Wednesday, September 11, 2013

July 1972: Back by Popular Demand! Ant-Man!

Conan the Barbarian 16
“The Frost Giant’s Daughter”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith

This is a color reprint of the black-and-white story that appeared in the first issue of “Savage Tales” — click here to read the original synopsis from the May 1971 post. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: A few little tweaks from the original. Barry Smith provides art for a new cover and splash page. The cover features a rather prominent and stylized credit: perhaps Smith was starting to feel his well-deserved oats? And while I still prefer the black-and-white version, the color does add a new dimension. Since the story is set in snow, the newly colored characters really pop off the winter whiteness. The color is also used to make the gossamer wrap of the frost giant’s daughter a bit less see-thru. “The Hyborian Page” is obviously new and there is notable editorial: Barry Smith “had a change of heart,” and will not be leaving Conan the Barbarian as announced last issue. Gil Kane will still handle the next two issues, but Barry will be back for #19. Again, this is a bit of a grandstand, because Stan wanted to move the rising star artist to a more mainstream title, but good old Roy talked him out of it. Plus, there’s a bonus story…

Scott McIntyre: A reprint issue, but noteworthy for the announcement that Barry Smith will remain on the title. Hoo-rah!

Mark Barsotti: A reprint ish is always a downer, but the "SPECIAL SURPRISE" on the letters page, announcing that Bashful Barry (Windsor) Smith will be returning to the title makes the interim tenure of Gil Kane's nose-o-rama bearable. The kid friendly, breasts-now-veiled color version of "The Frost Giant's Daughter" (from Savage Tales #1) remains a treat, with Smith and Roy Thomas in top form as Conan, blood-lust up in all areas of his anatomy after a deadly battle, chases nubile, nearly-naked Atali through the snowy mountains to claim his fleshy reward before the titular temptress leads him into an ambush and is then whirled away into the heavens as "the witch-lights play in a frosty sky gone mad." The Cimmerian collapses in the snow, left with only a "wisp of gossamer," the tore remains of Atali's dress, to prove that she ever existed.

“The Sword and the Sorcerers”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Barry Smith

In an ancient age, Starr the Slayer, barbarian king of Zardath, does battle with a scarlet behemoth and the wizard Trull. Suddenly, in the present time, Len Carson, author of the Starr the Slayer stories bolts from his sleep. He calls his editor with the plans of killing off his popular character — the stress of deadlines has given the pulp writer ulcers. However, Starr appears and slays Carson. Starr awakes in his own time, supremely satisfied with the knowledge that he has killed his greatest enemy. -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: This is a very nice extra. “The Sword and the Sorcerers” first appeared in Chamber of Darkness #4 (April 1970), and is considered a “test-run” for the Conan series. Now after reading the story for the first time, I am a bit dubious about that claim. Sure, Starr looks exactly like Barry Smith’s future-yet-in-the-past interpretation of Robert E. Howard’s hero, right down to the horned helmet. But beyond that, it’s just the type of story you would come to expect from a comic called Chamber of Darkness. It’s like creating a “test-run” for a Liberace series and have him play the saxophone. So, from this day forth by Crom, I make a stand against the “test-run” theory. To me, “The Sword and the Sorcerers” was just a part of the perfect storm that created “Conan the Barbarian.” (Of course, someone will find a quote to prove me completely wrong. Not that I’d care.) Now it’s a bit of a jip that the main story is a reprint, so it was a thoughtful choice to include this tale to fill out the pages: it’s an important piece of Marvel’s early Conan mythology and a sweet bonus for fans that missed it the first time. But let’s not forget that it’s a reprint as well. Marketing genius in the mighty Marvel manner!

Mark: This reprint from Chamber of Darkness features some fairly crude Smith art (P 2 panel 1 & P 7 panel 2 are among his worst ever, his early aping-Kirby efforts not excluded), but I liked the sliced-up panel design on P 6, and the rest of the art's high-energy dynamism makes up for a lack of polish. The Twilight Zone tale of a fictive hero coming to life to off his creator and thus avoid cancellation was effective if predictable, lacking only Rod Serling popping up in the final panel.

Amazing Adventures 13
The Beast in
"Evil is All in Your Mind!"
Story by Steve Englehart
Art by Tom Sutton and Frank Giacoia

Mastermind uses the illusion of fire to draw The Beast to the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and after a brief skirmish, they take the confused hero to a “welcoming” carnival of sideshow freaks. Back at Brand Corporation, Air Force captain Buzz Baxter and wife Patsy arrive from the Pentagon to investigate the “mysterious beast”. They question the traitorous Linda Donaldson, then head to Hank’s apartment, where Patsy stops Buzz from breaking in and discovering Hank’s secret (insert sigh of relief!), with a mysterious girl watching from across the street. Back to the bad guys, who use The Beast to break into a townhouse and steal the world’s largest gem. Using his incredible athletic ability and some Evil Mutant power assistance, a slightly less befuddled Hank nabs the gem and hands it over to Mastermind. Back at the carnival, Hank regains his memory and strikes! He tricks both Blob and Unus into a cage, then tracks down the escaping Mastermind, fights off his illusions, makes the brain-altering baddie’s mind snap from losing, then turns him in with a phone call to the police.–Joe Tura

Matthew Bradley: Befitting his custodianship of the only X-Men—or, in this case, ex-X-Man—series that was then up and running, Stainless Steve wastes no time dipping into their rogues’ gallery and pulls forth the Brotherhood of [Evil] Mutants.  In a much more far-reaching development, he adds to Hank’s supporting cast Air Force Captain Buzz Baxter and his wife, Pat (the star of Marvel’s romance/comedy Patsy Walker from 1945 to ’65 and, if you can believe it, the future Hellcat), and even plants another seed with a mysterious female from his past.  Since I wasn’t terribly familiar with Sutton before reading this strip, and Giacoia is now its third inker, I don’t really have a handle on Tom’s style, but that penultimate full-page shot is a total knockout.

Joe Tura: Joe: I almost feel sorry for Mastermind at the end of this issue, as he’s left groveling in the rain, his mind reeling from his powers backfiring. That’s “almost”, because I never really likes that snarmy, nasty rat fink. It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come years later with the Hellfire Club, but let’s not go there quite yet. A solid issue, led by a fine Englehart script that sees Hank evolve slightly to become more “human” in mind and spirit if not in appearance, and sets the groundwork for more fun with some teasing subplots. Nice Sutton art also, but you know my feelings about Mr. Giacoia, who as expected from past posts, I don’t think is the right inker here.

Matthew: This is actually Patsy’s second appearance in the official Marvel Universe:  she and her friendly rival Hedy Wolfe had a cameo at the wedding of Reed and Sue in Fantastic Four Special #3 the same year her eponymous book folded.  Englehart recalled in a Back Issue article on Hellcat by Jonathan Miller (as quoted on Wikipedia) that the cameo “struck my fan’s eye by including her in the Marvel Universe....I thought it would be cool to bring her in as a real character, with things to do.  Part of my ‘training’ as a Marvel writer was writing romance stories and Westerns, but Patsy [Walker] was defunct as a comic by the time I got there....Still, as a fan, I had collected everything Marvel, including [her comic] and Patsy and I knew them as characters....”

Joe: Peeking at Prof. Matthew’s comments, I see Pat/Patsy Baxter is actually Patsy Walker. Not that anyone reading the regular book, and not having read the classic Patsy adventures previously, or recognizing Mrs. Baxter nee Walker, would know that. Personally, I thought she looked familiar but couldn’t remember the Walker name. And forgot all about Hellcat, who I did like a lot when she joined both the Avengers and Defenders. I even had the first issue of the short-lived The Cat, from whom Patsy took her costume eventually. Yay, me!

Scott: A rickety start on the splash page, it looks like a Hanna Barbera cartoon. Mastermind looks a little too close to Dick Dastardly for my taste and, so far, Tom Sutton can't draw a threatening body position for the New Beast. Page 2 got a laugh out of me because I read Mastermind's line as "my untouchable anus." I think I need a vacation. The Blob in his Speedo is an ugly sight. I thought he didn't strip down unless using his powers. I never thought he just walked around like that. Granted, he gets to use them shortly thereafter, but either way…can't…unsee.

Matthew: The lettercol of #15 sheds an even more bizarre light on the story:  “back when Stainless Steve first came to work at Marvel, Galloping Gerry was beginning to formulate his plans for bringing the lady Sif (of Thor fame, natch) to Earth, and giving her a secret identity much like Don Blake’s.  Steve, in a moment of insanity, suggested making her the incarnation of Patsy Walker.  Somehow Gerry couldn’t see any merit in that idea, but Steve rather favored the thought, and held onto it.  Later, when planning out the Beast’s future, he saw a need for colorful supporting characters, and specifically a military man to harass Hank McCoy.  And wasn’t Buzz Baxter, Patsy’s fiancé as of 1964, in the Air Force…?”  (Still no secret i.d. for Sif as of November 1972.)

Scott: The story is okay, but a bit of a comedown from previous issues. The art doesn't quite gel. It looks more like Frank Robbins than Tom Sutton, who really loses something without Syd Shores. The full page panel on p.20 is, again, very cartoonish. Seems as if Dick Dast- I mean Mastermind has his left arm ripped off. A disappointment.

The Avengers 101
"Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow!"
Story by Harlan Ellison
Adaptation/Script by Roy Thomas
Art by Rich Buckler

Leonard Tippit is in the audience of an exhibition chess match between a Russian Champion named Sporadik and a massive super computer called Nimrod. Unknown to the Avengers overseeing the match, Tippit has rigged Nimrod so it causes Sporadik to touch a specific chess piece and send him into a coma. Tippit's form glows and changes as he manifests great power, defeating Avenger after Avenger until he makes his escape. Later, all of the Avengers get the same mental message detailing why Tippit is doing these things: the Watcher has given him the power and mission to kill five specific people who will eventually lead the world into a nuclear holocaust. The Avengers rush to save each one, but they fail and the remaining of the five fall into comas. Finally weakened after the constant battle, Tippit is about to fall before the heroes when the Watcher reappears. It seems that Tippit was the real cause of a future nuclear war and the mission was just a ruse to get the Avengers involved so they could weaken Tippit enough for the Watcher to take him away from Earth, leaving the five victims to recover. The Avengers try to prevent Tippit's abduction, but he willingly sacrifices himself for the good of humanity.
-Scott McIntyre

Scott: Leave it to Harlan Ellison to provide a really excellent Avengers story. This is a great mini-epic with very high stakes and lots of interpersonal angst. Tippit is a tragic hero, someone pressed into "killing" for the greater good. He hates it and his own subconscious sent the message to the team, which made the Watcher's plan work. It's complicated and depends on everyone being where they need to be, like a - wait for it - chess game. A very well done bit of plotting.

Mark: I kvelled with pleasure over seeing Harlan Ellison's name on the cover, but there was also anxiety as his earlier Marvel collaborations were disappointing. One expects a writer of Ellison's eminent rank, even filtered through funny books, to provide a riveting read, and happily "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow" (originally pitched to Hawkman, but rejected by Julie Schwartz as being too morally ambivalent for the Comics Code in 1964) finally delivers. Nebbish accountant Leonard Tippit being tasked by the Watcher to commit five random murders in order to prevent Nuclear Armageddon is a no-win philosophical quandary: what are five lives compared to billions? Yet even as Tippit goes about his grim business, his subconscious summons the Avengers to try and stop him, which the Watcher (again ignoring the non-interference edict) had hoped for all along.

Peter Enfantino: "20 Pages to Bore Dean Pete" would have been a more apt title here. As with the rest of Ellison's work for Marvel, this one leaves me wondering why it's so well-regarded. Too talky in that "I'm a sophisticated kinda SF guy" way. I love how ordinary GP Don Blake has suddenly becomes the world's go-to guy for saving lives. You know, the same lame Donald Blake, M.D. with the waiting room full of dusty skeletons? Seriously, when was the last time he actually prescribed a patient uppers or golfed on a Wednesday like most physicians and how do all these really important people get his name? How does Tony Stark do it? In between battles with Tippit, he manages to whip up another of those one-and-dones called The Mentality Retrogresser. Despite the tongue-lashing Ellison mega-fan Mark is sure to deliver, I'll be the moderate crying out "Contrived!" No complaints about the art though. Buckler is one of my favorite mid-70s Marvel men. He'll reach his zenith (in my mind) on Deathlok. There's a letter from future DC writer/editor Paul Kupperberg on the Assemble page.

Scott: Rich Buckler, I believe, makes his Marvel debut here and he kicks things off by drawing a Thor in a more dramatic pose than anything the Buscema boys had done. His art is quite fine, very dramatic and clean and I look forward to his Fantastic Four issues. Everyone looks like everyone should. I loved Hawkeye's crack about Don Blake listed in the "whatever happened to" section, since without Jane Foster, Blake has become a pointless character. Nimrod, as a name, made me chuckle. At the time, it wasn't a synonym for "idiot." It isn't used in that fashion as much today either, but it sticks in the memory. Very nicely done all around.

Joe: Buckler had a great run of FF, and was one of my more well-liked artists as a young 'un. Didn't know he debuted here, or that Harlan Ellison came up with a Nimrod character long before the Nimrod Sentinel created by Claremont & Romita Jr. terrorized the X-Men circa 1985. See, it's good to pay attention in class!

Matthew: This issue marks the Marvel debut of penciler Rich “Swash” Buckler, who with several DC credits under his belt begins a brief stint—inked here by Dan Adkins—that lasts until #108.  Roy adapted and scripted a plot by Harlan Ellison, as he did in #88 and Incredible Hulk #140; per the lettercol in #105, the story had been rejected by “a rival comic book editor”—who deemed it “too sophisticated” for comic-readers—so Harlan copyrighted it, planning to novelize it, yet was sufficiently pleased with Marvel’s handling of the crossover that he offered it to them.  At the risk of seeming unsophisticated, I thought the story was average, but as with the original Star Trek, I’m just thrilled at the involvement of an established SF/fantasy author such as Harlan.

Mark: Rich Buckler's (who'd later co-create Deathlok and channel King Kirby for an epic run on the FF) first-time-for-Marvel pencils are uneven but largely effective, signaling the arrival of a rising talent. The story leaves unanswered questions: from where did Leonard's untapped, almost godlike power originate and how did his five victims spontaneously resurrect (as Hawkeye's final panel comment suggests)? No matter. Tippit's willingness to accept, no, outright demand  exile to whatever "outside space and time" limbo the Watcher exiled him to, for a little man to finally matter and, in doing so, save a world, is a poignant, powerful ending. Marvel finally does Ellison up right, and all involved can take a bow.

Creatures on the Loose 18
"Wasteland - On a Weirdling World"
Story by George Alec Effinger and Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru and Sam Grainger

The monstrous Phra dives down to his underwater lair with Gullivar and Chak the Wing-Man in his clutches.  Gullivar dreamily recalls golden Heru and his past exploits, awakening to find himself strapped to a lab table.  Chak is a willing victim because he believes Phra to be a living god.  Gullivar scoffs at this and breaks both their shackles, pointedly quoting the Golden Rule in defiance of Chak’s false Phra-worship: “...You’ve gotta ‘Do unto others’--!”  Gullivar earns Chak’s trust and the two slip past a sleeping Phra.  Chak concedes that Phra is a fraud god and reveals himself to be a near-human and flightless mutated wingman.  In the data machine room, Gullivar screens centuries of newsreels chronicling the planet’s history – their Golden Age; the disasters that ended it; the Golden Race’s exodus; the rise of the Technics Guild who enforced the Golden Men’s exile; the Great Migration of the Golden; their generational evolutionary adaptations, some into beasts and others who half-remembered justice.  Phra interrupts this history lesson and lunges at Gullivar, but Chak rushes to the aid of his newfound friend.  Together they escape into the icy waters that brought them here, propelled to the surface by shock waves from an explosion caused by their Phra fight.  The duo emerge at a polar cap wasteland where the long-ago dead repose.  Having finished their journey down the river, the departed are entombed in ice as far as the eye can see.  Gullivar shakes his fist at Lu-Pov for bringing him a billion years to a past where the earth he knew does not yet exist.  An uncharacteristically despondent Gullivar walks away from it all, telling Chak: “You’ve lost a god...but me...I’ve very much more...!”  -Gilbert Colon

Gilbert Colon: Issue #18 continues the novel’s first-person narration, but replaces “Freely adapted from” with “Series inspired by the novel” in the credits, perhaps heralding a jumping off point for the series.  Douglas Menville confirms in Classics of Fantastic Literature; or, Les Épines Noires: Selected Review Essays (written with Robert Reginald), “The Marvel writers and artists played fast and loose with the original storyline, as might be expected...”  Roy Thomas passes the torch to science fiction novelist George Effinger, here teamed with Gerry Conway, for the remainder of the run while still retaining “an historical helping hand by” credit.  (Effinger’s work on Marvel’s John Carter-esque Gullivar Jones signals his future foray to the War-Planet; his 1996 short story “Mars: The Home Front,” from the anthology War of the Worlds: Global Dispatches, injects Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Warlord of Barsoom into H. G. Wells’ novel.)

Scott: Well, I think this one is a lost cause. Gullivar Jones could have been a fantastic series if done right, but this feels incredibly slapdash and has since day one. They take no time to explore this world beyond anything action-oriented. Plenty of fights, monsters and pretty pictures, but nothing for me to root for. The hero is little more than the standard iron-jawed, wise-cracking lifetime member of Gold's Gym. Ross Andru is no improvement over Gil Kane and unless someone can tell me "the best is yet to come," this is a not a keeper.

Gilbert: After a bumpy second issue, #18 is back on track, the vast improvement largely owing to Gullivar having another character (Chak) to interact with.  In #17 Gullivar was completely solo, his running monologue simply a self-narration merely designed to give the poor uncredited letterer something to do.  This time around there is more depth.  The theme of disenchantment runs through the story – Chak forsaking Phra, and Gullivar questioning Lu-Pov’s wisdom.  The exposition revealing more about life on Mars tantalizes us with more Martian myth-making, and again there are the allusions to classical mythology.  Phra is the cyclops Polyphemus that Odysseus’ party must pass, and Chak, instead of blinding him with a burning stake, dives feet-first into the monster’s eye.  Ross Andru and Sam Grainger take over from Gil Kane on art and maintain Kane’s Buster Crabbe visualization, fitting since Gullivar cuts water nearly as much as that swim champ-turned-actor.  They also pose Gullivar, his Flash Gordon can-do optimism put to the test, in a Charlton Heston “Damn you!” panel as he rails against Lu-Pov, deepening the Vietnam-era disillusion that, it should be noted, seems alien to the romping, tromping spirit of Edwin L. Arnold’s Victorian-era Gully (but perhaps not to Arnold’s Phra the Phoenician).

Gilbert: Included in this issue are two reprints.  In “Under the Knife”(Adventures into Terror #11), a dying soldier, still on the operating table, takes a fearful journey down the river Styx to meet his Fate, and Chinese Red Army forces occupying Tibet meet a karmic comeuppance in the Steve Ditko-illustrated “What Lurks in the Mountain?” (Tales of Suspense #17).

