Wednesday, October 1, 2014

February 1966

(Continued from January 1966)

STRANGE TALES 141  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Frank Giacoia
OPERATION: "BRAIN BLAST!"
Synopsis:
As SHIELD mops ups the HYDRA thugs, Fury, Dum Dum, Gabe & Agent G head upstairs to capture Imperial Hydra, using a "Bazooka Drill" to tear thru a solid steel door barring their path. In the Imperial Industries International boardroom, Arnold Brown hesitates over the destruct button, unable to kill his daughter along with everyone else. His bodyguards emerge from the passageway, and not believing he's their leader, shoot him dead! Fury & his men burst into the room, killing the assassins as they attempt to flee. Fury has Agent G demonstrate a pair of "Vacuum-sole" shoes, which allow one to walk up or down a sheer wall-- and in front of a dumbfounded Dum Dum, he allows her to escape. Fury gives them each a week off, saying he's "sicka lookin' at yer ugly pans". He then pilots the stolen HYDRA saucer thru a secret "escape tunnel" under the city. Elsewhere, SHIELD's new E.S.P. Division decide to demonstrate their "Brainwave Stimulator" by sending Fury a mental warning of a mock attack. Elsewhere we meet Mentallo, who can project thoughts into images. Formerly a member of SHIELD, he'd tried using his power to take over, but escaped when he was discovered. SHIELD is working to duplicate his power with machinery, and he fears he must destroy them before they can find a defense against him. He picks up mental images of a criminal known as The Fixer, who manages a seemingly-impossible jailbreak with equipment built from using common objects! Mentallo hatches a plan to join forces with The Fixer, and together, "rule mankind". Fury fears that Mentallo could destroy SHIELD single-handedly...

Indexer notes:
Part 7 of 7 / Part 1 of 3. 1st appearance of SHIELD's E.S.P. Division, Mentallo, The Fixer. In this episode, Arnold Brown bears a resemblance to actor Walter Pidgeon. 2nd of only 3 SHIELD episodes on which Jack Kirby did full pencils. The new story starts on page 8; when Stan Lee wrote "at that very moment", he should really have said "a week later", as reading the page literally makes it appear Fury (who was heading for dinner & a long sleep) was in 2 places at the same time!

"OPERATION: BRAIN BLAST!"
Arnold Brown, cornered, cannot bring himself to push the destruct button, and kill his own daughter along with the attacking SHIELD commandos. Fate plays an even crueler trick, when 2 of his own bodyguards race into the room, and, not recognizing him without his Hydra robes, SHOOT him dead!! A moment later, they're gunned down by SHIELD agents while trying to escape. Nick decides, for her help, to give Laura a chance to escape scot free, to the EXTREME consternation of Dugan. Fury then orders Dugan & Jones to take a week's leave, as he "sick o' lookin' at yer ugly pans."

And so, the first act of NICK FURY AGENT OF SHIELD comes to an abrubt end-- exactly HALFWAY thru an episode. This was exactly ONE MONTH before this kind of stunt was pulled again-- over in FF #48. Anyway, Nick goes off to get a week's worth of shuteye...

...on his return, he's hit by a mental blast as the new SHIELD E.S.P. Division is giving their agents a test-run. It seems one of their own, who went rogue (or, was a double-agent all along) has bolted, and, now calling himself "Mentallo", has sworn to come back and take down the entire organization. And as if that's not bad enough, he's hooked up with a criminal scientist nick-named "The Fixer", who managed to break out of a maximum security prison using devices created from common handy items. Has SHIELD taken down a threat to the entire world, only to fall prey to just TWO men, who are the Marvel Universe's "answer" to "Brainiac" and "Lex Luthor"?????

JACK KIRBY supplies story & art this time, only the 2nd episode in which he's had a chance to do FULL pencils, and the art is looking MUCH better for it. Ye "editor" does dialogue, but once again, is JUST NOT paying attention. The segue where Nick takes a break before returning reads, "In another part of SHIELD HQ", which suggests he was in TWO places at the same time. Clearly, it should have said, "A WEEK LATER..." Honestly, the level of incompetence in the dialogue stage sometimes is positively mind-boggling. Not incompetent at all this time out is FRANK GIACOIA, who in my opinion does the BEST inking job on this entire run!!! Yep, this gets my vote for the BEST-looking episode of the entire JACK KIRBY run of NICK FURY AGENT OF SHIELD. Part 7 of 7 -and- Part 1 of 3. Absolutely ESSENTIAL!!!!!
     (3-7-2014)

