Fantastic Four 7

ff7

It’s time to turn our attention back to the Marvel superhero universe, so let’s revisit the Fantastic Four, and see what they are up to in issue 7.

Synopsis

The issue starts with a shot of a large-headed alien known as Kurrgo. It transpires that he has been monitoring the Fantastic Four from his Planet X. Kurrgo explains that Planet X is far superior to Earth in every way. However, despite Planet X’s superiority, it seems that it will be outlasted by Earth due to a runaway asteroid. Escaping Planet X is not an option as there are only two spaceships on the planet (for they never cared for space travel). One of these ships has been put to good use though, it is blazing its way to Earth to find the Fantastic Four, as they may be the only people that can save Planet X.

We next turn our attention the foursome. They are in their headquarters and have been invited to Washington at short notice for a dinner in their honour. The team are not overly enthused with the offer. However, Reed insists they attend despite the excuses they make.

Meanwhile, a strange new shape enters Earth’s atmosphere and it is soon detected by a military satellite, but they can’t quite work out what it is. The Fantastic Four, en route to Washington in their Fantasticar, also notice a shape in the sky but have no time to investigate. We see the spaceship land in a desolate valley, and a mighty robot emerge. It begins scanning for the Fantastic Four.

The Fantastic Four reach their destination and are soon presented with a trophy, as a symbol of the nation’s gratitude. The robot is soon approaching Washington, and reports back to his master on Planet X of his progress. The ship then emits a strange vibration that envelops the whole city, causing its inhabitants to start acting strangely and aggressively.

The effects of the vibration are even felt at the dinner attended by the Fantastic Four. The sentiment soon changes and the team are accused of being menaces. The Fantastic Four make a dash for their escape and are soon followed by a group of soldiers in chase. They manage to evade their pursuers and leave in the Fansticar, but it seems this was exactly what the robot from Planet X wanted.

The spaceship goes after the Fantasticar, and Reed at the steering panel attempts to evade it. He manages to get them back to their headquarters, but the spaceship is still in pursuit. They land on the roof, as does the spaceship and the giant robot emerges. The robot then projects images of how the public have turned against the team and are trying to storm into their headquarters. The robot informs the team that wherever they go on Earth, they will be seen as enemies and will eventually be captured and thrown into prison. Their only option is to go with the robot to Planet X. Reed reluctantly agrees but Ben smells a rat. Reed then realises that the robot would not have traveled all this way just to save the Fantastic Four. The robot admits this is true and explains that his master has a favour to ask the team once they reach his home. Reed accepts the offer.

The spaceships finally reaches Planet X, and the team are gently transported to its surface on a beam of anti-gravity matter. They are introduced to Kurrgo, who starts to explain how superior Planet X is to Earth. However, he then adds that there is one thing they have not solved, the approach of the onrushing asteroid.

Whilst Reed tries to figure out a solution, Ben decides the best approach is to force the robot to take them back to Earth. He is soon easily out-muscled though. The team then agree that their best way out of this is to save the plant, but they do not have much time, it is already started to break up.

Reed’s solution is to build a device that fires reducing gas. He tests the device on two of Kurrgo’s subjects, and they are soon reduced in size a thousandfold. Reed’s solution is to fire the reducing gas at all five billion inhabitants of Planet X, so that they can fit onto the two spaceships. They can then fly to another planet, before returning to their normal size. They manage to reduce the population and board the spaceship themselves, just in time before Planet X is destroyed.

However, Kurrgo sees an opportunity here. It is clear he has no love for his subjects and decides to use the enlarging gas on himself only, so that he more easily rule over his (miniature) subjects on their new home. However, in his maniacal desire to be an absolute master, Kurrgo is unable to reach the ship in time. He is destroyed along with Planet X, but its five billion inhabitants manage to escape.

Meanwhile, back on the Fantastic Four’s ship, Sue asks Reed whether he is sure that the enlarging gas will work, as he did not have time to test it. Reed ominously replies that there is no enlarging gas, he merely said this to ensure all the inhabitants left the planet. And anyway, what difference does it make if they remain tiny, if they are all the same size…

Comment

Well that was an unexpectedly dark ending! And perhaps a first glance and the more ruthless side to Reed, and the impact this has on decision making. Otherwise, an entertaining issue, which continues the dynamic within the team.

One oddity, however, (yes there can still be oddities about a story involving a planet of aliens about to be destroyed by an asteroid!) is why the reducing gas was not used on the asteroid, rather than on the entire population! But what do I, as a mere mortal know.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – October 1962

In a new feature, we will also look at what was going on at the time of the cover date of this issue.  And what a way to kick off with none other than the Cuban missile crisis! You can read more about that here.

Financials

Cover Price – 12c

At the time of writing, the most expensive listing for this issue on eBay is a staggering price of $27,500, although it is in excellent condition.

Coming next

Journey into Mystery 85

Tales to Astonish 36

Strange Tales 101

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

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The Incredible Hulk 3

Hulk3

We last left the Hulk in a cave in issue 2, so let’s check in to see what he is up to.

Synopsis

We find the Hulk banging against the walls of his prison, but they are not giving way.  Outside, Rick Jones is hoping that the wall will hold till daybreak, when the Hull will revert back to Bruce Banner. Rick briefly reminisces over the events leading to the Hulk’s self-inflicted imprisonment, before deciding to leave, confident that the wall will hold.

He is soon stopped by military police, and they explain to him that they have been keeping the whole area under surveillance and have orders from General Ross to bring him in. Ross is having a staff meeting , where they are discussing how they will use Rick to bring in the Hulk. Rick enters the meeting and he is told why he must bring in the Hulk… so that they can use him to test a new missile. Only the Hulk can withstand the g-force of the missile when it is fired.

Rick ponders the request and then decides to comply, for his country. He returns to the cave and opens the door. The Hulk smashes through, and seeing Rick thinks he is to blame for holding him in the cell and gives chase. Rick leads the Hulk towards the waiting army.