Captain America and the Falcon 151
"Panic on Park Avenue"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Sal Buscema and Vince Colletta

Steve Rogers is walking the night streets, brooding over his crummy life while Mr. Hyde and the Scorpion lie in wait until he gets closer…and then attack! Steve, however, kicks their asses pretty quickly and takes off to protect his identity. That's when we learn the villains were trying to get at Sharon through Steve in order to "get back at SHIELD." The Falcon returns to Harlem and gets the "Uncle Tom" business from "Brother Michel" and then Leila. Disgusted, he goes home and finds Cap there waiting. Cap is upset because both Hyde and the Scorpion were apparently killed a few months earlier in Daredevil's mag, but were actually android duplicates of both men. Scorpy and Hyde escaped from their cryogenic tubes with Scorpy assuming it was SHIELD that held them captive, hence his need for revenge. As Hyde and Scorpy approach Sharon's apartment, Cap and the Falcon arrive and there's a huge battle, ending as Hyde captures and threatens the life of Sharon unless the heroes stand down. Hyde and Scorpy take off with Sharon, telling Cap they'll contact him later with instructions. At that point, Nick Fury arrives and opens his fat mouth, resulting in Cap decking Fury with a punch in the cigar.  -Scott McIntyre  

Scott: Actually…not bad. Not bad at all. This finally clears up what is, hopefully, the last of the plot threads of the failed Mr. Kline story and gets Cap and the Falcon involved on a personal level. Is it me, or did that one picture of Mr. Kline look more threatening and interesting than all of the pages spent on him put together? For a change, everyone seems properly motivated and the Scorpion's assumption that it was SHIELD behind their captivity is an understandable mistake.

Peter: I may have mentioned already (and I may have, in my advanced state of senility, mentioned otherwise) but this was the very first issue of Cap I bought off the newsstand (Thrifty Drug in San Jose, to be exact) and I must say the cover still gives me those chills up my spine. It was The Scorpion that did it. I'd never seen the character before, being a new MZ, but something about him magnetized my two dimes. Forty years later he doesn't disappoint. Best Cap story in years (probably by default, but still...). A series of panels towards the end of the first chapter of this two-parter, showing the realization on the face of The Scorpion that The Falcon may not be the pushover once imagined, is priceless. Leila's gradual shedding of the Angela Davis suit is refreshing as well. Pretty soon I hope to be looking upon her as an attractive, intelligent woman rather than the poster girl for America's Most Wanted. The only false note here is Sharon Carter, Agentess of SHIELD, crying out in horror and pert near fainting in the arms of Mr. Hyde. Not my Agent 13.

Matthew: When I learned that this time out, Our Pal Sal was inked by Colletta, I was all set with a snarky quip about how Vince would probably do less damage here than he has to big brother John’s pencils over in Thor.  But as a big believer in credit where it’s due, I’ve got to admit he did a fine job, facilitating rather than obscuring the younger Buscema’s style.  While we’re on the subject of pleasant surprises, as much as I disliked the whole Kline/Assassin fiasco, whose unpopularity reportedly threatened the very existence of Daredevil and Iron Man, I really enjoyed the extended flashback with which Gerry tied up the remaining loose ends to explain the android duplication of Hyde and the Scorpion, and their misplaced vendetta against S.H.I.E.L.D.

Scott: Falcon's issues with "his people" are also an interesting twist, showing some of them unappreciative of what he does for them. Finally, he's not a total sucker and takes off when Leila gives him lip. When Cap asks for a friend, lo and behold, Sam is right there. For the first time in months, I felt like these two guys actually like each other. This issue was such an improvement, I had to double check that Gerry Conway was the guy behind the words instead of someone like Steve Englehart. Very well done, Ger. Sal Buscema's pencils work well with Vince Coletta's inks. Nice to see this title can still deliver the goods. Considering the months of crap preceding it, this was a winner by default.

Daredevil 89
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Bound by his billy club line to one of the Purple Man’s helicopters, Daredevil works his way up to the craft, rendering the two Kilgrave sidekicks helpless, then dives clear of the helicopter as it crashes into San Francisco Bay. Said villain watches the news run the story of his men’s demise, but is more intrigued by the mention of Electro, still on the loose. Figuring a partnership could be what’s needed to ensure DD’s demise, he sends his henchman Renaud to find and gather Electro. Natasha meanwhile, converses with old friend (?) Danny French, who seems more interested in taking up romantically than discussing the mysterious Project Four they once worked on together. She returns home to Matt and Ivan, too tired to talk much, but Matt makes sure she knows that her problems are his. She pretends to head off to rest, but sneaks out to find Danny again. DD of course follows, catching up to her, and good thing… Renaud gave Electro the news, and he’s made short work finding the victim of his new partnership. Matt knows Kilgrave is pulling the strings, and leaves the Widow to take care of Electro while he lassoes the Purple Man’s ship that brought the voltage man here. Cognisant of his recent failure, with nose plugs intact to ward off any mind-numbing purple mist, he attacks with a fury that takes Kilgrave by surprise, and gains a rather quick victory. Smashing some of the ships controls he dives clear, leaving captain Kilgrave to go down with his ship. DD finds Natasha had no trouble handling Electro, positioning him close to an antenna that sends lightning his way—a taste of his own medicine! If only the other questions in their life could be so easily solved… -Jim Barwise

Jim: Neither Electro or Kilgrave (“Killy”) seem to have the smarts that should make guys with their powers almost unbeatable, thus ensuring their defeat at the more driven and tortured souls Matt and Natasha are currently wrestling with. I’m not sure what Killy’s gal Lucille sees in him; I wonder if she plays any part in future plans? The angst DD and the Widow have going on at least has some real substance, unlike the Karen Page ordeal that dragged on for so long. Curious about this Larry Cranston fellow, and I agree with Professor Scott that Natasha is looking great under Gene Colan’s pencils. I’m not sure I would have picked Scarlett Johansson to play the part in The Avengers films, but I did think she played the role well.

Mark: Schizophrenic reaction to this one: Gene Colan's action scenes are great, as when a fighting-mad DD takes down a 'copter in the open sequence and Killgrave's hovercraft crashes so spectacularly that even the sound effects shatter near the conclusion (hopefully delivering "the master of the purple mist" to well-deserved Bad Villain oblivion), but I wasn't emotionally invested in the punch-ups at all, although it was nice to see 'Tasha take down Electro on her own, courtesy of the on-the-nose Acme Lightning Rod billboard.

"Three issues since I had a shower..."
Matthew: As with the top half of this Killgrave two-parter, I’m finding Gerry’s new milieu more satisfying than the story itself is.  The brevity of Electro’s reappearance is a double-edged sword:  it spares us a longer look at his laughable new headgear (mercifully, albeit inaccurately, replaced by his original costume on the cover), but it also gives short shrift to the Widow’s fighting abilities, which is one thing we don’t need as Matt and Natasha try to solidify their new personal and professional partnership.  This being a comic book, I’m fairly confident that “Killy” (Is it funny that both his female consort and DD use the same nickname for him?) isn’t actually dead, although that exit was pretty spectacularly drawn by Gene and Tom, whether final or not.

Scott: Like last issue, Killgrave is nothing much, but Gene Colan's action scenes are fantastic. Nice to see Electro's clown suit again. I needed the laugh today. He makes up for it with some wonderful depictions of Natasha. The plot is a lot of nothing and I can't get over Electro's headgear. We're dragging this Danny mystery well past its shelf life for my taste.

Mark: Like Prof Matthew, I'm enjoying the new San Francisco setting, and it's the sub-plot/back story elements that work here, as Gerry Conway's dialogue and characterization continue to improve. DD and the Widow's friends-without-full-benefits relationship intrigues, as does Matt's new gig with a high powered law firm. Unlike Prof Scott, the Danny French mystery from Natasha's past is holding my interest, but the biggest question remains Matt's new Carrot Top hair, which has slowly morphed from its normal brown over the past few months, perhaps setting up The Insidious Attack of the Gingers? Hey, it'd have to be better than Killgrave.

Joe: Is it because they're kinda sorta neighbors that DD shares so many villains with Spidey? Can't see any other reason Electro would be in a DD book, unless he's here just to generate some buzz. (Cue rimshot!)

Fantastic Four 124
"The Return of the Monster"
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Flying back to HQ after the Galactus/Silver Surfer adventure, an exhausted Reed loses consciousness and falls out, heading for the ground! The torch flies after him and manages to bring him to a safe landing, while Sue shows her invisibility powers include manipulating the crafts controls for a safe landing. Rushing Reed to the hospital, it appears their fearless leader is suffering from complete exhaustion, but the doctor wants to keep him there for some tests to be sure. While Sue waits anxiously, Ben and Johnny look around the hospital; more than one person has reported seeing a monster, but no one has taken them too seriously. When a powerful blow stuns Ben from behind, and Sue is gagged with a chloroform rag and carried away, it appears the rumors are true… The chaos resulting from the now visible creature as it escapes with Sue (and some medical supplies) catches Johnny’s attention, and he sets out in pursuit. He follows the creature as far as the park lake, but a tree fired at him like a missile gives it enough time to escape. Hospital tests confirm the exhaustion diagnosis, but Reed overhears about Sue’s kidnapping. He tries to check himself out, but is too wiped, and passes out again. In Reed-like fashion, the Torch and Thing use the equipment at the Baxter Building to help them identify the villain in question, having seen him only briefly. Verdict: the so-called Creature from the Lost Lagoon. Sue awakens in an underground cavern with the creature nearby. She turns invisible, making the creature think she has escaped. He runs off to find her, and Sue moves a boulder, thinking it blocks another path out. Instead water pours in, as she realizes she is moments away from drowning.     -Jim Barwise

Jim: I don’t know if I enjoyed this one just because it was so down (and under) to Earth after the last cosmic story, but I found it a lot of fun. The highly unlikely timing of Reed’s fainting was almost funny if it wasn’t so serious. Sue really took control, landing the craft, getting them through the crowds to the hospital, and fooling our monster friend to plan her escape. Funny how she moved a boulder with a stick that held back that much water pressure; every other time it was her invisibility powers that saved the day. How did our Lagoon friend know the F.F. would turn up in the hospital, or was the kidnapping a random one? Something about the art had a slightly familiar feel about it; I realize what I was recalling was the few issues of Journey Into Mystery that Joe Sinnott drew back in the early Thor days. Only occasionally, but funny the feeling came through at all. Can’t say I like the flaming hair much either, maybe I’m just jealous of Torchy’s mop.

