Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Marvel Years 04.10 - October 1964

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

Title: The Sinister Six

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven, Mysterio, Sandman, Vulture

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

Guests: Fantastic Four (Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm, Susan Storm)
        X-Men (Professor X, Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman, Marvel Girl)
        Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp)
        Doctor Strange

The first Spider-Man annual features the longest story printed in a Marvel comic so far. "The Sinister Six" is 41 pages long, beating the previous record set in Fantastic Four Annual #1.

Six of Spider-Man's previous enemies team up to battle Spider-Man. Rather than face him as a team they fight him one by one, so that even if none of them defeat him he will at least be exhausted by the time he faces the final opponent, Doctor Octopus. Each of the six villains is shown in a full page panel.

1. Electro, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #9.

2. Kraven, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #15.

3. Mysterio, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #13.

4. Sandman, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #4.

5. Vulture, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #7.

6. Doctor Octopus, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #12.

In this story Aunt May is kidnapped by Doctor Octopus, but she's overwhelmed by his charm and good manners. She thinks he's a perfect gentleman, unlike the ruffian Spider-Man. This becomes important in future stories.

There are cameos by every single Marvel super-hero for one simple reason: Stan Lee wanted to advertise their comics. He's the man who invented the concept of product placement. There's only one exception. We don't see the Hulk in the story, because he's located in New Mexico, not New York like all the others.

Title: The Secrets of Spider-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

There's a nine-page feature describing Spider-Man's powers. This is followed by 19 full page posters of Spider-Man's villains, friends and his home.

For those not familiar with early 20th Century American architecture, this is a four square house. The characteristics are four approximately equal sized rooms on each floor, a large single room in the attic, and a porch in front of the house.

Title: How Stan Lee and Steve Ditko create Spider-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

I've reprinted the whole of this brilliant little feature. There are more drawings of Steve Ditko in these three pages than photos taken of him all his life.

Fantastic Four #31

Title: The Mad Menace of the Macabre Mole Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Mole Man

Guests: Avengers (Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp)

The Mole Man, last seen in Fantastic Four #22, attacks the Earth by creating localised earthquakes, and then captures Susan Storm as a hostage. Please explain to me why he's stupid enough to start the earthquakes in New York City, where all of the Earth's super-heroes are based.

The Thing utters his battle cry louder than ever: It's Clobbering Time!

The Crazy Credits reach a new high -- or is it a new low? -- in their criticism of the letterers.

Stan Lee has a talented typewriter.

Jack Kirby has a power-packed pencil.

Chic Stone has a panoramic paint-brush.

But what about Sam Rosen? He has a leaky lettering pen! Why does Stan say this? I've checked the whole comic, and I didn't see a single ink blot.

Amazing Spider-Man #17

Title: The Return of the Green Goblin

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Green Goblin

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

Guests: Johnny Storm, Dorris Evans

Spider-Man visits the inaugural meeting of the Spider-Man Fan Club – founded by Flash Thompson, of course – where the Green Goblin is waiting to attack him. Luckily Johnny Storm is also present, so he can aid Spider-Man in the battle. There's a phone call with news that Aunt May has been taken to hospital, so Spider-Man has to run away in mid-battle, making everyone except for Flash think he's a coward.

I consider this to be one of the best drawn comics of the early Marvel years. The splash page itself is a masterpiece. It reinforces my opinion that Steve Ditko was Marvel's best artist in the early 1960's.

The Crazy Credits box proves once more that saying nothing good about Sam Rosen is just as effective as mocking him outright.

Curiously, Flash Thompson calls Liz Allen's father Mr. Brant. There are three possible explanations:

1. Liz Allan has been adopted by the Brant family.
2. Flash Thompson made a mistake because he has a secret crush on Betty Brant.
3. Sam Rosen has blundered under the pressure of Stan Lee's continual mockery.

The cover of Tales To Astonish #60 says it all. The Hulk finally has his own story again, 19 months after his own comic was cancelled. From now on Tales To Astonish is split into two stories, Giant-Man and the Hulk. Giant-Man still has the main feature, due to his greater popularity. Giant-Man's stories are 14 pages long, compared to 10 pages for the Hulk's adventures. Nevertheless, I consider the series of 10-page Hulk stories, which continue for the next 40 issues, to be one of the greatest series of the early Marvel years. Stan Lee's stories are brilliant, while Steve Ditko's artwork is impeccable. As for the quality of the lettering, I'll leave it up to Stan to tell you what he thinks.

Tales to Astonish #60

Title: The Beasts of Berlin

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villains: Communists

Giant-Man and the Wasp travel to East Berlin to save Lee Kearns, a fellow scientist and friend that we saw briefly in Tales To Astonish #44.

The Crazy Credits tell us that Artie Simek is emotional when he works. With all that constant criticism I'd be emotional as well.

Title: The Incredible Hulk

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Chameleon (unnamed)

Regulars: General Ross, Betty Ross

This issue kicks off a new era of greatness for the Hulk. He might not have been popular in the first six-issue run of his own comic, but as the second feature in the monthly Tales To Astonish he gained many fans.

An unnamed spy steals a robot built by Bruce Banner. In the next issue we find out that it's the Chameleon, last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #15.

In Tales To Astonish #59 we found out that Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk when he's put under stress. That makes sense, and it's roughly remained that way until today. However, in this comic it's also stated that the Hulk turns back into Bruce Banner when he's under stress. This happens later in the story. That makes less sense. It means the Hulk has to remain calm when he's fighting. In later comics we hear that the angrier the Hulk is the stronger gets. In this comic, if the Hulk gets angry he becomes weak.

