MarTalesAnnualHeader

addicted to marvel tales annual 1 (marvel comics 1964 part 2)

THIS ARTICLE is one of twenty-four ‘book re­views’ ad­dressing my in­tro­duc­tion to and im­me­diate ad­dic­tion to Marvel su­per­hero comics in the summer of 1964. Be­fore reading this, I rec­om­mend that you read the first part, “ad­dicted to marvel comics 1964,” which pro­vides the back­ground for the what fol­lows here and sub­se­quent ar­ti­cles. These twenty-four in­di­vidual parts will be pieced to­gether into one ar­ticle under the orig­inal title of “ad­dicted to marvel comics 1964.

I was just shy of 13-years old at the time, a per­fect age to be smitten with the won­ders pro­vided by the Marvel bullpen. I had been reading comic books for years (who hasn’t by that age?) but had somehow been un­aware of Mar­vel’s ap­peal, in­stead reading the DC pan­theon of do-gooders. 1

Be­fore pro­ceeding with this in­stall­ment, I rec­om­mend that you read the first, “ad­dicted to marvel comics 1964 (part 1).” It pro­vides some ex­pla­na­tion and back­ground for what fol­lows in this and sub­se­quent ar­ti­cles.


AdamStrange

I con­fess: I was fond of one science-fiction-based DC char­acter: Adam Strange with usu­ally fine if often sterile art by Carmine In­fan­tino, Murphy An­derson, and Gil Kane ap­peared in Mys­tery In Space.

The first one is always free

When I felt the first pangs of Marvel ad­dic­tion in the Summer of 1964 (and the blame was laid on my friend Jon May in the first part of this se­ries that I just rec­om­mended that you read), the ti­tles with Oc­tober and No­vember 1964 cover dates were avail­able in stores throughout the Wilkes-Barre area. So were three spe­cial ti­tles: Fan­tastic Four An­nual #2, Spi­derman An­nual #1, and Marvel Tales An­nual #1.

The first two of these jumbo-sized edi­tions fea­tured brand new sto­ries by Lee and Kirby and Lee and Ditko ac­com­pa­nied by reprints from ear­lier is­sues of each title. The third was a new title and con­sisted en­tirely of reprinted strips from sev­eral ti­tles from the pre­vious two years. 2

There was no or­ga­nized comic book col­lecting in 1964 in most small towns and cities. There were fanzines, no­tably the Rock­et’s Blast Comi­col­lector (which I will dis­cuss in a fu­ture ar­ticle), but finding back is­sues was not an easy task—especially if you wanted those comics with their front covers in­tact.

So the Marvel Tales An­nual was greeted with en­thu­siasm by fans and soon-to-be col­lec­tors such as my­self. I say this as more than an as­sump­tion be­cause sales must have been healthy as the book re­mained on re­tail shelves for months rather than the few weeks that a normal comic was avail­able be­fore its re­turn or its de­struc­tion. 3


Hawkman

My brother Charles was a fan of Joe Ku­bert’s Hawkman, who was the star of The Brave And The Bold. But there was no sign of ad­dic­tion or even psy­cho­log­ical de­pen­dence from ei­ther of us for ei­ther of them. (And I don’t re­call my baby sister Mary Alice ever having any in­terest in comic books out­side of the usual child­hood reading we all had then.)

Comics without covers and the Back-Date Book Store

I grew up in Kingston, Penn­syl­vania, a sort of Leave-It-To-Beaver-Land (white, working-class, mostly crime and drug free) that ad­joined Wilkes-Barre, the hub of Wyoming Valley and center of the once thriving an­thracite coal mining in­dustry. On South Main Street, a few blocks from the Public Square (the center of the city, ge­o­graph­i­cally and emo­tion­ally) was one of the city’s chief sources of cul­tural en­light­en­ment: the Back-Date Book Store (BDBS).

This op­er­a­tion pur­chased every left-over (there­fore back-dated) mag­a­zine and comic book from every mom-and-pop shop—because that’s what they all were in the days be­fore cor­po­rate chains ru­ined doing busi­ness in these here United States—and every whole­saler in the area, each county in the state having a single one-stop whole­sale sup­plier. The BDBS then sold them to the public as ‘back-dated’ mag­a­zines.

