New Reviews of Old Comics
Marcel Tales was among the first titles I started collecting back in 1984 so I’ve always had a soft spot for the title even though it’s nothing more than Marvel’s way of making money on work they’ve already paid for. Make something once and sell it a couple times; it’s the dream of any good business model. It wasn’t until the late 80s early 90s that some genius at the comic companies decided they could make a mint collecting silver and golden age comics in to large book collections (Marvel Masterworks DC Archives, etc), so before then we relied on titles like Marvel Tales almost exclusively to read early Spider-Man stories. I love finding old comics for cheap, which is only made better when it’s a title I already know and appreciate.
Since Spider-Man is always the true star of Marvel Tales he gets the lead story in “The Man In the Crimer-Master’s Mask!” rendered by the classic Spider-Man duo of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, neither of whom needs an introduction in comic-dom. This story has all of the elements we’ve grown to love about Spider-Man stories; Peter Parker having personal problems, J. Jonah Jameson being, well, J. Jonah Jameson, an oddball villain and a classic arch-nemesis; the Crime-Master and Green Goblin respectively. Crime-Master is a pretty ballsy name, don’t you think? He’s telling the world “Hey, I’m a criminal, whatcha gonna do about it?” Doctor Octopus. Rhino, Lizard, even Green Goblin, none of them has a name that blatantly flaunts their disregard for the law like that guy. Anyway, Crime-Master and Green Goblin are working together to take over the underworld, but it’s a dicey alliance at best (uh, they’re both evil, right?) though effective because the story ends with Spider-Man captured by the dastardly duo. Am I giving away the ending here? Maybe, but if you’re expecting to be surprised by a 50 year old comic book story, I think you have bigger problems to worry about.
The middle story is a Thor yarn titled “At the Mercy of Loki, Prince of Evil!” courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Do you see why I love titles like this? A Lee/Ditko Spider-Man followed by a Lee/Kirby Thor. While on patrol the Norse God stumbles upon an incapacitated Doctor Strange, then as his alter ego, Dr Donald Blake, Thor continues saving the good doctor’s life. Not wanting bad karma Doctor Strange gives an open offer of help any time Dr. Blake needs it. When Loki shows up and tricks Thor like usual that favor is called in to assist in thwarting Loki’s evil plans. It ends with a fight in New York Adirondack mountains (my “backyard”), and while I was thrilled to read it even mentioned, Kirby’s Adirondacks look a lot more like a section of Central Park than one of the country’s largest parks. Nit-picky I know and no one else would even notice or care, but it stands out when you live there.
Lastly Stan Lee teamed with Dick Ayers to bring a Human Torch story called “The Torch Goes Wild!” This 13 page story has an evil villain called the Rabble Rouser going around and getting people all riled up, about various things, which eventually leads to him getting people to hate on the Torch. He convinces people to ban Johnny Storm from flaming on within city limits. Not because Rabble Rouser is pyrophobic, but because he’s a Communist agent who wants the Torch out of his way so he can blow-up a Prince who is visiting the US. Of course his plans are thwarted when the Mayor finds out what is going on and makes an emergency declaration allowing Johnny to flame on (because Johnny couldn’t live with breaking the law).
This whole issue of Marvel Tales was a fun read from cover to cover; even the ads offered something interesting. The Spider-Man story was great (‘natch), Thor was his usual over-the-top self and the Human Torch was a fun story with an idiotic villain; Rabble Rouser? Really? Hey, when you create that many characters like Stan Lee has, they can’t all be winners. Actually a couple months ago I picked up Marvel Essentials Human Torch collection and I’ve been loving those stories. Who knew the Torch was such a cool solo character? If you love old comics, never pass on the chance to pick up some issues of Marvel Tales.