And this is Stan Lee's opinion of the lettering in the Crazy Credits box. Sam Rosen doesn't taste good, and he isn't incredible. Never mind. I like him.

Journey into Mystery #109

Title: When Magneto Strikes

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Magneto, Toad, Mastermind, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

Regulars: Jane Foster

Guests: X-Men (Cyclops, Angel, Beast, Iceman)

Magneto is in his submarine experimenting with his powers while the other members of his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are searching for the X-Men. His experiments cause chaos in New York City, so Thor attacks him.

The X-Men are barely shown in the comic. We only see Cyclops' eye blast, the Angel's shadow, Iceman's ice and the Beast's arms.

According to the Crazy Credits Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Chic Stone are at the peak of their creative energy while Sam Rosen only has a little table.

Title: Banished from Asgard

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin, Thor

Thor, while still a teenager, fights alone against Mountain Giants while banished from Asgard.

Do my eyes deceive me? Does Stan Lee really use the Crazy Credits to include Sam Rosen in the greatest names in illo-dramatics? And what are illo-dramatics anyway? I know Sam Rosen was Marvel's favoured letterer, but this is high praise indeed.

Tales of Suspense #58

Title: In Mortal Combat with Captain America

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Chameleon, Kraven

Regulars: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan

Guests: Captain America, Giant-Man, Wasp

The Chameleon disguises himself as Captain America and tricks Iron Man into fighting with the real Captain America.

Kraven is in freedom, so this story must take place before this month's Spider-Man annual.

I had to look up "perspicuous" in my dictionary. It seems like the Crazy Credits are praising Sam Rosen, but in a way that hardly anyone would understand.

Title: The Watcher must die

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: George Tuska

Guests: Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm

An alien warlord attacks the Watcher. That's a mistake. Even if the Watcher isn't allowed to interfere, he's still allowed to defend himself.

This is the final instalment of Tales of the Watcher for now. After a four-year break it will continue as a backup story in the Silver Surfer comic, starting in August 1968.

The series ends by giving Artie Simek a poor grade in the Crazy Credits box, He's merely adequate. Those are Stan Lee's words, not mine.

This issue also contains a short anthology story.

Strange Tales #125

Title: The Birth of the Beetle

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villain: Sub-Mariner

Regulars: Reed Richards, Susan Storm

When the Human Torch and the Thing hear that Sub-Mariner is swimming towards New York they assume he's leading an invading army and attack him. What they don't know is that Reed Richards has invited him to talk about peace. As a result of the battle Sub-Mariner trusts the human race less than ever.

This time the Crazy Credits are neutral. That's not enough. Sam Rosen deserves to be praised every now and then.

Title: Mordo must not catch me

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Mordo

Regulars: Ancient One

Mordo kidnaps the Ancient One, so Doctor Strange battles Mordo while he's looking for him.

This is the first issue in which Mordo is referred to as Baron Mordo.

This is also the first 10-page Doctor Strange story. This becomes the regular story length for the next 40 issues.

Maybe Sam Rosen was brushed off in the previous story, but Artie Simek is highly praised in these Crazy Credits. I'm ecstatic about his lettering every single month!

The Avengers #9

Title: The Coming of the Wonder Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Avengers: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Giant-Man, Wasp

Villains: Zemo, Enchantress, Executioner, Wonder Man (Simon Williams)

Regulars: Rick Jones

Guests: Jane Foster, Happy Hogan, Pepper Potts

At the end of Avengers #7 Zemo and his Masters of Evil were put into a space warp by Thor, which sent them into a different universe. After weeks in exile Zemo thinks they're trapped, but then the Enchantress tells him her magic could have taken them back at any time. She was just relaxing. Really, those bad guys have a communication problem!

They return to Earth and recruit a fraudulent scientist, Simon Williams. Zemo gives him super strength and calls him Wonder Man. After a staged fight with Zemo, Wonder Man asks to join the Avengers and is accepted as a new member. As a safeguard Zemo has given Wonder man a genetic flaw that will make him die after a week if he doesn't receive regular medication.

A few days later Wonder man betrays the Avengers, and they're captured by Zemo. Wonder Man realises that a life without honour isn't worth living and sacrifices his life to save the Avengers.

There's an error in the story. We know that Thor turns back into Don Blake if he doesn't touch his hammer for 60 seconds. After this time his hammer also turns back into a walking stick, as we see for instance in this month's Journey Into Mystery #109. In this story the hammer remains a hammer after being released.

The Crazy Credits give Artie Simek a poor rating. I'd rate him top of his class. Lettering was a hard job in the days before computers.

Daredevil #4

Title: Killgrave, the Unbelievable Purple Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Joe Orlando

Villain: Purple Man (Killgrave)

Regulars: Foggy Nelson, Karen Page

Daredevil faces a man that everyone obeys. After an accident in a laboratory the robber Killgrave was affected by an an experimental nerve gas which turned his skin purple, but also made his will irresistible.

The Crazy Credits tells us that Sam Rosen works a lot. Maybe he's paid by the letter?

Other comics published this month:

Millie the Model #123 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Modeling with Millie #34 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Patsy Walker #117 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Patsy and Hedy #96 (Stan Lee, Al Hartley)
Rawhide Kid #42 (Stan Lee, Larry Lieber)
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #11 (Stan Lee, Dick Ayers)

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