Wednesday, February 15, 2012

November 1965: Dr. Strange Meets Eternity! Plus The Sentinels Strike!

Tales of Suspense 71

Iron Man

Our Story

Thinking his friend, gofer, and chauffeur Happy Hogan dead, Iron Man seeks to avenge him by taking down his killer, The Titanium Man, on worldwide television. Once Shellhead uses his reverser ray on the commie sonnavagun, it's just a one-two punch to victory. Happily, Hogan is revealed to be on life support (well, happily in that he ain't dead just yet) and at a nearby hospital. Iron Man skips his victory parade to be with his valet. The (COMMIE ALERT!) Russians cry foul and head home to lick their wounds.

PE: Evidently Tony Stark is a genius but lousy at taking a pulse. He's so worried about Titanium Man's patented "Shatter-Blast Ray" that he doesn't even realize Happy Hogan has been carted away to the hospital right under Shellhead's nose. We don't even know what's ailing our favorite coffee fetcher. All we know is that only one surgeon in the world can save him and luckily the doctor on duty at the hospital knows how to reach him. This is a bizarre little story in that Iron Man defeats Titanium Man early on and the rest of the tale is merely wrap-up. Lots of soap opera pap as usual with Pepper Potts and her on/off love affair with both Tony and Happy.

MB: Once upon a time, when “I.M.” stood for “Iron Man,” rather than “instant messaging,” there was a super hero…ah, skip it. I missed the middle chapter of our little Titanium Trilogy, but the ending is enjoyable, especially with more of that ol’ Heck/Wood magic in the air, and Shellhead certainly hands “the Commie Colossus” a big propaganda defeat. Just as heartening for the reader is the fact that, since there’s nothing like seeing one of your two prospective main squeezes at death’s door to pull a girl off the fence, it seems Happy’s close call may decide Pepper in his favor once and for all, enabling Tony and us to move on with our lives.

JS: I found the fighting between the metal Men to be uninspired artistically, but the rest of the issue looks great. If I had to guess I'd say that Wally Wood's inks are responsible for that.

Captain America

Our Story

The Nazis are about to stuff Celia Rawlings, Captain America, and Bucky into a V-2 missile aimed at Winston Churchill's office but they obviously haven't been keeping tabs on exactly how many lives Cap and Bucky have. A blow to the head awakens Cap in time to thwart his captors' plans for 10 Downing Street but Celia is fatally wounded in the battle. Once the Nazis have been put on ice, Professor Rawlings agrees to reset the missile's target for a Nazi stronghold. After his sister succumbs to her injuries, the professor goes mad and detonates an explosive in Castle Greymoor and the fortress is destroyed. Cap and Bucky just barely escape with their lives.

MB: The Kirby/Sinnott team that I’ve lauded in this month’s FF looks decidedly different when it becomes a Tuska Sandwich, with George’s pencils interpolated over Jack’s layouts, although Joltin’ Joe’s strong line keeps things relatively under control. Tuska’s buck teeth—as distinctive a stylistic trait as Gil Kane’s much-maligned “up the nose” shots—are well in evidence; mind you, if George HAD buck teeth, I wouldn’t make fun of those, because he couldn’t help that, but I mean, come on, in page 8, panel 4, Dr. Rawlings looks like a freakin’ Neanderthal! That said, and aside from Stan’s increasingly annoying faux-German accents, this is a satisfactory climax to the Greymoor Castle three-parter, with a denouement reportedly to follow.

PE: So ends the saga of Castle Greymoor with little fanfare. The art's not very good and Stan seems bored with Cap or at least confused with what to do with him. Next issue begins one of the most beloved storylines in the Captain America canon. I hope it still holds up.

JS: Me too, as this was disappointing all around. To be fair, I watched the Joe Johnston Captain America film between the prior issue and this one, so perhaps I've subconsciously raised the bar as far as my expectations are concerned.

The Amazing Spider-Man 30

Our Story

There's a new cat burglar in town and his victims include J. Jonah Jameson. Enraged that he's been violated and convinced the police won't help, JJJ puts up a $1,000 reward for info leading to The Cat's arrest. Seeing this as a way of getting ahead, The Amazing Spider-Man begins tracking the hoodlum down. Convinced he'll be humiliated if Spidey catches the bad guy and gets the bounty, JJJ contacts Freddy Foswell and orders him to reach out to all his underworld connections to catch the robber before our wall-crawling hero has a chance. In the meantime, Peter Parker suffers a blow when Betty Brant informs him that Ned Leeds has proposed marriage.

