Thursday, February 24, 2011

115: Amazing Spider-Man #9

Amazing Spider-Man #9
November 12, 1963

  • Oh no - Aunt May's sick! Yes, this issue features the first appearance of not only a classic Spidey villain, but also the classic trope that will become so well-known (and, in time, so overused) that it will eventually become one of the go-to items in any comprehensive parody. And understandably so, for it's an element of danger that can never really go anywhere or develop into anything more interesting than its own precipice: either Aunt May can stay bedridden for good (which is both depressing and boring), or she can get better (in which case the element goes away), or she can worsen and die (in which case the character goes away). Shockingly, all three methods have been tried at one point or another. But for now at least, it's a great reinforcement of the idea that there's only so much Peter can do, and much as it weighs on him, there are still some problems he can never fix for good.

    The pained expression, the slumped posture, the darkened room:
    Ditko's skilled art conveys the discouraging fear of the one enemy Peter can never defeat.

  • Meanwhile, the baddie for this story is Electro, the superpowered nom de guerre of Max Dillon. (And take a moment to roll those syllables - Max Dillon - over your tongue. He sounds bad already, doesn't he? Though much of Stan's dialogue may now seem overblown or antiquated, he still had the ear to come up with a great sounding name!) A guy with powers based in electricity seems such an obvious idea that it's frankly surprising it took Stan two years to come up with it - and, honestly, it's so straightforward that you'd expect the guy to pop up once or twice more, if at all, instead of becoming one of Spider-Man's most well-known foes. But part of the magic to be found in Lee & Ditko's Spider-Man can be seen in the fact that they were able to create characters that should have faded into obscurity like so many Tales to Astonish baddies, but instead became part of the enriching milieu of the book.

    Even after all the costumed heroes and villains cropping up over the last two years,
    the first response of the police is consistently one of amusement.  Gotta love it!

  • So: Aunt May has become so ill that her continued health requires an expensive medical operation, costing a thousand dollars that Peter simply doesn't have. But an opportunity arises - as does a moral quandary - when J. Jonah Jameson offers exactly that amount for photographic evidence that the dastardly Electro is really Spider-Man in disguise. (Even the side characters point out how little sense this makes: Why would one masked figure hide as another?) So, even though Peter and the readers know that Electro is someone else entirely, he grits his teeth and fakes a series of pictures proving that very thing. No bones about it; he lies, deliberately and premeditated, swindling his employer to the benefit of himself and his family. Yes, it's for a good cause, but it's undeniable that he's compromised his ideals, and colors Spider-Man with darker shades than before: How fine the line between hero and villain? How slippery might become that slope? The comic books of the 1960s might simply have been too early to really follow that line of questioning towards its conclusion; forty years later, Bendis & Maleev's excellent run on Daredevil might be one of the best explorations of this meaty idea. Still, the theme has been planted - perhaps shocking, for its time - that the world is a gray and messy one, and sometimes, when caught in the jaws of dilemma, there might be no answer that's yet clear and pure.

    Electro's big plan hits a small snag.

  • Nine issues in, we see that the relationships in the book are not static, but evolving: For instance, observe Flash Thompson, jock bully and thorn in Peter's side since day one, musing on the fact that Parker beat him in a boxing match last issue - something he never would have expected. Considering that there might be more to Peter than meets the eye, he decides to try talking to him as a regular guy for the first time, showing a capacity for self-reflection equally unexpected. (It doesn't take, of course, as Peter - overly stressed and in a particularly foul mood - shoves him off. Still, the attempt is notable.) Similarly, Betty Brant, who Peter successfully flirted with in issue #7, shows an admirable wellspring of strength - for when she hears about May's illness she heads to the hospital to visit, and in an effectively somber moment sits with Peter in silence in the hall outside May's room, offering her support against his helplessness and despair. But she also harbors a secret from her past....

    Take heart, Pete: That day's just a couple months off!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

114: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5
November 5, 1963

  • Last issue, "Junior" Juniper was killed in action, and this one opens with Fury laying into his men like a maddened bull, forcing them through training maneuvers with a fierceness that lives up to his name. They hate it, of course, but understand (and even commiserate) that it's because he's so torn up over Juniper's death, as they are too. Stan's a canny judge of character, after all, and he has enough of an understanding of human psychology that he can show someone raging in denial over a loss, without having to belabor the point.

