Wednesday, June 1, 2011
History of the Marvel Universe: November 1966
Johnny and Wyatt are still off in the middle of nowhere, trying to make friends with Lockjaw so the big doggie will teleport them into the Great Refuge.
But the bulk of the issue involves Klaw—now transformed into a being actually made of sound—attacking the Baxter Building. At first it looks like Klaw has the upper hand—Ben can’t beat up something made of sound and Sue’s force fields don’t block sound blasts. But nobody outsmarts Reed Richards. He just uses a pair of Vibranium brass knuckles (which, of course, have sound-absorbing properties) to beat the snot out of Klaw. As Ben remarks, seeing Reed in a knock-down, drag-‘em-out fight is really fun. It’s a great issue, but the last few panels hint at the return of Doctor Doom in a plot involving the Silver Surfer. So even greater things are coming.
The space spores that infected John Jamison give him super strength. This puts his dad in an embarrassing situation—he’s always publically railed against super heroes. Now his son, whom he had always praised as a non-powered hero—actually has powers.
Well, that leaves Jonah with nothing to do but sic his son on Spider Man, who briefly seems guilty of robbing a bank.
This, in turn, leads to some interesting character bits for Jonah. Within the pages of this issue, we actually see J.J.J. show real concern for another human being AND a concern for actual ethics when he learns Spidey is probably innocent of the bank job. Jamison will always be best used as primarily a comic relief character, but occasional moments like these do give him some depth.
Anyway, the spores also start to make John Jamison cruel and bitter, but Spidey leads him into an electrical trap that kill the spores and turn John normal again.
That brings us to the last few pages of this issue, in which Peter must suffer through a “Mary Jane ordeal” before he can get to a party Gwen is throwing. This, of course, leads to one of the most justly famous panels of all time when we finally get to meet MJ. Romita outdoes himself here—he really does make Mary Jane Watson look drop dead gorgeous as she stands in the door and says the famous lines “Face it, Tiger. You hit the jackpot.” And just like that, the most important supporting character in Spider Man comics enters Peter’s life.
Thor arrives back on Earth. Tana Nile leaves. Thor would be perfectly happy if the woman he loves wasn’t missing.
He trails Jane Foster to Wundagore, a land vaguely located in central or eastern Europe. It’s here that the High Evolutionary rules—a scientist who is using his knowledge to artificially evolve various animals into intelligent bipeds he calls New-Men.
Some of the New-Men serve as a sort of border guard, riding flying “atomic steeds,” wearing armor and carrying lances with high-tech weaponry installed in them. I’m not sure this is the most effective way of guarding a border, but they sure do look cool.
Wundagore as a whole pretty much exists to give Jack Kirby an excuse to draw more weird stuff. This is, of course, fine by itself. But, as usual, there is an interesting story built into the set-up as well.
That is the most obvious strength of the Lee/Kirby collaboration. When Kirby created stuff on his own (the New Gods, Devil Dinosaur, Kamandi, etc) he gave us imaginative visuals and wonderful ideas, but his dialogue could be stilted and his plot construction was often a little bit messy. I think Kirby needed a writer like Lee to give him just the right amount of storytelling discipline needed in order to spin the sort of glorious tales being spun here. Kirby’s imagination could run free, but the rules of drama were still applied in order to tell dramatically satisfying stories. We see this again and again during the 1960s.
Anyways, Thor discovers that Jane has been hired to teach the New-Men about the outside world. But something goes awry with the High Evolutionary’s efforts to evolve a wolf into a New-Man. The wolf instead becomes a super powerful monster determined to destroy all life. Thor has a fight on his hands for next issue.
The Tales of Asgard story is yet another example of Kirby’s visuals being used in a disciplined way to tell a story effectively. Thor and the Warriors Three are scouting out a desolate land that used to be ruled by a rebellious king. It turns out that the rebellious king has been transformed into a huge, dragon-like monster—something Volstagg finds out to his detriment when the monster captures him. So Thor has yet ANOTHER fight on his hands for next issue.
Well, that finishes up November 1966. Before moving on to December, we’ll cover the 1966 annuals, in which the Human Torch fights the Human Torch; Thor fights the Destroyer; and Spider Man gets an invitation to move up in the world.