reason, it's funnier than anything that ran in the first three issues of Echh! and presents a camaraderie between the two comic geniuses that we now know didn't exist at the time.

Fantastic Four 68
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Ben, Sue and Reed visit Alicia in the hospital, where she is recovering from her experience at the Citadel of Science. Ben spoils a moment of closeness when his doubts about his own ugliness cause him to back away from Alicia.  It just so happens that Reed has sought out the help of the world’s most renowned chemist to aid him in finding a cure for Ben: Dr. Santini, who has just arrived from Europe. Unknown to the F.F., however, the doctor has been kidnapped, taken to an underground chamber, where he faces his kidnapper: an unseen enemy of the Fantastic Four who demands to know why Reed Richards has summoned the chemist to America. The unknown villain hypnotizes Santini to reveal his knowledge, and then leaves him a prisoner, impersonating him to carry out his own plan: the destruction of guess whom? Back at the Baxter Building, Reed tries to ease Ben’s worries when the two of them stumble upon Sue, who promptly makes herself invisible to conceal from the boys the sexy new mini-skirt uniform she’s designed. A friendly scuffle does the trick, resulting in some much-needed laughter. Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch takes Crystal to the shop where his hot rod is getting the full treatment. When one of the guys, Blackie, gets a little too friendly with his gal, Johnny gets heated in more ways than one. The lovely Inhuman gal has none of it; whipping up a windstorm that puts the boys in their place, Crystal-style. “Dr. Santini” arrives at the Baxter Building, and things seem to go ok, until Reed has to correct a careless mistake in the preparations made by the doctor. A little radiation aside, Sue has her own feminine suspicions about Santini that are hard to pinpoint. Out taking a walk, Ben is so preoccupied with his thoughts, he doesn’t even notice that he has meandered to Yancy Street, or that his punk/fans connect with a slingshot that clean takes his hat off. Getting back to headquarters, Reed and Santini start the procedure on Ben. First Ben dips into a tank of a special liquid, and then he’s exposed to a shot of mesa rays. Before Reed can stop “Santini”, the chemist makes an unplanned adjustment on the mesa ray machine—and gives Ben a much heavier does. While Reed is frustrated, Ben has changed. Not physically, but mentally—his hate for Reed is clear, and he wants revenge for the failure of the experiment.

MB:  I think the worst you can say about this typically well-scripted and -drawn story is that we are traveling some well-worn pathways, albeit traveling first-class with the FF dream team of Lee, Kirby, and Sinnott.  Ben’s angst over his appearance and relationship with Alicia; Reed’s periodic attempts to return him to human form, which usually meet with at best temporary success; the brainwashed Ben menacing his partners; and the incognito bad guy who professes to want to help are tropes we have seen before, yet Stan recombines them effectively here.  I don’t recall the identity of the “mystery villain” (although I could make some educated guesses about what may be a very persistent foe indeed), so I’m content just to ride this one out.

PE: It's a testament to how good this title has been that I can excuse the 19th retread of "Ben Goes Wild", the silly names for all these new gizmos (Molecu-Board doesn't exactly slip off one's tongue) and the goofy horseplay that Reed encourages in order to cheer up The Thing (how many times does Stretcho have to say "At least Ben is feeling a little better" before Stan knows we get it?). Just enjoy the lead-up and hope Stan and Jack can squeeze another surprise out of a cliche. Kudos to the boys for not revealing the secret identity of the faux Mr. Santini. There can only be disappointment upon the inevitable unmasking so be patient.

JB: It would be tough indeed to surpass the last couple of issues, but unlike say this month over at Thor, I’m with the rest of the panel that this is a pretty decent story. I honestly don’t know who the villain is either; I have my suspicions too, of course. A decent dose of humour adds a lot, the fiasco with Sue (like that new uniform!), Crystal’s  answer to machismo and especially the antics of the Yancy Street Gang—like all bullies they lose their steam when their tactics don’t get a rise.

The Amazing Spider-Man King-Size Special 4
Our Story

Stumbling into a scene of pure chaos, The Amazing Spider-Man is astounded to see Johnny Storm, The Human Torch going wild and destroying lots of public property. After a lengthy duel (and several full page panels) Spidey comes to realize that he's swung his way onto the set of an upcoming film starring The Human Torch. Humiliated, our web-spinner swings away, tail between his legs. Sensing a way to get back at two of his sworn enemies, The Wizard takes advantage of all the publicity surrounding Spidey's mistake by spending his fortune on a movie studio, hiring the talent, and partnering with Mysterio to destroy Spider-Man and The Torch. Thanks to the quick temper of both our heroes, the villainous duo's plan almost works until a slip up on the part of The Wizard clues the pair in to what's really been going on.