    The epic struggle with which Kirby portrays Dugan's climb - all part of training,
    nothing more - delivers the extra comic punch.

  • But this issue is most noteworthy for the introduction of villain Baron Strucker, later to become Nick Fury's major archenemy. Strucker is the first WWII baddie we've seen who will later return in the modern times, the "Marvel Age" - but before that, he will be seen in this book again and again as an irritant thorn plaguing Nick and his crew. The first few issues of the comic have been enjoyable thus far, but perhaps Stan realized that to ensure its success he needed to put into place some continuing elements, like the character subplots and returning nemeses to be found in his superhero fare.

    In future appearances, Strucker will become far more proactive in his designs.

  • Along those lines, we also see more of British Red Cross worker Pamela Hawley, who Fury met just last issue but is already described - in the narration, at least - as "the lovely light of his life." Aside from the Commandos themselves, the only recurring character to date has been that of their commanding officer, "Happy Sam" Sawyer. But here we get a second member of the supporting cast, and one from outside their ranks, at that - and her refined, cultured ways make her pairing with the brazen, uncouth Fury an interesting one.

    As with last issue, we're shown how vitally important the perception of winning
    was to each side - something harder to relate to today.  Also, Fury gets reamed.

  • As mentioned, at the beginning of the story Sgt. Fury takes out his rage over Juniper's death on the Howlers, punishing them as much as himself. Later, he's disciplined by Captain Sawyer with a demotion, forced to march alongside the Commandos not as their leader but simply as one of the men, and he rightly fears retribution for their earlier treatment at his hands. But instead, aware as they are of the grief that's directed his actions, they take care of him and look out for him - which, in his typically stoic and repressed style, seems to just confound and annoy him even further. But make no mistake, these men love their Sarge as they do each other - and we can only imagine how losing one of their own makes this all the more sharp.

    And yet seventy years later ... he's still around and fightin'!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

113: Tales to Astonish #52

Tales to Astonish #52
November 5, 1963

  • This issue features the first appearance of the Black Knight, a character concept recycled from Marvel's 1950s "Atlas Era", when the Knight had his own short-lived comic book and was essentially a medieval superhero, complete with secret identity. This new version would later be revealed to be a descendant of that first one, and would eventually pass the mantle to another blood relation, who would go on to become one of the Avengers for several years. It's an interesting case study, because DC has many so-called "legacy characters" - for instance, the Flash has a direct lineage from Jay Garrick in the Golden Age, to Barry Allen in the Silver Age, to Wally West in the modern - but Marvel generally doesn't, with the same character usually inhabiting the same superhero identity for the past fifty years. If one ignores Stan Lee's recycling of the Human Torch when he created the FF - since they've never drawn any real connection between the Golden Age character and Johnny Storm - then this could be Marvel's first!

    In a completely shocking opening, we find Hank Pym being unusually competent!
    Based on past history, we can expect one scene like this every few years.

  • Regarding our star characters, there's a bit of a breakthrough with Hank & Jan's relationship, though more casual readers might not notice the subtle change. When Janet first appeared, quickly declaring her love for Pym, he instantly rebuffed her: partly from mourning for his dead wife, partly from some unspecified age difference (he called her "a child"), and partly out of a sense of professionalism (claiming he only wants a partner, nothing more) - though note that these stories indicate an assumption that if a man and woman work closely together, they will naturally become an item as well. (When Jane Foster left Dr. Don Blake's employ to work for a rival doctor, the implication is because Blake won't return her feelings, and the new doctor will.) Clearly the writers have been going for a comedic pairing where the one is constantly fending off the advances of the other, as also typified in the duo of Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, yet the question has remained: How does Hank feel about Jan? Finally, in a life or death moment, Hank admits to himself the depths of those feelings. How soon this takes flight remains to be seen!

    See, he's just a big softy at heart.  All those moments of berating Jan for being a silly,
    spoiled girl were just his adorable way of saying he loves her.

  • On the art side of things, we have Dick Ayers take over as the new artist, following Jack Kirby's brief return for the last three issues. Dick was Kirby's inker on the first Pym story, as well as the handful of tales at the start of his superhero career, and he inked Jack's Giant-Man story last issue as well. So it's very much a return to form, as well as a deft way of passing the torch in a way that won't be jarring to regular readers, and Dick will remain on art for most of the next eight issues.

