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for Sunday, July 18, 2004

Journey Into Mystery 101

My first Marvels.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #101 [February, 1964) was my first issue of that title. I bought it because I'd liked AVENGERS #3 and Thor was a member of the Avengers. That was how my Marvel buying grew; I'd "meet" a character in one title and pick up another title for more of that character.

The Jack Kirby/George Roussos cover of JIM #101 was a terrific come-on. The arrogant villain in the hand of a robot that had to be as tall as a building. Thor swinging his hammer so fast that it looked like an airplane propeller. The frightened guy running away at the bottom left corner. This is the kind of cover that sells a super-hero comic, not some artsy-fartsy pin-up!

Thor seemed to have a short fuse in AVENGERS #3, but he really got his angry on in the opening pages of "The Return of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man." Odin, his father, was messing with Thor's romantic life and the Thunder God was stomping down the streets of New York taking out a chunk of a lamppost, a trash can, and a freight truck. Goldilocks - and, man, did writer Stan Lee have stones to dare to call Thor by the nickname - was so frightening that his pals in the Avengers came after him to calm him down. Needless to say, it was a kick to see Iron Man, Giant-Man, and the Wasp working together in another comic book just a month after I'd met them in AVENGERS #3. Marvel's shared universe rarely felt forced in those early Silver Age stories; it just felt right.

I've almost always considered Odin to be the biggest butt-head in the Marvel Universe. Thor might lack humility, but Odin lacked humility and common sense. I mean, he has a son (Thor) who battles powerful villains on a daily basis. So how does he punish him for not forgetting the mortal woman he loves? He takes away half his kid's power.

And where does Odin get the idea for this cruel and stupid punishment? From Loki, his treacherous adopted son who hates Thor, who had already tried to kill the Thunder God a couple of times in earlier issues, and who hadn't suffered any serious consequences of those attack. I can only surmise that Loki was a big contributor to Odin's election campaigns.

With Thor's power halved, Loki does some mental time-jumping to restore the memory of Zarrko. The super-scientist goes to his friendly neighborhood laboratory, whose use is free and open to all citizens of a future society to dumb too live, and cobbles together the afore-mentioned giant robot.

Zarrko and the robot travel to our time, do some knocking down of buildings, and kick Thor's ass. Zarrko then offers Thor a deal: help the scientist conquer the future and the present will be left unharmed. Thor agrees. Odin gets pissed. Loki gloats. And young Tony had to wait a month to see what would happen next.

JIM #101 had two back-up stories. I don't remember anything about "The Enemies," except that it was written and drawn by Larry Lieber and inked by Matt Fox. It was probably a sci-fi story with a surprise ending.

The other story was "The Invasion of Asgard," an installment of the Lee-Kirby TALES OF ASGARD series which told the history of the Norse Gods and gave us glimpses into the boyhood of Thor. This one was a particularly cool one.

The "Forces of Evil" are launching an attack on Asgard. Loki has opened a secret entrance through which they can enter the realm undetected, then sends Thor there to defend it. Loki sees this as killing two birds with one stone, since he figures Thor won't last long against such overwhelming power.

The story has a half-page panel of the "Forces of Evil" coming at Thor. Stan has conveniently placed captions-with-arrows giving their names and pointing them out:

The Norn Hag riding Ulfrin the Dragon

The merciless Rime Giants

Last of the Ice Giants

Skoll & Hati, the Wolf-Gods

Geirrodur the Troll

For months, I thought "The Forces of Evil" was the actual name of this team of monsters and villains. I was hoping to see them go up against the Avengers. It never happened. Sigh.

(On the other hand, if I'm ever asked to write THOR, I think I have my first extended story arc right there.)

Thor fights a valiant holding action. He almost gets turned into a tree, but is rescued by Odin and the Asgardians, who heard the clanging of his sword. To this day, I'm impressed by how much Stan and Jack got into these five pages.

It was practically an epic!

I only missed one issue of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY over the next decade or so and, thankfully, it wasn't #102. By mid-1964, I never missed an issue of any of the Marvel super-hero titles. I went to the drug store where I bought them twice a week. I stopped buying baseball cards. I got more selective about what movies I would see at the local theater. When I had to, I did extra chores for extra spending money.

Marvel comics were a powerful motivator.

Fantastic Four 23

Besides AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #9 (the subject of yesterday's TOT) and JIM #101, I bought two other Marvels that month.

FANTASTIC FOUR #23 revealed "The Master Plan of Doctor Doom," which pretty much involved tricking our heroes into a room and then dissolving the room into some sort of sub-space. Doom gave super-powers to three criminals - Bull Brogin, Handsome Harry Phillips, and Yogi Dakor - to capture the Thing, the Invisible Girl, and the Human Torch - while he went after Mister Fantastic. It was a good master plan, if, by "good master plan," you mean. "This is SO going to backfire on me and send me to the same horrible death I planned for the super-heroes."

The story was scripted by Stan Lee, pencilled by Jack Kirby, and inked by George Roussos. Kirby and Roussos also teamed on the cover of this issue and on the cover of STRANGE TALES #117, which was the fourth Marvel comic I bought that month.

Strange Tales 117

There was nothing memorable about STRANGE TALES #117, just two entertaining yarns. The Human Torch starred in "The Return of the Eel" by Stan and artist Dick Ayers...while Doctor Strange escaped from "The Many Traps of Baron Mordo" in a story by Stan and artist Steve Ditko. In other words, twelve cents well spent.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

<< 07/17/2004 | 07/18/2004 | 07/19/2004 >>

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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