PE: Here's where my old brain always gets me in trouble. I know this plot (fake movie turns dangerous when the hero finds out the director is one of his arch-enemies) has been used before by Marvel but I just can't remember when and where. Sounds like a job for Glenn! How about retitling this comic The Myopic Spider-Man? Are you telling me our hero couldn't see the director, the camera, the dollies, the crew, the extras standing off to the side of the action until he was just about on top of them all? And, of course, it would be silly of The Torch to say "Hold up, Spidey, check it out. We're filming a movie here!" Yeah, helmed by the famous French director Bellini! Let's hope the famous Frenchman got enough footage in the can before his star headed off to film another movie.

MB:  I understand the impetus for an ongoing relationship between representatives of Marvel’s two standard-bearers, but I’ve always found the Spidey/Torch rivalry tiresome, especially when they have more in common than keeping them apart, so when I saw it was the subject of this annual, I gave a hearty “ho-hum.”  At twice the length of a monthly issue, this could give Daredevil Special #1 some lessons in padding; a few years later, its premise and well-chosen villains would have made a nice Marvel Team-Up one-off, yet here, every scene just goes on for twice as long as it needs to.  The art by mystery penciler Larry Lieber (whose i.d. is not provided in the Giant-Size Spider-Man reprint—duh!) is neither distinguished nor disastrous.

PE: Maybe not distinguished nor disastrous but how about deadly dull? The story falls into the category of "Why the hell would this villain..." and I'll finish the sentence with "spend all his money to set up a fake movie studio just to crush Spider-Man and The Torch when it would simpler to just invent another gizmo?" Why not just partner up with Mysterio and go after them?  Bloated, recycled, unimaginative, but worst of all uninvolving. Stan simultaneously reminds us of the bad old days of Strange Tales featuring The Human Torch and warns us that those days can pop up again from time to time. Perhaps the nadir of this tale is the panel of Mysterio, a genuinely eerie and fascinating character, whining like a little bitch, "Defeated again!! Oh nooo--not again!! Not again!!" Easily the worst comic book of 1967.

The Amazing Spider-Man 54
Our Story

The Amazing Spider-Man scours the city streets looking for Doctor Octopus. Ironically, the Doc is holed up at the home of Aunt May and Mrs. Watson, who have rented the gentleman a room. After working a bit on ruining relations with his roommate, Harry Osborn, Pete finally makes it over to May's house for a visit where, to his horror, he sees that his kindly aunt's cribbage partner is one of his deadliest foes. Expressing his outrage, the youth is taken aside by Ock and told that if he doesn't keep his mouth shut, he'll soon have eight Aunt Mays. Knowing he can't leave May alone for long, Peter heads off but comes back as his alter ego while his aunt is out on business. Octopus is ready for Spider though as his old gang is reassembled and they proceed to pound on our hero. Vanquishing the mob, he turns his sights on Ock but just as he's about to put the Doc down, his Aunt May comes home, sees the dreaded Spider-Man and faints. Ock escapes and Peter is forced to call his aunt's doctor, who warns that one more episode like this and Aunt May will be with Uncle Ben. As we leave our beleaguered hero, he's shaking his fist at the empty horizon and swearing that someone will pay for his pain.

PE: Though Joe "Robbie" Robertson has been hanging around The Daily Bugle since #51, this is our first real introduction to the new city editor. It's also the first time Peter meets the man who will grow very close to him. Though Robbie has always been the model of a strong black man, Sam Raimi chose to portray him as a doltish, somewhat cherubic second banana to JJJ in the director's trilogy. It's only a matter of time before we see if that wrong has been righted in the new series. The idea that a crowd gathered around Aunt May's place while Spider-Man is fighting a dozen masked henchmen, would begin turning against Spidey after all this time stretches credibility. Despite the tired plot, I still enjoyed the issue thanks to Romita's stellar art work and some Harry Osborn character development (of course, if this was 1967, I wouldn't know that Harry's mood swings were going to play a very important role in a Spidey epic very soon).

