Amazing Spider-Man Classics
The X-Men Blog -- The Fantastic Four 28

Where, oh where, has the summer gone?  I tell you, I thought I would have no problem getting this blog all caught up to be in sync with the Spidey podcast by summer's end.  But here we are with the butt-end of August staring us in the face, and I'm still several months behind.  Ah, well.  I'm trying.  And hopefully, you're reading.

Today's fare is another crossover book.  Around this time, I guess Marvel decided that their flagship title would be a good place to showcase their two new superteams, and so The Fantastic Four played host to both the Avengers (in issue 26) and the X-Men (in issue 28).  It is, of course, the second of these that interests us today.

The Fantastic Four 28 was published in the off-month between The X-Men 5 and 6, as the comic is still bi-monthly at this point.  The cover features the two teams in the grip of the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android.  And I have to say, that cover doesn't do a whole lot for me.  The art on the people looks good.  There are some good poses as the X-Men and FF don't know whether to help each other or kill each other.  But the Android is this big blob of gray.  And it just throws the whole thing off for me.  Also, the captions advertise that our villains this month will be the Mad Thinker, the Puppet Master, and the Awesome Android, common enough antagonists for the FF at this time.  The lack of an X-Men villain makes me think this will be primarily an FF-centric story, but I'm sure we'll get plenty of mutant madness along the way.  (Also, admittedly, there just aren't many X-Men villains to speak of at this point.)

The opening splash page is dominated by the title at the top: "We Have to Fight the X-Men!"  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is silver age Marvel.  So if superheroes from two titles are going to meet, there's going to be trouble.  The image here is rather pedestrian, I have to say.  The Thing is carrying a statue of himself, freshly sculpted by girlfriend Alicia Masters, who is walking beside him.  Reed and Susan are...erm...reading a newspaper.  ...right.  The Torch is the only guy doing anything interesting by flying around in flames, but then he loses points for sounding like an idiot: "Hi, sis! What are you and Reed looking at? The FUNNIES are in the other section!"  Johnny.  Just...just go away.

(pages 1-2) Everyone talks about how cool the X-Men are and the Thing hurts Alicia's feelings.

Short, sweet opening scene.  Stan's talking up how cool the X-Men are by describing how famous they've become and listing off their awesome villains.  Johnny pipes up, bragging how he and Iceman beat the Barracude a few months back.  Johnny, I wouldn't brag about that if I were you.  And then the Thing mentions how much better Alicia's work is than the Puppet Master's.  Then he's all, "Oh man, I forgot he was your stepfather."  Really, Ben?  You forgot your girlfriend's only parent??  That's pretty lame of you.  And it's even lamer of Alicia to let him get away with such a crummy story.

(pages 2-6) The Puppet Master arrives at the Mad Thinker's hideout.  He doesn't want to team up, but the Mad Thinker points out that not teaming up is dumb, so he agrees to team up.  The Puppet Master makes a clay statue of Professor X and uses it to take over his mind.  He then has the Professor order the X-Men to trap and destroy the Fantastic Four, because they allegedly are plotting world domination.

Okay, this story is not exactly starting out well.  We're only six pages in, and I already have sooo many problems.

First, the Mad Thinker is annoying.  The very notion that someone could plan out all the variables of life to predict exactly when things would be happening, down to the second (sometimes the fraction of a second) is just bad.  It's an annoying idea for a villain because it tries to be real-worldly and completely fails.

Next, the Puppet Master shows up so that he can refuse to help.  If I got a request for a super-villain team-up that I wanted to refuse, I'm pretty sure I'd just not go.  Then it's basically, "I don't want to join you."  "But see how AWESOME I am!"  "Wow!  You're even AWESOMEr than I thought.  Okay, I'll join you and your AWESOMEness."

Not only does the Mad Thinker posit he is able to deduce what the leader of the X-Men looks like based on publicly available information about the X-Men.  But the likeness he fashions is a COMPLETELY FEATURELESS HEAD!!!  Oh, let's see, I think I know what he looks like.  So I'll make a human head without an effing face!

Oh but it gets better.  Then the Puppet Master makes a statue that also has no face, but he gives it clothes.  Couldn't the Mad Thinker have done that?  Supposedly, the power here is not in the Puppet Master but in the clay, and if you don't need his awesome sculpting skills to make a lifelike face, then why is he there in the first place??

