Wednesday, October 14, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: April 1964, part 3


The villian this time around is a sort of low-rent Hate Monger called the Rabble Rouser. He gives speeches ( and secretly uses a "will-sapping wand") to stir up bad feelings about the Human Torch. Soon, the New York City Council has passed a safety ordinance that forbids the Torch to flame on while in the city.

It's all a trap, of course, designed to distract attention and prevent the Torch from interfering when the Rabble Rouser kidnaps a visiting diplomat. Interestingly, the Rabble Rouser uses a subterranean tunneling vehicle identical to one used by the Hate Monger in FF #21. This and the similar M.O. seems to imply the two villains were allied. But the Monger was either Hitler or a Hitler double out to serve himself; while the Rouser is an admitted Communist agent. The connection is never fully explained.

Anyway, the mayor issues an emergency order allowing Johnny to flame on in order to chase the Rouser. The bad guy is caught after a brief battle. It's a good enough story, though one can't help but wonder why--in a city that literally drips with superheroes--the Human Torch had to be singled out by the Rouser as the hero most likely to stop him.

Meanwhile, a couple of cheap burglars break into Dr. Strange's Greenwich Village home and steal a large gem, not realizing that it has magical properties. The two are teleported to another dimension.

This obligates Strange to rescue them. Despite the fact that the thieves are dishonest lowlives, Strange puts his life on the line for them, defeating the despotic ruler of the dimension is a magical duel.

Once again, Steve Ditko's art is a perfect match for the story, providing us with yet another set of creepy-lookin' inter-dimensional aliens.


Okay, there's no denying it. The choice of yellow for Daredevil's costume was a just plain bad idea. He wouldn't switch to the red costume until issue #7, a year later. In the meantime, he would always look just a little bit off.

But the artwork (by Bill Everett--best known for creating the Sub-Mariner in 1939) is otherwise quite excellent. And Daredevil's overall costume design is neat-o. It's just the choice of yellow that doesn't quite work.

Anyway, Daredevil is blind lawyer Matt Murdock. The accident that blinded him included a spill of radioactive material, increasing the strength of his other senses dramatically and giving him a "radar sense." When Murdock's dad--a boxer--is whacked by the mob for refusing to throw a fight, Murdock adopts a superhero identity to fight for justice.

Everett choreographs the Daredevil vs. mobster fight scene very effectively and the plot is designed to emphasize how Daredevil employs his enhanced senses in various ways to bring his dad's killers to justice. It's a strong start for what will be one of the Marvel Universe's enduring heroes.

That's it for April. In May,the FF vs. Hulk battle continues, with the Avengers joining in the fun as well. Spider Man continues his lastest campaign against Doc Ock, while Iron Man continues to be troubled by the Black Widow; Thor battles a Storm Giant; Giant Man fights a rematch against the Human Top; the Human Torch teams up with the Iceman; Dr. Strange visits a haunted house; the Avengers face off against the Lava Men; and the X-Men wage another battle against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

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