Thursday, 19 July 2018

Marvel Years 03.12 - December 1963

The month December 1963 is significant in the history of Marvel comics. It's the month in which the first two-part stories were published, in Tales to Astonish (Giant-Man and the Wasp) and Journey into Mystery (Thor).

Tales to Astonish #50

Title: The Human Top

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Human Top (Dave Cannon)

Giant-Man battles with a young thief who can spin like a top. He's too fast and too agile for Giant-Man to catch him. The Wasp is unable to offer much help.

This is the first half of a two-part story. After his defeat by the Human Top Giant-Man prepares to face him again next issue.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.

Journey into Mystery #99

Title: The Mysterious Mister Hyde

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Regulars: Jane Foster, Odin

Villain: Mister Hyde (Calvin Zabo)

This is the first half of another two-part story written by Stan Lee. The medical doctor Calvin Zabo suspects that Robert Louis Stevenson based his novel "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" on something that really happened. He experiments until he has invented a formula which will transform himself into a powerful creature that he calls Mister Hyde. After this initial transformation he can change himself to his normal human form and back by will power.

Thor begs his father Odin for the permission to marry Jane Foster. Odin says a God may not marry a mortal, but he will make Jane an immortal if she proves herself worthy.

The story ends on a cliffhanger. Thor seems to have turned evil, as proved when he robs a bank.

Title: Surtur the Fire Demon

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin

In a short story based on Norse legends, Odin fights and defeats Surtur. The story also shows how the Moon was created.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Fantastic Four #21

Title: The Hate-Monger

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Hate-Monger (Adolf Hitler)

Regulars: Alicia Masters

Guests: Nick Fury

A hate preacher has started speaking in New York City, inciting the citizens to turn against foreigners. At first Reed Richards says that it's none of the Fantastic Four's business because America is a free country and people are allowed to say anything they want. He changes his mind when he sees violence in the streets.

Note the mixture of positive and negative language. This is always the start. "Cleaning up the country" sounds positive, doesn't it? Everyone wants law and order.

The second step is to reveal what the "cleaning up" really means. It's about the elimination of everything that's different. The foreigners have to be sent back where they came from. This is a foolish statement to make in America, because it's a country in which almost everyone is a foreigner.

And the third step is violence. Any so-called foreigner who won't voluntarily go back where he came from is attacked.

At the end of the story it's revealed that the Hate-Monger is Adolf Hitler. In later stories we find out that a Nazi scientist has been creating clones of Hitler, so his death in this comic isn't the end.

Nick Fury (now a colonel) meets Reed Richards for the first time since Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #3. Note that he doesn't yet wear an eye patch.

Amazing Spider-Man #7

Title: The Return of the Vulture

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Vulture

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

The Vulture escapes from prison, after Spider-Man captured him in Amazing Spider-Man #2.

In this comic a romance starts to blossom between Peter Parker and Betty Brant. Isn't he too young for her? He can't be older than 15 in this comic, and Betty Brant must be at least 18 as the personal secretary of a newspaper editor.

Tales of Suspense #48

Title: The Mysterious Mr. Doll

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Mr. Doll

Regulars: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan

An unnamed man has stolen a voodoo doll from a witch doctor in Africa. If he changes the face of the doll to that of a person he can cause that person pain by squeezing the doll.

In this issue Tony Stark changes his suit again. He gives up his heavy suit because it was consuming too much power to move and slowed him down. Now he has built a lighter suit. I'll reprint all three pages of the description here.

Iron Man's suit changes were a recurring feature in the first few years. This is his third suit in ten issues.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Strange Tales #115

Title: The Sandman Strikes

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villain: Sandman

Regulars: Reed Richards

Guests: Spider-Man

The Sandman was arrested after being defeated by Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #4. All this time he's been relaxing in prison. He could have escaped at any time, as the guards should have known. How can you keep a man locked up who can transform his body into sand any time he wants?

After escaping he wants to find Spider-Man to take revenge, but the Human Torch insists on challenging him first.

Title: The Origin of Dr. Strange

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Baron Mordo

Regulars: Ancient One

This is the origin of Dr. Strange. In the comics he was a lot more unpleasant as a surgeon than he was in the recent film. In the comics he had no regard for human life, it was all about money.

Read the editor's note above for an example of Stan Lee's humour. He claims that he and Steve Ditko have to squeeze in Dr. Strange stories between their busy schedule writing Spider-Man stories. He should have mentioned Iron Man as well. In fact, Stan Lee wrote everything published by Marvel. In addition to the six comics that I've reviewed this month he also wrote Rawhide Kid #37, Kathy #26, Modelling with Millie #28, Patsy Walker #112 and Patsy and Hedy #91. That's a total of eleven comics in December 1963, which was a quiet month because he had written 14 comics in November. Excelsior!

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Other comics published this month:

Modeling with Millie #28 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Patsy Walker #112 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Patsy and Hedy #91 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Kathy #26 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Rawhide Kid #37 (Stan Lee, Dick Ayers)

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