And then!  (No, I'm not done.)  This faceless approximation of humanity actually works on Xavier.  But isn't strong enough, so the Thinker says to add a precise amount of clay to the statue.  Now, if you have worked with clay, you know that adding clay to a sculpture means you have to RESCULPT IT! out of the new lump of clay!  Probably would have been a thousand jizzes easier to do if he had said, "Here's the amount of clay you'll need.  Use all of it."  Right?

Sigh...  And let's not forget that when Xavier says to DESTROY the Fantastic Four, the X-Men are okay with it.  Sure there's some cursory protest, but they quickly accede to the Professor's insane commands, as we see in the next scene.

(pages 6-12) The X-Men pay a visit to the Baxter Building.  After socializing with the FF, Cyclops requests Reed's help with "an alien space ship sighted on a remote mesa west of here".  Reed respectfully declines.  Cyclops was expecting this as the Thinker had predicted it, so he attacks.  In the other room, a similar interaction happens between Jean Grey and the Thing, and Jean accidentally breaks the Thing statue.  When Sue tries to enter the fray, the Angel and Iceman subdue her and bind her with ice.  The fight continues and the result is that the X-Men leave with Susan as captive, and the rest of the FF prepare to follow with Reed convinced the X-Men's motives are noble.

You know, if I'd made this plan, I would have removed the "socialize" part of the plan.  You get into the building on their good graces and immediately get the drop on the FF.

That aside, once they're in and following their plan in separate rooms, I sure am glad that Cyclops and Jean were able to attack at the same time without communication between them.  It would have sucked if Reed had agreed to help and Jean had attacked the Thing, or vice versa.  Oh wait, that's right, the Thinker knew this would all happen as it did.

The Invisible Woman got force fields at some point.  It wasn't super early, but it wasn't that long either.  I can't remember if she has them by this point.  If so, then her not using them is a terrible use of her power set in the story.  If she doesn't, then this scene proves why she was the most useless member of the team until she got them.

Wait.  Back the truck up.  Did Ben actually threaten to SPANK Jean Grey?  And it wasn't just an idle threat.  No, he actually grabs the girl and puts her under his arm, butt out front ready for the swats.  Oh, this reminds me of a similar event in The Wheel of Time, and Leigh Butler's excellent tirade about it on Tor's website.  If I could just borrow a salient bit: "I just want to say that there is a difference between FIGHTING, and goddamn SPANKING. The latter is something you do to a recalcitrant child, not an adult human being you supposedly regard as an equal."  Yeah, she basically says it all.

And finally, Reed's supposedly altruistic approach to the whole thing.  "Oh, I just wish I knew their motives."  Reed.  They came into your house and assaulted you in your living room.  I know this is an action comic book, but still.  It doesn't matter what someone's motives are when they assault you in your own house.  That makes them criminals.  You hear that, X-Men?  You've just become evil.

I seriously have the feeling that if Xavier told them to jump off a bridge, they'd do it.

(pages 13-22) The showdown occurs on the mesa Cyclops mentioned earlier.  The X-Men arrive with Susan Storm and await further mental orders from Professor X.  Susan realizes they don't know what they're doing.  Xavier commands them telepathically to subdue the Fantastic Four when they arrive, which happens almost immediately.  Fighting ensues, but the mesa seems to have been rigged to trap the FF.  A hole opens below Ben.  A revolving reel device catches Reed and wraps him around it (like that girl's hair in the one of the Saw movies).  And two missiles launch from a hidden launcher, wrapping the Torch and Susan in elastic straightjackets.  Once they're all down, the Thinker and Puppet Master emerge from a hidden doorway, revealing their control over Xavier.  The Puppet Master then uses his puppet to make Xavier put the X-Men to sleep telepathically.  The Beast has enough wits about him to react before losing consciousness, knocking the puppet from the Master's hand and crushing it beneath his feet.  The rest of the FF extricate themselves from their traps and both teams together take on the Thinker's Awesome Android.  With the Xavier puppet destroyed, the Professor recovers and mentally halts the Android's brain.  The bad guys get away, and the two superteams part on good terms.

Well, the ending wasn't as crazy as the rest of the story.  A bit contrived perhaps, but not so full of plot holes I could strain my macaroni through it before adding the milk, butter, and cheese sauce mix (mmmm).  I had completely forgotten the Android's ability to mimic superpowers.  It's been a very long time since I read a story with him in it.  I thought it was just big and strong, so that was actually a refreshing surprise.

