Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Ah, the world of collecting.

For my part, I decided to collect the work of three particular comic book artists:

Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, and Carl Barks.

Each of these fellows was crazy prolific. Kirby especially, and I've spoken before of the totally amazing body of work that man left behind. I could never hope to collect everything Kirby illustrated, so I've focused on the monster and science-fiction stories he did in the very early days of Marvel Comics. Barks worked entirely within the realm of funny animal comics, and mostly exclusively for Disney after a certain point. So the collecting of his work is actually easier to track and rather cheaper than in previous years since his star has faded in the collecting heavens (goody for me!).

As for the Ditko and Kirby science-fiction and monster comics, this was something into which a monkey-wrench was tossed when I realized something.

The early days of Marvel Comics were strange in a particular way. After the success of the new superhero titles, the editor-in-chief in those days, Stan Lee, changed all of the monster/sf books over to super-hero books. And then he did something else, the reason for which I'm not entirely sure: he continued to publish those same types of monster and science-fiction stories along with the super-hero yarns his artists were weaving for him to edit and dialog. Why was this being done?

Well, there are of course two good reasons. One was that there was a large inventory of paid-up stories that the artists had already illustrated and delivered. With the backlog of work it would have been wasteful to leave it unpublished. Thus, he made the choice of keeping the super-hero stories shorter, taking up 1/3 to 2/3 of the titles, with the remainder being filled by the inventory work that had been drawn by Ditko, Kirby, Colan, Heck, Ayers, and company.

The second reason is that perhaps Lee and Goodman were hedging their bets. Maybe the super-hero thing was just a passing fad and the fans would soon forget about Kirby's creations the Fantastic Four and the Avengers and the Incredible Hulk and the X-Men and Thor. And they'd leave Ditko's creations the Amazing Spider-Man and Dr. Strange as so much old memories. If so, it was a good idea to keep the old stand by work of monsters and space ships churning along. Just in case.

But for whatever reason, I realized that if I wanted to create anything like a complete set of the Kirby/Ditko sf/fantasy stories then I'd have to purchase many super-hero titles. In fact, I'd have to buy A LOT of them! Oy.

Oh, well.

Strange Tales 101. This is the first issue where they decided to feature a superhero instead of the usual fare of weird tales. So they plucked the Human Torch from the pages of Fantastic Four and gave him his own mini-adventures in this title. But they still left room for a couple of fantasy yarns in each book. At least for a while, until it was obvious that super-heroes were the wave of the future for Marvel Comics (and everyone else). This is one of the nicer condition key books that I own.

This book, Strange Tales 102, is a recent acquisition. Reading the story, I had to wonder if the villain (The Wizard) was based on the physical appearance of John Carradine.

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