MB: As noted on the splash page, the rapport between Aunt May and Dr. Octopus dates back to Spidey’s first annual, and in later years would be taken to even greater heights of lunacy than here.  I’m sure it was an especially unusual plot device back in the day, but I’ve never liked it, because while Aunt May is no Rhodes Scholar, this gimmick makes it increasingly necessary for us to see her as a blithering idiot (no complaints about the artwork, naturlich, and I enjoyed Doc’s two-faced snarling at Peter).  Conversely, I am sometimes more tolerant than my colleagues when Stan plays the Aunt-May’s-health card, yet since the raison-d’ĂȘtre of Spidey’s crisis during Doc Ock’s previous appearance had her at death’s door, it seems a little soon to be revisiting that well.

PE: I've got a medical question for those doctors out there reading this blog. If May isn't having heart attacks, exactly what is she having? Her doctor warns Peter that another "attack" could be fatal but surely we're not talking myocardial infarction here or kindly Doc Bromwell, who makes house calls even when half the house has been destroyed, surely wouldn't leave the old bat recovering in her own bed. Could May be having one of those "spells" we used to hear of in the old days? Allergies? Menopause?

Strange Tales 162
Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Our Story

The Gaff equips Fury with a fiberglass Ferrari that can operate by remote control, change color or become invisible, and while taking Val for a spin, Nick learns that her parents were killed for aiding the Resistance. The new ESP Chamber helps Jimmy Woo to pinpoint the Yellow Claw’s location as New York’s Chinatown, so Fury dons his black leather outfit and gives the Ferrari its baptism of fire against pursuing Claw minions. Appropriating the uniform of one of his adversaries, Fury penetrates the shop from which they emerged and comes face to face with what appears to be the body-armor-clad Claw himself, but he and his lieutenant, Fritz von Voltzmann, are onto Nick, and drop him through a trapdoor to confront a huge octopus.

MB: For the first time in eight months, one-man-band Steranko here relinquishes the inking chores to other hands, and Giacoia being one of the best—not to mention sorely missed on Daredevil—the results are eminently satisfying, eliminating some of the facial cartooniness that had bothered my colleagues. We get fresh glimpses of our new supporting cast (e.g., Val, whose relationship with Nick remains off to a rocky start), and witness S.H.I.E.L.D.’s new ESP Division, introduced with both a spectacular full-page shot and a paragraph of concomitantly purple prose. Nick’s attempts to emulate the dialogue from old Charlie Chan movies are amusing, perhaps to the Yellow Claw as well as to us, and the cliffhanger involving the giant cephalopod is in the finest serial tradition.

Um, would you mind repeating that?

Nick, you old smooth-talker!
PE: For the first time since Steranko's tenure began, I can believe that Nick Fury and Dum-Dum Dugan are not actually being played by Archie and Jughead. Whether that's, as Professor Matthew avows, due to new inker Frank Giacoia or practice, doesn't matter to me. This installment is Rated E for Entertainment from panel one to finale and seems to be finally getting us from the cave drawings we saw at the onset to the gallery paintings Steranko is associated with. I would question an invisible car that does not allow its passenger the same cloak but really loved Gaffer's comment about "wait 'til that Bond fella gets a load of this!" You have to wonder if Ferrari was passing a few greenbacks under the table to Jim when you read all the wonderful extras the car comes equipped with in addition to lush leather bucket seats.

Jack: I like the idea of having Steranko draw Fury driving around Chinatown at night in the rain--it's very noirish and atmospheric. There's quite a long buildup to the appearance of the Yellow Claw and I sure as heck didn't see that giant octopus coming! The casual racism involving Asians is something I've noticed only in retrospect with the benefits of 40 years of hindsight. Watch any sitcom of the '70s (The Odd Couple, for example) and you'll see it right away. Civil rights for Blacks was a big deal at the time but it was still OK to make fun of Asians.

Doctor Strange
Our Story

Nebulos hands Dr. Strange his staff of Polar Power, which allows the doctor to defeat Baron Mordo and banish him to the far reaches of space. Seeing that the Living Tribunal's hourglass is about to run out of sand, Dr. Strange tries to use the staff on it, but the attempt backfires. He returns to the planet where Nebulos awaits and sees the Living Tribunal appaoaching.

MB: As I previously mentioned, sophomore artist Dan Adkins will fortunately be with us for a while, but on the writing end we’ve moved from one Marvel footnote (Raymond Marais) to another (Jim Lawrence). It’s disappointing that Mordo has again been this rapidly dispensed with—although we see more of him than we do of that veritable cameo by La Bentley—yet he looks good while he’s here, and Adkins has obviously been studying his Ditko, both faces and poses. It’s difficult to know what to say about Nebulos, since at the moment he’s generating more questions than answers; how much Marais might already have outlined when he introduced the character at the end of last ish, I have no clue, but let’s just say the jury is still out.

