We’re back from Marvel Super-Heroes reprint book to our regular reprint book. It’s Spidey, it’s Thor, it’s the Human Torch, it’s the usual.
Let’s start with the cover. It’s a variation on the original cover for our Spidey tale in Amazing Spider-Man #27, August 1965 but it’s been recolored with the background going from dark blue to white. It has also been zoomed in a bit causing us to lose a couple of the thugs that surrounded Spidey in the original. One thug has been erased because the Green Goblin has been flipped to the other side of the cover in a mirror-image and that particular thug was in the way. The Goblin has been moved to provide space for a larger blurb. Besides providing us with the story’s title, Bring Back My Goblin To Me!, as in the original, Stan has added “A masterpiece of wall-crawling wonderment!!” And who can argue with him? It’s the Goblin, it’s the Crime-Master, it’s one of my favorites of the Ditko years. In my original review, I said “You know how I love his battles with gangs of ordinary criminals. Mix the Goblin and the Crime-Master into the stew and you just can't beat it. It's another five webs for this one in spite of a number of strange gaffes that seem to demonstrate that Stan and Steve were no longer communicating. You're not surprised, are you?”
The other blurb on the cover says, “Bonus! The bludgeoning Hammer of Thor and the fabulous, furious Flame of the Torch!” as if they don’t appear in every issue. That brings us to Thor in When Magneto Strikes! from Journey Into Mystery #109, October 1964. “By special arrangement with the publisher of X-Men Magazine! (Namely…ourselves!)” It’s Stan and Jack with Chic Stone on inks and it’s Magneto’s first appearance outside of the X-Men after previously appearing in X-Men #1, September 1963, X-Men #4, March 1964, X-Men #5, May 1964, X-Men #6, July 1964 and X-Men #7, September 1964.
As we begin, Thor views a statue of himself created for a proposed “Hall of Heroes” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. (Yes, I attended. Yes, I am that old. But I didn’t see any Hall of Heroes there.) The representative shows him a room with statues of the Fantastic Four and the Avengers. “And, in the next room, we have Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the X-Men,” he says. (Good thing Spidey’s in the next room or I would have had to review this story when it was in JiM #109.) Thor tells the rep he will try to attend the opening ceremonies (which he doesn’t do in this story) and then departs. Off-shore, a “strange camouflaged submersible fort…quietly approaches New York’s unsuspecting harbor.” (It’s a sub with a gnarled tree on top! I think the harbor patrol would see a gnarled tree approaching the harbor.) The sub, which like the Tardis in “Dr. Who” looks much bigger on the inside, is controlled by Magneto. He has followed “mental emanations” that tell him that the X-Men are “based somewhere in the metropolitan area.” (Shouldn’t he already know this? I’m not going to dig out old X-Men issues to find out.) He sends his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants who are, at this time, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, Mastermind, and the Toad, in a sleek silver sub to find the X-Men. He decides to pass the time by sitting in a chair within a giant magnet and “experiment with [his] matchless magnetic powers.” This causes cars, “that motorcycle, trash cans, lampposts, everything metal” (like the “Rogers Seafood Restaurant” sign) to go flying all over the city, which seems to defeat the purpose of having a camouflaged sub covered by a gnarled tree.
“The amazing phenomenon abruptly ends” and people try to rationalize it. Jane Foster says, “Perhaps we’ve been working too hard. Imagining things.” (Yeah, they’re probably imagining all the debris that must be in the streets.) Dr. Don Blake, Thor’s alter ego, thinks otherwise and he blows off a date with Jane so he can investigate. Jane is not happy.