"LET THERE BE VICTORY!"
Synopsis:
Enraged that Mordo has soured his victory, Dormammu consigns him to the Dimension of Demons. But as Dormammu begins to declare himself victor, Strange declares he is able to continue the fight. Fooling Dormammu into thinking he's not fully recovered, Strange manages to best him in combat! In front of the assembled dimensional rulers, Dormammu is forced to swear not to attack Earth-- but also plans vengeance on Strange. Back in The Ancient One's home, Hamir prepares a banquet for Strange & his master. After, Dormammu contacts Strange; in punishment for her twice helping Strange, Dormammu banishes Clea to "a place where you can never find her". While he boasts that he has actually won, Dormammu's rage against his defeat grows stronger by the minute. The Ancient One assures Strange that thanks to his victory, there are many who may now be able to help in his search for the girl. The Mystic Globe, with Mordo's spell removed, shows traces of leftover evil spreading, which must be eliminated. Back in Strange's home in NYC, Mordo's Demon & 2 desciples, unable to sense their master, depart, but not before leaving a purely non-magical trap for Strange-- a bomb! Strange returns home, looking forward to rest, unaware that he is in imminent danger...

Indexer notes:
Part 12 of 17. Hamir (The Ancient One's servant) named for 1st time in this episode. Mordo's Demon last seen in STRANGE TALES #132 (May 1965). Although 4 different reprintings end here, this is obviously NOT the end of the story, as it continues on until STRANGE TALES #146 (July 1966).

"LET THERE BE VICTORY"
DR. STRANGE actually manages to beat Dorammu at his own game, causing the other-dimensional ruler to become utterly & completely enraged. He vows NEVER to attack Earth again, but makes up for it by gloating as he sends the girl who helped Strange to some nether-dimension where he will never find her. And, back home, 3 of Mordo's lackeys plant a TIME BOMB in his house, which, having no magical qualities about it, they feel sure will be his downfall. What a cliffhanger!

STEVE DITKO supplies story & full art, while ye "editor" does dialogue. Part 12 of 17-- yes, in spite of everything, this is NOT by any means the end of things yet!

You know, I've long felt they screwed up big-time with the 1st DS MASTERWORKS book, in that it ended here. Another 50 pages and they could have crammed the ENTIRE Steve Ditko run into a single volume.
     (3-7-2014)


FANTASTIC FOUR 47  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott
"BEWARE THE HIDDEN LAND"
After saving Triton's life, Reed ignores the warning of The Seeker, and tracks down his destination, the city of The Inhumans high in THE ANDES of South America. Ooh. En route Sue changes her hairstyle to the one favored by Diana Rigg on THE AVENGERS. Turns out Black Bolt is the KING of his people, except there's been a coup, as his evil-- and, clearly, INSANE-- brother-- has taken control while he was away. Or, was he DRIVEN away? This reminds me of the "WKRP" episode where Jennifer Marlowe got engaged to Prince Rudolpho, ruler of a country so tiny it makes Monaco look big by comparison, and learned his brother "Rudy the bartender" took over the casino while he was out romancing his bride-to-be. The sad thing about all this is, the more one reads and re-read these episodes, the more clear it is that the "editor" was just NOT PAYING ATTENTION when he wrote the dialogue and stole credit for the stories. PLOT-HOLES cropped up, which wouldn't have taken very much effort at all to fix... as proved by the early-90's FF tv cartoon that adapted this story!

JACK KIRBY supplies story & art, "ye editor" does the dialogue, and JOE SINNOTT gives it a gleam to knock your eyes out at the inks stage. Part 4 of 5 (or is that 4 and a half?).
     (3-7-2014)


TALES TO ASTONISH 76  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta
"UNEASY HANGS THE HEAD..!"
Vince Colletta does an interesting job here, but Namor's chest and left arm have a rough look about them that reminds me of a lot of the work he did in the 70's and beyond. One of those instances where I'd wonder, tight deadline, bored, or an assistant's work?

Page 1: This scene (WHAT, NO BACKGROUND AT ALL?) somehow reminds me of the climax of the movie SOLOMON AND SHEBA, with Warlord Krang taking the George Sanders part & Namor, Yul Brynner.  (Well, Brynner DID have hair in that movie.) This inspired me to check the film out at the IMDB, having seen it on some TV station a few years ago.  (I forget if it was TCM or Trinity.) What a shock to learn that 75% of the film-- King Vidor's last-- was completed when lead actor Tyrone Power DROPPED DEAD!! All his scenes had to be re-shot with Brynner, which MAY explain to some extent why so many reviewers feel the people he's acting with seem bored and detached. I can imagine them all feeling, "What, I've got to do this AGAIN?"