    To gain revenge on Pym, he creates a flying horse.  Really? Or: Brilliant scientist
    creates a flying horse; rides it simply as a vehicle for revenge.  Again:

  • Meanwhile, in "The Wonderful Wasp Tells a Tale", Janet spins the latest yarn to the residents of an orphanage, as opposed to last issue's visit to a veterans' home. The twist ending is less interesting and inventive than the last, but that's okay; as slight as these 5-page stories are (and a page and a half of that taken up with the framing device), they can't really be too great or too bad, but simply stand as quick, enjoyable, harmless entertainments. Note, however, that with the feature story rating an expanded count of 18 pages, up from its usual 13, this Wasp story is the only backup strip in the issue. The unconnected filler stories may not yet be completely over, but they're on the way out....

    Part of the reason the twist at the end fails may simply be that the possibilities conjectured
    display more imagination and inventiveness than the actual ending showed. Oh well - next!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

112: The X-Men #3

The X-Men #3
November 5, 1963

  • The first two issues were notable for just how off-model the characters were, as Stan had not yet found their personalities. This time out, however, it's surprising to see just how many of them he's zeroed in on. Observe, for example, Scott Summers, the team leader constantly worried about his power's destructive abilities; this active, physical repression informs his psyche as well, and his ultra-serious tone stands in contrast to the clowning around of the other boys. Stan has also realized that Hank McCoy could be far more interesting if played against type - the powerhouse and the "big brain" rolled into one, rather than just a typical brute - and Warren Worthington, the Angel, is now clearly set up as the rich, flashy, glamorous one of the bunch (as suspected from last month's guest appearance). But there's still room for misstep: Professor X detects the activity of a brand-new mutant over a great distance, all on his own - no Cerebro yet - and in a horribly conceived internal monologue, he grapples with his unspoken love for Jean Grey. You know, his teenage student. Stan must have realized the hideous inappropriateness shortly after it went to press, because the entire subject seems to have been subsequently stamped "LET US NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN."

    Ew!  No!  Stop it!

  • Meanwhile, the villain of the piece is The Blob, an immensely large man who can't be moved when he doesn't want to be, can't be hurt, and is incredibly strong. (Also, his true power may lie in being a jerk.) Before the X-Men approach him, he's content to be a cranky sideshow freak. However, once they tell him his abilities stem from being a mutant, he gets commensurately large delusions of grandeur, and declares himself king of the carnival - and soon, to be sure, the world. In other words, this is one occasion where the X-Men's intervention made things worse than if they'd simply left well enough alone!

    I love these short sequences that end in a silent panel (aside from sound effects).
    Stan certainly knows when to shut up and let the art speak for itself!

  • So. The X-Men track down the Blob and, despite his snotty attitude, they offer him membership into their ranks. (Did they have no standards of admission?) Laughing, he turns them down. They're shocked that anyone would decline an offer of entrance to their school, as if the very possibility never occurred to any of them - and further, the Professor pronounces that there's no way they can let the Blob leave with knowledge of who the X-Men really are. Cue the ominous music: The Prof therefore has to mindwipe him. Yes, just like last issue. Actually, by this point the Blob is attacking the school with the entire carny workforce, which means Xavier has to mindwipe an entire crowd! To our modern eyes, this casual manipulation of others' minds can't help but read as morally gray at best, and sickeningly scary at worst. Did the readers at the time not feel the same way? Stan certainly didn't; from the rest of the Professor's portrayal, it appears he really expected us to accept these actions simply because the Prof was The Man In Charge.

    Even though the Marvel books are becoming known for the seriousness and realism
    with which its characters are treated, there's still room enough for punctuated comic relief.

  • Interestingly, by this time we've seen the setting of carnivals and circuses a number of times, from The Ringmaster's circus to the one in which the Hulk recently hid. "Interesting" because the 1960s was perhaps the last heyday of such venues, before losing out to the growing competition of mass-produced entertainment such as movies, television, video games and more. But that glimpse into a bygone era is what I find so compelling! One of the most fascinating aspects of reading these old comics, especially in aggregate and in publication order, is how clearly they evoke the period of the time, whether the automatic respect of the patriarch, the motion pictures that captured the nation's consciousness, or the looks and fashions of everyday men and women. Taken together, they paint a detailed picture of the times - if you only know how to look.