So, the Thinker knew from the start, I guess, that the X-Men wouldn't be able to take out the Four, so he had this whole plateau dug out and rigged with traps.  I bet if I tried I could think of several more efficient ways of luring the FF to that plateau that wouldn't involve another superteam getting in the way and destroying the magic puppet.

I find it interesting that the puppet was smashed.  In the first Puppet Master story, the story ended with the puppet falling off a table and breaking, with the story strongly implying that the same had happened to the Puppet Master himself.  But it makes sense for them to retract that kind of device.  Otherwise the puppets, once formed, could never be destroyed for fear of killing their victims.  Of course, it might not have killed the professor because IT DIDN'T EFFING LOOK LIKE HIM!


My last critique would be that Androids are governed by printed circuits, not by a mind.  I don't like when telepaths are meant to be able to influence machinery.  It doesn't make sense, and it bothered me here.


Well, this issue was a bit wonky, I have to say.  It could be that I'm not a big fan of the Mad Thinker.  Like, at all.  And while I think the Puppet Master is a good concept, there were so many problems here with the execution of his character.  Donovan likes to say the FF are jerks, and while that wasn't a dominant theme to this story, there were definitely a couple of jerky moments (Thing, I'm looking at you and your treatments of Alicia and Jean).

But hopefully the issue served its purpose in pulling people over to the main comic, increasing sales for Lee's and Kirby's good works being done there.  And we shall be returning to those stories in short order, bringing a bit of the FF world with us as we go.  Next time, The X-Men Blog will see Namor, The First Mutant, join the ranks of the Brotherhood in The X-Men 6.  See you there.

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 1:40am EST

014 ASM Classics - Amazing Spider-Man 18 and 19

Welcome back, Spidey fans, to the British invasion!!!  Yes, we are joined again this week by UK Superman blogger Stephen Lacey, to take a look at Amazing Spider-Man 18 and 19.  Thrill to every minute as Peter Parker runs from a fight, flirts with his aunt, and smashes through glass with nary a scratch.  The Sandman and the Enforcers are out in ... erm, force, and enjoy them while you can, because neither will grace the pages of a Spidey book for quite some time to come.

The new Facebook link to the left points to a NEW Facebook page.  If you were a member of the previous group, I invite you to "Like" the new page, where I will be notifying you of new episode postings and such.  If such activity doesn't interest you, that's fine too.

I compiled quite the collection of images from these two books.  It was a fun couple of months, and there was plenty more I could have pulled, but these are the highlights.


Thanks as always for listening.  Please feel free to comment below or send us an email.  We also always welcome reviews on iTunes.  Emails and iTunes reviews will receive response on the show.  Enjoy!

Direct download: ASM_Classics_Episode_014.mp3
Category:ASMClassics -- posted at: 1:15am EST

013 ASM Classics - Amazing Spider-Man 17

Hello?  Anybody still out there?

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right!  After 40 days of spider-fast, Amazing Spider-Man Classics is back!

This month, Jon, Don, and Josh are joined by British blogger Stephen Lacey (author of the World of Superman blog) as they discuss and deliberate the beginning of Ditko's first great trilogy.

Also, introducing a new feature on Facebook.  A bit of fandom fun may be had at the pages for Team Betty, Team Liz, and Team Mary Jane.  This is in addition to the main Facebook page for the show.


All the delays have been to due to a variety of scheduling conflicts.  Things that, in the end, just couldn't be avoided.  The show has been fighting to exist behind the scenes, even if you couldn't see it.  Unfortunately, our thrice-monthly schedule has essentially lost a month in the process.  So there are no "July" episodes.  With lots of recordings under the belt over the last couple weeks, the next two episodes should be out before the end of the month, and then we'll be back on schedule after that.

Thanks as always for listening.  Please feel free to comment below or send us an email.  We also always recommend reviews on iTunes.  Emails and iTunes reviews will receive response on the show.  Enjoy!

Direct download: ASM_Classics_Episode_013.mp3
Category:ASMClassics -- posted at: 12:00am EST

The X-Men Blog -- The X-Men 5


I spent all weekend reading comics.  Gearing up for the next recording sessions for Amazing Spider-Man Classics (one of which is now past, which means yes, new episodes ARE on the way), catching up on reviews for (soon to be posted), and now it's time for another entry in The X-Men Blog.  ...and THEN I'll do my Spanish homework and housework.

