Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marvel History Post 50: Amazing Spider-Man # 2

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 2 Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Steve Ditko Publication Date: May 1963 Brief Summary: A creepy old dude with a set of wings called the Vulture is stealing from the good people of New York. J. Jonah Jameson wants a photo of the guy, and Peter Parker catches wind of this and realizes as Spider-Man he could probably get such a picture. He catches some pics of the Vulture, who is planning a huge jewel heist. Vulture catches onto the spying Spider-Man, and attacks him, wins, and throws Spidey in a water tower. Spidey escapes, pictures intact, and then sells the photos to Jameson. Shortly thereafter, Vulture steals a bunch of diamonds, and then Spidey is after him. The two tussle, and the Spidey shorts out Vulture's wings with a special device of his. Spidey turns in the Vulture, turns in more photos to Jameson, and gets enough money in return to feel pretty good about himself. In the second story, a famous scientist asks for a helper from the local high school with an experiment over the weekend, and Parker is nominated. The scientist asks Pete to pick up a radio from a shop run by a creepy dude called the Tinkerer. Tinkerer gives Pete the radio, but after Tinkerer consorts with an alien about how they have somehow tinkered with it as part of a plan. Parker delivers the radio, and then notices his spider sense is going crazy. He realizes its the radio, and that something fishy is happening. He returns to the Tinkerer's shop, and realizes that the Tinkerer is working with aliens, and that the radios he "fixes" are being used to spy on prominent earthlings. The aliens catch Spidey and trap him, but Spidey breaks free and destroys their equipment. The aliens escape, but Spidey hangs on to the Tinkerer. He loses the Tinkerer in a fire caused by the fighting, but manages to hold onto the Tinkerer's mask, and realizes the Tinkerer was an alien as well. Commentary: Peter Parker is pretty nonchalant about fighting a bunch of aliens. I suppose that developing super powers from a radioactive spider makes you less easily impressed by strange happenings in the world around you, but Spidey barely blinks an eye when he encounters the aliens in this issue. Spider-Man's rogues gallery continues to develop with the appearance of the Vulture. The Vulture's only motivation in this issue appears to be monetary, and then, at issue's end, his grudge with Spider-Man begins. Quick Thoughts:
  • J. Jonah Jameson is the editor of NOW magazine, and has not yet ascended to the Daily Bugle.
  • Spidey looks way too old for a high schooler in these early images of him.
  • Jameson tells Parker to spend some of the money he gives him on one of those twist records.
  • Flash Thompson is seen here as a bully making fun of Peter Parker.
Favorite Panel: I enjoyed this advertisement for Marvel showing their early power hitters. No Hulk, alas, as his series has been canceled. Oh well. Next: Fantastic Four # 14

Friday, July 30, 2010

Marvel History Post 49: Tales to Astonish # 42

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 42 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Don Heck Publication Date: April 1963 Brief Summary: Due to the usual mess of radiation and science, a DJ named Jason Cragg gains the ability to get people to do what he wants by the power of his voice. Instead of just living out a good life getting everything he wants, he decides to make an enemy of Ant Man. He gets the people, and the police, on his side using his voice power. Ant Man is on the run., and the people hope to find him by using a magnet that will work on Ant Man's helmet. Ant Man has to ditch his helmet and also his enlarging and reducing gasses. The mob finds the helmet, so Cragg knows his voice will now work on Ant Man. He commands Ant Man to drown himself. Ant Man has to obey, but his Ants save him. Ant Man escapes, and then regroups at his base for a little while. Cragg is planning on broadcasting his hatred for Ant Man, but Ant Man catches up to him and has his ants train a gun (fake, but Cragg doesn't know that) on Cragg. He forces Cragg to tell people that he made a mistake about Ant Man. Shortly after that, Cragg comes down with severe laryngitis, courtesy of Ant Man. Cragg is ruined, as his hypnotic effect is broken. This issue thankfully does not end with Ant Man riding into the sunset on the back of an ant. Commentary: An entire city is out searching for someone the size of an Ant, which is kind of humorous. Like a lot of Stan's villains, we don't see much motivation for Cragg to hate Ant Man. This reminds me of the philosophical discussion between comic book dorks of the chicken and the egg as applied to superheroes. The question is whether Batman exists because of Joker, or Joker exists because of Batman, and if the one did not exist, would the other? Is hating a hero enough of a motivation to be a villain? I suppose jealousy is a strong motivator. Favorite Panel: I can't seem to resist these little cutaways of the heroes' hideout, and neither can Stan Lee. Next: Amazing Spider-Man # 2

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Marvel History Post 48: Tales of Suspense # 40

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 40 Writer: Stan Lee / R. Berns Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: April 1963 Brief Summary: Tony Stark is a busy man, as a pioneering scientist, a millionaire playboy, and Iron Man. He is on a date at the circus when the cats break loose, so he slips off to become Iron Man. Iron Man gives the cats the experience of an unruly fan at a Phillies game. After handling the cats, Iron Man realizes he needs to change his costume so he doesn't frighten people. He decides to make it gold. Later, he learns that an entire town has been walled off from civilization, so he goes to investigate. He digs under the wall, and the citizens of the town tell him they can't talk to him on order of some fellow named Gargantus, whom they seem to worship. Iron Man sends out a broadcast for Gargantus to face him. Iron Man figures out Gargantus is actually a robot, and tears him apart. The townspeople return to normal, and Iron Man discovers that Gargantus was dropped off by aliens. The aliens beat a hasty retreat, and Iron Man can get back to one of the things he loves best: courting the ladies. Commentary: Not much interesting in Iron Man's second issue. A clear arch-foe has yet to develop for him, but there's time. Stan develops Tony Stark's personality as a bit of playboy, but he does not come across as very arrogant yet. All of Stan's primary characters, other than Thor, are scientists. Reed's a scientist, Pym, Stark, Banner, and even to a lesser extent Peter Parker. While I suppose it is somewhat more believable that a scientist would be able to come up with all of the crazy inventions that these characters develop, I am looking forward to getting a few characters with other professions involved (I'm looking at you, Daredevil!). Quick Thoughts:
  • Stark has to plug his chest into an electrical outlet every day.
  • He also has micro transistors in his costume, quite different from unstable molecules.
Favorite Panel: Ah...yes. Yes. Of course. Right. Next: Tales to Astonish # 42

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Marvel History Post 47: Strange Tales # 107

Issue: Strange Tales # 107 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Dick Ayers Publication Date: April 1963 Brief Summary: Torch is bummed that the rest of the team doesn't take him very seriously, so he decides to make a big play and go beat up Namor to impress them. He has a brief interlude helping out on a ship, and then writes a message in flame over the ocean challenging Namor. A flying fish hurts itself in Torch's flame, and this ticks off Namor. The two fight, and Namor wins the early going, and ties an unconscious Torch to the back of porpoise. When Torch awakes, he's displeased, and he escapes and heads back to fight Namor again. Torch takes the second round, trapping Namor at the bottom of the sea. Namor of course gains strength from the sea, so this is not a winning strategy. Namor rises back to the top of the sea, but Torch is headed away at this point. Namor notes that Torch is a powerful foe, and considers the possibility of one day teaming up with him. Commentary: This issue was mostly just a giant slug fest, but it did feature another Namor appearance. I found it odd that Torch is really the antagonist in this issue. As with other Namor stories we've seen, Namor isn't really a villain. This story painted him in the best light yet, as Torch outright challenges him to the fight. Quick Thoughts:
  • Apparently Namor has the ability to enlarge himself like a Puffer fish.
  • Torch goes Super Nova again in this issue.
Favorite Panel: Take note of this. It's one of those rare moments where Namor actually shows respect for someone other than himself or the ocean. We may not see another one of these until the 70s or so. Next: Tales of Suspense # 40

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marvel History Post 46: Journey into Mystery # 91

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 91 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Joe Sinnott Publication Date: April 1963 Brief Summary: Thor comes across a bank floating in the sky, and as he returns the building to the surface, the building vanishes, just leaving the people inside. Thor suspects Loki, but his dad confirms that Loki is still a prisoner in Asgard. Going back a few days, Dr. Don Blake and Nurse Jane wander past a man with limited mind reading power. Loki is able to, from Asgard, increase the man's power so that he might be able to defeat Thor. It is this fellow, known as Sandu, who's been causing the floating bank chaos. Sandu begins committing bigger crimes, including stealing a palace for himself, and then making the United Nations building levitate, saying he will kill the people unless they make him ruler of earth. Thor shows up, and gets his ass kicked. Sandu seperates Thor from his hammer, and tries so hard to lift it using his powers that he loses the power Loki gave him, and thus returns to being a normal dude, and also an arrested one. It's back to the drawing board for Loki. Commentary: I feel like there's a certain Wile E. Coyote / Roadrunner aspect to these early Thor stories, with Loki coming up with elaborate schemes to get Thor away from his hammer, and Thor beating him in the end, sometimes inadvertently. The Valkyries and Thor's belt of strength show up in this issue, embellishing the mythology as it exists within the MU. Favorite Panel: And with one villainous act, Sandu gives the Watcher the world's largest piggy bank. Next: Strange Tales # 107

Monday, July 26, 2010

Marvel History Post 45: Fantastic Four # 13

Issue: Fantastic Four # 13
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: April 1963

 Brief Summary: Reed is making a mess in his laboratory looking for new kind of rocket fuel to help America overtake the reds in the space race. He is developing it out of pieces from a meteor that landed in Siberia that seemingly has unlimited potential. Reed plans on testing it to go into space, and the rest of the team demands that they come with him. Meanwhile, some creepy Russian named Ivan Kragoff has trained a gorilla to operate a space ship. His journey to the moon launches at the same time at the Fan 4's, although he is actively attempting to get hit with the same cosmic rays. He and his monkeys do take a dose of the ray, just as the Fan 4 notice their ship and Torch goes to investigate. He gets in a fight with a super strong monkey, and then goes back to the Fan 4's ship to warn the team. They reach the moon, landing on the strange blue area of it, where they discover the remains of an ancient civilization. They then encounter Kragoff, now going by the name Red Ghost as he can make his body unsolid. Red Ghost also has super apes to do his bidding, and combat ensues. However, the fracas is broken up by a bold alien looking guy called the Watcher, whose life work, like the rest of his species, is to observe other worlds. He warns of a potential conflict between Russia and the US that may destroy the world. He explains that he will not stand for a large scale conflict on the moon, so the fate of which country is supreme on the moon will fall to the fight between the Fan 4 and the Red Ghost. They fight, and Red Ghost makes off with Invisible Girl. She's a crafty one, though, and manages to escape while the Red Ghost is preparing for the rest of the team. She catches up with the rest of the team, and warns them of a trap of the Red Ghost's. Ghost comes across the Watcher's headquarters, who doesn't take kindly to the intrusion, and throws Ghost back to the Fan 4. The Fan 4 defeats him with one of Reed's inventions, and the Watcher congratulates them, and then leaves for a farther part of the galaxy to...well...watch. Red Ghost is left at the mercy of his apes, and the Fan 4 heads home.

 Commentary: In this issue we see for one of the first time a theme that appears in both Marvel and DC comics constantly that has always perplexed me, which is semi intelligent monkeys. It seems that half the comics on the stands have a smart monkey in them, and I've never been able to figure this out. Are people clamoring for these monkeys? Does this please a strange segment of comic book readers in some way that I cannot fathom? Anyways, keep your eyes out for the smart monkey in future comics. This is also the first appearance of the alien known as the Watcher, who is charged with chronicling the history of earth. The Watcher shows up all over the place in the Marvel Universe, usually when there's an allegedly important event to take place. His role is not entirely different from mine in writing this blog. I'm not a powerful super alien, though. So, Watcher: 1 Me: 0.

 Quick Thoughts:
  • Steve Ditko (co-creator of Spider-Man) inked this issue.
  • The creative team took a poll of fans about adding another member to the Fan 4, and 75% were against it.
Favorite Quote: "Space is your heritage -- see that you prove worthy of such a glorious gift!" - The Watcher

Favorite Panel: The first time I read through this I sort of half glanced at the images (poor form for comic book reading, I know), and then I looked again. What the hell is going on here?!?! Next: Journey into Mystery # 91

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Marvel History Post 44: Tales to Astonish # 41

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 41 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Don Heck Publication Date: March 1963 Brief Summary: Henry Pym goes to visit a scientist friend, but it turns out he's vanished, as have a number of other scientists. Someone comes over to wash Pym's windows shortly thereafter, and hits him with some sort of paralyzing solution. Meanwhile, the alien warlord Kulla watches this with glee, as he is rounding up earth's scientists to build him a death ray. Pym is taken there and put to work with the other scientists. However, he complains, and is thrown in the dungeon, where he turns into Ant Man. After a few small (get it?) adventures, he realizes that he can tune into the alien insects, and get them to overthrow Kulla. This works, and Kulla is defeated, killed by his own death ray, which the alien insects fire on him. The man who was capturing all the scientists is left with the aliens as penance. The remaining aliens are thankful that Kulla's reign has ended. The scientists are returned to earth, although they're all a little confused at how Ant Man showed up. Commentary: Alright, I had a potential break through on this Ant Man guy. If, when he shrinks, he maintains the strength of a normal man, does that mean that if someone stepped on him, he'd be fine? It'd be like getting stepped on as a full grown person? If this is the case, then some (SOME, mind you) of his ridiculous adventures make a little more sense to me. I started thinking about this when someone tried to step on him this issue. Quick Thoughts:
  • Pym is still rocking a sweet pipe when there's time.
  • Alien insects apparently don't look that different from earth insects. In other words, they're gross.
Favorite Panel: Ant Man catching a ride in an alien's shoe, and makes a comment on alien laundry habits. I'd never even pictured aliens wearing socks, so really, this was mind blowing for me. Next: Fantastic Four # 13

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Marvel History Post 43: Tales of Suspense # 39

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 39 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Don Heck Publication Date: March 1963 Iron Man is born! Another one of marvel's big heroes arrives. Exciting stuff. Again, most of Marvel's heavy hitters are invented in a very short time span between 1962 and 1964, and Iron Man is one of the biggest. Tony Stark has a long and storied legacy, and it all begins here. Brief Summary: Anthony Stark is a rich playboy, and also a brilliant scientist. He invents weapons to help the United States, but on site in Vietnam he is attacked and captured by the Vietnamese. Stark is badly wounded, with shrapnel in his heart. Wong Chu, leader of the enemy Vietnamese, tells Stark if he invents a weapon for them, he has a surgeon that will save Stark's life. Stark knows the man is lying, but tells Wong-Chu that he will build the weapon. Stark encounters a famous physicist named Professor Yinsen who has been forced into labor by the Vietnamese as well. Stark tells him his plan to invent a suit of armor that will keep him alive, and Yinsen helps him. Just before they finish, the Vietnamese come after them, and Yinsen dies so Stark has time to fully charge up in his iron man suit. Iron Man then emerges, and he defeats Wong Chu and the Vietnamese troops in vengeance of the fallen Yinsen. Commentary: Like most of Marvel's origins, Iron Man's is pretty straightforward. It's also very translatable, as the recent Iron Man movie had more or less the exact same origin story, albeit moved to a different locale. Stan is not afraid to base his stories amidst real life conflicts, as he has frequently used Russia, and now he sets up the North Vietnamese as the antagonists. In fact, in most of the stories thus far in the early days of the MU, the enemy has not been super villains, but either communists or extra terrestrials. Quick Thoughts:
  • Stan refers to Stark as the "Invincible" Iron Man right from the get-go.
  • Stark's playboy persona is referenced in the origin story.
  • Stark's original weapon was a transistor which was capable of increasing the force of any device.
  • The suit has the ability to create electronic interference, which lets Stark send transmissions via radio signal.
Favorite Panel: Uh, turns out the problem in Vietnam was a little more complicated, pal... Next: Tales to Astonish # 41

Friday, July 23, 2010

Marvel History Post 42: Strange Tales # 106

Issue: Strange Tales # 106 Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber Artist: Dick Ayers Publication Date: March 1963 Brief Summary: Torch comes home to find his sister and a man named Carl Zante, who is looking for him. His sister explains that everyone knows that Johnny Storm and the Human Torch are the same person, and the town has not told Torch they knew because they believed he wanted privacy. Zante asks Torch to leave the Fan 4 and team up with him, as they will earn lots of money, fame, etc. Torch, thinking about money, goes and confronts Reed Richards, who says the reward money the Fan 4 earn must continue to go to scientific research. Torch flies off in a huff, quitting the team, and tells Zante, who appears to have ulterior motives, that he's down for teaming up with him. Zante tells him their first case is freeing a teller who was trapped in a bank's vault. Torch goes and burns a hole into the vault, playing into Zante's hands, as he just wanted to rob the bank. He handles Torch, and is making off with the money, when the rest of the Fan 4 catches up to him. They slow him down long enough for Torch to return to the fray, and he catches Zante once and for all. Torch, uh, claims he never believed Zante, but needed to play along to see what he was up to. Either way, Zante is headed off to jail, and Torch is back with the Fan 4. Commentary: Stan cleans up the continuity break between Fantastic Four and Strange Tales, as in Fan 4 it's pretty obvious to everyone who the Human Torch is, but in Strange Tales up till this point Johnny Storm has been trying to maintain a secret identity. I'm glad Stan removed the secret identity thing, as it's used in Spider-Man and Thor anyways. Quick Thoughts:
  • A number of earlier Fantastic Four stories are recounted, including the team's battles with Miracle Man and Namor.
  • Unstable Molecules get another reference. Stan loves 'em.
  • Liquid asbestos makes a big play in dousing the Torch.
Favorite Panel:Thing shows Torch just how much he means to him. Good to see these two getting along. Next: Tales of Suspense # 39

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Marvel History Post 41: Journey into Mystery # 90

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 90
Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber
Artist: Al Hartley
Publication Date: March 1963

Brief Summary:

Dr. Don Blake decides to reveal his identity as Thor to Nurse Jane, but before he can do so he receives a message from Odin telling him that this is a big no-no. Shortly after this, Blake notices that everyone in the city has gone a little nuts, doing strange things. He turns into Thor and pays a visit to Mayor Harris, but the mayor wants Thor arrested. Madness! Thor thinks back to counseling from Odin, and believes that the people of the city are actually impostors. Thor finds a spaceship, but when he approaches it a magnetic force holds him to the hull, and he loses his grip on his hammer. Turns out its the Xartans from planet Xarta, who can impersonate anyone. They, um...are quite different from these guys. They are planning on taking over earth, obviously. Blake says if the Xartans free him he can lead them to Thor, the only one who might stop them. However, doing this makes him look like a coward in front of Nurse Jane and Mayor Harris, who are being held captive by the Xartans. Blake then is able to go retrieve his hammer and become Thor. Thor fights the Xartans, who can change their shape, and defeats their champion, thus causing the rest of the Xartans to flee. Of the remaining Xartans on earth Thor demands they turn into trees, and in doing this, the Xartans lose their ability to think, for they fully take on the characteristics of anything they morph into. Thor: 1, Xartans: 0, Skrulls: 0, Trees & Cows: Draw, Mole Man: 0.

Commentary:

Writing just about every Marvel superhero comic under the sun seems to be taking its toll on Stan a little, as he's really recycling with this story. There's not much at all that distinguishes the Xartans from the Skrulls, other than their skin color. This of course makes me wonder why its the Skrulls that became super popular and have returned time and again to try to conquer earth, and why the Xartans just turned into a bunch of trees and seemingly disappeared forever. I'll keep my eye out for these aliens, but they certainly never gained the popularity of the Skrulls. Maybe in a few months Spider-Man will turn a bunch of wookies into toasters.

Favorite Panel:

No, that's not Invisible Girl gut punching the god of Thunder, although I can see where you'd be confused. It's one of the Xartans who turned invisible. Once you know what you're looking for, it's easy to tell the difference.

Next: Strange Tales # 106

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Marvel History Post 40: The Incredible Hulk # 6

Issue: The Incredible Hulk # 6 Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Steve Ditko Publication Date: March 1963 Brief Summary: Hulk is trying to get back to his cave to change back into Banner, and the army almost spots him before they are all called back to base. Hulk turns back into Banner, only to see - on a tv screen of his - the project he was working on get melted by some alien dude called the Metal Master, who can control metal, and plans to conquer earth. Banner sees Metal Master make quick work of the army folk, and realizes he's got to turn back into the Hulk. He does this, but when he turns, something goes wrong, and he is stuck with Bruce Banner's face. So, he puts on a Hulk mask, and goes to beat up on Metal Master. Metal Master suggests the two join together, but Hulk says he needs no partner. Metal Master then knocks him unconscious. The army catches up to the Hulk. They take off his mask, but find that he has a Hulk looking face underneath the mask at this point. Hulk is captured by the army. Hulk blames Rick Jones for this. However, it's hard to keep the green man down, and he breaks out of his prison by simply banging for a long time on the wall, Shawshank style. He then returns to being Bruce Banner, but is weak, and needs Rick's help. Rick Jones has kept busy and has formed a group called the Teen Brigade, a bunch of young do-gooders, and he has them gather materials that Banner requests to help defeat the Metal Master. He uses the material to construct a gun that the Metal Master cannot control. Metal Master is confused by this, and Hulk takes the opportunity to pound him, and demands Metal Master leave earth, which he does. Hulk explains then to Rick's teen brigade that the gun was actually useless, and just a decoy so he could get close to Metal Master. Hulk gets a pardon from the government for defeating Metal Master. Hulk goes to return into Bruce Banner, but the machine doesn't work, and he's stuck as the Hulk. He gets angry, but after a little while he returns to Banner. Banner then meets up with Betty, and the two express their romantic interest towards each other. Commentary: Well, we have something happen here that we're sure to see a lot of, which is a series get cancelled. Hulk had a good run of six issues, and he'll be appearing in Avengers shortly before returning to his own title. I will admit that the Hulk comics haven't been my favorites of the ones I've read thus far, although it's been more enjoyable than a lot of the Thor stories. Hulk's powers seem even more erratic in this issue, as at one point he is stuck with Banner's head, and then another time the gamma ray he uses to turn into the Hulk does not work for some time. There does not seem to be an indication in this issue that it's the last one, so I suppose Stan didn't know the series was going to get axed when they put this issue to the presses. Quick Thoughts:
  • The Metal Master comes from the planet Astra.
  • Metal Master's powers are reminiscent of someone. Can't quite think of who though...
Favorite Panel: See, General Thunderbolt Ross isn't all bad! Here he is convincing Rick Jones of the values of a fine edumacation. Next: Journey into Mystery # 90

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Marvel History Post 39: Fantastic Four # 12

Issue: Fantastic Four # 12 Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: March 1963 Brief Summary: Thing is out enjoying a concert with gal pal Alicia Masters when he gets into a fracas with some army men who confuse him with the Hulk. He returns to HQ and complains to the rest of the team about it. General Thunderbolt Ross pays the Fan 4 a visit next, and he wants them to take out the Hulk, whom he believes is responsible for tampering with government missile equipment. The Fan 4 plus Ross head out the desert, where the Hulk hangs. There they meet with Bruce Banner, who actually is the Hulk, unbeknownst to them. He explains that he does not believe the Hulk is responsible for wrecking the government equipment. Meanwhile, Banner's friend Rick Jones is returning a wallet, when he finds out the owner of the wallet is a communist, and the one actually responsible for the attack on the government. He is a guy known as the Wrecker. He captures Rick, and leaves a note for Banner saying he's got to get rid of the Fan 4 if Banner ever wants to see Rick alive again. He turns into the Hulk, and both he and the Fan 4 separately search for Rick. When they run into each other, Hulk fights the Fan 4. As they are fighting, a robot belonging to the Wrecker, the robot which actually caused the damage in the first place, breaks through to the surface. The Fan 4 beat up on the machine, and then catch the Wrecker himself, while Hulk bounds away. The Fan 4 is thanked and honored for their efforts by the government. The Hulk, elsewhere, is sure he will meet up with the Fan 4 again some day. Commentary: There's another multi panel sequence of hypothesizing by the team, where Thing and Torch envision what will happen when they catch the Hulk. Stan does seem to enjoy writing these fantasies where the team elaborately envisions how they think something will or should play out. This is also the second issue in a row where we see the beginning of what will become a very popular theme for Marvel, which is superheroes fighting their own, as Hulk goes toe to toe with the Fan 4. These fights in the early days are usually over something petty, or due to some form of mental manipulation or other trickery, but Marvel did have a full scale superhero war over ideology in the relatively recent Civil War storyline. Quick Thoughts:
  • Thing is still rockin the shades when he's out in public.
  • Thing also specifies an interest in jazz music.
  • Invisible Girl loses control of her invisibility power at one point due to fear.
  • Torch modifies the Fantasti-Car to make it look more spiffy.
  • A fan writes in accusing Jack Kirby of Rob Liefield syndrome, aka the inability to draw feet.
  • Another meta moment when information from one of the captions is withheld at the request of Reed Richards.
Favorite Quote: "And then, one of the most dramatic moments in the history of adventure-fantasy occurs, as the Incredible Hulk suddenly hurls himself into the open, face-to-face with the mighty Thing!" Favorite Panel: Reed's plan on how to beat the Hulk. This is very similar to his initial model for the Ultimate Nullifier. Next: The Incredible Hulk # 6

Monday, July 19, 2010

Marvel History Post 38: Amazing Spider-Man # 1

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 1
Writer: Stan Lee Artist:
Steve Ditko
Publication Date: March 1963

 Here begins the ongoing series of Marvel's most famous hero, Spider-Man. Also, as of the time I am writing this, this series has also had the most issues published of any Marvel comic, eclipsing the Fantastic Four by being published on a three times a month schedule in recent years. Spider-Man is without a doubt Stan's best character. This is also a huge month for Marvel, as Iron Man makes his first appearance, and seven books feature superheroes.

Brief Summary: Peter Parker and his Aunt May are broke, a problem faced by more than one superhero in the MU. Peter decides to put on a performance as Spidey. He then gets a check written out to Spider-Man, which he can't cash, since he doesn't have an ID card made out for Spider-Man. Meanwhile, a newspaper publisher named J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle writes an editorial that calls Spidey a menace, and that people should follow the exploits of real heroes like his son, astronaut John Jameson. The next day, John Jameson is firing off into space, and then things go bad. Spidey decides to save him, and hitches a ride on a jet. He attaches a piece to Jameson's craft, so he is able to control it again and land safely. J. Jonah ain't impressed, though, and thinks the whole thing was a plot by Spidey to steal the spotlight and be a jerk. The FBI puts out an arrest warrant for Spidey. Life ain't easy for Peter Parker. In the second story, Spidey decides to try to join the Fan 4 for money. He sneaks into their base, hoping to impress them. In actuality, they get annoyed, and tell him they don't want him, and they don't pay anything anyways. Meanwhile, a dude called the Chameleon sneaks into a defense installation to steal plans to sell to the Iron Curtain. He then decides to make Spidey his fall guy for his next theft. He sends a message out to Spidey, but when Spidey arrives to meet him the Chameleon has already stolen some plans while impersonating Spidey. Spidey swings off to catch up with the Chameleon's escape copter. Spidey catches him before he can hand off the plan to the reds, but then when Spidey is turning him over to the authorities the Chameleon creates a diversion and then impersonates one of the cops. However, they quickly catch the Chameleon after wrongly trying to detain Spidey, who breaks free into the night. 

