Wednesday, February 1, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: November 1968


This is a filler issue—the annual coming out this same month covers the birth of Sue and Reed’s kid, so what was needed here was a one-shot issue to mark time until after that happened. The baby will be bringing some changes to the FF, with Crystal officially stepping in to replace Sue, so I think Stan and Jack wanted to avoid starting any major story arcs for one more issue.

And that’s just fine, since this is a fun issue that brings Wyatt Wingfoot back into action again. A letter from Wyatt lets the FF know he’s investigating some possibly supernatural shenanigans on his tribe’s homeland. Reed’s been told to “stop haunting the hospital,” so he takes Johnny and Ben out west to investigate.

By the way, Wyatt is apparently home from college for the summer and he definitely does eventually get a degree. But I guess Johnny just quietly dropped out of college at some point. I don’t THINK college was ever mentioned again after he and Wyatt left on the FF’s first trip to Wakanda. I may be forgetting a line of dialogue about it, but I think perhaps Stan and Jack realized it was awkward in terms of story construction to separate Johnny from the rest of the group, so just kind of forgot about all that higher education stuff.

Anyway, a giant totem protector of Wyatt’s tribe is on a rampage. It’s not really their protector, though, but a powerful robot built by foreign agents who want to drive the Indians off their oil-rich land.

That leads to a typically nifty Kirby fight scene with one of my favorite comic book tactics ever employed. Reed realizes that the robot is too powerful to defeat from the outside, so he compresses himself into a small ball and has Wyatt use a bazooka to shoot him INSIDE the robot.

That’s a snap shot of just how good a job Stan, Jack and others had done in building a fantastic but still coherent reality out of the Marvel Universe. That utterly absurd tactic, in the context of the story, actually makes sense.

There’s also a nice bit of continuity. We first see Wyatt doing an aerial reconnaissance of the tribal lands in the aircraft that the Black Panther had given to he and Johnny. Little details like that also help create a coherent and believable reality.


Peter’s feeling down-and-out, especially after he’s forced to sell his motorcycle for some quick cash. He picks up quite a bit when he and Gwen finally make up, but that doesn’t last long.

Mysterio has escaped from prison and televises some threats to destroy the city if Spider Man doesn’t confront him. This panics Aunt May (gee whiz, as good as Spider Man is overall—Aunt May in a panicky dither is something that was overused during the 1960s), so Peter does track the villain down.

While all this is going on, Lee and Romita continue to skillfully sandwich in character development. There’s a neat scene in which Captain Stacy and Robbie Robertson discuss their theories about Spider Man, while Harry Osborne is desperately looking for his missing dad, who is hiding out in his factory as he slowly regains memories of being the Green Goblin (though he hasn’t yet remembered that Peter is Spider Man).

There’s an interesting character moment with Peter as well. When he first learns Mysterio is on the loose, he opts NOT to track him down. He’s not giving up on being Spider Man and will step in when anyone is in immediate danger, but he’s plain sick of looking for fights and always getting the snot beat out of him.

That doesn’t last, of course, but it was a very believable and humanizing moment for Peter.

Well, when he does go looking for trouble again, he finds it. After a tussle in an abandoned movie studio, Mysterio zaps Spider Man with a ray gun that apparently shrinks the webslinger down to six inches tall.

Of course, Mysterio is the master of illusion, so it’s not hard to guess in general terms how this will resolve next issue. But it’s a fun twist all the same and will lead up to some great Romita visuals when the unusual fight does continue.

THOR #158

Thor returns to Earth and begins to wonder about his Donald Blake identity. This leads to a flashback—the bulk of the issue is a straight reprint from Journey Into Mystery #83.

So there’s not much to add. I reviewed that issue way back when we were first beginning our chronological romp through the Marvel Universe. But 75 issues of character development has left us in need of an explanation. Initially, it seemed as if Thor was simply Don Blake granted powers by the hammer. But it soon developed that he really is Thor. So who is Don Blake? Prompted by the flashback, it finally occurs to Thor to ask about that. He’ll be getting answers from Odin next issue.

That’s it for the regular issues from November 1968. Next time, we’ll pause to look at some of the annuals for ’68. Thor didn’t get one, but Spider Man will be learning a little something about HIS parents, while Sue and Reed welcome a cute little future cosmic entity into the world.

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