Page 6 reminds me of a page Kirby did back in the early 40's. I'm reminded how in the Marvel Universe, Namor's people bear NO resemblance to how they looked in the 40's.

Page 12: Is this a bit of retroactive continuity, Stan's bad memory, or could he just not have been bothered looking it up? Namor says his kingdom was the victim of atomic testing, which caused them to scatter to the undersea winds... "two decades ago".  As this is 1966, that would make it 1946. I've read so pitifully few 1940's SUB-MARINER comics, but can anyone cofirm or deny if this was ever mentioned before? Back in FF #4 & 6, there was a lot of talk about Namor's kingdom being destroyed, but the impression I always had was that happened AFTER his 1950's adventures, not years before.
     (12-29-2010)

"UNEASY HANGS THE HEAD"
The conclusion / epilogue to SUB-MARINER's overlong, interminable quest for Neptune's trident. GENE COLAN supplies story & art, ye "editor" does dialogue, and Vince "sleep with the fishes" Colletta puts his pens to work. Part 7 of 7.
     (3-7-2014)

"I, AGAINST A WORLD!"
And now we come to the 2ND HULK episode I ever read, courtesy of HULK ANNUAL #4 (1972). WHO KNEW this was GIL KANE's debut at 60's Marvel? Using the name "Scott Edward", his pencils are wedged in between Jack Kirby's layouts and Mike Esposito's inks. As a result, the storytelling is AWESOME, but very little of Gil OR Mike's styles get to shine. It's usually better when they only have 2 artists-- either pencils and inks, or layouts and finishes. Please note for comparison the 1972 version of the splash page. A LOT of lines seem to be missing from that. BAD reprint reproduction, or was the original altered before printing and the reprint is the "un-altered" version?? The color job the 2nd time around doesn't do any favors. All those grey weapons that are now blue, and the pale yellow credit blurb also now blue. The only thing on this page that really looks "Kane" to me are the weapons.

Page 14: Doesn't that leader look like he had Steve Ditko for a costume designer?

Page 15: That weapon looks more "Kane" than "Kirby" to me, though with that big tail-piece, one wonders HOW the hell it manages to fire without tearing off the top of the rack it's fired from? The figure in the last panel is where Kane really starts to show thru.

Page 16: That whatever-it-is reminds me of a gadget Mattel once had for MAJOR MATT MASON, except it was built as an exo-skeleton of sorts for a man in the middle of it to "wear" and control.

Page 17 is "Kane" ALL OVER! The faces of the characters, ESPECIALLY Ross, and that complex machinery in the 1st panel-- KIRBY never did anything that looked like THAT! Considering how much I've disliked Gil Kane's work at times over the years, it strikes me Kirby & Kane might have made a very interesting team, if they'd worked together on a regular basis like this. But as far as I know, this episode was the ONLY time it ever happened.

Ross is somebody I tend to HATE.  In fact, I actually WORKED for a guy JUST like him a decade back, who was a software designer. Brilliant, but EXPLOSIVE temper and not shy about tearing into the people working for him with no provocation. Still, for once, I get a kick out of Ross's attitude here, when he stands up to one of HIS superiors, telling the man, "Don't let that one extra star go to your head!" By this point, under Kirby (and whoever), Talbot no longer looks like Lee Van Cleef (the way Ditko used to draw him), but Ross here DOES remind me of British actor Thorley Walters, who I've found in recent years played a LOT of army types in the 50's and early 60's. And, if you've ever seen him as the police inspector in FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED, you can see the resemblance in the personality as well.

Page 18: What a COOL "bunker". Definitely "Kane" (not "Kirby"). This could easily have stepped right out of any of Kane's later sci-fi works, like STAR HAWKS, or his later GREEN LANTERN episodes.

I love the Hulk's thoughts in this sequence. "So THIS is the world of the FUTURE! It's just a big NOTHIN'!!"  ...and...  "...I got a lot of PAYIN' BACK to do! But before I take this place APART..." I suppose some new reader might wonder, "THIS is the HERO???" The way Kirby & Kane draw the Hulk here, he reminds me a lot of Aurora's "BIG FRANKIE" model kit, which was a giant, 2-foot high, short, squat Frankenstein they had on the market in the early 60's. I've often wondered if one might have influenced the other...

