Category Archives: 4 Stars

Strange Tales #141, Feb. 1966

Strange Tales #141, Feb. 1966

Rapturously written by: Stan Lee
Resplendently drawn by: Jack Kirby
Rollickingly inked by: Frank Ray
Reluctantly lettered by: Sam Rosen

Dialogue and captions: Stan Lee
Plot and artwork: Steve Ditko
Lettering and more lettering: Artie Simek

You know, Strange Tales makes up for every mediocre Hulk or Sub-Mariner story I have to read as part of this. Both the Nick Fury and Dr. Strange series’ are so good, they’re really the only ones that make me really excited to read the next issue of every time. In this one, Fury does a really interesting thing where he lets the HYDRA girl who helped him break out of prison go, while making it seem like it was an escape attempt of hers that he failed to notice. The way he does it says so much about his character, and it’s actually kind of a poignant sequence. I never used the word “poignant” to describe an Ant Man story, now did I?

It looks like HYDRA is finally defeated! All that’s left is the Supreme HYDRA, but he gets shot by two of his henchmen because he took off his costume and they didn’t know it was him. Oh, bitter irony. The Supreme HYDRA’s daughter “escapes” with the aid of some super-suction shoes that allow her to walk down walls, and Nick Fury goes back to SHIELD headquarters… where he’s psychically attacked! Turns out SHIELD is developing some psychic warfare stuff to counter this other guy that used to work for them but doesn’t anymore. He’s trying to figure out a way to get back at SHIELD, and mentally discovers a guy named the Fixer who can apparently build anything out of anything else.

Dr. Strange got shot in the back by one of Baron Mordo’s spells during his duel with Dormammu, and the Dread Dormammu is fucking pissed. So pissed, he sends Mordo to the “Demon Dimension” as punishment. Strange is okay and he wants to keep the duel going, but it seems like he’s too weak to fight well. Of course, this was all part of his plan, and the egotistic Dormammu falls for it, letting his guard down and getting beaten at his own game. This time Dr. Strange tells him to promise not to use his powers against Earth, hoping that’ll make the jerk leave him alone. Dormammu has one final message, and it’s that the girl who helped Dr. Strange is being sent to some random dimension where she’ll probably die, and it’s all Strange’s fault. After a long day of dimension travelling and magic-doing, Strange returns to his Greenwich Village home where, unknowing to him, some of Mordo’s goons have hidden a totally normal, non-magical bomb.

Damn, a lot of stuff happened in that half-issue of Dr. Strange. So, the first time he beat Dormammu, he said he couldn’t GO to Earth, and this time he can’t use his powers against it. I guess next time Dormammu finds a loophole in these restrictions (which he kinda already did by threatening Strange’s lady), Strange’ll have to make him promise not to do whatever THAT is. Just make him promise to leave everybody alone, or make him stay in a prison cell or something, come on.


Amazing Spider-Man #32, Jan. 1966

Amazing Spider-Man #32, Jan. 1966

Script & Editing by: Stan Lee
Plot & Illustration by: Steve Ditko
Lettering & Kibitzing by: Artie Simek

Damn, this is one emotionally-charged comic book. Watching Spider-Man get angry and going berserk on all the small-time crooks he comes across is something completely different than normal. I mean, most of the time when he gets mad it’s because he made a fool out of himself in front of a girl or J. Jonah Jameson stiffed him on a payment or something, and that’s more of an inner fuming than anything else. He gets fucking PISSED in this ish.

Aunt May is in the hospital and is very weak, and it turns out it’s because she somehow got some radioactive particles in her blood. How could that have happened? Maybe back when Peter Parker gave her a blood transfusion, and look, bub, he’s got radioactive blood! Well, that sucks, Pete is pretty much directly responsible for his aunt’s sickness. He gets the idea to call in a favor from Dr. Curt Connors, whom he saved from being the Lizard a while back. Connors orders some radioactive isotope that he needs in his serum, but it gets hijacked by the Master Planner’s gang.

So now Spider-Man is pissed. The Master Planner’s guys have been bugging him for a while now, and he doesn’t exactly know where they are. He starts tearing through all the crooks he can find near the waterfront, where he’s pretty sure the gang’s hideout is, but none of them know the Master Planner’s deal, either. After a couple days of this brutal interrogation, Spidey finally stumbles across their hideout and just beats the shit out of them. He finally meets the Master Planner, who turns out to be Dr. Octopus, but fights him off with such ferocity that Doc Ock just runs away. Unfortunately, Spidey causes a cave-in in the underwater base and gets trapped under a huge piece of metal.

This is the lead-in to one of the most famous Spider-Man moments, which’ll be in the next issue, with Spidey stuck under this piece of metal. It’s just this hugely powerful thing, this superhero being trapped and slowly drowning, knowing that his beloved aunt is dying because of him and the cure sitting mere feet away from him. This is why people love Spider-Man.

Strange Tales #140, Jan. 1966

Strange Tales #140, Jan. 1966

Senses-shattering story by: Stan Lee!
Power-packed presentation by: Jack Kirby!
Drama-drenched drawing by: Don Heck!
Dreamy-designed delineation by: Joe Sinnott!
Booboo-bulging balloons by: Sam Rosen!

Script: Stan Lee
Art: Steve Ditko
Lettering: S. Rosen

This Nick Fury issue has one of my favorite things ever in it: A deadly HYDRA skateboarding squad! I guess skateboards were popular at the time, and Stan said “if the kids like it, shove it in there┬áincongruously! It’s just hilarious that these guys on these little two-wheeled rectangles with rifles and big sticks are supposed to be super-fast and dangerous. I love comic books.