Rick gets to the missile, and climbs the steps, with the Hulk still in pursuit. He lures him in, and then the signal is given for the door to close. The Hulk is trapped inside and the missile is fired.

The missile soon enters the atmosphere and is then bathed in sunlight, causing the Hulk to turn back into Bruce. But the missile continues, and then enters a radiation belt, causing Bruce to once again be bathed in rays of intense radiation. The missile then escapes the radiation belt and keeps on, whilst Rick looks on from the ground below.

Rick returns to the control center and hears the army personnel congratulating themselves for getting rid of the Hulk. He quickly realises that it was a trick. Rick decides to take action in his own hands and moves to the control panel. As he touches the switch, radiation is fed back from the missile to the base causing Rick to recoil in pain, and unbeknownst to him, creates a link to the Hulk.

As a result of the switch being pressed, the rocket package drops away from the missile and crash lands back on earth. Rick rushes to the scene as the rocket crashes down, and is astonished to see the Hulk emerge into daylight. And not only has he emerged, but he is also now a glowing green colour.

The Hulk again blames Rick for his predicament and effortlessly picks up the rocket and throws it at him.  He then gives chase and once he corners Rick, vows to take revenge. Rick pleads for the Hulk to stop, and amazingly he does. He then gives a series of instructions and the Hulk follows them. He appears to be under his command. He instructs him to take him down from the rocks where their chase ended.

Rick returns home and climbs into bed, but before doings so orders the Hulk not to move. But only a few moments later, he hears something and awakes to find the Hulk no longer there. Rick follows the trail of destruction to find the Hulk in the middle of the town causing mayhem. The state troopers arrive but are not able to stop him. Rick intervenes and tells the Hulk that they have to get out of there. The Hulk scoops up Rick and leaps away, almost flying.

They land miles away, on the outskirts of the town. Rick realises that the pressure of controlling the Hulk is too much, so leads him again to the underground cave and orders the Hulk inside. We then get a brief interlude where the origin of the Hulk is retold, before we are introduced to a new villain, the Ringmaster!

The story takes us to a deserted town called Plainville, that was bustling a mere 24 hours earlier. We find two FBI agents driving through, and they explain that Plainville is just like two other towns they have visited, where every resident appears frozen in time. Not only that, but the town has also been ransacked and the bank vaults emptied.

Then, one of the agents notices a poster for a circus on the wall and remembers that he saw similar posters in the other towns. We are then taken to the circus, where the Ringmaster is centre stage and hypnotizing the entire audience. Once under his control, the Ringmaster orders his men to rob the audience of their possessions. Once they have robbed the audience and the entire town, the circus moves on in the night.

Meanwhile, once Rick is satisfied that the Hulk is safe, he decides to visit his aunt to get some food and wash up. After dinner, Rick pops into town and notices that the circus is performing that night. He heads in and the Ringmaster soon performs his hypnotic act. Rick is about to be cast under the spell but is still able to think and calls for the Hulk to help in his mind. The Hulk senses this and escaping his cell, runs straight for the circus.

The circus performers try to stop the Hulk and manage to tie him up in rope. They decide that the Hulk should become part of their act, drawing in even more crowds. The Ringmaster is about to perform his hypnosis again, when he is interrupted by the FBI. It would appear that once the victims of the earlier towns snapped out of their hypnosis, they told the FBI everything. Rick is also there and hearing his voice snaps free from his chains.

They try and fail to capture the Hulk again, and sensing defeat, the Ringmaster makes his escape. The Hulk notices this and manages him to catch him before the army appear. They point their guns at the Hulk, bur Rick orders the Hulk to jump. He leaps through the circus tent and away into the distance, leaving an infuriated General Ross behind.

Comment

A story of two halves here, the first following on from the end of issue 2 culminating in the Hulk’s powers changing, and the second introducing the Ringmaster.

As we can see here, the Hulk is now green and is not affected by the moon. However, he appears to be under the control of Rick. We also see the famous Hulk jump for the first time although his powers are still considerably weaker than what we are accustomed to, with the circus performers able to overpower and capture him.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – September 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for The Incredible Hulk 3 on eBay is $3,450.

Coming next

 

Journey into Mystery 84

Tales to Astonish 35

Star Wars 3

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 6

FF6

When last we left the Fantastic Four, they had just met and defeated Dr Doom for the first time. So in what will soon be a Marvel tradition, we get a team-up of villains in issue 6.

Synopsis

The story starts with the Human Torch flying high over the city, watched by an admiring crowd. As the crowd debates whether it really is him, the Invisible Girl rushes through the crows, knocking them over in her wake. The crowd is uneasy that she may have been amongst them all this time, and suspect something must be up for both the Human Torch and the Invisible Girl to be making appearances.

We soon find out that the Human Torch has been scouting for Dr Doom. Inside the Baxter Building, home of the Fantastic Four’s Headquarters, Sue sees a delivery boy is struggling to call the express elevator. Sue explains that it only works if you have a secret belt buckle to call it. Sue makes her way up in the elevator, and we see a nice diagram of the headquarters as she does so.

The Human Torch reports that he hasn’t been able to find any sign of Dr Doom, and Ben suggests that he could do a better job of finding him. Meanwhile, Reed is preoccupied with a large stack of mail he is going through. Reed finds a letter from a boy in hospital, and realising the hospital is opposite their headquarters, stretches over to pay him a visit. But not all the mail is complimentary, and Johnny reads one letter from the “Yancy Street Gang” threatening the Thing.

Meanwhile, out at sea, some fisherman spot porpoise but don’t realise that they are under the command of the Submariner. Up above, a plane flies over piloted by Dr Doom. Doom manages to get his attention and they agree to become allies in their fight against the Fantastic Four. Doom then converts his plane into an aero-sub and dives into the ocean following Namor.  He leads him through the ruins of his city and into his home, where the two can talk and plot some more.

