Monday, 15 January 2018

Marvel Years 02.10 - October 1962

Fantastic Four #7

Title(s): It came from the skies
Bound for Planet X
Twenty-Four Hours Till Zero
The End of Planet X

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Kurrgo

This is a single story split into five parts that have been given individual titles. A planetary evacuation is solved by Reed Richards creating a shrinking gas and an enlarging gas. The shrinking gas reduces the planet's inhabitants in size so that they'll all fit into one space ship. After arriving at their destination the enlarging gas will return them to normal size.

That's a good idea, and Reed Richards' genius allows him to invent a reducing gas within a few hours. Wow! However, he lied about creating the enlarging gas. On the new planet the former inhabitants of Planet X have to remain small. But how many readers can spot the blunder in the panel above? Reed Richards says "no reducing gas" when he means "no enlarging gas". Stan slipped up, but only once.

Journey into Mystery #85

Title(s): Trapped by Loki, the God of Mischief
The Vengeance of Loki

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (uncredited)
Artist: Jack Kirby

Regulars: Jane Foster, Odin, Heimdall, Balder, Tyr

Villain: Loki

This is a single story split into two parts that have been given individual titles. We see Loki for the first time, who has been trapped in a tree for hundreds of years. The question arises, why isn't he put back in a tree after Thor defeats him? That would keep him out of the way for another few hundred years.

This is also the first Thor story that shows the other Gods of Asgard. Odin, Heimdall and Balder return in later issues. I can't remember ever seeing Tyr again. In Norse mythology he was the God of Justice and one of the other sons of Odin.

The issue also contains two short anthology stories which are named on the cover.

Tales to Astonish #36

Title: The Challenge of Comrade X

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (uncredited)
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Comrade X

The story is split into two parts, but they aren't individually named. Once more the enemy is a Communist agent. In this issue he's named.

The issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Strange Tales #101

Title(s): The Human Torch
The Flaming Fury Strikes Back

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber (uncredited)
Artist: Jack Kirby

Regulars: The Thing

Villain: The Destroyer

After "Journey into Mystery" and "Tales to Astonish", "Strange Tales" is the third Marvel anthology comic which is headlined by a super-hero. (If you include "Amazing Fantasy", which was cancelled after the 15th issue, it's the fourth). This time it isn't a new hero, it's the Human Torch, who we already know as a member of the Fantastic Four. Amusingly, the cover states that he appears "by permission of the Fantastic Four magazine", as if it were necessary to ask for permission. This is one of the little jokes that Stan Lee liked to spring on readers over the years when he was a regular writer.

This is an example of Marvel's infamous "editor's notes" that used to explain what was happening in the story. We can be certain they were never written by the editor Martin Goodman. They were Stan's own words. Is that a dual personality? Stan says that four of Johnny's schoolmates knew of his secret identity. In Fantastic Four #3 (page 18) we see three of his friends in a cafe who know his identity. In Fantastic Four #4 (pages 4 to 6) we see another three of his friends in a garage who know his identity. Maybe they weren't the exact same friends, and there were only four distinct people in the two groups.

Until now the Human Torch has only had one ability: he could turn into flame and fly. In this comic we see that he has other abilities.

1. He can control nearby flame (page 5).
2. He can partially turn into flame, for instance if he wants to use his hands to carry someone without burning him (page 5).
3. He can shoot fire pellets from his fingertip (page 7).
4. He can create a duplicate of himself out of fire (page 8). By combining this with the first ability in this list he can make the duplicate move.

When will the Human Torch catch up with these abilities in the Fantastic Four comics? We'll have to wait and see.

This is a single story split into two parts that have been given individual titles. The issue also contains two short anthology stories.

There's one small thing that I should have mentioned before now. The writers and artists weren't usually credited in Marvel's anthology comics, including the super-hero stories. It's easy to see who the artists were because of their distinctive styles. Stan Lee always wrote the plot, unless otherwise stated. What's uncertain is who wrote the script, especially if the scripter was Stan's younger brother Larry Lieber. In those cases I use the information from the Marvel Database, which is based on Stan's memories of the 1960's.

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