Good old reliable Marvel Tales is in flux. Four issues ago, the “covers on the cover” covers ended. Two issues ago, Marvel Boy replaced the Wasp stories. In two issues, the Marvel Boy stories disappear as first a Torch story, then the Thor stories get longer. By issue #28, the Thor and Torch stories end, replaced by Dr. Strange and a second Spider-Man story. Dr. Strange is replaced once by the Angel and once by Iron Man before, in issue #33, the book reduces down to two Spidey stories and #34 takes it down to regular size with only one Spidey story reprinted. For now, we are in the middle of a fragile three issue run of Spidey, Marvel Boy, the Human Torch, and Thor. Enjoy it while you can. That is, if it’s worth enjoying.
The cover this time is much like the original at Amazing Spider-Man #20, January 1965 except the colors are different. The major difference being the sky, which is now pitch black when before it was a sort of sickly green. Spidey’s webbing has been compressed, too, to allow for a bigger “Marvel Comics Group” box in the upper left corner. All of the text in the original was in the lower left corner. That space is now filled by “Plus! Thor Tangles with the Tomorrow Man! Marvel Boy in…The Caves of Doom!” including a head shot of Marvel Boy. (This after the main event is previewed in a blurb above Spidey’s left knee, reading, “Spidey socks it to the Scorpion…or does he?” Another blurb is wedged in behind the Scorpion’s left leg. It says, “Bonus: the Human Torch vs. the Living Bomb! Add ‘em up and you get ACTION in the Mighty Marvel Manner!” Well, the Spidey-Scorpy battle sounds good but I don’t know about this “Tomorrow Man,” “Living Bomb,” “Caves of Doom” business. We’ll see if it adds up to ACTION.
For now, we still have the greytone frontispiece on the inside front cover. Clockwise from upper left, we get black-and-white reprinted panels from page 14 panel 6 of the Spidey story, page 8 panel 3 (readjusted a bit) of the Torch tale, page 13 panel 2 (also shifted a bit) of the Thor episode, and page 5 panel 5 of the Marvel Boy segment. I suppose they’re meant to be read from top to bottom on the left, then top to bottom on the right, since that is the order of the stories. But who reads like that?
We begin with The Coming of the Scorpion! Or: Spidey Battles Scorpey! and I was not much of a fan of it when I reviewed it in ASM #20. I finished that review by saying, “Liz and Flash barely appear, Aunt May is annoying, Betty is boring, and Ned Leeds leaves the country two issues after his introduction. Still a strong issue compared to a lot of what appears over the years, but a real letdown compared to the issues just preceding it” and I gave it two-and-a-half webs.
A full-page ad for Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #1, July 1968 follows the story; the same ad we saw on the last page of ASM #62, July 1968. You may recall that it touts the magazine as “The Greatest Event in the History of Comic Magazines!” Well, not quite, but it is worth the read. Check out the review at the link just above.
Now, it’s Marvel Boy’s turn. The first two reprinted Marvel Boy stories (in our previous two issues) both came from Marvel Boy #1, December 1950 but this story comes from Astonishing #5, August 1951. So, what happened? Well, first of all, the Marvel Boy comic only lasted two issues, becoming Astonishing with #3. But what about “The Zero Hour,” “Blast of Doom,” and “Circus Terror” from Marvel Boy #2, February 1951, “Mister Death,” “The Runaway Planet,” and “Time-Bomb Terror” from Astonishing #3, April 1951 and “Screaming Tomb!” “When a Planet Dies!” and “Walking Ghost” from Astonishing #4, June 1951? None of them are reprinted until Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Heroes #1, January 2007. Don’t ask me why. This story, Marvel Boy in Caves of Doom is written, drawn, inked, and lettered by Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett. For all I know, he colored it, too, but there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on who actually did the coloring.
It is a “summer afternoon” at the Grand Canyon in 1951, I suppose, although everyone there seems to be wearing 19th century clothing. Tragedy strikes as “a sort of dull explosion” disintegrates a cliff, causing 20 people to fall to their deaths. One of the bystanders blames it on the “Curse of the Canyon” in which “in olden days, a certain Indian chief, King of the Grand Canyon, laid a curse down after being mortally wounded by a white man’s bullet. “No white man shall enter my kingdom and live.” The bystander who brings it up, says, “It’s finally starting to catch up with us.” A woman named Marie buys into the curse immediately. But Donna Lake wants action. Her brother was among the people who fell into the canyon and she wants someone to check if anyone survived. “If you won’t try to help me, I think I know someone who will,” she says and she heads for the telegraph office. (A telegraph is the best she can do? It is 1951, isn’t it?)
