Guys, I’d like to tell you that there’s some good stuff going on over at this company called Marvel Comics! They got this guy Stan Lee writing, and he’s doing some weird stuff. Not all of it’s good, but it’s sure interesting. And I’d like to review them for you, to maybe cast a little attention on these comics that might otherwise go unnoticed. I’m not sure exactly when these came out, because my drug store seems to keep comics forever, but here we go!
Fantastic Four #1
What a mixed bag. The tale starts innocently enough, with the members of this super-team getting a summons to gather; apparently, some kind of crisis is on. The reactions of people on the street and in an ice cream shop to an invisible woman are charming. The Thing, a rock-skinned monstrosity, is similarly amusing, though he wrecks a couple streets on the way to the meeting, which can’t be good for the team’s public image — or the city’s budget. The city, by the way, is Central City. The Human Torch, a boy who flies while on fire, similarly burns a hole in what is apparently his own car, leaving the melted wreck in a service station. I guess he has lots of money. The mayor of Central City orders nothing short of a nuclear strike on our flaming hero, apparently unconcerned at the effects of fallout directly over his population. It’s a good thing this is a comic book city and not a real life one, as the mayor wouldn’t have a long career if this were, say, Chicago or New York. But it’s comics, so we’ll fortunately never have to deal with that, as there’s no way anyone would be stupid enough to set a strip like this in a real-life city.
The origin of this team is a bit odd. Apparently, they simply rocket into space. That’s it. Oh, and they do so without shielding for cosmic rays, whatever those are. I can’t wait until Kennedy gets us up and out into space, because apparently all of our astronauts are going to become phenomenally powered on the spot! Boy, those Ruskies are in for some trouble!
The rest of the story concerns some annoying villain called the Moleman and his ’50s sci-fi reject monsters. The team flies to Monster Isle, almost without explanation, and falls underground, where they are prisoners of this Moleman guy. He’s pissed off because he was ugly and girls wouldn’t go out with him and people didn’t hire him and people made fun of him. Hey, sounds like my life! I guess I should put down these comics and go venture off to find a cave where I’ll encounter a race of monsters just looking for a human to rule them. After some shots of “the Moleman’s entire army of underground gargoyles,” the Fantastic Four fly away and find that the Moleman’s sealed himself off from the surface world. Boy, that’s convenient.
I like that these heroes bicker, which is a refreshing change, but it’d be nice if they had something to bicker about instead of a skinny but brainy guy arguing with a muscle-bound guy who’s so prideful that he’s willing to fly on a suicide mission because someone called him a coward. And I like the slice-of-life antics in this “Central City.” Maybe that, instead of these ridiculous monsters, can become the focus of the book. That and the obviously corrupt government of this fictional burg.
The Incredible Hulk #1
Okay, here’s another new Marvel super-hero that starts off promising. The setting is the testing of a new G-bomb, apparently a super-super-bomb, the next successor in the A-bomb / H-bomb line. Heading up the project is one Bruce Banner, menaced by an impatient general. If all of this reminds us of Oppenheimer and the Manhattan project, it should — it’s directly derivative. And that gives this setting a lot of strength. Except that, unlike the A-bomb and H-bomb projects, there only seems to be two scientists working here. Which is mighty odd. And the government apparently doesn’t care that the only records of the bomb are in Banner’s home.
Anyway, when the test goes off, some hippie sneaks onto the military compound as part of a bet with his hippie friends. Banner has told the other scientist to delay the launch while he runs after this kid, but the jealous assistant scientist takes to opportunity to let Banner die. Conveniently just after throwing the kid in a protective ditch, the bomb explodes and its shockwave hits Banner. This is actually rather well done. The kid, logically, feels guilty. He’s an orphan and this is the first time anyone’s done anything for him. Good characterization here.
Then it all goes to hell. Our scientist suddenly transforms into The Hulk, who looks suspiciously like the Frankenstein monster and is equally immoral and inarticulate. Breaking free, this monster of science, followed by the kid, wanders to Banner’s home, where the assistant is ransacking things looking for Banner’s notes. You’ll note that this assistant is named Igor, another clear reference to the Frankenstein movies. The monster trashes the place and Igor before the kid, Rick Jones, reveals to him that he is actually Bruce Banner. The monster derides Banner as weak and attacks the kid, but is stopped by the rising sun, which transforms him back into the scientist just as the military police arrive, who cannot figure out where the Hulk has gone and don’t seem disturbed that Banner’s clothes are mysteriously ripped.
Okay. Now I see where this is going. We have Igor, the assistant. We have the Frankenstein monster. Only here the monster and the regretful scientist who created him switch places: essentially, Doctor Frankenstein and the Frankenstein monster have been transposed over Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Okay. Then we’re told that the trigger of the transformation is the beginning of day and night, a clear theft from the Wolfman. This is like creating a super-hero by patching all the bad, tired, old horror movies together to create some monstrosity of a strip set in the ’60s with the arms race against the Soviets. This makes a better footnote to those horror movies than a continuing character.
To top it off, why the hell are Banner’s clothes there at all? This Hulk guy looks pretty big. Hell, he looks really big. The more they emphasize how skinny and lanky this Banner guy is, the more his clothes being on him, even in tatters, makes no sense. I mean, what happens when you put size 32 pants on a size 64 waist? They don’t last long, do they? It would’ve been much cooler to see those M.P.s arrive to find their prize scientist naked. Maybe then they’d ask the logical questions. Then again, maybe not. They are the Man, right? Maybe this Rick Jones cat could tell this naked scientist guy about the love revolution and make a convert, man. But maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, this freak horror rip-off continues. The M.P.s remember the Hulk differently, which is good for a laugh. And we get Betty Ross, son of that jerk general guy, who seems really nice. This Jones kid seems to find the sexual tension between Banner and this chick pretty disgusting, but it’d be better if he roped them all into a love-in! I mean, I wouldn’t mind spending time alone with this Betty Ross woman. She’s one hot momma! And nice, too.