Meaning they weren’t used!

Nope, they were usu­ally worse than used.

Back then, both re­tailers and whole­salers were able to re­turn un­sold pe­ri­od­i­cals for credit. The ac­tual act of re­turning the full mag­a­zine was ex­pen­sive due to ship­ping, so the re­tailer merely cut the top off of the cover—which had the title, cover date, and price—and shipped bun­dles of these strips of paper back to the whole­saler. 

This was ac­tu­ally a time-consuming pro­ce­dure. Plus, the razor blade usu­ally sliced through the top pages of the mag­a­zine’s in­te­rior (or guts), making it use­less for re­sale! So stores took to simply rip­ping the full front cover off of the mag­a­zines and sending the covers back for credit.

Then the re­tailer and the whole­saler sold the guts of the left-over mag­a­zines to stores such as the Back-Date Book Store, usu­ally for a penny per comic book and any­where from two to five cents for mag­a­zines. Note that pe­ri­od­i­cals that re­tained in­terest and value after their shelf-life rarely showed up at BDBS, Playboy being a per­fect ex­ample.


JimmyOlsen_coverless

This is a copy of Su­per­man’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #49 (De­cember 1960) without its cover. This is how my brother Charles and I bought and read count­less comic books in the early ’60s. While cov­er­less comics for 5¢ apiece were fine prior to my trans­mo­gri­fi­ca­tion into a Mar­ve­lad­dict, af­ter­ward the “change” they were com­pletely un­ac­cept­able! PS: Charles and I never bought Jimmy Olsen comics, even for a nickel—wudda wimp!

So it was that cov­er­less comic books could be pur­chased for a nickel apiece or six for a quarter! When my brother Charles and I were younger, going to Back-Date with our quar­ters was a big deal: it was the reading of the comic book that was most important—we didn’t mind no how that the covers were missing!

Well, we didn’t mind much. Hell, we were dumb kids! Once in a white moon, we found a comic com­pletely in­tact. Ah­hhhh, that was a mo­ment to cherish. 4

And what does this have to do with my ad­dic­tion to Marvel comics and my need (get­ting stronger every day) to ac­quire a com­plete run of each title in the best con­di­tion pos­sible?

Nothing.

By the time that I began col­lecting Mar­vels in ’64, I had al­ready stopped fre­quenting the Back-Date Book Store. I had no hope of ac­tu­ally finding the comic books there or any­where that I wanted in any kind of col­lec­table con­di­tion (for me then, col­lec­table meant being in­tact)

But then a bloody mir­acle hap­pened!

The tale of which I will save for the second major chapter in my story (ten­ta­tively ti­tled “marvel comics 1965”), the telling of which is months away.

Back to the summer 0f ’64 …

The year’s greatest collector’s item!

The first Marvel Tales An­nual col­lected “six big, thrilling, uncut origin tales of your mighty Marvel super he­roes”: the in­cred­ible Hulk, the amazing Spi­derman, the mighty Thor, the re­turning Ant-Man with the win­some Wasp, the sus­penseful Iron Man, and the ex­panding Giant Man, and one su­perduper­less group of war he­roes, the growling Sgt. Nick Fury and his howling com­mandos!

But wait—that’s seven he­roes! What is going on? This first Marvel Tales An­nual in­cludes in this order:

1) the com­plete Spi­derman story from Amazing Fan­tasy #15;

2) the first half of the story in The In­cred­ible Hulk #1 which ex­plains the mon­ster’s origin;

3) the com­plete Ant-Man story from Tales To As­tonish #35, al­though Henry Pym’s first ex­pe­ri­ence with shrinking him­self ap­peared in TTA #27, which is not in­cluded;

4) two pages from Tales To As­tonish #49 in­tro­ducing Ant-Man’s trans­for­ma­tion into Giant-Man;

5) an ex­cerpt from Sgt. Fury And His Howling Com­mandos #1 ex­plaining the for­ma­tion of the unit;

6) the is­sue’s only orig­inal piece was a nice bit of filler/fluff ti­tled “Meet the Gang in the Merry Marvel Bullpen!” that con­sisted of photos of mem­bers of the Marvel staff (al­though missing Steve Ditko);

7) the com­plete Iron Man story from Tales Of Sus­pense #39 fol­lowed by three pages of Tony Stark in his new red and gold suit from TOS #48; and

8) the com­plete of Thor story from Journey Into Mys­tery #83.