Doom tells Namor that he must forget about his infatuation with Sue, if he is to avenge the destruction of his city by the humans, caused by the apparent testing of an H-Bomb. Namor agrees to help Doom, but vows not to hurt Sue. Doom reluctantly agrees. Doom then explains his plan, using a new weapon called “the Grabber“, which is powered by magnetic force and can “grab” seemingly any object, no matter its weight. Doom dismantles the weapon and asks Namor to hide it on him, until the time comes to use it against the Fantastic Four.

Namor takes off and heads straight for the city. Back in the headquarters, Johnny finds a hidden portrait of Namor and teases Sue about it. Johnny burns the photo as Ben and Reed come to see what is causing the commotion. They ask Sue to explain herself, but she cannot. Then, at that very instance, Namor appears in front of them. He explains he is on a mission of peace but Ben and Johnny do not believe him. They go to attack Namor, but Sue stands in their way.

Johnny battles Namor, but his power soon begins to fade, and Namor is left untouched. Namor explains he is only there to request company, but Reed and Johnny do not believe him and decide to search the headquarters in case Namor has a secret. They are unable to find anything and Namor tells the Fantastic Four that he has decided to take a holiday and will be taking Sue with him.  And that moment, a loud crack is heard and the whole building rises into the air. Namor then explains that whilst he may have planted the trap, it is Doom who is controlling it.

FantasticFour06-Baxter-Building-stolen1

Namor explains that Doom has double-crossed him as the building reaches thousands of feet above the city. Doom begins to celebrate that he has managed to capture the only beings capable of stopping his plan to take over the world. The Fantastic Four decide to fight back, and Johnny leaps out of the window. But there is not enough oxygen in the air to feed his flames and he falls towards the ground. Reed catches him, and then using Ben as an anchor, he stretches himself in a bid to reach Doom’s plane. But Doom is able to ward Reed off by firing one of the rockets on his plane.

Ben decides it is up to him to take action, but Namor disagrees and they grapple. They are soon interrupted by Doom’s voice as he explains he is sending the building on a collision course with the sun. The team are resigned to failure but Namor vows to fight on and asks if there is any water tankers in the building. There is, and this re-energises him before he takes aim at Doom.

Namor is able to reach the plane, but is not able to break into where Doom is. Doom retaliates by sending an electric charge through Namor. But Doom soon realises that by doing so, he is no longer able to control his plane. And then, Namor explains that he was able to absorb the charge and will now fire it back, but Doom is able to escape.

The building, no longer being pulled by Doom, crash lands back on Earth. The team are thankful for Namor’s help, but are still unsure if he is an ally or enemy. Johnny then finds the weapon that Namor hid in the building and then send it to the plane, which Namor then causes to crash into the water.

Comment

So, we get a team-up but it doesn’t take long to unravel. Doom shows that he cannot be trusted by anyone, and Namor shows that there is perhaps more than one side to him.

Within the team itself, we see more of Sue’s possible feelings towards Namor, whilst Johnny and Ben continue to bicker. Lastly, we also see reference to the Yancy St Gang for the first time, and the philanthropy of Reed Richards.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – September 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Fantastic Four 6 on eBay is £995.

Coming next

 

The Incredible Hulk 3

Journey into Mystery 84

Tales to Astonish 35

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Amazing Fantasy 15

Amazing Fantasy 15

We’ve had the Fantastic Four, then the Incredible Hulk. In our last retrospective, we saw Thor introduced, and not it is time for the most famous of all the Marvel superheroes, the Amazing Spider-Man.  As with Thor, Spider-Man makes his introduction in an anthology title, Amazing Fantasy.

Synopsis

The story starts with a group of teenagers talking about an upcoming dance. They need one more gut for the dance, and one of them suggests Peter Parker. The suggestion is laughed at, all within earshot of Peter in the background.

We learn that Peter lives with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, and they clearly love him very much. Peter is popular at school, but not with his fellow students. Instead, he is thought fondly of by the teachers at Midtown High. Chief amongst the students who tease Peter is Flash Thompson.

Peter notices that there is a new exhibit that evening at the Science Hall and ask his classmates if they would like to go along. They again laugh at him and drive off. Unperturbed, Peter attends the exhibit. He becomes so engrossed in the exhibit that he does not notice a spider land on him. Unknown to Peter, the spider has absorbed a great amount of radioactivity, and Peter certainly notices when the spider bites him. Peter begins to feel strange and leaves the exhibit.

Peter starts to feel strange on his way home, as if his whole body is charged with energy. He is lost in his own thoughts when a car nearly runs him over. He instinctively jumps out of the way, and manages to stick to the wall.

AF15P03

To his amazement, Peter is able to climb the wall, and back down a cable again. Gliding like a spider on a web. Peter realises that the spider must have caused this. Peter then notices a sign for a local wrestling contest.

$100

TO THE MAN WHO CAN STAY IN THE RING THREE MINUTES WITH

CRUSHER HOGAN

Peter is keen to test out his powers more and signs up for the contest, albeit in disguise, with a mask over his head. Peter manages to avoid Crusher Hogan in the ring, and then, to everyone’s amazement, picks up the enormous wrestler and throws him back to the ground. The crowd lap it up and the organiser of the contest is keen to sign up Peter for more bouts. Peter agrees and sets about making a costume when he gets home. That of a spider.

But it’s not just a costume that Peter is working on. He is still the intellectual student from before the spider bite, and decides to use his knowledge to design some web-shooters. Al that’s left is a name, Spider-Man!

The webbing fired from the shooters sticks to walls and is as strong as cement, easily able to hold his weight.

The Spider-Man becomes a sensation, but Peter is keen to avoid the attention. Backstage, he notices a thief running past him, chased by a police officer. The officer asks for help, but Peter is through with being told what to do. He lets the thief escape.

