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

Fantastic Four #21 (12/10/1963)

untitled1.pngFantastic Four # 21 contains the story, “The Hate Monger,” which is about the villainous Hate Monger dousing the Fantastic Four with his H-Ray and having them fight against each other. Naturally, the Hate Monger also wants to take over the world. This issue also happens to be the first appearance the Hate Monger, as well as featuring an appearance of Sgt. Fury.

This issue is clearly a product of it’s time, which in this case would be the early 1960s. This time frame was a period of civil unrest in America, and Fantastic Four #21 is clearly a commentary on these issues. The Hate Monger has a H-Ray, which amplifies racial, class, and religious hatred of whoever it is fired upon. It is also pretty clear that Kirby was influenced by the Ku Klux Klan’s outfits when it came to designing the Hate Monger.

Admittedly, how Fantastic Four #21 tackles those issues is pretty tame, but I have to give them credit for at least attempting to within the pages of a comic book. The real identity of the Hate Monger is a pretty choice, which makes sense given the backgrounds of Kirby and Lee. Also, this issue is significant in that this is the first time there is a character to actually die on panel in a Fantastic Four comic, rather than their fate being assumed off panel and not shown, such as with the Puppet Master tripping and falling out the window.

Overall the theme of Fantastic Four #21 really doesn’t lend itself to feeling like a Fantastic Four story. However, this story is worth checking out just to see Kirby and Lee’s views on the unrest of the 1960s that was going on around them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: George Roussos
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • 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

 

Fantastic Four #20 (11/10/1963)

detail28.jpgFantastic Four #20 features the story, “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” which features the first appearance of the Molecule Man. “The Mysterious Molecule Man,” centers around, as the name would suggest, the origins of the Molecule Man, who gains the powers to manipulate inorganic molecules when he is in an accident. This issue also features the Watcher, who is the one that actually warns the Fantastic Four of the impending danger.

“The Mysterious Molecule Man” is a fun origin story of a villain with interesting powers. Clearly, the Molecule Man is a threat worthy of the Fantastic Four. In addition, Kirby’s artwork does a good job of capturing the powers of the Molecule Man. The fight panels between the Molecule Man and the Fantastic Four are also well done. I also thought it was humorous that the Thing ended up being rescued by the dastardly Yancy Street Gang.

However this issue does have some downsides. Probably the biggest one is really the motivations of the Molecule Man. He’s upset that no one notices him, but somehow that leads him to wanting to conquer the world? I would think he’d rather just show off his powers or something. Also, I’m not quite sure if his powers are in the wand or if he just channels it through the wand, I’m thinking the later because the wand is deemed no longer dangerous.

Final Fantasy #20 is another classic Fantastic Four story that fans of the series or of Marvel Comics in general will enjoy.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • 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

 

Fantastic Four #19 (10/10/1963)

detail27Fantastic Four #19 features the story, “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” which features the first appearance of Rama-Tut. “Prisoners of the Pharaoh,” centers around Reed Richards discovering on a trip to the museum that it appears that a pharaoh had discovered a way to restore blindness. Naturally this leads the Fantastic Four traveling back to ancient Egypt to find it to cure Alicia’s blindness.

I foundPrisoners of the Pharaoh,” to be an interesting story, mainly because it turns out that Rama-Tut is really a time-traveler from the years 3000 and had gone back in time to become pharaoh. The fact that Rama-Tut went back in time because he was bored of the utopia of his time was also an interesting tidbit. Also interesting is his ship was the sphinx. In addition, Rama-Tut has technology (Ultra-Diode Ray) that was able to sap the Fantastic Four’s powers.

On the flipside, a downside to the story is how the Fantastic Four end up traveling back in time. Apparently, Dr. Doom’s time machine has just been left in perfect working at his old hideout, which makes me wonder why someone wouldn’t have tried to get that technology before now, especially since it’s an actual time machine. In addition, the fact that there was a container labeledoptic nerve restorative” that Fantastic Four was kind of ludicrous. Also, I don’t remember the time machine not being able to transport radioactive material being mentioned in the previous issue featuring it.

In the end Fantastic Four #19 is a fun issue that captures the spirit of what makes for a good Fantastic Four story. In addition, it also does a good job of linking to previous events in the series, such as with Dr. Doom’s time machine.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists: Stan Goldberg
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Strange Tales #113 (10/10/1963)

njnj.jpgStrange Tales #113 opens with Johnny Storm facing his most difficult challenge thus far: a woman who doesn’t think he’s God’s gift to women. I have to say this definitely caught me by surprise to find a female character that doesn’t immediately swoon at the sight of the Human Torch. While, I found it funny that Johnny Storm was struggling so mightily over the fact that Doris is not taken with his magnificent self, went on far too long (two whole pages even).

After this, the scene switches over to Samuel Smithers, the gardener who had previously been fired by Doris father previously because apparently he was more concerned with trying to make plants smarter than actually cutting them. Naturally, this leads to a vow of vengeance by Smithers. Luckily for him, a lightening bolt struck his shear-like instrument, which successfully increases the intelligence of plants and also allows him to, conveniently, also control the plants and have them follow his every order. While the way Smithers obtains his powers is typical silver age cheesiness, the power is at least interesting. Although, I think it probably would’ve been more effective if it was Smithers rather than the shears that was actually the source of power.

Unfortunately, Smithers is no Poison Ivy and that becomes readily apparent when he dubs himself Plantman and goes about framing Doris’ father and thus enacting his vengeance, which was actually a pretty straightforward and sound plot. Unfortunately, things basically take a massive dump after this point. It all starts with the Human Torch running across the Plantman, at which point Plantman just shout out that he was the one who did the frame job for no reason at all. What then unfolds over the next seven pages is probably the lamest battle that I have yet seen in these pages; especially when you think about that fact that with the Human Torch’s power over fire should make this a one sided affair. I mean after all the Human Torch has been able to flame on under the ocean, so some damp seaweed shouldn’t give him any problems, right?

In the end, Strange Tales #113 manages to accomplish two things. The first is it introduces yet another villain who wants to take over the world, which makes you wonder if they ever read about how that turns out for all the previous villains. The second thing it does is it continues to cement the Human Torch as being an incredibly egotistical character who thinks he is the greatest thing to happen to women. Really, this issue is just incredibly forgettable and it really lacks any kind of satisfying conclusion.

Rating: 1.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists:
  • Writers: Stan Lee, Joe Carter
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: