Archive for April, 2010

Tales of Suspense #40: Iron Man

April 30, 2010

Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein // Jack Kirby
April 1963
A-story: ***
Much is made of Tony Stark’s 3 personas (inventor, millionaire, superhero) but it’s irrelevant to a plot that piles up cheap genre thrills: a menacing alien caveman is also an alien robot! Much cooler is how Stark can stash his suit (now gold rather than gunmetal grey) in a briefcase.
[last issue: Tales of Suspense #39]
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #41]

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Tales of Suspense #39: Iron Man

April 29, 2010

Stan Lee & Larry Lieber // Don Heck
March 1963
A-story: ****
Iron Man’s concept fits w/ Marvel’s hard-luck heroism: playboy technocrat Tony Stark must remain in his iron mask to survive a war wound. The plot—Stark lays low a stereotypical Red warlord in Vietnam—has Kennedy-era currency, while Heck’s snazzy art & Kirby’s armor design add to the hi-fi realism.
[next issue: Tales of Suspense #40]

The Fantastic Four #30

April 28, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1964
***

On a trip to Transylvania, Grimm dumps his partners for an untrustworthy alchemist (not a vampire, thx to the Comics Code). A lackluster issue: even Lee’s panache is dimmed, while Kirby’s only flourish is a transitional-state Thing who’s kinda handsome. Another misfire in an uneven year for the mag.

continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #2
last issue: The Fantastic Four #29
next issue: The Fantastic Four #31

also indexed for Sept. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #16
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
The Avengers #8
Journey into Mystery #108
Strange Tales #124: Dr. Strange
The X-Men #7

The Fantastic Four #29

April 27, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
August 1964
****

A snappy reprise of FF‘s lunar face-off against a Soviet scientist & his superpowered apes. Like a lot of FF issues over the last year, #29 consolidates rather than innovates. But Kirby’s catching fire: here, inspired by the cosmic vistas of the Watcher, he dabbles in photo-collage & op art.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #28
next issue: The Fantastic Four #30

also indexed for Aug. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #15
The Avengers #7
Daredevil #3
Journey into Mystery #107
Strange Tales #123: Dr. Strange

The Fantastic Four #28

April 26, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
July 1964
***

The mag hosts another guest app: a gimmick w/ diminishing returns after 4 issues. In the Marvel style, the FF butt heads w/ the X-Men before allying against the true villains. The team-up of two Silver-Age foes doesn’t inspire, while the mutants can’t match the home team’s flair.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #27
next issue: The Fantastic Four #29

also indexed for Jul. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #14
The Avengers #6
Journey into Mystery #106
Strange Tales #122: Dr. Strange
The X-Men #6

The Fantastic Four #27

April 25, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
June 1964
****

Reed’s ready to propose to Sue—he’s even bought a ring—when Namor kidnaps her for himself. Lee & Kirby continue to fail their heroines, casting Sue in a damsel-in-distress when she should be the protag. Despite that, #27 has plusses like a Dr. Strange cameo & a downbeat ending wherein Reed doubts Sue’s love.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #26
next issue: The Fantastic Four #28

also indexed for Jun. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #13
Daredevil #2
Journey into Mystery #105
Strange Tales #121: Dr. Strange

The Fantastic Four #26

April 24, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1964
*****

A dynamic masterpiece. Carrying over from last ish & Avengers #1-4, this mega-arc is effectively comics’ first crossover. And the first, greatest antagonist is an alienated anti-hero. A titanic battle pits the Hulk against two teams of heroes. Kirby’s in top form, esp. his acrobatic Captain America.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #25
next issue: The Fantastic Four #27

also indexed for May ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #12
The Avengers #5
Journey into Mystery #104
Strange Tales #120: Dr. Strange
The X-Men #5

The Fantastic Four #25

April 23, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
April 1964
*****

The Thing v. the Hulk in an all-out brawl thru NYC! Grimm, who first refuses a cure, gets outclassed by an opponent who’s bigger, stronger, & meaner. Lee & Kirby, carrying motives & momentum over from The Avengers, stitch their comics into one ongoing multi-volume story. A landmark & a classic—superhero comics at their best.

continued from The Avengers #4
last issue: The Fantastic Four #24
next issue: The Fantastic Four #26

also indexed for Apr. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #11
Daredevil #1
Journey into Mystery #103
Strange Tales #119: Dr. Strange

The Fantastic Four #24

April 22, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1964
***

Working on about 10 books a month, Lee & Kirby turn out a bum issue on their flagship (tho’ even their mediocre work is okay). It’s a throwback to ’50s sci-fi—an omnipotent alien child causes chaos till its parents retrieve it—but the design is goofy & the plot digresses for a gangster’s schemes.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #23
next issue: The Fantastic Four #25

also indexed for Mar. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #10
The Avengers #4
Journey into Mystery #102
Strange Tales #118: Dr. Strange
The X-Men #4

The Fantastic Four #23

April 21, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
February 1964
****

A formulaic arc about teamwork, from the team’s squabble over leadership to a cooperative effort against Doc Doom. His plan is standard divide-&-conquer plus deathtraps. But Kirby works a few gems in: a small dino gets loose in Mr F’s lab, & a room—& Doom!—fall away into a dimensional rift.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #22
next issue: The Fantastic Four #24

also indexed for Feb. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #9
Journey into Mystery #101
Strange Tales #117: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #50: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #22

April 20, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1964
***

Stan & Jack, stymied by Invisible Girl’s passivity, boost her powers: now she can cast forcefields. The rest of #22 shows the uninspired return of the Mole Man, who runs the quartet thru a course of deathtraps. Roussos’ spotted blacks aren’t right on Kirby—tho’ his inking of Ayers was electric.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #21
next issue: The Fantastic Four #23

also indexed for Jan. ’64
The Amazing Spider-Man #8
The Avengers #3
Journey into Mystery #100
Strange Tales #116: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #49: Iron Man
The X-Men #3

The Fantastic Four #21

April 19, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
December 1963
****

Stan & Jack draw up a groovy (if earnest) metaphor w/ an overt New Frontier bias: the Hate-Monger—a Hitler clone in pointy klansman hat!—preaches bigotry in the US, funds revolutions in Latin America, & zaps the Four w/ a hate-ray! Enter Nick Fury, CIA, who sends Mr. F on a 007-style mission.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #20
next issue: The Fantastic Four #22

also indexed for Dec. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #7
Journey into Mystery #99
Strange Tales #115: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #48: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #20

April 18, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1963
****

Breathless pacing lifts a conventional yarn into v.g. territory. Radiation gives a surly scientist control over inorganic matter, turning him into a standard megalomaniac. Tho’ he cages Manhattan Island in glass, he’s no match for Reed & the gang (+ an assist from the Yancy Street punks!)

last issue: The Fantastic Four #19
next issue: The Fantastic Four #21

also indexed for Nov. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #6
The Avengers #2
Journey into Mystery #98
Strange Tales #114: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #47: Iron Man
The X-Men #2

The Fantastic Four #19

April 17, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
October 1963
****

Ancient Egypt may hold a cure for Alicia’s blindness, so our daring heroes nip back in Doom’s time machine. But—surprise!—a pharaoh from the future (3000 AD) captures the quartet w/ a hypno-gun. As usual by now, the cracking pencils & goofy dialogue add oomph to a crazy adventure.

continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #1
last issue: The Fantastic Four #18
next issue: The Fantastic Four #20

also indexed for Oct. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #5
Journey into Mystery #97
Tales of Suspense #46: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four Annual #1

April 16, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
October 1963
A-story: ***** // B-story: ****

A mammoth mag: the A-story alone is 37 pages! It’s an epic story-arc, one of Marvel’s best issues ever. Namor rides in imperial pomp thru Atlantis (Kirby’s 2-page spread is a beaut) & then marches on NYC! His army is routed by Mr. F’s techno-wizardry, but it’s Namor’s melodramatic passion for Sue (who, incidentally, prefers Reed) that alienates his subjects. An encore restages an earlier tussle w/ Spider-Man—note how Jack prefers webshooters to spider-powers. Plus pin-ups galore!