Revealed! The primary reason health insurance is so expensive in America!

Scott: Whoa, what the hell is going on with The Torch's face? Out of nowhere, it was decided to keep his "Johnny" face and hair as is, just make them "flamey." It. Looks. Ridiculous.  I get that they wanted him to look like a "man on fire" (have I used up my quotes quota yet?), but it fails miserably. If they really wanted to go for the "man aflame" look, then they should have drawn him rolling on the ground and holding his face while screaming. Really bad call.

Mark: “The Return of the Monster” is an odd read, full of odd, if not terribly interesting, questions. After Reed (shagged-out to the point of sudden & complete collapse, after the arduous task of reprogramming Galactus' ship last ish) jams the controls of the Fantasti-Car while tumbling out of same, his partners use their unique powers to safely land the F-Car. But mightn't the debris of flaming church spires and exploded water towers cause collateral damage? Thank goodness for all the wide open spaces in NYC. At the hospital why does one citizen not recognize the Thing, another not know that Sue "Storm" has been married for seven years? Must be the FF's ultra-low profile.

Matthew:  “The pressure of other duties (including presiding over all the way-out new titles we plan to toss atcha in the months to come) has forced Our Leader’s more-or-less permanent retirement as scripter of the F.F.,” says the lettercol.  Perhaps it’s just as well, given this issue’s oddities, e.g., Reed remains zonked out when placed in the high-tech Procrustean bed that I’m sure every hospital has handy, but snaps out of it the second they say Sue’s in danger.  And what’s with Johnny’s flaming mop-top?  We’re told Roy takes over next issue, scripting Stan’s plot, but there must have been a change of plans, since Roy’s name is nowhere to be seen, and when it does appear in #126, he’s adapting a rather different Lee plot, i.e., the group’s origin.

Scott: The issue kicks off well, with Reed passing out and toppling from the Fantasti-Car, but 5 pages
later it's "exhaustion?" Bo-RING! And how does Ben fix a hole by pulling the ends together? He is magically creating more wall to keep the other sides from ripping out? If not, he just made a relatively easy to repair hole a much larger job to fix. Then we get the treat of Crappy Torch flaming on inside the hospital and pissing off a doctor who reads him the riot act. You notice that only criminals are afraid of the Human Torch? I guess it's pretty bold to make one of your headlining heroes a total douche, but it makes for an unlikable character. Johnny is an a-hole and later in his life, when ex-girlfriends break his heart, I won't give a crap because of the groundwork laid out here. Well done, Stan! We finally get to see the monster about halfway through the book, but the stalling doesn't end at his reveal (which, considering the cover, could not have been a shocker back then). This should have been a single issue story, but it feels very much padded. Still, it's not complex or completely out of control like previous issues.

Mark: Why does Stan call a hospital lab a "private testing complex," and why does it come complete with a hi-tech rack? "Dr. de Sade to the private testing complex, stat!" Why the sudden change in Johnny’s appearance, now showing flaming, flowing hair (Unlike Prof Scott, I kinda like the effect, which begs the question: why has he always appeared bald when aflame?) Why doesn’t Sue form a force field bubble to preserve precious air after she unwittingly floods the Monster's underground chamber? Why’d they sub in an old Kirby panel of the Thing (P. 19, panel 1)? Why did the space-faring Creature From the Black, er, Lost Lagoon return to earth and invade a hospital? And mostly importantly, why must I review such drivel? Oh, hopes of one day reclaiming my revoked MU parking space.

Peter: My colleagues are all correct: this is one hell of a dopey issue. Flaming hair; quick-fix holes in the wall; the amazing amount of damage done (yet again) to the structures of New York; the Torch's asinine fly-over in the hospital; etc. Add to that the incredibly detailed "visi-file" that Johnny looks through to find the bad guy they're dealing with. Ben comments that it's no wonder they didn't recognize the monster as he was always in the shadows and they only got a glance at him. It's lucky then that there was a cameraman around to snap the action shot featured in the rogues' gallery. Having said all that, this issue has just the right amount of action, tension, pathos, suspense, and humor to excite any ten year-old Marvel Zombie and sometimes that's all you need.

The Incredible Hulk 153
"The World, My Jury!"
Story by Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas
Art by Dick Ayers, Herb Trimpe, and John Severin

As he busts out of the airplane that has taken him to New York to stand trial, the Hulk encounters the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and Daredevil. The heroes fight with the Hulk, trying to subdue him, but it isn't until Reed Richards shoots the green goliath with his new Nega-Gamma gun that they are able to capture him. Richards created the gun  to turn the Hulk back into Bruce Banner except it still has a few kinks. As the monster's lawyer, Matt Murdock more than has his work cut out for him. Wearing shackles created by Tony Stark himself, the Hulk stands trial for being a menace and a threat to society. Even the mighty Avengers show up to give him their support. Convincing the Judge that it would only be fair to allow Bruce Banner to speak in his own defense, Reed Richards is allowed to shoot him again with the Nega-Gun. The contraption fails again as it gives the Hulk a new burst of strength that allows him to break his shackles and escape. Leaping through the air, the Hulk once again weakens. He passes out after crashing through a building in the Bronx, leaving him buried underneath a pile of rubble. -Tom McMillion

Matthew: There’s an interesting mix of credits here:  the script is attributed to Gary Friedrich and “extra dialogue” to Roy, while both Ayers and Trimpe are listed as pencilers, with inks by John Severin.  The silliness of trying the Hulk in the first place would almost seem to preclude any serious criticism of the story, and by the time the judge actually used the phrase “grand-standing monkeyshines” (let’s hope that wasn’t one of Roy’s lines), I was waiting for the Hyper-Chicken, that Foghorn Leghorn-like lawyer from Futurama, to show up.  Artwise, with Severin running roughshod over their pencils, such as they were, it didn’t seem worth trying to distinguish Dick from Herb; overall, “distinguish” isn’t a word I would associate with this circus.

Scott: Not as bad as last issue, but far from great. The art underwhelms again, but at least more Trimpe emerges than Ayers. Still, neither can draw the Thing or Spider-Man particularly well and Sue Richards looks particularly off model. Peter Parker's excuse for running off is more lame than usual and all we get for it is a two-panel "just to have Spider-Man here" sequence that doesn't make the hot water he would be in with Jameson worth it. Parker might as well have just stayed where he was and made some money. Is Peter Parker the stupidest smart guy in comics?

Tom McMillion: Meh. The guest-stars kept this from becoming totally horrible though it was still nothing to write home about.

Scott: The prosecutor is way over the top and very hard to take. His banter with Murdock would have them both up on contempt charges. A "holy crap, shut UP!" from the judge at the very least. However, the saving of the Hulk by Reed Richards is inspired. The idea of the trial is not as poorly executed as the previous issue had me scared over. However, there's still a way to go before I can call this series "good" again.

Joe: Scott, you are especially curmudgeonly this week! But in an enjoyable kinda way...

The Invincible Iron Man 48
"The Fury and the Inferno"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by George Tuska and Vince Colletta

Tony calls a midnight meeting at which, as majority stockholder, he retakes total personal control of S.I., demanding that Gilbert and the rest of the board resign, then heads off to inspect their Midwest munitions plant.  Refusing the vengeful Gilbert’s money, Firebrand agrees to destroy the Bay City plant to further his revolutionary anti-establishment ends, and when Tony learns of the attack, he flies into action as Iron Man.  His repulsor rays fuse up in the battle, during which Gilbert plants an explosive charge, only to be trapped by falling debris; with only seconds to spare, Iron Man prevents Firebrand from trying to save him, but after the explosion kills Gilbert, Firebrand is narrowly defeated and reveals that Gilbert was the father he had hated. -Matthew Bradley

Scott: Better. Not great, but better. With Mike Friedrich taking over the writing, there's a feeling of loose ends being tied up. Simon Gilbert is finally dealt with, but the act 3 twist of Firebrand's lineage is contrived at best. At the top of page three, we finally get an answer to a question spoken only in whispers: Tony Stark wears tighty whities under his armor. What drags this down is some truly painful dialog. Marianne: "something foul his way comes -- and I fear for him!" Yikes. Worse, from Tony: "Honey, you'd better hold me -- I feel tears coming --." Oh. My. God.

Tony Stark wears Fruit of the Loom -- or he wears nothing at all!

Matthew: The cover proclaims, “This issue—Shellhead puts it all together!,” and according to the
lettercol, “We’ve cleared the decks the last couple of issues and we feel ol’ Shell-Head’s back on his ‘classic,’ but ‘improved,’ beam.”  It may be a little soon for such sweeping statements, but aside from the fact that they can’t seem to decide whether or not to hyphenate “Shellhead,” I think the advent of “California-import Mike Friedrich” is a major step up; his writing, which will grace this book until #81, is already self-assured and, thus, reassuring to us.  Tuska’s pencils, always strong on action, seem more impervious to Colletta’s inks than most, and it’s interesting that Firebrand’s colors mirror Iron Man’s since he is, in some ways, the Golden Avenger’s antithesis.

