Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #118

Credits:

Cover Date: March 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone, Steve Ditko

“The Man Who Became the Torch!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Dick Ayers

“The Possessed!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

In “The Man Who Became the Torch,” the Wizard escapes from prison again. This time, his plan is to disguise himself as the Human Torch while he commits crimes.

In “The Possessed,” Doctor Strange travels to Bavaria to investigate some black magic, only to find the beginnings of an alien invasion!

Details:

The Human Torch story:

  • The Wizard escapes from prison (again).

  • The Wizard plans to use his newly-invented anti-gravity device to steal whatever he wants.

  • The Wizard decided that hiding his identity as he commits crimes would be a good idea (he is a genius, you know), so he decided to commit crimes while disguised as the Human Torch! He plays on Johnny’s vanity and lures him into a trap. With Johnny captured, the Wizard is free to impersonate him around town.

  • The Wizard then captures the Invisible Girl, so he can have free reign of Johnny’s home.

  • It actually doesn’t take long for Johnny and Sue to escape their captivity. When the Human Torch confronts the Wizard, the villain uses one of his anti-gravity devices to escape. However, the device malfunctions, and the Wizard cannot come back down to Earth! The Torch is unable to catch up to him, so the Wizard either dies or escapes. The end.

The Doctor Strange story:

  • In a Bavarian mountain town, something strange is happening to the locals.

  • Sensing a supernatural disturbance, Doctor Strange travels to the town to investigate.

  • An alien race that can possess human bodies has began an invasion of the Earth. When they try to possess Doctor Strange, though, he proves too strong.

  • After interrogating his attacker, Strange tracks down and confronts the alien leader. When the alien is defeated, he recalls his underlings and they return to their own dimension.

Is It Good?

Neither story is very good. The Human Torch story was a bit more fun to read because the Wizard’s plots were absolutely ridiculous, but it was still pretty dumb. On the bright side, it was nice for a villain to account for the rest of the Fantastic Four in a Torch solo story; despite having a shared universe, very few Marvel stories to date account for any heroes but the ones featured in that title.

The Doctor Strange story was dull. It was a standard alien invasion story, and it didn’t give Ditko much of an opportunity to draw anything fun.

Continuity:

  • This is the third time the Wizard has escaped from prison and immediately gone after the Human Torch.
  • The Wizard’s anti-gravity devices in this issue are a precursor to the anti-gravity discs that will become his calling card.
  • Johnny is thwarted by asbestos again.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • That seems like a poor choice of prison library material.

  • The Wizard fantasizes about gaining supreme power through theft. If his plan was to scam folks, or secretly steal money, I could see that. But his plan is to steal whatever he wants, whenever he wants, in plain view of the world. That’s the kind of thief that gets shot in the face, not crowned king.

  • Technically, you had one “hideout,” and it was your house. And you kept returning to it each time you broke out of prison, so yeah, the police know about it.

  • I really like to believe that the Wizard said the editor’s note out loud.

  • Between the anti-gravity device and the cold flame unit, why does the Wizard need to commit crimes to get rich?

  • None of this sounds suspicious at all. Teenagers regularly enjoy vacation time with their mothering older sisters. And sick people usually preemptively excuse their voices. And Reed’s girlfriends don’t tell him when they plan on leaving town indefinitely. It’s all perfectly normal.

  • Uh, Wiz, you might not want to steal a house that is clearly lacking plumbing.

  • How awesome he looks! How totally rad!

  • Dormammu…Mormammu…what’s the difference, really?

  • “Sure, I could provide some explanation to the locals, but why not leave them haunted by actions that were not their own?”

Behind the Scenes:

  • Steve Ditko receives credit for the cover art because he drew the Doctor Strange bottom banner.

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