Marvel in 1962: December

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Fantastic Four 009

This is a unique story, even for the Fantastic Four. Reed Richards puts all the money from his inventions into bad stocks and loses everything. He decides to sell the team’s equipment and headquarters to cover the expenses. Things are not looking good for our team.

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We get the return of Alicia Masters in this issue and see a potentially budding romance for Ben Grimm. Good for him. Although, I’d prefer she didn’t start making puppets an issue after her villainous step-father horribly died. Maybe it’s her coping mechanism.

So, after Alicia convinces Ben to go back to his team and find a solution to their problem, one falls into their lap. All they have to do is star in a movie and they’ll get a million bucks! Seems easy enough, right?

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Wrong. The movie’s produced by Namor. If his team up with Doctor Doom taught us anything, it’s that he’s not the most trustworthy guy. A million dollars for a movie? No ulterior motives? No secret plans to break up the group and get the girl? No way.

In fact, Sue is dining with Namor on the next page. Now, it seemed like Reed and Sue were a sure thing in the first issue, but things have changed. Are they even engaged anymore? Kinda seems like Sue is playing the field. Who knows where they stand, but things don’t seem to be looking too good for Reed.

So, this is the part where Namor tricks everyone and tries to get them out of the picture. He sends Reed to an island to fight a cyclops and tells him it’s part of the movie. He sends Johnny to a native tribe that has a fire immunity potion. Everyone manages though, even if Johnny burns the entire village down. Savage.

Surprisingly, Namor doesn’t have any mastermind plan for the Thing. He just starts punching him. They’re a pretty even match, until the Thing gets struck by lightning, which somehow turns him back into Ben Grimm. I know, doesn’t make any sense to me either. Because of this, Namor wins. He finally has Sue Storm all to himself.

He tells her exactly what he did to her teammates and demands she becomes his bride. For whatever reason, Sue doesn’t find this entirely charming. So, Namor decides to do what he does best, fight her into submission.

In the end, Sue still has feelings for Namor. The team seems to reach a lukewarm truce with him. They even finish the movie they were contractually obligated to do and get their million bucks for it. Seems like everything worked out in the end. Although I can’t help but notice that there’s some distance in Reed and Sue’s embrace in the last panel here. For a team starring in their own movie, they don’t look like a very cohesive unit. Hopefully next year’s a little better for them.

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Journey Into Mystery 087

It’s been a mixed year for Donald Blake. He has a magic hammer disguised as a walking stick that turns him to Thor, God of Thunder. So, that’s a plus. However, his nurse, Jane Foster, is no longer secretly in love with him, and openly in love with Thor. This may be his alter ego, but he’s physically everything he’s not. Jane also sees him as someone to be taken care of, which isn’t helping his chances as the Doctor Donald Blake.

So, as usual we have some red spies performing dastardly deeds. This time they’re kidnapping American scientists, so Donald Blake lets himself get kidnapped so Thor can save the day.

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It’s a pretty generic tale, but we see some interesting overpowered Thor moments. Firstly, Thor can rub his hammer to create sparks from the friction. Is there nothing this hammer can’t do? Secondly, he uses his transformation back into Donald Blake to escape the chains of his Russian captors. Clever stuff, Doc.

As usual, the Russian are super grateful to the Americans for saving them from the tyranny of communism. Thor is worshipped and praised for his good work against the reds. If you’re tired of that trope, wait until Tony Stark comes around. It gets worse.

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We end with Jane as in love with Thor as ever. We’re supposed to sympathize with Donald Blake as he wishes he could tell Jane ‘Thor loves you’. Except that Donald Blake isn’t Thor. Not really. Imagine Betty Ross being in love with the Hulk and Bruce Banner being in love with Betty. They’re not the same. So maybe next year Don will get a little more attention than Thor does.

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Strange Tales 103

Johnny Storm has had a pretty good year. Better than the rest of his teammates it seems. We have another wondrous adventure for Johnny this month. It all starts with the mysterious case of the sinking houses that Mr. Bentley is dealing with. It should also be pointed out that the Wizard’s real name is Bentley. They really like to reuse names.

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Johnny investigates into the sinking houses and finds out that some aliens from the Fifth Dimension are sinking the houses so no one will build in the area where the portal to their dimension is. They zap him with the good ol’ Flame Off foam that everyone seems to have in their gun nowadays and take him home to the Fifth Dimension.

We meet with the Tyrant of the Fifth Dimension who is planning an invasion on Earth. They decide to put Johnny in a pool where he can breath but can’t light up and place him as a trophy to everyone in the Fifth Dimension.

However, not everyone in the Fifth Dimension is on board with the invasion against Earth. Valeria and her father are at the front of the opposition and with Johnny’s help, are going to do something about it.

Now, I’m sure Bentley wasn’t named too long after this issue. However, Valeria is the name of another Fantastic Four character that came decades later. My advice to any Marvel writers out there, read the Silver Age issues on whoever you’re writing about. Not only does it give you a good idea of what they’re about, but if you find a name to reuse in the future, it’s a fun little nod to your hardcore readers.

So, Johnny and Valeria lead an uprising and take down the Tyrant Zemu. For someone who got rescued and wrote some words in the sky, he accomplished quite a bit.

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Naturally Valeria is stricken with Johnny and hopes he’ll visit. Johnny has to return to his mundane life of invisible girls, stretchy limbs and iron clad villains. So, their love can never be. At least, I assume.

So, from quitting the team, joining again, and breaking out on his own adventures: Johnny’s had a good year. He beat the Wizard, visited the Fifth Dimension and proved that he has the most ridiculous power set second only to Thor. Let’s hope he can keep it up.

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Tales to Astonish 038

Now this is a historic Ant-Man comic. We have our first real villain: Egghead. He’s a scientist that’s dismissed by the government for consorting with foreign powers. He is quickly hired by mobsters and criminals to defeat Ant-Man.

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Egghead realizes that the only way to defeat the fabled Ant-Man is to turn his ants against him. He finds a way to replicate their electronic signals for communication and promised to free them from Ant-Man’s tyranny and reward them handsomely.

Naturally, Ant-Man is ahead of the scheme as always. Egghead decides to use fly paper to trap our hero, but Hank is ready with some spring boots to free himself from the fly paper.

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Hank explains that the ants don’t see themselves as his slaves, but as partners and friends. Appealing to the ant’s sense of greed and vanity is a pretty dumb thing for someone who’s brain demands a cone shaped head.

Egghead wallows in his defeat, but it’s definitely not the last we’ll see of him. While the new year will definitely have some zany adventures and unusual stories for Hank Pym, I think we can expect to see his rogue’s gallery start to build. Maybe we’ll even see a supporting cast!

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That’s it for 1962. We’ve followed the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Ant-Man and Thor through a ton of adventures. We’ve seen such famous villains like Doctor Doom, Loki and the Wizard. We’ve even seen Namor make his way back from the Silver Age as a regular FF villain. Most importantly, we’ve seen the first appearance of Spider-Man and a promise for some artists other than Jack Kirby to make a big splash in 1963. While this year is probably the most important in comics, next year is definitely the biggest.

I’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from weekly comic blogging to do a different weekly blog. I don’t want to get too ahead of myself before it’s ready, but you can expect to see some Marvel blog posts coming your way soon. Until then!

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