November 12, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
This is the third installment in a series highlighting each of the four superheroes who inaugurated the Marvel Universe in the Fall of 1961. We’ve already covered the Invisible Girl and The Thing. Today we take a look at the modern Human Torch and his introduction in Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961).
The most striking thing about the debut of the MU’s first teenage superhero is how little control he has over his powers. In his first appearance, he spots the FF’s emergency flare signal from inside the hot rod he is working on; a passion he admits is only second to his calling as a hero. Instead of stepping out of the car before “flaming on” he flies through the roof leaving the vehicle a molten mess. No sooner does he take to the sky then a squadron of US Air Force jets converge on him to investigate the flaming object over Manhattan. So unused to the powers bequeathed to him by the cosmic rays he was recently exposed to, he can’t avoid melting the planes from around their surprised pilots. The pilots parachute to safety as the planes plummet toward the city below. It’s left to Mr. Fantastic to save his bacon when a guided missile is on his tail and again when Johnny is about to plummet to his death.
Never fear, by the end of issue #1, the new Human Torch is the one who ultimately fends off the menace from the cover (Giganto) and seals up the Mole Man’s monsters in their underground lair by melting the rock surrounding the passage to the surface. By issue #4, the Human Torch has such precise control over his powers that he can use them for a job as delicate as giving the Sub-Mariner a shave.
Category Comic Books | Tags: 1961,Fantastic Four,Human Torch,Jack Kirby,Johnny Storm,Marvel,Stan Lee | No Comments
November 1, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
Sserpo! Amazing Adventures #6: When a frustrated scientist disposes of an experimental growth formula by tossing it into the ocean it is consumed by a tiny lizard-like creature living on the ocean floor. The missing ingredient for the growth formula was simply water so Sserpo begins to grow. Sserpo is caught by fishermen but by the time they reach port the lizard is large enough to sink the entire island. Nearly 1000 feet tall, the monster heads toward Australia. The Australian Navy diverts the creature with rockets but Sserpo (now 2000 feet high) is headed straight for Japan. Worried that the giant monster will sink their entire country when he first set foot on Japanese soil, the Japanese use an H-Bomb to scare the monster away. As Sserpo continues to grow, scientists fear that he will grow so large that he will upset the orbit of the Earth. Just in time, the inhabitants of Jupiter send a giant skyhook to snag Sserpo and carry him into space.
The Creature from Krogarr Tales to Astonish #25: An alien contacts an Earthman through his TV set and offers to make him famous if he will just make a few adjustments to his TV and allow his body to pass from the alien’s planet to Earth. After the man does this, the alien seizes the man and takes him back to his home planet. The alien tells the man that he will be proof that his revolutionary new method of travel works and puts him in a cage while he calls his superiors. Once his superiors arrive and have seen the human, he is to be killed and invasion plans will be drawn up. Suddenly, the Earthman fades away just before the superiors arrive. Angered, they kill the inventor and destroy his machine which they assume is worthless. Luckily, the man had neglected to pay his electric bill and the power to the TV set was shut off, thus saving Earth.
Giganto Fantastic Four #1: Giganto is one of many Deviant Mutates dwelling on Monster Isle. During the first adventure of the Fantastic Four, the Mole Man makes Giganto his servant and uses him to attack nuclear power plants all over the world. Johnny Storm, the Human Torch succeeds (at least temporarily) in sealing Giganto and the Mole Man’s other monsters in their underground lair by melting the rock around the passage to the Earth’s surface.
The Thing in the Black Box Journey into Mystery #74: A victim of a shipwreck washes up on a not quite deserted isle where he stumbles over beautiful Pandora and her box. Pandora is malevolent and tricks him into opening the box for her whereupon she commands the demon that emerges to make all of mankind her slave. The man begs Pandora to be allowed to return to the mainland, and she grants his request, but he has a plan and returns with a set of mirrors which he rings around the sleeping Pandora. When she awakes she cries out in despair that they be taken away. The man had gambled that centuries-old Pandora’s beauty had to be the result of hypnosis, but no one can hypnotize a mirror. He says the mirrors will be removed if she orders the demon back into the box. She does so, and they bury the box deep in the earth, and leave Pandora on her isle with her illusion of beauty.
Orrgo…The Unconquerable Strange Tales #90: Two billion miles from earth the imperialistic race, the Mentelleronites, discuss their plan to conqure the planet Earth. One of the Mentelleronites, Orrgo, volunteers to be the planet’s invader. Orrgo believes his race to be so superior to the humans that he can accomplish the feat single-handedly. Teleporting himself across the galaxy, Orrgo materializes in a circus and tells the people audience to bow to him. The police and military are called but no one can withstand his hypnotic power. After hypnotizing the entire world’s population, Orrgo falls asleep near the circus where he originally materialized. Jo-Jo the circus gorilla becomes infuriated that his hypnotized master has not fed him and breaks out of his cage. Jo-Jo finds the sleeping Orrgo and senses that he is responsible for his hunger. The angry ape strikes down Orrgo and saves the world. The others on Orrgo’s world sense that their brother has been defeated and decide not to try to invade Earth again, as they must be more powerful than originally thought.