Scott: Tony's takeover is nicely done, but the guys on the board are all too cartoonishly drawn (this is George Tuska, so what else is new?). Even though I guess it was necessary to hide his relationship, I still found it funny the Firebrand referred to his father as "fat" while Tuska drew him, well, not fat. Tony must be having a bad day if he can't figure out why Gilbert is so important to Firebrand when the guy keeps calling him "pops." There's still no explanation as to why his mask is so tight that it fits around his mouth, nose and eyes like a second skin. I suppose it could be face paint, but that's just nutty. And why does Iron Man's armor sweat?

Kull the Conqueror 3
“The Death-Dance of Thulsa Doom”
Story by Roy Thomas
Art by Marie & John Severin

Free from the sinister scourge of the Serpent Men, the kingdom of Valusia enjoys peace and prosperity. An emissary of Ka-Nu, Ambassador of the Picts, enters the courtroom with a tiger, a gift for King Kull. The jungle-cat suddenly attacks Thulsa Doom but Kull and Brule slay the beast. Doom retires to his chambers with the royal concubine Shiva who tends to his fast-healing wounds. The mysterious “man of science” enchants Shiva with his stolen gem from the Temple of the Serpent-Men and commands her to enter Kull’s quarters and steal the other remaining Serpent jewel. As the barbarian king broods, Shiva grabs the gem, transforms into a giant red eagle and flies out the window. However, Kull leaps into action, impales the bird and retrieves the magic jewel. Realizing that Thulsa Doom is responsible for the sorcery, Kull confronts his guest, who now has a fearsome skeletal head. The evil wizard reveals that their separate gems have made them invincible but having both jewels imbues power beyond compare. After a host of horrid incantations, Thulsa Doom tricks Kull into giving him the other gem. When Doom unites the Serpent gems, the power is too awesome to control and he is consumed.   -Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn: We continue the story from Monsters on the Prowl #16 from April 1972. As Professor Scott has mentioned, Marvel’s Conan has a “When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk” attitude: there’s no debate or hesitation with the savage Cimmerian. On the other hand, Marvel’s Kull is a brooder. There are at least three pages worth of panels showing the Valusian king pondering, pausing, and practicing for his gig as drummer for Captain Bringdown and the Buzzkills. I glossed over the extended sequence where Thulsa Doom tricks Kull: there’s some nice stuff here, as Doom conjurers a wicked menagerie of imaginary monsters and visions. And I also left out the last couple of pages: in the ironic inferno, Thulsa Doom’s gem was lost but Kull’s survived. After much gazing through castle windows, Kull decides to destroy his own Serpent gem. It seems that King Kull, former barbarian of Atlantis, would rather live in a world where there is a possibility that his head could get lopped off by a battleaxe. Me? I’d cement that sucker to my forehead and change my name to The Vision. One last important personal note: this issue of Kull the Conqueror might have been the first time that master letterer John Costanza was credited by his full name in a Marvel comic. Little victories my friends, little victories.

Joe: I'm with you, Professor Tom. Costanza was the best letterer of the day.

Peter: And is this the first time we get a gander at Thulsa Doom? Roy would resurrect the villain years later when he worked on John Milius' film adaptation of Conan. If I recall correctly, Howard never featured Thulsa in a Conan story.

Marvel Feature 4
The Ant-Man in
"The Incredible Shrinking Doom"
Story by Roy Thomas and Mike Friedrich
Art by Herb Trimpe

 With Jan on the Coast, Hank and student assistant Peter Parker are working on a government investigation of Native American drugs for Dr. Connors when a hood arrives to say that Billy Connors [misidentified as Timmy and Bobby] has been kidnapped, to be traded for the samples.  After a failed attempt to surprise his flunkies, M. Tête reveals his plan to synthesize the drugs, and to force their cooperation, Billy, Peter, and Hank are injected with a deadlier form of rabies, but Billy escapes, and Peter remains as a hostage while Ant-Man goes after him.  Hank and his dog, Orkie, rescue Billy while, unknown to him, Peter frees himself and nabs the thugs as Spider-Man, but despite the antidote, Hank is stuck at mini-size by an interaction with the rabies. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: As with Englehart’s Beast in Amazing Adventures, a new writer (Mike Friedrich) is entrusted with a new strip about an old character—Hank’s first since Namor supplanted him in Tales to Astonish #70, his history recapped in “a jazzy introduction by Roy”—and coincidentally, each lasted for seven issues.  My longstanding affection for Hank doesn’t blind me to the fact that this isn’t the most auspicious start, especially with Trimpe’s clunky art, but if “Mr. Head” & Co. are instantly forgettable and the set-up all too contrived, I can see in retrospect that they’re a means to an end.  And while trapping Hank in his Incredible Shrinking Man mode is intrinsically self-limiting, I’m willing to give Friedrich the benefit of the doubt for now and see where he takes us.

Scott: That was pretty terrible. The art is low level Trimpe (which is like high level Frank Robbins) and since when does Peter Parker hang around as himself, fight bad guys and not sneak off to become Spider-Man? He does finally do this toward the end, but whatever happened to Peter "I can't mention spiders lest they think I'm Spider-Man" Parker who never liked to use his powers in his civvies? Pym has no personality to speak of, which makes these gaffes more pronounced. And jeez, the hilarious non-chalance in which "Goldie" tells Pym about Connors' kidnapped kid is too much. A giant "Oy!" all around for this one.

Peter: Man, that splash looks like The King! This takes me back to the days when I would read Ant-Man only to see if the latest adventure could be more kitschy than the last. Nope, the bloom is off the rose. This is just bad.

John: That's no King, but it's certainly an attempt to make you think of the King, right down to the bizarre over-sized foreground objects. Look at Ant-Man's big hand! Look at his Big Head! Look at his normal sized body. What throws me on the splash page is the giant ant head that somehow looks like it's in front of him and behind him at the same time... I'm still scarred by our early experiences with the little guy, so I don't expect to jump on board this title, either/

Marvel Premiere 3
Dr. Strange in
"While the World Spins Mad!"
Story by Stan Lee and Barry Smith
Art by Barry Smith and Dan Adkins

Walking the dark streets, the magician who lives among men called Dr. Strange, seems oblivious to the rain and people around him. He is so focused on the presence of impending evil he fears that he barely has time to use his magic to stop a truck from hitting him. Retreating into his Earthly residence, he seals himself off from our human domain. Freeing his ectoplasmic spirit form, he seeks the advice of his own master, the Ancient One, but his mentor can only say that his foes “secret is his power, and his power his secret.” In the meantime a swirling mist has encircled his home and a strange ray of light reaches his body before Dr. Strange can return to it. His foe appears to be triumphant, but when Dr. Strange finds his ectoplasmic form can connect physically with his possessed body, he senses the truth, causing the evil one to flee. His home is now in a bizarre alien world, where his own face appears in the clouds and trees, bidding him to surrender, that he is already mad. He uses the all-seeing eye in his amulet to seek the truth from one such face. In reality, he did not escape the traffic accident, and while he was not seriously hurt, his body is in the hospital, and he is speaking senselessly in his delirium. His spirit in this world, Dr. Strange now realizes it was the being known as Nightmare who had the power to cause this madness, and although in his domain, this knowledge gives Dr. Strange the power to defeat him. He learns however, that although the battle is won, the war is yet to come, for a more powerful being, whom Nightmare is forbidden by magic to reveal, lurks on the horizon, to menace Dr. Strange, and humankind anew. He returns to his human body, erasing the memory of what has transpired from the minds of the hospital staff.                 -Jim Barwise

Jim: I’m impressed with the sense of menace that this tale imparts effortlessly and convincingly. The way Strange walks among men, unaware of the worlds he traverses, has a rather Lovecraftian sense of impending, dire mystery. Phrases such as the “Seven Rings of Raggadorr” or the “shades of the shadowy demons” help convince us of the alieness of Dr. Strange’s world, and the breadth of the dangers he must face, unbeknownst to us mortals. I haven’t been too familiar with Barry Smith’s art, but it came across as very fitting for this subject matter. I’m curious to learn more about the Ancient One, as well as whom this mysterious foe is he has to face.

Scott: Barry Smith was certainly busy at this point of his career. Here he is on Doc Strange, who finally has his own feature again, and the splash page is very retro. That alone warms the cockles of me heart. Nightmare is once again scary after years of looking like The Creeper. Even the visuals of Doc's spells look like they were done in the "off-beat Ditko style." Smith's art has always been better suited to Conan and the like, and his work on the Avengers was weird. But Dr. Strange's otherworldliness is a perfect venue for Smith's stylistic quirks. I could enjoy a Barry Smith Dr. Strange series.

Mark: Happy to see Doctor Strange back as a solo act, and Stan delivers a first rate script as the Doc's body is hi-jacked by Nightmare, leading to astral plane warfare while Strange sweats and squirms in a hospital bed after a close encounter with a delivery truck. Barry (Windsor) Smith plotted the yarn and even doubters like Prof Scott agree Barry's art is a perfect fit for the phantasmagorical, evoking Ditko without aping him. The Doc imprisoned-in-the-trees images were particularly fine, as was Nightmare and his demonic steed. A welcome return of one of my favorite characters.

Matthew: The next step in Dr. Strange’s rehabilitation was this twelve-issue solo strip, launched with a script by Smilin’ Stan.  Per the lettercol, “Ever since [his] triumphal return in the pages of Marvel Feature #1…we’ve been inundated with mail and missives demanding the mystic master’s resurgence in a series all his own!”  They note that Roy will take over (albeit briefly) next issue, “But Our Leader, who after all created the good doctor with the help of Steve Ditko back in 1963, wanted to kick off the initial epic himself…”  Plot and pencils are by Roy’s Conan colleague, Barry Smith, with inks by Doc vet Dan Adkins, and the team is firing on all cylinders, leaving Doc with a mystery to solve, and Roy et alia to take a new direction next time.

