Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Classics - Strange Tales #117

   As best as I can remember, this issue of Strange Tales from 1964 was my first encounter with Dr. Strange.

   I was a big fan of the Fantastic Four, so it was natural to want to follow the solo adventures of the Human Torch in this title.

   The adventures rarely lived up to the stories in the FF, but they were still fun and each issue included backup fantasy or science fiction stories, mostly drawn by Steve Ditko and written by Stan Lee.

   This issue's conflict with the Eel was pretty straightforward stuff, with a bit of humor injected by Johnny Storm's visiting teammates.

   The distribution of Strange Tales was pretty spotty, I assume, since I'd go months without seeing a new issue. So even though Dr. Strange premiered back in issue #110 and appeared in #111, finally becoming a regular feature with #114, I had missed him - until #117.

   My only memory of reading that first encounter is that I was absolutely fascinated. Ditko's art was amazing to view - dark, shadowy, loaded with mood and texture and unusual characters.

   There was no origin provided, but the story was clear and easy to follow. The story followed a mystic attack by the evil Baron Mordo, first on Dr. Strange and his home - and then on his teacher, the Ancient One.

      Trapped in his home (which has been moved to an unknown dimension), Strange releases his ethereal self (his astral form) and seeks out Mordo - only to be trapped again in a cylinder of mystic energy.

   Mordo leaves to attack his aged foe, and Strange must escape and rescue his teacher.

   And let me point out that all this happens - from beginning to final battle, in the space of eight pages!

   The main character is still in his formative stages here. There's no scarlet Cloak of Levitation (he wears a dark blue cape), the Eye of Agamotto is a small, square amulet (he receives the Eye and Cloak in a later adventure), and his eyes have a squinted, somewhat oriental look to them (they're eventually drawn as Caucasian eyes) - but his tunic, tights and gloves stay mostly the same.

   But even at this early stage - this is his sixth adventure - the format is set, and a mystic world of menaces and challenges is established.

   After this issue I made a greater effort to find Strange Tales, and I missed only a few. The Torch's adventures never quite caught on - he'd eventually be replaced by the more dynamic Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD - but Dr. Strange's adventures just got better and more incrfedible with each issue.

Grade: A



El Vox said...

Good review. I can't remember when I first encountered Dr. Strange, probably a Strange Tales too. I'm pretty sure I was drawn to the artwork and just thumbing through the comic briefly at the convenience store it indeed spoke of some weird, strange, and trippy tale.

El Vox said...

Pretty interesting article on Dr. Strange: https://nick-caputo.blogspot.com/