The Creature from the Black Bog Tales of Suspense #23: A retired couple exploring the Everglades comes upon an alien who has been mired in the bog after landing to make repairs and was making his way back to the ship. In exchange for their help in securing enough vines to pull him free of the bog, he removes their memories of the incident and makes them younger. Read the whole story here.
Category Comic Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazing Adventures,Comic Books,Fantastic Four,Giganto,Jack Kirby,Journey into Mystery,Marvel,Orrgo...The Unconquerable,Sserpo,Stan Lee,Steve Ditko,Strange Tales,Tales to Astonish,The Creature from Krogarr,The Creature from the Black Bog!,The Thing in the Black Box | No Comments
October 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
Black Magic was a horror anthology comic book created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby for the Crestwood imprint Prize Comics in 1950 The contents of the book were tame enough to endure little change when the Comics Code was imposed in 1954, although it’s quite surprising that the CCA didn’t demand a title change. A total of fifty issues were produced by the time the book ended in 1961. The numbering system used by Black Magic was reset at the beginning of each year, so the final six issues published in 1961 have cover numbers of 1-6 although they are, in fact, issues 45-50.
By 1961, Kirby and Simon had parted ways. While Kirby was laying the foundations of the Marvel Universe with Stan Lee over at Marvel, Joe Simon still had a hand in editing Black Magic (although most of his attention was given over to his humor magazine, SICK.) Joe Simon is credited as the cover artist for all of the issues of Black Magic in 1961, although it looks like most of the work was done by inker Dick Ayers who not only inked much of the interior art but also the original pencils. Along with Ayers, Ted Galindo and Bob Powell were responsible for drawing most of the five or six stories found in each issue. Steve Ditko makes an appearance in #47 with the 6-pager “The Black Fog” (Detail on right).
One sign that the end was near for Black Magic is that a half-dozen or more stories (but not art) that appeared in its final year were lifted from EC’s pre-code comic book, Weird Fantasy. The cancellation of Black Magic marked the beginning of a five-year hiatus away from comic books for Joe Simon who focused his efforts on SICK and freelance work in advertising. He wouldn’t return until 1966 when he was hired to create a line of superhero books for Harvey Comics.
Black Magic would be briefly resurrected by DC in the 1970s, reprinting the original stories from the Fifties and early Sixties.
Category Comic Books | Tags: Black Magic,Bob Powell,Crestwood,Dick Ayers,Jack Kirby,Joe Simon,Prize,Steve Ditko,Ted Galindo | No Comments
October 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
Monsteroso – Amazing Adventures #5: The alien child Monsteroso accidentally presses the escape pod button of his parent’s spaceship and is carried down to Earth where the pod crashes in the African jungle. Monsteroso’s unconscious body is discovered by an American circus owner who sells the supposedly dead creature to a New York museum. The alien child awakes and explores the city until the military attacks him. The frightened monster tries to flee by climbing to the top of the UN building. The army shoots him with a tranquilizer dart and he falls into the river. His parents suddenly arrive and rescue their child warning the earthlings that, “It is fortunate he is unharmed. Fortunate…FOR YOU.” and leave Earth.
The Spider – Journey into Mystery #73: A physicist working at an atomic research lab in New Mexico goes into work one day unknowingly with a spider in his pants cuff. The creature becomes bombarded by the atomic rays and grows to a huge size, gaining the power to think and speak, and then attacks the humans. The physicist tricks the spider into snagging a missile test with its web and when it climbs towards it, the missile detonates and kills The Spider.
Fin Fang Foom – Strange Tales #89: In his debut, Fin Fang Foom was merely an ancient hibernating dragon who is deliberately awakened from his slumber in a cave by an anti-communist Taiwanese man, Chen Liuchow, whose homeland is under threat from the Red Chinese. Chen uses a special herb to awaken the dragon, and taunts Foom with the threat of another herb that will put him back to sleep. Chen goads Foom into chasing him, and leads him straight into the Communist invasion force, which Foom destroys. With the Red threat eliminated, Chen leads Fin Fang Foom back into his cave, where the sleep herb returns Foom to his hibernative state. But that wasn’t the last the Marvel Universe would hear from Fin Fang Foom.