Jack: Setting aside all of the swipe talk, this strip looks great right now! The two-page spread we've reproduced here screams EC sci-fi, but I don't really care--Strange Tales has become a feast for the eyes. Never mind that I'm not entirely sure what's going on in the Dr. Strange stories, Dan Adkins sure can trace!

The Avengers 46
Our Story

A day of relaxation for the Avengers is shattered by the arrival at Avengers Mansion of the Whirlwind--formerly, the Human Top--who seeks revenge on Giant-Man. Hank and Janet are accidentally shrunken down to ant size and have a harrowing battle with some red ants in an anthill while Quicksilver and Captain America fend off Whirlwind above ground. Janet saves the day and she and Hank return to normal size, only to find that Whirlwind has escaped. Hank decides that he can best serve the Avengers as Ant Man now that Hercules has stepped in as the strongman of the group.

Jack: I'm not thrilled to see the return of Ant Man. The faculty here at MU gave a sigh of relief when the wee fellow and his big alter-ego Giant-Man were replaced by the more interesting (and better costumed) Goliath.

MB: Okay, the artwork has ping-ponged from Dashing Don back to Big John again, although why you would want to throw Buscema’s pencils away on Colletta’s inks is beyond me; it’s like making a Sloppy Joe out of filet mignon. I’m too lazy to go back through Gi-Ant-Man’s run in Tales to Astonish searching for a smoking gun, but doesn’t it stand to reason that, having defeated the erstwhile Human Top more than once, Hank and/or Jan would have seen him unmasked at some point? That said, Whirlwind is a much better i.d. for our vengeful heavy, and I like the fact that Roy capitalizes on Jan’s newfound wealth by having “Charles” masquerade as her chauffeur, which imposture I recall he successfully continues until well into the ’70s, at least.

Jack: This hardly seems like an issue of The Avengers, what with Hank and Jan fighting underground, Pietro and Cap overhead, and the rest of the team taking a day off.

The Mighty Thor 146
Our Story

Now hired as the official strongman for the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, Thor dons some cheap imitation duds for his inaugural performance. The crowd is not happy seeing what they think is a phony making fun of the “real” Thor. The Ringmaster is prepared, and has a huge whirling light at the top of the tent that matches the one on his hat—which hypnotizes the audience into seeing what they want; Thor’s hammer returning to him. After the show, the real job begins, as the Ringmaster once again hypnotizes Thor into his willing slave. The plan, to rob the golden bull from the museum, proceeds. As the gambinos and clown distract the police guards, the Ringmaster, Princess Python, Cannonball and Thor break in to the museum and Thor starts to carry out the golden bull. The police catch up to them, and the sound of gunfire snaps Thor out of his trance, as the Thunder God realizes how his involvement must look, but too late.
This month marks the debut of the five-page tales spotlighting the Inhumans (for a total count of twenty-one pages).  This one is just that, as we see how a branch of Homo sapiens developed separately from the others, and became so far advanced that they had to go in hiding from the rest of early humanity who feared them. They built a stunning city called Attilan, ruled by a peaceful leader named Randac. A discovery they dubbed the Terrogen Mist is a potentially dangerous yet equally promising turning point for them, as Randac exposes himself to it first, to test it’s effects.

JB: What a curious choice to have the Inhumans as a secondary story in the Thor title. Reading the Fantastic Four consecutively, it fills out some more details of their origin and purpose, but I’d still prefer twenty pages for the Thunder God. I usually think of this issue as the first issue where the art looks noticeably sub-par (i.e. the less-than-stellar full page of the circus marching in); Thor’s belt almost always lacks the “T” on it. Given the insightful comments from “Professor Glenn” on the relationship between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at this time, it could explain the drop in quality. Or was it Vince’s inks?

PE: Anyone picking up Thor 146 in 1967 expecting the kind of intelligent, mind-blowing tales that had been packing the title's pages lately would be sorely disappointed. It's the sort of throwaway story that populated Thor's early issues ("Thor Fights the Commie Brothers!"), the kind we haven't seen in ages outside of Daredevil and X-Men, and I'm fairly confident the trend won't last. I'm a bit confused about the loss of power bit. Is it my misunderstanding that Thor has lost his super powers and now has only his own strength? Is he like Superman in that earth's atmosphere naturally makes him stronger? I ask because he easily lifts the five ton solid gold bull and carries it across the room to the window. And what about Princess Python's magically expanding serpent? Is this a real snake that can stretch from between a few feet to two stories tall?

