Strange Tales (Vol. 1) #133

Credits:

Cover Date: June 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Mike Esposito

“The Terrible Toys”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Bob Powell

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Bob Powell

Inker: Mike Esposito (credited as Mick Demeo)

“A Nameless Land, a Timeless Time”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Steve Ditko

Inker: Steve Ditko

What’s Going On?

The Puppet Master returns to threaten the Human Torch, Thing, and their significant others. Will the heroes be able to overcome their newly-improved foe?

Meanwhile, Doctor Strange crosses dimensions to stumble upon a wicked sorceress.

Details:

In the Human Torch & Thing story:

  • Johnny and Ben accompany their girlfriends, Dorrie and Alicia, shopping in a department store. When the group remarks on a lifelike mannequin, Alicia (being blind) wants to touch it to understand what the others are talking about. Just then, a man grabs her hand and yells at her for touching the mannequin.

  • Naturally, Ben sticks up for Alicia and the man apologizes immediately. He sculpted the mannequin, and was worried about its durability. He offers the group entry into an art exhibit and a personal tour of his workshop as a mea culpa.

  • But it’s all a trap! The mannequin creator turns out to be none other than the Puppet Master in disguise! His plan is to control inanimate objects and defeat the heroes.

  • Ben and Johnny get tired of the art exhibit pretty quickly, so they decide to visit the workshop and get that boring stuff over and done with. That’s when they walk into the Puppet Master’s trap. Ben is pinned by a powerful machine, while one of Puppet Master’s mannequins blasts enough cold air at Johnny to keep him from flaming on.

  • The Puppet Master leaves the heroes alone to prepare for Dorrie and Alicia. That’s a bad idea, because the heroes realize that they can turn their traps against each other and break free.

  • When the heroes come for Puppet Master, he recoils in fear and accidentally transforms himself into a mannequin. The end.

In the Doctor Strange story:

  • While it looked like Doctor Strange had been defeated by Baron Mordo and Dormammu last issue, he actually just escaped to another dimension.

  • Mordo wants to hunt Strange down, but Dormammu reasons that there are infinite dimensions. He thinks it better to just wait and see if Strange ever returns to Earth, because he could easily perish on his trip through dimensions.
  • Strange did not have a specific dimension in mind when he escaped. When he finally arrives at his destination, he doesn’t know where he is.

  • He meets a local that warns him of the evil ruler of that dimension, Shazana.

  • Sure enough, the pair are immediately captured by Shazana’s forces, and brought before the villainess. She isn’t very nice.

  • Weakened by his battle with Baron Mordo, Strange isn’t able to match Shazana’s mystical attacks. Instead, he pretends that his current weakness is his regular power level, to make Shazana overconfident.

  • Shazana falls for Doctor Strange’s bluff and gives him time to recover.

  • With a bit more of his strength gathered, Doctor Strange is able to locate the source of Shazana’s power and destroy it, rendering her powerless.

  • The resulting release of mystical power propels Doctor Strange our of the dimension again.
  • To be continued…!

Is It Good?

The Doctor Strange story is solid, even though it is pretty much a one-off throwaway plot. It benefits from Steve Ditko’s artwork, which is predictably trippy during the cross-dimensional voyage.

The Human Torch & Thing story was less good, but actually not awful for a story featuring the Puppet Master. Stan and Dick played around a bit with the story structure and changed the villain’s appearance enough to keep things somewhat interesting.

Continuity:

  • The Puppet Master last appeared in Strange Tales #126.
  • The Puppet Master’s “Uncle Fester”-esque appearance is due to plastic surgery. I know he eventually gets his original face back, so this will be interesting to keep track of.

  • The Puppet Master’s powers have been upgraded. Before, he could control living people by sculpting their likeness in detail. Now, he can control inanimate objects that have been treated with his special formula.

  • The Puppet Master’s special science ray can turn living creatures into statues/mannequins, but only for a few hours.
  • This is the first appearance of Shazana and her (unnamed in this issue) sister, Nazaka.
  • Despite the danger of upsetting Dormammu, Clea seems intent on helping Doctor Strange when she gets the chance.

  • The Ancient One continues to be very ill, but is still safely hidden from Baron Mordo’s forces.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Are they bored or just lacking confidence in their masculinity? You decide.

  • Isn’t the Puppet Master’s thing that he needs special radioactive clay to make his puppets? When did he become a scientist?

  • What is up with people allowing cats in their science lab? This is exactly what happened in Tales to Astonish #65.
  • Doctor Strange would definitely do advertisements for libraries.

  • Shouldn’t you know the name of your rightful ruler?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Lawrence Welk jokes are not timeless.

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