Mark: Want to know why Stan Lee is known – among many other things – as a credit-grabber? MP #3's letter page, as noted by Prof Matthew, says "...Our Leader, who after all created the good doctor with the help of Steve Ditko  (italics added) back in 1963..." Huh. Sounds like Ole Smiley had this killer idea burning in his brain, wandered out into the bullpen and grabbed the first artist within reach, doesn't it? Yet in a letter to The Comic Reader, Feb. 1963, Stan wrote, "We have a new character in the works for Strange Tales...Steve Ditko is gonna draw him. It has sort of a black magic theme...'Twas Steve's idea." Sure sounds like Ditko created the Doc, with help from Lee.

The Amazing Spider-Man 110
"The Birth of... The Gibbon!
Story by Stan Lee
Art by John Romita

While bemoaning the fact that Flash might be putting the moves on Gwen, Spidey also notices he didn’t set his camera for pics of Dr. Strange in action—no pics, no pay! Angrily throwing the camera off a roof, he realizes he needs it, but misses snagging it with his webbing. Good thing acrobatic and simian-esque Martin Blank is there to nab it for him, and the usually dour Spidey even gives the big guy a little pep talk. Blank’s origin finds him an agile adopted kid that was hated by everyone in school until he was older and released. Picking up a job in the circus complete with monkey suit, he quickly takes off because he can’t stand people laughing at him. Spidey nabs his clothes from the web dummy [yay!!!] and heads to his apartment, battered, bruised and bushed. Gwen is there to nurse him and berate sweet Aunt May for being too sweet and clingy but Peter passes out and has nightmares about Flash and Gwen. 12 hours later, Peter awakes to his worried roomie Harry, but takes off to find Aunt May when she doesn’t pick up the phone—only his web-swinging is interrupted by Martin Blank, now dressed as The Gibbon, who offers to become Spidey’s partner! As the wall-crawler laughs this off, and swings away, Blank goes ape—with an evil villain in the shadows who promises to use Blank to kill Spider-Man!---
-Joe Tura

Joe: I must have had the Marvel Tales reprint of this issue, because while the cover doesn’t ring a bell with the old memory banks, I remember the Martin Blank character vividly. You know, the Martin Blank who is also “one of the greatest new SUPER STARS in the Mighty Marvel Universe!” Sheesh, that’s one of the biggest splash page stretches ever, to say the least. While big Marty is not the most sympathetic of characters—more like a Sad Sack without the army uniform and the endless peeling of potatoes—you have to feel sorry for little Marty, though. Mostly because the other kids are realistically portrayed as cruel and nasty to him, really for no reason other than he likes to jump and climb on stuff. Jealous hooligans! Even when he gets the job at the circus, one rotten kid says “Ma! I want peanuts for the Monkey Man!” Hey, stupid kid—monkeys don’t eat peanuts, elephants do. Now sit down and clam up, ya stinkin’ brat! (I really do like kids, honest! Just not nasty ones.) Even an agitated and distracted Spidey tells him “Now go on back to Sesame Street, willya?” Oh, Marty…will you ever win?

Mark: Like esteemed Prof Joe in last week's pulse-pounding MU, I also dreaded the coming of the Gibbon. I had zero memory of the character, but he certainly sounds like a second-rate sadsack, a bad joke dredged from the bottom of Stan's reject file before he heads to semi-retirement in the land of sunshine and bionic boobies. But rather than being a "Blank" slate, mixed-up Martin is a compelling misfit, almost a homely mirror image of Peter, without the smarts or support of a loving aunt and uncle. And our Mister Parker doesn't help, going into full-blown a-hole mode (complete with great "Hoo Hoo Ha Ha" laugh-out-loud lettering) when Martin wants to team-up. It's a great scene, showing PP at his most callow and self-absorbed, just like any other 20 year old twit, and I applaud Stan for gutsy, real-life characterization that makes Marvel's top hero look like a heel.

Matthew: The Gibbon is one of those dudes it’s fun to make fun of, especially when he’s introduced as “one of the greatest new super stars in the mighty Marvel Universe!”  In his last Spidey story before Gerry begins his celebrated three-year run, Stan actually establishes the guy with a pretty decent backstory, and it practically goes without saying that Jazzy Johnny’s artwork is excellent, but come on; the name alone just makes me laugh.  This issue is mostly buildup to Gerry’s conclusion (“Featuring the shocking return of the super-villain you have most requested!”), what with Martin Blank’s past and Peter Parker’s present, yet as usual, his standout supporting cast and subplots help keep us entertained, and Gwen is fiercely devoted to him here.

Joe: Yay! The Web Dummy survived, taking great care of Spidey’s clothes like a good buddy would! But wait, doesn’t the web fluid disintegrate after an hour? Am I remembering that wrong? (No, I’m not going to google it….) Did all the action last ish with Dr. Strange happen in less than an hour? Nah, let’s just chalk it up to continuity error. All in all, a good issue that moves quite rapidly, even through the soap opera stuff with Gwen sticking up for her man (good for Peter, because as bitchy as Gwen can be she is kinda hot), aided by the always awesome Romita action scenes. I really don’t think there’s anyone out there right now (meaning in July 1972) who draws a better donnybrook than JR, Sr. The last panel promises “the shocking return of the super-villain you have most requested!” But skipping ahead to next week’s lesson plan, I’m shrugging my shoulders to be honest, even though it makes sense for helping the Gibbon, and if you stop to think isn’t really a shock.

Scott: Martin is a pathetic soul and weird looking. He seems more of a Gene Colan creation than a Romita character. And, in true Stan Style, this boring non-entity is named…Blank. What really made me roll the old eyes was Spidey's initial reaction to seeing Marty in costume: "A talking gibbon?!" A gibbon? Not monkey, or ape, or even - and this is stretching it - simian? Who the f**k says "gibbon?" The worst part is, the guy is played up as being so dull and pathetic that he's never actually interesting to me as a reader. On the bright side, he's back next issue. Yay.

Peter: I like The Gibbon enough but the origin is a bit Mole Man-ish, isn't it? Our friendly... deserves a smack in the kisser for being an ass to the mentally-challenged circus performer. I almost expected this segment to be in The Gibbon's head (ala Carrie's "They're all gonna laugh at you!") but, nope, Peter's having a right 'ol guffaw at the expense of poor Martin Blank. Meanwhile, the soap is growing stale. How many times will Peter hear just the tail end of a conversation between Flash and Gwen? And don't look now but that mysterious note from flustered May will set up one of the silliest Spidey story lines of all time. How about that Gwen? "May, will you stop treating Peter like a kid?" and then three panels later, "Oops, I didn't know her feeble cardiac arrest prone heart would take offense, Peter!" On the letters page, future Spidey scribe David Michelinie breathes a sigh of relief that Jazzy John is back on art duties.

Joe: Yep, David Michelinie gets another letter published, and I wonder if his future self looked back on these letters pages and said “I was born to write for Spidey!” This time, as the Dean noted, he’s rightly praising the work of the Jazzy One, while also berating the misguided use of the Parker “mask” to throw Smythe off the secret identity trail. Note to Prof. Matthew: Michelinie also says Gil Kane’s work on Warlock is “very nice.” See, there’s some Warlock love!

Scott: The art, again, is drool worthy. There's no inker mentioned, but some panels look like Jim Mooney's hand on the tiller (page 14, panel 3). Gwen never looked better and her tears break even this icy cold heart. The Flash/Gwen misunderstanding remains tiresome and the sooner we get that wrapped up, the better. At the same time, Peter's supporting cast suffered from Harry's stay in rehab, Flash's tour of duty in Viet Nam and Gwen's trip to England, so it's great to have everyone back. Although, now that I think about it, we haven't seen MJ in a little while. Where is that spicy vixen?

Mark: John Romita's art is stellar once again, particularly loved dream-sequence Pete caught in his own web on P. 13. And yeah, the romantic sub-plot has the soap-suds churning at max-load capacity, but then often so does real life, fraught with snatches of over-heard conversations, cast in the worst light of our own insecurities, with unintended pain inflicted on loved ones, with crossed swords generational conflict, for are these not the turbulent, tumultuous days of our... Sheesh! See what happens when you boot me out of the Asgardian treehouse, Dean Peter? What can a poor on-probation Prof do but settle in with some Jiffy-Pop and too much daytime TV?

Sub-Mariner 51
"Armageddon -- At Fifty Fathoms Full!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Bill Everett

Namor and cousin Namorita try to avoid the attack of Byrrah. As they battle in the former Atlantis ruins that are underneath the South Pole, Byrrah inexplicably vanishes. With a brief reprieve from the villain's attack, the heroes explore the city while Namorita recounts her origin. Aboard a vessel in outer space, it is shown that Byrrah was transported there by the alien known as Brother Royale. The two of them have formed an alliance to take over the planet earth. Needing the rich oil resereves that are in the Atlantis city catacombs, Brother Royale equips Byrrah with a belt that will allow him to tranport from place to place in the blink of an eye. The plan is to take control over all the oil on earth so that the human race will surrender. Unbeknownst to Byrrah, Brother Royale's race of people needs the oil to sustain the eggs they use to survive. Namor and Byrrah fight it out as the crab humanoids join in. Believing that Byrrah won't be able to complete the task, a desperate Brother Royale sends in his troops to exterminate everyone. Byrrah orders the crab creatures to attack the aliens and it is an all out war. Subby ends up using dynamite from an old sunken ship to blow up the oil along with the aliens and crab critters. The story ends with Namorita convincing Namor to let Byrrah go free instead of exacting revenge upon him. -Tom McMillion

Scott:  Another Everett masterwork. When Namor shoves his cousin's face into the silt, I actually burst out laughing. "HEY!" Everett's art is wonderfully old fashioned, with extremely pleasant lines. Check out Namorita in the last panel on page 9 (below). She looks almost like a Disney character (actually, she kind of is now). And nobody draws Byrrah like Everett. I can't say enough good things. But wow, isn't being in love with your cousin kind of icky? This concept was mined to hilarious extent in Arrested Development. Hopefully, this schoolgirl crush won't develop anything past that. I will admit, Namorita is cute as a button. This 50's style story actually has a conclusive ending. In all, another fun and beautifully rendered issue.