PE: The cat burglar storyline is a bit confusing at first. Is the cat burglar that robs JJJ's safe the same "cat" who's masterminding the robbery of Tony Stark's truck? To further confuse things, the burglar acts as though he's a loner rather than a man with a crew and one of the henchmen is pictured talking to his "boss" on the phone. These threads are never tied up (at least they're not in this issue) and leave at least one Professor scratching his balding head. Something that never occurred to me before this issue is that Betty must be at least a few years older than Peter (in fact, Parker probably has not only graduated from high school but also from "jailbait" status). How old is Betty supposed to be? Mid-twenties? In any event, it's a smart choice Stan made to let Betty head down a different romantic path. Yeah, I know. You're thinking, "Gee, Professor, that's easy for you to say now that you're a Monday Morning Quarterback with Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson in the rear view mirror." But take away the fact that I can see the future. If I was a "with it hep cat comic reader" in 1965, I'd be begging Stan to drop the Betty/Peter subplot anyway. There's enough of that romance twaddle over in Iron Man. That's a very effective final panel symbolizing the Amazing gulf between Peter and Betty.

JS: In the panel where Betty tells Peter Ned asked her to marry him, I'd swear her head has twisted all the way around. That's a new trick, even for Ditko.

PE: Seven years later, Roy Thomas would resurrect the "The Claws of the Cat" title for a sadly short-lived series starring a super-powered femme with art chores by some heavy-hitters like Wally Wood, Jim Starlin, and Bill Everett. The female Cat character would later be transformed into Tigra, the Were-woman.

MB: Okay, I have to come right out and say this: J.J.’s “I have the perfect scheme to foil that accursed Web-Spinner—oops! My plan blew up in my face again” routine is wearing decidedly thin. If you have the compensation of a villain like the Scorpion, that’s easier to take, but I’m afraid the Cat Burglar just isn’t cutting it. According to Danny Fingeroth, reprint editor for Marvel Tales, there is an error on pages 3 and 12 of this story, whereby the thieves are supposed to be working for the Master Planner, rather than the Cat; the fact that I have absolutely no memory of the upcoming “famous Master Planner trilogy” doesn’t bode well for him, either...

PE: Ah, that explains it! Thanks for the explanation, Professor Matthew (and Danny Fingeroth). I traveled a bit into the "future" and stole a look at the letters page of #34 to see if any eagle-eyed readers had noticed the boner. Richard Weingard of Castro Valley, Ca calls Stan on the carpet for mixing up too many "bosses" and "cats." Stan blinks and tells Little Dicky that he complains too much but no acceptance of a mistake. The famous "Master Planner trilogy" begins next issue and The Master Planner may not be who we think he is.

Fantastic Four 44
Our Story

Alternately titled “What A Way To Spend A Honeymoon”, our story opens with Ben and Johnny getting bored with Reed and Sue’s domestic bliss (the world’s greatest dishwasher?). Johnny heads to his Corvette Stingray for a spin. A shock wave like an earthquake shakes the ground around him, and Medusa appears, armed with a vacuum gun (as in no air, no flame), having been hiding in the jump seat of Johnny’s car. She orders him to get a move on, before she can be caught by her pursuer: a mysterious being named Gorgon. Shock waves are felt in the Baxter Building, as an unknown person literally climbs their skyscraper home by smashing his feet in to create steps in the walls. Reed gets his hand stomped on when he reaches after said person, and Ben sets off in pursuit up the wall, but not before the mysterious man steals the F.F.’s helicopter. Johnny meanwhile has obliged Medusa, driving her hours' distant to wilderness adjacent to the state university where Reed went to school. Demanding some answers, Johnny is stunned unconscious by Medusa’s vacuum gun. The heat of the torch’s flame awakens a being beneath the surface, no less than Dragon Man, the laboratory-created being whom we saw back in F.F. 35. Initially violent, remembering humans as his enemies, Dragon Man feels differently when he sees Medusa, who reminds him of the kindness shown to him by another female: Sue Storm. The stolen helicopter lands nearby, revealing its thief as Gorgon, the being pursuing Medusa. Dragon Man doesn’t appreciate Medusa being threatened, and steps in, flame breath and all. Medusa escapes in the Corvette, and Dragon man soon follows, lifting the car up with him! Gorgon gets back in the chase with the helicopter. Back at the Baxter Building, Reed is stretching outside, scouting the immediate area, when Dragon Man flies by, grabbing Reed, in turn pulling Ben and Sue in a train across the sky to a deserted building. Gorgon soon arrives, and shows how he, who caused the earlier shock waves, can direct tremendous energy with precision by stomping his powerful feet. He causes the footing under Dragon Man to collapse, sending him plummeting down through the floors of the building, and holds his own against the others. He demands they turn Medusa over to him, saying she is one of his own kind. As Dragon Man finds his way back and takes flight with Sue, Gorgon causes the whole building to collapse with a stomp of his feet.

MB: That purring sound you hear is Professor Matthew luxuriating in the fact that The Sinnott Era has finally begun, which means we’ve graduated from meat and potatoes to filet mignon. He also inks this month’s Captain America story in Suspense and, according to the Bullpen Bulletins, he’ll be working on—be still my heart—S.H.I.E.L.D. I can’t think of a better subject than the advent of the as-yet-unnamed Inhumans to occupy Joltin’ Joe’s mighty pen on his first time out (not counting FF #5), even though we still haven’t met more than two of them, or learned what the deal is with Gorgon and Medusa, but the Dragon Man is a nice bonus.