Back home, Peter’s uncle and aunt have a surprise gift for him, a telescope. Peter is so happy and promises to himself to make sure they are always happy. But he couldn’t care less about the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, the Spider-Man continues to generate attention and coverage. One evening, on his way home, Peter notices a police car outside his home. He rushes back, to be told that his Uncle Ben has been shot. Distraught, Peter puts on his costume and goes out to find his uncle’s murderer. He races to the abandoned warehouse that the officer mentioned the suspect was hiding, and manages to capture him. It then suddenly dawns on him, the murderer is the same thief he let pass him by at the wrestling arena.

Peter leaves the murderer tied up in webbing for the police to find, whilst he goes off to deal with his guilt. Peter then realises that, “with great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

And so, a legend is born.

The other stories in this issue (not covered here) are: The Bell Ringer, Man in the Mummy Case and There are Martians Among Us.

Comments

A brief but poignant introduction to the most recogniseable Marvel superhero. All the character beats are there from the downtrodden student, the loving uncle and aunt, the spider powers and lastly and perhaps most importantly, the guilt. And all in just 12 pages!

From a powers perspective, we see Peter develop wall-crawling and create his own web-shooters.

Perhaps most surprising of all, is the lack of page time given to Aunt May and Uncle Ben.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – August 1962

Financial and further reading

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Amazing Fantasy 15 on eBay is $27, 995. This is for a restored version.

This issue can be read digitally at Marvel here, and in hardcopy in Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man volume 1 (collecting Amazing Fantasy 15 and Amazing Spider-Man 1-10), available from Amazon here.

Coming next

Star Wars (1977) 2

Fantastic Four 6

The Incredible Hulk 3

Journey into Mystery 84

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Journey into Mystery 83

journintomys83

And so we get to the introduction of the Mighty Thor, but not in his own title. Instead, he first appears in the pages of an anthology title, Journey into Mystery, which had already run for 82 issues.

Synopsis

The story begins in Norway, where a frail Dr Don Blake is on holiday. Unbeknownst to Don, an alien spaceship (there seem to be plenty of aliens landing on Earth in 1962!) lands behind him carrying seemingly rock-like creatures from Saturn. The atmosphere on Earth appears to give these creatures greater strength than they have on Saturn, making it all the easier for them to conquer.

A lone fisherman spots the creatures as they try out their new found powers. The fisherman runs off to a nearby village to warn the locals, but nobody believes him. Nobody except Dr Don Blake, who overhears the men talking. The next day, he goes to investigate.

He soon finds the creatures. He turns to leave, but steps on a twig and the sound alerts the rock-men. Unfortunately,. Don’s frail form does not allow him to run fast enough to get away, and he soon trips, stumbles and falls into a cave. He ventures deeper into the cave, hoping for another exit, but his way appears blocked. Just when he is about to give up, a wall he is leaning on gives way.

A secret chamber is revealed, and lying inside is a gnarled looking cane. Don picks up the cane to see if he can use it to lever himself out.  When he is unable to move the rock blocking his path, he slams the cane down, which causes a magnificent transformation. Don suddenly feels powerful, and the can has turned into a mighty hammer. That is not all, written on the hammer are the following words:

“WHOSOEVER HOLDS

THIS HAMMER, IF HE BE

WORTHY, SHALL

POSSESS THE POWER OF…

THOR”

Don know who Thor is, the legendary God of Thunder! He is easily able to move the boulder blocking his path now, and on leaving the cave he transforms back into the frail Don Blake. When he picks up the hammer again, he is again transformed into Thor. He tests his powers, and finds that his hammer returns to him when he throws.  He also appears to be able to control the weather.

Meanwhile, at a nearby NATO base, a fleet of flying objects is detected. The invaders notice the imminent interception and and fire a “monster image”. Soon a huge three-dimensional dragon appears in the sky and disperses the air force. Rockets are then fired at the ships, but they are not able to get through the force fields protecting the ships.

Don notices the attack, and fearing that NATO will not be able to stop the invaders,. strikes his cane on the ground and turns into Thor. The rock-men instantly note that the sky is no longer clear. Thor then flies into the air using his hammer and takes the attack to the rock-men. Thor is able to repel everything the rock-men throw at him, causing them to unleash the “Mechano-Monster”. The monster is ordered to destroy Thor.

Thor takes one swing of his hammer and obliterates the monster, causing the rock-men to abandon their attack and flee. Thor then notices soldiers approaching, and not wanting to be noticed, taps his cane again and turns back into Don Blake. Don is seen, but ignored by the soldiers, allowing him to slope away.

There are three other stories in this issue (The Perfect Crime, When the Jungle Sleeps and Discovery) but they are not covered in this blog.

Comments

The most interesting aspect of the introduction of Thor is his alter-ego, Don Blake. This will be particularly of surprise to fans of Thor who only know him through the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in keeping with the other Marvel super hero Hulk, the human alter-ego seems the exact opposite of the hero.

This is the shortest story we have covered to date, as it appears in an anthology title. In fact, it is not for another year before Thor makes an appearance in a full story.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – August 1962

Financials and further reading

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Journey into Mystery 83 on eBay is £10,709.

This issue can be read digitally at Marvel here, and in hardcopy in Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor volume 1 (collecting Journey into Mystery 83-100), available from Amazon here.

Coming next

Amazing Fantasy 15

Star Wars (1977) 2

Fantastic Four 6

The Incredible Hulk 3

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

The Incredible Hulk 2

Incredible Hulk 2

Fresh after his introduction in the previous issue, we rejoin the Hulk and Bruce Banner as they continue to come to terms with each other.

Synopsis

The issue begins with the Hulk appearing out of a swamp at night time. Local police are drawn to his presence, noting surprise that he is still alive.  As the townspeople are quick to hide behind closed doors, it looks as if nothing will stop the Hulk, until Rick Jones appears and appeals to him to stop. The Hulk momentarily pauses, before we are given a brief retelling of the events of last issue.