Tom McMillion: Another typical throw everything in but the kitchen sink issue of Subby that has an overabundence of weirdness going on that takes away from the drama of the story. I'll give it points for the brief aliens versus crab creatures monster mashup. Byrrah always makes for a good protagonist even though he now looks like a mustachioed version of Mer-Man from the He-Man universe.

Nita loosens Byrrrah's belt as the CCA takes a holiday.

Matthew:  After cutting his teeth on the Western debuts Red Wolf and Outlaw Kid, Mike Friedrich is suddenly the man of the moment, not only taking over his signature book, Iron Man, and launching the new Ant-Man strip in Marvel Feature, but also credited as the writer on this “Bill Everett Production.”  I presume that means artist Wild Bill at least had a hand in the plot, a theory that even some of the dialogue (e.g., “My stomach’s flapping like a beached flounder!”) seems to support.  Now two steps removed from the Bronze era, Everett’s Golden-Age verbal and visual style is obviously anachronistic, save for the surprising and welcome presence of the Badoon, but in this context, I applaud it as a change of pace from the book’s post-Thomas slump.

Peter: As much fun as I thought it would be. Bill Everett makes this 51 year-old comic curmudgeon forget all about story lines and reality and just enjoy the atmosphere. Where was Bill hiding while the young'uns came in and changed everything about comic books? He obviously paid no attention to anything that had happened since the mid-1950s and we're the better for it. Like discovering The Beatles had made another Rubber Soul and stashed it in Ringo's basement with a "Do Not Open Until 2013" label on it.

The Mighty Thor 201
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by John Buscema and Jim Mooney

A piece of mystery: Heimdall and his helper, Kamorr the Small, have been sent to Earth on a mission, but what is it? As they dock in New York in a Viking warship, Heimdall makes it appear as a yacht, and them as two suit-clad businessmen. Elsewhere, the struggle for the life or death of Odin continues, as Pluto, even with his axe destroyed by the Norn fates, seems more powerful than ever in his battle with Thor. The Lord of the Netherworld seeks Thor’s surrender by casting the Warriors Three into a limbo of sorts. Karnilla meanwhile, with Odin’s Vizier, watch the All-Father as he teeters between life and death. Aid comes from an unexpected source—Hela, the Death Goddess herself, returns Odin’s life to him, as it is not yet his time. The turn of tides makes Pluto withdraw and depart, to return another day, and Thor and Balder head to Earth.  The tension heightens on Blackworld, as Tana Nile, between dodging attacks, explains to Sif and company the origin of Ego-Prime. The Rigelians had extracted a piece of the planet Ego itself, feeding it energy and taking it this place called Blackworld. What seemed like an initially successful mission grew madly out of proportion, as Ego-Prime grew far beyond a tool that would make the colonization of initially uninhabitable worlds possible. He, or it, has taken on it’s own mission, and the destruction of anyone in his way now seems to be his motive. Just as a nuclear explosion happens, it somehow sends Sif and company to Earth, Ego-prime along with them.  -Jim Barwise

Jim: Pluto is more powerful than ever here, although this battle lacks the compelling nature of his other appearances.  Some good tricks are happening though, such as Hela releasing Odin from her grasp, or Heimdall coming to Earth. I’d never heard of Kamorr before, although the dialogue between them indicates a long relationship. It seems unlikely that Ego the Living Planet would let Tana Nile blast a piece of him off, unless it fits his own purpose.  And Odin hints at future developments for Balder and Karnilla.

Matthew: In this issue, Big John is credited only with layouts, rather than full pencils, and the finished art is by Jim Mooney, but that still allows more Buscema to shine through than do the depredations of Colletta.  When I read the closing credit, “Next:  Chaos!,” I couldn’t help asking myself mischievously just how much more chaotic things could be already, but in all fairness, I found myself more favorably disposed toward this installment than to many of its immediate predecessors.  Sure, lots of stuff is still unsettled, but with the, um, un-death of Odin, the biggest loose end has finally been tied up, and Tana Nile’s transformation of Blackworld forms an interesting variation on the origin of Counter-Earth (as shown in the pages of Marvel Premiere).

Scott: Odin's back, so at least that's out of the way. Notice there's zero mention of Ragnarok from the previous issue. A better than average tale, with some lulls in the action to help the pacing. I still don't see the pressing need to bring back the Rigel Colonizers and I wish Blackworld were a little more interesting. Marvel is full of characters hamstrung by promises to never invade again. And what happened to Colonizer Nile's marriage to the supreme leader? Wasn't that her "heart's desire?" Or did they drop it because it was too stupid and clean a wrap up to that earlier story?

Peter: A whole lot of talk this time out but I was enthralled by the origin of Ego Prime. Tana's cultivation of Blackworld brings to mind the similar evolution of Genesis in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (you might think I'm stretching here to fill my required quota of words but you'd be... well, kinda right) and opens up a huge can of worms for future stories. I'll give this one a B-.

Tomb of Dracula 3
"Who Stalks the Vampire?"
Story by Archie Goodwin
Art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer

Wracked with guilt over the death of his love Jeanie, Frank Drake attempts to kill himself by jumping off a bridge. He is stopped by a giant, mute man named Taj, whom happens to be under the employ of Rachel Van Helsing. Rachel is the great granddaughter of the famous vampire killer. She convinces Frank to join them in their quest to kill Dracula. As this is going on, Clifton Graves gets kicked out of a tavern in a drunken stupor. The evil Dracula finds him and turns him into a slave. Seeking Dracula's original coffin, Clifton goes back to the hotel storage area where he and Frank had previously left it. Once the coffin is found, Dracula sucks the life out of a porter working there. It is discovered that the Count's main reason for seeking his coffin was because of all the gold coins that were stored in it. Frank and his new found vampire hunter friends storm the storage area but Drac and Clifton are able to escape. The cops show up, wanting to arrest the vampire hunting trio since their story sounds too incredulous to explain the dead worker. Luckily, they are able to convince the police to let them check out the morgue where they find that the formerly dead porter has now become a bloodsucking vampire. Taj is able to kill the creature with a stake to the heart. The story ends with Dracula visiting the home of the woman who bought Castle Dracula from Frank Drake. Named Ilsa, she is an older woman who used to be a model, now a strange occult worshiper who wants to strike a deal with the prince of evil.                       -Tom McMillion

Tom McMillion: I'm just about speechless as to how much I am enjoying this series so far. With great storytelling, nice artwork, cool and mysterious characters, and some nice doses of violence mixed with murder, I had to double check to make sure that this came from Marvel. I'm ashamed to admit that I bought almost all the issues of Werewolf by Night  but never once a Dracula comic.

Scott:  It feels like we're getting a little more forward motion here with the introduction of the beautiful Rachel Van Helsing. Frank Drake is a weenie and I don't think that will change. As Clifton Graves becomes Dracula's slave, he starts to resemble Dwight Frye a bit, which is a nice touch. Now that Van Helsing and Drake have the support of Scotland Yard, how long until someone happens to erase that status? It's far too soon in the series to have the police behind them all the way. Or, perhaps, this is a convenience to keep the police from bothering them while they go staking vampires. Gene Colan's usual artistic gifts elevate this from an above average issue to a great read. I like where this is going.

John: I'm having fun with this, too, but I'm wondering if we're going to get the Fugitive syndrome. If our heroes, in pursuit of Dracula, are  going to run into him every month, get thwarted and escape with their lives, only to do it all again next month, I think that's going to wear thin quickly. But it's early yet, so hopefully things don't fall into that sort of formulaic trap.

Marvel Team-Up 3
The Amazing Spider-Man and The Human Torch in
"The Power to Purge!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Ross Andru and Frank Giacoia

 Left alone after a fight with his brother Jacob, Jefferson Bolt sees Morbius floating in the Harlem River and rescues him, only to become his next victim.  Martine Bancroft tells the FF that her transformed fiancé, Michael, had corresponded with Reed and Prof. Hans Jorgenson, so Johnny—having heard about Morbius from Spidey, and knowing the latter takes classes there—heads to ESU, where Peter hopes that Jorgenson, his bio teacher, can explain his flu-like symptoms.  As they all converge on Jorgenson, busily telling his class about Morbius’s vascular theories, Spidey (who believed Morbius dead) and the Torch are alerted by his attack on a drunk in the park, and in the ensuing melee the vampirized Jeff dies saving Jake from Morbius. -Matthew Bradley

Matthew: Spidey is still teamed up with the Torch (which will change next issue), but at least this time they have a new villain, or soon-to-be anti-hero, to face in the form of his blood-drinking foe from the “six-arms” saga of Amazing Spider-Man #100-102.  Conway and especially Andru demonstrate that they are better suited to Spidey than to other strips; Ross’s Thing is laughable in the extreme, as with many a non-FF artist, yet his Morbius is excellent, notably the close-up in page 17, panel 6.  The lettercol’s report that Morbius creators Thomas and Kane will take over next time turns out to be only half correct, with Sugar-Lips beginning the first of two short stints on the book, but in my view, the Living Vampire is in good hands with Gerry, Ross, and inker Frank Giacoia.