The Abominable Snowman – Tales to Astonish #24: A TV producer receives a request to produce a film of the Abominable Snowman so he and his crew set off for the Himalayas. Unconvinced that such a creature exists, the producer dresses up in a costume, but one of his assistants sees him and follows behind. Suddenly, the fur-clad producer is seized by a much larger furry creature who claims that he had been searching for him. The creature (revealed to be a lizardman in disguise) takes the producer to a drill machine and the assistant sneaks in too. They travel deep underground to a city of lizardmen who have been looking for a lost explorer who wears a shaggy costume for protection from the cold. He must still be alive as they live for a thousand years. They are hostile to the producer and attempt to place him into a cage. He makes a break for it and runs into the cave of a thousand winds. While he is helplessly buffeted by winds from different directions, the assistant sneaks up behind the lizardmen guarding the cave’s mouth and lobs explosives at them which throw them into the cave’s strong winds as well. The assistant extends a rope to the producer and they escape toward the black pool which holds a ”octo-monster”. They escape from its clutches and come across the drill machine while fleeing the lizardmen. They take the machine back to the surface and destroy it with the remaining explosives.
Bruttu – Tales of Suspense #22: A milksop scientist working on an experimental machine is thinking of a comic book monster when an accidental discharge of energy transforms him into the creature’s likeness. He goes on an unintended rampage through town because he can no longer speak and communicate his non-hostile intentions, the military authorities attack and drive him into the woods. While approaching a small house he gets the idea that he can write with an object, but the owner drives him away with a rifle. He loves his research assistant and, coming to the realization that the army will eventually destroy him, resolves to see her one last time. He approaches her home and uses a rake to write in the ground he means no harm, but since the scientist disappeared when the monster appeared, the woman jumps to the conclusion that he “has killed the man I loved.” Since he realizes now what a fool he has been for wanting to be big and strong since the woman he loved loved him just the way he was, he returns to the atomic machine and bathes in its rays once more thinking of the man he had been. He changes back and embraces his true love.
Category Comic Books, Science Fiction | Tags: 1961,Amazing Adventures,Atlas,Bruttu,Fin Fang Foom,Jack Kirby,Journey into Mystery,Marvel,Monsteroso,Stan Lee,Strange Tales,Tales of Suspense,Tales to Astonish | 2 Comments
September 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
The Glob (Journey into Mystery #72) is an alien advance scout for an invasion from space. He lies in wait for years in an old Transylvanian castle disguised as a statue and can only be resurrected by the application of a special paint. An unwitting painter brings the monster to life but ultimately succeeds in defeating the Glob with a can of turpentine.
Klagg (Tales of Suspense #21) is an alien who visits Earth and becomes so upset with the war-like ways of humanity that he declares war upon all the nations of Earth. A young lay-about convinces communist agents to join forces with the free world to confront Klagg. Seeing that the various nations are able to set aside their differences and band together against him, Klagg decides that there is hope for humanity and suspends his campaign of destruction.
Robot X (Amazing Adventures #4) is a thinking robot who is the propaganda target of the editor of a local paper. Robot X builds a robot army in a secret factory and assaults the town to capture and expose the newspaper editor as a Martian in disguise. The Martians knew that they could not manipulate thinking robots and had to turn the humans against them. With the alien plot foiled, Robot X and his fellow robots deactivate themselves so that humans will not need to live in fear.
Moomba (Tales to Astonish #23) is the leader of an alien fifth column disguised as African wood carvings (I suspect he stole the idea from the Glob’s people). Moomba gives his command to strike and all the carvings get up and begin to attack their human owners. The wood they are made from is so hard that fire and bullets can’t harm them. Eventually, an African witch doctor defeats Moomba and makes him promise to leave Earth along with all of his wooden warriors.
Zzutak (Strange Tales#88) was created by magic paints supplied to a comic book artist by an Aztec elder. The artist is hypnotized by the paints to travel to Mexico and create Zzutak, but after hearing the elder’s plans, he mutters under his breath “Zzutak is your enemy” while painting a second creature. When the magic paint brings the second monster into existence, it begins a battle with Zzutak. The elder tries to get them to stop fighting, but they ignore him. During the fight, the columns supporting the temple are damaged and the whole structure soon crashes down on all three of them. The elder survives, but a blow to the head has caused amnesia and his plans are lost forever.
Category Comic Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazing Adventures,Atlas,Comic Books,Jack Kirby,Journey into Mystery,Marvel,Monsters,Stan Lee,Strange Tales,Tales of Suspense,Tales to Astonish | No Comments
September 21, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
The Jack Kirby cover of Tales of Suspense #23 depicts a scene from a Stan Lee/Steve Ditko backup story called The Creature from the Black Bog. Ordinarily, the cover of ToS would show a scene from the Kirby drawn first story in the book. The lead story that month (“I Entered the Dimension of Doom”) contained a number of features that would have made for an exciting cover; a two-dimensional world populated with frog-faced creatures and a giant “hypno-creature”.