The last time that we were in an actual issue of The X-Men, the Professor had lost his powers in an explosion.  We took a sidetrip to a book published in the meantime and saw Iceman playing on a boat with the Torch.  Now we're back to the main book to see how it all works out.

I find the cover very interesting.  Usually when someone is trapped, the camera is outside showing lots of interesting things, and you can see the person through a little window or some such.  Here it's the opposite.  We're inside the Angel's cell with him, looking out through a window at the Brotherhood and the attacking X-Men.  Nice job, Mr. Kirby!  Too bad the colorist STILL doesn't know what color Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are supposed to be.  Ah, well...

ACTION!! SURPRISES! SUSPENSE! All in the magnificent MARVEL MANNER!!  See the most unusual teen-agers of all tie at their fighting best, when they learn: "The Angel is Trapped!"  Magneto and his Evil Mutants, more dangerous than ever, STRIKE AGAIN!

Open to the splash page and YIKES! it looks like Cyclops is seriously about to kill me.  He's right there big in the foreground looking straight at the reader, and he is NOT happy.  The other X-Men are forlorn, but it looks like the Angel and Beast are the only ones moving.  Everyone else is just posing for the camera.  We again have our banner, "X-MEN the most unusual teen-agers of all time!"  It was there last issue too, but I forgot to mention it.  It's in a caption box in the top corner, though.  And the title is given here as "Trapped: One X-Man!"

What's funny is that Stan Lee says the readers were instantly fascinated by Magneto's group of evil mutants.  Even with the bimonthly publishing schedule, how could he possibly know that?  I'm pretty sure the copy for this book had to be written before the last issue hit the stands.  Who knows, though?  Maybe I'm wrong. (Yeah, like that ever happens!)

(pages 1-6) The X-Men arrive home from their outing in issue 4.  They put the Professor to bed so he can rest from his ordeal.  Jean Grey's parents show up for an unexpected visit.  During a tour, Cyclops gets trapped in the Danger Room and has to shoot stuff.  The Greys leave, driving past Mastermind, who is prowling the area, trying to locate the X-Men.

Iceman seems to have lost his boots since the last book.  Not sure what happened to those, but I recall letters complaining about it.  Personally, I think he looks better without them.  They're like little elvish twinkle toe shoes.

I'm not sure, but wouldn't it make sense that the Professor might have a concussion or something bad?  Shouldn't they take him to the hospital?  I'm pretty sure my mama told me that if I ever threw myself in front of an explosion to protect my mutant students, that I should seek medical attention.  And I think the movies say that if you have a concussion, you shouldn't be allowed to sleep.  So the kids fail several different ways here.

Each hero gets a panel to sorta sum up his character in a sentence or two, while changing clothes.  They like to play up the angst of Scott and Hank, and the free youth of Bobby and Warren.

Something confuses me here.  It seems that Jean's parents have absolutely no understanding of her mutant abilities.  Does that make sense?  I know later it'll be retconned that the early onset of her powers was highly traumatic and of course her parents know, but even though that story hasn't been told yet, surely they would know SOMEthing, right?  I have a hard time believing a girl would develop telepathy in a vacuum.

Speaking of her parents, I hope you enjoyed this moment with them.  You won't see them again for about 100 issues.

I find it interesting that simply closing the Danger Room door with someone inside activates a pre-determined automatic series of deadly attacks.  Interesting in an "OH MY GOD WHAT WERE YOU THINKING PROFESSOR XAVIER??" kind of way.

(pages 6-9) Mastermind reports in and Magneto commands his return.  Quicksilver retrieves him in a magnetically-controlled craft, and they then fly up to an orbiting asteroid that has been developed by Magneto into a life-supporting habitat called Asteroid M.  Toad annoys both of them when they arrive, so he gets slapped around.  Magneto then begins formulating plans for their next attack, and his strategy will involve the snivelling Toad.

God, I hate Toad.  I'm so glad they made him devious and more animalistic in the first movie even if his powers still kinda suck.  Basically, he jumps, and he's a toadie to Magneto.  And he has the social skills of a manic jackrabbit.