Scott: The Torch? Again? The love/hate relationship between Spidey and the Torch is annoying at best, so I'll be happier when they start mixing up the guest stars. Ross Andru tests my patience once again, wasting time on Johnny and Ben fighting over All in the Family. I know little slices of life like pop culture and eating food are "funny" and/or "realistic" but I hate when Andru brings them into the books. Some apparently hot woman comes to see the FF (I say apparently because Martine is supposed to be pretty PHAT but Andru can't quite manage it) and Ben gets an orange stiffy. Did Alicia die or something? Or look, Morbius, another villain I really don't enjoy. Eh, I can't get past the art and the main villain and I'm not even following the story, so you guys can take it from here.

Joe: A huge reason why I loved MTU, besides there being another Spidey book out there for this five and a half year old to enjoy, was stories like this where they brought in actual villains and continued actual story lines instead of the one-offs featuring new, lame-o villains that never popped up again. But as we'll see, the years were not always kind to my beloved MTU, especially when Spidey took the month off. And unlike Prof. Scott, I liked Spidey-Torch team-ups the best, no matter how forced they sometimes felt.

Peter: I'll take a Morbius story any ol' day of the week but I must admit that Ross Andru (who embodies Spider-Man for this 70s MZ) is flat-lining here. I'm hoping that changes once he gets the regular assignment on ASM. Mike Esposito, the inker on most of Andru's DC war stories, is truly missed.

John: These Spidey-Torch tales are far more interesting than Torchy's solo stories of years past, and I'm glad our vampiric pal Michael Morbius returned to the scene so soon. I am looking forward to the time when the MU is overflowing with vampires (not just Drac over in his Tomb and Morby—but the countless victims they appear to turn each issue), and hope that a mass cure isn't spread through the city next issue.


Kid Colt Outlaw #160
Marvel's Greatest Comics #36
Mighty Marvel Western #18
My Love #18
Rawhide Kid #101
Red Wolf #2
The Ringo Kid #15
Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #100 ->
Special Marvel Edition #5
Two-Gun Kid #105
Western Gunfighters #10
Where Monsters Dwell #16

Special Marvel Edition #5 (reprinting "Mission: Capture Adolf Hitler" from Sgt. Fury #9) may not be the nadir of Marvel's attempt to flood the market but it's pretty close to the bull's eye. Publishing reprints of a series that's been running reprints for years (albeit every other issue) seems a little... stupid? Again, Marvel's powers-that-be discovered that it's fabulously cheap to run reprints of old material. They have no one to pay but themselves and the printer. Why not? Meanwhile, over in the Sarge's regular title, a centennial is celebrated. Quite an achievement that, one hundred issues for a war title and all, but it's a hollow victory considering the afore-mentioned reprint status. Meanwhile, over at DC, the quality in the war line only gets better and you'll find no less than four titles with century marks under their holsters. -Peter Enfantino


  1. Professor Flynn, you continue to be a delight. Never have reprints been so fun to read about! All this and a Sergio Leone quote, too--bravo.

    Professor Joe, Giacoia remains an enigma. I do recall welcoming his byline with open arms back in the Silver Age, especially on Kirby, but now he seems to be hit or miss, whether past his prime or simply mismatched with some pencilers (e.g., Kane on that other AMAZING), I dunno. The Cat was on at least her third life (i.e., Tigra and Hellcat) in the Bronze Age alone.

    Sif Secret-I.D. Update: As of March '73, nada.

    "Sporadik"? Is that a joke? Was he merely a sporadikly good chess player? Chee...

    Professor Scott: With you all the way about that one picture of Kline in CA&F being worth a thousand words expended on him in DAREDEVIL and IRON MAN. Upon reflection, it bespeaks what an unholy mess that whole storyline was that I don't think they EVER made it 100% clear in DAREDEVIL that Hyde and the Scorpion were androids. At the very least, I would have no faith whatsoever in a so-called justice system that put the Widow on trial for murder when her "victim" would be revealed upon the most cursory of examinations to be a duplicate.

    Joe, I don't think Scott liked the Hulk's silly trial that much less than I did. He's just a little less tactful about it. :-) I'll take my Warlock love wherever I can find it, and did not know about that letter, missing from MT.

    Since Professor McMillion didn't mention it in his synopsis, I just want to make sure everyone is clear that those SUB-MARINER aliens were the Badoon, who first appeared in SILVER SURFER #2 and were the main antagonists of the original Guardians of the Galaxy (in Earth's future).

  2. I posted this week's MU on Harlan's site and:

    - Thursday, September 12 2013 11:18:0


    A few words on the conception and writing of "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow." (The original cover art of which, hangs in my back hall.)

    An ongoing conundrum for anyone accepting a gig wherein one must construct a LOGICAL plot featuring superhuman characters whose abilities--singly or in a group as exhaustively extensive and multifarious as The Avengers--is that s/he must balance their overwhelming power by constructing either a nemesis or a problem equal or greater. Superman cannot beat up a punk kid with a snotty nose and not look like a bully. He must face the entire massed might of prisoners trapped in the Phantom Zone.

    All in aid of that one indispensible adjunct of viable storytelling:

    "The willing suspension of disbelief" on the part of the reader.

    The element in human common sense that prevents the reader from saying, "This is unbelievable! Crap! Lemme outta here."

    When I plotted "5 Dooms..." I had my choice, of course, of every villain in the Marvel Universe, or I could have cobbled up my own, on a gargantuan scale. But I am quickly bored by the usual Marvel whambamHulksmash option, and so I stood the problem on its ear: create a problem that is cataclysmic, in which the entire fabric of reality, of time, of space, is hanging above the abyss. And then make the agent of that dire aspect a total innocent. A man whose faults are none. Pure and decent and fully deserving not only of the reader's goodwill, but the full heart and need to preserve manifested by The Avengers.

    Poised on the edge, between a rock and a hard place, these foils of action and attack are frozen. They must...but they don't want to. That was the corner into which I painted The Avengers. Character and confusion and dichotomy are the warp and woof of my storytelling creation in that story.

    Now, discuss to your heart's content.

    Yr. Pal, Harlan

  3. Now if we can only get Stan, Roy, and Steve to notice us!

  4. Stan says, "Harlan and Roy helped me with Avengers #101."

    God bless Smiley, I hope he lives forever.


    I was also irked (in re: A #101) by the "world famous greatest doc Don Blake" jazz. Guessing that was Roy the scripter, not Harlan the plotter. Either way, it sucked. I'd been disappointed by other less than Marvelous Ellison adaptations. Here, I loved Leonard Tippet and the Larger Story, icky bits like Don Blake Superstar aside. And I've solved the secret of Leonard's power. It was len's sweat, from gifted, obnoxious writer "Ron Gabriel."

    And Team-Up gets a thumbs up, sans reading it. Just for Archie on Jumbo-Vision.

  5. Marvel Premiere is indeed the first of a great run. Like ToD it seemed to develop quite by accident as the writers change too often for comfort. But from a creative point of view one could argue that this period is kind of a second spring for Marvel. There was an energy there which must have been exciting to witness for the readers back then.

  6. I'm a delight! Yay!

  7. For the first time in two and a half years, I bought a Marvel comic book, Marvel Premiere #3 featuring Doctor Strange.

    It was the cancellation of DS and the X-Men that had seen me drift away from Marvel, so it was fitting that the good doctor brought me back into the fold … up to a point.

    I mentioned in an earlier post that back in the 60s, you could buy your monthly fix of the Marvel Universe (roughly eight titles) for about a dollar. The quality of the books varied from month to month, but back then it didn't seem to matter.

    This time around, I was older, wiser, comic books cost twenty cents, up thirty three percent in a couple of years, and there were a lot more of them. From this point on, I'd pick up on average one or two Marvel books per month, but that was about it. I thumbed through the other Marvel books that happened to be on the newsstand that week, and here are my impressions.

    Fantasitc Four: Six months earlier I'd stumbled upon a copy of Mister Miracle, so I knew Jack had left Marvel. FF #124 was “Kirby lite” with the return of a second rate character I've since learned was originally created as a joke.

    Hulk: Still being pursued by General Ross.

    Captain America: Mr. Hyde and The Scorpion. Yawn. The Cobra must have taken the day off.

    Thor: Pluto, Tana Nile, Ego … just more recycling of the same stuff I'd read years earlier.

    Spider-Man: Romita's art still looked good, but what a tenth rate villain.

    Marvel Premiere: Curiosity got the better of me. DS's first villain was trotted out for the revival, but there was nothing new here either.

    I didn't see any of the books featuring new characters. I probably would've bought Tomb Of Dracula had it been there, but my conclusion at the time was that after watching the Marvel Universe grow from 1963 to 1970, nothing had happened in the two and a half years that I'd skipped. The same old heroes and villains were fighting the same old battles.

    Fortunately, that was about to change.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

    P.S. Mark … thanks for your comments about Lee creating DS “with the help of Steve Ditko.”
    You saved me the trouble.

    P.P.S. Slightly OT: Exactly 50 years ago, on Monday September 16th 1963, the Outer Limits premiered … and our Television sets have never been the same. :)

  8. Since Glenn brought it up, I thought I'd mention for those of you on Facebook, we've started an offshoot of our Outer Limits blog: We Are Controlling Transmission, called The Outer Limits Companion. We'll be celebrating the show's 50th anniversary, and be making some announcements that will sure to be of interest to OL fans.

  9. Sue does look exceptionally lovely in issue #124, even though she returns to her famous victim role. The cliffhanger ending for FF #124 is one of the best ever, as Sue appears to be headed for a watery doom.

  10. This was a fine and important issue of Tomb of Dracula, but it was also the beginning of decline for the title. It also began the standard Drac battle in which the vamp hunters and Drac hurl the same insults and weapons at each other, to no avail, time and again...