Here is a brief re­view of the an­nual and my re­sponse as a 13-year old to these golden oldies as best I re­member them fifty years later. 5


Marvel Tales An­nual 1 (June 1964)

Cover art: The cover fea­tures five im­ages by Jack Kirby and Frank Gi­a­coia with Spi­derman by Steve Ditko. Static grid-like layout serves the needs of the title and the white back­drop al­lows each of the char­ac­ters to stand out of the cover.

Com­ments: Finding Marvel Tales An­nual #1 as soon as I began col­lecting was a BIG deal for me: having the ori­gins of sev­eral of my new fa­vorite fic­tional char­ac­ters all in one place for only a quarter! To re­peat my­self, comic book col­lecting was un­or­ga­nized and de­cen­tral­ized. All I knew was that finding yes­ter­day’s comics in de­cent shape (cover in­tact, nei­ther tat­tered nor chewed) was dif­fi­cult—and I hadn’t a clue as to their value should I find someone who wanted to sell one to me as a col­lec­table item!

At the time, I fig­ured that Marvel Tales An­nual #1 had been is­sued no later than June 1964, in time for summer reading. It was on sale throughout the summer along with the other two an­nuals, so I also as­sumed that the three were is­sued si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

This first volume reprinted seven sto­ries from six ti­tles. I am listing them below in the chrono­log­ical order of re­lease of the in­di­vidual ti­tles.


The In­cred­ible Hulk 1 (May 1962)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/George Roussos

Com­ments: Great cover! Kir­by’s drawing and the place­ment of the fig­ures is both dra­matic and graph­i­cally ef­fec­tive: the ghost­like image of the Hulk not only over­whelms Dr. Bruce Banner, it over­whelms the viewer.

Good inks from Roussos (they look Kir­byish) cou­pled with ex­cel­lent use of the lim­ited palette of the four-color process cap­ture some of Kir­by’s raw power. This is one of my fa­vorite covers of the early Marvel pe­riod 1961-1963.

Fea­ture: “The Hulk”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)
In­te­rior art: Jack Kirby/Paul Reinman

Com­ments: Dr. Bruce Banner, a non-athletic sci­en­tist (were there any other kind in the world of comic books in those days?) works for the US mil­i­tary de­signing bigger and better bombs to de­fend the Amer­ican way of life (which meant then and means now to kill civil­ians in third world coun­tries). During an ex­per­i­ment, he is ex­posed to a bom­bard­ment of gamma rays.

(There re­ally are gamma rays: elec­tro­mag­netic ra­di­a­tion of an ex­tremely high fre­quency and are there­fore high en­ergy pho­tons and bi­o­log­i­cally haz­ardous.)

In­stead of dying, he is trans­formed into a huge, hulking gray mon­ster at night—a crea­ture all Freudian/Thanatosian id, seem­ingly de­void of so­cial con­scious­ness. (And Kir­by’s de­sign for the Hulk is based on Boris Karloff’s mon­ster in the Franken­stein movies of the ’30s.) But when the sun comes up, the good, civic-minded, pa­tri­otic Dr. Banner re­turns to normal. 

BorisKarloff_Frankenstein

This is a pub­licity still of Boris Karloff in his classic and un­beat­able make-up as ‘the mon­ster’ cre­ated by Dr. Victor von Franken­stein in the Uni­versal Stu­dios movie Bride Of Franken­stein from 1935. Flesh out the face, tint it babypoo green, and—voila!—you have one of Mar­vel’s fa­vorite super-anti-heroes!

Looking back at Stan Lee in 1962, was the philo­soph­ical essence of the Hulk a look back for him at Marlon Brando in The Wild One—the modern anti-hero still being a rather fresh con­cept? (“Hey Johnny, what are you re­belling against?” “Wudda you got?”)

