Wednesday, September 16, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: March 1964, part 2

Journey Into Mystery #102

Thor is still a prisoner of Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, who's brought the Thunder God to the 23rd Century to help him conquer that peaceful century.

Thor, who promised Zarrko obedience to get him to leave the 20th Century alone, goes on a rampage. Fortunately, he's able to subdue the inhabitants of the future century for the most part by merely destroying machines and robots. He's never obligated to actually hurt anyone, though he does reflect light off his hammer in such a way to place some human guards in a trance.

It actually might have been a stronger issue if it had presented Thor with a real moral dilemma. If--as Thor tells us at one point--"an immortal may never break an oath," then what happens if keeping the oath requires doing something immoral?

But the story never puts Thor in that position. And, when the world surrenders to Zarrko, Thor is able to consider his oath fulfilled. He fights Zarrko and defeats him, saving the 23rd Century from despotism.

Oh, well. The story might have missed an opportunity to do something really challenging, but Jack Kirby's futuristic city scapes and machinary are cool-looking.

And his work on the "Tales of Asgard" entry is even cooler-looking. Young Thor is still trying to become worthy of wielding his hammer. But when he finds out the innocent goddess Sif has been taken captive by Hela, the Goddess of Death, he picks up the weapon without even thinking about it. Soon, he's offering Hela his own life in place of Sif's, proving himself very worthy indeed.

The artwork on this back-up feature continues to be wonderful. We also get our first look at Hela, who will become a regular nemesis of Thor's. It's the first appearance of Sif and (I'm pretty sure) Balder, two dieties destined to become regular supporting characters. Both of them will be visually re-designed before joining the cast permentenly, though. And in this story, they are presented as brother and sister, which will not be the case later on. (In fact, when Sif does join the regular cast in a few years, she's presented as Heimdall's sister. Well, maybe the Balder we see here isn't the same Balder we meet later, but yet another sibling of Heimdall's. Yeah, that's it.)


Over in DC Comics, the Scarecrow was a member of Batman's Rogue's Gallery--an insane scientist who used a fear gas as part of his nefarious schemes. But in 1964, he wasn't being used very often in Batman's stories (though the writers would re-discover him and begin using him regularly a few years later). So I suspect that when Stan Lee instroduced a villain calling himself the Scarecrow in this issue of Tales of Suspense, he probably didn't know or remember the DC character. Or perhaps simply didn't worry about duplicating the name of an obscure and at-that-time largely forgotten character.

Anyway, Marvel's Scarecrow is a contortionist who uses both his atheletic abilities and a trio of trained crows to commit burglaries. He manages to make off with some defense plans from Tony Stark's apartment and tries to make a deal with the Cubans to buy them. But Iron Man puts the kibosh on that. The Scarecrow himself manages to escape to Cuba, but he's merely a bitter and penniless exile. I'm not sure if he ever turns up again (a later Marvel villain named Scarecrow would be a creepy guy from another dimension). That may be just as well, though, since seeing Iron Man get tripped up by a trio of crows wrapping curtain sashes around his legs was downright embarassing.

CORRECTION: This version of Scarecrow is indeed the supernatural guy who appeared in later years, not a different character as I stated above. I was also wrong about the later version of Scarecrow being inter-dimensional. Actually, he eventually gets raised as an undead being by a sorceror. My apologies for the factual errors.


The Porcupine returns to take revenge on Hank and Janet, attacking them from ambush right at the start of the issue. But they survive the attack, though Hank breaks an ankle.

That makes for an interesting side effect of Giant Man's power. It turns out that he has to remain big until his ankle heals--otherwise, the bone might shatter completely when he shrinks.

In the meantime, the Porcupine proves he's kinda smart despite his silly costume design. He captures the Wasp, then allows her to escape to follow her back to Giant Man's secret lab. Another fight ensues, in which Stan Lee seems to have momentarily forgotten that Hank wasn't supposed to be able to change sizes without shattering his broken ankle. He actually goes from Giant Man to Ant man and back to Giant Man during the course of the fight without shattering anything.

But it's a pretty good fight aside from that. It ends when the Porcupine swallows a bunch of what he thinks are Giant Man's growth capsules, but are actually his Shrink capsules. The villain shrinks down to microscopic size and is seemingly lost forever.

Actually, come to think of it--his costume shrinks along with him. The costumes of Wasp and Giant Man change size with them because they're made of unstable molecules. Why Porcupine's costume shrinks is not explained. Maybe--maybe--um... okay, I got nothin' to explain that one.

But it's really is a pretty good fight, despite a couple of goofs.


  1. The Scarecrow has turned up a lot since that Iron Man issue. He's tangled with Cap and Ghost Rider among others.
    He even teamed up with DC's Scarecrow in one of the Marvel/DC crossovers.

  2. I appreciate the clarification. In fact, now that I've double-checked, I see I made a factual error in my post. This original Scarecrow is, in fact, the same undead guy who appeared later, not a different guy as I originally stated. (He eventually gets converted into an undead character by a sorcerer.) Thanks again for the information.

  3. Actually, there is another Marvel Scarecrow that did come from another dimension that they are now calling "The Straw Man". I figured he was who you were referring to when you talked about the second Scarecrow.


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