Back in the present, we see that a spaceship flying into our solar system, carrying the Toad Men! The ship then fires magnetic energy beams at the Earth. It becomes clear that the Toad Men are after the most brilliant scientific mind on the planet.

Meanwhile, we see Bruce and Rick dressed strangely carrying tools, but they are interrupted by General Ross and his daughter Betty. General Ross is unimpressed with Bruce, thinking that he hid when the Hulk last appeared, but Betty is quick to come to his defence. Bruce and Rick then head off to conduct a scientific experiment.

The pair stop at an underground cave, which will serve as a fortress to restrain Bruce when he changes into the Hulk.  They have created a ten foot concrete door which they help will be able to resist the power of the Hulk. Just then, they fall backwards and are pinned to the wall. The Toad Men have found their prey.

Bruce and Rick are taken to the Toad Men’s spaceship, where they are informed that there is a fleet of ships waiting to attack Earth. But first, they want to know how advanced scientifically the human population is. Bruce refuses to comply. Rick backs Bruce in his stance, but the Toad Men make clear they have no need for Rick, and send him back to Earth in an escape capsule.

Rick lands safely on Earth, just as night falls. And on the spaceship, Bruce turns into the Hulk. The Toad Men are astonished to find the Hulk in their ship, and the Hulk wastes little time in capturing the Toad Men. The Hulk then notices the weaponry on board, and realises that he can now become the hunter, rather than the hunted.

Back at the army base, the Toad Men’s ship has been picked up on radar and General Ross orders it to be shot down. They strike the ship, sending it crashing down to Earth. Soldiers surround the ship, but it is Bruce that appears from the wreckage. Whilst General Ross accuses Bruce of trying to attack his country, the Toad Men escape and head below ground. Once clear, they fire a magnetic flare, signalling the rest of the fleet to attack.

Meanwhile, Bruce has been placed in a cell, much to Rick’s anger. As General Ross makes preparations for guarding Bruce, he is informed of the alien invasion. The Toad Men make their intentions clear and General Ross vows to save mankind. It is now night, and Bruce is transforming once again into the Hulk. He easily manages to escape from his cell and heads towards the home of the person who imprisoned him, General Ross. But at the house, he finds Betty instead.

The soldiers converge on the Ross home, but Rick manages to fight his way through. All the soldiers are unable to stop the Hulk as he grabs Betty and runs. As Betty tries to reason with the Hulk, Rick manages to catch up with them at Bruce’s lab. The Hulk is not pleased to see Rick and goes to attack him but is stopped when the sun begins to rise. Luckily for Bruce, Betty had passed out so did not see the transformation. Bruce takes her to safety before plotting with Rick about how to stop the Toad Men.

Bruce realises that the only weapon on Earth that could stop them is the same gamma gun that turned him into the Hulk. Despite the General and soldiers are not far behind, Bruce is able to fire the weapon, which has the effect of dispersing the alien fleet.

Bruce’s actions in saving the planet mean that he can no longer be held by General Ross, much to his clear annoyance. He makes it clear that he does not trust Bruce, whilst the last image is of the Hulk in the underground cave.

Will it be enough to stop him? We will have to wait until issue 3 to find out.

Comments

A real mixed bag of an issue here.  We have the continuing story of Bruce and the Hulk intermingled with the out of this world attack by the Toad Men. We do get some interesting snippets into the Hulk’s psyche though, including the Hulk’s hatred for humans and his willingness to attack them. The only people seemingly able to get through to the Hulk are Rick and Betty, but even this is not guaranteed. All the while, it becomes clear that General Ross will be an ongoing thorn in both Bruce’s and the Hulk’s side.

It is also interesting to note that the Hulk appears in green on the cover for the first time, though his appearance fluctuates between grey and green throughout the issue.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – July 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Incredible Hulk 2 is  $20,000 on eBay.

Coming next

Journey into Mystery 83

Amazing Fantasy 15

Star Wars (1977) 2

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 5

FF5

Following on from the introduction of Namor in the last issue, we move on to the introduction of the villain most commonly associated with the Fantastic Four, Dr Doom.

Synopsis

The issue opens with an ominous looking Dr Doom moving figures of the Fantastic Four around a board like chess pieces. Doom is scheming and decides it is time to show the world that only he can stop the Fantastic Four.

Back in New York, we see office workers heading home for the evening, but the lights are still on at the Fantastic Four’s HQ. Inside, Johnny is reading a Hulk comic and claims that the monster reminds him of the Thing. The pair squabble before they are subdued by Sue and Reed. At the moment, the lights go out and we see that the helicopter that Dr Doom boarded on page 1 is now hovering over the HQ and has dropped a web over the entire building.

Doom tells the Fantastic Four to heed his words. The team do not know who Dr Doom is, but Reed recognises the voice. We then get a flashback to Reed’s college days, where a student called Victor von Doom was a brilliant student but obsessed with forbidden experiments. One of these experiments caused an explosion, leaving Victor’s face badly disfigured. Victor soon left for Tibet to find the secrets of black magic and sorcery, and was never heard of again, until now…

Doom claims the team as his prisoners, and lists his conditions for their release. Firstly, Sue is to be sent to him as a hostage to ensure their compliance. Ben chooses to let his fists do the talking and grabs the web, but receives an electric shock and has to let go. Sue then convinces the rest of the team that their only choice is for her to go up to Doom.

Doom then tells the team to board his plane and to agree not to attack him. The team agree and go up to the rooftop, where a strange plunger like device descends down and sucks them up. Doom then takes them to his castle and explains what he wants from the team. He tells them that he has invented a time travel device and that he wants the team to travel back in time and steal the legendary treasure chest of Blackbeard!