Meanwhile, Marvel Boy is hanging out in Washington D.C. with a U.S. Senator who wants him to investigate the disappearance of Dr. Noiro (which is “Orion” spelled backwards and that can’t be a coincidence.) The Senator explains that Noiro is a “clever physicist” who has developed an “anti-radioactive ray.” It can be used to clear areas that “might be attacked by enemy atom-bombs. The ray is projected by means of a harmless, noiseless aeriel bomb, to be dropped on the contaminated regions by our own planes.” But, after a successful test, Dr. Noiro disappeared. The Senator adds, “There’s been some wild talk of a flying saucer whisking him away in the middle of the night.” So, let’s see…an anti-radioactive ray, flying saucers, enemy atom-bombs (hyphenated!) that might be dropped on the United States…yep, it’s 1951, all right!
An aide comes in with a telegram for Marvel Boy. It is from Donna Lake. (How did Donna know that Marvel Boy would be at the Senator’s office?) She is asking him to investigate the Grand Canyon incident. No mention of going down to check if anyone is still alive. Unfortunately, the Senator lays “national security” on Marvel Boy and he decides he must turn Donna down and look into the Noiro matter.
The Senator and Marvel Boy go to the plant where Noiro was last seen. They talk to “Sergeant Russell, a security guard, who claims to have seen the mysterious flying saucer.” Russell talks and talks, filling his panels with huge word balloons but what it boils down to is that Noiro never made it to his car and the flying saucer headed west and was seen over Arizona. Marvel Boy decides to kill two birds with one stone and head to Arizona to help Donna.
Marvel Boy flies his “Uranian space-ship” past the Grand Canyon where, down below three figures stand in a cave containing oil drums and boxes marked “Fragile.” One calls the others “comrades” so we know they’re Reds.
Marvel Boy heads to the Canyon Hotel where he runs into a desk clerk who also talks up a blue streak. He tells Marvel Boy that everyone has left, including Donna, after another accident… “forty-four people killed in two mysterious landslides!” He mentions that people saw a flying saucer dive into the canyon. Marvel Boy decides to investigate. But he doesn’t fly his ship into the canyon. He walks and stumbles over a tripwire set up by the mystery men in the cave. (Did they set a wire up around the whole canyon?) Marvel Boy lands in the Colorado River and two of the men fish him out. They are green with egg-shaped heads and clear spacesuit helmets.
Marvel Boy recovers consciousness in the cave to find himself with another big talker. (To be fair, Marvel Boy can do his share of talking, too.) This is a man with grey hair and dark, skull-like sockets around his eyes who is called Orion Rex. It turns out he is from the Orion constellation but is he king of Orion as his name implies? It doesn’t say. Marvel Boy recognizes Rex even though this is the first time he’s encountered him in the comics. And he understands what is going on. Rex is planning to invade Earth but he knows that “the Earth-men [will] atom-bomb you in self-defense. (Really? Were we really so atom-bomb happy in the early 50s? It gets worse.) So, Rex needs the anti-radioactivity ray to defend against that moment. (It will wipe up the radiation but won’t do a thing for the invaders caught in the explosions, right?) Rex tells Marvel Boy that he already has the ray and is only waiting for the weather conditions to be right for space travel. (Since he has a flying saucer, I can’t imagine what sort of weather in Arizona would prevent him from getting into space. And then, there’s no weather in space, right?) He is going to take the saucer “on a meteorological survey,” leaving only one of his green men to guard Marvel Boy. “You won’t break out of those bonds, for I happen to know that you are not nearly as strong here on Earth as you are on your own planet Uranus,” says Rex, proving himself to be a supremely stupid villain. The green guard turns out to be even dumber. Marvel Boy asks if he will loosen his bonds because “these ropes are cutting my wrists.” “Well, I guess it’ll be all right…long as you’re too weak to get away,” says the green guard, a move that will cause him to lose his life. But we’re getting to that.