MarlonBranodWildOne150

Marlon Brando as the punk Johnny Stra­bler in Co­lumbia Pic­tures movie The Wild One from 1953. Jet­tison the cap, flesh out the face and tint it babypoo green, and you have a sickly looking Brando who bears no re­sem­blance to any Marvel su­per­hero! But the ‘Up yours!’ at­ti­tude re­mains …

Or was the Hulk a pre­scient look into an Amer­ican fu­ture filled with so­ciopaths (many elected into of­fice) and mass-murderers (many elected into of­fice)?

Moot ques­tions. (Look it up …)

For the story, the plot was pre­dictable, the art ser­vice­able: Kir­by’s pen­cils were weak­ened by Rein­man’s brush. 6

When I bought this an­nual, I did not know that the Hulk had had his own comic, as there wasn’t a Hulk title avail­able in 1964. The In­cred­ible Hulk only lasted six is­sues be­fore being dis­con­tinued.

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: Much as I would like to say that I was im­me­di­ately smitten with the Hulk, it’s just not so. I was not par­tic­u­larly drawn to or en­gaged with the Banner/Hulk di­chotomy and so he was far from my fa­vorite Marvel char­acter. I saw him as a knock-off of the Thing with Ben Grimm’s rage mag­ni­fied and a heaping dose of stu­pidity thrown in.

Based on the lack of sales, I was in the ma­jority.

Based on the origin story, an AL of 2 may be gen­erous.

But someone at Marvel was ob­sessed with Bruce Ban­ner’s noc­turnal iden­tity and the Hulk (who turned green along the way) kept pop­ping up in other ti­tles, often as an enemy to one of the other cos­tumed he­roes. My re­sponse re­mained the same: re­gard­less of how many times and under what cir­cum­stances they brought back the Hulk, I found him less than in­spiring.

Within a few years, the Hulk’s dis­af­fec­tion from and alien­ation in his own country and cul­ture struck a res­o­nant chord with the nascent hippie move­ment and he be­came some­what of an un­der­ground hero, along with Spidey and Doctor Strange. (Co­in­ci­den­tally, all three were drawn by Steve Ditko, a con­ser­v­a­tive’s con­ser­v­a­tive later in his ca­reer). 7

Co­in­ci­den­tally, he was also adopted as a mascot by count­less jocks across the country. It was some­times dis­con­certing to leave a hippie pad with a Hulk poster on the wall and find my­self at a dorm room at Wilkes Col­lege with a Hulk poster on the wall … 


Amazing Fan­tasy 15 (Au­gust 1962)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko

Com­ment: Mediocre cover art for one of the most im­por­tant comic books ever pub­lished. Ditko’s inks on Kir­by’s pen­cils have never re­ally worked ef­fec­tively, and it doesn’t work here. Even the colors are drab.

Fea­ture: “Spi­derman”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Steve Ditko)
In­te­rior art: Steve Ditko/Steve Ditko

Com­ments: Teenage egghead who is a bully-target gets bitten by a ra­dioac­tive spider and de­velops a va­riety of powers sup­pos­edly re­lated to arach­nids. As a su­per­hero, he ap­plies his in­tel­li­gence to sup­ple­menting those powers through science—the web-thrower he de­velops in his spare time is worthy of the world’s finest weapons de­signer.

He also taps into pre­vi­ously un­known but ap­par­ently la­tent su­perduper powers in art and fashion to de­sign one of the most ef­fec­tive and dis­tinct cos­tumes in the Marvel uni­verse!

Of course, his first thoughts are to­wards making a little money (for good reason, not mere greed) and his at­tempts to cap­i­talize on his new­found powers in­ad­ver­tently lead to the death of his beloved uncle.

So it is that the amazing Spi­der­man’s origin is based in tragedy and guilt.

Nice if in­aus­pi­cious début.

Ad­dic­tion Level: 3

Com­ments: Classic if de­riv­a­tive su­per­hero origin story (are there any other kind?) mod­estly be­lies the amazing fu­ture of the amazing Spi­derman. This first ap­pear­ance is modest: Ditko’s art is okay but would blossom in a few is­sues (at least in re­gards to Spidey and his en­e­mies; his stock char­ac­ters al­ways looked, well, stock) and Lee would get a better grip on the nar­ra­tive. 