JB: Professor Matthew may sing the praises of inker Joe Sinnott, and rightly so. I had a friend years ago who had a complete Fantastic Four collection (which he sadly one day sold) and we used to compare Sinnott to Vince Colletta. I love Vince’s work on Thor, but it didn’t look quite as fitting here, so a newly distinct visual era has begun for the F.F.

PE: Finally! I think we're finally getting to that block of iconic stories that made this one of the most revered comic books of the 1960s. It only took us 44 issues to get to this point, but I'm intrigued. Not so interesting is the home life of the newlyweds. Reed is fixing home appliances (probably converting his spare Neuro-Solar Vaporizer into a Cuisinart) and Sue is modeling kitchen wear (unless that's her idea of exciting Reed), while the other two team members sit and whine. LOL-dialogue award this issue goes to Sue: "I never heard of anyone with such powerful feet!"

JB: A whole lot of flying is going on this issue; imagine looking up in the sky to see Dragon Man, Corvette in hand, pulling Reed, Ben and Sue, then soon after, Johnny and Gorgon following! This is a worthy introduction to Gorgon that really showcases his powers. I always found the Inhumans to be very interesting, and we’ll see a lot of them in the months to come--a nice change from the Frightful Four.

JS: This is the first comic we've reviewed at MU that I actually own an original of. In fact, I have a nice run of FF starting here, with the Inhumans, Silver Surfer, Galactus, and Black Panther appearances (unfortunately not including issue #48). As a result, I'm looking forward to the next several week's worth of issues. I always liked the Dragon Man, but all told, things really picked up for me starting with the next issue.

Strange Tales 138

Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD

Our Story

In true serial fashion, this episode jumps back to just before the end of the prior one to show us how Fury, ensconced in a “televiewer tube” 40 miles above earth, located the launch site—which he destroyed anyway, just to be on the safe side—seconds too late to stop Hydra from putting its betatron bomb into orbit. Stan actually messes with the continuity slightly by having Imperial Hydra (as he is now called) summon his daughter to tell her about the launch, whereas she was present for it last ish. We’re also treated to a diagram of Hydra’s ten divisions.

As Imperial Hydra orders his diplomacy chief, Fox, to announce his surrender terms, nations are rioting in panic over the presence of the bomb, which cannot be shot down without covering the earth with deadly fallout. Tony Stark is about to show Fury his top-secret new Braino-saur when Hydra’s Tiger assassin force attacks his plant and captures Fury, although Stark protects himself with a bullet-proof cubicle. The Rhino heavy-weapons division provides a tank that busts out of the factory and launches a “sky missile jet,” taking Fury to his face-to-face with Imperial Hydra.

MB: It’s tantalizing to notice that the animals after which Hydra’s divisional chiefs of staff are named include Owl and Rhino, but it seems unlikely that they will turn out to be the Marvel villains we know and love under those monikers…then again, one is called Beaver, so perhaps it’s best they remain symbolic. Stark sensibly reminds us that if Fury must be written off, others will step up to take his place in the war against Hydra. And we get another look at the boardroom of Imperial (get it?) Industries International, where a sliding wall panel conceals the entrance to Hydra’s lair.

JS: Did any of you guys have a giant Hydra See N' Say growing up? 

PE: I was afraid we might see Jerry Mathers as the Hydra engineer. I'm really digging this series now, complete with the Severin artwork. His Tony Stark is the picture of a playboy millionaire. Yeah, as we've mentioned ad nauseum, SHIELD borrows generously from the James Bond series, but it also seems to predict the grander scale that Cubby would lavish on the series in the years to come. The boardroom shenanigans at the climax only emphasize that Stan thought of this strip as something more than just another kiddie comic. It's a layered, complex story so unlike the outer space operas being foisted on readers over at Fantastic Four. I suspect that Stan's hype in the final panel that Fury has become "the biggest, greatest overnight sensation in Marvel history" is just that: hype. I like this series so much I won't even question why the Hydra boys never think to give Fury a head shot when they discover he has a bullet-proof suit. I'm sure it's the adrenaline that leaves them a bit scatter-brained. Nor will I mention what is surely the silliest name for a Marvel gizmo: Tony Stark's Brainosaur!

JS: Agree with you on the Brainosaur, but I wasn't as fond of this issue as I have been the first several. I'm expecting Fury to be more James Bond and less like Maxwell Smart. I thought he was captured a little too easily. And where exactly did Stark get his bullet proof cubicle? Was that in a just-add-water pill?

Jack: I am really enjoying John Severin’s art on this strip. It doesn’t look like anything else at Marvel right now. While the Supreme Leader of Hydra thinks that each division has a sense of pride due to being named after an animal, I’m not sure how excited they are over in the Mole Division. And what good is Tony Stark? He’s not much help, even though he’s a genius and a super-hero.

