Wednesday, March 25, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe--May 1963, part 1


The FF return from their trip to the moon to enormous public acclaim (which include Reed Richards being grabbed and stretched in numerous directions at once by adoring female fans). But they only have a short time to rest before trouble strikes again.

The Puppet Master, who had supposedly fallen to his death after his initial battle with the FF, turns out to be still alive after all. He gains mental control over the Sub-Mariner and forces Namor to kidnap Sue Storm.

Reed, Johnny and Ben, unaware that Namor is not responsible for his own actions, mount a rescue operation. Ben brings his gal Alicia along because he can’t stand to see her cry when he stops by to say goodbye.

That’s a bit of a stretch—bringing a blind woman with no superpowers along on an undersea mission to fight the Sub-Mariner seems to be a mildly unwise plan. But what the hey—she does seem to stay out of the way.

Anyway, it all leads to a typically nifty Jack Kirby fight scene, with Namor using a variety of weird sea creatures in his attempt to defeat the FF. In the end, the Puppet Master once again meets with an apparent doom, freeing Namor from his control and bringing the fight to an end.

Sue gets yet another chance to act indecisive about whether she loves Reed or Namor and, sadly, doesn’t get to take an active part in any of the action. It can also be argued that Lee and Kirby are in danger of overusing Namor—this is at least his fourth appearance in just 14 issues.

But Kirby’s imaginative layouts and fight choreography carries the plot along nicely, while Ben Grimm continues to mature as a truly likeable character. Nitpicking aside, it is another good, strong issue.


Spidey wastes no time at all in adding yet another member to his Rogue’s Gallery. The Vulture shows up in this issue, swooping down out of the sky (or up out of the sewer through a man-hole) to swipe money and jewels from bank messengers. In a very well-plotted story, Spider Man uses his powers, his brains and his skill as a budding scientist to catch the villain.

In this issue, Peter Parker also gets the idea of making money as a photographer, getting shots of Spider Man in action. J. Jonah Jameson is still editorializing against Spider Man, so Peter figures it would be “a kick” to earn money off of him. (Jameson, by the way, is presented in this issue as being the editor of Now Magazine rather than the Daily Bugle. It’ll be a few issues before we learn he runs a newspaper as well as a magazine.) It’s made clear in this issue that grumpy old triple-J is going to be a regular supporting character and a regular foil for our hero.

The second story contained in this issue is a bit weaker. Spidey tangles with an eccentric old man who runs a fix-it shop. Except, of course, he’s not just an eccentric old man—he’s the Terrible Tinkerer, an alien who is spying on humanity in preparation for yet another invasion from outer space. It’s an okay story—most importantly, it again shows Spider Man thinking out his tactics during a fight as well as throwing punches.

But the whole invading aliens bit doesn’t seem to be a good thematic fit for Spider Man. It’s not a bad story—it just doesn’t seem to quite belong.


A scientist, bitter about having just lost his job because of his advanced age, invents a ray gun that can rapidly age (or de-age) any living thing. Ant Man tries to stop him and gets zapped into old age. But when the bad guy accidentally ages his own grandson, he realizes the error of his ways. Everyone gets zapped back to normal.

This is a just plain dull story. The action is uninteresting and Don Heck’s art work is, frankly, equally uninteresting. (Heck can be quite good on occasion, but he lacked Kirby’s ability to make weak scripts look cool.)

But things will look up next issue, when Hank Pym gets himself a new partner and another hero (or, rather, heroine) will be added to the Marvel Pantheon.

Next week, we’ll take a look to see what Thor, Iron Man and the Human Torch are up to.

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