JB: The thunder most certainly is gone this month for Thor. Let’s just say that our day-to-day lives have some pretty “lame” moments, so why wouldn’t Thor’s? I guess it’s to Thor’s credit that he’s willing to take just about any job and swallow his pride; you’d think this would be enough for Odin to grant his son forgiveness, but Daddy scarcely pays attention to what’s happening on Midgard. If it wasn’t for Balder and Sif to keep an eye on what’s going on, who knows what trouble Thor might get in. To add insult to injury, Thor has to see his former gal Jane Foster in the audience at the circus with a new date, although it doesn’t look like Dr. Kincaid who she went to work for when Odin  booted her back to Earth.

MB: A Bullpen Bulletin notes that two new five-page back-up features debut this month: “Origins of the X-Men” and, in Thor, an Inhumans feature that replaces “Tales of Asgard” but is maddeningly absent from my Marvel Spectacular reprints (which inexplicably substitute “TOA” segments from issues more than a year gone by).  My standard joke about ultra-powerful and/or cosmic Marvel super-heroes is, “Hey, what’s he gonna do, fight the Ringmaster and His Circus of Crime?”  So of course that’s exactly what’s being set up here, although naturellement this is a powered-down Thunder God (demoted by dear old Dad yet again—yawn—for some perceived infraction that I missed last issue), or this would be a three-page story rather than a three-parter.

PE: As a bonus we get a very short but intriguing first chapter of "The Origin of The Inhumans." I never paid attention to the group when I was growing up a Marvel Zombie as they were just too stiff and boring for me (much like Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and, forgive me Professor Matthew, Captain Marvel) but my exposure to them lately in Fantastic Four and this brief tale have caught my fancy and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

The X-Men 38
Our Story

Factor Three, led by The Mutant Master, continues the not so well thought out plan of getting the East and West to wipe each other out with nuclear weapons so that the mutants can inherit the Earth. Must know something we don't about mutant resistance to radiation. Meanwhile, The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, sans leader Magneto, are along for the ride as the X-Men fight to save the day.

PE: Inexplicably, The Evil Mutants seem to savor the thought that they'll inherit a scorched earth after World War III. Do they realize that means the Go-Go lounges and coffee shops the muteys seem to always hang out in as well? Will this gawdawful never-ending Factor Three/Captive Professor X story ever come to a close? This just in! Coming Next Issue: The Fatal Finale! Fabulous! Then we can get back to the fascinating stories that were running in this strip before it got hijacked. I can't wait to see what kind of ice cream cone Scott will buy Jean when it's all over.

JS: Professor X is given a few lines of dialog as he lies prone (as he does so well) in the Mutant Master's lair. Did I already mention that we have no one to blame but ourselves for our X-suffering? These issues come with a warning label right on the cover. Whenever you see Xavier with a headache above the logo, you know you're in for a rough ride.

MB: This is an odd experience, finally getting hold of the next installment of this arc (if not, alas, the final one!) after 39 years; meanwhile, in the tag-team-artists department, Heck has reverted to pencils, with “Bell” resuming his inking duties. It’s interesting, given Professor X’s close ties with the Feds (of which we are reminded in the first “Origins of the X-Men” segment, drawn by former primary penciler Werner Roth), that his students didn’t turn to them for help in rescuing him, instead of virtually panhandling in the street. The leaders of Factor Three seem to have cornered the market on freakish headgear, and taken a leaf from the SPECTRE book of evil plans for World War III; let’s hope it’s not 2051 before I finally get to read “The Fateful Finale.”

PE: While I'm still not excited about the main strip, the new back up is far from boring. "The Origins of The X-Men" manages in five pages to do what the lead couldn't in 16: tell an involving story that you don't want to put down. The first installment actually isn't an origin but rather an intro to Professor X and a look at the earliest days of his mutant-teaching career. X reaches out to government officials ready to hunt down mutants and is rebuffed, setting him on his mission to create a secret mutant academy. The strip is hampered by Werner Roth's art but the script crackles and, though I feel I've read this story before, Roy makes it all readable again. I say dump the lead story and go big with the Origins.

Jack: The lead story was confusing and boring and they wasted even the third-tier villains. By the way, if you were built like the Blob, would you run around in a diaper or would you get something tailored like the kind of capes Orson Welles used to sport? I'm with Prof. Peter in preferring the backup origin story; this series promises to explain how the X-Men got together in the first place. It's about time, if you ask me. Note that this is the first credit I've seen for John Verpoorten (inking the backup story), who would later be a beloved member of the Marvel gang. (The Comic Book Database says that he worked on The Ghost Rider earlier in '67.)