Commentary:

Well, J. Jonah Jameson has wasted no time declaring Spider-Man a menace, and things don't go very well for him in either of these stories. Public hates him, can't get a job with the Fantastic Four, has no money. Peter Parker has a lot of problems. Also, it appears that Peter hasn't yet fully committed himself to the life of the hero, as several times during the course of this issue he wonders if he should actually just turn to a life of crime. He decides against it...for now! Pete's a smart kid, inventing that web solution and everything, but you gotta know that you can't cash a check without ID, dude. If Spider-Man were in the Avengers he'd have his Avengers ID card, but they don't exist yet, and Spidey won't be joining them for a long, long time.

Quick Thoughts:
  • One of the reasons I think the nickname Spidey caught on is probably because writing out Spider-Man is more annoying than you'd think.
  • Spidey wonders why everyone likes the Fan 4 and Ant Man, but there's no love for him! Don't worry, no one's gonna like Ant Man for long...
Favorite Panel: The Fantastic Four explains that there ain't much money in the super heroics business. Reed would give everything to science. Also, feel free to make your own General Motors joke. Next: Fantastic Four # 12

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Marvel History Post 37 (Thirty Seven!): Tales to Astonish # 40

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 40 Writer: Stan Lee / L.D. Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: February 1963 Brief Summary: There's some hijacking going on in the city, and none of the people on the scene can remember the crimes after they occur. Ant Man catches wind of it as he's finishing inventing a transparent adjustable gas mask. Ant Man goes off to meet Mr. Mitchell, whose armored trucks were robbed. Mr. Mitchell says that these robberies will put him out of business, as he is losing customers. Ant Man decides to set a bait by having Mitchell announce he's sending a huge payment, and then Ant Man will catch the criminal in the act. Alas, Ant Man falls pray to what appears to be appendicitis. So, the armored truck rides off without Ant Man's protection. The Hijacker strikes, and knocks the guards out with gas. But wait! Ant Man was there all along! He feigned illness as he thought the Hijacker might not strike if he knew he was there. So, the Hijacker and the tiny Ant Man combat each other, and Ant Man reveals that the Hijacker was Mr. Mitchell, who was pocketing the money he was stealing. Commentary: Well, I guess Henry Pym wasn't actually able to diagnose appendicitis on the spot, but he did catch the Hijacker, so that's a good thing. This is yet another case of Stan pulling the switcheroo by having the person who appears to be the victim actually the perpetrator of the crime, but this one was pretty obvious. Either that or I'm starting to expect this to occur. Also, Ant Man needs to start returning to normal size to fight people at some point. Every issue features him nearly getting killed by someone trying to drop a pot on him or something. Quick Thoughts:
  • Unstable Molecules continue to make big appearances, this time as Ant Man's gas mask.
  • It's a little strange that Ant Man doesn't return to normal size when he arrives at his destination and just needs to have a conversation with someone.
Favorite Panel: Incan Art, as imagined by Jack Kirby. Next: Amazing Spider-Man # 1!!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Marvel History Post 36: Strange Tales # 105

Issue: Strange Tales # 105 Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: February 1963 Brief Summary: The Wizard is still razzed about the Human Torch kicking his ass, so he devises a plan to escape prison. He then returns to his estate, which is just where the police expected him to go. However, they can't get to him, as there's a force field blocking their way. He demands a showdown with Torch, who's prepared to give him one. Torch is allowed into Wizard's estate, where the Wizard throws a number of death traps at him. Invisible Girl has gone after Torch as well, and the Wizard finds out she's on his property, and then catches her by spraying something that forces her to become visible again. He says he will Torch into the room she's in if Torch flames off, which he does. Now Torch and Invisible Girl are trapped in a room with a bomb set to go off in five minutes. Wizard also tells them that if the temperature in the room increases, the bomb will go off early, so no flaming on allowed. Sounds like a good plan in theory, but Torch stops the hammer set to trigger the bomb if the temperature rises, and then, able to flame on, he burns a whole through the wall, grabs the bomb, and shoots it far up into the sky, where it detonates harmlessly. Clearly the Wizard should have stuck with the asbestos dungeon death trap. Then Torch takes down the Wizard, who is put back into police custody. Commentary: There are still some cameos by the rest of the Fan 4 in these Torch centric stories, with Invisible Girl being given the largest role given her closer relationship with Torch. While it's hard to tell that the Fan 4 are going to turn into comics' closest family given the tension in their early stories, it is already clear that there is a strong brother-sister bond between Sue and Johnny. The Wizard, similar to Dr. Doom, has become hell bent on defeating his rival, so much to the point that it has become his chief act of villainy. After all, the Wizard probably could have escaped prison and then gone into hiding somewhere, but his vanity got the better of him as he demanded that he re-battle the Human Torch instead. It's odd to find a man so vain that's actually uglier than the Mole Man. Favorite Panel: Once you become a superhero, kid, you too can sit around and eat pie all day! Next: Tales to Astonish # 40

Friday, July 16, 2010

Marvel History Post 35: Journey into Mystery # 89

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 89 Writer: Stan Lee/ L.D. Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: February 1963 Brief Summary: Um, Thor has to use a mannequin to maintain his secret identity. It's nothing like this. After that, Thor's origin is recapped, as is his feelings towards Nurse Jane, who has the hots for Thor and his counterpart Don Blake. Outside, a criminal is escaping for the law named Thug Thatcher, but he catches a bullet. His cronies capture Don Blake and Nurse Jane so they will help heal their leader. Blake patches up Thatcher, who then orders him killed. Blake makes a mental plea to Odin, who summons a force that knocks away Blake's cane, which he then grabs and turns into Thor. The force is too bright, so no one notices him do it. Thor handles the criminals, except Thug Thatcher escapes, and he's still got Nurse Jane captive. He orders Thor to drop the hammer, or its curtains for Jane. Thor does so, but then throws his voice across the room, which confuses Thatcher, giving Thor enough time to get Jane to safety. Thor then goes after Thatcher, and catches him with a little help from lightning. Thor also removes the memory of Thatcher from the mind of Thatcher's girlfriend. Commentary: Thor spends a lot of time keeping Don Blake's identity a secret, although Thug Thatcher at one point notes that he has read somewhere that Blake and Thor are frequently together, so perhaps a few people are on to the jig. The sad saga of Blake and Nurse Jane continues, as neither will reveal their feelings for the other. We'll see this play out in other comics, notably in the early romance between Scott Summers and Jean Grey in X-Men, and to a lesser extent we've already seen something similar between Mr. Fantastic and Invisible Girl. Quick Thoughts:
  • Apparently Don Blake carries the brain of Thor around in his head.
  • Thor has super-developed vocal chords. He also already appears the part to play a role in an opera, so maybe this will work out for him some day.
  • Thatcher wears an eye patch, making him a predecessor to someone we'll see shortly.
  • Thor has to pound his hammer four times to summon lightning.
Favorite Panel: A terrifying alternate reality where Thor gets a haircut. This does make one wonder how Blake's hair grows so quickly when he turns into Thor. Because that's the only part of these stories that doesn't make sense. Next: Strange Tales # 105