Page 19: Any other character might have at least considered an offer from the "king", but not greeenskin. "That's YOUR problem! I Got OTHER things on my mind!"

Page 22: The "walking pillboxes" are straight out of WAR OF THE WORLDS. One must have expected alien invaders from another planet. Or, considering the war-torn future, perhaps the armies of Kang The Conqueror. Instead, we get-- from the pages of THOR-- "The Immortal Executioner"! I always thought this was a COOL idea. The guy is IMMORTAL-- therefore, the reason he is ALSO in the future is, to him, he's just been alive that long. Years later, Gary "Burnout" Friedrich, in ONE misguided word balloon, tried to contradict this and say time-travel was involved with him, too, but that just makes NO SENSE and violates the simple coolness of this earlier episode. When in doubt, go with the "original", NEVER the "sequel".

Anyway, I recall back when thinking it almost looked as though the picture of The Executioner had been pasted in after-the-fact. I see no evidence of that on the original page, but, the word balloon shows signs of "fixing". WAS there someone else commanding that pillbox when Jack (or Gil) drew it, and someone (Stan?) changed it at the last minute?  Makes me wonder.

I do recall when I read this 3-parter the first time wondering, what's going on with 3 different pencillers in 3 episodes? No matter how you cut it, that just doesn't seem right. It's amazing these episodes are as GOOD as they are! I put that down to Jack's story and Stan's dialogue. (A 90/10 split, which is why the credits are a crime.)
     (12-29-2010)

"I, AGAINST A WORLD"
THE HULK is in a war-ravaged far future, where he's captured, then, recruited to help save the city against "The Evil One". Except HULK ain't havin' none of it, SEE??? He smashes his way free, he smashes his way out of the city, then, he confronts head-on the walking tripod tank squadron (straight out of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds") to demand that somebody, anybody, find a way to send him back to his own time. WHY he thinks anybody there might have a time machine is beyond me, but the whole thing-- without actually saying so-- seems a set-up-- or perhaps, DELIBERATE misdirection-- to suggest to the readers that, like THE AVENGERS only last month (!!!!!), that HULK is about to face KANG THE CONQUEROR. Guess again!!!!! (THiS, CLEARLY, is another example of where the "editor" was NOT PAYING ATTENTION, and missed a perfect opportunity for some "continuity" references. HOW did that guy keep his job? Oh yeah, he married into the family...)

JACK KIRBY supplies story & layouts, ye "editor" does dialogue, and GIL KANE makes his Marvel debut (under the psudonym "Scott Edwards") doing pencils over Kirby's layouts, while Mike Esposito does inks, likewise under an alias. This particular episode has really grown on me over the years, despite my general disdain for Gil Kane's art, perhaps because the mixing of Kirby designs & Kane drawings is so "interesting".
     (3-7-2014)


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 33  /
cover by STEVE DITKO
Review  (coming soon)


TALES OF SUSPENSE 74  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky
"IF THIS GUILT BE MINE--"
IRON MAN has rescued Happy Hogan, but an even worse fate awaits as an experimental device meant to save his life winds up turning him into the HULK's 2nd cousin once removed. GENE COLAN supplies story & art, ye "editor" returns for dialogue, and JACK ABEL (who, like Gene, was in hiding from DC), provides some of the sharpest, cleanest inks Colan ever received. Wow.

"THE FINAL SLEEP"
This brings this 3-parter about a really, really clunky robot to a close. JACK KIRBY supplies story & layouts, ye "editor" does dialogue, and GEORGE "blunt instrument" TUSKA does pencils & inks.
     (3-7-2014)


JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY 125  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta
"WHEN MEET THE IMMORTALS!"
from the GCD: nothing again. How can they ignore a milestone of this magnitude? Allow me to quote ye "editor" from the FOLLOWING issue to summeth up this one:

"HERCULES has come to EARTH! He's got the BIG EYE for Thor's CHICK. Goldilocks is BUGGED, but GOOD! So, they're FIGHTING IT OUT! (There-- that's as painless as we can make it.)"

Didn't I SAY I was the ONLY guy out of 5000 members at the other group who REGULARLY quoted that guy's work?