Then we get Banner acting just like the Wolfman, worried that each night, for the rest of his life, he’ll be transformed into a monster. Only Banner, unlike the Wolfman, doesn’t have the guts to think about killing himself. Tame. And lame.
The rest of the story concerns The Gargoyle, a Communist monster who’s also a scientist. Pretty convenient, eh? Contacted by Igor, who’s actually a Commie spy, he plans to attack this Hulk he’s hearing about. He arrives on our shores by a missile, escaping before U.S. missiles intercept it and blow it up. Pretty cool, huh? I guess we don’t have to worry about those Commie nukes hitting us because we have these anti-missile missiles that’ll just shoot them down. That’s a load off my chest, man.
Incidentally, Banner and this Jones kid, who were formerly locked up for observation after he was doused by the G-bomb, then strangely freed by the Hulk, are now allowed to walk and drive around without observation. I guess those M.P.s figure that if a lumbering grey behemoth breaks you out of your holding cell, then everything must be all clear.
Anyway, the Hulk and this Jones kid encounter The Gargoyle, who uses some weird gun to make them his slaves. Man, I learn so much from comics. Forget the nukes, man, these Commies are dangerous ’cause they’ve got guns that can control our minds! Taken to Communist soil, The Gargoyle finds a scientist in the hold instead of the Hulk and puts things together. Apparently, these Commies are smarter than our M.P.s! But Banner offers to cure The Gargoyle with radiation. This guy’s an atomic genius! But the process will make him stupid, or at least of normal intelligence, as well as making him not-ugly. It works, and this formerly Commie scientist flows himself up along with the Commie goons who come to visit, but not before Banner and this Jones kid fly off in another missile at the end.
I hope that, after the last panel showing them flying away, they’re not shot down as they approach U.S. soil by the same anti-missile defenses that blew up the last missile!
These missiles are really going to help us with our technology. The Commies apparently have tons of passenger missiles! It’s amazing!
I have to wonder about the future of the strip, though. This is fun and all, but how long can The Hulk fight Communist gargoyles? How many gargoyles do they have, anyway? This whole monster / horror rip-off gets old fast, man.
Besides, this Banner guy’s smart and he’s no doubt going to realize that he just has to go to Alaska, or the poles, to keep from encountering the night. It’s going to be fun to watch him adjust to six months of constant daylight! I guess the strip will focus on us using the G-bomb in combat after that. Banner might be living in Alaska, but his brain still has the G-bomb in it, and the military took his notes for it, which means we’ll be gamma-nuking whole battalions soon (hopefully volunteer!) and sicking scores of these grey killing machines on those slant-eyes in Vietnam any day now! Take that, Igor!
Now that ought to be a fun strip.
Amazing Fantasy #15
I don’t have much to say about this one, since I’m only reviewing the 11-page first story, which introduces this new guy called Spider-Man. Now this is a weird one. You don’t see many heroes based on arachnids. I mean, there’s Batman, right? But you don’t often see something like Cockroachman or Antman. Well, actually, we did see Ant-Man, so I guess it’s not all that strange.
Man, comics are weird.
Anyway, here’s your classic story of a high school nerd who watches as the jock gets the girl. We’ve all been there. I mean, that’s why we read comics, right?
Anyway, he swears to make this Flash Thompson jock-guy sorry. Which is convenient, because he’s bitten by a radioactive spider a few minutes later! And that spider gives him the power to jump and climb on objects like a spider.
Instead of beating up Flash Thompson and calling the strip a day, which is what I would have done, this Peter Parker kid — the nerd — decides to earn money by wrestling. He’s unsurprisingly successful at it, and fortunately there’s a TV producer in the audience. Now he’s got a booking on the Ed Sullivan Show!
After making a costume and devices that shoot webs from his hands, he goes on TV. Soon he’s got a TV series, wins industry awards, gives performances in theaters — the works! Wow!
Then he comes home and his uncle’s been killed! Man, that stinks! And the guy who did it is this thief who he could’ve stopped earlier but didn’t! What a guilt trip, man!
I can see where this is going. I hope this guy Parker isn’t strung out on this guilt stuff for too long. I still want him to beat up this Flash Thompson guy and get back on TV! It’d be great to see a long-johns doing the movie biz! Just like real life! I can’t wait!
If I have one complaint, it’d be that this Parker kid makes his own web-shooting gizmos. I don’t know how he did that. I guess he must be really smart to do what our top scientists couldn’t do. Maybe he’ll give that technology to our boys in Vietnam so they can string up some Commies! Speaking of which, I can’t wait for Spider-Man to get drafted! As soon as he hits 18, he’s off! And then it’s no more Flash Thompson or movies for him — instead, this celebrity super-hero’s gonna be kicking some gook ass! Alright!
I guess it would have been unrealistic, though, for him to get that power along with the other spider-powers. I mean, sticking to walls I can buy, but shooting webs? Now that’s unrealistic. Not to mention that, if they stick to the spider analogy, they’d have to come out of his ass. Boy, that’d be another comic entirely — though fun to read!
Believe it or not, I’ve still got more I didn’t get to! Just wait until next time!