Thor uses his Uru hammer to track the “flow of magnetic force” back to, what he calls, “that large piece of floating driftwood,” our gnarled tree. Landing, he discovers that there is a periscope concealed in one of the branches. He also finds a hatch in the top of the tree that leads into the sub. Even though he knows nothing about the sub, he smashes his way in, nearly taking Magneto out with a flying vault door. Magneto assumes that Thor must be a mutant and offers him membership to the Brotherhood. He shows him his riches that he is carrying around in his “bigger on the inside” sub. (There is, among other things, an old masters’ painting, a statue of a woman and a sack overflowing with gold.) “Pledge allegiance to Magneto,” says Magneto, referring to himself in the third person, “and you shall share my triumph when I conquer the human race.” But Thor is not interested in conquering. He knocks away the cup of whatever that Magneto offers. Quickly, Magneto uses his power to draw “the steel flooring up around” Thor. (Does Magneto have steel flooring in his sub so he can draw it up around an enemy?) Thor breaks free and tosses Mjolnir at Magneto. It misses but it follows him around until Magneto stops it with his “magnetic repellor field.” He then catches Thor between his “magnetically-powered steel walls” that close in on Thor; another strange item to have on his sub, which is making the Tardis look like nothing but a Police box.
Magneto hides himself behind two riveted steel doors. Thor plans to rip those doors apart but he has gotten so worked up that he has forgotten about his hammer. In the early days of the series, Thor reverted to Don Blake if he was separated from his hammer for 60 seconds; the hammer turning back into Don’s cane. Stan often used this Achilles Heel to threaten Thor in his stories and he uses it here. Thor turns into Don Blake. He can’t reach his cane which is “in the other chamber! Behind this steel wall!” On the other side, Magneto finds Don’s cane and wonders where it came from but he tosses it aside. He is certain that Thor wants him to open the door so he attacks him magnetically without opening it. Don finds the door’s rivets flying at him, then a grill falls from the ceiling. He dodges all of this and escapes “back to the inner chamber through the wall which Thor had opened.” Soon after, Magneto opens the door and finds Thor gone. So, he goes to his “schematic radar” and spots Don’s “blip.” He continues the attack with all sorts of elaborate machinery that would never be on his sub, narrowly missing Don each time. (He rips the back of Don’s jacket with a large metal claw.) It looks like Magneto finally has Don trapped when his “television alarm” goes off. Answering it, he finds it is Mastermind and the others looking for help. They have found the X-Men but the X-Men are too much for them. (I’m wondering where the camera is that is transmitting Mastermind’s image to Magneto. Page 13 panel 6 is a long shot showing all of the Brotherhood on a dock. There is no camera in sight.)
The X-Men attack. We see Cyclops’ eyebeam but we never actually see any of the X-Men at any point in the story. (Well, we do see the Beast’s hands.) Mastermind gives Magneto their location and Magneto promises to join them. But while he is occupied with this, Don sneaks back to his cane and slams it on the floor. Magneto sees his arm pick up the cane and wonders why Thor would need it. He doesn’t have time to think about it as Thor attacks. He uses his hammer to draw away the magnetic field that surrounds Magneto. Then, he picks Magneto up and throws him, which only succeeds in putting Magneto right next to a trap door through which he escapes. Down below, he sets up a “thermo-nuclear proton bomb” that will blow Thor up (and, presumably, the whole sub) when he follows. But, then, the bomb is surrounded by ice. The X-Men have arrived, although how they got into the sub is beyond me. They pursue Magneto, forcing him to escape in his “magni-sub.” The X-Men follow in their own sub. (Which, I guess, explains how they got into Magneto’s sub but why did the X-Men have a sub with them when they pursued the Brotherhood?) Through a porthole, Thor watches the subs leave. He then smashes through the trap door and finds the bomb which has been “frozen into uselessness.” Exiting through the gnarled tree, Thor uses his lightning powers to destroy Magneto’s sub.
Magneto, meanwhile, evades the X-Men and heads off to pick up the Brotherhood. He is still confident…”This is but a temporary defeat! Sooner or later, ultimate victory will be mine!”…but what’s he going to do without his massive sub and with just his magni-sub to pick up his lackeys?
