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

Tales to Astonish #51 (01/10/1964)

detail21The last issue of Tales to Astonish ended with the Human Top stating that he needed to get rid of Giant-Man and the Wasp permanently and it then shows him running with a stick of dynamite. Well apparently by the time Tales to Astonish #51 comes around the Human Top has apparently forgotten that plan (although he still has the dynamite, which he then uses to blow up a boat). Well Giant Man and the Wasp be able to stop the Human Top from doing whatever he is planning to do?

Unfortunately the story in this issue is a hot mess. This is mainly because the motives of the Human Top are vague as heck. He blows up a boat to use as a distraction, but it’s unclear for what. As best as I can tell he uses it to steal federal defense plans, which apparently was a trap set by Giant Man, but it’s hard to tell because none of the setup is shown. This in the end makes it really confusing because there’s no connection made. In addition, how the heck did the Giant-Man and Wasp fans find out where they were? I mean that seriously came out of nowhere and made no sense.

While this issue also features the traditional backup stories, the first one was presented as a story the Wasp was telling a group of people, which was a nice touch. The first story, “Somewhere Waits a Wobbow,” which gives a whole new meaning to fool‘s gold and is entertaining for what it is. The second story, “No Place to Turn,” is about another attempted alien invasion of earth and is a pretty lame story.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

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

Tales to Astonish #50 (12/10/1963)

untitled.pngTales to Astonish #50 sees the arrival of yet another lame villain with the arrival of the Human Top, who’s powers are to spin really quickly like a top. Apparently, this villain had been committing petty crimes for a while, but Ant-Man/Giant-Man has now decided that it would be worth stopping him, because one of his ants had apparently sensed where the Human Top was planning to strike next. Unfortunately for Hank Pym, becoming giant does not yield an increase in speed and thus it makes it incredibly hard for him to catch the Human Top. Thus, he goes back to the drawing board to make himself faster.

Overall, this is an okay issue, with nothing particularly special about it, other than it is the first issue to end with a cliffhanger. However, I did have a couple of issues with this story. The first being the ant being able to sense what the villain was going to be able to do in the future being explained simply by the phrase “somehow.” That is just lazy writing. The other issue is retconning Janet’s reasoning for becoming the Wasp from wanting to get revenge for the death of her father to one of being in love with Hank Pym.

In addition this issue features the standard two backup stories, both of which end up being pretty lame. The first, The Secret of Sagattus, explores the relationship between a king and a hunchback. The second, “No Ending,” features a dictator having a repeating bad dream.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists:
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors:

Tales of Suspense #48 (12/10/1963)

xx.jpgTales of Suspense #48 features the first appearance of Mr. Doll, who may just be the worst villain up to this point. I’m not a big fan of the Puppet Master to begin with and Mr. Doll is just a poor man’s version of that villain, with an even lazier backstory of having stolen a voodoo doll in Africa. Also, his powers make no sense. He changes the doll to be able to control the victim. Fine, but how does changing the doll’s face to that of Iron Man control him? It’s an iron suit and not his actual face.

Beyond this poorly thought out and obviously lazy attempt at a villain, the story itself also makes no sense. Mr. Doll is controlling wealthy individuals to sign over the assets to him, because financial institutions are going to accept someone called Mr. Doll. Also, it seems like Mr. Doll needs to be in the presence of his victims. Finally, the way Iron Man defeats Mr. Doll was beyond stupid.

In the end the only saving grace of this issue is the introduction of Iron Man’s classic red and gold armor. Also, Steve Ditko’s accompanying panels of him putting on the new armor was just awesome. Great stuff, too bad the rest of the issue is crap.

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Creators:

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

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

 

Avengers #2 (11/10/1963)

detail.jpgAvengers #2 sees the Space Phantom coming to Earth to take out the Avengers, because if he can do that then he apparently that means that nothing would be able to stop his species from conquering the Earth, because apparently the Earth is a highly desirable planet for aliens. At first I have to admit that I was a little leery of having yet another shapeshifting alien trying to conquer the world, but the Space Phantom kind of grew on me as the story progressed. I thought the whole whoever’s form the Space Phantom takes is sent to limbo until  he takes on another form was a very interesting twist on what was becoming an overused gimmick. However, I’m not sold on the Space Phantom’s design, as he looks like a very cheesy Count Dracula.Why the Space Phantom has targeted the Avengers, a newly formed superhero team isn’t really made clear, and doesn’t really make sense given that there is the Fantastic Four, who have been around much longer.

After impersonating the Hulk, the Space Phantom is able to cause the Avengers to basically turn on each other and start fighting amongst each other, which at least provides an excuse for some fun fights between the heroes. Unfortunately, the story is dragged down by the interjection of Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade. In addition, the story ends on an extremely weak note, especially when you consider the fact that the Space Phantom is an alien, which makes the ending make even less sense.

Also, having the members of the Avengers have secret identities between them just makes no sense and is a bit of a stretch that they wouldn’t be able to figure this out. And while I’m at it, the interactions between them at the beginning was just not really written that well, and that’s not to mention Lee’s handling of Wasp. Seriously, does every female character have to be guy crazy?

In the end, probably the biggest takeaway from this issue is that the Hulk decides to part from the Avengers as a result of the encounter. The story is mediocre at best and the resolution of the conflict really, really hurts the issue. Also, fun error in the issue, the Hulk’s secret identity is mixed up with that of Thor’s.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Paul Reinman
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: