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:

Amazing Spider-Man #7 (12/10/1963)

detailnn.jpgI think that there are two things that the Amazing Spider-Man series does so well compared to other series of this time period. The first one is that the series builds upon previous events, which other series don’t seem to do. Amazing Spider-Man #7 offers a good example of this. While most issues are satisfied with just briefly recapping the last encounter with a villain, the Amazing Spider-Man goes beyond that by incorporating lessons learned form the pervious encounter. For example, Amazing Spider-Man #7 sees the return of the Vulture, an individual that Spider-Man beat in their last encounter pretty handily due to an anti-magnetic device. Thus, this issue sees Spider-Man be over confident due to still having the device.

The other thing that this series does really well is that there are actually consequences to Spider-Man’s actions and encounters. For instance, due to being overconfident in his encounter with the Vulture, Spider-Man comes out of the encounter with a sprained arm. I mean seriously, how many heroes have had an injury up to this point? I can’t think of one. Another thing I’ve always liked about the Spider-Man series is the extensive supporting cast and the important roles they play in the series, such as the dynamics between Peter and Flash, and Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. When was the last time Don Blake changing into Thor caused him any issues?

Overall, this another solid issue in the series and worth a read. The Vulture, while not one of Spider-Man’s best villains, still is a solid character. In addition, this issue sees further development in the relationship between Betty Brant and Peter. Also, J. Jonah Jameson getting his mouth webbed was just a classic Spider-Man move.

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Creators:

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

Tales of Suspense #46 (11/10/1963)

detailThe Tales of Suspense series is on a bit of a roll in regards to the quality of villains. Last issue featured the Crimson Dynamo, while Tales of Suspense #47 features the first appearance of the Melter. In fact this issue wastes no time, pretty much opening with Tony Stark getting cold cocked by the Melter. After which, there’s an awkwardly placed flashback to the Melter’s origin. It turns out that the Melter is really Bruno Horgan, a competitor of Stark’s who went out of business due to Stark exposing his use of inferior materials. Thus, the Melter, who has the interesting power to melt metal via a beam, has decided to sabotage Stark’s own contracts.

I like the fact that the Melter has a personal connection with Stark and deeper motivation than just the generic I want to take over the world. However, the Melter’s design is just goofy. Why does he need a cape? Despite the goofy design, Melter definitely comes off as a credible threat to Iron Man. In fact their first encounter had a pretty cool image of Iron Man’s arm being melted off. Great stuff. I also, liked the fact that the encounter also caused Tony Stark to start doubting himself if he would be able to beat someone who has the power to melt metal. In addition, I also like that this issue also shows repercussions of the sabotaging, with the Congress informing Stark that he needs to get his act together.

For all the positives, the ending of this issue just doesn’t do it for me. It just seems incredibly anticlimactic to me. However, despite this flaw, Strange Tales #46 is still a fun read and features a great villain. Hopefully this trend continues on into the next issue as well.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

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

Amazing Spider-Man #6 (11/10/1963)

detail.jpgAfter featuring a Fantastic Four villain in the last issue, Amazing Spider-Man #6 features the first appearance of another classic villain, the Lizard. This issue opens with basically the Daily Bugle goading Spider-Man into facing off against the mysterious Lizard who is terrorizing the Everglades. Of course the only problem is that the fact that Spider-Man is really Peter Parker it means that he is too broke to be able to get down to Florida. It’s little problems like this, which cannot be solved with super powers, that make Spider-Man such an interesting series. Eventually, Spider-Man is able to basically beat J. Jonah Jameson at his own game and got him to pay for Peter Parker to photograph the Lizard.

Upon arriving down in Florida it’s not long before Spider-Man runs into the Lizard and has his butt promptly handed to him. Luckily, the Lizard isn’t just some generic villain who just wants to take over the world. In fact, the Lizard actually has an interesting backstory, as he is actually Dr. Curt Connors, a former surgeon who took up studying reptiles after he had lost his arm in the war. Unfortunately, Dr. Connors gets caught up in his quest to regrow his arm and takes his untested formula, which at first causes him to grow his arm back, but then comes the side effect of turning him into the Lizard.

Overtime, Dr. Connors begins to lose his humanity and becomes more and more reptilian. The Lizard is definitely a credible physical threat to Spider-Man, with him being stronger than Spider-Man, with a naturally thick hide, and the ability to scale walls as well. However, in addition to that, the Lizard has that extra layer of essentially being a good guy that’s trapped inside of a monster, which just makes the character that much more interesting. In addition, Ditko’s depiction of the Lizard is just fantastic as well. There’s just something about Ditko’s art style that works really well with Spider-Man.

The plot is well-paced and the confrontations with the Lizard actually taking place over three different occurrences, which is a nice break from the one big confrontation that is so common with Silver Age issues. That’s not to say there aren’t some issues with the story, such as gator guards and Spider-Man pontoons, they’re just so minor that they really don’t detract from the overall story. In the end, Amazing Spider-Man #6 is a fantastic read, that adds yet another interesting rouge to Spider-Man’s gallery. In addition, this issue continues to lay the groundwork of the relationship between Betty Brant and Parker.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • 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 Annual #2 (10/10/1963)

mm.jpgThis issue demonstrates Lee’s habit of forgetting events from the previous issues. In this case, in the last issue Lee spent the issue trying to show that the Human Torch wasn’t a hot-head and didn’t relish the spotlight. However in this issue we see the Human Torch basically throwing a tantrum and whining about how Spider-Man is getting too much media coverage and is stealing his spotlight. Really, the Human Torch just comes off as bratty. Also, it’s a shame that the Invisible Girl has basically just been turned into the Human Torch’s mother in this series.

Soon after Human Torch’s temper tantrum, the issue turns to an art museum that is displaying a previously unknown Da Vinci work of art and it is here that we are introduced to the story’s villain, the Fox, an art thief. The Fox eventually hatches a plan, which is suitable enough, and steals the not only the painting, but also frames Spider-Man in the process. The rational of doing that just to keep the police off his trail makes sense and is a welcome change of pace in the typical motivations of villains up to this point.

The scene then shifts to a well drawn distant shot of Spider-Man standing on top of a skyscraper overlooking the city. It is here that the story breaks down a little bit, as Spider-Man’s rational for wanting to team-up with the Human Torch basically boils down to him also being a teenager, which is just silly. Anyways, upon seeking out the Human Torch, naturally they end up having to fight each other at first because Lee loves to lean on that very, very tired trope of an encounter between superheroes must always lead to a misunderstanding a fight. Yawn.

Eventually the heroes workout their differences and decide to team up to track down the Fox. Unfortunately the Fox, while a perfectly serviceable, if not generic villain, also represents Lee’s tendency to have his villains really reflect their namesake. Thus the Fox is naturally tricky and has his secret hideouts all underground, basically like a borrow. Although, I did enjoy the exchange between him, as an old lady, and Spider-Man. That was just funny.

In the end, Strange Tales Annual #2 is a perfectly serviceable, well-paced issue that features some nice art and an ultimately forgettable story and villain.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: