Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Marvel History Post 97: The Avengers # 2

Issue: The Avengers # 2
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Avengers_2

Commentary:

The team is in its early stages, and that means a lot of in-fighting, mostly between the Hulk and everyone else. It seems that Stan loves putting his brutes on the offensive, as Thing was causing much of the same ruckus in the very early issues of Fantastic Four.

Also, how is it that so many of these superheroes have secret identities, and then use these secret identities to be their pretend best friend?  Yeah, Iron Man just hangs out with Tony Stark, and you gotta talk to Don Blake to get in touch with Thor. And yet at no point does Iron Man suspect Don Blake is Thor, and vice versa. Aren't these dudes all super smart scientists? What gives?

Quick Thoughts:

  • Wasp reveals that she thinks Thor is cute in a thought bubble.
  • She also thinks Dr. Don Blake is kind of cute.
  • Wasp mentions that she thinks the space phantom's false human shape is not bad looking.
  • So yeah, point being, Wasp is into men. She doesn't say this in the issue or anything, but...it's pretty clear.
Favorite Panel:

Hulk drops the quit on the rest of the team.

Next:

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos # 4

Monday, May 16, 2011

Marvel History Post 96: Tales to Astonish # 49

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 49
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_to_Astonish_49

Commentary:

It seems a little strange that this group of aliens can invent the ability to move between dimensions, but couldn't handle the creation of atomic power.

Wasp provides a strong dose of comic relief in this issue. Although Stan's comics tend to be male dominated, he has made some interesting female characters and tried to put them in starring roles at times.

This doesn't always work out, as sometimes the females come across as silly. In the middle of the adventure, you've got Wasp dropping quotes like "I miss it when men don't whistle at me." Humorous, yes, but perhaps not the strongest of role models.

Quick Thoughts:

  • Wasp tells Ant Man she's in love with him, but he's not really into it.
  • And then, Wasp makes another reference to what married life to Pym would be. She has no idea...
  • Giant Man isn't so giant, as Pym can only grow to twice his normal size, 12 feet.
Favorite Panel:

There is really no explanation for this little creature. I guess sometimes aliens create a sense of danger in a comic. And sometimes they look like this.

Next:

Avengers # 2

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Marvel History Post 95: Tales of Suspense # 47


Issue: Tales of Suspense # 47
Writer: Stan Lee / Larry Lieber
Artist: Steve Ditko / Don Heck
Publication Date: November 1963
Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Strange_Tales_114

Commentary:

Stan is mixing things up a little in terms of the dynamics of the Iron Man cast, as the largest recurring role of a female character (Pepper Potts) is actually the desire (I guess?) of another member of the supporting cast, Happy Hogan. In most of the other series, this would be the object of desire of the leading male. I guess Tony's always been more of a playboy, though.

Quick Thoughts:
  • There's a variation on the Iron Man suit, as Stark builds one out of aluminum to defeat the Melter
Favorite Panel:
When your only play is melting things, and it's not working, you're in rough shape

Favorite Quote: "I've still got the greatest weapon in the world...a human brain!" - Iron Man, thinking to himself

Next:

Tales to Astonish # 49

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Marvel History Post 94: Strange Tales # 114

Issue: Strange Tales # 114
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Strange_Tales_114

Commentary:

Torch's hot headed lifestyle gets the best of him again, this time getting him into a fight with what he assumes to be Captain America. Torch is pretty upset that Cap steals his
thunder.

It's amazing how popular Torch was in the early days given how much of a jackass he can be at times. Dude is making Thor look humble.

The stories of Dr. Strange return this issue. We seem him refuse to offer training to a young lady with some talent for the mystic arts. He's apparently not quite ready to start taking on disciples.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Asbestos is back. Great.
  • Stan keeps bringing back the villains, really trying to establish a rogue's gallery for Torch that's unique from the Fan 4's enemies.
  • Torch reads some old Captain America comics
  • This story was a "test" by Stan to see if readers wanted the real Cap back in action.
Favorite Panel:


It looks like he's cracking into some bubbly to me. Torch getting his party on like it's 1999. Which at the point this was published was like, thirty six years away. Even the Prince song was about twenty years away. I'm getting off track...

Next:

Tales of Suspense # 47

Friday, May 13, 2011

Marvel History Post 93: Journey into Mystery # 98

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 98
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Journey_Into_Mystery_98

Commentary:

The tension between Odin and Thor continues. Thor is none too pleased that he is forbidden from making his love known to Jane Foster. Odin should know better than to stop a man from making a foolish declaration of love. That's one of man's favorite past times, likely dating back to the days when people were inventing the original stories of Thor. Thor's catharsis, of course, is beating on Cobra.