Kirby’s cover is strikingly threatening compared to the rather sweet and endearing story and artwork by Lee and Ditko. (I like the way Ditko draws old people!) One aspect of the cover that is an improvement is the title. The Creature in the Black Bog makes more sense than the Creature from the Black Bog.
Category Comic Books, Science Fiction | Tags: Atlas,Comic Books,Jack Kirby,Marvel,Monsters,Stan Lee,Steve Ditko,Tales of Suspense | 4 Comments
September 13, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
You can quibble about the number of tails and legs all you want, but you can’t deny there is a resemblance between Jack Kirby‘s three-headed monster that appeared in Fantastic Four #1 in 1961 and Toho studios’ King Ghidorah who debuted in 1964. Some nerdly scholar should seriously explore how much (if any) cross-pollination there was between the Atlas/Marvel offices in Manhattan and the Toho studios in Tokyo.
Since I’m hardly a scholar nor very serious, I only have one question: Who needs Godzilla or Rodan for eradicating three-headed space dragons when you’ve got Mr. Fantastic?
Category Art, Comic Books, Film | Tags: 1961,Atlas,Comic Books,Fantastic Four,Ghidorah,Jack Kirby,Marvel,Toho | No Comments
September 7, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
The very first character in the modern Marvel Universe to display her powers in a comic book was the Invisible Girl in Fantastic Four #1 (1961). Page one of that landmark book shows the silhouette of a man, identified as the leader of the Fantastic Four, firing a signal gun . In the first panel on page two we are introduced to Susan Storm by name, as her “society friend” takes note of the signal in the sky. By the second panel Susan has already turned invisible and is reminding herself of the vow she has taken to answer this call to duty. By panel three, ‘It is time for the world to meet…THE INVISIBLE GIRL!”
Despite the common criticism that the Invisible Girl was too often used by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as the damsel in distress, little of that can be found in issue one. In fact, it’s Sue that goads the reluctant Ben Grimm into piloting the space voyage that transforms her fiancée, her brother, Grimm and herself into the Fantastic Four.
On inspection there are very few, “Oh, Reed!” moments in the first year of the book, although Sue does manage to get captured by the bad guys in every other issue. I don’t think there was any chauvinistic motive for these storylines; I think the blame lies with Sue’s initial power set. The ability to turn invisible offers more opportunities for escape than assault and Lee and Kirby found themselves having to put Sue in the role of a prisoner to highlight her powers. Many a plot involves Sue getting separated from the rest of the group by circumstance or capture. This gives her the opportunity to learn things about the bad guys that Reed and the others can eventually use to defeat them.
Once Sue’s powers were expanded to include the ability to turn other things/people invisible and to create invisible force fields the character was no longer limited to acting as the group’s spy and was even dubbed the FF’s most powerful member by Dr. Doom. One wonders then, why, over fifty years, the Invisible Girl/Woman has so rarely been seen in the spotlight. Out of 600 or more comics featuring the Fantastic Four, the character has been the focus on the cover of barely twenty issues and (to my knowledge) has never been the solo star of even a single mini-series or one-shot.
Here is a gallery of those rare covers spotlighting the First Lady of the Marvel Universe:
Category Comic Books, Uncategorized | Tags: Fantastic Four,Invisible Girl,Invisible Woman,Jack Kirby,Marvel,Stan Lee,Sue Storm | 2 Comments
August 26, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
Here’s an interesting exercise in putting yourself in the shoes of a comic book reader fifty years ago. Pretend you have never heard of the Fantastic Four when you walk into your corner drugstore and see these Jack Kirby covers on the magazine rack. Are you immediately drawn to the new title or do you have to take a closer look before you realize it’s not just another monster book?
Category Art, Comic Books, Science Fiction | Tags: Amazing Adventures,Comic Books,Fantastic Four,Jack Kirby,Journey into Mystery,Marvel,Monsters,Strange Tales,Tales of Suspense,Tales to Astonish | No Comments
August 16, 2011 by The Belated Nerd
I’m not sure how Jack Kirby went about creating the monsters he drew for Marvel (nee Atlas) comics in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Did he start with a naked monster and then draw short pants on it or did each new creation start with an empty pair of patented Kirby Speedos? Kirby Speedos date back to the early 1940s when they were sported by Captain America and Bucky over pairs of long pants. The long pants were dispensed with when Jack started drawing monsters. I mean, who ever heard of a giant monster wearing long pants?
So, crowd around the catwalk for the fashion show and try not to get stepped on by the models!
Category Art, Comic Books, Fantasy, Science Fiction | Tags: Bruttu,Comic Books,Fin Fang Foom,Gargantus,Googam,Gruto,Jack Kirby,Kraa,Marvel,Monsters,Moomba,Strange Tales | No Comments