The team agree to go and at the push of a button, are transported to the past. The team only have 48 hours to complete their mission, so start to act fast. They first get some clothes so as to blend in, with Ben adorning a fake beard, eye patch and hat. Ben feels instantly comfortable in his new disguise. The team find a bar nearby and are soon offered some drinks. They do not realise that the drinks are spiked. They soon pass out, and a group of pirates take them on board a ship and set sail.

The awaken when the pirates  try to get the to start work on the ship. Ben makes short work of them, and the rest of the crew quickly fall behind him. Not long after, however, the ship is under attack by another pirate ship. Johnny turns into the Human Torch and flies over to attack the ship, followed by Reed who stretches to create a bridge for the crew to board the attacking ship.

They soon take over the other ship and find what they were looking for, Blackbeard’s treasure. But what of Blackbeard himself? It is then that the rest of the crew turn to Ben to salute him, “Hail Black-Beard!” The team agree to take the treasure chest back to Doom, but not with the treasure inside, as they never actually agreed to that. Instead, they divide the treasure with the men, and refill the chest with worthless chains. At that moment, Ben has a moment of realisation, and decides that he prefers it in the past.

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Ben then decides that he does not want Johnny and Reed to try and force him back, so orders his men to restrain them. Just then, they notice a twister coming towards the ship. The gale tears the ship apart, and the three find themselves washed up on a desert island. Ben realises what a fool he was to want to stay behind, and then a flashing light appears above them and they are transported back to Doom’s castle, in the present day.

They hand over the chest to Doom, and he explains that the treasure inside once belonged to Merlin and that they have magical powers. Johnny remembers that the treasure is now at the bottom of the sea, and worries what would happen if Namor was to find them. Doom then moves to open the chest and finds the treasure is not there. Ben then attacks Doom, only to find out that he was a robot all along. Doom is in fact in a hidden room above the team, and intends to kill them by eliminating the oxygen from their room. But he has forgotten about Sue, who turns invisible and is able to alter the controls.

The team manage to escape the castle but find they are surrounded by water. Johnny announces to the rest of the team that he is keen to try out a new power. He reaches atomic heat level, boiling the water away and fusing the ground, turning it into a glass like substance. The team are then able to make their away across the water. Johnny then encircles the castle in flame to imprison Doom, but his flame burns out and Doom is able to escape. Reed praises Johnny for the attempt, but Ben is not impressed and says he will do things his way next time.

Comments

So unlike the much maligned Fantastic Four movie, Doom’s introduction comes five issues into the series. This issue also sees for perhaps the first time, the team really functioning as a unit and each using their own unique powers to the team’s benefit. There is still the undercurrent of discontent between Ben and then rest of the team, none more so when Ben is dressed as Blackbeard. This also throws up a nice time-travel paradox issue of Ben being Blackbeard.

Apart from all this, we also see the first Doom-bot and a new power for Johnny. All in all, an action-packed issue.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – July 1962

Financials and further reading

Cover price – 12c

At the time of posting, the most expensive listing for this issue on eBay is £4,999.99.

The comic can be read digitally on Marvel.com here and the first thirty issues are available in hard copy here.

Coming next

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

Amazing Fantasy 15

Plus Star Wars 2 in our separate series looking at the 1977 series, plus some other surprises too.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

The Incredible Hulk 1

Hulk 1

Following on from the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel decided to add to their pantheon of characters by introducing the Incredible Hulk in May, 1962.  Let’s take a look at his comic debut.

Synopsis

The story begins at an army testing facility in the desert.  We learn that a Dr Bruce Banner is about to test a gamma-bomb, but not all of the army personnel are in favour due to the apparent dangers.  It becomes clear that Dr Banner has not informed his clients of all the details about the test, including the “secret of the gamma ray“.  The test is delayed while Dr Banner makes some last-minute checks, much to the annoyance of the soldiers on sight, including one “Thunderbolt” Ross.

Ross’s daughter, Betty, comes to Bruce’s defence.  It’s finally time for the test to go ahead. Bruce’s colleague, Igor, again asks him to reveal the secrets of the gamma ray.  He explains that nobody has checked Bruce’s work, and if a mistake is made, many millions of people will suffer.  Bruce retaliates by saying that he does not make errors.

The countdown begins, only for Bruce to notice that a teenager in a car has driven into the test area.  Bruce tells Igor to delay the test while he speeds off to stop the teenager from being harmed.  Unfortunately for Bruce, Igor decides against delaying the test…

Bruce manages to get to the teenager and warns him about the bomb.  The teenager escapes but Bruce is still in the test area when the bomb explodes, enveloping him in gamma rays.

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Hours later, Bruce is still screaming but appears to have survived the blast.  We then learn that the teenager, Rick Jones, brought Bruce back to the army base.  As darkness falls, both Bruce and Rick are still being kept on the base.  Just then, Bruce begins to fell strange and starts to hear a ticking sound.  Bruce then unbelievably changes before Rick’s eyes into a monster.  The monster swats Rick away and then smashes his way out of the cell they were being kept in.  He then destroys an army vehicle and strides off into the desert night.

The army immediately starts to search for the creature.  The monster keeps on moving, closely followed by Rick.  The monster is making his way back home.  He walks into his cabin, only to find Igor there searching for Bruce’s gamma ray formula.  Igor shoots the monster, but he doesn’t flinch.  He crushes Igor’s gun in his bare hands and then throws Igor across the room.  In doing so, he knocks a glass beaker over, and taped to the bottom of it is Bruce’s secret formula.

Rick manages to get the monster to stop attacking Igor by mentioning Bruce Banner.  The monster then sees a picture of Bruce and Rick explains to him that before he became a monster, he was Bruce Banner.  He slowly starts to remember as the sun starts to rise in the distant.  And then, the monster transforms back into Bruce.  At that point, the army, with General Ross and Betty in tow enter Bruce’s cabin looking for “The Hulk”.

Rick persuades the soldiers that Bruce is not the Hulk and they soon leave, leaving only Betty and Rick behind.  Betty apologises for her father’s behaviour.  Betty then leaves and Bruce explains to Rick that he thinks he will again turn into the Hulk when night falls.

