Friday, 30 November 2018

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (5 Stars)


I bought "War for the Planet of the Apes" for five Euros in the Black Friday sales, but rather than watch it immediately I've decided to watch the first two films of the trilogy first. If it is a trilogy. As I remember it, the third film had an open ending. At the time it was released I read that they hadn't yet decided whether to continue with the series. A year after the release they still don't know. They should make their mind up soon, while they still have momentum. They don't want to wait until Andy Serkis is 75.

This is a brilliant film, and it's an example of a remake that isn't a remake. If anything, it's a prequel to the equally brilliant 1968 film. I'm a denialist, as far as the third to fifth films of the original pentalogy are concerned. In the third film a temporal paradox was introduced to explain how the apes gained their intelligence, but it didn't explain how humans had degenerated. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" offers a better explanation for the apes' intelligence, and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" explains the humans' lack of intelligence. I'll get round to it when I watch it tomorrow.

A company called Gen-Sys is attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer's. They are testing drugs on chimpanzees, trying to boost their intelligence, with moderate success. By accident a pregnant chimpanzee is injected, and her son has intelligence that exceeds even the intelligence of young human babies. The scientist Will Rodman defies an order to kill all the apes at Gen-Sys when the research is considered a failure. He takes the baby chimpanzee home with him and raises him as a child, calling him Caesar.


Caesar's name is appropriate. He's not just highly intelligent, he's a talented military strategist. After eight years living with Dr. Rodman he attacks a neighbour to protect one of his human friends. This leads to him being put into an animal pound. Dr. Rodman bribes the pound's owner to release him, but Caesar refuses to leave. After witnessing the suffering of the other apes he wants to free them all, and he becomes their leader.

The acting is excellent throughout. I only vaguely understand the technology used for Andy Serkis to play the part of Caesar, but it's nothing short of miraculous. This is a film that deserves to be watched over and over again.

Success Rate:  + 3.2

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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Marvel Years 05.12 - December 1965


From this month on Daredevil and X-Men, which used to be bi-monthly comics appearing in alternating months, are printed monthly. This settles Marvel's output of nine super-hero comics per month for the next two years.

This month is also notable for the first story written by a new Marvel employee, Roy Thomas, who was 24 at the time. After only eight days working at DC he decided that he would rather work for Marvel. His first assignment went largely unnoticed as a story in Modelling With Millie #44. Next month (January 1966) he wrote his first super-hero script, the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #73. Roy said in a later interview that Stan Lee had to rewrite about half of the script, but he didn't need to worry about it. He went on to become Marvel's biggest writer after Stan Lee himself.

Halfway through the month Stan Lee decided to change the company's name back from Marvel Pop Art Productions to Marvel Comics Group. On this month's Marvel Bullpen Bulletins page Stan Lee printed this apology:


Fantastic Four #45

Title: Among us hide the Inhumans

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Sandman, Trapster

Guests: Black Bolt, Medusa, Crystal, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, Lockjaw, Dragon Man

After the introduction of the second Inhuman, Gorgon, last month, we meet other members of the same race. They're living in New York, but hidden from society.

Johnny Storm rings his girlfriend Doris Evans on the phone. She dumps him. We don't see her again until Fantastic Four #134. Johnny goes out for a walk and discovers a young woman called Crystal with powers to create wind and fire. (Her powers are described in greater detail in upcoming issues). She's accompanied by a giant dog called Lockjaw. Crystal trusts Johnny and takes him back to where she lives. They meet two other characters called Karnak and Triton. Karnak can destroy any object by detecting the weakest point to strike with a karate chop. Triton's powers aren't described yet. Gorgon returns with Medusa and attacks Johnny, because he recognises him as an enemy. Johnny calls the remaining members of the Fantastic Four for assistance. At this point Black Bolt, the leader of the Inhumans, arrives.


I know that the Crazy Credits are trying to belittle Artie Simek's capabilities, but if you stop to think for a moment it's correct. Artie's lettering is inevitable, because it's the final step in the creative process.




Amazing Spider-Man #31

Title: If this be my destiny!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: gang members

Regulars: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Frederick Foswell, Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborn, Gwen Stacy

Spider-Man has two battles with a gang that works for someone called the Master Planner. The second fight is the result of a tip off by Patch, the alter-ego of Frederick Foswell.

At the same time Aunt May's health has deteriorated, and she has to go into hospital.