Of course, Marvel Boy knocks the green guy out with a punch. He escapes to his spaceship where he comes up with a plan. “Thank Heavens the so-called ‘Curse of the Canyon’ scared everyone away for miles around,” he thinks. (But what about the desk clerk at the hotel?) He alerts the state police to his plan (and they actually think it’s okay?) and then he lands at a Nevada factory. There, a general gives him what he wants. He’s wary of it but says, “We’ve secured the approval of the Secretary of Defense, and of the President himself.” Which is a little hard to believe.
And what is Marvel Boy’s plan? He flies back to the Grand Canyon and…drops an atomic bomb! He then drops an anti-radiation bomb (although I’m not sure how he got those), lands, and heads out in a radiation suit. As he emerges, he thinks, “There probably won’t be anyone left alive in the cave, but at least I can find Dr. Noiro’s body and clear up that little mystery anyway!” Yeah, let’s kill everyone and sort them out later.
As Marvel Boy starts to climb to the cave (wasn’t it at the floor of the canyon before?), a boulder falls down and nearly hits him. It was thrown by Orion Rex who is still alive, although “You killed all my men, and blasted my equipment to pieces.” (Rex also calls Marvel Boy a “murdering fiend” and who can argue with that?) But Rex is still a seriously stupid villain. He holds a gun on Marvel Boy but still thinks “You won’t dare attack me in your Earth-weakened condition.” But little does Rex know that Marvel Boy has “Uranium pills…to give me added strength!” He socks Rex in the jaw, knocking him out.
Marvel Boy drops a “miniature ray bomb” to deactivate the radioactivity, allowing the state troopers to enter the scene. They show up seconds later. Marvel Boy turns Rex over to them, telling them that Rex came here to Earth to create an anti-radiation ray because he didn’t have the proper equipment “in his own country.” They have flying saucers that can travel faster than light but no equipment to make an anti-radiation ray? (Or is Marvel Boy confusing an invading extra-terrestrial with that country behind the Iron Curtain? Alien…”red”…what’s the difference?) Marvel Boy adds that he should have left right after getting the ray but that he wanted to pick up his laboratory equipment from the cave first. (No explanation as to why he has any lab equipment in a Grand Canyon cave when he had all the equipment he needed at the DC area plant. But I’m jumping on the punch line.) A trooper asks, “What happened to Dr. Noiro” and Marvel Boy replies that Rex is Noiro. “Meet Orion Rex, from the constellation Orion – otherwise known as Dr. Noiro – Orion, spelled backwards! Get it? Take him away, Trooper!”
John Kaminski, in his Orion Rex profile at The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe, quips that, “It’s a good thing he didn’t use the alias of ‘Rex O’Ryan’ instead, because that would have been too easy for Marvel Boy to figure out.” He also confirms that this is Orion Rex’s only appearance, even though Marvel Boy acts like he’s seen him before “in some ‘Untold Tales of Marvel Boy’ adventure or something,” according to John Kaminski. John also confirms that Rex has not been seen again. Apparently, he’s still in the custody of the Troopers.
Ordinarily I’m a fan of Bill Everett’s 40s and 50s work but this story is one little hot mess. It starts with a disaster that has caused massive loss of life. Donna Lake loses her brother in the disaster and looks to Marvel Boy for help. Then, all of that is forgotten as Marvel Boy arrives at the Grand Canyon and stumbles over a trip wire, of all things. The villains have chosen to hide in a cave on the canyon floor even though they have a flying saucer. There is an implication that the bad guys are Communists even though they come from outer space. Orion Rex and his men are so dense that they allow Marvel Boy to escape whereupon he comes back with an atomic bomb that he drops on the Grand Canyon. Let me say that again. Marvel Boy drops a freaking atomic bomb! Killing Rex’s men and who knows whom else. What is with the 50s and their desire to drop atomic bombs? What is with this story? If the stories from Marvel Boy #2 and Astonishing #3 and #4 are anything like this, it’s no wonder Stan skipped them. One-half web.
Let’s see if The Human Torch Faces the Threat of the Living Bomb! fares any better. This one, from Strange Tales #112, September 1963 is plotted by Stan but scripted by Joe Carter. Who, or rather what, is Joe Carter? A pseudonym of Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman. The reliable Dick Ayers does the artwork.