The story switches to the cell that Igor is being held in, and we learn that he is a spy with some form of miniature communication device on his nail that allows him to send messages behind the “iron curtain“.  The message is received by soldiers and passed on to The Gargoyle!  He immediately gets into a sub and sets course for America.   Upon nearing his destination, .the sub fires a man-carrying rocket, with the Gargoyle inside.  The missile is soon destroyed, but not before the Gargoyle is able to land safely.

Meanwhile, Rick and Bruce are driving away when night descends and the change occurs.  The car crashes and the Hulk sets out on foot to find Betty.  Rick tries to stop him, all while they are both being watched from a distance by the Gargoyle.  The Hulk finds Betty outside, contemplating, but his appearance causes her to faint.  Just then, the Gargoyle makes his move.  The Gargoyle has a gun with a special pellet inside.  Upon being hit by the pellet, the victim will fall under the Gargoyle’s control.  He fires the gun at the Hulk and Rick, but does not notice Betty on the ground.

The Gargoyle leads both the Hulk and Rick to a secret plane, and they fly back to Russia.  However, by the time they land, it is daytime again and the Hulk has turned back into Bruce.    The effects of the pellet have worn off but it doesn’t take long for the Gargoyle to work out that Bruce is the Hulk.  The Gargoyle cannot understand why Bruce would want to be the Hulk, as he does not want to be the Gargoyle.  Bruce explains that he can cure the Gargoyle, by using radiation.  The treatment is successful and the Gargoyle transforms into a man.

The Gargoyle returns the favour by helping Bruce and Rick escape.  As they fly off in the Gargoyle’s rocket, they see an explosion down below and know that it is the end of the Gargoyle.

Comments

There’s lots to talk about in this first issue.  Firstly, the introduction of so many well-know characters: Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, General “thunderbolt” Ross, Betty Ross and of course, the Hulk.

What’s interesting is that there are many details about the Hulk which are either not consistently used, or are no longer considered part of the character.  The first and most obvious are his colour.  When he first appears on page 5, he appears blue or grey, rather than the traditional Hulk.  And the fact that the change was controlled by the sun or moon was a surprise.

It’s also clear that the Hulk is intelligent, but does not necessarily appear to have access to all of Bruce’s memories.  Many of these issues will be further developed in later issues.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – May 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Incredible Hulk 1 is a staggering $33,995 on eBay.

Coming next

The next reviews in our chronological look at the Marvel superheroes will be:

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

We will also be taking a detour to start our retrospective review of the 1977 Marvel Star Wars series.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 4

Fantastic Four 4

After an absence of nearly 7 years, a well known character makes a reappearance in the new Fantastic Four comic.  But is he a hero or villain.  Let’s take a look…

Synopsis

Issue 4 kicks off hot on the heels of Johnny’s departure at the end of the previous issue. Reed is trying to persuade the team that they should be looking for him, but Ben is not convinced. Sue gets upset with Ben and Reed tells Ben that it is his fault Johnny left.  We then get a brief recap of the events of the last issue, and Reed informs the team that they will try to find Johnny.  Ben reluctantly agrees.

The team board the Fantasticar, which soon separates, allowing each member to search a different part of the city.  Sue and Reed resort to their powers to help them in the search, but to no avail.  Not far away, we see Johnny is busy working at a garage, and using his flame to help with a spot of welding.  This attracts the attention of Ben, who confronts Johnny.

As the two battle, Ben suddenly turns into human form again.  Johnny uses the momentary distraction to fly away, but Ben’s transformation is brief, and he soon turns back into the Thing.

Johnny flies to the other end of the city and finds a cheap hotel so settle down for the night.  In his room, he finds an old comic of the “Sub-Mariner”, a character that Johnny seems to remember.  Someone notices Johnny reading the comic, and mentions that there is an old drunk staying at the hotel who is as strong as the Sub-Mariner was despite his appearances.

The man appears to be suffering from amnesia, and cannot remember a thing.  Johnny is intrigued to find out more about the man, and uses his flame to burn the beard off the man’s face.  To his astonishment, the man is the Sub-Mariner!

Fantastic Four 4 Pg 10

As the team continues to look for Johnny, he takes the Sub-Mariner to a nearby river, to see if the water will bring back his memories.  The plan works.  Namor swims to his undersea kingdom, only to find it in ruins.  Namor returns to Johnny, and vows to take revenge on the human race.

The team are still looking for Johnny, when they notice the flare in the sky.  They rush to Johnny, who explains to them that Namor the Sub-Mariner has returned.  Namor’s plan is to turn a sea creature lose on land, and finds the largest sea creature of them all, Giganto.  The creature follows Namor, who instructs it to attack a ship.  The crew escapes, but the creature makes his way to the city.

The Fantastic Four confront the creature as Namor leads him towards a nearby building, demolishing it easily.  The team are helpless until the Thing comes up with an idea.  He finds a nuclear bomb, straps it to his back and approaches the creature.  After all the exertions of demolishing the buildings, the creature is resting, and the Thing uses this chance to climb inside him.  Ben leaves the bomb inside and manages to escape.  The explosion kills the creature.

Johnny reluctantly tells Ben that he’s proud of what he just did.  But the danger isn’t over.  Namor appears again, holding the item that he was using to control the creature – a magic sea horn.  Unbeknownst to him though, Sue has turned invisible and is able to snatch the horn away from him.  Namor grabs Sue and is instantly enamoured by her.

Namor tells the team that if Sue becomes his bride, he will spare the human race.  The team try to fight back, but Namor is strong enough to resist them.  Johnny then flies up into the sky and creates a tornado, which he uses to carry Namor back into the water.  As he does so, the sea horn slips from Namor’s grip.  The team is safe for now, but Namor vows to return.