This issue follows three important days in Peter Parker's life: his registration at Empire State University and his first two days.


Registration is chaotic, as I still remember from my own first days at university.


On the first day of college we meet Harry Osborn and Gwen Stacy, destined to become Peter Parker's two closest friends.


But the first impression is bad.


Nevertheless, Gwen Stacy feels attracted to Peter Parker from the beginning. He's the only boy she's met who has never given her a tumble. I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean in 1960's American slang, but I'd definitely tumble with her.


Not Peter! He has no time for tumbling, so Gwen swears revenge!


Once more the Crazy Credits have educated me. I had to look up mellifluous in the dictionary. It's not even an insult! Sam Rosen can be happy.




Strange Tales #139

Title: The brave die hard!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Joe Sinnott

Villain: Hydra

Regulars: Dum Dum Dugan, Gabriel Jones

Guests: Tony Stark

The cover claims that almost everybody reads SHIELD. I doubt Doctor Strange is one of the readers. He's too busy battling Dormammu and Baron Mordo.

Nick Fury is still being held captive by Hydra, who are trying to discover SHIELD's secrets by brainwashing him. He's assisted in his escape by Agent G, the daughter of the Supreme Hydra.

Tony Stark has invented a device called a Brainosaur, a device that can be launched into space to disable Hydra's orbiting Betatron Bomb. If it works. There's been no time to test it. On the other hand, SHIELD has beaten Hydra in the competition to pick the corniest name for an orbiting satellite.


The Crazy Credits tell us that while everyone else is overtly skilled Artie Simek works in silence. That's wonderful! Doesn't Stan Lee know that silence is golden?




Title: Beware! Dormammu is watching!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Dormammu, Baron Mordo

Regulars: Ancient One, Clea (unnamed)

This is the tenth part of the Doctor Strange-Dormammu-Baron Mordo epic. It's the final showdown between Doctor Strange and Baron Mordo. Despite Mordo's greater power, Doctor Strange's skill enables him to defeat him. Frustrated with Mordo's incompetence, Dormammu enters the battle himself.


The Crazy Credits tell us that Artie Simek isn't just silent, he's also stoical. What a wonderful man! He was a valuable asset to the bullpen.




Tales to Astonish #74

Title: When fails the Quest!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Gene Colan (as Adam Austin)

Villain: Krang

Regulars: Dorma, Vashti (unnamed)

Prince Namor battles the Faceless Ones to free Lady Dorma, while Krang suppresses the rebellion in Atlantis.


Sam Rosen's caligraphy is cataclysmic? Oh come on! Now the Crazy Credits are exaggerating!




Title: The Wisdom of the Watcher!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Bob Powell

Villain: Leader

Guests: Watcher

The Hulk fights the alien from another world to win the Ultimate Machine while the Watcher watches. What else would a Watcher do? After winning the battle the Hulk returns to the Leader on Earth. By putting the Ultimate Machine on his head he's given all the knowledge in the universe, but it's too much for his brain to hold and he falls dead.


The Crazy Credits are unfair! They say Sam Rosen doodles. No he doesn't! He produces page after page of concise lettering.




Tales of Suspense #72

Title: Hoorah for the Conquering Hero!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Mad Thinker

Regulars: Pepper Potts

Iron Man returns from defeating the Titanium Man, and he's universally acclaimed as a hero. He can't rejoice because he's worried about Happy Hogan's medical state.

The Mad Thinker, last seen briefly in the chaotic story in Fantastic Four Annual #3, captures Tony Stark in order to demand Iron Man's identity from him. Couldn't a man of his intellect have worked it out for himself? When he returns from the battle he finds out that the American government, in particular Senator Byrd, also wants to know who Iron Man is.




Title: The Sleeper shall awake!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: George Tuska

Villain: Red Skull, Nazis

Guests: Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

From this issue on present day stories of Captain America are told. Nevertheless, there's a link to his adventures in World War Two. When Captain America defeated the Red Skull at the end of the war he boasted that three "Sleepers" had been hidden that would be awakened after exactly 20 years. They would bring the Third Reich back.


This is the first Sleeper. I have to ask a naive question. If the Red Skull could invent such powerful robots in 1945 why didn't he use them immediately to stop Hitler losing the war?