Being a nerdy teenaged bully-target in 1964, I was to­tally caught up in Puny Park­er’s at­tempts to rec­on­cile his new­found powers (a metaphor for Peter and Neal’s awak­ening sexual po­tency, right?) with his es­tab­lished method of dealing with the world and the people in it plus his need to keep some con­ti­nuity in his normal life. All in all, a humble be­gin­ning for a modern legend. 8

Like Su­perman, the hand­some but with­drawn Peter Parker will have to con­tinue to hide his se­cret iden­tity from his peers (here his high school class­mates) and allow him­self to be bul­lied by ass­hole jock Flash Thompson and made to look a pa­thetic coward to his first crush, blonde hottie Liz Allen.

Later in the se­ries, he has to main­tain this de­meanor at work, where his ass­hole boss J. Jonah Jameson bul­lies him re­lent­lessly in front of his second crush, brunette hottie Betty Brant, a wall­flowery ver­sion of Betty Page. (Of course, even­tu­ally poor Petey ends up with a bevy of beau­ties, no­tably red­head Mary Jane Watson and plat­inum Gwen Stacey, things that rarely come true for egghead/bully-target/mama’s-boys in the real world of Con­sen­sual Re­ality.)

Based on this origin story, an AL of 3 proved to be a mighty under-assessment of Spidey’s dura­bility and sheer amaz­ing­ness. I was hook-line-and-sinkered on Spi­derman based on the comics that I read at Jon’s; this only made the ad­dic­tion stronger.


Journey Into Mys­tery 83 (Au­gust 1962)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/Joe Sin­nott

Com­ments: Good cover with de­cent art: the cir­cular trail made by the swinging hammer-head adds to the ef­fect. And look how lean Thor is! 9

Fea­ture: “The Power Of Thor”
Writer: Stan Lee and Larry Leiber
In­te­rior art: Jack Kirby/Joe Sin­nott

Com­ments: While on a trip to Norway, meek and mild-mannered (aren’t they all?) and lame Amer­ican Dr. Donald Blake en­coun­ters alien in­vaders. Hiding in a cave, he finds an old stick and pounds it against a rock in frus­tra­tion. The im­pact trans­forms the stick into a magic hammer (un­named in the story but called Mjölnir in the leg­ends) and the doctor into Thor, the Norse god of thunder.

Whereas some form of sci­ence is of­fered as an ex­pla­na­tion for the su­per­powers of Mar­vel’s other he­roes, two re­ceived their power through magic: Doctor Strange through the ‘mystic arts’ and Thor through an old pre-Christian re­li­gion.

As an origin story, this is out­side every­one’s mold, so it has a little verve. But the char­acter of Blake-as-Thor has zero charisma and the god is de­void of a sense of humor, wit, or irony. Also, he is a clean-shaven blonde; in Norse legend, he was a bearded red­head. Here he is leanly mus­cular; with time, it ap­peared that he was an orig­inal user of an­a­bolic steroids, which bulked him up but did nothing pos­i­tive for his per­son­ality.

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: This is an okay origin issue, but nothing to shake a stick at. The Thor strip would be­come more mag­ical under Kir­by’s story di­rec­tion and emerging artistic vi­sion, and would be both bur­dened and el­e­vated by Lee’s often ab­surd di­alog. (The word penul­ti­mate has never been the same to those of us who grew up reading Thor in the ’60s.)

Nonethe­less, it was al­ways a fun read with some awe­some art­work as time went by. Reg­ular inker Vince Col­letta had a more illustrator-like ap­proach than most comic book em­bell­ishers, which gave Kir­by’s pen­cils a very dif­ferent, ‘lighter’ feel than usual (al­though it less­ened the im­pact of Kir­by’s vi­sion).

While Stan Lee would use as­pects of the Norse re­li­gion (pri­marily the gods and their heav­enly world Val­halla), at no times were any of them treated with re­li­gious re­spect. They are merely story el­e­ments. When Kirby be­came in­volved as un­cred­ited co-writer, he took the god­ness to even greater heights but still ig­nored the ac­tual sense of the re­li­gion that these gods should en­gender in puny Earth­lings.

