Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #110

Credits:

Cover Date: July 1963

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

 

“The Human Torch Vs. the Wizard and Paste-Pot-Pete!”

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: H.E. Huntley

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Dick Ayers

 

“Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

 

What’s Going On?

In “The Human Torch Vs. the Wizard and Paste-Pot-Pete,” Paste-Pot-Pete wants revenge against the Human Torch, so he decides to break the Wizard out of prison so they can team-up against the hero.

Can the Torch overcome two of his most competent foes joining forces?

In “Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic,” a man haunted by nightmares he doesn’t understand is driven to desperate measures —- he seeks out Doctor Strange, a man rumored to dabble in the dark arts!

Doctor Strange agrees to help the man, but encounters more danger than he expected when he enters the man’s dreams.

Is It Good?

Not really! The Human Torch story was kind of fun because the villains kept bickering, but it was otherwise dull.

The Doctor Strange story was short —- less than 5 pages of plot —- and pretty basic. It did, though, introduce a LOT of ideas. Having such a large scope in so few pages made the story feel incomplete, though.

Sub-Plots:

  • The Wizard can’t stop condescending toward Paste-Pot-Pete.

  • The Wizard develops a suit that lets him replicate the powers of the Human Torch. He then commits crimes, framing the Torch.
  • The Torch is eventually lured into a trap, but he manages to overcome the Wizard and Paste-Pot-Pete in the end.
  • To help with the man’s nightmares, Doctor Strange projects his astral form into the man’s dreams. There, he sees what was haunting the man, as well as the villainous Nightmare.
  • While confronting Nightmare, Doctor Strange’s client tries to kill him! Only Strange’s amulet (and some help from the Ancient One) saves him, and gives him time to escape from Nightmare’s clutches.

Continuity:

  • Asbestos is, once again, a key part in a trap for the Human Torch.

  • This is the first appearance of Doctor Stephen Strange, the Ancient One, Nightmare, Dreamstalker (Nightmare’s unnamed horse), and Wong (though he goes unnamed).
  • Some notable locations and objects also debut in this issue: Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, the Dream dimension, and the Amulet of Agamotto.
  • While not described as such, this is the first time a Silver Age Marvel character has used astral projection or shown an astral form.

  • Apparently, Doctor Strange and Nightmare have an extensive history.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Johnny, if you think you history book will cover wizards, you are going to be disappointed.

  • No, the police would never look for you at your home! That’s only exactly where you went, directly after breaking out of prison last time…

  • It’s nice that the police are giving Johnny the benefit of the doubt here, but it’s weird that the rest of the FF has to learn about the frame-up from the newspaper.

  • Leaving the hero alone, assuming that they will stay trapped is such a beautiful cliche.

  • Is Doctor Strange a racist Asian stereotype in his debut? The classic version of the character is definitely a white guy, but the one debuting here…I’m not so sure. He’s got heavily-lidded eyes, pointed arches for eyebrows, a mustache with elongated ends, wears non-Western clothing, and is a practitioner of magic. When you take those facts and compare them to how he compares the the Caucasian guy in this story, it sure seems like a caricature at best, and racist stereotype at the worst.

But here’s the thing: some reputable Internet comics historians disagree with that conclusion. NeilAlien believes (and he convinced Brian Cronin) that these visual cues are a stylistic choice meant to imply a connection to mysticism (and perhaps opium-smoking, to go along with it). That seems like a stretch to me.

A more concrete reason they give is that Baron Mordo (who isn’t in this issue) shares some of the same visual traits, but isn’t implied to be Asian.

I agree that Mordo is never implied to be Asian, despite a Fu Manchu-like mustache and heavily-lidded eyes, but that’s not good enough for me. Mordo has the same exaggerated features that Jack Kirby and the other Marvel artists at the time used for Eastern Europeans and Russians. His exaggerated features, though, don’t really match up with Strange’s; he has a more prominent brow, squarer chin, and his eyes don’t share the same lid marks above and below the eye that Strange (and the Ancient One, who is clearly Asian) has.

I’m going to go ahead and say yes, Doctor Strange was originally Asian, and his depiction was racist. You can make the argument that, if he was truly supposed to be Asian, the comic would be OVERTLY racist instead of requiring analysis — but I think that’s trying too hard in a losing fight. Accept what your eyes see: racism.

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