Astonishing Tales #1-3
Issue(s): Astonishing Tales #1, Astonishing Tales #2, Astonishing Tales #3
But how do you write a book about a bad guy in 1970 without glorifying villainy or making him lose all the time? Have him fight other bad guys. This would be the basis for the Super-Villain Team-Up book as well, and these issues actually come from my Essential Super-Villain Team-Up trade.
Dr. Doom shared Astonishing Tales with Ka-Zar, but Ka-Zar's stories weren't reprinted in Essential Super-Villain Team-Up.
The Apollo astronauts find an object on the moon, and when they bring it back to earth and give it to the president it projects a message from Dr. Doom saying "Nyah nyah, i got there first.".
Unlike the FF in Fantastic Four #98, Doom has no problem stealing the glory from real life astronauts.
Back in Latveria, Doom creates a cosmic powered android that is imprinted with Doom's brain patterns (called the Doomsman). Meanwhile, the former prince of Latveria plots a coup to re-take the throne involving one of his followers pretending to be Doom's lost love Valeria.
However, Doom's awesome technology immediately foils that ploy. Doom makes quick work of the rest of the rebels as well.
The only snags are the fact that Doom's Doomsman doesn't respond to orders very well, and the interference of a weird alien (the Faceless One) that is essentially a sphere with legs.
Doom sends the Doomsman into another dimension. Doom destroys his castle in order to defeat everyone inside and drive off the Faceless One.
Doom must really love that Valeria. Even though he knows she's a fake, he pretends to show his real face to the girl, and then runs off sobbing because he doesn't want to live a lie.
Doom uses his crazy gun that makes molecules expand (i call it a boulder gun but it's really just propelling microscopic molecules at his opponents and causing those molecules to grow as they flow).
This gun was also used by Doom in Capcom's Marvel Super Heroes fighting game, ensuring that i love it. It first appeared in Fantastic Four #40.
Wally Wood's art is simple but pleasant and it's nice to see Doom depicted as one step ahead of everyone else and coming out ahead in the end (yeah, his castle is destroyed but he doesn't seem too upset by it).
The other series in this Astonishing Tales book - actually the headliner - is Ka-Zar. Issue #1 has Kraven the Hunter traveling to the Savage Land to battle Ka-Zar and capture Zabu. It's a fun battle issue; Kraven is a logical foe for Ka-Zar.
Issue #2 is still by Kirby but written by Roy Thomas, and features the continuation of that battle as Ka-Zar arrives in New York to reclaim his companion.
The story also introduces Garokk the Petrified Man, who shows up after hearing that Ka-Zar was in the city. Actually, he's just the Petrified Man at this point.
Issue #3 begins a run by Gerry Conway and Barry (Windsor-)Smith that takes on a more swords and sorcery theme. Picking up with the Petrified Man...
...we learn that he's been sensing that something is brewing back in the Savage Land. We cut away to Zaladane, Queen-Priestess of Garokk, the Sun God.
The Petrified Man's story is that some 500 years ago he was stranded in the Savage Land, and he found a strange cup at the temple of Garokk and drank from it. It granted him immortality, but over time his skin began to turn to stone so that he resembled the idol of Garokk.
The Petrified Man senses that Zaladane's people are about to go to war in his name, and he hopes to stop them, and hopes that doing so will bring him peace as well. After traveling back into the Savage Land, Ka-Zar and Garokk are attacked by a native named Tongah...
...who believes that the Petrified Man is allied with Zaladane's people, who killed his tribe and family.
Ka-Zar already knows Tongah, but this is our first encounter with him. Like Garokk and Zaladane, he'll be a recurring character, although unlike them, he doesn't much significance outside of Ka-Zar's books.
The group arrives too late to stop Zaladane from launching her war against the Lizard Men.
The first two issues were enjoyable but didn't offer much promise for a continuing series. The third establishes a storyline and sets a tone that you can see as a basis for continued stories. Fans of Windsor-Smith's later Conan stories can certainly find its roots here as his art continues to evolve.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The opening scene ties in with a moon landing featuring Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong but it's not the first one ("So, once more the foolhardy Americans have landed on of their primitive rockets on the surface of the moon!") and in any event it takes "weeks" to examine the orb that Doom left there before it is given to the president. The Ka-Zar story continues directly in issues #4-5.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
Dr. Doom previously had a solo outing in Marvel Super-Heroes #20(the last non-reprint issue), which you could see as a trial balloon for this series. Ka-Zar had his first solo story in Marvel Super-Heroes(#18) as well.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 12, 2011 10:07 PM
Gerry Conway confirmed in Alter Ego #131 that #3 was his first Marvel Universe story.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 11, 2015 10:48 AM
Wally Wood's art here is just so cute. you can't but love it.
Posted by: kveto | October 2, 2016 6:26 AM
The gimmick of a spider-legged head riding on a headless body was used earlier by Edgar Rice Burroughs, in either his Mars or Pellucidar series, I forget which.
Posted by: James Holt | October 30, 2016 10:48 PM
Mars. The Kaldanes of Bantoom in Chessmen of Mars, IMO the best book of the series...
Posted by: BU | October 31, 2016 2:47 PM
Thanks BU! I may have to go back and re-read that one; haven't read it since I was about 14 yrs. old. Burroughs created a lot of interesting sentient species, even his Tarzan series had a species of hairy human-like sentients, with tails and fur coats. Compelling stuff! Mars had a whole bunch of different-colored people... red ppl, green ppl, black ppl, white ppl, and probably more... plus the Kaldanes and their headless "mounts."
Unlike the lifeless artificial body in the Dr. Doom story shown here, the Kaldanes' bodies were living, headless, human-looking, non-sentient, Martian animals, bred by the Kaldanes to be their mounts. The two species joined together in a sort of artificial symbiosis, achieved when the Kaldanes inserted their spidery tentacles into the headless bodies' spinal cords, to assume full control of the headless bodies' rudimentary, non-intelligent nervous systems.. or at least we were told they were non-intelligent.. brr! Fascinating and scary!
Posted by: James Holt | October 31, 2016 8:43 PM
Kraven says that the Savage Land is surrounded by mile high mountains of ice and snow. So I guess it's a valley.
Posted by: a.lloyd | May 22, 2017 3:20 AM
While the premise of Kraven wishing to capture Zabu is a natural one, 'tis indeed a wonder this was not expanded upon at some point. In addition to snatching the sabre-tooth, he could have additionally snapped up Redwing from the Falcon, perhaps even Saint from Quincy Harker's vampire hunters and, if the Hunter were really ambitious, Lockjaw from the Inhumans. That way we would have a ready-made Animal Avengers! Granted, this sounds like fodder for Marvel Premier or later Marvel Comics Presents (tailor-made for Mantlo or Lobdell!), but one is left to ponder what might have been.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 17, 2017 11:47 PM
Left an "e" off Marvel Premiere, sorry.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 17, 2017 11:49 PM
Good ideas, but you know what I'd also like to see? Kraven going after the Werewolf by Night. (if it happened, I certainly haven't read it yet) He did go after Tigra, so I assume hybrids are okay in his hunting book.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | September 18, 2017 5:55 AM
@Nate- Guess great (or warped) minds think alike. That thought occurred to me as well.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | September 18, 2017 6:47 AM
Looks like Kirby short-changed Zabu on the teeth, particularly in comparison to the other artists who worked on this Ka-Zar run. In my book, Gil Kane's rendering of everyone's favorite sabretooth is still the most ferocious.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 27, 2017 11:59 PM
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