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Marvel History Post 34: Fantastic Four # 11

Issue: Fantastic Four # 11
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: February 1963

Brief Summary:

It's a day in the life of the Fan 4, who begin to answer a whole slew of fan mail. In the midst of this, Reed gives Thing a new serum to turn him back into human form. We also learn more about the team's origin, which is recounted. The serum doesn't work very long, as Thing turns back into his rocky form before stories' end. Also, the team celebrates Sue's birthday after answering a bunch of their fan mail. In the second story, the Impossible Man arrives on the planet, and he can change his shape into just about anything. He robs a bank because he finds out he needs money to get food. The Fan 4 gets word, and they catch up to the Impossible Man, who is in the middle of a large feast. Thing loses his cool, and before they know it, the team is in combat with the little green guy. The Impossible Man leaves, and then he realizes that earthlings can't change their shape into anything they want, which makes him the most powerful thing on earth. The Fan 4 eventually knock him out for a moment when Torch hypnotizes him and forces him to lose consciousness for a moment, and Impossible Man, having the time of his life, declares he's going to stay on earth forever. Reed's plan is to let the guy do whatever he wants in the hopes that he'll lose interest in earth. The plan works, and the Impossible Man flies off, declaring he will not return to such a boring planet.

Commentary: We now see a little more of the origin of some of the characters. We learn about how Ben and Reed were college roommates, and hear of their time in war as well. Stan is sticking with his origin of the team rushing out into space because they need to beat the communists up there. Also, the team seems too much the aggressor in their first fight with the Impossible Man. It seems strange that Reed does not recognize the situation as a simple misunderstanding with an alien life form that is not used to earth's customs.

Quick Thoughts:
  • The love triangle between Reed, Sue, and Namor is raised once more.
  • More meta, as some of what's referenced in the letters page is discussed in the contents of the issue.
  • The adventure on Planet X from issue seven is referenced here, as the team kept the saucer from that journey.
  • In the letters page, Stan says that Ben and Reed are in their late thirties, Sue is in her twenties, and Johnny is seventeen.
  • The Impossible Man's race is Poppupian.
Favorite Panel: I'm not sure what a hobo jungle is, but apparently it's an odd place. Stan also takes a crack at Hobos by outing one of them as an alcoholic.

Next: Journey into Mystery # 89

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Marvel History Post 33: Tales to Astonish # 39

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 39 Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: January 1963 Brief Summary: Ant Man catches on to some big happenings in the insect community, and heads down to the sewer, where he meets the Scarlet Beetle, a beetle who has been affected by radiation and has gained the intelligence of a human. The beetle plans to use insects to overthrow the world. Some of his beetles toss and tussle with Ant Man, and the Scarlet Beetle gets his hand on the Ant Man's enlarging formula. Ant Man is defeated and left in a large hole without his helmet while the Scarlet Beetle wrecks havoc on mankind. However, Ant Man's nearby helmet has been sending out a signal, so the ants come to rescue him anyway. Ant Man returns, and uses a variety of methods to stop the bugs under Scarlet Beetle's control. Ant Man manages to break the canister of enlarging gas that his bug nemesis was using, and then captures him. He then manages to counteract the effect of the radiation, and releases the Scarlet Beetle, now just a normal little bugger, back out into the world. Commentary: After all the trouble he caused, I think I probably would've stomped on the Scarlet Beetle at the end of the day. I guess Henry Pym wouldn't harm a fly, a beetle, or even a wasp. These early Ant Man stories seem even more silly than some of the other early Marvel tales due to the number of convoluted scenarios in which Stan puts Ant Man. This issue sees him using his usual land in a pile of ants routine, but also features a balloon ride and a Popsicle stick weapon. Quick Thoughts:
  • The Scarlet Beetle uses telepathy, which will of course become a staple in terms of the powers often displayed by some of Marvel's merry mutants.
  • The people attacked in the story complain that Ant Man doesn't come to their help.
Favorite Panel: There's gotta be a better term for that than growth gas. Next: Fantastic Four # 11

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marvel History Post 32: Strange Tales # 104

Issue: Strange Tales # 104
Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: January 1963

 Brief Summary:

 Johnny Storm is at a bank when it's robbed by a goofus with the largest glue gun you've ever. Said goofus, also called Paste-Pot Pete (you know he's legit because of the dash in his name), successfully robs the bank. Johnny doesn't want to reveal his identity to the onlookers, so he makes a small flame replica of himself to follow big Paste-Pot. Then, he manages to sneak off and flame on to follow him himself. Meanwhile, Pete is attacking a military base after his successful bank robbery to steal a missile and sell it to the highest bidder. Torch catches up and attacks Pete as he's riding off the base with the missile, but his time limit as Torch runs out. Pete pastes Johnny to the missile, which then accidentally takes off Torch manages to control his flame to disarm the missile, then catches back up to Pete, who then uses his paste to hitch a ride on a passing plane. Pete manages to escape with the help of a partner, but fortunately the missile and the money from the bank robbery are recovered. Commentary: Paste-Pot Pete is not exactly Stan's most successful villain, nor the smartest. Hot off the heels of his bank robbery he goes and attacks the government. For a man with a glue gun, he's got high hopes. With some of these early stories, I'm seeing a number of villains that I do not recognize as being a big part of the current Marvel Universe. I'm wondering if we've seen the last of a guy like Paste-Pot Pete, or if Stan brings him back for more hot glue gun fun.

 Quick Thoughts:
  • Too bad Stan doesn't use Thunderbolt Ross when he involves the government in some of these other stories set in the MU.
  • The town of Glenville (hometown to the Human Torch and Invisible Girl) is a pretty eventful spot for small town America.
  • The name Paste-Pot does not exactly strike fear into the hearts of anyone.
Favorite Panel: Not sure if we've seen it before in any of the earlier issues, but this was a nice shot of Human Torch uttering his famous "Flame On!" slogan. I'm still waiting for "It's Clobbering Time!" from his buddy Thing. Next: Tales to Astonish # 39