The Crazy Credits say that Sam Rosen is tired of lettering. That's the same thing that was said about Artie Simek in X-Men #14. It must be a problem common to all letterers.




Journey into Mystery #123

Title: While a universe trembles!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Loki, Absorbing Man, Demon

Regulars: Odin

Thor travels to Asgard with the reporter Harris Hobbs and witnesses the attack of the Absorbing Man. He wants to join in the fight, but Odin handles everything himself.

Meanwhile on Earth a witch doctor finds the norn stone that Thor dropped in Journey Into Mystery #120. The witch doctor gains mighty powers and calls himself the Demon. That's hardly an imaginative name. I suppose all the cool names were already taken. It must be difficult for Stan Lee to dream up half a dozen new villain names every month.


If there's one thing I can say with absolute certainty, it's that Artie Simek's speech bubbles aren't confusing, whatever the Crazy Credits try to tell us. Artie's lettering is the epitome of clarity and legibility.




Title: The Jaws of the Dragon!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin, Thor, Balder, Hogun, Volstagg

The quest continues to find the one responsible for damaging the Odinsword. Back in Asgard Odin sees visions of the impending Ragnarok.




The Avengers #23

Title: Once an Avenger

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Avengers: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

Villain: Kang

At the end of the last issue Captain America announced that he was leaving the Avengers. Kang has wanted to attack the Avengers for some time, but he thinks that now is the best time. Honestly, I don't understand why he's had to wait. He lives in the 30th Century, so he could easily pick any time from his vantage point in the future.

While Steve Rogers aka Captain America is working in Upstate New York as a boxing trainer Kang captures the remaining three Avengers and transports them into his own time. He fights with them as sport to impress the woman he wants to marry, Princess Ravonna.


Now here's where it gets crazy. Captain America hears that the Avengers have disappeared, so he shouts out a challenge that Kang hears a thousand years later. It looks like Kang was monitoring the 20th Century Avengers mansion in real time. But how did Captain America know that Kang was responsible? He used the Avengers' Recreater (sic) that displays images from the recent past. Stan says that this gadget was used in the past, but he's forgotten what issue it was. I can help him out. Iron Man never used a device like that. However, it looks like the Time Reversal Ray that we saw in Journey Into Mystery #105. That device was invented by the villainous Mr. Hyde, but it's possible that Thor took the device and gave it to the Avengers after defeating him.


The Crazy Credits tell us that Ray Holloway aka Sherigail is a lilting letterer. Does that mean he sings while he works? His life must be good. Unlike the other letterers, Ray has never been attacked in the credits box.




X-Men #15

Title: Prisoners of the Mysterious Master Mold!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Werner Roth (as Jay Gavin)

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

Villain: Sentinels

Regulars: Professor X

The battle against the Sentinels continues. They tell their creator that they intend to protect mankind by enslaving it.

The Beast is captured by the Sentinels. He's examined by a psycho-probe (TM) which makes him tell his origin story.


This is the second time since Strange Tales #124 that the Crazy Credits have told us that Artie Simek is adorable. If Stan Lee is repeating himself there must be some truth to it.




Daredevil #11

Title: A Time to Unmask!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Bob Powell

Villain: Organizer (Abner Jonas), Cat Man, Ape Man, Frog Man, Bird Man

Regulars: Foggy Nelson, Karen Page, Debbie Harris

Daredevil continues his fight against the mysterious Organizer and his costumed accomplices who want to use corruption and murder to put candidates of the Reform Party into power.

At the end of the story Matt Murdock announces that he wants to leave the law firm to spend time travelling the world.



Other comics published this month:

Millie the Model #133 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Modelling with Millie #44 (Roy Thomas, Stan Goldberg)
Patsy Walker #124 (Al Hartley, Al Hartley)
Patsy and Hedy #103 (Al Hartley, Al Hartley)
Rawhide Kid #49 (Larry Lieber, Larry Lieber)
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #25 (Stan Lee, Dick Ayers)

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3 Stars)


This is the sequel to "Amazing Spider-Man", the second part of a trilogy that was never completed. It's just as well. I could grudgingly accept that the first film had some quality, but the second film is a mess. The blackwashing of Electro is one of the smallest problems. What's more disturbing is the increase in the Richard Parker sub-plot and the hasty addition of the Green Goblin.

