February 12, 1963
- By this point, Jack Kirby's art was seen to be so instrumental in Marvel's developing success that his style was used as something of a template for others; artists being groomed to take on a title would often start out by inking over his full pencils, then graduate to drawing over his loose pencils or layouts, before finally taking over as sole inker. For instance, Kirby was succeeded here on Strange Tales by Dick Ayers, who had been inking him up to that point, while Tales of Suspense #40's Iron Man story contains such a clear example of Don Heck's artwork - despite Heck only being credited as that issue's inker - that we can safely conclude Jack only provided the rough layouts. What's less understandable, then, is why Jack would be brought back for an issue or two, as occurs here. While the Painter certainly has the overly exaggerated features you'd expect from a Kirby villain - to the point that you can't really conceive of the character being drawn by anyone else - you still have to wonder about the poor guy (in this case, Ayers) who is promoted to full artist for two issues, then dropped back to simply inking for two, then full art for four more, then dropped back to inking....
- In other creative changes, we have here the first in a rotating line of new scripters for the following six months, as Robert Bernstein takes on the duties for the next two issues. By 1963 Bernstein had been around for about fifteen years, writing for one comic publisher or another, though he never quite attained the accolades of a Stan Lee or a Gardner Fox. And he turns in a solid (if generally unremarkable) performance here: the voices sound in-character, the narration is informative without being distracting, and there are fewer than the usual number of credibility-busting clunkers we've come to expect from these stories.
- In fact, the only valid complaint isn't with the scripting at all. A few issues back I pointed out the seeming lack of confidence they had in the Torch's ability to draw an audience on his own, as his stories seemed to be heading more toward team-ups and guest stars. Nowhere is this more blatant, however, than the inexcusable bait-and-switch here. The Painter of a Thousand Perils is a fantastically Silver Age villain, and the image above of the Human Torch being attacked by his teammates is an exciting one. But while such a thing does in fact occur in the comic, it only happens on the second-to-last page of the story! If the tale weren't so darned enjoyable anyway, we just might be upset.
"Look behind you! A three-headed monkey!"