Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Classics - Strange Tales #120

Continuing our Strange Tales reviews, lets move back a little over a year from our last review, when Nick Fury took over the front half of this "split" comic.

From issue #100 to #134, the front half starred the Human Torch (with frequent guest appearances by other members of the Fantastic Four).

This issue from 1964 was a natural, as the Torch met his "opposite number" from the X-Men, the mutant hero Iceman. But when this comic hit the stands, young Chuck didn't pick it up.

Not because I didn't want it - I just never saw the issue. (Circulation was hit-and-miss in the early '60s.)

But the adventure was mentioned in an issue of the Fantastic Four, so I searched for it - but I didn't manage a copy until a couple of decades later, when I picked it up at a comics convention.

I wish I could say it was worth the wait - but it really wasn't, even though the story features the team supreme - Stan Lee on script and Jack Kirby on art (with Dick Ayers inking).

But with only 14 pages to work with, not every issue could be a classic. This one is pretty straightforward, as the two heroes happen to be on a teen cruise that's hijacked by the evil Captain Barracuda (who was never heard from again after this issue, as far as I know).

The battle was inventive, and it was fun to see the two heroes working together, but there's really nothing exceptional here.

The second half of the issue goes to Dr. Strange, with Stan Lee and Steve Ditko handling the creative chores. It's not one of his better adventures, as he confronts the terrors of a haunted house with a plot twist torn from the pages of The Twilight Zone.

Like the first half of the comic, the art is exceptional, but the story is mighty thin.

That was typical for these split comics - they really didn't establish strong storylines until they started using continued stories, which didn't really kick in until 1965.

At that point, the stories (and artists) could spend more time developing the plot and characters - but it didn't do the Torch any good, since by that time he (and Giant-Man) had been booted back to their team books (though it took a while for Giant-Man to return to the Avengers).

The pre-'65 stories were solid fare for kids, but Marvel - and Stan and Jack and Steve - were just about to hit their stride.

Grade: B-



Glen Davis said...

It seems natural to team up the Human Torch with Iceman. For some reason Johnny Storm always seems best on some sort of team.

Chuck said...

Glen, I agree, I think Johnny works best when he's playing off other characters, rather than as a stand-alone hero. That's probably why the Thing became a regular co-star late in the run.