To deal with the second point first: after two hours showing the conflict between Spider-Man and Electro, the Green Goblin flies onto the screen. It's at the 1 hour 57 minute mark, to be precise. He isn't even announced as the Green Goblin. Anyone who hasn't read the comics or seen the Sam Raimi films would have no idea who he is. This is bad scriptwriting and even worse directing. The director is mostly to blame, because there are several deleted scenes involving the Green Goblin that were removed at the last moment to make the film shorter. Marc Webb needs to go back to film school.

Instead of shortening the film, it should have been made longer. The Green Goblin is defeated after a four minute fight. As one of Spider-Man's deadliest enemies he deserved at least 30 minutes.

Now to Peter Parker's father Richard. The film opens with a lengthy scene of his plane being sabotaged and crashing. During the film we see various video recordings that he made. Peter Parker spends the film doing research into his father's disappearance, when he isn't busy fighting Black Electro.

Today I discovered an alternative ending on the Blu-ray that I missed when I bought it three years ago. The film should have ended with Richard Parker approaching his son at Gwen Stacy's grave and apologising for his disappearance. According to Marc Webb, this scene was removed because test audiences unanimously complained about it. I'm not surprised. I would have thrown something heavy at the screen. What a disgusting way to ruin the film! Richard Parker even speaks the words "With great power comes great responsibility", the words that have forever been associated with Ben Parker.

The ending was rightly cut out, but it tells us that we could expect Peter Parker's father to return in the third film. I'm glad it was never made. Let's forget the silly Richard Parker story-line once and for all. Let's also forget "Amazing Spider-Man 2". It's an embarrassment.

We shouldn't forget Stan Lee's cameo. He appears as a guest at Peter Parker's graduation ceremony for five seconds. Those are the best five seconds of the film. We can forget the rest.

Success Rate:  + 0.4

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Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Amazing Spider-Man (4 Stars)


This is a film that I have difficulty rating. When I first saw it in the cinema I gave it five stars. When I watched it on Blu-ray two years later I dropped the rating to four stars. After watching it today I felt tempted to drop the rating further, but after thinking about it for a while I decided that four stars is a fair rating. It's not a bad film. In fact, it's a very good film. Its problem is that it stands in the shadow of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films. It's poor in comparison, so I can only judge it fairly by not comparing it. Or maybe it's the other way round; maybe comparing it with the other films is the only way to judge it fairly.

It's a repeat of Spider-Man's origin story, as told in Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man". Peter Parker is bitten by a spider and Ben Parker dies. Those are the fixed points crucial to the story. Everything else is changed. Instead of being bitten on a school trip, Peter Parker is bitten when he impersonates an intern to enter Oscorp. Instead of Ben Parker being killed in his car he's shot when he tries to stop a mugger. The school bully Flash Thompson isn't a football jock, he's the captain of the basketball team.

I could go on and on listing more details, but one thing stands out. This film has the sub-plot of Peter's relationship with his father. Richard Parker was an Oscorp employee who bred the spider that bit his son. A notebook left behind by Richard Parker contains a formula that Dr. Curt Connors uses to transform himself into a human lizard.

It's my attitude to the father-son sub-plot that makes it difficult for me to rate the film. This is a feature totally alien to the comics. Peter Parker's father is irrelevant in the comics. He's dead. That's all. Telling a story about Peter's father isn't just a minor change in details in the origin story, it twists the premise of Spider-Man beyond recognition. If I accept Richard Parker and his scientific background I can just about give the film four stars. If I rejected the story I'd have to give the film three stars at most. It's a dilemma.

Let's just talk about something positive in the film. Stan Lee has a delightful cameo as a school librarian. In the 11-second scene he scans a book while listening to music over headphones, oblivious to the fact that Spider-Man and the Lizard are fighting behind him.

Success Rate:  + 1.3

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Monday, 26 November 2018

Wizard of Oz (5 Stars)


This is a film I should have bought on DVD or Blu-ray long ago. I watched it five years ago at the Brindley Place Open Air Film Festival, after which I forgot about it. "The Wizard of Oz" is the first film I ever watched, so it deserves a place in my collection. I finally picked it up when I saw the 75th anniversary edition on sale for a ridiculously cheap price in the Black Friday sales.

For a while I wasn't sure whether my first film was "The Wizard of Oz" or "Call me Bwana". I watched both of them at the Avion cinema in Aldridge with my mother while I still lived in Little Aston. It wasn't until a few years ago that I checked the films' release dates and realised that "Call me Bwana" must have been later. I know for definite that I never watched films at home before "The Wizard of Oz" because my parents didn't have a television set.