JS: Jack, if you put The Blob in a suit, you get The Kingpin. So a diaper it is. Hopefully Professer Emeritus Glenn will explain the move to a shorter (thankfully) main story and the back-up stories we'll be treated to over the next several issues.

Tales to Astonish 97
Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Our Story

Namor is being held captive by the Plunderer at his hidden base on Skull Island. The smug villain brags to Prince Namor about how powerful his Vibra-Gun is and how he and his crew are going to use it to take over the world. A group of Swamp Men attack the Plunderer’s headquarters, giving Namor the chance to escape. He fights briefly with the Plunderer until one of the Swamp Men drops a slab of rock on top of him from the roof. The Plunderer knocks the Swamp Man out just in time for his men to inform him that the other Swamp Men have set a fire that is burning out of control. The villain and his crew take off in their submarine before the fire can hit the main armory and cause an explosion. Angry with Namor’s interference, the Plunderer leads his men towards Atlantis as they plan to try to take it over and destroy the city. Namor awakens before the armory blows up. He sees the Swamp Man who had knocked him out and rescues him from the explosion. It turns out that this guy was the ruler of the Swamp Men. Once they are back at their main living area on the island, Namor is treated like a hero by the savages. Back in Atlantis, believing that Sub-Mariner has aligned himself with the Plunderer, Dorma and the old wise one hold a council meeting. Since they don’t know that the evidence is false, the council declares Namor to be banned from the city.

Tom: Eh...This isn't turning out to be one of my favorite stories in the Namor collection. At least Ka-Zar never showed up, which I was dreading he would.

Jack: Only in a flashback, Prof. Tom, and he looked like the captain of the Riverdale High football team. What did we do to deserve the art combo of Werner Roth and Dan Adkins? And who thought it was a good idea to keep bringing back the Plunderer? I miss his pirate costume. At this point, I'd prefer to see Paste-Pot Pete again.

For such a primitive race, the Swamp
People had very advanced hair gels.
Our Story

While leaping about aimlessly, the Hulk accidentally collides with a low flying jet. He doesn’t want to be blamed for anyone on board's being killed, so he helps the pilot by pulling him away from the wreckage and making a splint for the injured man’s leg. When the pilot recovers, he convinces the Hulk to take him back to the hideout of his employer, the Living Lightning. Appearing from behind giant camouflaged doors inside a mountain, the Living Lightning looks like some type of U.F.O. that shoots lightning bolts. It fights with the Hulk briefly before knocking out the brute with its electricity blasters. The Hulk awakens to find some mysterious men in strange costumes who all work for the Living Lightning. One of the men tricks the Hulk into believing they want to be friends. Soon, the Hulk is seen doing chores around the evil organization’s base. Glenn Talbot has been warned of this group of baddies by S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s caught spying on them and is brought into their lair. The Hulk recognizes Talbot and angrily slaps him. Jumping at the opportunity of having a riled up Hulk at their disposal, the bad guys encourage the Hulk to leave and attack the nearby U.S. military base, which he agrees to do. Rick Jones's Teen Brigade also makes a pointless cameo in this issue.

Tom: Mixed feelings on this yarn for me. On one hand, it looks like this is the beginning of a dragged out, overly long, typical Hulk serial that was unfortunately too commonplace at this point in the series. On the other hand, despite having stupid looking costumes, this Living Lightning group intrigues me, especially its main mascot U.F.O. that is very mysterious in its simplistic, silent nature. The artwork, unfortunately, is starting to look a little bizarre.

The Living Lightning's leader practices
the George Jefferson strut.
MB: They play up these Living Lightning guys like they’re the greatest threat to liberty the world has ever known, even though we’ve never heard of them before, which just enhances my feeling that Stan woke up one day and said, “Crap! We ended that Wundagore II business too soon. What do we do now?” The fact that this tired villain-dupes-the-Hulk story is played out for as many issues as they devoted to the much more interesting High Evolutionary also smacks of desperation. Perhaps the strangest thing about this segment is Greenskin’s ever-fluctuating intelligence and diction; one minute he knows how to set a broken bone and laments the fact that he’s hurt innocent people, and the next he’s back in his classic “Hulk smash!” mode.

