Strange Tales #116 (12/10/1963)

detail.jpgUgh, yet another appearance by the horrid Puppet Master, one of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. In this issue, the Puppet Master takes control of the Human Torch and has him battle it out with the Thing. Of course, the Thing didn’t think twice that something might be off with the Human Torch coming onto Alicia. I swear in these early issues the heroes seem to forget about villains they face. Also, apparently the Human Torch has the power to go through a jet without harming himself or the jet. Oh well, at least the art was good.

Fortunately, Dr. Strange’s tale more than makes up for the lackluster Human Torch tale. In this issue, Nightmare has developed a way to steal people’s corporeal forms while they are dreaming. It is up to Dr. Strange to travel to the Nightmare World and confront them. What follows is a pretty epic confrontation that puts the Human Torch/Puppet Master to shame. In addition, Ditko’s depiction of the Nightmare World and its denizens is fantastic. Do yourself a favor, skip the Human Torch tale and go straight to the Dr. Strange tale.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: George Bell
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Ray Holloway
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Strange Tales #115 (12/10/1963)

detailOnce again, this issue of Strange Tales #115 is once again split between a solo Human Torch story and a Dr. Strange tale. As has been the norm up to this point, the solo Human Torch story is wildly inconsistent and poorly written. For one, I just love how the other members of the Fantastic Four are usually too busy to actually fight villains. In Strange Tales #115, for instance, Mr. Fantastic is too busy to assist with the Sandman because of an experiment and the Thing and Invisible Woman are too busy writing a report. Seriously? Over fighting a villain? What kind of superheroes are they?

Another concern with this issue is Lee didn’t even try to come up with a creative way of having the Sandman escape, rather he was just placed in a regular prison cell. That’s just plain lazy writing. The confrontation between Sandman and the Human Torch was okay, but it’s beyond me how the bottom half of the Human Torch gets wet, but his top stays dry when the ceiling sprinklers come on. Luckily for the Human Torch he is now a judo master and is able to toss Sandman around like nothing. Really a poorly thought out story.

Luckily, the Dr. Strange tale is much better, which is the first telling of Dr. Strange’s well-known origin story. The tale opens with Dr. Strange traveling to India to seek the aide of the Ancient One in healing him. It is through the Ancient One’s peering into Dr. Strange’s mind that we learn of his past as an arrogant surgeon and the accident that damaged the nerves in his hands. It’s a very short, but effective story. Now if only the Human Torch stories could get on par with the Dr. Strange ones this series would be much better.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Strange Tales #114 (11/10/1963)

detailStrange Tales #114, as the cover shows, features the return of Captain America or at least it would seem so to the reader back in 1963. However, pretty much every modern reader would know that Captain America made his reappearance in Avengers #4, which is still a few months off. Also, why would you open a story by basically stating that there is a twist coming at the end? That was just plain stupid. Anyways, our tale opens with the Human Torch doing his still incredibly goofy looking training when it is soon interrupted by his friends, who are excited to inform him that Captain America is coming to town. Naturally, the Human Torch was a big fan of Captain America back in the day and is curious to see what he’s been up to for all these years.

Unfortunately, that’s where the decent part of the story ends. Soon, the story descends quickly into that pure Silver Age cheese. It all begins with a pair of car thieves deciding that parade is the best time to steal a car, and that a tommy gun was also apparently necessary. Anyways, this clumsy event is used to have the Human Torch run into Captain America as they both leap into action to stop the criminals. This leads to Captain America informs the Human Torch that he’s getting in his way and to stay out of it. Naturally, this causes the Human Torch to become butt hurt.

The next scene is where the story comes completely off the wheels, with Captain America breaking out the criminals so that they can be decoys while he robs the bank. Now, why wouldn’t he had just done that the first time around? It seriously makes zero sense. In addition, as is way to common in this series, the Human Torch’s powers are way too inconsistent. For example, he’s taken out by a mop, but a few panels latter he’s able to basically blow out the seams of an asbestos lined truck? And don’t get me started on that truck as a plot device.