    Already, this is the Beast countless fans would know and love for years to come:
    bold, daring, astonishingly smart, yet with a casual and easygoing wit. Success!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

111: The Avengers #3

Avengers #3
November 5, 1963

  • In Avengers #1, the team was pulled together by the perceived threat of the Hulk, though he was accepted as one of their own by the end - so the twist in their second issue, when he turns his back on them and leaves the group, was rather shocking. (If this was Stan's method of telling the readers that Anything Could Happen, it was certainly effective!) But he's too wild and dangerous of a threat to simply let roam, of course, so the Avengers open their third issue by declaring their intention to track him down. Though now he's not just a threat - he's a threat with a grudge...!

    If this were a cartoon, the next shot would be Giant-Man sliding slowly to the ground.

  • Further, we're starting to get a sense that Stan is maybe figuring out what works about the Hulk, and what doesn't. Banner still has the user-activated gamma machine (still a terrible idea) - yet this issue doesn't show him using it to become the Hulk, but only using it to turn back into Banner. Additionally, this might be the first time we see Banner turn into the monster from stress alone, and later in the tale that same level of excitement (or simple plot convenience?) turns him back into Banner. Whatever the details, the significant point is that Stan is finally starting to re-emphasize the Jekyll/Hyde curse so effectively conveyed in his first appearance, and rarely seen since: Banner's a nice guy. The Hulk's an angry brute. And he's changing back and forth against his will, regularly experiencing a loss of humanity - and unable to do anything about it.

    Thoughts of betrayal already?  Did Namor learn nothing
    from his own betrayal at the hands of Doom?

  • But hey, one morally gray threat isn't enough for this issue - so we get the return of Namor as well! Up to this point in the Sub-Mariner's 1960s revival, the quasi-villain has only been a Fantastic Four character (with a quick stopover in Strange Tales to fight the Human Torch). Having Subby break out of this narrowly-defined role shows Stan's further cross-pollination of the various Marvel titles - but then, that's as should be expected from a team made up of characters who all have their own titles. In fact, this issue also features guest appearances by the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and the X-Men (not to mention Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade) - in other words, every single superhero with their own comic, and then some! This is the current size and state of the Marvel Universe, its entirety seen for the first time in a single comic.

    Note that the referenced occasion came out just the previous month!
    Clearly Stan was planning meticulously and coordinating all.

  • That said, the comic can't win on all fronts. With three issues under its belt, we can safely declare that this title is all about Plot and Action - so much, in fact, that there's little room for anything else, and certainly no place for any significant character developments or interaction. But then again, that's understandable; any readers of a hero's primary book would surely feel cheated were any real developments to happen outside that main title - but it does mean that a team book would necessarily have to avoid any important developments. (This dilemma would be rendered moot the following year, with the sea change to occur in issue #16.) And even though last issue pointed out the change of identity that Hank Pym had undergone between issues #1 & #2, this time there's not even a word about Iron Man's new look; it's simply expected that the readers are keeping up with the game! In these first three issues, the one constant throughout has been change - and that will continue with #4 as well.

    Not to fear; the Hulk will turn up again quite soon....

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

110: Journey into Mystery #100

Journey into Mystery #100
November 5, 1963

  • Although the lead story is ostensibly the conclusion to the crimes of Mr. Hyde, the theme at its heart is concerned with the budding romance between Dr. Don Blake and his nurse, Jane Foster. So far these indications have been almost wholly concerned with mutual unspoken feelings while working side by side in Blake's medical office, but here - on the occasion of Jane's birthday - Don takes her out to dinner at a classy restaurant, the Ritz Terrace. Though Don makes sure to keep the depth of his feelings under wraps, at least until he can gain permission from Odin to pursue this love, it's nevertheless the first real steps at courtship that we've seen. (And certainly more attention than we've ever seen Hank Pym pay to Jan in the pages of Tales to Astonish!)

    Don & Jane on a date.  Classy yet relatable, the characters and setting make the scene
    successfully romantic - and all in the midst of a superhero yarn!

  • Meanwhile, Mr. Hyde continues to plot - even if his plots (and Stan's) seem a bit baffling. For instance, what's Hyde's purpose in this issue? Well, continued revenge against Don Blake, for no apparently good reason, and ... to steal a submarine. Why? Uh ... hey, why not? It is, I suppose, a step up from last issue's bank robbery - but it also shows that although Stan could create a threat with neat premise and an impressively fearsome visual (courtesy of the great Don Heck), the villain could yet be one rather lacking in motivation and character.