Monday, July 12, 2010

Marvel History Post 31: Journey into Mystery # 88

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 88 Writer: Stan Lee/ "L.D." Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: January 1963 Wow, I've been at this for a month already. Time flies... Brief Summary: Loki got banished back to Asgard. From there he uses magic to spy on Thor, and discovers the secret that Thor is Dr. Don Blake, and Blake needs to hold the hammer in order to remain Thor. Inspired, Loki slips back down the rainbow bridge Birfrost from Asgard to Earth. He reveals himself to Don Blake, and demands that he meet him in an hour at a park to battle him. Blake agrees. At the park, Thor throws his hammer at Loki, who has brought Nurse Jane and puts her in danger, forcing Thor to choose between saving her or recovering his hammer. Thor saves Jane, but before he can reach the hammer he returns to Don Blake, and then Loki puts a force field around the hammer. With Blake unable to return to becoming Thor, Loki goes out to spread his mischief. Blake then comes up with an idea. He vows to defeat Loki publicly through the media, and Loki goes to check on the hammer. When he gets there, he sees Thor, with his hammer. Confused, Loki removes the force field, and then learns that the Thor he saw was only a replica, as Don Blake recovers the now free hammer. Loki makes a run for it, but Thor captures him and thus is able to returneth the trickster god to Asgard. Commentary: Again we see Stan Lee bringing villains back into the fold. Also, we see Loki discover Thor's secret identity, and attempt to use it to his advantage. Other than that, this wasn't a particularly noteworthy issue. I want to see some Frost Giants already. Thor does slay a tiger, which I don't think would happen in more modern comics, given all the issues with animal rights. It is interesting to see how the laws of morality sometimes shift in unexpected ways over the decades. Favorite Panel: Loki may make things tougher for innocent bystanders, but he sure makes the artist's jobs a whole lot easier. Next: Strange Tales # 104

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Marvel History Post 30: The Incredible Hulk # 5

Issue: The Incredible Hulk # 5 Writer: Stan Lee Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: January 1963 Brief Summary: Thunderbolt Ross wants Bruce Banner to capture the Hulk. Betty, his daughter, is in love with Bruce. Bruce is the Hulk. It's not an easy situation by any stretch of the imagination. Meanwhile, a goon that lives beneath the earth's surface (not Mole Man!) plots to take over the world. His name is Tyrannus. He was banished to the center of the earth by Merlin (you know, the magician), and he drinks from the fountain of youth to maintain his boyish good looks. He first plans to seduce Betty. Bruce meets him and doesn't like him. He follows Merlin with Rick, and comes across a cave Merlin and Betty went down into, where their footprints stop in front of a large boulder. To get past it, Banner turns into the Hulk, where he and Rick get taken for a ride to the center of the earth by Tyrannus. Tyrannus subdues Hulk and Rick with gas, and they wake up to him calling them his slaves, as he controls the fate of Betty Ross. He makes Hulk into a gladiator for him. Hulk beats up a robot, raging, and then goes for Tyrannus, but alas, is paralyzed by Tyrannius. While Tyrannus is making Hulk perform menial labor for his amusement, Rick frees Betty, and then goes to free the Hulk. With Betty free, Hulk confronts Tyrannus, trapping him beneath the Earth's surface so he will never get free. The other three return to the surface in an escape podule (handy thing, that) and Betty remembers nothing of the ordeal. In the second story, Hulk is bounding around when Thunderbolt Ross tries to trap him in an iceberg. The iceberg melts, so epic fail. Hulk then returns to being Banner, but explains that when he is Hulk he is growing more and more hesitant to return to being Banner. He needs Rick to keep him from remaining the Hulk. Meanwhile, a crazy dictator named General Fang from Llhasa threatens, and Banner decides he must be stopped. The Hulk and Rick take off for Llasa, and when they arrive, Hulk frightens Fang's troops, who think he is the abominable snowman due to a stylish white fur suit he wears. He does pretty well for himself for a while, but eventually Fang captures him in a cage of electrically charged bars. Rick, being a good sidekick, sneaks up and short circuits it, and the Hulk is free to take care of Fang and drop him off in the land of his enemy. Good deed done for the day. Commentary: The best part of this comic was that even though the Hulk is no longer an automaton, he is developing a crueler, baser personality which is distinct from Banner's. It was cool to see a bit of the Hulk's personality, as not much motivation was given for the bad guys in this issue. I guess Tyrannus was bummed about being stuck hanging out in the underground with Mole Man for a neighbor, but neither Tyrannus nor Fang had a well developed personality or motivation. Stan is no fan of easy romances, and Betty and Banner's should prove to be one of the toughest. Not only have they not confessed their feelings to each other, but they've got Betty's dad to contend with as well. Quick Thoughts:
  • The percentage of thought bubbles that are related to romantic intrigue in these early stories has to be at least fifty percent of them.
  • From where is Tyrannus getting the gadgets to see the surface world?
  • There's a classy reference to Chubby Checker by Rick Jones in this issue. As a fan of popular music, I'll be noting when music is referenced a lot.
  • Any time a plane crashes or explodes in the early MU there is a successful parachuting out by the pilot, conveniently captured in the panel.
Favorite Quote: "I mean that you, and the rest of the weakling human race, will be safe when there ain't no more Hulk-- and I'm plannin' on bein' around for a long, long time!!" - Hulk Favorite Panel: I hope that at some point, somewhere, I walk past a place selling an Abominable Hulkman stuffed animal. I will purchase one. Next: Journey into Mystery # 88

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Marvel History Post 29: Fantastic Four # 10

Issue: Fantastic Four # 10
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: January 1963

We're into the issues with the publication date of 1963, so we're still blazing through the years at record pace. I don't believe that these issues with a publication date of January 1963 actually came out that month, but rather a couple before it, as has been the tradition with comic books. Nevertheless, 1963 is an enormous year for Marvel. Spider-Man gets his own comic. The Avengers are created. The X-Men are created. Iron Man. Nick Fury. Superheroes and the mighty Marvel universe truly take over the comics that Marvel produces on a regular basis.

Brief Summary:

While Reed is conducting experiments about Invisible Girl's invisibility, the Fan Four signal flare goes up. Mr. Fantastic, Torch, and Invisible Girl rush off to the flare. They rush off to Alicia Master's apartment where the Thing is waiting for them. He tells them that Alicia has made puppets of all their old enemies. She's a keeper. Then, uh...we cut to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and Dr. Doom interrupts their day to tell them to call the Fantastic Four and get Richards over to their studio. Richards comes, unknowing Doom is there, and Doom captures him. When Richards awakes, Doom tells him that after he was shot into space on an asteroid, he ran into some smart aliens called Ovoids. He learned some pretty special things, including switching bodies so that he is now in control of Mr. Fantastic's body, who is in Doom's body. The other members of the team show up, and Doom and Reed both plead their case. The team locks up the real Reed Richards (in Doom's body), and Doom then mocks him as he is locked in an airtight cell where he will soon die. Doom then explains to the rest of the team that he is working on a reducing ray that will increase their powers, but unbeknownst to them, it will actually shrink them to nothing. Meanwhile, Reed escapes his prison, and comes across Alicia Masters, who believes that he might not be Doom. To test the situation, Torch creates a mirage of dynamite in the room. The real Reed rushes to defuse it, while Doom tries to run and save himself. The rest of the group realizes what happened, and in the chaos of the moment, Doom, uh...loses his control over Reed's body, and the two minds switch back. Doom attacks, but accidentally gets the reducing ray turned on himself, and gets reduced to nothingness...maybe. Doom's got a worse record against the Fan Four than the Mole Man.

