Monday, 16 July 2018

Marvel Years 03.11 - Nov 1963

Fantastic Four #20

Title: The Mysterious Molecule Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Molecule Man

Regulars: Alicia Masters

Guests: The Watcher

The Molecule Man is introduced as one of the most powerful beings in the universe, so powerful that the Watcher warns the Fantastic Four against him. As such it's surprising, even disappointing, that he was never used again until the 1970's. He became an important character in the post-canon age.

In this comic we almost meet the Yancy Street Gang. A gang member aids the Fantastic Four, but his face isn't shown clearly.

Once more the Baxter Building is ripped from its foundations and is held floating over Times Square. Why does anyone want to risk living there?

There's a bad continuity error on the second page. After finding an acorn inside a meteor he says it's proof that "some sort of life must exist in outer space". Pardon? Didn't he know that already? Has he forgotten the Skrulls (Fantastic Four #2), the Impossible Man (Fantastic Four #11) and the Watcher (Fantastic Four #13)?

Amazing Spider-Man #6

Title: Face to Face with the Lizard

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Lizard (Curtis Connors)

Regulars: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan

Unlike in the previous comics, Spider-Man's opponent isn't an evil person. Dr. Curtis Connors invented a potion to help himself regrow the arm that he lost in World War Two. A side effect is that it also turned him into a human lizard, with great physical strength but a new personality. If Spider-Man can somehow change him back to his human form he'll be a good man again.

Tales to Astonish #49

Title: The Birth of Giant-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Eraser

Until now Henry Pym has been known as Ant-Man. In this issue the logical progression is made: instead of shrinking he makes himself larger, turning into a new superhero called Giant-Man. Although he can theoretically become any size he wants he decides on the size 12 foot, i.e. double his normal height.

The Eraser is a scientist from another dimension, a different universe that exists parallel to our own.The dimension is called Dimension Z. Stan Lee sure liked picking corny names! The Eraser has been seemingly wiping people out of existence, but in actual fact he's been transferring them to Dimension Z.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Journey into Mystery #98

Title: Challenged by the Human Cobra

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Regulars: Jane Foster, Odin

Villain: Cobra

Peter Parker became Spider-Man after being accidentally bitten by a radioactive Spider. A scientist in India thinks that such accidents can be encouraged to happen deliberately. He and his assistant Klaus allow themselves to be bitten by a radioactive cobra. The scientist dies, but Klaus lives on, endued with the strength and capabilities of a snake.

In this issue Jane Foster returns to Doctor Blake after realising that her new boss is a spineless coward.

Title: Odin battles Ymir, King of the Ice Giants

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin

In a short story based on Norse legends, Odin fights and defeats the ice giant Ymir.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Tales of Suspense #47

Title: Iron Man battles the Melter

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Melter (Bruno Horgan)

Regulars: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan

A former business competitor of Tony Stark has designed a ray with which he can instantly melt iron. Is this the one power against which Iron man can't defend himself?

In the following years he became a frequent adversary of the Avengers.

Are you wondering why I sometimes state the real names of super villains and sometimes not? The answer is simple. If the comic that I'm writing about gives the villain's name I tell you what it is. Often the name isn't stated. It's possible that the villain will be named in later comics, maybe in the post-canon years, but I don't give that information here. If you're really interested you can find it in the online Marvel database.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Strange Tales #114

Title: The Human Torch meets Captain America

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villains: Acrobat

Regulars: Susan Storm, Doris Evans

Carl Zante, the Acrobat, first seen in Strange Tales #106, returns in the guise of Captain America. But maybe I shouldn't tell you that, because it's a spoiler.

Title: The Return of the Omnipotent Baron Mordo

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Baron Mordo

Regulars: Ancient One, Victoria Bentley

After a gap of two months, presumably waiting for the reader response to arrive, Doctor Strange becomes the regular backup feature in Strange Tales. This is the first step in removing the anthology stories from this long running comic. There's no anthology story in this issue, but a few appear in later issues until the transition from anthology comic to superhero comic is complete.

This is the first issue in which Doctor Strange's teacher is called the Ancient One. In previous stories he was called the Master (with or without a capital M),

The young woman Victoria Bentley is given a big build up, as if she's destined to become a regular character, but we don't see her again for another four years.

The Avengers #2

Title: The Space Phantom

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Avengers: Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp, Hulk

Villain: Space Phantom

Regulars: Rick Jones

This issue takes place at the same time as Tales To Astonish #49. We can assume that the first two pages take place before Tales To Astonish #49, because Henry Pym was still Ant-Man. The rest of the story takes place after it.

We see that the relationship with the Hulk is already strained. He's not a team player, and he argues constantly with the other Avengers.

The Space Phantom is a being from a distant planet who can assume the body and powers of anyone he wishes.

X-Men #2

Title: No one can stop the Vanisher

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

X-Men: Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Marvel Girl

Villain: Vanisher

Regulars: Professor X

The X-Men meet a mutant who can teleport instantaneously. In the early months of their comic the X-Men were the heroes who were the most detached from the rest of the Marvel Universe. Mutants only appear in the X-Men comics, nowhere else.

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #4

Title: Lord Ha-Ha's Last Laugh

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Nazis

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos parachute into Berlin to capture the notorious British man who has been broadcasting propaganda for the Germans. Before leaving for Germany Sgt. Fury met Lord Ha-Ha's father, who said he believed that his son had been tortured into betraying his country. This was the naive optimism of a father. The Commandos rescue Lord Ha-Ha, but he doesn't want to be rescued and runs back to the Germans.

