Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #131

Credits:

Cover Date: April 1965

Cover Artists: Bob Powell, Mike Esposito, Steve Ditko

“The Bouncing Ball of Doom”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Bob Powell

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Bob Powell

Inker: Dick Ayers

“The Hunter and the Hunted!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller:Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

The Human Torch and Thing team up to fight…a floating bowling ball, or something.

Meanwhile, Doctor Strange is busy trying to keep one step ahead of Baron Mordo.

Details:

In the Human Torch & Thing story:

  • The Mad Thinker plotted a foolproof crime that was thwarted by the random chance of the Human Torch and Thing being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • Being a super-villain, the Mad Thinker blames the heroes for their interference, rather than serendipity. He then creates a device that can withstand great heat and great pressure, in an attempt to defeat the Torch and Thing.

  • The Mad Thinker arranges to have Ben and Johnny invited to a grand opening for a dam, and they accept. At the dam, the Mad Thinker triggers his device, and it attacks the heroes. It looks like a bowling ball, but hits hard enough to overpower the Thing and shoots cold air to blow out the Human Torch’s flame.

  • The bouncing/flying ball is making Ben and Johnny look foolish. It attacks so randomly that Ben gets confused, and doesn’t react the way the Thinker has predicted. This throws the device for a loop, and he loses control of it.

  • Anyway, the bouncing device tries to destroy the dam, but the boys and the dam’s designer save the dam. The end.

In the Doctor Strange story:

  • Picking up from last issue, Doctor Strange is on the run in Hong Kong, trying to stay out of Baron Mordo’s clutches.
  • Mordo’s underlings occasionally encounter Strange, but he is able to overpower them quickly.

  • It’s not just Baron Mordo’s men looking for Strange. Mordo enlisted local criminals and he sent ethereal ghost minions through the city to hunt the hero down.

  • When he is finally spotted, Doctor Strange resorts to a simple trick to escape.

  • It works well enough on the underlings, but Mordo can easily disperse the illusions. Still, Strange uses the same spell, with a twist, the next time he is found.

  • In the confusion, Strange is able to board an outbound airplane. When Strange is inevitably spotted, he makes sure to destroy the offending ghost.

  • Not surprisingly, this attracts Baron Mordo’s attention, so he sends more wraiths to investigate. Strange fools the wraiths into believing that he is not on the plane, which allows him to escape… for now!

Is It Good?

It’s a tale of two feature in this issue.

The Human Torch & Thing story is dull, dumb, and the artwork is suspect. It’s not just that Bob Powell draws the Mad Thinker off-model; he makes a lot of odd choices of what to draw in each scene. For instance, he spends a lot of time showing action happening on the Thinker’s tiny monitor screen — why not simply draw the action.?

The Doctor Strange story is much, much better. I like having a continuing storyline, I like seeing Doctor Strange as an underdog, and I like a lot of the story choices. Having Strange re-use the same spell, but tweak it slightly was a cool choice. It implies a certain degree of helplessness on Doctor Strange’s part, but also cleverness, and it’s a nice touch. The art looks great, too. I’m still not a fan of astral projections being entirely in white, but having action on the physical and astral planes at the same time worked well. Oh, and Baron Mordo’s hair is starting to actually look like a plausible haircut! That’s a nice change.

Continuity:

  • The Mad Thinker last appeared in Strange Tales #126.
  • Doctor Strange went on the run to avoid Baron Mordo’s forces in Strange Tales #130. Strange doesn’t know that Dormammu is augmenting Mordo’s Powers.
  • Baron Mordo sees himself as a peer of Dormammu, not a servant. The dread Dormammu disagrees.

  • Doctor Strange apparently also has some familiarity with martial arts.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • These are the absolute worst people to be driving behind when entering a tollway.

  • For a guy that calculates everything to 99.99% accuracy, the Mad Thinker gets a lot of dumb stuff wrong.

  • This is a great reaction sequence.

  • Isn’t it weird that Johnny, who is falling from a great height, is saved when the Thing catches him? The Thing is basically a pile of rocks —- how is being caught by Ben any better than just hitting the ground?
  • Yes, I believe that the man who stopped being a doctor because of traumatic physical and nerve damage to his hands would be good at hand-to-hand combat.

  • Does anyone honestly believe that someone would dress like a pirate —- and I’m not talking about costumes, I’m talking about as their daily personal “look” —- in 1965?

  • Why doesn’t Strange do this to all the wraiths?

  • You can dress up your ghost to fool others ghosts. Good to know.

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