We also get another tale of the Asgard of old, with Odin battling Frost Giants.

Favorite Panel:

Well, at least Stan's aware that power exposition heavy dialog is a favorite from his play book.

Next: Strange Tales # 114

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Marvel History Post 92: Fantastic Four # 20

Issue: Fantastic Four # 20
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Fantastic_Four_20

Commentary:

The Watcher is back! And for someone who is only supposed to watch, he does spend a lot of time interfering. He is one of the cool early characters that Stan invented, though. Not really a supporting cast member, neither hero nor villain, just...the Watcher.

The Molecule Man is way too powerful. But, for being such a powerful dude, he comes up with some lame ways to try to eradicate the Fan 4. Why try to outstretch Reed when you could create a mountain or something to fall on him?

Quick Thoughts:
  • The team gets some help from the Yancy Street gang!

Next:

Journey into Mystery # 98

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Marvel History Post 91: Amazing Spider-Man # 6

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 6
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: November 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_1_6

Commentary:

It's curious how a villain like the Lizard can endure in some capacity to this day, but others disappear quickly. Most of them have the same origin (deranged, misunderstood scientist), so how come some caught on, and others faded into nothing? Is it that Stan (and other writers) simply chose to bring some back time and again? Perhaps it has something to do with how visually striking they appear. Also, I think that Stan spent a lot of time listening to what readers liked, and brought back the villains, heroes, etc. that seemed to resonate with his audience. Still, it's tough to identify what keeps certain characters in continuity and what sends others off into the Marvel abyss.


Quick Thoughts:
  • Random punctuation is used to represent some of Jameson's less than polite dialog
  • Spider-Man has to trick J. Jonah Jameson into paying his way to head off to face the Lizard. A far cry from having one's own Fantasti-car.
Favorite Panel:

Is it me, or does that not seem like a safe way to deposit a kid in a tree?

Next:

Fantastic Four # 20

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Marvel History Post 90: Tales to Astonish # 48

Issue: Tales to Astonish # 48
Writer: Stan Lee / H.E. Huntley
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_to_Astonish_48

Commentary:

Well, despite Stan's claims, the Porcupine is less than a startling villain. He's a man in a goofy suit after some cash.

This was a less than stellar affair. Stan seems to be running thin of ideas for his miniature heroes. There's some of the usual problems that result in being tiny, and there's of course the normal ass kicking of the bad guy, but not much else to comment on from this one.


Favorite Panel:

Stan Lee as comic book Nostradamus again.

Favorite Quote:

"If this was an adventure story, it would say 'The Tension Mounts' at this point!" - Wasp.

Runner up goes to Ant Man's "Like I always say, you can't please a female!"

Next:

Amazing Spider-Man # 6

Monday, May 9, 2011

Marvel History Post 89: Tales of Suspense # 46

Issue: Tales of Suspense # 46
Writer: Stan Lee / R. Berns
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_of_Suspense_46

Commentary:

We get not one, but two of Stan's favorite plot archetypes here, with the evil of communism AND a villain seeing the error of their ways. We also meet someone who builds a suit that tries to best Iron Man's. There will be plenty more of these in the days to come. Is there something in comics that makes villains similar in powers and appearance flock to the hero who most aptly represents the flip side of the coin from them?

Quick Thoughts:
  • Pepper continues to be a bitch to Happy Hogan. It's nice to see a girl with a little more personality to her.
  • Iron Man takes on the full brunt of a falling rocket ship. Guess that armor is pretty strong.
Favorite Panel:

This is not a Sex and the City reference.

Favorite Quote:

"All commies are chronically suspicious of each other!" - Iron Man

Next:

Tales to Astonish # 48

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Marvel History Post 88: Strange Tales Annual # 2

Issue: Strange Tales Annual # 2
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby (dude even draws the Annuals)
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Strange_Tales_Annual_Vol_1_2

Commentary:

Again, Johnny's showboating ways are on display, as he complains about Spidey getting more publicity than he does.
This issue also begs a question I've had for a while, which is what do art thieves do with their loot? So, you stole a Da Vinci, and, what do you do with that? Where do you sell it? If anyone knows an art thief I can interview, I'd be most grateful.

This issue also features classic Marvel hero vs. hero, bringing together what may well be the two most popular characters at the time the story was written. It's amazing how popular The Human Torch was in the early Marvel days, and how that faded over time. Indeed, the Fantastic Four faded over time in general, as the X-Men and Avengers grew in popularity. We're a ways away from that, though. I keep getting ahead of myself!