Fury and the daughter of the Imperial HYDRA are escaping from the HYDRA base at the same time Dum-Dum Dugan and Gabe Jones are there with a squad to break him out. Meanwhile, Tony Stark flies his “Braino-saur” spaceship into orbit to disarm HYDRA’s betatron bomb which they’re threatening the planet with. The Imperial HYDRA realizes that he’s fighting a losing battle (what with being on the other side of Nick Fury and all) and decides to hit the destruct button which will apparently finish HYDRA off once and for all (and the good guys who are also there, I’m assuming).

Dr. Strange, the Ancient One, and Baron Mordo have all been sent to a “neutral dimension” by Dormammu so he can get personally involved in this fight that Mordo has completely botched by being a useless loser. Instead of making it a spellcasting fight, however, Dormammu challenges Strange to a one-on-one melee combat using “Pincers of Power”, little wrist mounted magical pincer weapons which stun and/or lobotomize you. Strange actually does a pretty good job holding his own against the evil flame-headed ruler of another dimension, until Mordo decides to use that time to strike him down with a spell from behind. I think that Mordo is a bad guy or something.

I like that Dormammu challenges Strange to this weird pincer boxing fight instead of a magic fight, since he already lost that way once. Also, it helps break up the… well, monotony isn’t quite the word, but it helps make Dr. Strange a little more varied in its action. Personally, I could read awesome magical fights all day long, and there are only a precious few issues with Steve Ditko still drawing it, but this is good too.

Journey Into Mystery #124, Jan. 1966

Journey Into Mystery #124, Jan. 1966

Story by: Stan (the Man) Lee
Pencilling by: Jack (King) Kirby
Delineation by: Vince (the Prince) Colletta
Lettering by: Artie (Sugar Lips) Simek

How gallant, this script by: Stan Lee
How glorious, this artwork by: Jack Kirby
How gracious, this inking by: Vince Colletta
How come? This littering by: Artie Simek

Despite what this cover says, Hercules doesn’t really show up in this issue. I mean, he’s there for like, a page, but it’s just Zeus telling him to go to Earth and it has nothing to do with anything else. Honestly, it’s a little weird that they put him on the cover, but it just figures. Gettin’ my hopes up like that, jeez.

Dr. Don Blake finally decides to tell his nurse, Jane Foster, his secret: That he is actually Thor, the God of Thunder! Jane… actually takes it quite well. She doesn’t seem all that surprised, really, she just makes Don promise that he’ll never leave her again. Of course, he has every intention of keeping this promise until he hears about a warlord in Asia that they call The Demon, and how he’s the biggest threat over there since Genghis Khan. Turns out this “demon” is a witch doctor who picked up one of Loki’s Norn stones that Thor dropped a couple issues back and has been using it’s power to make himself invincible.

In Tales of Asgard, Balder has collapsed after blowing his horn so hard that he killed a dragon (that HAS to be a euphemism for SOMETHING). Hogun the Grim applies some poultice or other to him so he wakes up, and then Volstagg wackily tries to blow Baldur’s horn in celebration… summoning a swarm of flying trolls who came from a giant rock wasp nest. That’s pretty metal.

There’s a really interesting bit in this issue that I have been waiting to talk about since I started this. Thor is just reading a newspaper in the middle of the street when a little girl comes up to him and tells him that her dad is big and strong like Thor and he’s serving in Vietnam, and she wonders if Thor has ever been there. In response, Thor hugs her and tells her that he has, and that he sends his best wishes to all the people serving over there. Clearly this is partly because America had only recently began sending armed troops over to Vietnam, partly because Stan Lee was ex-army himself, but I gotta imagine it’s mostly because comic books were just one of the things that servicemen used to read a lot of. A lot of guys in the army were young 20-somethings and you get a lot of feedback from them in the letters pages of these comics saying that they love the fantastic adventures of superheroes, especially when they seem to have the same cares about the real world as they do. It’s kind of a touching moment, and it’s a very classy way to show appreciation for men in uniform.

Strange Tales #139, Dec. 1965

Strange Tales #139, Dec. 1965

Sensationally written by Stan Lee
Spectacularly laid-out by Jack Kirby
Superbly illustrated by Joe Sinnott
Silently lettered by Artie Simek

Script by Sterling Stan Lee
Art by Stalwart Steve Ditko
Lettering by Stoical Artie Simek

Everybody reads SHIELD, even Dr. Strange, the co-headlining feature in the magazine whom we’ve been unable to put on the cover for several issues now! …whew, I think I need to take a deep breath and calm down.

Nick Fury has been kidnapped by HYDRA, and they’ve got his locked up so tight he couldn’t possibly escape. Unless his shirt is actually also an explosive, and if they serve him food that starts in pill form then explodes into actual steaks and he uses that to blow off a wall of his cell. But that would NEVER happen, so… oh wait, that’s what happens. Also, he gets some “help” from the daughter of the Imperial Hydra (she tells him that things are helpless and he does everything). When Dum-Dum and Gabe arrive to bust him out, HYDRA realize they’re in trouble. Luckily they’ve still got their Betatron Bomb in orbit, and they think Tony Stark’s Braino-Saur is some sort of fantastical fire-breathing dragon.

The final battle between Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo is taking place now, and they’re both pointing their hands weirdly at each other and crazy shapes are coming out and doing crazy shit. Strange briefly confounds Mordo with a simple illusion that there are two of him and Mordo freaks the fuck out. Dormammu, who’s been watching this whole thing through some sort of magic TV, gets really pissed and decides to get involved himself.

Even if the magic fight in this issue doesn’t really have a lot of substance to it, it’s fucking AWESOME. Arrgh, I love Strange Tales so much at this point! Peak Ditko, Nick Fury being it’s normal awesome self… Why can’t all comic books be like this?! For that matter, why can’t all literature and art in the world be exactly like this? STUPID DIVERSITY!