Saturday, 14 July 2018

Marvel Years 03.10 - October 1963

Fantastic Four #19

Title: Prisoners of the Pharaoh

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Rama-Tut

Regulars: Alicia Masters

Reed Richards is reading Egyptian hieroglyphs when he sees a picture that suggests an ancient pharaoh had discovered a cure for blindness. The Fantastic Four steals Doctor Doom's time machine, last seen in Fantastic Four #5, from his abandoned castle and travels back to the time of this pharaoh, an undocumented leader called Rama-Tut. When they arrive they find that Rama-Tut is a time traveller from the fourth millennium. He's returned to the past because the future is too peaceful and too boring.

Speculation is made about the identity of Rama-Tut. Ben Grimm thinks that he might be Doctor Doom himself. In later post-canon comics it's decided who Rama-Tut really is, but as I said, that's post-canon.

Please note that the word "pharaoh" is misspelt in this comic, not just on the cover but throughout the story. At first I thought it might be a variant American spelling, but it's an error, even in America. I wonder how long it took Stan Lee to realise his mistake.

Amazing Spider-Man #5

Title: Marked for Destruction by Doctor Doom

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Doctor Doom

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

Guests: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Susan Storm

This comic contains an innovation that modern readers probably wouldn't notice. Spider-Man is attacked by Doctor Doom, the Fantastic Four's enemy. In the early 1960's comics were dominated by DC, and it was an unwritten rule that all heroes had their own enemies who never appeared in anyone else's comics.

Spider-Man was drawn by Steve Ditko, who I consider to be the best artist of the early Marvel years. His unique style created the world of Doctor Strange that was imitated so successfully in the recent Marvel film. Arguably, anyone else could have drawn Spider-Man, but nobody else could have drawn Doctor Strange.

The only available photos of Steve Ditko are from the 1960's. He lived his life as a recluse, but even so I find it difficult to understand how he managed to avoid being photographed for 50 years. Didn't he ever stand at his window or lie on a deck chair in his garden?

This is the first page of Amazing Spider-Man #5. It's just one small example of Steve Ditko's boundless talent.

Steve Ditko
November 2, 1927 – June 29, 2018

Tales to Astonish #48

Title: Ant-Man and the Wasp defy the Porcupine

Writer: Stan Lee, Ernie Hart
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Porcupine

An unnamed, dissatisfied American military scientist designs a suit to give himself the powers of a porcupine. The quills defend him, but they're also weapons that he can use to fire poisonous gas or flames at his victims. After this introductory story he went on to become an enemy for many Marvel heroes and teams.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.

Journey into Mystery #97

Title: The Lava Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Regulars: Jane Foster, Odin

Villain: Loki, Lava Man

The so-called Lava Man is a representative of an underground race of beings called the Lava Men. Yes, this is yet another underground race, alongside the kingdoms of the Mole Man and Tyrannus. Loki brought him to the surface, initially as a prank, but then uses him to attack Thor.

In this issue Jane Foster leaves Donald Blake to work for another doctor.

Title: Tales of Asgard

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin

In Journey into Mystery #97 a new backup story begins, the "Tales of Asgard". For the first few months it told the tales of old Norse legends. Later it progressed to telling original stories about Thor's friends among the Gods.

This introductory tale tells us how the Asgardian Gods came to be. The first God was Buri. Buri's oldest son was Borr. Borr's oldest son was Odin.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Tales of Suspense #46

Title: The Crimson Dynamo

Writer: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Crimson Dynamo

Regulars: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan

Anton Vanko is a Russian scientist. He builds a suit which harnesses powerful electric energy. At the end of this story he defects to the West, but don't worry, he turns evil again a few issues later.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Strange Tales #113

Title: The Coming of the Plantman

Writer: Stan Lee, Joe Carter
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villains: Plantman

Regulars: Doris Evans

This issue introduces Johnny Storm's first steady girlfriend, Doris Evans. She remained his girlfriend for about two years.

Her father's gardener has an unusual hobby. He's invented a device with which he can make plants more intelligent. In a freak accident his device is struck by a lightning bolt, making the device able to turn plants into his servants. That's interesting. Usually when electronic devices are struck by lightning they just break. That's all.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.

Strange Tales Annual #2

Title: The Dazzling Human Torch on the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: The Fox

Regulars: Susan Storm

It's always exciting when Marvel publishes an annual in addition to its regular monthly comics. The first Strange Tales annual was purely a collection of reprints, but the second annual contains an 18-page story featuring a meeting of the Human Torch and Spider-Man. In typical Marvel fashion, the two heroes meet and fight against one another before finally realising they're on the same side.

The Fox is a petty criminal without any super powers who only appeared in this one issue. He steals a paininting by Leonardo da Vinci and leaves a false clue to make Spider-Man look like the thief. If it had been any other hero that wouldn't have worked, but Spider-Man has been the target of a smear campaign by the Daily Bugle calling him a crook ever since he first gained his powers.

This annual also contains reprints of ten anthology stories.

Other comics published this month:

Modeling with Millie #26 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Patsy Walker #110 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Patsy and Hedy #90 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Kathy #25 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Rawhide Kid #36 (Stan Lee, Dick Ayers)

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