THIS was one of the earliest stories from this run I was able to read back in the 70's, when it was reprinted in MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #5 (1974). SIX 16-page episodes, forming ONE collosal story arc, all at near the size of the original art. WOW! This begins the big sequel to JIM ANNUAL #1, but instead of being an extended "Tales Of Asgard", it takes place in the present day. YEP! Arnold Schwartzeneggar once starred in a movie called "HERCULES IN NEW YORK" (1969). This predated it by over 3 years!!

From the IMDB site: "After many centuries, Hercules gets bored living in Olympus (the home of the great Greek gods) and decides to move to... New York. But obviously, it is not easy for a man who lived in ancient Greece to get used to modern life. So, things get a little tricky, especially when Zeus sends a few gods to bring his semi-god son back to mount Olympus."

Well, that story and this one clearly don't have too much in common, other than the title character, time and place. But I bet it'd be fun to see. (I have a fondness for "tacky" films.)

JACK KIRBY, reaching ever new peaks of his powers, supplies story and art! Ye "editor", stretching his bombastic B***S*** to greater & greater lengths, does dialogue! And Vince "What time is it?" Colletta, makes with the scratchy lines. NOT TO BE MISSED!!! Part 1 of 6.

"THE QUEEN COMMANDS"
from the GCD: "Indexer Notes: Odinsword Quest Part 8." Hmm.

JACK KIRBY supplies story & art; ye "editor" maketh with the words; and Vince "Who else would you expect?" Colletta gives it that old-fashioned veneer so many have come to adore or despise so much, depending.
     (3-6-2014)



THE AVENGERS 25  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
"ENTER... DR. DOOM!"
Remember when series had their OWN villains? This one starts off on the WRONG foot, as we see Doom observing the heroes and KANG from afar, and contemplating the "mystery" of whether or not he & Kang MIGHT be one and the same person. As I figured out by IGNORING the dialogue in FF ANNUAL #2, the ONLY way the scene that came up in the first place makes the slightest bit of sense at all, is if Doom suggested it to make Kang DEPART to the future, and get out of his way. But then, the guy writing the word balloons here doesn't even seem to read his own stuff, let alone figure out what anyone else is doing (that would hurt his po' little head).

Doom tricks The Avengers into coming to Latveria, specifically so he can challenge, beat & capture them, to "prove" he's top dog in the super-villain game. BAD move. The most positively INSANE idea in this entire issue (apart from that Kang-Doom speculation scene), is when we see Doom has created an impervious, retractable DOME which can extend from the ground and cover THE ENTIRE COUNTRY. There's just no way that's even the slightest bit believable.

DON HECK supplies story & art (presumably working from a Jack Kirby story springboard gone terribly wrong-- heh), ye "editor" does dialogue, and Dick Ayers does disappointing inks. Ah well, the best thing I can say is... things DO get better next issue.
    (3-7-2014)


SGT. FURY & HIS HOWLING HENCHMEN 27  /
cover by Dick Ayers & John Tartaglione
"FURY FIGHTS ALONE!"
DICK AYERS supplies story & art, ye "editor" does dialogue, and John Tartaglione does inks.
     (3-7-2014)


DAREDEVIL 13  /
cover by Jack Kirby & John Romita
"THE SECRET OF KA-ZAR'S ORIGIN!"
So continues one of the most MIS-BEGOTTEN stories in all of 60's Marvel. I suppose this was somehow intended as some kind of a tribute to Edgar Rice Burroughs (both "The Return of Tarzan" and "The Land That Time Forgot") but the published result doesn't have the charm, the style, the intelligence or the coherence of either of those. It's just a MESS, the kind that happens when too many writers dip their feet in the water, and none of them seems to have a clear vision of what they're trying to do. JACK KIRBY supplied story & layouts, BUT, JOHN ROMITA totally discarded said layouts, and RE-WROTE the story his own way (I've seen samples-- he should have stuck closer to Kirby) while doing full art. Then ye "editor" wrote really AWFUL dialogue (hey, you don't see me saying this here often, do you?). Just about the ONLY good thing about this is Jack Kirby's cover. Part 2 of 3.
     (3-7-2014)


X-MEN 17  /
cover by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
"...AND NONE SHALL SURVIVE!"
Magneto returns, far too quickly, and tries to OFF the team. JACK KIRBY supplies story & layouts, ye "editor" does dialogue, WERNER ROTH makes with the pretty pencils & Dick Ayers makes nice with the inks. This will never be one of my favorites, but at least it's not "awful".
     (3-7-2014)


(Continued in March 1966)

All Text (C) Henry R. Kujawa
Artwork (C) Marvel Comics
Restorations by Henry R. Kujawa

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