Thor returns to his Don Blake identity and goes to Jane’s apartment where she feeds him a ham and cheese sandwich while he sweet talks her. They end up arm in arm with Jane thinking, “He’s so dear…so trusting… so like a helpless little boy.”
On to our Human Torch story, The Torch Meets the Iceman from Strange Tales #120, May 1964. (As you can tell from the cover dates, this story takes place before the Thor story.) It’s written by Stan with art by Jack and inks by Dick Ayers.
At FF headquarters, Johnny Storm reads about the X-Men in the newspaper and notes that they are calling Iceman “a frozen version of the Human Torch,” which annoys him. “I’d like to meet that guy someday,” he says. Then, he tosses the paper away so that it hits Mr. Fantastic in the face. He’s not going to worry about Iceman now. He has a date with Doris tonight!
Meanwhile, at Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Iceman gets moody because Angel has asked Marvel Girl out. “Whenever I get up the nerve to ask Jean for a date…somebody beats me to it!” Professor X tells him to “go to New York and see the sights.” Two panels later, Iceman has picked up a brochure from somewhere advertising a cruise. This sounds good to him. “There are always a lot of swingin’ teens on these cruises!”
He defrosts into Bobby Drake, puts some clothes out and takes a cab to the dock but he is late and the boat is already departing. So, exiting the cab, he changes back to Iceman and uses an ice slide to race to the dock, then an ice pole to vault onto the already-departed ship. Changing back to his civvies (which he held in his hand as he vaulted over), he notes that “There are a zillion chicks,” none of whom apparently noticed Iceman vaulting onto the ship, perhaps because “they’ve all got dates.” Then, he spots “a living doll” all by herself and introduces himself. Of course, it’s Doris. She shuts him right down and gets snooty. “I happen to be here with a date! And just between us, there’s not a teen-ager anywhere who’s his match! That’s a pun, son!” (Oh yeah! I get it!) Bobby wonders who this special guy is and soon finds out. The Torch shows up with a couple of bottles of pop. Bobby “shove[s] off” but he is annoyed by Doris’ hero worship and gets back at the Torch by shooting an ice blast that freezes Johnny’s pop bottle. No problem. At Doris’ suggestion, Johnny heats the bottles up in his hot little hands. Bobby slinks off and bumps into two men who are definitely not teen-agers and by the sound of their dialogue (“Look where you’re goin’, shrimp!” “Yeah! Open your eyes, squirt!”) are up to no good. After Bobby moves off, they break into the ship’s radio room and destroy all the equipment. Then they signal Cap’n Barracuda that “the radio has been put out of commission.” The Cap’n, who calls himself, “the Barracuda” (yep, another one who refers to himself in the third person) and calls people “swabs,” is a man with an eyepatch who wears a blue captain’s cap and has an ammo belt draped over his shoulder. He carries a machine gun and he boards the ship from a smaller boat along with five of his men. They hold everyone up, demanding all the wallets, purses, and jewelry. As one victim says, “It’s piracy…right here on the Hudson River!”
One pirate named Baldy tries to hold up Johnny and Doris (who seem to be away from everybody else) but Johnny sends him running with some fireballs. He puts Doris in a cabin for safety and flames on. Elsewhere, Bobby has seen the goings-on and becomes Iceman. He’s still smarting from his encounter with Doris. “If that chick was impressed by the Torch, just wait’ll she sees Iceman in action!”
Baldy reports to the Cap’n that the Torch is on board but Barracuda is unimpressed. He orders “battle stations” only to have Iceman freeze one pirate’s gun just as the Torch shows up. Johnny’s heat accidentally thaws out the gun, which still works. The pirate fires at the two heroes. Iceman sets up an ice wall to stop the bullets but Barracuda and two of his men take a fire hose (that they got exactly….where?) and shoot it at Iceman. The water freezes, trapping Bobby within an ice block. Johnny melts him mostly free as Barracuda and his men shoot at him, the bullets melting from his flame.