Quick Thoughts:
  • The villain The Fox bears a sleazy resemblance to the Penguin.
  • Most of this annual is reprints of old stories from Strange Tales; reprints are a mighty Marvel tradition!
Favorite Panel:

Harbinger?

Next:

Tales of Suspense # 46

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Marvel History Post 87: Strange Tales # 113

Issue: Strange Tales # 113
Writer: Stan Lee / Joe Carter
Artist: Dick Ayers
Publication Date:

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Strange_Tales_113

Commentary:

Well, this issue features the exploits of a man who tries to increase the intelligence of plants. Then a lightning bolt hits his device, and it works. So then the plants obey him. It's like two steps removed from a piss poor M. Night Shyamalan movie.


Johnny's got a new girlfriend, Doris Evans. Surprise, surprise. Only this one likes him for everything except being the Human Torch. Interesting touch, I suppose.

Other than that, not much doing in this one. Not even a hilarious anecdote from Thing or something.

Favorite Panel:

Johnny Storm realizes the sad truth about male/female interactions at an all too young age.

Next: Strange Tales Annual # 2

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Marvel History Post 86: Journey into Mystery # 97

Issue: Journey into Mystery # 97
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Journey_Into_Mystery_97

Commentary:

Odin's a bit of a jackass in this issue, refusing to let Thor ask for the hand of a mortal woman (Nurse Jane Foster). While that kind of sucks, it was nice to see some traction on the simmering romance between the two characters.  Stan introduces another villain from below the surface of the earth. This one is at least more daunting than Mole Man (where has that lovable little guy been these past eighty some posts, anyway?). Still, with the sheer volume of writing Stan is doing, I'm beginning to gain a little respect for some of the more familiar plot lines continuing to surface. Also, Stan does a nice job of keeping some of his sub plots moving forward. I'm kind of excited to see what happens with the Jane subplot, as she leaves Dr. Don Blake at the end of the issue for another doctor.

Also, one of the backup stories in this issue features Tales of Asgard. We are slowly seeing the other types of stories told by Marvel phased out in favor of the super heroics. Although, yes, Modeling with Millie is still in publication as of this point in time. And yes, the back up story in this issue means Frost Giants. Awesome.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Thor's one great fear is revealed: publicity! Iron Man he ain't.
  • The Lava Man talks about only the strongest surviving. Perhaps he's friends with Darwin. Or Apocalypse.
Favorite Panel:

Frost Giants!

Next:

Strange Tales # 113

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Marvel History Post 85: Fantastic Four # 19


Issue: Fantastic Four # 19
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Fantastic_Four_19

Commentary:

Reed indicates that the team's first encounter with Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four # 5) took place more than a year ago. Well, you can't blame Stan, as he probably thought Marvel superhero comics were just a fad, but he's starting to put dates where he shouldn't. The way superhero comics seem to work is that the past is eventually squeezed into tighter and tighter time periods. This is due to the characters hardly aging. So, at some point, these events are not going to take a year.

In the "future" Stan shows us here, it is a peaceful and easy going place. Not the typical future Marvel tends to show off, but hey, Days of Future Past is more than a few posts away. The days of the gritty and grim Marvel futures have not yet come upon us.

Apparently, the Sphinx was a creation of Rama Tut and a shell for his time machine. The team speculates that they'll see him again, and Thing even suggests he might be Dr. Doom, having found a way to live for a very long time (He's not).

Quick Thoughts:
  • Thing's fans send him cigars. Not bad.
  • Maybe the team shouldn't choose a blind person to operate a time traveling device. Just a thought, Reed.
  • Thing references Reed's time in the army, recently shown in Sgt. Fury # 3
  • Parts of this story are recounted many publishing years later in the Marvel limited series Rise of Apocalypse, as Rama-Tut plays a key role in that tale
Favorite Panel:

This doesn't look very fun.

Next: Journey into Mystery # 97

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Marvel History Post 84: Amazing Spider-Man # 5

Issue: Amazing Spider-Man # 5
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Publication Date: October 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Amazing_Spider-Man_5

Commentary:

Well, I am posed with an interesting dilemma in terms of tagging this post, as I had to decide if an appearance from their arch rival meant tagging the Fantastic Four as appearing in this issue. Otherwise, I would have had to go and re-tag half of the Fan 4 posts with an additional Doom tag. Not wanting to do this, I didn't. I am justifying this by saying that Doom fits under the Fantastic Four family tag. This is the same with Namor. I am not sure what all of these tags will end up being. Right now, I have a separate tag for Ant Man, but maybe he should be rolled into the Avengers family tag.  Also, I am still not sure why I think this is a remotely interesting topic. Also, the Fantastic Four appear in this issue. So, you're welcome for the proceeding paragraph.