The Torch returns to the town of Glenville after capturing some smugglers and decides to give the people a thrill. (“Man, will the chicks’ hearts go pit-a-pat when they see their favorite flame…namely me!”) He buzzes by overhead but no one cheers or applauds him. Thinking the crowd has become jaded, he whips up the words “Human Torch” in the sky. He then creates a fire dartboard and uses himself as a dart to get a bull’s-eye. Then he “creates one of the most astonishing sights this world has ever seen…a blazing version of Niagara Falls.” All he gets for it is dirty looks.
Johnny heads home where his sister Sue tells him “TV commentator Ted Braddock has been panning you all day.” And, yes, Sue has the TV on, set to the channel where Braddock is calling Johnny a “glory-hungry nuisance.” (He sort of has a point.) Braddock argues that this flaunting “makes a mockery of the law” and undermines “our citizens’ respect for courageous law officers.” The Glenville police chief arrives at the door to tell Johnny that the police appreciate him even if Braddock is turning the public against him. Johnny can’t stand any more of it. He takes his hot rod over to the TV studio and gets on the air with Braddock, who verbally carves him up and tells him, “get out of this studio before I have the janitor turn a hose on you.” The town seems to side with Braddock. In one typical home, the mother says, “The Torch’s attitude towards Mr. Braddock, his elder, is shockingly disrespectful,” while her teenage daughter says, “I always thought the Torch was sweet. But now he reminds me of a spoiled brat!” As for the Torch himself, he feels “all mixed up.”
That night, a costumed villain who calls himself the Eel flies his “odd-shaped helicopter” to the lab-residence of Charles Lawson “the famous inventor.” He breaks in, setting off an alarm and decides to grab the first thing he can. It turns out to be a briefcase labeled “Project X.” Lawson comes into the room and calls the Eel by name, so I guess he’s a known criminal, even though this is his first appearance. Lawson tries to grab the Eel but “a greasy mixture on your outfit renders you as slippery as the creature you’re named after.” Before he can warn the Eel about “Project X,” Lawson falls victim to the Eel’s “electro-actuator” which gives off an electric shock. (Because he’s an electric Eel, you know.) The Eel escapes with the briefcase and returns to his hideout at “an aquarium on a deserted beach.” It turns out that the Eel is secretly Leopold Stryke, the aquarium’s caretaker.
Stryke pries open the briefcase and finds a little machine that looks a bit like a Rubik’s cube. It has a little lever sticking up on it that he decides to leave alone. Usually, you would figure that would be the way to go but not in this case. Lawson gets the word out and radio stations broadcast a warning. The cube is “a miniature radio-active atomic pile” because who wouldn’t invent one of those if they could? “Once the bag is opened and the device exposed to air, unless a lever is pressed down immediately, nothing can stop an atomic blast from going off one hour later.” Moxie Gahagan, the Eel’s fence, hears this report. When the Eel enters his shop (yes, he walks right in as the Eel instead of as Leopold Stryke), Moxie tells him to beat it. “You’re a Living Bomb,” he tells him. And here I thought that the Living Bomb was going to be the name of the newest villain. I didn’t think it was going to be the dumb old Eel.
Johnny also hears the news and he flames on so he can search for the Eel. As he leaves his house, Mr. Fantastic appears on a video screen and tells him that this should be “a group project.” But Johnny feels that “every second counts” and flies to Lawson’s lab. (Meanwhile, in prison, the Wizard offers his help but the warden turns him down.) When Johnny arrives, Lawson tells him that he has prepared a “transmito device” which is “absorbing the personal molecular vibrations of the Eel, which registered on some of the slippery goo that came off his costume.” Say what? Somehow, this device, when held in Johnny’s “flamed-off” hand, affects the fireball thrown by Johnny with his “flamed-on” hand so that it will become a “bloodhound of fire” tracking down the Eel by his vibrations. Except it doesn’t work. Well, it works but it doesn’t find the Eel. Instead it finds the Thing who had borrowed “a taunting note, written in the Eel’s own handwriting” that was being kept at police headquarters. But Johnny’s fireball has incinerated the note so all of that…the “transmito,” the goo that Lawson got off the Eel’s costume, the “bloodhound of fire,” and the “taunting note” all turn out to be red herrings. Not a one of them leads us anywhere. Instead, Johnny spots the Eel’s helicopter and closes in. I’m not sure how he knows that the Eel has a helicopter except that the Eel seems to have been around quite a bit before this story.
