My low-grade copy of Journey Into Mystery #77--this issue proved to be darker than most I own.
This is the latest addition to my pre-hero Marvel collection. A Journey Into Mystery #77. This is the book that Jack Kirby would later use to introduce the public to his superhero character, The Mighty Thor. However, this was some six issues before that happened. At this point, I assume that Stan Lee and Martin Goodman were just then discussing the possibility of their company dipping their toes into the superhero market for the first time in five or six years. It had been that long since they'd tried to revive their famous heroes of the Timely Comics era: The Human Torch, Captain America, and the Sub-Mariner. That had proven to be not so profitable for them, and since that time they'd left the super-heroes mainly to DC Comics.
But that's not a big factor at all for this issue of Journey Into Mystery. At this point, as far as the artist/writers working on the book were concerned, it was still mainly a combination science-fiction, fantasy, and horror comic. The stories in this book particularly span each of those genres. Goodman's company had been eking out a profit in this territory for some years, first as copy-cats of EC's great titles, and then just competing with a handful of other companies as the market continued to tighten.
This issue contains two stories by Jack Kirby, and one each from Don Heck and Steve Ditko. Kirby's stories, especially, seem to come wholly from the pen of Kirby with virtually no influence at all from any other quarter. Jack Kirby had been producing some truly creepy and disturbing horror stories for many years. When he really wanted to cut loose, he and Joe Simon had often created some truly monstrous images. Ironically, some of the most horrific illustrations that team ever produced came from titles they did with Harvey Comics, which most of us recall today as the home of Richie Rich, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and Hot Stuff the Little Devil, etc. The two Kirby stories here are darker than the usual fare that would indicate some input from Goodman's editor and nephew, Stan Lee. So my suspicion is that Kirby turned these in with virtually no outside help at all. Both feature some creepy imagery, and one ends with the implied killing of a man. Pretty dark stuff.
Man, this is just absolutely gorgeous Steve Ditko art. There weren't many the equal of Ditko during this time.