During the Second World War there was a propaganda broadcaster called Lord Haw-Haw. The Sgt. Fury comics usually refer to real life war characters, so I assume it's merely a spelling mistake. There were several broadcasters who used this name, but it's most commonly associated with the Irish American William Joyce.

This is a significant comic, because it's the first time a member of the Howling Commandos is killed in action. Jonathan Juniper, nicknamed Junior, dies on the battlefield, reducing the number of Commandos to six.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Off-Topic: World Cup 2018

The football World Cup, most commonly known simply as the World Cup, is the second biggest sporting event of the world, after the Olympic Games. For this reason they're conveniently scheduled so that they take place alternately. Both events take place in four-yearly intervals, so they can be evenly spaced out.

Whoever wins the tournament – it's always been a European or a South American team – the World Cup has always been an opportunity for peace. Today France won the final match against Croatia, but there's no enmity. President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia walked to the awards ceremony hand in hand like a newly wed couple.

Even before the match was over the couple were observed getting close to one another in the VIP box.

A picture says a thousand words. Vladimir Putin looks on, trying his best to smile, all the while asking himself "Why doesn't she hold me like that?"

At the awards ceremony, surrounded by men in drab suits and soaked by pouring rain, Kolinda stood out like a ray of sunshine in her colourful Croatian team shirt.

She profusely hugged Luka Modric, who was voted the best player of the 2018 World Cup.

Hugs aren't enough for Kolinda. She had to stroke Luka's face.

Then she gave him a second hug. Wasn't Emmanuel getting jealous?

Poor little Luka was practically suffocated by the hugs.

All the other Croatian players received hugs. I have to point out that Kolinda is an expert in hugging. Hugs should always involve skin contact, in this case fingers and bare arms on the neck.

So many men, so little time. She's already eyeing the next player.

Not even the rain could put Kolinda off. Or did the rain make the hugs better?

Her favourite players even received a kiss.

Kolinda especially enjoyed the hug from Ivan Strinic. I wonder where his hands were.

Hugging is fun. Hugging is addictive. Everyone should hug more often.

But Kolinda has a serious word for Milan Badelj. "Look at me! Not that other girl!"

Kolinda looks like she's getting high from all the hugging.

Croatia's goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic kept his hands on the ball, and Kolinda keeps her hands tightly on him.

I don't know who that man on the right is, but he's getting impatient. Will the hugging never end?

"Look at the time. That's enough hugging, Kolinda, I'm getting soaked!"

"I give up! I think the players are queuing up for a second hug".

Kolinda is saying, "We should really do this again in 2022".

The Croatian team wasn't enough for Kolinda. She had to hug the French as well. Kylian Mbappe's hands must have been shaking. Emmanuel Macron has to help him support his trophy.

Even the referees got hugs.

"Come a bit closer. I don't bite".

Not all the referees resisted her.

I wouldn't resist Kolinda's hugs. Would you?

I bet he hasn't been hugged like that for years.

Now Emmanuel finally has to say something. "Do I really have to stand here in the rain watching you hugging other men?"

Evidently Emmanuel can't persuade her to stop. She hasn't got through hugging all the French players yet.

Do you get the impression that Kolinda prefers the goalkeepers? It must be the things they do with their hands.

The officials also get wet hugs. They deserve them.

"Zlatko, darling, I've saved my biggest hug for you".

"You're shivering. Is it the rain, or are you getting excited?"

"Don't worry, Zlatko, this will be our little secret".

Austin Powers: Goldmember (4½ Stars)

There's been a two month delay, but I'm finally concluding my viewing of the Austin Powers Trilogy (which should only have lasted a week). I have a perfectly good reason for the delay: I forgot about the third film! I even put the Blu-ray box set back in the cellar last month because I thought I'd watched it all. No I hadn't. Yesterday I realised my mistake and ran down into the cellar in panic to get the box set back.

Don't worry, my cellar is well organised. I have five bookcases for my DVDs and Blu-rays, well sorted in alphabetical order. I found the Austin Powers Trilogy filed under A where it belonged.

My main intention of this post is to write about Verne Troyer, but I can't resist mentioning the Japanese twins Fook Mi and Fook Yu. Austin is admiring their rucksacks. I'm not so self-centred. I'd be looking somewhere else.

Now let's get back to Verne Troyer, or rather the character Mini-Me that he plays in the film. He was created by cloning Dr. Evil's DNA while he was frozen in suspended animation. This was a shock to Dr. Evil at first, but he soon accepted Mini-Me as a replacement for his son Scott who wasn't evil enough to take over the family business.

Mini-Me partook willingly in Dr. Evil's plans, even if it meant that he had to go to prison.

One of the advantages of being so small is that people don't notice Mini-Me sneaking up on them with a gun.

They really ought to make chairs in his size. And beds. And everything.

In this film Scott finally decides to become evil, so his father accepts him back. Poor Mini-Me feels rejected, so he changes sides. He becomes a British secret agent, which involves him dressing up to look like Austin Powers. Once a clone, always a clone.

Verne Troyer
January 1, 1969 – April 21, 2018

"Verne was the consummate professional and a beacon of positivity for those of us who had the honour of working with him. It is a sad day, but I hope he is in a better place. He will be greatly missed" (Mike Myers).

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