And what was the Eel doing in his helicopter? Dropping the atomic pile off “in an outlying area.” Johnny tries to force him down by creating a “flaming dome” above him but the Eel scoffs at him. He has Professor Lawson’s “Aqua Attractor Gun” (and, as we know, there is something about an Aqua Attractor Gun.) It “draws damp drizzle out of that cloud overhead.” This forces Johnny to avoid the vapor lest his flame go out but he “cripple[s] your whirly bird blades” as he goes by. The Eel lands and Johnny flies down to confront him. But the Eel uses the aqua attractor gun again, this time to cause “the underground water level to geyser up.” Uh, if you say so. Water springs up, putting out Johnny’s flame. Johnny tries to take the Eel out with his bare hands but is jolted by the electricity built into the Eel’s costume. Fortunately, the “electric massage reactivated [Johnny’s] molecular flame” (uh, if you say so) and he flames on again. Johnny then melts the aqua attractor gun right out of the Eel’s hand.
The Eel decides he is beaten. (Gives up easily, doesn’t he?) He tries to get Johnny to team up with him. (“We’ll grab all of Earth’s wealth together.”) If Johnny agrees, he will tell him where he hid the atomic pile. He even disconnects his “electron-activator” as a measure of good faith. But Johnny turns him down and the Eel reveals where he hid the atomic pile anyway. A police car arrives just in time to put the Eel under arrest.
The Eel thinks he placed the pile in an unpopulated area, “the south side of the woods,” but it turns out there’s a Veteran’s Hospital over there. There’s no time to evacuate the hospital. The Torch streaks over, finds the pile, picks it up and heads up as high as he can go. This is what he thinks as he flies; pure 1960s pseudo-science comic book bunk, “My flame molecules indicate the atomic pile will explode a split-instant from now! I’ve no time to dispose of the bomb! I’ll have to zoom up toward the stratosphere and try to absorb all the flaming heat fury of the explosion in my own body when the super-blast occurs!”
The bomb goes off and the Torch absorbs all the heat and radiation so that the hospital is untouched. He then releases it all as a “super-nova” which snuffs out his flame and knocks him unconscious. (So, does the radiation fall back to earth?) The rest of the FF arrive in the Fantasticar and Mr. Fantastic stretches his arm out to grab him but Johnny is in a bad way. The Thing puts up a brave front (“Nuthin’ can kill that spunky little squirt.”) but his thoughts reveal he has already given up (“Who’m I kiddin’? Johnny’s a goner. Choke!”) Note the “choke,” something right out of DC comics of the time. Well, after all, Jerry Siegel is the writer.
Reed has one desperate plan. He’s been working on a “new ray…which may be able to restore half-dead cells to full vitality.” The Thing has all sorts of regrets about the way he has treated Johnny but he does not promise himself that he’d “always talk nice to the kid” as he seems to think he does on the final page of the story.
All of this info is passed along to the newspeople and Ted Braddock has completely changed his tune because his son Dan is a patient at the Veterans’ Hospital. He tells his audience that he was “just a stubborn opinionated bigot” and gives his new view of today’s teenagers. “’I realize now that though today’s teen-agers may be more uninhibited than they were in my own generation, the whole world is different now, and today’s kids are as fine as ever.” (Unfortunately, it was probably only kids and teens that read this comic book.) Then a news bulletin comes in that the Torch’s life “is hanging by just a thread.” (Who sent this bulletin? Did Reed stop working on Johnny to tell the media that the Torch’s life was hanging by a thread?) The entire nation grieves except for the crooks, who are delighted. (The Wizard says, “My only regret is that I can’t claim the credit!”) But then another bulletin comes in to say that the Torch will live. “The nation goes wild in a spontaneous demonstration of happiness and relief.” (I’m trying to picture this.) Except for the bad guys. “Heard the news, Baldy?” says one thug. “Awww! Shuddup!” says Baldy.
Later, Johnny recuperates in front of his brand-new TV, a gift from Ted Braddock. The Thing regrets that he promised himself “to always talk nice to the kid,” which he didn’t do. So, he gets after Johnny again, lifting the TV and Johnny (in his armchair) high up in the air. Of course, Johnny is recuperating from a near-death experience but Sue, looking in, decides to let it go. “It’s great having everything back to normal again,” she thinks.