Professor Pete after watching all 120 episodes of Batman

Dr. Strange

Our Story

Dr. Strange has finally reached the dimension of Eternity. He wanders around for awhile until he meets Eternity, a godlike fellow. The big E studies Dr. Strange and learns that he’s an all-around OK guy who wants more power in order to defeat Mordo and Dormammu and save mankind. Taking a page from the Great and Powerful Oz’s book, Eternity tells Doc that all he needs is already within him. Dr. Strange toddles home and is shocked to find that Mordo has kidnapped the Ancient One! Dr. S. travels to Mordo’s lair and confronts him and the Dreaded One.

MB: Don’t know if the senior faculty will consider Eternity’s first appearance as a Landmark, but it sure had a big impact on me, especially as I imagine the James Earl Jones-type voice that would intone his portentous words. His distraction by “world-shaking matters,” his approval of Doc as a worthy disciple for the Ancient One, and his enigmatic verdict that Strange needs no additional power, only wisdom, to defeat Dormammu and Mordo all strike me as drama of the highest order. And that finale, with both the Ancient One and Clea in peril as “the mighty antagonists stand face to face,” demonstrates Steve and Stan at their absolute zenith.

JS: This installment was certainly jam-packed with nice visuals, and sure, it's cool to finally see Eternity... but after the long build-up, I felt like we finally got to Wally World and found it was closed.
Jack: This is definitely a landmark entry in the series, with the first appearance of Eternity and a dynamite full-page Ditko drawing. Ditko is at his best here—too bad he’ll be gone in under a year.

PE: Two votes for landmark is good enough for me. Consider this issue thusly awarded.

JS: Also worth noting—it's time for the good Doctor to get a haircut.

Tales to Astonish 73

The Sub-Mariner

Our Story

With his very life being sapped out of him by the Diamonds of Doom, Namor summons the powers of all the nearest surrounding sea life to give him the strength to endure. As if the diamonds alone weren’t enough to contend with, a pretty big bad guy who dubs himself the Demon of the Diamonds suddenly appears and is trying to make the hero his own personal slave. With a new surge of strength, Namor battles the demon. It’s a violent brawl until some giant electric eels, under Subby’s command, take out the demon along with absorbing the energy of the diamonds, rendering them harmless. Namor learns that he must find the site for the Trident quest’s next challenge on his own. Some more aquatic creatures approach Namor and, through their communications, he finds out that Dorma is at the mercy of the Faceless Ones. After a long struggle in his mind about what to do, Subby decides that saving Dorma is more important than finding the elusive Trident. Back at the main palace in Atlantis, Krang and his men fight with the citizens who are rising against his tyrannical dictatorship.

Tom: It’s hard for me not to keep on gushing after each review of this series about how great I think it is, but I just can’t help it. Maybe it’s because of all those horrible Torch stories in Strange Tales or the bumbling antics of Giant-Man that previously stunk up this comic book. Either way, I’m continually impressed by the storytelling and artwork. A lot of it also has to do with the fact that I’m a fan of old mythology and Namor’s stories borrow somewhat from the tales of old.

Jack: I like the way the story moves back and forth between Namor’s quest and the rebellion against Krang, as well as Lady Dorma’s plight among the faceless ones. But how can Subby think her love for him has never faltered? Wasn’t she the one who got him into this predicament in the first place? By the Wiggling Worms of Wagoor, Sub-Mariner is starting to talk like a cross between Thor and Dr. Strange!

Tom: Namor’s change of heart for Dorma initially comes off as kind of generic, out of character for the arrogant sea king given his dismissal of her display of affection a couple issues ago. Still, that’s what makes Namor interesting compared to his fellow super-hero colleagues in the Marvel Universe, as he often walks that edge between heartless villain, and heroic champion of his underwater people.

PE: The perils Namor is subjected to on this trek seem to get progressively easier for him to handle. Colan's art is really starting to define the Sub-Mariner I grew up with (though there is one very badly drawn panel that shows The Demon of the Diamonds in a pose that no one save Reed Richards could possibly execute). Where did Krang mount his underwater cameras to keep an eye on Namor? Every fifty feet on the ocean bottom? Video-packing Sea Bass that trail the Prince of Atlantis? My new exclamation around the University this week has been "By the rotting reefs of coral!?

This Demon will be in need of a good chiropractor soon.

MB: The splash page of this story is also missing from my poor plundered copy of Sub-Mariner Special #1, but looking at the art, it’s clear that Colletta continues to compromise Colan’s pseudonymous work. (As one of this month’s Bullpen Bulletins tells us, “Everybody’s favorite guessing game these days is trying to figure out the real identity of the ‘Sub-Mariner’s’ powerful penciller, ADAM AUSTIN!”) It’s interesting to note that when Astonish and Strange Tales replaced the reviled Giant-Man and Human Torch strips with Subby and S.H.I.E.L.D., they gave both newcomers the 12-page lead spots instead of promoting the survivors, the Hulk and Dr. Strange, out of their respective 10-page backup features.


Our story

The Hulk has been incapacitated by a combination of the Leader’s synthetic goons’ attack and the mounting stress of turning into human form with a bullet lodged in his melon. Though displeased with the Hulk’s latest temper tantrum, the Leader puts him on an operating table for an examination. He finds the bullet and uses his technology to evaporate it. The Leader also gives the green monster a healthy extra dose of gamma radiation that makes the brute even stronger and more durable than before. The Hulk feels somewhat indebted to the villain for saving his life, a fact that the Leader doesn’t hesitate to throw in his face whenever he gets the chance. The evil genius has been spying on the Watcher at his base on the moon and has discovered that he has tons of advanced technology that the Leader could use to help in his world conquest. He dispatches a leery Hulk to the Watcher’s planet. The Watcher is friendly with Jade Jaws once he arrives, reminding him (and us) that he is forbidden to interfere with the earthling’s adventures. The Ultimate Machine that the Leader wants the Hulk to bring back is a gold, floating sphere. As the Hulk wonders out loud why the Leader just couldn’t have done it himself, his question is answered in the form of a mighty fist that punches him in the face. Another powerful alien, who has also been observing the Watcher, has arrived to claim the same device.

Tom: This issue was more of a lead-in for the hopefully exciting donnybrook that will be happening next issue. Thank God that at least they finished up that whole drama of "the bullet being lodged in the Hulk’s head" storyline because I was getting quite sick of hearing about it.

A certain M.U. professor after a recent, long plane trip.
Jack: For the first time in awhile, I enjoyed a Hulk story! I had to wonder, though, why the Hulk would let the Leader put him through some pretty hairy tests. Was he so grateful to have the bullet out of his brain that he’d stand for this? Awfully calm and patient of him! As for the Watcher, he’s a character I always liked, and having the Hulk visit his home planet is neat. Bob Powell’s art this issue is a step up from the Mickey Demeo dreck of prior months, though I peeked ahead and it’s back to the dumps next month.

Tom: It’s interesting to see how the Leader might have sealed his own outcome of continuing losses to the Hulk in the next fifty years or so by giving his arch-rival even more power than he already had. While the Hulk had beaten the Thing one-on-one and had held the Avengers to a standstill, he never seemed like the super power that he would later become in the 1970s. I guess this is where he got his steroid boost. At least he showed his gratitude by humoring the Leader for endurance and strength tests that were Rocky-esque, reminiscent of the training montages in the movies. The artwork was also, dare I say it Professor Jack, somewhat better than in previous issues……?

Journey Into Mystery 122

Our Story

Merely stunned last issue by the Absorbing Man, Thor rises again to resume the battle, attempting to strike his opponent with enough speed that Crusher Creel’s absorbing ability will be less effective. Loki gets tired of waiting for what he thought would be an easy defeat of Thor and moves his plan to stage two. He uses the attractor beam of Ularic to summon the Absorbing man to Asgard. Thor recognizes what the beam of light is but is distracted from following when a window smashes above him and he hears cries for help. It turns out to be Jane Foster, who has caused the window to shatter by setting off a gas explosion. The gas escapes through the window and Thor returns to the form of Dr. Blake, as Jane has fallen unconscious. At that instant, the hooded man who kidnapped Jane takes a photo. He reveals himself to be Harris Hobbs, the reporter who had suspected that Blake and Thor were one and the same. First things first, Dr. Blake gets Jane to the hospital, making sure she’ll be okay. He then takes a call from Hobbs, agreeing to meet the reporter in a quiet wooded location to discuss the matter. Hobbs wants Thor to tell him the story behind his secret identity, the “scoop of the century.” The Thunder God is angered by Hobbs’s insolence, but cannot harm a human, so he has another plan. Thor creates a time vortex, and takes Hobbs first into Earth’s distant past when dinosaurs still roamed, then to the far flung future, where our planet has long since been abandoned by humanity and is about to collide with another world. Thor’s intent is to humble Hobbs into keeping his knowledge a secret, and it works … kind of. Hobbs vows to destroy the photo but pleads for Thor to take him to see Asgard, even if he forgets his experience afterward. Impressed by the human’s courage, Thor agrees, as he must return to see what is happening in the city of the gods. What has happened thus far is that the Absorbing Man has realized it is Loki who gave him his power, and has agreed to help the God of Evil in the plan to overthrow Odin (only after Loki sends Creel into a frozen world to show him who his master is, vowing to return him there should he not cooperate). After defeating Odin’s royal guard, the Absorbing Man enters the throne room and makes clear his intent of conquest, returning a bolt of cosmic energy back at Odin.

