Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #127

Credits:

Cover Date: December 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Chic Stone, Steve Ditko

“The Mystery Villain”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Paul Reinman

“Duel With the Dread Dormammu”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

In the Human Torch/Thing story, the duo complain about Mr. Fantastic’s leadership of the Fantastic Four and decide to have an adventure without him. It doesn’t go well.

In the Doctor Strange story, Strange goes forward with his challenge of the dread Dormammu.

Details:

In “The Mystery Villain”:

  • Johnny gets mad over some dumb thing and decides that he doesn’t want to take orders from Reed anymore because he has proven himself a solo hero.

  • Reed basically rolls his eyes and tells Johnny to quit the Fantastic Four if he doesn’t want a leader. Reed then leaves.

  • Now, neither Johnny nor Ben actually want to quit the Fantastic Four. They decide to accomplish something on their own before rejoining the team, though, if only to save face.

  • A little later, Johnny and Ben receive a telegram inviting them to drive some special race cars for charity.

  • When they arrive at the race track, it turns out that they are the only racers. The two hop into their experimental rocket cars anyway, and take off. However, Ben and Johnny aren’t in control of their cars at all! It’s a trap!

  • As the two heroes accelerate toward a rock wall at dangerous speeds, Johnny realizes that he wouldn’t be in this mess if he hadn’t been so upset with Reed’s leadership.

  • At the last moment, a door opened in the side of the cliff, allowing both cars to enter. The cars then slowed and stopped by remote control. The door to the cliff closed again, and the Torch and Thing finally meet the villain who has set up this elaborate trap! It’s…uh, Question Mark Face Guy?

  • The mysterious villain is able to counter both the Torch’s flames and Thing’s strength and use it against them. They would be in real trouble if the mysterious villain wasn’t really…Mr. Fantastic?!?

  • Yes, Reed set up this elaborate trap, just to teach his friends an important lesson: Mr. Fantastic is the leader of the Fantastic Four, and don’t you forget it!

In “Duel With the Dread Dormammu”:

  • Picking up from last issue, Dormammu scoffs at the idea of a relative novice like Doctor Strange fighting him. He decides to give Strange some time to decide if he really wants to go against a heavyweight like the dread Dormammu.

  • While Strange weighs his options, the mysterious woman from last issue tries to explain why he is in a no-win position.

  • She shows Strange the Mindless Ones. They live to destroy, but are held in check by a powerful magic spell, maintained by Dormammu. If Strange defeats Dormammu, the Mindless Ones will break free and destroy all the innocent denizens of the Dark Dimension!

  • Doctor Strange reluctantly decides to go ahead with the Dormammu fight, because he cannot neglect his oath to protect the Earth.

  • The fight commences. Dormammu is clearly more powerful, but Strange appears to be his equal in skill. The longer the battle goes on, though, the weaker Strange gets.

  • Distracted by the fight, Dormammu’s spell against the Mindless Ones falters, and they begin to invade.

  • Dormammu stops fighting to turn his attention to the Mindless Ones. Doctor Strange has the opportunity to strike while his opponent is distracted and vulnerable, but he does not. Instead, he adds his own power to Dormammu.

  • Together, they reinforce Dormammu’s spell and repel the Mindless Ones. Dormammu is not gracious though, because his moral code doesn’t allow him to destroy someone he is indebted to.

  • Strange asks Dormammu for two things, and calls the debt paid. First, Dormammu will never invade the Earth. Second, he will free the mysterious woman that was nice to Doctor Strange; Dormammu planned to kill her after he fought Strange.

  • Doctor Strange returns to Earth victorious, and finds a surprisingly healthy Ancient One ready to congratulate him. For his efforts, Strange is awarded an new amulet and cloak!

Is It Good?

It’s a mixed bag. The Human Torch/Thing story is pretty stupid. Johnny is such a brat, and it seems weird to me that Ben goes along with Johnny’s whining. I liked that Reed isn’t nice to them about it —- because Johnny comes across as an ass —- but it really is a ridiculous story.

The Doctor Strange story, though, was very good. I liked the moral conundrum Strange found himself in, and I really liked that he (initially) made a tough choice when no compromise was available. The art was spectacular, too; Ditko let his imagination run wild in the Dormammu/Strange fight scenes.

Continuity:

  • Johnny falls again to asbestos.

  • We have a pin-up of the Thing! Unlike most pin-ups at this point, though, it was not drawn by the interior artists for this issue. This was drawn by Jack Kirby and Chic Stone, instead.

  • The Doctor Strange story continues from last issue.
  • Doctor Strange receives the Eye of Agamotto and the Cloak of Levitation in this issue; this is the first appearance for both artifacts, although neither is officially named here.
  • This might be the first time Marvel played with the notion of time passing at different speeds in different dimensions. I don’t know if any Marvel title really makes use of this until Chris Claremont introduces Magik in the 80’s.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Johnny, you attacked Namor without provocation as he approached a peace conference. This isn’t something to brag about. Also, he was about to beat you up before he left.

  • This is probably the only time someone refers to the Thing as “BJ” without getting hit.

  • “I need to defeat a villain to show Reed that I don’t need his leadership! Or wait…maybe I’ll participate in a car race instead. They’re basically the same thing, right?” – Johnny Storm’s brain in this issue.
  • I love how dumb Johnny is. He is more than willing to accept anything at face value, as long as it involves him driving a cool car. This isn’t even the first time he has fallen for something like this! He did almost the same exact thing in Fantastic Four #23!

  • Question Mark Face is a little on the nose for a mysterious villain, isn’t it?

  • This entire trap was ready to go within hours of Johnny’s tantrum. Reed couldn’t have set up the whole thing on a whim —- he engineered a hidden complex specifically to withstand the Human Torch and Thing, built experimental rocket cars, designed a villain costume, and did this all several states away from his home! He must have been planning on Johnny and Ben being jackasses, and had this plan in his back pocket for months!

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