But got more in­ter­esting when Kirby started playing with the cos­mic­ness of it all. So I would have to say that my AL of 2 was a rea­son­able re­sponse to this origin story; but that it rose to a 3 as time went on and Thor and Odin and Loki and the other cast of char­ac­ters developed—although Kirby and Lee never de­vel­oped any re­ally in­ter­esting vil­lains for Thor.


Tales To As­tonish 35 (Sep­tember 1962)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers

Com­ments: A Kirby cover in line with the many covers that he had drawn for this title when it was a pot­pourri of mon­ster and sci­ence fic­tion sto­ries. Nothing spe­cial.

Fea­ture: “The Re­turn Of The Ant-Man”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)
In­te­rior art: Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers

Com­ments: Here sci­en­tist Henry Pym in­vents two serums: one shrinks a man to ant size and the other re­stores him to his full size. He de­velops a fas­ci­na­tion for ants and learns how to com­mu­ni­cate with them elec­tron­i­cally, in ef­fect be­coming their leader. Thus is born Ant-Man, plainly de­riv­a­tive of one of DC’s most un­in­ter­esting char­ac­ters, the Atom, with a touch of The In­cred­ible Shrinking Man thrown in.

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: As my de­scrip­tion above should make clear, Ant-Man and his side­kick and ob­ject of af­fec­tion, the Wasp, were among Lee and Kir­by’s least mem­o­rable cre­ations. The main man was so for­get­table that within a year Lee and Kirby would be plan­ning to com­pletely alter the na­ture of the char­ac­ter’s powers.

But whether Ant Man was still more ex­citing than the Atom. Of course, this title wasn’t very suc­cessful on the store shelves so Marvel would even­tu­ally turn Ant-Man into the even less in­ter­esting Giant-Man. (Refer to Tales To As­tonish 49 below.)

Based on this origin story, an AL of 2 may be gen­erous.


Tales Of Sus­pense 39 (Mar 1963)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/Don Heck

Com­ments: Kir­by’s de­sign for Iron Man’s suit of armor is a throw­back to cheesy ’50s science-fiction movies—think Robby the Robot in 1956’s For­bidden Planet. (Re­member that ’50s movies were only a few years old in 1963 but al­ready dated.) And it worked for me: an­other one of my fa­vorite covers of the early Marvel pe­riod 1961-1963.

Fea­ture: “Iron Man Is Born”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)
In­te­rior art: Don Heck/Don Heck

Com­ments: Mil­lion­aire playboy/businessman/inventor Tony Stark de­signs a weaponized suit of armor for the US mil­i­tary to de­fend the Amer­ican way of life (which meant then and means now to kill civil­ians in third world coun­tries).

Stark finds that he needs the suit’s elec­tronic ca­pa­bil­i­ties fol­lowing a heart at­tack. The suit makes him a super-soldier and in­stead of giving it to the Army as in­tended, he keeps it and fights bad guys as Iron Man. Not a bad origin, as it is plau­sible. (Even more so today with tech­nology.)

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: De­spite a super-powerless su­per­hero, mediocre scripts, and art­work better suited to a ro­mance comic (cour­tesy of Iron Man co-creator Don Heck), I was a fan.

While my AL never rose much, I just kept liking Iron Man re­gard­less of the changes they put him (rather, his armor) through: from the clunky gray to the sleek and smart red and gold.

Based on this origin story, an AL of 2 seems in hind­sight to have been ac­cu­rate.


Sgt. Fury And His His Howling Com­mandos 1 (May 1963)

Cover art: Jack Kirby/Jack Kirby

Com­ments: Good if un­ex­cep­tional Kirby cover, but still a hel­lu­valot more ki­netic than DC’s es­tab­lished and more suc­cessful war ti­tles.

Fea­ture: “Seven Against the Nazis”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)
In­te­rior art: Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers

Com­ments: We are in­tro­duced to the re­sourceful sergeant and his scrappy com­mand as they rescue mem­bers of the French re­sis­tance. So-so story and char­ac­ters. Ba­si­cally, Lee and Kirby give us Kir­by’s Boy Com­mandos from the ’40s all grown up in the ’60s (al­though the ac­tion takes place in the ’40s). 10

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: There were a number of comic books at the time de­voted to the near su­per­human ex­ploits of Amer­ican GIs in WWII, the best and longest run­ning being Joe Ku­bert’s ex­cel­lent Sgt. Rock, the star of DC’s Our Army At War comics. The ques­tion then was couldn’t Marvel have given Sgt. Fury an­other rank so as not to seem like a rank im­i­ta­tion? Cor­poral Fury? Cap­tain Fury?

This was an­other comic that took place in the Eu­ro­pean the­ater, leaving us with the ques­tion, “Did any Amer­ican war comic book hero of the ’50s and ’60s see ac­tion in the Pa­cific?” Had they pitted our he­roes against the Japanese, then this title could have been Sgt. Fury & His Jam­mering Jar­heads!

Many of the ideas were based on Kir­by’s ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences during the war and it of course fea­tured Kir­by’s art on the cover and on the story for this first im­por­tant issue.

Based on this origin story, an AL of 2 may be gen­erous. This title never re­ally im­proved a lot. A few years later, the past-middle-aged Fury took on an­other role and an­other strip as Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he got play play James Bond (and re­ceive some of the most in­no­v­a­tive art­work in all of comicdom when Jim Ster­anko was given the as­sign­ment)


Tales To As­tonish 49 (No­vember 1963)

Cover art: Don Heck/Stan Gold­berg

Com­ment: Solid if un­ex­cep­tional cover; the erased pieces of Giant Man’s legs add a nice touch to the art.

Fea­ture: “The Birth of Giant-Man”
Writer: Stan Lee (and Jack Kirby)
In­te­rior art: Jack Kirby/Don Heck

Com­ment: Sci­en­tist Henry Pym uses his serums to change from the Ant-Man (see Tales To As­tonish 35 above) to Giant Man, where he was able to reach a height of twelve feet. In his new guise he en­coun­ters the Eraser, an ‘elim­i­nator’ from an alternative/parallel uni­verse that shares the same space with Earth. These people have been mon­i­toring Earth for years. When they learn that we have the atomic bomb, they enter our uni­verse with their erasers.

The story was hack­neyed and the art was ba­si­cally Kirby roughing pages for Heck. They work but it’s nei­ther artist’s best ef­fort.

Ad­dic­tion Level: 2

Com­ments: Ant-Man and his con­nec­tion to the bil­lions of tiny crit­ters that share this planet with us was a po­ten­tially in­ter­esting char­acter. That po­ten­tial was never re­al­ized, ar­tis­ti­cally or com­mer­cially, and so one of Mar­vel’s least suc­cessful su­per­heroes was dras­ti­cally changed into an even less in­ter­esting char­acter.

Even with the win­some Wasp re­maining at his side, this was one of Mar­vel’s least de­vel­oped fea­tures and I felt little for the loss of one and the gain of the other.

Based on this origin story, an AL of 2 may be gen­erous, but Giant Man was one of the least im­pres­sive char­ac­ters among Jon’s pile of comics. They should have stuck with Ant Man and given him more cre­ative at­ten­tion.

WHAT IF: So, in­stead of the is­sues that Jon May had brought to the cabin with him (mostly is­sues of a 1964 vin­tage), what if he had brought the seven comics that found their way into Marvel Tales An­nual? What if they had been lying around the cot­tage those days back in the Summer of ’64, and I had spent a week reading and rereading them, would I have given up any sem­blance of free will and gladly be­come ad­dicted to Marvel su­per­hero comics?

I don’t re­ally know. Per­haps not.

A summing up of my responses to these early issues

While I was de­lighted to have in­stant ac­cess to these older ti­tles through the Marvel Tales An­nual and be able to read the origin sto­ries of these Marvel he­roes, what im­pressed me most was how de­riv­a­tive these (super) he­roes had been and how far Marvel had ad­vanced in a few years. The art of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko es­pe­cially had im­proved, had ma­tured, so dra­mat­i­cally that it was as if dif­ferent artists bore the same name! Oh, and that young writer Lee kept get­ting better!


