Tuesday, May 24, 2011

140: Tales of Suspense #53

Tales of Suspense #53
February 11, 1964

  • "Script by N. Korok", I read, and ask: Who the heck's that?! Wikipedia informs me that it was the pen name of Don Rico, who first worked during comics' Golden Age, along with a 19-year-old Stan Lee. A website run by one of his children has more information available - but otherwise, data on this man seems somewhat scarce. For instance: In the 1950s, Don had been one of the main writers for the proto-Marvel line of Atlas Comics. So why did he return only to write this issue (and the last), and then a random Doctor Strange story nearly a year later? In fact, given that Stan had taken on full writing chores for all the feature heroes several months back, why are these stories once again scripted by someone else at all? Was Stan feeling a momentary time crunch? Or was Don (who by this period was making a living as a paperback novelist) in a financial pinch, suddenly needing some quick work, and so Stan tossed an easy job to an old colleague for a favor? Given that Don himself passed away in 1985, and taking into account Stan's famously shoddy memory, we may never know.

    How does someone with an appearance so elegant
    possibly remain in hiding so well?

  • The story itself sees the return of "Madame Natasha", the Black Widow. After the events of last issue, the Russian spy has been living in exile on American soil, watching for a chance to make up for her last mission's failure and thus ingratiate herself with her Soviet superiors. Fortunately, she sees this opportunity when Tony Stark invents a powerful antigravity ray whose applications seem unlimited! Through a mixture of trickery and the arrogance of Stark, she manages to steal it, but the Commie agents sent to "help" her bungle the operation, and the device - created through accident, and thus irreplaceable - is destroyed in the chaos. And yet at the end of the tale, the Widow has once again fled the scene; clearly, Stan Lee knew that they'd only scratched the surface of this femme fatale.

    You heard it here first:
    Commies Just Don't Dig Us.

  • As the cover tells us, this month's backup strip contains a real treat - the origin of the Watcher himself! Although Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish have had backup stories narrated by the Wasp and the Watcher, they've thus far been tales clearly uninvolved with Marvel's increasingly connected superhero world. As a result, this is the first time that the subject of one of these stories has dealt specifically with (what would come to be called) Marvel Universe material. And it won't be the last!

    Even a Watcher knows the importance of good hygiene.

  • So how does the origin hold up, once told? After all, these 5-page stories are fine for short fables we're not going to spend much time thinking about, but what about when one details a character we've seen before, and will see again? Will such little space suffice? Surprisingly, the answer is a resounding yes! In the Watcher's first appearance, the character told the Fantastic Four that his race never involved themselves in the affairs of others, but neglected to explain why. The story behind his people's conviction is finally told here - and told so well that it's never since needed to be patched up, rebooted or retconned out of existence. Not bad for a mere 5-pager!