Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #122

Credits:

Cover Date: July 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos, Steve Ditko, Sol Brodsky

“3 Against the Torch”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: George Roussos (credited as George Bell)

“The World Beyond”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

The Terrible Trio return and take aim at the Human Torch. Elsewhere, Doctor Strange finds himself in the realm of Nightmare!

Details:

In “3 Against the Torch”:

  • The Terrible Trio decide that they should proactively attack the Fantastic Four, in the hopes of gaining favor with Doctor Doom. They decide to take on the FF one at a time, starting with the youngest member: Johnny Storm.

  • The Terrible Trio are a volatile bunch, but they agreed to work together against the Torch.

  • When the Terrible Trio Strikes, they manage to subdue the Human Torch without much effort.

  • The Trio leave Johnny tied up with an asbestos rope, inside an asbestos-lined trailer, while they went to ambush Invisible Girl. Johnny doesn’t panic, though; since he can’t burn his way out, he creates enough smoke for someone to notice and call the fire department, so they can break him out!

  • Johnny finds the Terrible Trio at his house, waiting to ambush Invisible Girl when she gets home. He defeats them all before his sister gets home.

In “The World Beyond”:

  • Doctor Strange passes out, exhausted after several consecutive days of fighting mystical threats. He is awakened by an intruder that is impervious to his strongest attacks!

  • When his mystical attacks fail, Strange tries a physical attack —- but that doesn’t work, either! Doctor Strange quickly concludes that this is not reality; he is in the realm of Nightmare.

  • Strange realizes that he must have forgotten to utter his usual protective spells before passing out. The ever vigilant and vindictive Nightmare took that opportunity to strike.

  • Even though Nightmare only has Doctor Strange under his control until Strange wakes, Nightmare intends to do his best to keep Strange dreaming —- and in pain —- forever!

  • Seemingly defeated, Doctor Strange summons Nightmare’s worst nightmare: the Gulgol, a monster that never sleeps, and this cannot fall under Nightmare’s control!

  • Strange convinces Nightmare to free him to battle the Gulgol, and he basically waves the monster away. The reason it was so easy is because the Gulgol wasn’t really there…Doctor Strange had hypnotized Nightmare into seeing the Gulgol! Once freed by Nightmare, Doctor Strange is able to defeat Nightmare and return to his mortal body.

Is It Good?

The Human Torch story is bad. Nearly three of the sixteen pages were devoted to recapping the events of Fantastic Four #23, and the rest was pretty stupid. Why are the Terrible Trio so loyal to Doctor Doom? Where did they get all that asbestos? How suspiciously convenient to the plot are the steam dryer and water cannon at Johnny’s house? It’s just a dumb story that isn’t fun enough to distract you from the sillier plot points.

The Doctor Strange story, on the other hand, was pretty good. Ditko drew some trippy scenes, and Doctor Strange defeated a foe without using his astral form. Nightmare is an interesting foe, and I like that they’re making him obsessive and petty about Doctor Strange. My biggest gripe is that they show Nightmare on the title page of this story, which ruins the initial mystery of what is happening to Doctor Strange.

Continuity:

  • New corner cover box alert! Doctor Strange has joined the Torch (finally)!

  • The Terrible Trio —- Bull Brogan, Handsome Harry Phillips, and Yogi Dakor —- last appeared in Fantastic Four #23.
  • The Terrible Trio were last seen when they were trapped in another dimension by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #23. However, when Doctor Doom tumbled into the nothingness of space at the end of the issue, his control over the Terrible Trio ceased, and they returned to this dimension.
  • An asbestos blanket, rope, and RV trailer were used to thwart Johnny.
  • Johnny can apparently control the motion of his flame balls; he isn’t just throwing them, he is directing them where to go.

  • Nightmare last appeared in Strange Tales #116. This is the first time his face isn’t covered entirely by shadows.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I kind of like this cover gag.

  • For the record, it was Fantastic Four #23.

  • Let’s pick some nits. This would make a lot more sense if Doctor Doom was using his mystical powers at this point in Marvel history —- I can buy that proximity or concentration is key to magic spells —- but he definitely used machines to send the Terrible Trio away. How does his proximity help them return?

  • These guys get sent to another dimension by Doctor Doom — and didn’t receive their pay! — and still want to make him proud? Doom is a cult leader.

  • Yes, this weird garage attachment that has never mentioned before is clearly something of great use to the Human Torch, and definitely not something that will only be used in the one story.

  • Why on earth would Johnny and Sue keep a stationary water gun in their living room? Every training session shown in this title has had them practicing outside.

  • You don’t see Marvel characters break the Fourth Wall often.

Behind the Scenes:

There is some confusion over the cover art credits for this issue. Jack Kirby definitely did some pencil work, and Steve Ditko clearly drew and inked Doctor Strange. The GCD credits George Roussos for the inks on Kirby’s pencils, but early Marvel expert Nick Caputo believes that Sol Brodsky inked it, and likely redrew some of the cover, too!

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