Wednesday, September 7, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: September 1967


The main plot here involves Alicia Masters, who has been teleported to a scientific enclave in some remote part of the world. The scientists there are all men who have faked their deaths to join a project to save mankind from war, sickness, etc by genetically engineering a more perfect race of humans.

Now they need a blind sculptress. You see, their prototype perfect human has broken out of its birthing chamber and is now generating a “blinding power,” so they can’t even see what it looks like, much less communicate with it. They need Alicia to enter the room the creature is in and—unhampered by the blinding light—sculpt an image of it.

This is actually one of the few weak storylines that came up during the Kirby/Lee era. First, the scientists are all presented as benevolent. But their plan seems to be to replace all us tragically flawed humans with a superior version? Or would the genetic supermen simply rule over us? Someone call Captain Kirk—Khan is in the house!!!!

Also, the plot is painfully contrived to come up with a reason to bring Alicia into the plot. “Men, the only possible solution to this situation is to find a blind sculptress somewhere!” Gee whiz.

But despite this, the issue is still an enjoyable one, mostly because of the character moments that take place within the main plot. For instance, Ben is feeling sorry for himself and takes a walk in the park, where he runs into a group of kids who think he’s the greatest guy in the world. It’s a really nice touch, continuing to single out Ben as the emotional center of the Fantastic Four.

Anyway, it all ends with Reed about to figure out a way to duplicate the teleportation device that took Alicia away, while Alicia is about to confront the mysterious creature.


While the Fantastic Four is experiencing one of its few weak story arcs, Spider Man is finishing up one of his best.

Spidey and Jonah are chained together in a basement room that is rapidly filling with water, but the webslinger manages to use a combination of his strength and his brains to come up with a clever method of surviving, then getting a jump on the Kingpin’s thugs.

The sequence of action scenes that follow—Spidey vs. thugs near the deathtrap; Spidey vs. thugs on a stairway; and Spidey vs Kingpin in a rematch—demonstrate that John Romita Sr. was in the same expert class as Kirby and Ditko in choreographing fights that are exciting AND flow along in a logical manner. Not surprisingly, the interaction between Spidey and JJJ is a lot of fun, with a surprising amount of sympathy generated for the pure terror that Jonah is understandably feeling.

In the end, the Kingpin escapes, but he’s now known to the police. And, in a great character moment, Frederick Foswell sacrifices his life to save Jonah Jameson (“You’re the only one who ever helped me… or gave me a second chance.”)  What’s cool about the whole thing is we’re never sure if Foswell was really turning crook again or if he was working undercover. But whatever his original motivation, he redeems himself in the end.

Also, Flash Thompson is home on leave from the Army AND we learn the city editor we briefly met last issue is named Robertson. This more proper introduction of him is handled with skill. Though we only see him for two panels, his take charge attitude in dealing with Jonah’s disappearance does a lot to establish his character.

THOR #144

Thor amps itself back up to cosmically awesome levels for this issue.

While the Thunder God takes on two of the Enchanters on Earth, gradually gaining ground against them despite their apparent omnipotence, the third Enchanter challenges Odin himself to a duel.

The conditions of the duel include Odin cancelling the powers of all Asgardians, while the Enchanter cancels the powers of his two allies. This part of this otherwise fun tale is a little contrived. The reason is apparently to make sure the duel is a completely equal one, which is fair enough.

But even though Odin doesn’t know Thor is in a fight to the death down on Earth, the Enchanter is certainly aware what his two brothers were up to. That was part of their plan, for gosh sakes. So he arbitrarily cancels out their powers? Gee whiz, this guy may be omnipotent, but he’s not that bright.

Anyway, Thor, with some help from Balder and Sif, curb stomp the Enchanters. 

And the Odin/Enchanter duel? Well, that’s still unresolved at the end of the issue, leaving Thor and his two fellow Asgardians stranded on Earth without their powers (though Thor still seems to have a high level of super strength.)

What we see of the duel is probably the coolest part of the issue, with the two all-powerful beings flying through space like a comet that “shatters planets as if they are ant hills…the heat of its passing leaves new burning suns in its galaxy-wide wake.” Now THAT’S cosmic!!!

The next-to-last “Tales of Asgard” shows us Thor, Fandral, Hogun and a rebel named Alibar the Vagabond in a desperate last stand against the horsemen of Satan. But, just as all seems lost, Volstagg shows up with that big magical ray gun he acquired last issue. Needless to say, Volstagg earns himself a Crowning Moment of Awesome.

That it for September 1967. Next week, we’ll pause again in our chronological march through the Marvel Universe to visit Mars as we take a look at a comic book adaptation of one of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic stories.

In two weeks, we’ll return to the Marvel Universe as the FF continue to look for Alicia;  Spider Man fights an old enemy; and Thor… joins the circus?


  1. Neat idea! I enjoy writing about classic comics, too. I just may have to make time for an old Godzilla movie, at that!

  2. I read somewhere (maybe FantaCo's FF Chronicles?) that the storyline in FF 66 and following were originally intended by Jack Kirby to be his critical commentary on Ayn Rand's philosophical novel ATLAS SHRUGGED (Rand's Objectivist philosophy having become Ditko's secular religion by that time), BUT ... Stan Lee bowdlerized Kirby's vision and turned it into a semi-coherent mess. I also recall reading that Kirby's frustration was such that this proved to be a nail in the coffin that led to his leaving Marvel a few years later.

    I've been thoroughly enjoying the 'blog as always. Always something new to be learned or a good memory stirred up.

    Gary in Omaha

  3. I haven't heard that story. But I can see where it might have been a critique of Rand's philosophy, so I can lean towards it being true. That would explain the unusually weak plotting. Oh, well, Kirby could even make average stories look awesome.

  4. Hi, Tim,

    Just a PS to my comment above regarding FF 66, Lee & Kirby and Ayn Rand. I'm an English teacher and it unsettled me to leave my source uncited, so doing some digging I discovered I read about that in a Michael Gartland article titled "A Failure to Communicate, Part 4," published in THE KIRBY COLLECTOR 24 (and available to read online at ).

    I do tend to believe the story, especially with Evanier's comments lending it credibility. An interesting footnote in Marvel history, a history filled with fascinating footnotes.

    Gary in Omaha


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