Quicksilver suggests leaving the X-Men behind.  Is this cuz he doesn't agree with the violence?  Cuz they're fellow mutants?  Or cuz, as he says, they don't seem to be a threat?  Somehow, I don't the character is nearly as complex inside as I'm trying to give him credit for being.

ASTEROID M!!  Yay!  What is more awesome than having a hollowed-out asteroid as your headquarters?  IN SPACE!!  It's nice to know that his Atlantic island fortress had a back-up facility.  I always liked Asteroid M.  This is the first time we see it, but it's retconned later that he's had it up there since just before bringing Q&SW into the Brotherhood.

(pages 9-11)  Bobby invites Scott to watch a track meet with them but has the door slammed in his face for his troubles.  Jean wheels the Professor into the TV room, and all the teen (except Scott) watch the program as event after event is won by a prodigiously leaping athlete.  The competitor's leaps are so extraordinary that the crowd is upset that it's a fake.  The X-Men decide to rush over and help him.

Ok, for all you chronology nuts out there, I'm going to squeeze Strange Tales 120 in right here.  Sometime between getting home at the beginning of the book and now, Iceman went on his cruise with the Torch.  The Official Index to the Marvel Universe suggests that that tale coincides with this one somehow, and so that's how I'm gonna run with it.  The caption "Not long afterwards" means long enough for Bobby to go on a cruise to try and get laid, and fighting pirates.  This makes Scott's strong reaction to him a little bit more believable because he's off gallavanting around and living a normal life while the Professor is ill.  The track meet was just the final straw.

You know and I know this is the Toad.  How the X-Men don't know is a bit beyond me.  Yes, they only met him the once.  And possibly the context of an everyday track meet has thrown them off, but still.

It annoys me how the Beast is silently bemoaning Xavier's loss of brilliance, how his "brain is now merely that of a normal human's".  Very racist of him.

(pages 11-17) The X-Men arrive at the race track in time to rescue the athlete.  They get on a subway to head presumably back toward Westchester, but on the way, the Beast deduces their new companion is the Toad in disguise.  Once they reach Grand Central Terminal, the Toad bounds away, the rest of the Brotherhood shows up, and fighting ensues.  The upshot is that the Angel is bound in iron bars and captured by the Brotherhood, while the X-Men regain possession of the Toad.  The Brotherhood, with the Angel, board a magnetic ship and ascend to the asteroid, where Magneto tortures the Angel to learn the location of X-Men HQ and Professor X.

I'm having a really hard time with the track meet scene.  Ok.  So, the school is in Westchester county, but not in the city.  But somehow they manage to make it to the racetrack in time to save the Toad from a mob that was beginning their attack live on television while they were at school.  That to me seems rather impossible.  Especially because heading back up, they make a big deal about having to take the subway and how they're attracting the commuters' attention.  And THEN, wherever the race was located, they have to make a train change in Grand Central Terminal before heading north.  So, getting to the race should have taken a good long while, not the 30 seconds it seemed to take.  And if they could get there in 30 seconds, why couldn't they get BACK to school in 30 seconds?  Oh.  Wait.  I just saw at the bottom of page 11, they came in a car.  ....okay.  So they drove from the school to the race, which is located in some area where they can't take a direct train north to the school but have to detour through Manhattan.  That doesn't seem to make my question any easier.  Sigh.  Stan and Jack, these guys LIVE IN NEW YORK!  They should know better than this!

Love how Magneto just casually dismantles the famous clock in the train station and uses it as a weapon.  Pity the fool who has to put that sonuvabitch back together.

I don't know whether to say the X-Men perform pretty pitifully here, or that Stan and Jack have crafted a team that is pretty evenly matched with our merry mutants.  None of their fights has had a clear winner yet.

Poor Toad.  Left behind by his beloved master, who secretly hates him.

The Scarlet Witch is very bothered by Magneto's violence.  She seriously needs to get out of that place.

This form of torture is physically painless but mentally gruelling.  All LOSTies are familiar with a similar torture method used by the Others on their misbehaving members, such as the boy who was dating Alex.  The fact that the Angel went through hours of this and was then up for action in the next scene is nothing short of astonishing.

