Wednesday, April 25, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1969


Smartest guy in the universe, my Aunt Fanny!!!

Okay, Reed, your wife says she’s found a nice house in the country. Of course, it’s of an odd design that includes being mostly underground, no one knows who built it and at one point you stumble across a booby trap and nearly get zapped.

Question: Should you buy this place and move in with your wife and infant son?

Reed’s answer: Sure, why not?

In many ways, this issue and the next make up for a strong story with a lot of great action, but I simply can’t not let the weak set-up go by without mocking it. It’s an underground house built mostly underground that contains hidden high-tech booby traps and is of unknown origin. REED, YOU’RE AN IDIOT. DON’T BUY IT, MAN! IT’S A BAD IDEA!

Oh, well, at least it ends with a great cliffhanger. The place has been built by the Mole Man, who is using it to broadcast a ray that will eventually make everyone on the surface world blind.

That’s a creepy plan by itself. But when Reed and Sue move in, then have Crystal and Johnny over for dinner, he turns the ray up to eleven and turns them instantly blind, then confronts them in an appropriately gloating fashion.

And that really is a great cliffhanger. It’s too bad it’s marred by giving pretty much all the good guys a collective Idiot Ball in order to get to that part. Both Stan and Jack were better than this, by golly.


We finally find out what the deal is with that darned ancient tablet. The hieroglyphics on it were never translated because they were not words, but biochemical symbols that gave directions on making a youth serum.

Doc Connors, forced to work for the elderly Maggia chief Silverman because his wife and son are being held hostage, figures this out and whips up the potion. He wants to test it, but the anxious Silverman snatches it up and chugs it down. And it works—he’s almost instantly a young man again.

While all this is going on, the story is effectively padded out by Spider Man’s desperate search for the Connors’; tension between Silverman and his presumed successor (a diminutive lawyer known as Big Caesar); and a typically well-choreographed fight between Spidey and some mob thugs. I have to nit-pick on one item: Spidey finds out Mrs. Connors and her son are hostages because one of the thugs simply shouts out this information for no real reason. But that’s a minor quibble with an otherwise strong issue that will soon lead into one of the best Lizard stories of the Stan Lee-era.

 THOR #166

With Sif captured by Him (though Him is acting with childish innocence and means no harm), Thor goes into a berserker rage. When he tracks down Him on a desolate planet, he fights with savagery and no thought of giving quarter or offering mercy to a defeated foe.

This, it turns out, is a no-no as far as Asgardians are concerned. When Him begins to lose the fight and wraps himself back up in a cocoon, Odin zaps him away into deep space to save him from the Thunder God. He’ll eventually be found by the High Evolutionary in Marvel Premiere #1 (1972), where he’ll get the name Adam Warlock and slowly get the hang of being a good guy.

Thor comes out of his rage and realizes he’s been naughty. And Odin already has a penance planned out for his son. He’s decided that someone has to go into deep space to search for Galactus. That’s now a job for Thor.

Once again, the story allows Jack Kirby to go to town with cosmic-level imagery.  At this point, even discounting the poor plotting in this month’s FF, I’m leaning slightly towards Thor being the best showcase for Kirby’s work in 1969. It’s a close call, because the Fantastic Four also looks, well, fantastic. But there you have it.

That’s it for June. Next week, we’ll begin our look at the Weisinger Superman era with a look at the introduction of Supergirl.

In two week, we’ll return to the Marvel Universe as we enter August 1969, in which Tom Seaver comes within two outs of pitching a perfect game for the Mets; The Fantastic Four quite literally get blindsided by the Mole Man; Silvermane discovers he may soon have to enroll in a diaper-cleaning service; and Thor gets ready to begin his search for Galactus.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...