This is an odd one. It begins with all this Ted Braddock business, switches to a robbery by a new villain who is presented as if he has been on a crime spree for a while, then brings in this bomb business. The Eel is shown to be the caretaker of an aquarium, for all the good that knowledge does us. He is called “a Living Bomb” by a couple of guys but isn’t one, really, even though that’s what he’s called in the title. He gives up so quickly that there are another four and two-thirds pages without him. The Torch absorbs the power and radiation of a nuclear weapon and survives. In fact, the entire nation (!) goes wild with happiness and relief when they learn of his recovery. Ted Braddock announces that he was wrong and teen-agers are great. Then the Thing pretty much wrecks the TV that Ted Braddock gave to the Torch. If any of that seems to fit together as a coherent story to you, then feel free to give it a high rating. I can’t give it any more than 2 webs.
(The Eel, by the way, returns only five issues down the line, in Strange Tales #117, February 1964 but we don’t have to worry about that because that story, for whatever reason, is skipped in our Marvel Tales sequence.)
We close this issue with The Return of Zarrko the Tomorrow Man from Journey Into Mystery #101, February 1964. Zarrko originally appeared in JIM #86, November 1962 and we saw that story in Marvel Tales #4, September 1966 where I gave it four webs. Will Zarrko fare as well this time around?
Well, first we have to get his memory back. As I said in that MT #4 review, “Zarrko emerges from the crash alive but has somehow lost his memory. Medical personnel arrive to cart him off. They tell Thor that they can heal his physical injuries but his memory will never return.” So, what happens? Let’s begin at the beginning where Thor is so miffed about something, he is chipping a piece out of a lamppost with his foot and scrunching a steel litter basket as he walks past. (This one is an early Lee-Kirby creation and the first issue in Kirby’s extended, uninterrupted, and excellent Thor run.) Thor scatters the people around him. “I have lost interest in your petty, puny lives,” he says. Some nearby ants note Thor’s distress and signal Hank Pym. He contacts Iron Man to tell him Thor is on a rampage, then changes to his Giant-Man identity and sets out accompanied by the Wasp. Tony Stark dons his Iron Man armor and plans to join him. So it looks like a guest-star fest in the early going.
The Avengers find Thor crossing the Van Wyck Expressway, oblivious to the traffic. When a truck driver yells out, “Watch out!” the Thunder God replies, “Thor watches out for nobody!” and uses his hammer to obliterate the front of the truck. Giant-Man steps in and assures the driver that “I’ll straighten out your wheels in no time,” which looks unlikely. Iron Man has a better idea. He gives the driver a bunch of money to pay for the damages. The Wasp, meanwhile, follows Thor, who has not stopped his errant walk.
Giant-Man and Iron Man soon follow but Thor waves his hammer at them and says, “This is no concern of yours! I say go!” Giant-Man gets miffed at this treatment but Iron Man talks him into leaving Thor alone. And so the Avengers leave, not to return in this issue. Thor makes his way to the waterfront where he broods because Odin won’t let him marry Jane Foster. It turns out that Odin and Loki are watching from Asgard. Loki tells Odin that he has ordered Thor to forget Jane “but still he broods! Is this not rank disobedience?” Odin is about the poorest excuse for a god that you can imagine. Vain and stubborn and susceptible to Loki’s every word, he declares, “From this instant hence, Thor’s power is reduced by half!” (Something he does more than once in the Thor series.) “No longer shall he have control of the storm and the elements! And no longer may he come to Asgard! Not until he gives up all thoughts of the mortal girl he loves!”
To be fair to Odin, Jane was a pretty poor excuse for a love interest. As Odin recounts here in a flashback to last issue, Jane stopped Thor from capturing Mr. Hyde because she thought Don Blake would be blown up by a bomb set by Hyde but the bomb was set to go off in 24 hours so Thor could have captured Hyde and had plenty of time to rescue Don. You know, if Thor hadn’t happened to be Don.
So, Thor shows up on the Rainbow Bridge, like he just walked there from the waterfront. (He shouldn’t be able to get there at all since Odin took that power away.) He tells Heimdall that he must see his father but Heimdall refuses admittance. They fight and Heimdall knocks Thor on his keister “with all the cosmic force of the universe in the blade of [his] sword.” Thor can’t believe it but Heimdall tells him that Odin have halved his power. Left to stand forlornly on the bridge, Thor finally turns and walks away, presumably back to the waterfront.