(pages 17-24) The X-Men can't take the Toad home cuz it'll reveal their location, but their dilemma is solved for them as the Toad slips into a trance where he must return home.  He pulls out a device and uses it to call a magno-ship.  The X-Men all follow him aboard to go up to the asteroid.  Fighting ensues immediately, with Magneto using a magnetic intensifier to expand his power so he can control all metal in the entire asteroid.  The Angel is rescued.  Q&SW may hate Magneto, but they also help to fend of Cyclops and the other X-Men from attacking him.  Magneto throws Cyclops into an airlock that breaks apart from the rest of the facility as the asteroid begins to break up.  Iceman forms an ice tunnel through space, so the Angel can fly to the other section and save Cyclops.  The asteroid continues to break up, but the X-Men use a magno-ship to return to the surface.  The ship then flies back up automatically, presumably to save the Brotherhood.  The X-Men return to school to give the Professor their report, only to find that he followed the whole thing mentally.  He didn't regain his powers, though.  He actually never lost them and was just pretending the whole time.  And now that the X-Men have succeeded in a mission with no help from the Professor, they've passed their finals and are no longer trainees.

Ok, final action sequence.  Few things to discuss.  Firstly, why the hell did the Toad go into a trance?  Plotwise, I can see it gives the opportunity for the X-Men to accompany him if he isn't conscious of events.  But it's never explained why it happened.  And I'm pretty sure it never happens again.  Very weird.

Mastermind needs to stick to illusions of bodily malfunction.  Those seem to be the most effective.  When he creates false surroundings, like attacking monsters, if the X-Men know he's around, they just ignore the illusions.

Magneto needs magnetic intensifiers a lot.  He must not be as powerful as he likes everyone to think he is.

Ok.  So, you're gonna use an ice tunnel through space to link two facilities and then casually fly from one to the other?  There's no air, remember?  How will you breathe?  Against what will your wings be pushing to propel you?  Another example of the days before manned space flight when the common Joe just didn't. understand. space. AT ALL.

Professor X.  WHAT THE FUCK!!  Seriously, dude, that was some messed up shit you just pulled.  You pretended to be all hurt and let your students, your family, get all worked up and worried about you, and you were just fine the whole time?  And you KNOW Scott's gotta be pissed about this.  He was so upset about the Professor.  His line "But...WHY, sir?" has gotta be filled with so much shock and anger.  Crazy bald son of a bitch.  You think you're so clever with your pipe.  Oughtta smack you.


And joy of joys, we have a letters page!!  This month, the number of magazines carrying letters pages went from two (Amazing Spider-Man and The Fantastic Four) to five (adding The X-Men, The Avengers, and Sgt. Fury).  It's called "Let's Visit the X-Men".  Let's see if anyone had anything interesting to say...

The talk seems to be largely in regard to the third issue, but I know I've read letters about the first issue or two, so maybe those were printed in The Fantastic Four.  That letters column ran letters from all the Marvel books, not just in regard to the FF's issues.

Overall, though, not a lot of note is said.  Many favorable reviews, especially to the addition of individual personality traits in the third issue.  Mary Ann McClain does ask, though, how the Professor got the teens together in the first place.  They promise to explain eventually.  Poor Mary Ann will have to wait a couple years, though, for the Origins of the X-Men backup feature.


And that pretty much sums us up for this issue.  The X-Men is still bi-monthly at this point, and in the month between this issue and the next, they guest-starred in an issue of The Fantastic Four, so we'll talk about that next time.  As always, please comment below.  You'll notice all the spam is gone as I've switched on some moderation filters.  So, your comment won't appear immediately, but it will eventually, and I love to read feedback.  Or write an email and we'll read it on the podcast.  Thanks for reading!


Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 9:33am EST

The X-Men Blog -- Strange Tales 120

We will have to wait until next time to find out what's going to happen with Professor Xavier's loss of powers because between The X-Men 4 and 5, Iceman was guest-featured in the Human Torch strip in Strange Tales 120.  And since we here at The X-Men Blog go more for publishing order than chronology, you'll have to suffer just as all the kids suffered in the winter of 1964 when these books hit the stands.

The gimmick is beyond obvious here.  Fire meets Ice, right?  And two teen superheroes fighting then teaming up, always a good idea with the kiddies.  The Torch had teamed up with Spider-Man in the summer of 1963 to, presumably, much acclaim (and then they had tussled a few months later in Amazing Spider-Man 8).  Putting the flaming queen, teen... in with a superhero of such a convenient power-set probably seemed a natural.  Plus, I'm sure it'd drum up awareness of The X-Men, if they weren't selling as well as Stan or Marty would like.