In Tales Of Asgard, “The Grim Specter Of Mutiny” is a reality now, as the frightened warriors of Asgard take sides. Some stand with Loki while others remain faithful to Thor, as a battle breaks out. Just as the ship enters the deadly waters of the Pillars of Utgard, the crew spots Balder the Brave blowing a huge horn atop the head of the ship.

JB: I commented last time on how beautiful the art was, but personally I find the imagery this month much more powerful. If last issue was essentially an impressive but drawn-out battle, this one offers much more variety. The cover is subtly awesome, and the vision of earth’s future looks frightening indeed.

PE: Two bits of lapsed logic here: first, our narrator credits Jane Foster with "daring" for causing a gas explosion in an upper floor building to catch the attention of the Thunder God. I'm not so sure "daring" would be the adjective I'd apply to someone who blows up the room they're in in order to be rescued. Further, when Thor bursts into the room, Jane Foster has collapsed and our hero decides that this is a job better suited for his alter ego, the lame Doc Blake. However, I'd question whether transforming back into a human guise inside a gas-filled room is a great idea. Wouldn't it be wiser to fly "Brainy" Janey to a safe locale (say, a padded cell) before stomping your stick? What I like most about this story is that it actually feels as if the events may resonate throughout the rest of the series. The actions of Loki here cannot be ignored by Odin as they have been in the past. That is, unless Loki gives Odin a blast of his "Memory Loss Beam." They gotta have one of those around Asgard somewhere.

MB: Those expecting a definitive wrap-up to the Thunder God’s already epic battle with the Absorbing Man are in for a surprise as Loki, ever full of tricks, commandeers his creation for his own royal ambitions. Thor, too, proves himself no slouch as a strategist when coming up with a way to stop Harris Hobbs from blowing the whistle on his i.d. I liked Hobbs in his initial appearances, so I’m sad to see him stoop to kidnapping and endangering an innocent to get his story; I’ve a sneaking suspicion Odin will take a very dim view of his presence in Asgard.

JB: Good point about Loki, Professors Matthew and Peter; I don’t think Odin can ignore Loki’s actions any more. I wonder why over the years he never renounced the God of Evil as his stepson and exiled him permanently from Asgard? The Tales Of Asgard is mainly a chance to get to see more of the Warriors Three, as they came to be called: Hogun, Fandrall, and Volstagg.

PE: When you think about it, The Absorbing Man has to be Marvel's most powerful villain, right? He's like Ridley Scott's Alien. Unstoppable but for a couple of loopholes. At times, Stan must have felt that, though he'd created a great boogieman, he'd kind of painted himself into a corner with this one. How many times was Crusher Creel defeated by being sent into space or dropped in water?

JB: These seemingly unbeatable villains are a problem, as you guys point out. It’s funny that Loki thought of a way in a second to prove himself Creel’s master, yet Thor (and Odin later) could easily have sent the Absorbing Man into a future like where he took Hobbs.

PE: Considering that earlier in the story, Loki is advised that the #1 offense in Asgard is bringing a mortal to dinner, I'd say you're right on the money about Hobbs, Professor Bradley.

The X-Men 14

Our Story

Professor Xavier has granted his X-kids a vacation, the first one they've had in years. And well deserved, after defeating the mighty Juggernaut last issue. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice and mutants go awry when a new menace raises its mechanized head. Dr. Bolivar Trask is convinced that mutants will take over the earth and enslave homo sapiens. To curtail the threat, the well-meaning but quite mad scientist has created a score of robots known as "Sentinels" that will do as he commands. Trask is in for a rude surprise, however, when Xavier challenges him to a televised debate and his Sentinels go rogue. Suddenly, the vacation is over for X and the X-Men.

PE: This was one of the issues that obviously inspired Bryan Singer when he was working on the screenplay for his X-Men film. Elements of Dr. Trask can be found in the Senator Kelly character played by Bruce Davison. Since I was never much of an X-Men fan when I was a kid, I never noticed how much the Sentinels look like Galactus (who was still several months away from public disclosure over at FF). Why does Iceman have yellow boots and yet his trunks freeze white? Has this important point been brought up before? Go one way or the other but, as is, he looks mighty ridiculous.

JS: I guess because they were released in 1981, you're not familiar with one of the greatest X-Men stories, Days of Future Past. That's where you'll find Senator Kelly enter the scene. Of course, the Sentinels origin is a key milestone in the history of the X-Men. I can't wait to get to the Neal Adams Trask/Sentinels storyline that's still a few years out.

MB: Ho, hum, another day, another potential Landmark Issue as we meet some of the X-Men’s most relentless and formidable foes, the Sentinels, and their ill-advised creator, the mutant-phobic Bolivar Trask. Even though these Mark I versions look a little clunky—courtesy of the Kirby/Gavin/Colletta artistic mélange—their presence alone conjures up future glories with Neal Adams, Dave Cockrum, and John Byrne. I missed a few of the earliest issues this go-round, but I believe this is the first we’ve seen of the kind of anti-mutant hysteria that Trask whips up with such depressing ease (perhaps Stan’s suggestion that we’re all bigots under an extremely thin veneer), which would become a very potent theme in the Chris Claremont era.

