Wednesday, July 4, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe--January 1970


I have no idea if this means anything, but this is Jack Kirby’s last year on FF and Thor (he’ll be gone before the end of 1970) and, as his tenure on these books nears an end, both go into a long string of single issue stories.

That’s not a complaint—the individual stories we see in both books will be very good. But it is interesting to take note of this. As he made a decision to leave Marvel, did he consciously stop plotting extended story arcs? I have no idea.

Anyway, this issue of FF shows Reed and Sue finally deciding on a name for their son. And it’s about gosh-darn time. In real life time, the kid’s over a year old.  But, of course, this is comic book time, where he likely hasn’t been around more than a few weeks.

His name, of course, is Franklin Benjamin Richards (the Franklin from his grandfather and the Benjamin from his godfather). And his parents decided to find him a nanny in the remote town of Whisper Hill to keep him safe.

This leads to the introduction of one of the more interesting supporting characters in the Marvel Universe. The elderly Agatha Harkness seems like your average, everyday extremely creepy old lady, but she is in reality a powerful witch.

This is something that comes in handy when the Frightful Four attack Agatha’s home and manage to capture the Fantastic Four. Medusa has rejoined the villains, but its no surprise that she’s working undercover and attempts to jump the bad guys herself. She’s also captured.

But then the Wizard, Sandman and Trapster encounter Agatha, who quickly whips up some bizarre magic and pretty much hands them their butts without even working up a sweat.

It’s yet another story (like the alien/gangster story arc that just ended) that gives the impression Jack Kirby was really having fun with the art. It’s a nifty story, full of bizarre visuals and quirky humor.


Gee whiz, The Amazing Spider Man is entering a phase of single issue stories as well. And there’s no “Jack Kirby is leaving soon” excuse available here. On the other hand, John Buscema’s run on Spider Man is relatively short before John Romita returns, so maybe that was a factor.

Anyway, Peter doesn’t fair quite as well in this story as the FF and Thor do in theirs. Peter finds out he’s been a jerk in thinking Gwen is stepping out with Flash Thompson. Pete and Gwen make up, then it appears that Gwen’s dad has stolen some valuable paintings.

Peter deduces that the real crook must be the Chameleon and gets Joe Robertson to give a meeting about a large bond transfer a front page mention, hoping to smoke the villain out. The plan seems to go awry at first, but when the Chameleon tries to use a Peter Parker disguise to escape with the bonds, Spider Man somehow catches on to him.

It’s not a bad story, though Spidey’s plan to catch the bad guy really isn’t a very good one and seems too much like a plot contrivance than a natural outgrowth of the plot.

Still, the art is quite good and Peter’s scene with Flash, where Peter finds out he’s been acting like an idiot regarding the girl he loves, is nicely done. Like Fantastic Four and Thor, Spider Man at this time is so good, that a merely average story sticks out like a sore thumb.

THOR #172

A millionaire named Kronin Krask is dying. He kidnaps Jane Foster get a hold over the doctor she now works for--and with whom she’s fallen in love. Gee whiz, Jane, falling in love with EVERY DOCTOR YOU WORK FOR really isn’t an emotionally healthy habit. Do you actually put stuff like this in your resume? And knowing that she’s prone to getting kidnapped, does she arrange for her time has a hostage to be on the clock?

Krask’s plan also involves luring Thor to his heavily guarded mansion and knocking the Thunder God unconscious with a hallucinogenic mist. He plans to force the doctor to transfer his mind into Thor’s body.

Thor actually lets himself get captured so that he can meet the challenge of having someone try to take over his mind. He wins the battle of egos, of course, freeing Jane and her boss live happily ever after.

Even though the plot in this issue is a little heavy handed, Kirby’s visuals make this another fun story. In fact, for me, both this story and this month’s FF have a late 1950s Tales to Astonish vibe to them, as if Stan and Jack were channeling some of the monster and weird menace tales they did back then into the superhero genre.

That’s it for the premiere month of 1970. Next week, we'll pay a return visit to the Lost Valley, where we'll check in with Turok and Andar. Then, in February, the FF prevent World War III; Spider Man fights a vaguely annoying new villain; and Thor goes to the Circus.


  1. I love Agatha Harkness - one of my favorite Kirby characters! I thought you might enjoy this drawing of her which I also colored:

  2. Very nice job. I appreciate you sharing it with us.


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