Quick Thoughts:
  • Parker's crush on Betty Brant, J. Jonah Jameson's secretary, begins
  • Spidey has to blow a fuse in order to get Aunt May's permission to leave the house. Literally.
Favorite Panel:

The Fan 4, making an appearance if only for a panel or two.

Next:

Fantastic Four # 19

Monday, May 2, 2011

Marvel History Post 83: The X-Men # 1

Issue: The X-Men # 1
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Publication Date: September 1963

Brief Summary:
http://marvel.wikia.com/Uncanny_X-Men_1

Commentary:

This is the one I've been waiting for. When I initially conceived of this blog, I had thought about simply tracking the history of the X-Men. This of course led into questions about who is an X-Man (does Deadpool count? and blah blah blah), and fears of missing potential appearances, etc. etc. So, I ultimately decided to cover the entire Marvel Universe.  Smart move, right?

The X-Men are, however, my first comic book love. Every comic dork has a special place in their heart for their gateway drug, and the X-Men were mine. Cyclops in fact is my favorite comic book character (go ahead, get your jokes in).

The X-Men are the true losers and outcasts in a fictional world that's full of them. In the Marvel Universe, heroes are frequently mistrusted in general, and mutants are always mistrusted.

While the story of the X-Men serves as an analogy for the civil rights movement is compelling in its own right, it's a small factor in these early stories. And it's also only one facet of the X-Men, who have one of the more complicated and complex histories in all of comics. If you've ever tried to figure out the Summers family tree, you know what I mean.

But we're a bit aways from the X-Men many of us know and love (if this blog manages to make it to Wolverine's first appearance, it will be no small miracle).  In the early days of the MU, they are one of Stan and Jack's less popular creations.

Still, there's a lot planted in these early X-Men stories. In fact, the very first issue introduces many of the most important figures in the X-Men mythos, a lot of whom are still around today (and if they aren't around, they'll be back, because that's how the X-Men roll).

So, don't be surprised if my X-Men posts are a little longer and more elaborate than my Ant Man posts. And don't hold it against me too much!

This issue introduces the team. You get a little bit of a glimmer into some of their personalities (Iceman as the jokester, Beast as the...older jokester?). Magneto of course makes his first appearance. Interesting how the X-Men's arch rival appears in the first issue, whereas in the case of some of the other big heroes, it takes a while for the big baddy to crop up (Doom, Green Goblin).

Quick Thoughts:
  • The Danger Room sort of makes an appearance, although it isn't named as such
  • Stan accidentally calls telekinesis teleportation. He created Spider-Man, so we'll forgive him.
  • Professor X at one point claims he might be the first mutant. He isn't.

Favorite Panel:


Jean Grey, aka Ms. Marvel (and a few other names down the road), arrives on the scene, and the original five X-Men team is formed

Favorite Quote:

"Mistakes are for homo sapiens, sir" - Angel, homo superior

Next: Amazing Spider-Man # 5

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Marvel History Post 82: Tales to Astonish # 47


Issue: Tales to Astonish # 47
Writer: Stan Lee / H.E. Huntley
Artist: Don Heck
Publication Date: September 1963

Brief Summary:

http://marvel.wikia.com/Tales_to_Astonish_47

Commentary:

Stan is up to his old hypnotism tricks, with the method of Trago's hypnosis being all trumpet related. Still, despite the different, ah, medium, it's more or less the same power we've seen displayed before.

Of course, Ant Man turns the tides on Trago, hypnotizing him into forgetting he had hypnotic powers. Right. There are some questions about the morality of such actions that are not being addressed here. Is it really fair to change someone's personality, memories, etc. in order to make them a better person? This same issue is addressed in the popular DC comics storyline Identity Crisis from a few years back. Stan kind of glosses over the topic here. Trago must be happier this way, right? Right?

Quick Thoughts:
  • Seems like an early relationship is starting to develop between Ant Man and Wasp.
  • It's always funny how the captions in these early stories directly address the characters within them.
  • One of Pym's ants gets a name! Then gets killed by a garden snake. Easy come, easy go.

Favorite Panel:

What a duo.

Next: Yes..... X-Men # 1!!!