Comics : Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #128

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

Just in case the dartboard in Fantastic Four #21 (December 1963) wasn't enough, here's another Lookback that should help to convince you that we really do intend to spotlight every single Spider-Man appearance from the beginning.

What the...? It's just Spidey's disembodied head! And it isn't even as big as my thumbnail! Aw, who are you kidding? You know you still want it for your collection.

In Detail...

"Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch"
Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #128 (Story 1)
Jan 1965 : SM Cameo
Summary: Spider-Man Cameo
Editor:  Stan Lee
Writer:  Stan Lee
Pencils:  Dick Ayers
Inker:  Frankie Ray
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 Reprinted In: Essential Human Torch #1
 Reprinted In: Marvel's Greatest Comics #31
Articles: Doctor Strange, Human Torch

At this time in its history, Strange Tales led off with a twelve page tale starring the Human Torch and the Thing and wrapped up with a Dr. Strange ten pager. The Dr. Strange feature (by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) was always better than the Torch and Thing headliner. Unfortunately, Spidey's brief appearance is in the less interesting of the two.

Quicksilver comes running into a room carrying a suitcase. (Two more are already on the floor.) He tells his sister Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, that this is their chance to get away from Magneto and his other Evil Mutants who won't be back before nightfall. (Quicksilver and the Witch are, at this point, reluctant members of Magneto's group and were last seen in X-Men #7, September 1964). Wanda tells her brother Pietro that they owe Magneto too much to leave and she stops him from running around at super-speed by using her hex powers to trip him up. Pietro ends up on the ground under the suitcases and Wanda reminds him that they are honor bound to stay. When Pietro points out that "our honor grows more tarnished each time we obey his evil commands", the Witch reminds her brother that Magneto saved her life from a mob that was ready to burn her for witchcraft. After that, they swore allegiance to Magneto. "Only he can release us from our oath" she says. Quicksilver reminds his sister that Magneto "plans to conquer the world" and "to destroy homo sapiens". He doesn't believe that they can continue to aid him under such circumstances. But Wanda replies that "normal men hate and fear mutants like us" and wonders if "perhaps Magneto is right". Quicksilver laments that they have no one to advise them. "And yet" he says, "there are some in this country who also have great power! If we knew where to find them, perhaps they could give us an answer!" And, to illustrate the point that there are others with great power, Dick Ayers draws tiny headshots of Captain America, Giant-Man, Iron Man, Daredevil, Thor, and, yes, Spider-Man right next to Pietro's profile shot. Wanda realizes that "there are four whose address is known to all" and wonders if "perhaps we should see them" so that "they might advise us". She is referring to the Fantastic Four, and Dick Ayers draws tiny disembodied heads of the Thing, Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, and the Invisible Girl superimposed over the Baxter Building just so you don't miss the point.

And, that's all there is of Spidey, folks, so let's fast forward through the rest of it.

Reed Richards and Susan Storm are out on the town so the only members of the FF at home are the Torch and the Thing. The boys see a news bulletin on TV that shows recently released photos of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants just as Pietro and Wanda show up. So, when Quicksilver comes running in, the Thing and the Torch assume he is an enemy and they attack. In the course of the battle, the Scarlet Witch, who has entered unseen, gets hit by one of Reed Richards' machines that was accidentally knocked over by the Thing. She is knocked unconscious and her brother runs to her side. He finds that Wanda is not badly hurt but he is enraged by her injury. "We came in peace but you attacked us like beasts" he says and the Thing replies, "If this was a peaceful visit, I'd hate to see 'em when they're lookin' for trouble."

Eventually, the Torch traps Quicksilver by surrounding him with a flame wall. The Thing puts on an asbestos suit so he can walk into the fire and bop Quicksilver in the jaw. But the punch barely affects the speedy mutant because the "bulky suit" makes Ben pull his punch. The Thing starts to take the suit off so he can really do some clobbering but the Scarlet Witch regains consciousness and uses her hex power. The spell causes a powerful thunderstorm to appear right over the Baxter Building and "a staggering torrent of rain gushes thru the open windows completely dousing the Torch's remaining flame". With that, Quicksilver tells the Witch that she was right and that "no homo sapiens can ever be trusted by us". He now believes that they "are only safe with Magneto". Wanda agrees. "There is no place for us in the world of homo sapiens" she says. So, the two mutants walk away and the Thing and the Torch just stand by and let them go. "If they're willing to call it quits, I am too!" says the Torch, "Besides I can't see either of us wanting to fight a girl!" Then, completely oblivious to the reason why Quicksilver and the Witch may have appeared in the first place, and totally apathetic over the fact that they just let two wanted criminals walk away, the Torch turns to the Thing and says, "It just goes to show, Benny boy, even a dull day can be exciting". And the Thing replies, "Mebbe so, Junior, but I wonder if the Yancy Street Gang gave 'em our address?"

As usual, Dr. Strange is much more interesting, as he takes a breather here from the great Baron Mordo/Dormammu epic. (There's even a Dr. Strange pin-up!) I can't recommend these early Doc stories highly enough but, since there's no Spidey in them, I'm going to have to leave it at that.

In General...

Most of these Strange Tales Torch stories, both with and without the Thing, are pretty weak. The entire plot of this one can be summed up in ten words. "The Thing and the Torch fight Quicksilver and the Witch." That's it. Except that the Thing actually wears an asbestos suit that causes him to pull his punch. If it weren't for the Dr. Strange story, this issue wouldn't be worth looking at at all. Let's call it one web for the Torch story and four webs for Doc Strange, averaging out to two and a half for the whole issue.

Overall Rating...