Her libido is meltin' his bongos!
JS: Professor Bradley knows what I'm talking about. These original Sentinels felt a little too small for my taste. The ones I think of can hold a mutie in the palm of their hand.

PE: Scott and Hank put into action their long-awaited and much-anticipated "Operation Duo-Smash," which translates into "we'll both attack at the same time." But, it seems, the Sentinels have been holding scrimmages as well. Though The Sentinel will eventually rank as one of the X-Men's most well-known villains, this story is just a bit too sketchy for me. I get it: scientist creates genocidal weapon to rid the world of an impure species. In 1965, this must have been a pretty controversial concept for a little kid's comic book and Stan and Jack should be applauded for their guts. In time, the story may flesh out and I'll appreciate it a bit more. For now, I'll rate it a little above average (for those guts and concepts) and cross my fingers for the next issue. Stan also found himself climbing out on a limb using the word "libido" and the open-to-interpretation expression, "You're meltin' my bongos!" I've already forgotten "Rotten, wretched reefs of Ragnarok" or whatever the exclamation was, this is my new pick-up line down at the Coffee-a-Go-Go! On the letters page, Stan announces that the book is so popular it's been shifted to monthly status.

JS: Hang in there, Professor P. The best of X is yet to come.

The Avengers 22

Our Story

Angry at being declared illegal, the Avengers bicker and go their separate ways. Unable to find good jobs, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch briefly sign on with The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, before realizing that they are crooked and getting into a big fight. This does not end well when the Ringmaster calls the cops and the Avengers are busted for disobeying the court order to stop being themselves Captain America, disguised as a press agent, gets Power Man to confess to framing the team. Another battle ensues, and Power Man almost singlehandedly fights the foursome to a draw. The Enchantress decides he is not worth her trouble and disappears; Power Man gives up, admitting that the blonde immortal was the only reason he was putting up a fight. The city council reinstates the Avengers’ superhero team permit but Captain America leaves the other three, disgusted by their lack of character.                                                                                                                                 

Jack: I love that Thor and Iron Man are said to be busy, but Stan has no idea where Giant-Man is! High-pockets is really persona non grata at this point.

PE: The once-Mighty Avengers get taken down to the level of carnival sideshow. A hero hasn't been this down in the dumps since the Hulk joined the very same circus way back in Hulk #3. What's amazing is that a trio of supposedly smart superheroes could fall for such a scheme. But they're obviously not as dumb as the local cops, who come running to arrest the Avengers after recently-paroled Ringmaster reports that The Earth's Mightiest Heroes are robbing his carnival! It took several issues but we now find out that Quicksilver's blinding speed increases his "natural strength a hundredfold." Does that mean he has the strength of a Spider-Man? I don't buy that for a second. I smell a reconfiguring of power some day soon. 

MB: At this stage of the game, especially with so many strips using the serial format, it seems rare for a Marvel mag to end by wrapping things up so neatly, yet aside from Cap’s last-panel bombshell, this one ties up those threads from last issue admirably. Cap’s one-on-one with Power Man is eminently satisfying, summed up in his line, “And remember—you’re fighting the weakest [Avenger]! My partners are all younger—and have greater powers!” I’m not normally a big fan of the Ringmaster and His Circus of Crime, but they were well used here, and seemed like an otherwise natural destination for the carnival-like powers of the unwitting ex-Assemblers.

PE: Back to the really bad Heck art. I assume the disguise Captain America takes to trick a confession out of Power Man is Heck's idea of what Steve Rogers would look like in 1965 had he not gone into suspended animation in the 40s (above left). And could someone explain to me how, super soldier formula notwithstanding, a human being's arms can bend back like that comfortably (above right).

PE: The intro of the in-team squabbling and Cap's dopey exclamation in the finale only add fuel to my theory that this is a book that doesn't need super-villains. In the letters page, Stan promises that a clue as to the whereabouts of Giant-Man can be found in the pages of the upcoming Tales to Astonish #76. I... cannot... wait. Letter writer Charles Hutler of Kearney, New Jersey, insists that he has "read over 200,000 comics in my life and I think that makes me a fairly important comic (or pop art) critic now." Not one to stand down from hyperbole, Stan "The Man" displays a bit of incredulity at Chuck's statement: " We figure that if you read as many as ten each day (and there aren't that many published) that would be 3,650 per year. At that rate, which is more than humanly possible, it would take almost fifty-five years to read 200,000 comics!" In a more serious exchange, we get an explanation as to why 90% of all Marvel bad guys are commies (reproduced below).

