I had already discovered and immediately loved Captain America and the Avengers. It didn't take me long to find other Marvel product which was just as brilliant in my ten year old eyes - Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and Daredevil. But I still had a couple of Marvel characters to try out ...
OF GODS AND MONSTERSI'd come across Marvel's take on Thor earlier. I'm pretty sure it was in an Alan Class reprint of Journey Into Mystery 84 ... but by the time I had caught up with the American originals, Thor had become a very different kind of strip.
|I have no idea what else was in this black and|
white reprint of JiM84, but the peril of the cover
image stayed with me for a long time.
|Unusually for a Marvel cover of the period, this |
one is not action-oriented. The suspense comes
from Thor meekly submitting to his fate ...
Immediately, the God of Mischief reveals that not only does he have a forbidden weapon - a pouch full of mystic Norn Stones - but also that he's sent his brutal allies, The Enchantress and the Executioner, after Thor's one true love, the mortal Jane Foster. And with that, Loki is off, using his enchanted stones to escape from the mountain, leaving Thor to rely on just his strength and his courage. Fortunately, Thor's friend and ally Balder gets wind of what's going on back on Earth and is dispatched by Odin to prevent The Enchantress and The Executioner from harming Jane Foster. Balder also scares the Frightful Four away from the Baxter Building when they mistake his fiery arrival for the Human Torch (and Stan adds a footnote mentioning FF38). And the story continued Next Issue, so I had to track down a copy of Journey into Mystery 117 to find out if Thor managed some last-minute miracle to prevent his cheating brother winning the Trial of the Gods. Dang, that never happened with DC Comics ...
The Tales of Asgard back-up story featured more Loki villainy, this time tricking his brother into a battle with an important political ally of Asgard, the blow-hard braggart King Hymir. The story begins with an editorial reference to issue 63 of Thor, which puzzled me no end because I was holding Journey into Mystery 116 in my hands. I didn't know Thor had his own title, let alone it reaching its 63rd issue. But the Shakespearian drama of the story soon banished my confusion and I never did try to locate a copy of Thor 63 ...
That same issue also carried an ad for something called The Merry Marvel Marching Society. I had no idea what that was. But I did know I didn't have a "buck" to send Marvel for my membership kit. So that, too, would remain a mystery to me ...
|What exactly was the Merry Marvel Marching|
Society? I thought it might be like a brass band,
but I never did find out ...
|Powell brings some animation to Giant-Man's shrinking|
sequence with this clever effect.
|So, what's happening to Giant Man here? |
Falling down a well? Trapped in a lift?
|Ditko's take on the Hulk was just very, very angry ...|
a characterisation that has lasted till the modern day.
|Every copy of this comic I've ever seen has had |
an especially heavy ink pence stamp on it.
At the end of 1964, Marvel comics had a hiccup in distribution. Up until September, Marvel Comics were freely available in UK newsagents. The company even changed the black plate at the end of the print run to substitute the US 12c price for a UK 9d price. They also removed the Month from the cover box because the Marvel books came over by surface as ballast in ships and thus were on sale here later. Then, some October issues failed to show up here. Some were scarcer than others. Spider-Man 18 and 19 were impossible to find and remained very scarce in the UK. FF 32 and 33 were also thin on the ground. Other difficult to find Marvels included Avengers 9 (though 8 and 10 were less common), Daredevil 4, Journey into Mystery 110 and 111, Sgt Fury 11, Strange Tales 127, Tales of Suspense 59 and 60, Tales to Astonish 62, and X-Men 8.
The last 1964 pence copy of a Marvel Comic I have is Tales to Astonish 61 - which is odd, because traditionally, this has always been considered one of the "non-distributed" Marvels of 1964.
So here's what I think happened: sometime around June 1964, someone - perhaps Marty Goodman at Marvel, or perhaps a manager at Thorpe and Porter - decided that selling Marvels in the UK wasn't making enough money. They needed to raise the selling price. Maybe there was a difference of opinion over how much the price should be raised by. But whatever caused it, there was a delay in deciding, because for the most part, the November and December Marvels didn't reach the UK by official channels. Tales to Astonish 61 would have been the earliest November Marvel on sale, so would have somehow scraped though with a 9d price. For the next two months, no Marvels were distributed at all. Goodman resumed exporting copies of his books to the UK with the January 1965 cover dates, but left it to T&P to ink-stamp the copies. It wasn't until the September 1965 cover date that some Marvels started showing up with a 10d price replacing the 12c, and only the Marvels that replaced the "Marvel Comics Group" with "Marvel Pop Art Productions" in the corner box.
|The corner boxes from Avengers 18 and 19.|
WHERE WERE WE?X-Men 10 was inked over Kirby pencils by Chic Stone. Over the years I've seen a lot of criticism of Stone's inks, especially on Kirby pencils, and I've never agreed with it. Stone began inking for Marvel around Journey into Mystery 102 (Apr 1964). I remember seeing his work on the first Fantastic Four I can remember owning, issue 36, and really liking his clean, organic line. Later on, I decided I preferred his inking on the earlier Thor stories in Journey into Mystery to the later ones that had the scratchy inking style of Vince Colletta.
I instantly liked X-Men because, like Spider-Man, they were only a couple of years older than me.
But the main attraction of X-Men 10 was that it introduced the bargain basement Tarzan, Ka-Zar (boy, Stan loved his hyphens, didn't he?) to the Marvel Universe. Following a news report of an Antarctic expedition party attacked by a wild man, the X-Men discover a hidden pre-historic world beneath the South Pole. Great news for me, because like any other ten year old, I was fascinated with dinosaurs. Much battling ensues. In the end, Ka-Zar (pronounced Kay-zar, Stan's footnote helpfully explains) grudgingly accepts the X-Men's friendship, then chucks them out of his lost world and has his pet mastodons block the entrance with tons of boulders, presumably sealing it off from the upper world forever. Didn't work out that way, in the long run. Ka-Zar would be back to menace Daredevil next. But a great story. With dinosaurs.
|The X-Men's encounter with a tyrannosaurus rex was a bit|
of a low-key affair - surprised Kirby didn't make more of it.
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