Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #117

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Sol Brodsky

“The Return of the Eel!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Dick Ayers

“The Many Traps of Baron Mordo!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

In “The Return of the Eel,” the Human Torch’s one-time enemy is released from prison for good behavior. The Torch doesn’t believe that the villain has reformed, though.

In “The Many Traps of Baron Mordo,” Doctor Strange finds himself taken off-guard and captured by Baron Mordo’s dark magic spells. He must find a way to escape before Mordo can attack the Ancient One.

Details:

The Human Torch story:

  • When Johnny Storm hears that the Eel is out of jail again, he hurries to apprehend the villain.

  • Johnny finds the Eel and returns him to prison, only to find that he was released for good behavior!

  • Johnny didn’t believe that the Eel had reformed, though. As it turns out, he was correct:

  • The Torch set a trap the following night, and caught the Eel red-handed.

  • The Eel managed to escape in his special helicopter. Without any other clues to track down the Eel, the Human Torch decides to look around the Eel’s old workplace, on the off-chance that he might find something. Luckily for the Torch, the Eel’s former workplace is also his current workplace and secret base of operations!

  • The Eel attacks Johnny, and they fight in the aquarium. The Torch is eventually victorious, after dropping the villain in the electric eel display tank.

The Doctor Strange story:

  • Baron Mordo cast a spell on Doctor Strange’s home; when Strange entered his home unaware, both he and his home were transported to another dimension.

  • Doctor Strange sends an astral projection of himself to learn who cast the spell on his home. Mordo was prepared for that, and captured Strange’s astral projection, too.

  • Baron Mordo then travelled to the Ancient One’s home. He insincerely pleaded forgiveness, until he was close enough to strike. However, Mordo was shocked to find that the Ancient One resisted his attack!

  • It turns out that Doctor Strange has figured a way out of Mordo’s astral trap, and he disguised himself as the Ancient One in anticipation of his attack. Strange is then able to defeat Baron Mordo in magical combat, and undoes Mordo’s evil spells.

Is It Good?

The Human Torch story is marginally better than his usual feature. It’s not good, but I like how the rest of the Fantastic Four have been incorporated as a supporting cast for his solo adventures. I also liked how Johnny was shamed for attacking the Eel without cause; I liked it from a legal aspect, as well as from a “Johnny is an obnoxious jackass” aspect. Aside from those small bits, the story was pretty dumb (as usual).

Doctor Strange’s story was better, but this is the fourth time he has battled Baron Mordo (out of only six appearances!), and his credibility as a threat is waning with each appearance.

Continuity:

  • The Eel was initially arrested after the events of Strange Tales #112. So that means he was arrested, tried, convicted, and released in only five real-world months. There’s no indication of how much time elapsed in the Marvel Universe in that span.
  • The Human Torch is thwarted by asbestos again.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • The warden appears to be unfamiliar with how superheroes work.

  • After being rightfully taken to task for accosting the Eel, and being threatened with a lawsuit, Johnny Storm comes to the only conclusion that he can: everyone else is wrong, and he is right.

  • When did the Eel have the time to improve his costume? This panel is from the day he was released from prison. Did they let him work on it in jail?

  • How can the robbery have “all the earmarks” of a theft by the Eel, but still have no clues?

  • The Eel jumped off a building and into his helicopter that was hovering below. He must have awfully good timing to have not been shredded by the helicopter blades.

  • Listen, Eel, I’ve been reading the Human Torch’s adventures for a while now, and I promise you that he never even considered coming up with a plan.

  • Heat can deflect electricity? I don’t think that’s a real thing.

 

Behind the Scenes:

  • Steve Ditko receives a credit for the cover artwork. According to GCD, Ditko drew and inked the Eel. I am guessing that Stan Lee had an issue with Jack Kirby’s initial pencils for the Eel (Sol Brodsky didn’t alter Kirby’s pencils much, so I doubt he was the problem), and Ditko happened to be in the office long enough for Stan to ask him to redraw the figure.

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