    And this is why I love Don Heck.  The closeup of the bomb and Hyde's craggy fingers,
    the glamour of Jane's coiffure and style, and Don Blake captive behind.  Gorgeous!

  • Still, the failures in the writing can be somewhat forgiven in light of our eventual surprise at getting such a downer ending. Hyde escapes, to vex the hero another day (though by now, that's nothing new). The police inform Thor that they know it was a disguised Hyde that robbed the bank last issue, and not Thor - even if they neglect to mention how they know, and it's never explained how such a thing was accomplished in the first place - but otherwise it's not much of a victory. At all. Plus, Odin's ticked: While watching the battle, he saw Jane stop Thor from capturing Mr. Hyde (in a misguided effort to save Don Blake), and he vows that such a person could never be worthy of being an immortal.

    I'm assuming this is one of the few times the bad guys are defeated with table spices.

  • Finally, in "Tales of Asgard" we get the first backup story starring Thor, as opposed to the exploits we've read thus far telling the ancient legends of Odin. But there's a twist: It's actually a story about Thor as a young boy, which serves to connect it to our feature story's hero while yet keeping it fresh. In this first tale from his childhood, we're treated to an adventure in which the boys Thor and Loki travel to the home of the Storm Giants to retrieve the golden apples stolen from the goddess Iduna. Although seeing such a tale from his past does make one wonder: What happened to Thor in between those early days, and Don discovering Thor's hammer in a Norwegian cave? It will be some time before that story is told....

    Young Thor's victory.  Note how the ending compels the reader to never miss a single
    instalment.  After all, you wouldn't want to miss the issue when he finally succeeds, would you?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

109: Fantastic Four #22

Fantastic Four #22
October 8, 1963

  • Hurrah! A milestone is reached, as Sue Storm develops her new powers. For quite some time, readers have been unimpressed with Sue's contributions to the team, and Stan heard the complaints - even if he wasn't quite sure how to address them. Finally, though, he's figured out how to fix one of the main problems with her powers up to this point - namely, that all she could do with invisibility was hide herself. (Could it be that Stan finally realized the causal relation of one to the other?) So now he addresses it and then some: First, she gains the ability to create invisible force fields, of different sizes, shapes, and strengths. And secondly, instead of only being able to hide herself, she now can turn other people and objects invisible too. Although, oddly, this originally came with a bizarre limitation that Stan felt the need to spell out no fewer than three times in the course of the issue - that if she turns someone else invisible, it makes her become visible, and vice versa. However, it doesn't take a lot of reflection to realize that this doesn't make a lot of sense (why should turning someone else visible again make her disappear?), and this would soon be dropped.

    What?  Don't most buildings come zoned for missiles?

  • Meanwhile, despite all indications from the cover, the main complication the FF have to grapple with during the first half of the story is actually ... their neighbors. Appropriately enough for a story that revisits their very first issue, and the groundbreaking verisimilitude of character that issue represented, the four find themselves seemingly mired in real-world problems. From questions of their building's zoning regulations, to noise complaints and safety concerns, we see Stan asking the question of what if people with superpowers lived in our world, the real world - and how would that world affect them? In fact, it's so refreshing of a change from how superhero comics had been treated up till that point (and especially across the street at DC, in the pristine and uncomplicated adventures of Superman and the like), that it's rather frustrating to see those developments undermined by the requisite plot twist which reveals that all these problems had been engineered by the Mole Man, in a convoluted bid to lure them out to his new island....

    Sue testing her new abilities, Reed's exasperation, and the jokes of Ben & Johnny.
    Quite a full scene!

  • Ah yes - the Mole Man. Despite all the times the FF have faced off against Doctor Doom and Namor, this is the first time old Moley has returned since their debut. And it's interesting to realize why he's never become a major adversary to the four, because although he hasn't changed since their first meeting - indeed, his master plan this appearance is almost wholly a retread of that first - the Fantastic Four certainly have. Not just the Four either; the whole line of Marvel Comics superheroes has been coming together, and forming a new age, what Stan in his endless efforts at self-promotion had already taken to calling "The Marvel Age of Comics". Having seen the course that's been charted over these 108 (so far) comics to date, a reread of Fantastic Four #1 reveals just how much it still belonged to the previous age - the 1950s era of cheap thrills and monster comics.

    It might have been more fear-inducing had he actually come up with
    different scheme than before....