continued from The Fantastic Four #18
continued in The Fantastic Four #19

also indexed for Oct. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #5
The Fantastic Four #19
Journey into Mystery #97
Tales of Suspense #46: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #18

April 15, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1963
*****

The Four have lives outside of superheroics. Here they shop at Macy’s—tho’ natch they’re interrupted by an alien invasion. A Super-Skrull mimics the team’s powers (for “real”, unlike his predecessors), so Reed invents some Kirbytech to defeat the monster. The whole mag is starting to sizzle.

continued in The Fantastic Four Annual #1
last issue: The Fantastic Four #17
next issue: The Fantastic Four #19

also indexed for Sept. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #4
The Avengers #1
Journey into Mystery #96: Thor
Tales of Suspense #45: Iron Man
The X-Men #1

The Fantastic Four #17

April 14, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
August 1963
*****

This issue’s a Silver Age gas, crammed w/ goofy balloon-bots, dangerous deathtraps, & crazy gadgets. After a light first act, the team storm Doom’s Flash Gordon airship to rescue the Thing’s gal. Highlights: Ben Grimm’s aerial assault, Sue’s judo skills, Doom’s bold escape, & a cameo from JFK’s hair!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #16
next issue: The Fantastic Four #18

also indexed for Aug. ’63
Journey into Mystery #95: Thor
Strange Tales #111: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #44: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #16

April 13, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
July 1963
****

The great Doom duels the heroes + guest-star Ant-Man for control of an atom-sized micro-world! The feudal setting is standard for scientific romance (right down to the deposed monarch & his lovely daughter), another frontier for the FF to explore. Note that Kirby’s trying to make Sue a stronger hero.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #15
next issue: The Fantastic Four #17

also indexed for Jul. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #3
Journey into Mystery #94: Thor
Strange Tales #110: Dr. Strange
Tales of Suspense #43: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #15

April 12, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
June 1963
****

When the Four take five for individual hobbies, they leave their HQ vulnerable to attack. A criminal mastermind nearly outwits them using their own Kirbytech weaponry & a blockheaded golem. Lee can’t quite make the villain’s super-IQ convincing, leaving Kirby’s creativity to carry the book again.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #14
next issue: The Fantastic Four #16

also indexed for Jun. ’63
Journey into Mystery #93: Thor
Tales of Suspense #42: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #14

April 11, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1963
****

The Puppet-Master was better left dead, but here he is, pitting the team against the Sub-Mariner once more. What’s notable about #14 (aside from Kirby’s marine life) is the soap operatics. Sue & Reed wrestle with feelings, in the clumsy, earnest style of romance comics. Namor just swaggers around—look at that cover!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #13
next issue: The Fantastic Four #15

also indexed for May ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #2
Journey into Mystery #92: Thor
Tales of Suspense #41: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #13

April 10, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
April 1963
*****

The quartet rocket to the moon to face a Red scientist & his super-apes! Lee’s banter is fizzy fun, while Kirby (inked by Ditko!) takes the first steps in the ‘cosmic’ sub-genre with the Watcher, an ageless being beyond human ken. He also dreams up his first fantastic Kirbytech cityscape!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #12
next issue: The Fantastic Four #14

also indexed for Apr. ’63
Journey into Mystery #91: Thor
Tales of Suspense #40: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #12

April 9, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
March 1963
****

A result of Marvel’s anti-heroic ambiguity is that heroes can clash. So the Hulk, near cancellation, gets to guest star while the FF cameo in Spider-Man’s #1! The quartet clear Banner’s monster, accused of sabotaging SDI tests. But the prize bout—Hulk v. Thing—gets halted before a winner’s declared.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #11
next issue: The Fantastic Four #13

also indexed for Mar. ’63
The Amazing Spider-Man #1
The Incredible Hulk #6
Journey into Mystery #90: Thor
Tales of Suspense #39: Iron Man

