Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Marvel Years 03.03 - March 1963

March 1963 was another memorable month for Marvel. Spider-Man, who first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15, was given his own comic. He rapidly became Marvel's most popular super-hero, a position he's held for more than 50 years, in the comics at least. In the same month Iron Man first appeared in the anthology comic Tales of Suspense.

Amazing Spider-Man #1

Title: Spider-Man

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Regulars: Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Liz Allan (unnamed), John Jameson

This comic contains two stories. The first story is divided into three unnamed parts and is simply called "Spider-Man". This is the first comic to feature the owner of the Daily Bugle, J. Jonah Jameson, who is driven by an irrational hatred for Spider-Man. He's determined to persuade the public, through the power of the press, that Spider-Man is a criminal. If it's printed in black and white it has to be true. Even when Spider-Man saves his son, the astronaut John Jameson, J. Jonah Jameson still demands his arrest.

Title: Spider-Man vs the Chameleon

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: The Chameleon

Guests: The Fantastic Four

This is the first story in which we read about Spider-Man's "spider sense" which warns him of danger. In this story his spider sense is also able to pick up radio waves. As far as I remember, this rather silly concept was never used again in the comics.

Title: Iron Man is born

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Wong Chu (a Vietnamese warlord)

This is another tragic hero, typical for Stan Lee's creations. Anthony Stark's metal armour gives him great strength, but the breastplate is also necessary to keep him alive by preventing the shrapnel from an explosion reaching his heart. He's shown to be a playboy, dating one girl after another, but we can assume that the need for a breastplate prevented him ever becoming intimate with his romantic conquests.

As is typical in Stan Lee's early super-hero stories, Communists play a large role. This time it isn't a vague unnamed country. Anthony Stark is taken prisoner in North Vietnam.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Fantastic Four #12

Title(s): The Incredible Hulk
Mission: Stop the Hulk
Who is the Wrecker?
The Hulk at last

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby

Villain: Karl Kort (The Wrecker)

Guests: The Hulk, General Ross, Rick Jones

Regulars: Alicia Masters

This is a single story split into four parts that have been given individual titles. General Ross asks the Fantastic Four to capture the Hulk, who's suspected of sabotaging a missile installation. As you can guess, it was someone else. The person responsible is Karl Kort, a Communist spy, using a giant robot.

The battle between the Hulk and the Fantastic Four is brief and inconclusive. The Hulk is stronger than each of the Fantastic Four individually, but they don't have time to fight against him as a group.

This is another small joke typical for Stan Lee in the 1960's.

The Incredible Hulk #6

Title: Beauty and the Beast

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko

Villain: Metal Master

Regulars: General Ross, Betty Ross, Rick Jones

Sadly, this was the last issue of "The Incredible Hulk". The sales weren't good enough to keep it going. Luckily Stan Lee didn't give up on him. He was brought back a few months later in the pages of "The Avengers", as you'll soon see.

Tales to Astonish #41

Title: Prisoner of the Slave World

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Artist: Don Heck

Villain: Kulla

Kulla is a villain who lives in "another dimension of space and time". That sounds like Stan Lee's way of saying it's a faraway world which can be reached immediately because it's parallel to our world. This concept will be used extensively in the Doctor Strange stories which begin in Strange Tales later in 1963. By then the expression will will be shortened to merely "dimension". That's less work for the letterer Artie Simek.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Journey into Mystery #90

Title: Trapped by the Carbon-Copy Man

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Artist: Al Hartley

Regulars: Jane Foster, Odin

Villain: Xartans

An alien race from the Planet Xarta wants to conquer the Earth and arrives with a big armada. They prepare their attack by kidnapping and impersonating many people in New York. The expression "Carbon-Copy Man" is only used in the title. The aliens are called Xartans, and their leader is Ugarth.

This issue also contains two short anthology stories.

Strange Tales #106

Title: The Threat of the Torrid Twosome

Writer: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
Artist: Dick Ayers

Villain: Carl Zante

Regulars: Susan Storm, Reed Richards, Ben Grimm

There's only one villain in this story. The Torrid Twosome in the title are made up of the master acrobat Carl Zante and the Human Torch. Carl appeals to Johnny Storm's pride and persuades him to leave the Fantastic Four and form a new group. It's lucky that he didn't stay long in his new partnership, or the world's greatest comic magazine would have had to change its name to the Terrific Trio. It doesn't sound quite as good, does it?

Amusingly, this story reveals that the Human Torch has been struggling to keep his secret identity secret for nothing. The whole town of Glenville already knows who he is.

I didn't realise until today how far Glenville is from Manhattan, where the Baxter Building is situated. It's way up north in New York state, 170 miles away. That's a long way for Susan and Johnny to commute to work every day.

This issue also contains three short anthology stories.

From this month onwards I'll begin adding a summary of the other Marvel comics published each month. These comics fall into the categories romance, western and war stories. In later months I shall begin to include non-canon comics in this list.

Other comics published this month:

Millie the Model #113 (Stan Lee, Stan Goldberg)
Love Romances #104 (Stan Lee, various)
Kid Colt Outlaw #109 (Stan Lee, Jack Keller)
Two Gun Kid #62 (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby)
Gunsmoke Western #75 (Stan Lee, various)

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