Comments

The reappearance of Namor sets the scene for many future stories.  We see his motivation for disliking the human race, and his attraction to Sue.  Meanwhile, despite Johnny and Ben arguing for most of the issue, we also see the grudging respect they have for each other.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – May 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Fantastic Four 4 is $1,175 on eBay.

Coming next

The Incredible Hulk 1

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

As well as reviewing these early superhero comics, we will also begin to review another classic Marvel series, this time from the 70s.  You may have heard the film the series is based on…  That’s right, we will be reviewing all 106 issues of the original Star Wars series by Marvel.  We will intersperse these in between the main section of reviews so as to provide some variety.  We will hopefully be adding other standalone series in the future too.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrosepct

 

 

Fantastic Four 3

Fantastic Four 3

Things begin to really get going in the third issue of Fantastic Four.  We take a look inside for some significant firsts.

Synopsis

Before we jump in, a word on  the great cover of issue 3, which boldly introduces readers to both the Fantasti-Car and the famous Fantastic Four blue costumes.

The story begins with a magician called the Miracle Man on stage (looking strikingly similar to Count Dracula).  The Miracle Man notices he has four famous guests in the audience, with each member of the team introduced in their own panel.

The Miracle Man mocks the powers of the Fantastic Four, by showing what he can do, such as growing into a giant, changing his composition into a gas-like substance and controlling thunder and lightning.  The Thing unsurprisingly does not take too well to the goading.

The Thing joins the Miracle Man on stage and is challenged to cut a tree trunk in half.  The Thing smashes the trunk repeatedly and is able to do so.  But to everyone’s astonishment, the Miracle Man is able to repeat this feat using just one finger.  The Thing is outraged, accuses Miracle Man of a con-trick and then tries to punch him in the face.  Miracle Man is unmoved.

The Fantastic Four head home in their flying Fantasti-Car, with Reed commenting that it is lucky that the Miracle Man is not a criminal, as he may be impossible to stop.  But just what are the Miracle Man’s intentions?

We find out soon enough.  The Miracle Man has decided it is time to show the world just what he is capable of, and decides a high profile stunt is the way to do this.  He notices a huge monster statue on exhibit opposite the theatre, and decides to turn it into life.

The Fantastic Four arrive at their headquarters.  This is the first time we have seen this, and we get a nice diagram on page 5 of the building layout.

Fantastic Four 3 Pg 5.jpg

The team decide to relax, and Johnny turns on the tv.  He notices that they are showing the premiere of “The Monsters from Mars” and Reed comments on the huge statute.  Meanwhile, Sue shows the team the uniform she has designed for herself, and for the rest of the team.  The Thing isn’t too keen on the costume and is in the middle of complaining to Sue when Johnny notices that the Miracle Man is at the premiere.

Amazingly, the statue appears to come to life and starts to cause havoc.  It is as Reed feared, the one man they cannot stop is intent on using his powers for evil.  To confirm their suspicions, the police commissioner has received a note from the Miracle Man, declaring war on the whole human race!  The commissioner authorises the Fantastic Four to do whatever is necessary to stop him.

The Fantastic Four head out to find the Miracle Man.  They split up to search different parts of the city.  Reed finds the monster and seems to be able to stop him, before he is attacked by the Miracle Man.  The surprise attack allows the monster to escape, much to the commissioner’s disappointment.

The army then tries to stop the monster, but similarly fail to do so.  Johnny then engages the monster.  The Human Torch is able to stop the monster and sets fire to him.  To his astonishment, the monster is made from wood and plaster.  Johnny cannot understand how he was able to move.  The army are still on the scene, and decide not to take any risks, and so fire water at the Human Torch.  His flame starts to fizzle out and he falls to the ground, but not before telling Ben that the Miracle Man is the cause of the monster moving.

The Thing confronts the Miracle Man, but he is again bested by him.  Miracle Man appears to be able to make the ground open up beneath the Thing.  With both the Thing and the Human Torch catching their breath, the Invisible Girl decides to take matters into her own hands, and turns invisible.

The rest of the team regroup at their headquarters and Johnny is angry at Ben for allowing Sue to take on the Miracle Man by herself.  Ben angrily reminds the others that he will be ready to act and explains that he cannot forgot the events that led them to becoming the Fantastic Four.  We then get a brief re-cap of this.  Johnny teases ben, and Ben lashes out at him.  Johnny storms out.

We cut to the Miracle Man, who is at a junkyard, and is still being followed by Sue.  A dog starts barking at Sue’s invisible form and the Miracle Man is able to command her to make herself visible.  He then tells her to fire her flare gun and summon the others.  Within minutes both Ben and Reed arrive at the scene.

Miracle Man starts to shoot at Reed, who is able to dodge the bullets.  The Thing then stands in his way, but the Miracle Man grabs Sue and runs off.  Johnny then arrives and they jump into an old car and race after them.  Johnny is impatient however, and decides to fly off ahead.  He creates a bright flash which stops the Miracle Man.  They recover Sue and Ben is about to exact some revenge on the Miracle Man before Reed stops him.  The Miracle Man then releases Sue from his trance and he is revealed to be merely a hypnotist, with no powers, magic or otherwise.

Reed praises Johnny for his actions, which angers Ben again.  Johnny has had enough, and decides to leave the Fantastic Four.  Sue is distraught to see her brother leave, but Reed is more concerned about the danger Johnny could cause.

Comments

An issue of many firsts.  We get the first glimpse of the Fantasti-Car and the team;s headquarters.  We also get the teams costumes, which have remained the same for the majority of last 50 years.  From a story perspective, we get more in-fighting, culminating in Johnny leaving the team at the end of the issue.  He’ll be back though…

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover Date – March 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c (a 20% increase from the last issue!)

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Fantastic Four 3 is $1,575 on eBay.

Coming next

Fantastic Four 4

The Incredible Hulk 1

Fantastic Four 5

ComicRetrospect 2016

@comicretrospect