Television was originally broadcast in Britain in 1936, but broadcasts were interrupted by the Second World War. In 1946 television broadcasts were resumed, but television sets were very expensive and not many homes had one. In 1953 things changed. Prices were dropping, and many families invested in a television set for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. My parents were poorer than most, so they had to wait a few years. They didn't have a television until 1961 or 1962. I forget the exact year, but it was after I'd seen "The Wizard of Oz". In fact, my parents never owned a television. They rented a television all their lives. When my father died in 1983 I had to call the rental company to have them pick up the television.


The film is about a young girl called Dorothy from Kansas who is carried to a magical land when her house is hit by a tornado. Or is she really carried away? It's possible that she dreamt everything after she hit her head. Believe what you want. I'm a child at heart, so I'm certain that she went to a magical land.

Dorothy is homesick and wants to return home, and the only one who can help her is a great and powerful wizard who lives in a castle on the outer reaches of the kingdom. Dorothy has to travel there herself, but it's easy to find the way; she just has to follow a road made out of yellow bricks. On the way she picks up three companions, a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion. All three of them are in need of something. The scarecrow doesn't have a brain, the tin man doesn't have a heart and the lion doesn't have courage. They accompany Dorothy in the hope that the wizard can also help them.


The Wicked Witch of the West pursues Dorothy, because she wants the magic red slippers that Dorothy is wearing. Nevertheless, she arrives safely with her companions. But that isn't the end of the tale. The wizard says he will only help them if Dorothy retrieves the witch's broomstick.

There's a moral to the story. If you want something important you can only get it if you realise that you already have it. Alternatively, you can want something so much that you become blind to the fact that you already have it. There are many ways to apply this. For instance, those who seek happiness should stop and look at themselves; then they'll see that they're happy already.

"The Wizard of Oz" is considered one of the best films ever made. The casting of Judy Garland as Dorothy is inspired. She's 12 years old, according to the book. Judy Garland was 16 years old when she appeared in the film, but she looks younger. She was typecast as a young girl throughout her twenties, because she looked young for her age. She was only 4'11" tall, so all she needed was makeup to play a young teenager.

Success Rate:  + 5.8

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Marvel Years 05.11 - November 1965


Fantastic Four #44

Title: The Gentleman's Name is Gorgon!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Gorgon

Guests: Medusa, Dragon Man

After the rather chaotic wedding in last month's Fantastic Four Annual #3 Reed and Susan Richards are settling down to married life in the Baxter Building. Why should they think of moving out if they already rent four floors?

Medusa, a former member of the Frightful Four, approaches Johnny Storm and asks for help. She's being hunted by someone she calls Gorgon. He's a large costumed man who can create shock waves by stamping his foot. After driving to open land near the campus of State University Johnny and Medusa are surprised by Dragon Man, who has been hiding there since Fantastic Four #35. Dragon Man protects Medusa from Gorgon because he likes her hair.

It's getting difficult to differentiate between Villains and Guests in my reviews. Medusa used to be a villain, now she isn't, even though a short fight takes place because of a misunderstanding. Dragon Man fights on the side of someone who's on the Fantastic Four's side, which makes him a guest. Gorgon is against Medusa, making him a villain this issue, but he'll soon be a guest. It's complicated.

From this issue on the Fantastic Four's adventures take on more of a soap opera quality. The stories run into one another with no smooth break.


At least the Thing has the opportunity to yell his battle cry: It's clobbering time!


I don't understand what the Crazy Credits are trying to say, apart from the fact that Stan Lee is the one at the centre of the whole creative process.




Amazing Spider-Man #30

Title: The Claws of the Cat

Writer: Steve Ditko, Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Cat (a cat burglar)

Regulars: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant, Frederick Foswell, Ned Leeds, Flash Thompson, Liz Allan

A petty cat burglar is having some success, but he considers himself too insignificant to be bothered by Spider-Man. He steals from J. Jonah Jameson's safe, and the Bugle editor offers a $1000 reward for his capture. Spider-Man pursues the burglar to get the money.

