Strange Tales (Vol. 1) Annual #2

Credits:

“On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!”

Cover Date: June 1963 (see Behind the Scenes section for more info)

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Steve Ditko

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky (see Behind the Scenes for more info)

What’s Going On?

Spider-Man has been making headlines lately, and the Human Torch is jealous of the individual attention in the press that Spidey is getting.

When Spider-Man is framed for a crime, the Torch tries to apprehend the hero. Can they get past this misunderstanding and work together to catch the true crook?

Is It Good?

This is a fun story. The constant barbs between Spider-Man and the Torch are cute, and a lot of their eventual love-hate relationship can be seen in these pages. I have to admit, Johnny Storm has begun to annoy me in this title, so seeing another character get the better of him was cathartic.

Sub-Plots:

  • A master thief, the Fox, stole a valuable da Vinci painting and planted some webbing at the scene to frame Spidey for the crime.
  • Spider-Man decides to ask the Torch (and not the rest of the FF) for help clearing his name because they are both teenagers and could have fun teaming up.

  • The Torch doesn’t want to listen to Spider-Man’s excuses, and tries to fight him. I say “tries,” because he appears to be outclassed in this fight.

  • Eventually, Spider-Man traps the Torch and explains himself.

 

  • Once they have stopped fighting each other, the two heroes quickly track down the Fox and recover the painting.

Continuity:

  • The 1963 Annual issues are the first Marvel Comics to include the price in the corner box.

  • This is Spider-Man’s first guest appearance in a comic.
  • The newspaper that is crazy for Spider-Man news is not the Daily Bugle, but the Daily Chronicle.

  • Spider-Man is clearly out of the Torch’s league in this fight. Johnny can’t lay a hand on Spidey and is fortunate that Spidey wasn’t trying to hurt him.

  • Spider-Man developed “icy webs” to deal with the Human Torch. I don’t think this comes up again.

  • Spider-Man and the Torch meet up on the top of the Statue of Liberty. This is the first time they’ve done this; it will be their regular meeting spot in the future.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I am 100% certain that Johnny would be a terrible roommate. This sounds a lot less like nagging and more like “This is what you didn’t do last night: the List.”

  • Spider-Vision? Please explain what you know about spiders, Johnny.

  • Johnny, you clearly mistake “unemployed” with “blind.”

  • They used Spider-Man’s Spidey-sense to track down the Fox’s hideouts. That’s not how his power is supposed to work, is it?

  • This didn’t set off Spider-Man’s Spidey-sense?

  • The sign of a master criminal: rocket skates!

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Racist/caricature statue alert! With an added bonus of “Spanish-sounding” brand name cigars! Is there a negative implication that these cigars may be cheap or possibly contain illicit materials? Quite possibly!

Behind the Scenes:

  • It’s not easy to determine precisely when Marvel published their Annual issues in the 1960’s. The publishing info on the first page of the annuals typically only indicates the year, not the month the comic was published. That means I need to do some sleuthing. The Marvel Wiki lists the cover Date as October 1963; Marvel Unlimited lists it as June 1963; the extremely detailed Spider-Fan page reasons that, based on ads in the comics, the date should be July 1963. I’m going to go with the Marvel Unlimited date of June ‘63 because the Human Torch is the only superhero feature in this Annual, and Dr. Strange started sharing the title with the Torch beginning in July’s Strange Tales #110; if the Annual was published later in the year, you would assume Dr. Strange would have been featured. Also, as someone utilizing Marvel Unlimited to access these stories, I’d rather trust their dates because it makes things simpler for me.
  • No inker is officially listed for this cover in Marvel Unlimited or the Marvel Wiki. Per the Grand Comics Database a noted early Marvel historian, Nick Caputo, has concluded that Sol Brodsky is the likeliest inker for this cover. Since Caputo has done some extensive work looking at Kirby’s work,I’m inclined to believe him.
  • Jack Kirby is a legend, but he was never that great of a Spider-Man artist. Note the lack of the spider-logo on Spidey’s chest, and the generally awkward pose on this cover.

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