"Enclosed, please find my $16.15"

Also this month

Kid Colt Outlaw #125
Millie the Model #132
Modeling with Millie #43
Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #24
Two-Gun Kid #78


  1. Ironically, John Severin, whose artwork on SHIELD we praise above, passed away last Sunday at the age of 90. RIP Big John.

  2. I probably knew him best as an inker for THE INCREDIBLE HULK, on which both he and sister Marie worked at various times. I think I liked his work there better than on S.H.I.E.L.D., but in any event, it's sad to see the passing of a member of the Old Guard, especially one with roots dating back to Timely, EC, and the early MAD.

    There were a couple of things going at this point in time, and a little earlier, that would effect Marvel … in a big way.

    For some time, Stan Lee had been trying to get an increase in Marvel's page rate. Martin Goodman finally agreed. Armed with more money, and the promise of as much work as he wanted, Lee was able to lure Joe Sinnott back to the bullpen on a full time basis. Sinnott inked X-Men #13 last month, but this month, he inked the Fantastic Four, which is what he'll be doing pretty much non stop for the rest of Jack Kirby's run on the title.

    Sinnott first inked the FF back in issue #5. In retrospect, it's just a shame Stan was unable to keep him in the bullpen back then. The other benefit of the increased page rate was that Jack Kirby was able to reduce his workload, and concentrate on the quality of his artwork. With all the pieces in place, the Fantastic Four's cosmic era had begun.

    Over at DC, romance titles were on a sharp decline. By 1965, thanks to a stockpile of unused stories, they would not need any new romance artwork from freelancers. Seeking steady work, Gene Colan started moonlighting for Marvel. He'd stay for the next 20 years. Another DC romance artist was about to join the bullpen, walking in the front door at roughly the same time Wally Wood walked out. More about him in the upcoming months.

    In X-Men #14, the mutant menace angle was cranked up a few notches, with the introduction of The Sentinels, and their paranoid creator, Bolivar Trask. However, the mutant menace concept did not originate in the pages of the X-Men.

    “The Man In The Sky” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, appeared in Amazing Adult Fantasy #14, fourteen months before X-Men #1. In this 5 page story, we open with Brad Carter, a scientist witnessing an atomic bomb test. A little later, his son, Tad, is born. Tad is a mutant, but he doesn't know it. As a kid, when he strains to reach for a baseball, it unexpectedly rolls towards him. In high school, he discovers he can read his teacher's mind. The other classmates figure out he's different, and taunt and threaten him. To escape his plight, he suddenly, and mysteriously, rises into the air and flies away.

    While floating at cloud level near a large city, he's contacted telepathically by an old man. Tad learns from the old man that he is a mutant, and that he is not alone. Tad explains that he wants to use his mutant abilities to help the human race. The old man tells him that humans fear anything that is different, and will destroy what they fear. Tad is invited to join the old man, and other mutants, waiting for the day that “mankind comes of age.” Tad flies towards the city, presumably to meet others of his kind.

    But wait, there's more. Way back in December 1953, that well known scientific journal of record “Mechanix (sic) Illustrated” published an article “How Nuclear Radiation Can Change Our Race” written by Otto Binder and illustrated by Kurt Schaffenberger.

    The article describes mutants as a by-product of atomic warfare, and opens with: “Now hear this, Earth! I am Mutant Man, Homo Superior! I have been created by radiation forces out of the loins of you, the human race, after your great and terrible Atom War. Yes, I am a step above and beyond you and I am now your master for better or for worse.”

    Although the term “Homo Superior” first appeared in Olaf Stapledon's 1935 novel “Odd John,” given the Binder/Schaffenberger comic book connection, and the atom bomb/mutant theme, it's easy to imagine Stan Lee picking up the term from this source. The Mechanix Illustrated article is available online.

    Apparently, Stan Lee wanted “The Mutants” to be the title of the book we know as The X-Men, but Martin Goodman nixed the idea, telling Lee that the title would create confusion, because no-one would know what a mutant was.

    All the best,

    Glenn :)

  4. Glenn-

    That's a funny story about Martin Goodman doubting that the kids of 1963 would know what a mutant is but knowing full well what an "X-Man" was!

    I touched on "Man in the Sky" in our blog for July 1962:

    I really wish you'd let me publish your notes within the body of each week's post. You'd get more exposure there and it would lend a bit more to each week's output. Please think about it. You'd only need to get me each week's contribution a few days before and, fess up, you want the Professor hat that comes with it, dontcha?

  5. Forget the hat, just send me a student card so I can get into the movies for half price. ;)

    Last night I read “The Man In The Sky” for the first time in ages, and noticed something I hadn't spotted before.

    The mysterious man contacts Tad and tells him to leave humanity behind, and join with him at a place where Tad will be treated fairly, amongst his peers. Clearly the mysterious man has contacted others before Tad, and they've already joined their mysterious mentor, and they're all happily living together in a utopian haven.

    Isn't that the plot to Atlas Shrugged?

    All the best,

    Glenn :)