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This will be a two-part post based on the need to give brief introductions to each title. October and November of 1964 had some really great stories. Dr. Franklin Storm‘s death in particular stuck with me. December was a bit of a let down after that, but I have high hopes for 1965. It feels like Stan Lee is really starting to get into the groove and the “Marvel Method” is really starting to churn. Time to find out:

Strange Tales # 128: Since the early ’60s, Strange Tales has featured the, mostly solo, adventures of the Human Torch. A few issues after this began, Dr. Strange was added, so that there would be a 14-16 page Human Torch story and a 6-8 page Dr. Strange story in each issue. Toward the end of 1964, the Thing was added to the Torch stories and they are now regularly featured together. This is not a favorite title for me.

The opening story of this issue features Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, long unhappy with Magneto’s plans for the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, deciding to seek aid from the Fantastic Four. Unfortunately the X-Men choose this time to release the identities of the Brotherhood to the public and the Thing and the Human Torch, alone at the FF Headquarters see the news bulletin. When the Maximoff’s consequently arrive at the Baxter Building, the Torch and Thing attack without hesitation. A big fight follows, ending with Pietro and Wanda deciding Magneto may have the right of it, humans will never understand them.

Dr. Strange’s story takes place just after his defeat of Dormammu and subsequent reward of new powers, a better amulet and a cape that allows levitation. As soon as he arrives home, he’s visited by the Demon’s disciple, asking him for help escaping. The Demon finds out and, after some random exploration of his new powers, Doctor Strange confronts him. The battle is short and Strange is victorious.

Strange Tales often seems to be nothing more than an attempt to keep the book going and the money coming in. The stories are simplistic and, to put it frankly, boring. When it came time to give this issue a rating, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars.

Journey into Mystery #112: Like Strange Tales, Journey into Mystery began in the 1950s as pulp horror/sci-fi (the same is true of Tales of Suspense and Tales to Astonish). However, in the early ’60s, Journey into Mystery became home to Thor. Before long Thor was having 16 page adventures followed the 6-8 page “Tales of Asgard”. I’m of Norse ancestry and I have to say, I love me some Thor. Even when he’s being a giant blow-hard.

In issue 112, Thor’s story begins with a group of teenage boys arguing over who is stronger, Thor or the Hulk. Thor overhears them and proceeds to tell them the story of a recent battle between himself and the Hulk. They fight for 14 pages and in the end, we don’t even find out who is stronger.

In the “Tales of Asgard” an “in-depth” biography of Loki is begun. We see the fight between Odin and Laufey and the subsequent discovery of Loki after Jotunheim‘s defeat. We’re promised further tales of Loki in issues to come.

I’m pretty much feeling like nothing happened in this issue. Thor is best when Jane Foster‘s around and Don Blake makes an appearance. I gave this issue 2 out of 5 stars.

Tales of Suspense #61: Iron Man is the star of Tales of Suspense. In late 1964, Captain America was given the last 6-8 pages of the book, with Iron Man continuing to hold the first two-thirds. While Captain America hasn’t been back long enough to have much in the way of continuing story going on, Iron Man is another story. Tony Stark‘s bad heart has reached the point where he needs to remain in his full body armor at all times (I’m betting it smells pretty rank in there!) in order to survive. To protect his secret identity, he’s put out the story that Tony Stark is on a trip and has left Iron Man in charge; however, Stark’s loyal employees, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan, suspect Iron Man in their boss’ disappearance.

As this issue begins, Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan have handed in their resignations in order to investigate their suspicions of Iron Man. Happy decides to break into Stark’s mansion to look for evidence, thinking it will be empty. However, Tony is there, with his helmet off, thinking about how best to dispel the public’s suspicions. He has just enough time to dive under the covers before Happy enters the room and is able to convince Happy (and soon Pepper and the rest of the world) that he was ordered to rest and asked Iron Man to tell everyone he was on a trip to keep them from worrying. The news that Tony is alive but unwell spreads far and wide, giving Iron Man’s enemy the Mandarin the opportunity he has been waiting. Using a satellite he’s put into order, he sends a death ray into Tony’s bedroom. Luckily, everyone has left and Iron Man has donned his helmet and escapes the ray just in time. The world soon believes Tony dead (Pepper and Happy still suspect Iron Man) and Iron Man heads off to find the Mandarin. He walks into a trap and the story comes to an end with Iron Man captured and the promise of the Mandarin’s origin story.

Captain America is absolutely one of my favorite heroes, and not just because Chris Evans is so very, very pretty (though it’s a nice bonus!). I fell for Cap when I read Civil War. I love that he stands up for the downtrodden and exemplifies the best of America. This makes the Captain America stories in Tales of Suspense all the more terrible. In this issue, Cap is in Vietnam to rescue a pilot who’s been captured. He fights a bunch of people including a sumo wrestling general (Yay for ’60s racism that puts a Japanese sport in Vietnam!). Needless to say, he’s successful and he and the pilot head off into the sunset in the General’s stolen MiG.

Iron Man’s story has been really good the last few months, and this issue kept the story going at a high level. Tony’s struggle to stay alive and keep his secrets is entrancing. Captain America’s story continues to bore me to tears. I gave this issue 3 out of 5 stars. Cap brought it down from the 4 it would have earned had it just been the Iron Man story.

Tales to Astonish #63: Tales to Astonish was long home to Ant-Man (later Giant-Man) and the Wasp. I love Hank Pym, and was disappointed when shortly after his transition to Giant-Man, Tales to Astonish disappeared from Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited (MDCU). Late in 1964, it re-emerged touting stories of Giant-Man and the Hulk. However, the digital portion available has only contained the Hulk’s story since this change. At this point in the Hulk’s life, he changes at random and maintains some amount of intelligence. I don’t like this version of the Hulk.

This issue begins with a brief look at the origin story of the Leader, a former laborer who was bombarded with Gamma Rays in an industrial accident and subsequently found his intelligence vastly increased in addition to the physical changes of green skin and a dome-shaped head. He’s created something called the Humanoid, which he controls with a device connected to his brain. He sends the Humanoid to steal a nuclear device being transported to the Pentagon via train, accompanied by Bruce Banner and Mjr. Glenn Talbot, whom Gen. Ross sent to watch Banner. Of course, the Hulk makes his appearance and battles the Humanoid, ultimately winning. A short time later, Talbot finds Banner with the nuclear device, which had fallen off the train in the battle and was considered missing. Talbot arrests Banner and we last see him in his cell, worrying over his fate and the fate of the Hulk.

This issue was actually pretty good! The thing I found myself dwelling on was the difference in the way the two men were effected by the gamma rays. Banner, who was a genius but physically weak, became the Hulk, a being a pure brute strength. Meanwhile the man we would later learn was named Samuel Sterns, dropped out of high school and worked menial labor jobs until the gamma rays increased his intelligence one hundred fold. (I’m making that number up. It could be accurate, I don’t know. It sounds good.) It intrigues me the way the gamma rays increased traits in both men that they were missing. I’d never really thought of it before and I’m looking forward to continuing to explore my epiphany in future issues. I give this issue 4 out of 5 stars, for making me think!

And that’s it for Part I. Part II will likely post later this weekend and will include Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandosand Uncanny X-MenSee you then!