Saturday, 9 June 2018

Marvel Years 03.07 - Jul 1963


July 1963 was an important month for Marvel. It was the first month that annuals were published that contained original stories. It's difficult to allocate them to the correct month, because they are only dated with a year, not a month. The Marvel database cites the month in which they were released, but that's not much of a help because the monthly comics were never released in the months that matched the cover date.

Fantastic Four #16

Title: The Micro-World of Doctor Doom

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Doctor Doom

Regulars: Alicia Masters

Guests: Ant-Man, Wasp

At the end of Fantastic Four #10 Doctor Doom seemingly shrank away into nothingness. Now we find out that he conquered a sub-atomic kingdom, from which he is launching attacks at the Fantastic Four. They travel to this world with the help of Ant-Man.

I've never understood the logic of Marvel's sub-atomic kingdoms. I say that in the plural because there were a few of them. How can you shrink at different positions in our full-size world and be certain of arriving in the correct kingdom? If two people shrink when they're standing ten inches apart, when they reach sub-atomic size they must be the equivalent of millions of miles apart.

This comic once more shows Reed Richards attempting to turn Ben Grimm back to his human self.




Amazing Spider-Man #3

Title: Spider-Man versus Doctor Octopus

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Doctor Octopus

Regulars: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan (unnamed)

Guests: Human Torch

This comic contains an amusing panel with Spider-Man complaining that it's too easy to catch crooks. He wishes he could have more powerful opponents. As they say, be careful what you wish for. Shortly afterwards he meets Doctor Octopus for the first time, one of his most powerful opponents.


If this comic had been a film, the Human Torch's guest appearance would have been called a cameo. He appears briefly, but has no direct involvement in the action.

Incidentally, have you ever wondered why Spider-Man's comic was called "The Amazing Spider-Man"? Stan Lee gave the answer in an interview years later. It was to show continuity to the comic in which Spider-Man first appeared, "Amazing Fantasy".




Tales to Astonish #45

Title: Caught in the Terrible Traps of Egghead

Writer: Stan Lee, Ernie Hart
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Egghead

Egghead returns to take revenge on Ant-Man after last being seen in Tale To Astonish #38. He hears about Ant-Man's new partner, the Wasp, and decides to trap her first in order to lure Ant-Man into a trap.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.




Journey into Mystery #94

Title: Thor and Loki attack the Human Race

Writer: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein
Artist: Joe Sinnott

Regulars: Odin, Heimdall

Villain: Loki

Loki changes Thor's personality from good to evil by giving him a strategically placed blow to the head. If it can happen that easily I hope I never bang my head.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.




Tales of Suspense #43

Title: Trapped by the Red Barbarian

Writer: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Kala (Queen of the Netherworld)

Tony Stark is sucked down to the Netherworld, an underground kingdom founded by the survivors of Atlantis. How many underground kingdoms exist side by side? This is the third, after the kingdoms of Mole Man and Tyrannus. I suppose there's a lot of room down there.


As you can see, sexism is everywhere, even in underground kingdoms. Kala's general Baxu is in love with his Queen, but he resents having to take orders from a woman.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.




Strange Tales #110

Title: The Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete

Writer: Stan Lee, Ernie Hart
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villains: Wizard, Paste-Pot Pete

Regulars: Susan Storm, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm

This is the first time the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete team up. They were last seen in Strange Tales #105 and Strange Tales #104 respectively. They will later be the founding members of the Frightful Four, but that's not the biggest news about this issue.




Strange Tales #110 also contains the first appearance of Doctor Strange in a five-page story. Based on the brevity of the story and the lack of an origin it looks like this was intended as an anthology story. Evidently the character was so popular that Stan Lee decided to make him a regular character.

Title: Dr. Strange, Master of Black Magic

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Nightmare

Regulars: Ancient One (unnamed), Wong (unnamed)

This issue contains a further short anthology story.




Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #2

Title: 7 Doomed Men

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Nazis

This is possibly Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos' greatest hour. In a single day they liberate a concentration camp and destroy Germany's atomic bomb development programme.

The concentration camp and the scientific facility are both located in the fictional German city of Heinemund. To get to Heinemund the commandos pretend to be escaped prisoners from the camp. They're transported back to the camp, but they soon escape. After all, seven unarmed American soldiers are more than a match for a few hundred Nazi soldiers and guards. After freeing the prisoners they attack and destroy the building where atomic bombs are being developed. In an editor's note Stan suggests that this really happened. Who said that comics aren't true?


The first two issues of Sgt. Fury contain summaries of the weapons used in World War Two. Here are the features.



There's also a remarkably respectful description of the typical German soldier. He was a formidable enemy.





Fantastic Four Annual #1

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, July 1963 was the first month in which Marvel printed an annual with original material. It was the second annual overall. The first Marvel annual was Strange Tales Annual #1 in September 1962 which reprinted 13 anthology stories from Strange Tales, Journey into Mystery, Tales Of Suspense and Tales To Astonish. Fantastic Four Annual #1 contains three stories, of which two are original.

Title: Sub-Mariner versus the Human-Race

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Sub-Mariner

Regulars: Alicia Masters

When we last saw Sub-Mariner in Fantastic Four #14 he was still searching for his lost people, the people of Atlantis. When the story begins he's already found them and he's being crowned King Namor the First. Is this the same Atlantis that we saw in Tales Of Suspense #43? I think not. The country Atlantis in the Iron Man story was an island that sank beneath the Earth and was renamed Netherworld. Namor's Atlantis is a kingdom that was always submerged on the sea bed.

This is the comic in which we first see Lady Dorma, who later becomes Sub-Mariner's lover. At this time he has no interest in her because he's still in love with Susan Storm. It's a tale of frustrated love that was typical for Stan Lee in his early years. Namor loved Susan Storm, who was divided between him and Reed Richards. Dorma loved Namor, who was unaware of her love. Warlord Krang loved Dorma, but she rejected him because of her love for Namor.

The story ends with Namor losing his nomadic people, returning him to the state he was in Fantastic Four #14. When he abandons his attack on the human race in order to save Susan Storm's life his people, led by Warlord Krang, consider him a traitor and desert him.

This is a 37-page story, the longest story printed in a single comic until now.



Title: The Fabulous Fantastic Four meet Spider-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Guests: Spider-Man

This is a 6-page story, an extended retelling of the first meeting between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four in Spider-Man #1.



As the third story Fantastic Four #1 was reprinted.


There's a diagram showing the layout of the Baxter Building, or at least the six floors rented by the Fantastic Four. Six floors? In Fantastic Four #6 it was only four floors. This seems to be closer to the partial picture in Fantastic Four #3. Let's not make too much of it. Jolly Jack Kirby probably just drew a new building layout every time Stan asked him to, and he never dreamt that 50 years later pedantic fans like me would be holding them side by side looking for mistakes.

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