Peter Parker graduated in Amazing Spider-Man #28, but there's still contact with his old school friends. He bumps into Flash Thompson and Liz Allan in the street. He'll be seeing a lot of Flash in the future, because they both have scholarships to the same university, Empire State University. Liz Allan says that she now has a job, but she doesn't say where.

In this issue Ned Leeds proposes to marry Betty Brant. She visits Peter Parker to talk about it. She tells Peter that she wants to marry a normal hard-working man like Peter, not a costumed adventurer like Spider-Man. Peter doesn't know whether to accept her interest or push her away, but he errs towards the latter.


The final picture, expertly drawn by Steve Ditko, sums up the story.


The Crazy Credits tell us that Stan Lee and Steve Ditko are literary greats, but Artie Simek is only a fast worker. Good for him! In an army not every soldier can be a general.




Strange Tales #138

Title: Sometimes the good guys lose!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Severin

Villain: Hydra

Regulars: Dum Dum Dugan, Gabriel Jones

Guests: Tony Stark

SHIELD is too late to prevent the Betatron Bomb (TM) being launched into orbit. Hydra attacks SHIELD headquarters and captures Nick Fury while he's in a meeting with Tony Stark. Tony is unable to help him because he left his Iron Man suit at home.

There's a sub-plot about the supreme leader of Hydra having differences of opinion with his daughter, who's also a Hydra member.


Hydra is divided into ten divisions. Cut out this picture and hang it on your wall for future reference.


The Crazy Credits tell us that everyone who worked on the comic is royalty. Even Sam Rosen is a prince!




Title: If Eternity should fail!

Writer: Steve Ditko, Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Dormammu, Baron Mordo

Regulars: Ancient One, Hamir (unnamed)

Steve Ditko is once more credited as this story's plotter.

This is the ninth part of the Doctor Strange-Dormammu-Baron Mordo epic. Doctor Strange finally meets the being known as Eternity to request power to battle Dormammu, but the request is refused. Eternity tells Doctor Strange that all he needs is wisdom.


The artwork in this comic is so stunning that I feel tempted to reproduce all of it, but I'll restrict myself to this one picture. If you want to see more I advise you become an Unlimited Member at www.marvel.com.


The Crazy Credits say that Stan Lee is incredible and Steve Ditko is invincible, while Sam Rosen is indelible. If it had only been his lettering that's indelible I would have shrugged and said "Of course it is", but if Sam himself is indelible that raises him to the level of Steve Ditko.




Tales to Astonish #73

Title: By Force of Arms!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Gene Colan (as Adam Austin)

Villain: Krang

Regulars: Dorma

Prince Namor continues on his quest to find Namor's trident. As the next stage he has to battle a powerful undersea being, the Demon of the Diamonds. After defeating him he temporarily abandons his quest to aid Lady Dorma.


With Stan Lee's usual alliteration the Crazy Credits tell us that Artie Simek is angelic. I always new it! I wonder what Gene Colan would have been called if he'd used his real name. Geriatric Gene Colan?




Title: Another world, another foe!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Bob Powell

Villain: Leader

Guests: Watcher

After the Hulk falls unconscious from the strain of preventing his change back to Bruce Banner, the Leader examines him. He finds the bullet in the Hulk's brain and removes it. He also gives the Hulk a large gamma ray dose which makes him even stronger.

The Leader sends the Hulk to the Watcher's homeworld to retrieve a device he calls the Ultimate Machine, with which he can become the master of the Earth. First, it's an amazing feat to have developed a telescope able to observe what's happening on planets in other galaxies, millions of light years away. If I had a telescope like that I'd be the ultimate voyeur. Second, how does the Leader know that this machine is so powerful? It only looks like a small metal ball, without any markings.


Stan Lee uses the Crazy Credits to admit that he's forgotten what Artie Simek does. He's just a weird looking guy in the bullpen who sits in a cage watching television.




Tales of Suspense #71

Title: What price victory?

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Titanium Man

Regulars: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan

This is the conclusion of the battle between Iron Man and the Titanium Man. Iron Man wins with the help of the Reverser Ray delivered by Happy Hogan.

At the end of the last story it seemed that Happy was dead. Now we find out that he's still alive, but barely.

Tony Stark rushes to Happy's bedside immediately after defeating the Titanium Man. Pepper Potts is disgusted with him for not being there earlier.


Sometimes the Crazy Credits contradict one another. A few months ago we read that Artie Simek is kept in a cage, but now we hear that he lives the good life. Maybe it's a luxurious cage with comfortable fittings?