In the end, the main thing going for this story was its surprise surrounding the apparent return of Captain America, which unfortunately is no longer available to hold this story up. Take that away and you basically have story that is pretty pointless and adds nothing to the Human Torch as a character or any new elements to his story.

This issue also sees the return of Dr. Strange, as he once again must battle the dreaded Baron Mordo. The story opens with Dr. Strange being called by someone claiming to be Lord Bentley in need of help. Naturally, Dr. Strange leaps to action to give assistance and quickly springs a trap laid by Baron Mordo. What ensues is an interesting mystic art battle that has a number of gaping holes. Probably the biggest one is Baron Mordo goes straight up Bond villain and decides to leave the room so that Dr. Strange can escape the trap. In addition, the ending just made zero sense and makes what proceeded it make zero sense. Still, this story is definitely better than the Human Torch story.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Strange Tales #111 (08/10/1963)

detail.jpgA common countermeasure to the Human Torch in a number of these silver age stories thus far has been asbestos-covered things, such bullets, rooms, clothing, etc. Well in Strange Tales #111 we’re finally treated to a villain who slathers himself in the stuff and calls himself Asbestos Man, but the questions is how does one get to that point? Well, if you’re Professor Orson Kasloff you decide that you want to be the best criminal you can be, because apparently patenting and selling your products won’t make you money. Anyways, Professor Kasloff, being the smart person that he is realizes that the only way to be a successful criminal is to take on the Human Torch and thus Asbestos Man is born!

I have to admit this was an okay story by the standards of the series, but if they were going for an encore of Amazing Spider-Man #3, which sees Dr. Octopus defeat Spider-Man, they certainly didn’t hit the right notes on this one. In addition, this issue proves that doing your taxes is just plain hard, because even the smartest man in the Marvel Universe needed assistance with it. At least the artwork in this issue was pretty good and I also kind of dug Asbestos Man’s gear, outside of the net.

In addition to the Human Torch story, there’s a five page Dr. Strange story, which sees him foiling the plot of Baron Mordo, his arch nemesis, to take out the Ancient One and gain his knowledge of the black arts. At five pages long, there isn’t too much space for story development, but what was there was entertaining. In addition, the artwork of the Dr. Strange Story provides an interesting contrast to the Human Torch story. Plus astral plane battles are just cool. I hope in future issues Dr. Strange gets a little more page count.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Terry Szenics
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Strange Tales #110 (07/10/1963)

detail.jpgStrange Tales #110 is split into two stories this time. The first one, “The Human Torch vs. the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete,” sees Paste-Pot Pete bust the Wizard out of jail so that they can team up to take out the Human Torch. The second story, “Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic,” features the one and only Dr. Strange, well except for the other one from earlier. In this issue a man is haunted in his dreams by a strange figure bound in chains. Thus he seeks out the help of Dr. Strange. Can Dr. Strange solve this mystery?

The Human Torch story in this issue is pretty poor, which is to be expected with a villain like Paste-Pot Pete. The plot, once again, is pretty flimsy, with such gems as making their headquarters the Wizard’s home because the police will never check there, even though that’s exactly where he went the last time he busted out of jail, and let’s make a trap that is ineffective against the Human Torch. While the Dr. Strange story is definitely the better of the two, and has a better villain in Nightmare, the brevity of the story prevents it from being anything special. Definitely potential there though. Also, the panels of Dr. Strange in the nightmare realm were just awesome.

Strange Tales #110 is worth a read simply for the Dr. Strange tale alone. The Human Torch tale, on the other hand, is much harder to recommend because of the flawed ending and the villains involved.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

    • Editor: Stan Lee
    • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
    • Writers: Stan Lee, H.E. Huntley
    • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
    • Inkers: Steve Ditko
    • Colourists:
    • Letterers: John Duffy, Terry Szenics