“We’ve got to find a defense against him,” says one of the pirates from off-panel. What about that fire hose you guys have? Nope. Instead, the Cap’n orders his men to take a canvas and toss it over the Torch. Johnny burns his way out but the canvas catches fire. As Johnny tries to dump it overboard, Barracuda’s men shove him overboard. The problem is that the canvas remains on board and the flame spreads to the boat. Finally fully free of the ice wall, Bobby creates “a few giant snowballs” and bowls them at the flame, putting it out. He uses more giant snowballs as “pirate-smashers,” then freezes various pirates’ hands and feet to the deck. In retaliation, Barracuda grabs a gasoline barrel (there are three sitting together on deck, for some reason, which has to be a fire hazard) and pours the gasoline out at Iceman. (He picks up a full barrel with ease.) “Gasoline will melt through snow like a hot poker,” he says, and Bobby gets his foot scalded before he can escape. (I’m not sure this makes any sense.)
The Torch returns, hurling fireballs at the pirates which, somehow, do not connect with all that gasoline. He is hanging around by the ship’s smokestack because, he says, the “hot chimney” allowed him to dry off faster, but he doesn’t explain how he got up there. He traps 6 pirates in a lasso of fire. The crowd turns on two others and beats them up. That leaves only Barracuda who takes a hostage. It is, of course, Doris. He takes off in his boat and gloats that “the Barracuda is the only man ever to beat the Torch and the Iceman!” Which is the cue for the boat to run into an ice jam and then to be raised in the air by a “tall mound of ice,” courtesy of Iceman. While Barracuda tries to figure out what’s going on, the Torch rescues Doris and tells Barracuda “I’ll send a police launch back for you real soon.”
Iceman makes an “icy floating path” for himself and returns to shore. For some reason, Johnny doesn’t see this. Back on the boat, he tells Doris that he’s searched the ship and Iceman has vanished. (So has everyone else. They look like the only people on board.) Johnny says he’d like to get to know Iceman better and Doris wonders, “Do you think he has a girlfriend?” “A guy like him? Sure!” replies Johnny, “He must have a dozen of them. That reminds me, honey! There’s a big beautiful moon up there and the night is still young!” Because, you know, they have the deck all to themselves and the boat isn’t going anywhere.
Magneto returns in X-Men #11, May 1965 where the Stranger takes care of him for a while (but not too long) by whisking him away.
Cap’n Barracuda seems like the kind of villain you would never see again but he does have a few other appearances, showing up next in Sub-Mariner #10, February 1969 in a story called “Never Bother a Barracuda!” Johnny runs into him again in Fantastic Four #219, June 1980.
Iceman is next seen in X-Men #5, May 1964 and it isn’t long until he and Johnny meet again when the X-Men take on the Fantastic Four in FF #28, July 1964. Later, the two heroes co-star in Marvel Team-Up #23, July 1974.
The Spidey story is five webs but the other two stories don’t measure up, even taking into account that they are early Marvel Age. Why does Magneto use a giant magnet to test his powers when that just calls attention to himself by “wreaking havoc on the startled city?” Where is the camera that transmits the Brotherhood’s message to Magneto? Why does Magneto haul out a “thermos-nuclear proton bomb” to use on Thor when he must know it will destroy his sub? Why does he have one in the first place? And just how big is Magneto’s sub anyway?
In our other story, why don’t the pirates use the fire hose on the Human Torch after using it on Iceman? If Johnny is too wet to Flame On!, how does he get up to the smokestack? What are three barrels of gasoline doing on the boat’s deck, how does Barracuda lift one by himself, and why doesn’t the boat go up with all that flame around? Each story uses an already-overused gimmick to thwart the hero with Thor losing his hammer for 60 seconds and the Torch getting drenched and losing his flame. It all feels much too familiar.
Taken all in all, I think I’m being generous in giving each story three webs. Let’s average it out and call the whole thing three and a half webs.
Next: It’s back to the Lizard in ASM #77!