Thursday, April 15, 2010

46: Strange Tales #107

Strange Tales #107
January 10, 1963

  • In yet another milestone, we have a face-off between the Human Torch and the Sub-Mariner! As well-read comics readers know, this hearkens back to the justly-famous epic fight between the Sub-Mariner and Jim Hammond, the original Human Torch, back in 1940's Marvel Comics #9. This story is also notable for the setup and introduction that Namor doesn't receive. We're told he's a villain, and that Sue still has a soft spot for him, and ... that's it. Is this an example of the writer's laziness, and not doing what's needed to bring new readers up to speed? Or cockiness, assuming that anybody reading about the Torch would (of course!) already be familiar with the stories from The Fantastic Four?

  • This is the last issue scripted by Larry Lieber. And with this story, I've finally realized that one of his weaknesses as a writer is that he just doesn't have the intuitive understanding of character motivations like Stan does. A couple of times now Larry has had a villain attack the Torch for no other reason than to make a name for himself - just because he's there. Surprisingly (or perhaps not?), this time it's Johnny who uses that empty logic, as he sets out to challenge the Sub-Mariner simply to impress his teammates in the FF. Granted, there is a creative, unexpected diversion with Johnny getting sidetracked on a fishing boat - but given that that's in the art, that would have come from either Stan Lee or Dick Ayers. Larry's character work isn't usually bad, per se, but unfortunately it rarely rises above the level of competent.

  • Still, at least there's enough Goofy Silver Age Writing to keep us entertained, even if in the eye-rolling manner. In Fantastic Four #9, Namor claimed that he could duplicate all the abilities of the creatures of the sea, locating the Invisible Girl with a cave fish's radar sense. And when he invokes the shock of an electric eel, we can buy that too. But when the Torch hurls him at an iceberg, Namor protects himself by inflating his body like a puffer fish ... and, damn, that just looks ridiculous! Just as implausible, however, is the sight of the Human Torch continuing the fight under the sea, his flame still burning bright. How? We're told he's using "a flame so hot that it evaporates the waters around it, forming an air pocket for the Torch to breathe in..." Well, for Lieber's last outing here, I suppose we can let it go....

    Yes, this is Johnny's plan to prove to the FF that he's not an immature child.