Title: When you lie down with dogs!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: George Tuska

Villain: Nazis

Captain America escapes and also frees Bucky Barnes. After his daughter is shot by the Nazis the traitor Dr. Rawlings decides to help Captain America by firing his new missile at the Nazis who are attacking Steve Rogers' regiment. Ironically, even though he's considered a deserter he's the one who saves them.

This is the last Captain America story set in World War Two. From the next issue onwards the stories will take place in the present. Can anyone spell continuity problems?


The Crazy Credits tell us that the other creators work with passion and power, while all Sam Rosen has to his name is a penpoint.




Journey into Mystery #122

Title: Where mortals fear to tread!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Loki, Absorbing Man

Regulars: Odin, Jane Foster

The tide turns and Thor finally manages to defeat the Absorbing Man. Before Thor can strike the finishing blow Loki transports him to Asgard to challenge Odin for the throne.

The mystery man who kidnapped Jane Foster is revealed to be Harris Hobbs, the reporter that Thor met in Journey Into Mystery #114. He suspected that Don Blake might be Thor, so he kidnapped Jane Foster to get the proof when he came to rescue her. At first he says he will reveal Thor's story to the world, but after being threatened by Thor he backs down. He asks merely for permission to see Asgard in exchange for keeping the secret.

I don't understand why Thor is bothered about Harris Hobbs seeing him changing from Thor into Don Blake. We saw in Journey Into Mystery #115 that he has the power to make mortals forget, simply by talking to them while they're asleep. So Hobbs wasn't asleep? No trouble. A little tap on the head would have knocked him out.


Everyone at the bullpen has different motivation for his work, but this is the second issue of Journey Into Mystery in a row in which the Crazy Credits tell us that Artie Simek is only in it for the money.




Title: The grim spectre of mutiny!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Gods: Odin, Thor, Loki, Balder, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg

The quest continues to find the one responsible for damaging the Odinsword. Loki leads a mutiny against Thor, but the rebellion is overthrown with the assistance of Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg.




The Avengers #22

Title: The Bitter Taste of Defeat

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck

Avengers: Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch

Villain: Enchantress, Power Man, Masters of Menace (Ringmaster, Princess Python, Clown, Cannonball, Great Gambonnos)

The Avengers disbanded at the end of the last issue. They try in vain to find new jobs.

In Amazing Spider-Man #22 the Ringmaster was thrown out by his fellow circus acts, but now he's back with them. He invites Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch to join his circus. When they find out it's a criminal affair they fight against the circus artists. The Ringmaster calls the police and accuses the Avengers of attacking him.

Captain America visits Power Man and the Enchantress in disguise to get proof that they were the ones who made the Avengers look like crooks.


The Marvel staff are shining stars in the firmament, but the Crazy Credits tell us that Artie Simek does his lettering in seclusion. That's not just because he's locked in a cage, it's because he's a man of modesty. I admire him!




X-Men #14

Title: Among us stalk the Sentinels!

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Werner Roth (as Jay Gavin)

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

Villain: Sentinels

Regulars: Professor X, Zelda

A scientist called Dr. Bolivar Trask has designed robots that he calls Sentinels to hunt and kill mutants. Professor X appears on a television talk show to discuss whether mutants are menaces or not. Live on the air the Sentinels rebel against their creator and take him prisoner. Professor X summons the X-Men to pursue the Sentinels to their lair.

Over the years the Sentinels became the X-Men's most deadly foes, destined to enslave not just mutants but all of mankind at some point in the future. For me personally they were never credible foes. If all the super-heroes, not just the X-Men, had united against them they would have been reduced to scrap metal within a few months.

Bobby Drake asks the waitress Zelda out on their first date.

From this month onwards the X-Men comics are published monthly.


The Crazy Credits say that everyone in the bullpen is highly qualified, except for Artie Simek who's tired of lettering. Maybe he wants a bigger job. He should be happy with what he does. Calligraphy is a forgotten art.



Other comics published this month:

Millie the Model #132 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Modelling with Millie #43 (Sol Brodsky, Stan Goldberg)
Kid Colt Outlaw #125 (Larry Lieber, Jack Keller)
Two Gun Kid #78 (Larry Lieber, Dick Ayers)
Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #24 (Stan Lee, Dick Ayers)