It's 1962 and the first week of August. You've been earning some extra money this summer doing this and that. Even with comic books now costing 12 cents and a quarter for those bigger annuals, you can afford to buy a lot of them. You're probably not a Marvel Comics fan per se - the only symbol of the company on the covers is a small vertical rectangle with the letters "M" and "C" in it - but you might be attracted to their bright covers with all that "come on" copy and the bordered word balloons.
Last time you saw new "MC" titles at your local newsstand or drug store, there were ten of them. It was a lazy day, so you got Strange Tales Annual #1 with its 72 pages of monsters and aliens; Journey Into Mystery #83 with that long-haired Thor character; Hulk #3; Fantastic Four #7; Gunsmoke Western #72, so you could learn how Kid Colt became an outlaw; Tales to Astonish #36 with another new hero called Ant-Man; Strange Tales #101 with the Human Torch from the Fantastic Four; Tales of Suspense #34, which didn't have a super-hero in it; and Rawhide Kid #30. Good brother that you are, you also bought comics for your sister: Millie the Model Annual #1, the even more icky Love Romances #101, and Patsy and Hedy #84. But that was in July and most of those comic books are gone, doubtless purchased by other kids with extra money and a summer filled with lazy days.
The "MC" titles show up on the first and second weeks of the month. It's the first week and there are just four comics for you: new issues of the Fantastic Four, Thor, and Ant-Man plus Two-Gun Kid #60, which, despite its high number, seems to be the first appearance of the masked cowboy. Even the "MC" westerns look like super-hero comic books.
Your sister was so pleased with the comics you bought her last time that she washed *and* dried the dishes for a week. For her, you buy Life With Millie #19, Patsy Walker #103, and Kathy #19. Even though the cranky woman behind the counter looks at you funny when you do.
It's the summer of 1962 and reading comics is just something all the boys do. Like riding bicycles, and flipping baseball cards against the curb. Which is how you got the Glen Hobbie card making that cool "motor" sound as the spokes in your bike strike it again and again. Man, do you love summer!
The above is a fictional construct. The first "MC" comic book I remember buying was Fantastic Four #7 and I didn't like it much. I didn't buy another Marvel until the next summer when the first Fantastic Four annual changed my life and I surely wouldn't have bought comics for my older sister, who, when I was an infant, once locked me in a clothes trunk. Even now, I never turn my back on her at family functions.
Having given you an idea of what Marvel was publishing in the summer of 1962, let's take a closer look at Kathy #19, dated October of that year...
This is the only issue of the title I've read and, sad to say, I found "The Teen-Age Tornado" disappointing. Kathy and her best friend/enemy Liz are lackluster characters, mere Betty and Veronica imitators sans any of the personality of the Archie Comics leading ladies. Writer/editor Stan Lee, usually so deft with this kind of humor, even when his gags border on the corny, as they often did, seems to be sleepwalking through this issue. Even Stan Goldberg's drawings seem stiff to me.
"Kathy's Redheaded Rival" - the nine-page cover story - drags from start to finish. Liz tries to disrupt Kathy's coming beach picnic with Rick by going around town in a red wig posing as "Lola" and, within earshot of Kathy, telling people Rick is taking her to the picnic. Kathy not only doesn't recognize her friend, but she assumes the worst of Rick, who she'd earlier described as her "one and only." The story is neither comical nor romantic, as if Stan weren't sure what kind of comic he was doing.
"How Feminine Can You Be?" - a three-page short - does go for the funny. First Kathy's dad complains about her taking too long to get ready for a shopping trip...
...then, after he tells her she thinks too much about clothes and cosmetics and she takes his advice to heart, he complains that she looks sloppy when his boss comes to their house. Yeah, Dad is a jerk, but, speaking from experience, all us dads are jerks in our teen-age daughters' eyes from time to time.
"Oh, To Be a Fashion Model!" runs five pages. This third and final story in the issue - There's a two-page text story, but who reads those? - finds Kathy and Liz competing for a modeling job at a local department store. It has a decent twist ending, but, once again, little of the witty dialogue that usually characterized Stan Lee's humor writing.
Filling out the issue are six pages of paper doll and special pages, including one offering decorating tips from Kathy's bedroom. Here are a few samples:
Unless this was an off-issue, Kathy was a spectacularly mediocre title. I'm surprised it managed to last 27 issues. That last issue, dated February 1964, hit the stands in December, 1963. Two months later, Marvel published Daredevil #1.
While I haven't signed any contracts yet, I am working on the sequel to my 1000 Comic Books You Must Read. You can expect more of these "blasts from the past" in upcoming TOTs.
This column could not have been written without the incredible resource that is the Marvel Comics Group 1961-1970 website or without the help of "Other Tony" Rose who directed me the site. You can visit the website at:
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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