Looking on, Loki sees a “golden opportunity,” a “chance to destroy Thor forever.” Since he doesn’t want Odin to suspect him, he figures he must find someone else to do his dirty work. Getting permission from the Norn Hag (whoever she is) to gaze into the Well of Centuries, Loki sees “Earth’s far distant future.” There he finds Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man, his memory still gone, working “as a lowly clerk.” Using his powers, Loki returns Zarrko’s memory. This gives Zarrko the excuse to present us with a flashback to the events in JIM #86 and MT #4. He then makes his way to the Municipal Science Center where he plans to take a time machine and return to the 20th century to again steal a cobalt bomb. (More atomic weapons! This issue is full of them!) But this time he is taking “an indestructible mining robot” with him, slightly altered to suit his plans.
And so, Zarrko and his robot arrive in Manhattan, looking like Klaatu and Gort in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Don’t tell me this isn’t intentional.
A couple of cops come up to see what the deal is. Zarrko tells them, “Stay back! I am Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man! I am your master!” which is not going to endear him to the cops, who pull their guns. The robot opens its eyes, like Gort raising his visor, and shoots out a beam that turns one cop’s gun into dust. The other cop calls in for reinforcements. But that becomes a moot point as Zarrko orders his robot to destroy things, figuring that Thor will come running.
It looks like Thor walked all the way back to Manhattan from the Rainbow Bridge because he is watching TV as Don Blake in his apartment. The TV announcer says, “And the city has been ordered evacuated as soon as possible!” all because of one guy and one robot. Good luck with that. Don decides to get involved. “A battle is what I need…a chance to pit my strength against others,” he says and he becomes Thor, even though his strength has been halved.
Thor arrives to find that the robot “has placed a deserted building across the highway to block traffic.” He plans to “crumble the bricks to ashes with one hammer stroke” but he fails because of his reduced power. “All I did was chip off some bricks,” he says, which is a pretty rude awakening. Soon, the giant robot grabs Thor and holds him in his hand. But Thor breaks free and “draws the magnetic forces of the galaxy into his hammer head.” That’s right! The “magnetic forces of the galaxy” and this at half power! “By positioning this correctly, I’ll magnetize that monster into a harmless pile of tin!” he exclaims. (The robot is made of tin?) This seems to work, as the robot is pulled down to his knees but then “the magnetic currents cease” for some reason and the robot hits Thor “with the same explosive force which [he] uses to blast entire mountains in the future!!”
Thor is knocked for a loop but Zarrko promises to stop the attack “if you give me your word to return to the 23rd century with me and do my bidding, I shall do no further harm here in this century! But if you refuse…I’ll order my robot to go on the rampage, destroying until nothing remains on the surface of your planet!” Which, it seems to me, would cause serious damage to the future to which Zarrko plans to return too, but Thor doesn’t think of that. Feeling that he cannot defeat the robot with his power at half, Thor agrees to Zarrko’s terms and they head off to the future together.
And Odin, thickheaded, easily-manipulated Odin, is outraged. “This is too much to bear!” he says, “My son has given up to a mortal!” (Well, if you hadn’t halved his power, Odin…) And Loki, silently, rejoices. “If Thor helps the evil Tomorrow Man conquer the 23rd century, Odin will never forgive him! And none will know that Loki has arranged it all!” he thinks.
So, now what? Well, it’s all continued next ish!
These Thor stories from the early Journey into Mystery 100s are such a blast because you can see Stan and Jack revving up to what will become the best fast-paced and imaginative movie-serial-like comic of the 1960s. This is still a long way from the Absorbing Man/Destroyer/Hercules/Ego the Living Planet/High Evolutionary ride but you can see its beginnings what with the Avengers cameos, Odin getting fussy, Loki’s scheming, Thor’s power reduced, the return of Zarrko, and the “To Be Continued Next Issue” conclusion. Looks like a four-web story to me.
Let’s cash in. Two and a half for Spidey, one-half for Marvel Boy, two for the Torch, and four for Thor.
A mediocre issue but at least it ends on a high note. For that reason, I’ll round it up to two and a half webs, though I’m tempted to drop it to two because of all the atomic weapons.
Time to polish and update another old review. And add a much-needed web rating. ASM #63 is next.