Jack: Yes, it was pretty strange that the Hulk managed to scrape together bits of wood and plants to fashion a splint. I had a little trouble figuring out who the spy was toward the end, but I think it's Major Talbot. Frankly, I thought this story stunk, especially the conceit of having Hulk accidentally bump into a low flying plane while out hopping around.

Tales of Suspense 95

Iron Man
Our Story

After defeating The Titanium Man (last issue), Tony Stark returns to his factory to find an intruder has set off several alarms. Grabbing hold of his security force, Stark heads into the complex to find what's cookin'. There he finds Jasper Sitwell, sent by Nick Fury to babysit Stark Industries when the playboy billionaire and his "bodyguard" are out of town. Annoyed though he may be, Tony accepts Sitwell as long as he stays out of the way. Meanwhile, The Grey Gargoyle has broken out of prison and is heading for the aforementioned Stark Industries. The idea is that GG wants immortality. To get this, he needs Thor's hammer. To get this, he needs a weapon that will defeat Thor. To get this, he needs Tony Stark's new Super Cobalt Weapon, "against which there can be no defense." To get this, he needs to get past Iron Man. Round One easily goes to The Gargoyle, who turns Iron Man to stone and, as the curtain closes on the opening chapter, hurls him from the roof of Stark Industries.

PE: Everybody Must Get Stoned! The Grey Gargoyle, always a personal favorite of the second-tier villains, finds a strange round-about way to make a guest appearance in Tales of Suspense but I welcome his ingenuity. I do, however, have to admit to some confusion about GG's powers. He breaks out of jail as GG, but later says he needs to apply his "secret potion" and then rub himself (this was the innocent '60s so no smart-aleck remarks now!) to transform into The Grey Gargoyle. How did he bust out if he needed to whip up a potion of "Quick Grey" beforehand? Is this another case of poor prison planning? And why in the world does this guy wear a Robin-like mask? So that no one will recognize him?! One other thing: when his victims turn to stone, does it affect their insides? That is, are we talking literally a heart of stone? If so, how do the affected not perish in that one hour of being stoned?

MB: I have fond memories of this arc from my boyhood, and still consider it a cracking good story, due in no small measure to the advent of Jasper Sitwell, who I believe will be a regular fixture here for some time, strengthening the long-standing ties betweenTOS and S.H.I.E.L.D.  It’s nice that such a rich character wasn’t allowed to languish for too long after the post-Hydra dispersal of Fury’s inner circle in Strange Tales #159, although GiaColon’s rendition of Jasp is inevitably different from Steranko’s.  Despite having debuted in Thor’s strip, the Grey Gargoyle always struck me as better suited to Shellhead or his TOS stablemate, Captain America, with whom Spider-Man would memorably meet the Gargoyle in Marvel Team-Up #13.

PE: Sitwell's such a boy scout that a loud guffaw escaped me when Stark tells his security boys: "You men can take off , now! The only danger Mr. Sitwell poses is the chance of boring me to death." Classic Stan line but a couple one-liners in the strip made me wonder if The Rascally One didn't have an apron on in the kitchen. "Who in the name of a twisted transistor are you, anyway?!!" sounds like the kind of dopey dialogue to be found over in The X-Men. Having said that, and having stated that The Grey Gargoyle is a great villain, I must say that what makes this a standout issue is not the action (what little there is) but the snappy patter between Sitwell and a man he believes to be wasting his life away with cheap wine and women. The comedy is heightened by our knowledge that Iron Man, like his contemporary, Batman, agrees with everything Sitwell is preaching but needs to give the public something to distance Stark from his alter ego. At least, I think he frowns on a life of super models and race cars!

Captain America
Our Story

Captain America has decided it's time to settle down and grab hold of a Mrs. America so he asks (the unnamed Agent 13 who will eventually be named Sharon Carter) to lunch and proposes. Unfortunately, Steve Rogers doesn't get the answer he'd hoped for as (the unnamed Agent 13 who will eventually be named Sharon Carter) tells him her heart belongs to SHIELD but when she's old and grey and plagued with broken bones she'll be his alone. Distraught, the star-spangled avenger vows that following his next battle, he'll never be Captain America again! So, immediately upon defeating the world-threatening foe known as The Red Skull... Doctor Doom... Mr. Hyde... Paste-Pot Pete... umm, "Gunner" Gates, Cap unmasks himself and retires to his recliner and memories.

