February 27, 2007

Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #20 [1969]

After some FF, Iron Man and Watcher stories, this issue reprints "Beware Tiboro, The Tyrant Of The Sixth Dimension", a 10-page Doctor Strange story from STRANGE TALES #129 [1965]. Doctor Strange is being questioned about his alleged "magic" because of his refusal to appear with some debunking scientists on the TV show "The Twelfth Hour". Instead they mock Strange on air ("[his] theories are as ridiculous as his attire") and display an allegedly mystical idol that was found in Peru. When the lights go out during the show, the three "scientists" vanish. Strange is called in to investigate, and recognizes the idol as having powerful magic, which a consult with the Ancient One verifies as a sign that the long vanished Tiboro of the Seething Volcano is ready to attack our reality. Strange allows the idol to transport him to the Sixth Dimension, where he's able to defeat Tiboro and return the captured humans to Earth. But now that they know magic exists, they want to bring that knowledge to the world, something Doctor Strange isn't too happy with, so he wipes their memories and turns back time so they can resume their magic debunking. In between all this is some mumbo-jumbo about how the decay of Earth's civilization causes Tiboro to return, so mankind has to work towards peace to prevent that.

Cute little story, I liked how those experts were so dismissing of magic on the show, and Doc having his cloak attack Tiboro from behind was a great visual.

February 24, 2007

Time Warp #2 [1979]

TIME WARP was a short-lived science fiction anthology series that DC had back in 1979, with one or two Ditko stories in the first four issues. "The Last Journey" is an 8-page story written by Paul Levitz, with space explorer Henry Prince planning further explorations into the unknown from the planet he discovered, but being protested by android pilots who don't figure into his plans. Just as he convinces his wife to go along with him, their home is bombed. He recovers, but she's severely injured, with only her brain still active. He does the only logical thing and steals her body, hooks it up to a computer and goes off in his explorations with her. On the ship he plays a message from the androids that explains they weren't protesting his plans because they feared being made obsolete, but because their own explorations show that there's no return from the edge of the universe where he plans to go. No explanation of why it was better to blow up his house and almost kill him and his wife rather than just tell him what they know. Henry doesn't believe it, but he and his wife have never returned.

Yeah, there are a couple of plot holes in this pretty standard 1950s sci-fi short. But Ditko does manage at least one noteworthy visual on almost every page. Robot security guards, the futuristic cityscape, the explosion on this page, the alien doctor and medical equipment and the final sequence of the ship trailing off the edge of the universe into nothingness.

"The Last Journey" J-6183

February 21, 2007

Marvel Milestone Edition - Tales of Suspense No. 39 [1993]

This is a full issue reprint of TALES OF SUSPENSE #39 [1963], the book with the first Iron Man story, so includes the 5-page short story "Gundar" that appeared in the original. A sailor finds himself shipwrecked on an island with a bunch of vikings who have been there for hundreds of years and explain that they been cursed by their captain, Gundar, to remain until he had set them free. Bonus points for a little Odin cameo, not long after he started showing up in Thor stories in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY. Anyway, they'd long since given up on being released of the curse, since Gundar is long dead, but then start to fade away. Of course the sailor turned out to be a Gundar himself, a descendant of the original. Odin works in mysterious ways.

Pretty neat little story from towards the end of the era of the short fantasy stories, and an interesting earthier view of vikings than the slicker Kirby designs that had started a few months earlier. I especially like how he captures the weariness in the faces of the long trapped vikings, and there's a neat storytelling bit, where Gundar's departure echoes on the first three panels the arrival of what he later find out is Gundar the junior two pages earlier.

"Gundar" - X-53

February 18, 2007

Monsters on the Prowl #16 [1972]

This issue features a reprint of the 5-page "Where Walks the Ghost", which I think is from JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #68 [1961] (there's appears to be some confusion in some sources with another story of the same name in AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #11 [1962] and the similarly named "Where Lurks the Ghost" in TALES TO ASTONISH #25 [1961]. Can anyone with the originals verify?).

Anyway, following a nicely designed splash page with a man and several rats racing from a simple ghost in a haunted house we get the story of criminal Big Monk McGak, who escapes from his prison bound train and digs up some money and a disguise he had hidden. To find a place to hide until the heat is off he goes to real estate agent and asks for a haunted house to rent, supposedly to get in the mood to write a TV series. The agent has something in mind, but is reluctant to show it, but McGak strong-arms him. Of course it turns out that the agent is a ghost himself, who scares McGak into running to the police.

Pretty simple story, but there are quite a few Ditko design bits to recommend it, in particular the bits of the haunted house that we see, and the rats are always a nice touch.

February 15, 2007

--Link-- Steve Ditko: the Paranormal Man

David Thompson has an essay, Steve Ditko: the Paranormal Man, on various Ditko topics, including SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN.

February 10, 2007

Wally Wood's Thunder Agents #4 [1986]

As mentioned before, Ditko did work on the Thunder Agents for many publishers. This version was published by Deluxe Comics, and it's pretty much accepted now that they didn't actually have the legal right to do so, but the creators at the time obviously didn't know that.

"An Alien Nation" is a 10-page story by Steve Perry with art by Ditko and Greg Theakston, the second part of a NoMan story that began the previous issue. NoMan is of course the robotic member of the Agents who can transfer his identity between various bodies. In this story he's sent, with about 100 spare bodies, to attack a would-be world conqueror with the unlikely name Cyrano de Klopps, who has stolen some Thunder technology, which he's combined in a Thundersuit that one of his hapless minions wears. Fun little story in the vein of the original Agents stories, more than a little intentionally goofy, with some clever stuff involving NoMan switching bodies, and really great inking by Theakston. Well worth it for a Ditko fan to seek these issues out.

February 4, 2007

New Ditko - Coyote Collection v4

Steve Englehart continues his reprints of his 1980s COYOTE series, with the latest volume The Coyote Collection Vol. 4 including the last two of the "Djinn" stories illustrated by Steve Ditko with inks by Art Nichols.

February 1, 2007

The Incredible Hulk #400 [1992]

Since this issue of HULK featured the climax of his latest battle against the Leader, the issue also had a reprint of the Ditko pencilled, George Roussos (as Geo. Bell) inked first full Leader story, the 10-page "A Titan Rides the Train" from Tales to Astonish #63 [1965]. Ditko mostly inked his own stuff at Marvel in the 1960s, but there are a few exceptions during his most prolific period, about half of them Roussos inks on some Hulk and Doctor Strange stories. It's pretty much a given that Ditko inks are always preferable to non-Ditko inks, but Roussos does a pretty good job of keeping Ditko's strengths.

In this story, we get the origin of the Leader, a janitor who got caught in a Gamma Ray explosion much like Bruce Banner, but instead of seeing his strength expanded he saw his intellect expand, along with his head. And he also got green skin. Anyway, he decided that world conquest was his destiny, and was behind the plans of the Chameleon in the previous issue. He decides to get more directly involved this time, having created a mentally controlled "Humanoid" that he sends to steal an experimental atomic device designed by Bruce Banner from a transport train. Of course Banner turns into the Hulk and has a great little battle aboard the train with the Humanoid. Eventually the Hulk wins, but ends up imprisoned as Bruce Banner, while the Leader's curiosity about his Gamma Ray mutated brother has been raised for the next year of stories.

Neat little story, building on the background of the Hulk nicely and with one of the great fight scenes of Ditko's comics of the era.


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