The Fantastic Four #11

April 8, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
February 1963
A-story: **** // B-story: ****

A pair of interesting but unsuccessful experiments. The A-story breaks the 4th wall as the FF answers readers’ questions. Stan & Jack also try to justify Sue’s importance to the team (& book) but don’t pull it off. Part B’s an attempt at farce, as the team try to ignore an impish alien in the Mxyzptlk vein.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #10
last issue: The Fantastic Four #12

also indexed for Feb. ’63
Journey into Mystery #89: Thor

The Fantastic Four #10

April 7, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
January 1963
****

Aside from a Lee/Kirby cameo, Mr F is the focus of #10, the first issue to feel truly original. Doom returns from space w/ the ability to swap minds. Now Reed must escape Doom’s body & save his pals from himself! Smarting over Sue’s crush on Namor, his loss of power almost works as a metaphor.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #9
next issue: The Fantastic Four #11

also indexed for Jan. ’63
The Incredible Hulk #5
Journey into Mystery #88: Thor

The Fantastic Four #9

April 6, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
December 1962
****

This ish has enough small pleasures to trump a silly plot in which arch-villain Namor rigs a film shoot w/ deathtraps. He’s vying w/ the Thing for best FF character; here they fight mano a mano (Namor wins on a technicality—booo!). Also clever: the Four go bankrupt, forcing them to earn a living!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #8
next issue: The Fantastic Four #10

also indexed for Dec. ’62
Journey into Mystery #87: Thor

The Fantastic Four #8

April 5, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
November 1962
****

A creepy puppeteer controls minds via radioactive clay. Mostly this is a formulaic tale told well—one where, once again, irony wins the day & not superheroics. Jack draws an A-1 setpiece, as the boys stop a jailbreak! And more pathos for the Thing as a blind girl falls for his inner nobility.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #7
next issue: The Fantastic Four #9

also indexed for Nov. ’62
The Incredible Hulk #4
Journey into Mystery #86: Thor

The Fantastic Four #7

April 4, 2010

Stan Lee // John Kirby
October 1962
***

As a sign of success, FF shifts to a monthly sched. There’s no fanfare, just a clever sci-fi tale in the era’s ironic style. To save an alien civ from a meteor, Mr F shrinks everyone. Nice how the climax involves brains, not battle! Lee dishes out mob paranoia & Kirby pencils a vivid interstellar setting.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #6
next issue: The Fantastic Four #8

also indexed for Oct. ’62
Journey into Mystery #85: Thor

The Fantastic Four #6

April 3, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
September 1962
****

Namor, an ambiguous anti-hero w/ his nobility, strength, & tragic backstory, steals the spotlight from both the FF & the nefarious Doom. Sue even has a crush on him! The Atlantian allies himself w/ Doom to pitch the Four’s HQ into the sun (?!) & then saves the day once Doom inevitably betrays him.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #5
next issue: The Fantastic Four #7

also indexed for Sept. ’62
The Incredible Hulk #3
Journey into Mystery #84: Thor

The Fantastic Four #5

April 2, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
July 1962
****

Stan & Jack lay it on thick for Dr Doom’s debut: an arch-villain in iron-skull mask whose evil genius rivals Mr F’s! Doom springs deathtraps, takes Sue hostage, & pitches the boys thru time to play at piracy. But the emotional focus is the Thing, who enjoys playing Blackbeard—but fate intervenes.

last issue: The Fantastic Four #4
next issue: The Fantastic Four #6

also indexed for Jul. ’62
The Incredible Hulk #2

The Fantastic Four #4

April 1, 2010

Stan Lee // Jack Kirby
May 1962
*****

Building on #3‘s momentum, #4 pulls a surprise from its hat. Stan’s genius idea: to revive Namor, 1940s antihero, justifiably enraged that A-bomb tests have razed his undersea kingdom. Jack, inspired, draws 3-panel morphs, a slimmed Torch, & best, the Thing’s journey down the gullet of a leviathan!

last issue: The Fantastic Four #3
next issue: The Fantastic Four #5

also indexed for May ’62
The Incredible Hulk #1