December 8, 2006

Strange Adventures #188 [1966]

One odd little corner of Ditko's career is the very brief first work he did at DC, a pair of stories in STRANGE ADVENTURES #188 and #189, right around the time he left Marvel. Both are uncredited (pretty standard under most DC editors at the time) and inked by Sal Trapani, who also inked some of Ditko's work at Dell and ACG around that time, so it's likely they were assignments given to Trapani who got Ditko, who had some sudden time on his hands, to pencil for him. Ditko would of course return to DC on his own and with his own new characters two years later.

"The Valley Where Time Stood Still" is an 8-page story (possibly written by Otto Binder, according to the GCD) about two explorers who use some chemicals to clear out the mist in a mysterious valley so they can land their helicopter and explore. Upon landing they encounter a group of Roman soldiers who entered the valley on the run from Caesar, and reason that the volcanic mists put people into suspended animation (and also gave everyone telepathic powers so there's no language barrier. Because that's good science). Escaping from the Romans they next encounter some armoured knights who entered the valley on the run from King Arthur, as it turns out the valley has been a tempting hideout for criminals for thousands of years. To distract the various groups and get back to their helicopter, they turn them against one another, only to find that, hey, there was a dinosaur there too, and they need everyone to defeat it. The dinosaur falls into a volcanic fissure, causing the volcano to erupt and wipe out the valley just as our heroes get away in their helicopter, having destroyed a potential treasure trove of scientific finds.

Man, does this story just have too many concepts to fit in 8 pages or what? The artwork is pretty good, Trapani's inks always soften up Ditko's work to something of a more generic "house-style", but quite a few of Ditko's touches still come through, especially with a lot of the hands and faces, and the weird plot gives them quite a few fanciful things to draw, though it's not up to the level of the Warren or better Charlton stuff of the era.

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