At this time, Strange Tales was running the Human Torch in the lead (14 pages in this ish), then a Doctor Strange story (9 pages here), with either the first or second half of a text story taking one page somewhere in the book.  I've read VERY little Doctor Strange, and it doesn't concern our mutant heroes today anyway, so theoretically this post might be shorter as I won't be looking at anything but the Torch story.  Speaking of, let's dive right in.

We have Kirby art on the cover, but with a different inker (George Roussos) compared to his work on The X-Men (which is inked by Paul Reinmann).  I'm not much of a connoisseur of inkers, able to name inkers by looking at their work, but I can usually tell the difference between two inkers when laid side-by-side, especially if the penciller is the same.  Pretty cool picture, though, with Torch and Iceman defending some cruise-goers against pirates (yarrrrh!).

Open up to the splash page and we see the fantastic, exciting portrayal of JOHNNY STORM READING A NEWSPAPER!!!!  Um, right...  Now it's Kirby with Dick Ayers.  Ayers was the usual penciller and inker for the Torch strip at this time.  I guess Kirby came on cuz he was the resident X-Men artist.  In any case, whether it's Ayers' inking or Kirby on an off-day, the FF just look weird.  And no, it's not the best composition.

"The Torch Meets the Iceman!"  I like how there's the note: "Iceman's guest appearance through courtesy of X-MEN magazine!"  I'm pretty sure Lee thought he was being clever here, cuz of course both magazines are owned by the same people.  And you know what?  The clever works.

(pages 1-2) Johnny is reading a paper spotlighting the X-Men's recent tussle with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.  Iceman is being touted as "a frozen version of the Human Torch".  Johnny is a bit peeved but blows it off and heads for a date with Doris on a cruise.

Reed mentions that no one knows the X-Men's secret identities, so it'll be hard for Johnny to meet the Iceman.  I'm guessing the logic is that they'd be hard to contact.  It'll be interesting to see how this is re-dressed in a few issues when the X-Men go to the Richards' engagement party.

The Thing lifts a heavy thing and complains about it.  So this is Tuesday.

You know, Torch makes a simple comment that is provided to help anyone unfamiliar with the X-Men to understand the story.  As mutants, "they were all born with their power, instead of getting it accidentally" like the FF did.  I'm thinking that at this point, Lee hadn't worked out the idea that the powers manifest with adolescence.  He has made similar remarks before, and I may have even commented on them before and am just not remembering, but we may owe the adolescence idea to Roy Thomas and his "Origins" back-up feature.

Johnny muses aloud about being on a boat at night with his girlfriend under the stars.  And Susan murmurs how her little brother sure is growing up.  Come on, girl!  This guy is gonna be visiting colleges in a very short while.  You should have wised up to his post-pubescent pretension before now!

(pages 2-5)  At the Professor's school in Westchester county, Iceman is beat to asking Jean on a date by Warren, so at the Professor's suggestion, he decides to go into the city on his own.  He has an advertisement pamphlet for a cruise around the city but arrives at the dock moments too late.  Icing up, he creates a frozen pole vault and lunges himself onto the boat.  Once there, he defrosts and begins making time with the first chicky he catches alone.  Sadly for him, this is Doris Evans, Johnny's own girlfriend, who returns just then with some sodas.  Bobby takes a hint but freezes Johnny's soda as he leaves.

The plot kinda flies in these shorter stories, so I have several things I want to grab here.

First, the change in Bobby's character is kinda amusing here.  In issue 1, he mocked the other boys' wolfish attentions to Jean.  Then by issue 3, he got pubes and decided girls were interesting.  And now, only one and a half issues later (publishing time), he's trying to ask out the one girl in the group but is so shy and always gets beaten to the punch by one of the other guys.  On the one hand, I can see a natural progression.  He realizes that girls can be a good thing, so he wants to date one.  I get that.  But these are feelings that should be wrestled by a 12-14 year old.  Bobby has never seemed that young.  But since he definitely IS younger than the other X-Men, shouldn't he realize that Jean might be out of his league just by age if for no other reason?  I mean, the Professor should be giving his young teens some guidance in the ways of romance if they're going to be spending every day with him from puberty onward.  (And I mean that in the least creepy way possible....although the creepy implications are fun to laugh at.)

