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 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:

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

 

Amazing Spider-Man #4 (09/10/1963)

detail.jpgHaving escaped from the maximum security, Island Prison, Flint Marko seeks to escape the pursing FBI by ducking into a nuclear testing site. Unfortunately for Flint, he ends up getting caught in a blast which causes him to change at a molecular level and have the ability to change his body into sand. Naturally, Flint decides to use these newfound powers to enhance his criminal activities and he now has his sites set on New York City. Will Spider-Man be able to stop him?

Amazing Spider-Man 4 is yet another solid issue in the series. Sandman is another classic villain who has an interesting power. In addition, Spider-Man continues to be one of the more relatable superheroes. I mean in this issue he has to end up sewing his own mask, jumps the gun on trying to stop some jewel thieves, which causes them to call the police on him, and having to blow off a date with Liz Allen. In addition, Ditko’s art style fits extremely well with this series and action panels are top notch. I am definitely looking forward to reading more issues in this series.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Steve Ditko
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Fantastic Four #18 (09/10/1963)

detail26.jpgFantastic Four #18 contains the story, “A Skrull Walks Among Us.” This issue is also the first appearance of the Super Skrull. “A Skrull Walks Among Us” centers around the Skrull empire seeking revenge on the Fantastic Four for foiling their previous invasion attempt by sending an enhanced skrull with all of their powers after them.

“A Skrull Walks Among Us” is a fun story that does a good job of presenting the Super Skrull as a real threat to the Fantastic Four. This issue also has the Fantastic Four working as a team versus the typical style of having them attack a villain one at a time. In addition, once again Kirby’s artwork delivers solid action panels and the battle between the Super Skrull and the Fantastic Four is just gorgeous. Also the cover to this issue is also well-down and gives a real good sense of how much of a threat the Super Skrull is.

There are a few downsides to this issue. One of them would be the ending to the issue, which seems to me is a very unheroic ending when you think about the consequences of it. Also, I just had to laugh at the remote control public address system as a means to challenging the Super Skrull–ah the times before cellphones, huh?

Overall, Fantastic Four #18 contains the first appearance of a classic Fantastic Four villain in the Super Skrull, combined with fantastic fight panels and a fun story and you have an issue that everyone should read.

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 #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

Fantastic Four #15 (06/10/1963)

detail23Fantastic Four #15 features the story, “The Mad Thinker and His Awesome Android.” This issue features the first appearance of the Thinker, a super-intelligent crime boss who is able to think of almost every possibility. In this issue, the Thinker has come up with a plan to create a “Kingdom of Crime,” and to do so he needs to take over the Baxter Building.

It’s hard to point to a positive when it comes to this issue. Probably the one thing that comes to mind is Kirby’s android design. It certainly is a unique take on an android, but it makes sense in the context that it’s supposed to be a simple life form.

There certainly are a lot of negatives to this issue. The story itself is pretty generic and uninspired. I mean the Fantastic Four go on vacation, which gives the Thinker time to take over the Baxter Building, is pretty much the story. I don’t know if they were trying to setup the Thinker up as like an evil equivalent of Mr. Fantastic, but if they were it didn’t really work. Finally, these types of stories, outside of the brief presence of an android, really don’t work for a Fantastic Four story, because they tend to lack what makes the Fantastic Four so great.

In the end Fantastic Four #15 is really a throwaway issue in the series, as it contributes absolutely nothing to the series and features a pretty generic and lame villain.

Rating: 1.5/5.0

Creators:

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