Post­scrip­tu­ally, this ar­ticle, “ad­dicted to marvel tales an­nual 1 (marvel 1964 part 2),” is a small part that will be pieced to­gether into one ar­ticle under the orig­inal title of “ad­dicted to marvel comics 1964.” That larger ar­ticle is one of sev­eral that I in­tend to post con­cerning my comic book col­lecting in the ’60s.

The second sched­uled ar­ticle deals with a shop on North Street in Wilkes-Barre so tiny that it made Put­er­baughs look like an em­po­rium! The old man (and man-o-man was he old) that owned the store paid 2¢ apiece for used fun­ny­books and sold them for a nickel. And man o man what I bought at that store …


[hr]

Foot­notes:

1   I placed thee term ‘su­per­heroes’ in single quotes to call at­ten­tion to the fact that they do not all have ‘super powers’ as they are nor­mally un­der­stood in comic books: Iron Man simply has a highly func­tional suit of armor, Doctor Strange is Master of the Mystic Arts (a ma­gi­cian), and Thor is a bloody pagan deity. The term cos­tumed crime­fighters is more ac­cu­rate.

2   Mar­vel’s an­nuals were seventy-two pages for 25¢ versus the usual thirty-two pages for 12¢ of a reg­ular comic book. This was eight more pages for a penny but the an­nuals ac­tu­ally had fewer ads so it was bit more gen­erous than that.

3   Did Marvel and DC do a single printing of their 25¢ an­nuals like the reg­ular 12¢ titles—which fell under the heading of pe­ri­od­i­cals and there­fore sub­ject to cer­tain rules to main­tain their fourth class status with the United States Post Office—or did they do re­peat print­ings as the or­ders came in? Never dawned me to think about this topic be­fore.

4   Wyoming Valley, home to an­thracite coal mining for decades, was so pol­luted that every­thing white was gray. Truckers used to re­mark about knowing their prox­imity to Wilkes-Barre by the dingi­ness of the houses that should have sparkled whitely. So for me, seeing a truly white moons at night was a rarity.

5   The “win­some” Wasp? The word win­some means “at­trac­tive or ap­pealing.” Are we to as­sume that her at­trac­tive­ness was a pri­mary power in which she over­came the bad guys who over­came her good guy boyfriend?

6   I am not picking on Mr. Reinman here—the state­ment about inkers weak­ening the im­pact of Kir­by’s art was true re­gard­less of whose brush was ap­plied to the Kir­by’s pen­cils throughout his lengthy ca­reer as per­haps the world’s greatest comic book artist/creator.

7   Ditko’s most per­sonal cre­ation has been Mr. A, a vig­i­lante sup­pos­edly based on ayn­ran­dian ob­jec­tivism, which re­duces the world to good and evil but leaves lots of room for cap­i­talism, which is ap­par­ently al­ways a force for good. The good are al­ways good; the bad, al­ways not so good (and de­serving re­venge and pun­ish­ment). Alan Moore based his so­cio­pathic Ror­shach in the ex­tra­or­di­nary Watchmen se­ries.

8   Great Grom­mett in Heaven! Did I say “po­tency” there while re­fer­ring to my still 12-year old you-know-what? Per­haps “stir­rings” would be more ap­pro­priate. Then it would read “Peter and Neal’s awak­ening sexual stir­rings” which is awk­ward but ser­vice­able.

9   Little did Kirby or anyone else at Marvel know that a few years from now seeing such ‘trails’ would be in­ter­preted by many LSD users and in­ves­ti­ga­tors as hal­lu­ci­na­tory rather than in­creased vi­sual acuity.

10   Re­member when the French were our friend and allies—before the wack­adoodle right turned them into some­thing else be­cause they had the sense to chal­lenge the Bush and Blair ad­min­is­tra­tions over the ex­is­tence of WMD in Iraq?



 
 

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Frank Daniels

Neal, that’s not a cover to an orig­inal JIM 83. The colors were al­tered in the dig­ital age on modern reprints. The orig­inal looked like this:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxMDQ4/z/IfIAAOSwaNBUhyzq/$_57.JPG