Commentary:

I'm just going to leave the whole Reed/Doom switching brains thing alone. It's actually not even the most ridiculous thing that happens in this issue, which would be the appearance of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who apparently write the adventures of the Fantastic Four comic book in the actual Marvel Universe as well. Don't think about it too hard, it's just not worth it. In this issue we finally get back to something that's been bugging me, which was the dropped romance between Reed Richards and Sue Storm. Reed brings it up here, but Sue says she's not yet sure of her feelings, which have become complicated by her interest in Namor. One of the highlights of these early issues is when the team tries to come up with an idea, or they ponder the future, and they have these one caption panels where it will be something like here's Thing's thoughts on how to trap Dr. Doom, or here's Reed's thoughts on transubstantiation. These are a little hard to describe, but they're usually pretty funny in their proper context.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Torch can now concentrate enough that his flame burns without heat. Interesting...
  • Alicia seems to have become a semi-permanent fixture by now.
  • Even though Namor doesn't appear this issue, he is still referenced.
Favorite Panel: These are Alicia's creations of the enemies the Fantastic Four have faced. I'm a little disappointed she didn't create the Skrulls as cows, but all in all this was kind of cool.

Next: The Incredible Hulk # 5

Friday, July 9, 2010

Marvel History Post 28: Tales to Astonish # 38

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 38 Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: December 1962 Brief Summary: A bunch of criminals are rather displeased at Ant Man for stimying their efforts, so they hire a character known as Egg Man who they believe has the smarts to take Ant Man down. Egg Man's plan is to turn Ant Man's ant insects against him. Egg Head, believing he can appeal to the ants and get them to turn against Ant Man, has the ants tell Ant Man that there will be thieves at a museum that Ant Man must stop. When Ant Man goes, Egg Man traps him against some flypaper. Ant Man, being a rather clever guy himself, releases a spring from his boots to shoot off the flypaper. He also uses the ants to help him round up all of the criminals gathered at the museum. Ant Man explains that the ants consider themselves his partners in the fight against crime, which is only a marginally better relationship than the one Batman has with bats. Ant Man was aware of the setup the whole time, and thought he'd turn the tables on Egg Head and the other criminals. The only mishap is that Egg Head gets away, although he seems even further mentally unhinged at the story's end. Commentary: Egg Head is pretty certain that his plan has worked because he has appealed to the ants' greed and vanity. Anytime you're appealing the vanity of an insect, you're in rough shape, whether you know it or not. Ants don't have vanity, smart stuff. One of the interesting things about this issue was that Ant Man didn't show up in the story until well after the villain and his plan were both established. Of course, this proved necessary, given the plotting of the issue and how Ant Man planned to turn the tables on the criminals the entire time. By withholding the details, Stan managed to keep the suspense. Quick Thoughts:
  • Egg Head should have used a signal cord to control the ants.
  • Still no love interest for our hero Henry Pym. Where could she be?...
Favorite Panel: The Avengers this ain't. Next: 1963!!!! And Fantastic Four # 10

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Marvel History Post 26: Strange Tales # 103

Issue: Strange Tales # 103 Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: December 1962 Brief Summary: A Mr. Bentley is trying to build homes on top of a swamp, and it's not going very well. An old man tells him it's because of the swamp demons. No, not this guy! Houses keep sinking, and Torch goes to investigate. He waits at night, and sees the old man and some alien looking creatures use a ray on the ground to turn it soft. Torch follows them, and the old man turns out to be one of the aliens. The alien has a gun which extinguishes the Torch's flame, and then the alien transports him to the fifth dimension. The aliens explain that they have been planning to conquer our world, and have been keeping humans away from the gateway between the two worlds in the swamp. They trap Johnny in a tub of water, but a pretty alien girl comes to rescue him. She and some of the aliens are opposed to the plans to invade earth. Torch agrees to help them. First up, they destroy the aliens' arsenal. Well, not all of it. The alien leader Zemu (no, he's not a Disney character...oh wait, actually he is) attacks with his tank corps, which Torch defeats. Torch then writes a message in the sky for the people to unite against tyranny and oppression and become communis...whoops, too far. Anywho, Zemu is defeated, and the people of the fifth dimension vow not to invade Earth. Torch returns home with visions of alien girls dancing in his head. Commentary: One of Stan's frequent ploys as a writer is to have a seemingly benevolent figure, or someone who is painted as the victim, actually be the villain. We saw this in Journey into Mystery with the Protector, and we see it in this issue with the old man becoming one of the aliens. There has been a lot more of an examination of Torch's powers so far in the MU than those of the Invisible Girl. An exploration of her abilities, which are the most powerful in the group, will come later. Quick Hits:
  • The alien love interest for the Torch is named Valeria. We may see that name again at some point.
Favorite Panel: The answer is Stan Lee. Next: Tales to Astonish # 38

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Marvel History Post 25: Journey into Mystery # 87

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 87 Writer: Stan Lee/Larry Lieber Artist: Jack Kirby Publication Date: December 1962 Brief Summary: A slew of American scientists are defecting to the Reds, and there is no discernible reason. Dr. Don Blake decides to set himself up as bait to see what's going on. After he poses as a scientist, a photographer comes by to take his picture, but actually hypnotizes him. Blake awakes with the rest of the scientists, all of whom were brought behind the same curtain the same way, and have thus far refused to work for the communists. Blake says, "Aw, hell no" (have I mentioned before that some of the things that happen in my summary don't happen in exactly the same manner in the issue?) and turns into Thor. Thor escapes a few traps, when he comes to face one of the communists who is next to a switch that would crush the scientists. Thor surrenders to save their lives. They chain Thor up, but take away his hammer, so after sixty seconds he returns to Don Blake, who is able to wiggle out of the chains. Thor locates the scientists and frees them, and then destroys the communists' citadel. Thor returns home with just a panel or two to spare for pining over Nurse Jane. Commentary: This one's got something different, with an issue focusing on communists as the villain. Right. Seriously, I hope it's becoming clear that the key to Thor is not fighting communists, but rather involving the Norse mythology and incorporating that into the Marvel Universe. Thor is still focused on keeping his identity of Don Blake a secret, and its causing quite the disconnect between him and Nurse Jane, who really hasn't done much to endear herself to readers, as she too easily dismisses Don Blake. Hopefully this will lead to a showdown where he reveals himself as Thor to her, but has already decided to marry Sophia Loren. I'm pulling for this in Journey into Mystery # 95 or so. Favorite Quote: "Just remember that even in a slave nation, the spirit of freedom never dies!" - Random man with mustache behind the Iron Curtain. Favorite Panel: This is a woman finding a letter from her scientist husband that he has left America and defected to communism. That's putting the scare back in Red Scare! I wanted to make some sort of Reds/Johnny Bench joke with this note, but it never came together for me. Next: Strange Tales # 103