  • Okay, so the Mole Man's Wacky Plan: First, he installs mechanical apparatuses under the various capital cities of the world, to steal them away to his subterranean lands. Then, he banks on each side of the Iron Curtain overreacting to such a degree that World War III is swiftly launched, and the surface world bombs itself into extinction. (Perhaps he took some cues from "The Saga of the Sneepers"?) Between the Cold War paranoia contained therein, and the dangers of radioactivity featured on the cover, Stan's certainly playing up all the fears we've come to know him for....

    While one of Stan's hallmarks was never talking down to his readers, this frankly embarrassing
    panel shows that even he could have his occasional off days.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

108: Tales of Suspense #49

Tales of Suspense #49
October 8, 1963

  • Guest-starring the X-Men! Well, Angel, to be precise. Which seems a bit ... odd. Oh, it makes perfect sense that Stan would want to showcase his new title in another book and market them a bit more. But ... the Angel? I know The X-Men has only been around for a couple of issues so far, and hasn't had much of a chance to really develop the characters - and yet, the Angel isn't the team member I would have thought to be most appealing or interesting. Really, in a setting as weird and wondrous as the Marvel world has rapidly become, the ability to fly is as unremarkable of a power as ... well, the ability to shrink. (Note that characters such as the Human Torch, Sub-Mariner and Iron Man all possess the power of flight, and in ways that are completely secondary to their main abilities.)

    I feel this way every morning when I wake.

  • Although the Angel is the main guest-star / temporary villain of the piece (after flying over Tony Stark's nearby atomic test site, the nuclear explosion turns him EVIL!), the rest of the X-Men appear as well, and in not just a quick cameo. When the dark Angel angrily tells them that he's quit the team, they realize something must be wrong and immediately launch into action. From then on, it's the X-Men's story almost as much as it is Iron Man's. All of the X-Men get good face time, introducing the characters to readers who might not have picked up their book yet - and providing good reason as to why they should! On the other hand, not faring nearly as well in the guest department are the Avengers, the other members of which simply receive one panel apiece to show why they couldn't answer the X-Men's call for help, leaving it just to Tony. But note that this is the first acknowledgment of Tony's new team in Tales of Suspense! (In fact, it might be their first mention outside their own book at all.)

    But if he leaves now, he'll never meet the menace of the Blob in issue #3!
    (Wait.  Could that have been his plan all along?)

  • A word about the art: As previously discussed, this is the third (and last) part of the three-issue guest-stint by Steve Ditko. In each of those issues, Ditko received a different inker, with varying degrees of quality and effectiveness; as a result, only #48 looks really, blatantly like Ditko to the untrained eye. This time out, his inker is Paul Reinman, and while the inking is certainly competent, the combination does sadly look a bit bland. Fortunately, next month Don Heck returns on art, where he will stay for the next two years - and I, for one, couldn't be happier!

    These two scenes actually appear on two separate pages, mirroring each other.
    But I love how they play out, and I think they go grandly together.

  • Still, when all is said and done, it's an odd story. It's a simple story, to be sure, though not as egregious as being one story-length fight scene (as also hit the stands this same week). And although very little happens in it, the character flourishes are interesting enough that it's not a boring comic. But it's also not an exciting one. So, was this a successful comic, do you think? Well, that depends on what it was going for, I suppose. In the area of cross-promotion, I think it has to be considered a pretty decent success. But was it successful at being a great Iron Man story...? Well, as mentioned, it's not bad, per se - but it's, frankly, not all that memorable either.

    Somehow, I've a feeling they'll see each other again....

  • Bonus! In Tales to Astonish #51, Marvel began a new (if ultimately short-lived) backup feature "The Wonderful Wasp Tells a Tale!", in which a small framing segment shows Janet Van Dyne telling stories. This new method was clearly something Stan was testing out, as this issue of Suspense gives us the first instalment of a similar feature entitled "Tales of the Watcher", starring the cosmic observer who first appeared in Fantastic Four #13. Just like the Wasp backup, it's by the same creative team of Stan Lee (plot), Larry Lieber (script and pencils), and George Roussos (inks), and they turn out just as enjoyable of an effort here. Sadly, these tales have never been reprinted in any Marvel Masterworks, as the framing device was felt to be too slight as to warrant the interest.

    In this first tale, we're told of the Sneepers, distant aliens intent on destroying
    the human race - until their remote findings indicate we're fast on that path for them....