Friday, March 12, 2010

38: Strange Tales #106

Strange Tales #106
December 10, 1962

  • From the beginning of the Torch's solo stories, Dick Ayers had been inking Jack Kirby's pencils. So it's a bit of a surprise to see that Kirby is MIA this issue, and the story is pencilled and inked by Dick instead, who would go on to be the main Torch artist for quite a while. Still, it begs the question: What's going on? Between this issue, and last week's Ant-Man story, where has Kirby gone? The next new comic fully illustrated by Kirby wouldn't premiere until the Spring, so it's not that. Was he picking up more of the shorter one-shot tales, still needed for anthology mags like Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense? Was he struggling with deadlines (not something you hear about Jack Kirby, ever) and so was given a couple of issues off so as to stockpile more pages for the coming months in order to get ahead? Was his productivity hampered by illness or some other real-world concern? We can't say. However, despite Dick Ayers having been primarily an inker around this time, he acquits himself admirably in taking over from Jack; even though we can tell it's no longer Kirby on the strip, there isn't the sense of jarring disconnect found in last week's Tales to Astonish.

  • Last issue, we talked about the growing presence of the Fantastic Four in what is supposed to be Johnny's solo comic, and that trend continues here. When Carl Zante, The Acrobat, tracks down the Torch, he convinces Johnny that he's being used and exploited by Reed Richards, and under-appreciated by the team as a whole. Johnny falls for it, quits the Four, and forms a partnership with Zante called "The Torrid Twosome" (seriously, how did a name like that get approved?), even going so far as to sew new costumes for himself and Zante, bearing bold "2" logos on the sleeves. It's no surprise to us when Zante tricks the gullible Torch into breaking into a bank and then turns on him in order to snatch the loot; fortunately, the rest of the FF have been keeping tabs on Johnny after his petulant outburst, and team up with him to stop the villain. Johnny, of course, claims that he was wise to Zante's plans from the get-go and was just stringing him along; I don't know if the FF believe him, but it sure sounds flimsy to us.

  • In Johnny's first issue, we're told that no one in his hometown of Glenville knows that he's the Human Torch, despite everyone being aware that his sister Sue is the Invisible Girl. This is also at odds with the fame we've seen the FF lauded with as a group, even going so far as to fete the four at an extravagant honorary dinner in Washington, D.C.! Clearly, something doesn't jibe, and the readers cried out - for in the letters page to Fantastic Four #10, Stan indicates that they had received numerous letters about the inconsistency, and that the issue was being addressed. And boy, is it rich! When Carl Zante shows up, he explains that "everybody knows that Johnny Storm and the fabulous fire-boy are one and the same person." Sue confirms that his dual role is in fact known to everyone in Glenville, but that "No one ever mentioned it because you yourself never spoke of it! They assumed you wanted privacy -- and they respected your desire!" That Johnny thought he could have a secret identity in the first place was ridiculous - but the idea that the entire town has simply been humoring him is one of the funniest twists Marvel has published thus far.

    The earnestness with which he believes his fiction is really kind of adorable.