Monday, September 03, 2012


I love this comic. Not for the cover story, but for the backup tale. By this point in the title, Lee and Goodman had relegated the monster stories to very few and far between. I have always assumed that there was still a backlog of work that had already been completed and paid for by Marvel, but by this time the superheroes had completely elbowed that material out of the way.

So issue #115 had a Human Torch story followed with a Dr. Strange tale.

The Torch story had art by Dick Ayers. Mostly when Heck or Ayers had worked with the superheroes at this point it was over layouts by the unstoppable Jack Kirby. But the artwork in this one is so crude that I suspect that it was all done by Ayers, including the layouts.  Mr. Ayers was a decent inker, but he was not among the most skilled of pencil artists. I always found his work to be very crude, and this story is no exception. The only thing that stands out about the tale is that the villain of the piece is The Sandman, from the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man comic as trumpeted on the front cover.

The backup story, however, is pure gold. In this one we see the origin of the character Dr. Strange. Strange had made his first appearance in issue #110 of Strange Tales, so his origin story was overdue. And Strange is one character that even Stan Lee admitted that he had nothing to do with creating. Even by the blowhard's own admission, Ditko was the sole creator of Dr. Strange, although that has not stopped him in later years from taking half the credit (none of which is due to him).

Sometimes Ditko would produce work that was--even for him--unusually adept. This story is one of those. Ditko's artwork in this story is pure magic. It holds up favorably with the finest of the stories he produced for The Amazing Spider-Man, and those are, to my way of thinking, the best superhero comics ever done.

Someday I may upgrade my copy of Strange Tales #115, but for now at least I have a copy.

My low-grade copy of STRANGE TALES #115.


MarkGelbart said...

Dr. Strange is my favorite superhero of all time, and I have scores of Strange Tales and Dr. Strange comic books in a closet.

One of my favorites is a story when his astral form possesses a surgeon so he can operate on his own physical body.

He's not a completely original superhero. I think he's Ditko's re-imagining of Mandrake, the Magician. Mandrake was a popular comic strip from the 1930's and 1940's.

HemlockMan said...

Even pre-dating Dr. Strange was the Jack Kirby character from Marvel's AMAZING ADVENTURES (later called AMAZING ADULT FANTASY) named Dr. Droom. Droom was a practitioner of the supernatural arts much like Strange. Kirby did Dr. Droom for the six-issue run of AMAZING ADVENTURES, and he's considered these days to be the first continuing superhero character at the nascent Marvel Comics Group.

Kirk G said...

I'm intrigued to see TWO rubber stamp dates on the cover of your Strange Tales #115. I suspect this was how the distributor tracked how long a book had been on the rack. Later, the distributor started color coding the stripe that was marked on the top edge of a stack of comics. That made it even easier to rotate new books. The strips varied between green, red, orange, blue or black. So, if you were delivering a stack of comics that were red striped, you first took every red stripped book off the rack before replacing them with the new stock.
But seeing "Sept. 12, 1963" really takes me back. I wonder what store sold this. Do you know?

Kirk G said...

I am intrigued by the double rubber date stamp on the cover of your "Strange Tales #115". I imagine it was how the distributor kept track of when a book had arrived and when to rotate the excess off the rack. Later, they got in the habit of color striping the top edge of a stack of comics. So, if you were delivering a bundle of red stripped books, you first would remove every red stripped book that was left in the rack, before replacing with the new stock. It was faster. The colors rotated between red, green, blue, orange and black, as I recall.
But "Sept. 12, 1963" really takes me back. I wonder what store sold this book, and how many hands it has passed through to get here to you?

HemlockMan said...

It could mean anything. Maybe the shop where the book was on display stamped the book. Or it could have been someone just checking the ink on their rubber stamp. Or some kid messing around in his dad's office.

Kirk G said...

No, it's more than just a coincidence. I know it happened to a lot of the silver age marvels.
but I'd like to know from someone, someday, WHY....