So, Bobby gets to the dock a second too late.  And instead of running to the end of the dock and pole vaulting over, he takes the time to undress, skates to the end of the dock on ice, and THEN makes the frozen pole vault.  (We're going to leave aside the fact that pole vaults only work because they're flexible, which ice isn't.)  Bit of a time waster if you ask me, AND it necessitates getting dressed again while hidden on the deck of a boat full of people, but hey it gets us some more icy guest star action, so it's all good, right? Riiiiight...

Poor Bobby.  He's spent the last few months of his life living with three other teen boys, a professor, and an unattainable older woman.  He finally gets some time with other teenagers, and the first girl he meets is the Human Torch's girlfriend.  I'd imagine that he has the flirtation skills of a heated desert rock, but she seems to only shun him because she's taken, not because he comes off as creepy.  So that's good.  Good trick with the frozen soda, too.  (See? He CAN use his powers without frosting up all over, so why didn't he do that to get onto the boat?)

(pages 5-14) Bobby shoulders past a couple thugs, who then break into the radio room and smash all the equipment.  The ship is then boarded by the Barracuda and a bunch of pirates (yarrrrh!), who start robbing all the passengers of their belongings at gunpoint.  But when they come to Johnny Storm, he fights back with fireballs.  Johnny gets Doris and his dress clothes off to safety before returning as the Human Torch, followed shortly by the Iceman, who frosted up while in hiding.  They both go on the attack, but both get stalled, and in the process, the Barracuda sets fire to the deck.  Iceman recovers and douses the fire.  The Torch also get his flame going again in time to corral all the pirates (yarrrrh!) except the Barracuda, who gets to a launch boat with Doris as a hostage and shield.  But he runs aground on an iceberg that rises out of the water, pedestal-like.  Torch flies by and grabs his girl and promises the Barracuda the police would be back for him.  Iceman ducks out, making frozen platforms in the water to walk home.  And Johnny and Doris continue to enjoy their romantic cruise.  Awwww...

So, the action kinda came out of nowhere and didn't stop until the last page of the story, which is kinda good for these half-length-ish tales.  You don't have a whole lot of space to mess around.

Now if you're a listener to Amazing Spider-Man Classics, you've heard Josh Bertone talk about how the Torch had a secret identity in these Strange Tales stories.  I honestly haven't read very many of them, but I've seen occasional inklings of the same.  But here, such a notion is blown out of the water.  Johnny is very obviously throwing fireballs at the pirates (yarrrrh!) in front of everyone.  So much for the secret identity, which wasn't secret anyway cuz everyone knows he's the Torch and was just humoring him.

Trapping the Iceman in a block of ice seems like a redundancy somehow...

Ok, I'm not sure of the exact physics of gasoline melting through snow.  But I'm pretty sure it's not because of some intense hidden heat.  It probably has something to do with the fact that it's liquid and therefore efficiently conducts the heat that it has by virtue of not being frozen.  The line that it melted the snow off his foot so quickly it burned him is just silly science at large again.

While making big snowballs and throwing them at the flames looks good in art, wouldn't it have been better just to make an ice sheet over the fire, taking its heat and oxygen simultaneously, and therefore dousing it?

There are of course closing lines that drench us with irony.  Doris wonders if Iceman has a girlfriend, and Johnny figures sure he must have dozens.  Cuz superpowers automatically make the opposite sex bend over backward for you.  Which is why you never have problems with Doris, Johnny.

And then Johnny snuggles up next to Doris.  Which reminds me.  Bobby, why'd you leave???  This would have been the perfect time to find some poor honey who didn't have anyone to comfort her and make your move, son!  Sigh...  No skills in the ways of love, what'd I tell you?

Now, you may be asking yourself, "Self, how long do I have to wait before I get to see the Barracuda again?  He was so friggin awesome!!!"  Alas, poor soul, the Barracuda, or Captain Barracuda as he would come to be known, will only get brought back three more times, and you can find those issues listed here.


Well, folks, that brings us to the close of another fun-filled X-Men adventure.  You know, we didn't see the Professor use any powers here.  I wonder if this issue could fit between issues 4 and 5, where it was published.  We'll check that out when we get to issue 5 next time.  In the meantime, as always, please comment below, or if you have a comment/question you'd like addressed on the air, send in an email and we'll read it on Amazing Spider-Man Classics.  I'm out!

Category:X-Men blog -- posted at: 1:00am EST