PE: I'm not sure that giving up his shield because of SHIELD will give Steve Rogers the happiness he craves. Sure, he'll be out from under the uniform but (the unnamed Agent 13 who will eventually be named Sharon Carter) will still be working for her first love and, ostensibly, still unmonikered. Can you see the wedding ceremony? "Do you, Agent 13, take this man..." Nice bit here with Nick Fury assuring (the unnamed Agent 13 who will eventually be named Sharon Carter) that he's got an early retirement in store for her just as soon as the world is rid of evil.

MB:  Given Cap’s decision to hang up his shield (and not for the last time), it’s natural that there’s a minimum of action in this episode, yet all of the high-protein Kirby/Sinnott goodness on display makes the most of those few pages.  I love how Steve Rogers unmasks, tells Agent Thirteen his “secret” identity, and does everything short of provide her with his medical records, and she STILL doesn’t reveal her name to the man she supposedly loves; was Stan chronically unable to think of one?  They appear to have painted themselves into a corner by having Cap do the Full Monty for all the world to see, and I only remember some of what ensues, but as usual I’m glad to go along for the ride, and enjoyed Fury’s guest appearance.

PE: If I was reading this in 1967, I'd naturally think that Stan and Jack would have to come up with a way out for Cap after revealing himself to the world (well, actually he revealed himself to Gunner Gates and, I assume, Gunner sold the exclusive to The National Enquirer) but having the benefit of looking back 45 years later, we all know that Cap's alter ego remained public after all. Despite reading the "Cap Gives It Up" several times since (and similar stories from Thor and Spidey recently as well), this is one solidly told story other than the rather odd idea of Cap crowning his storied career by besting Gunner Gates rather than a foe such as The Red Skull.

Also this month

Ghost Rider #7
Kid Colt Outlaw #137
Marvel Tales #11
Millie the Model #155
Not Brand Echh #4
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #48
Two-Gun Kid #90


  1. Re: Proffessor Bradley's throwaway comment about Sinnott being "off his game" on FF ANNUAL #5 -- it may have something to do with the fact that Joltin' Joe's brushes never touched these pages! Despite the misattribution on the credits box, Fearless Frank Giacoia actually inked this one. I think the art looks pretty great myself -- I especially dig how Giacoia's crisp, un-fussy brush-strokes enhance all the Panther figures. If I had one complaint about Sinnott, it's that he tended to over-feather some of Kirby's counter-intuitive squiggles, reducing a bit of Kirby's spontaneous zest. To my eyes, the Panther never looked cooler than he does in this Annual. But I do agree that Sinnott was better than Giacoia at inking the Thing's rocky hide.

  2. Hey Anonymous--put your real name on your comments so we can address you properly and not get you confused with some of the other anonymous commenters who spam us!!!

    I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but the best comic of November 1967 was Strange Adventures 206, over at DC, which marked Neal Adams's debut on Deadman.

  3. We can trace the Spidey Annual #4 plot back to ASM #14 where the Green Goblin, in his first appearance, convinces Hollywood Producer B.J. Cosmos to make a movie featuring Spidey fighting the Enforcers, with GG as their leader.

    However, the plot strongly resembles Fantastic Four #9 where a bankrupt FF are offered a movie role at S.M. studios. S.M. turns out to be the Sub-Mariner, who has cashed in all the buried treasure he's found over the years, to buy a movie studio. Of course, it's a ploy designed to destroy the FF. Namor sends them on location, where the dangers, including a giant Cyclops, turn out to be real.

    The plot has an earlier incarnation in an unpublished Simon and Kirby Stuntman story from 1947. In "Terror Island" Stuntman is lured onto a movie location, peppered with deadly mechanical monsters. The mysterious villain hiding behind the scenes is "The Panda" (a Chairman Mao lookalike). And you thought Stan was the only Commie basher.

    In FF Annual #5 Stan exclaims "It had to happen. Jolly Jack not only drew this frenetic farce, but he actually wrote it all by his lonesome."

    So, in six years, Stan has credited Wally Wood with writing one story (to give Stan a break) grudgingly credited Ditko as plotter, and acknowledged that in all that time, Jack wrote one three page comedy story. Well, by this time, Wally and Steve were long gone, and Jack wasn't very jolly.

    Needless to say Dan Adkins deserves yet another mention, for his assembly line approach to Dr. Strange. Here's page 3 of Strange Tales #162, and the panels Adkins swiped to create the "new" artwork.

    Incredibly, the first two panels were swiped from consecutive panels in ST #130, requiring only one sheet of tracing paper. By now, someone at Marvel must've known about this.

    And, here's a Marvel University exclusive. :0)

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  4. Okay, Professor Jack, from now on, I will sign all my comments.

    -- B.T.