Astonishing Tales #21-24
Issue(s): Astonishing Tales #21, Astonishing Tales #22, Astonishing Tales #23, Astonishing Tales #24
Review/plot: Dick Ayers, the inker for a ton of Monster stories from the 60s, is the artist for this retro giant monster mash written by Tony Isabella in 1973-1974. The series was clearly meant to capitalize on the success of the Godzilla movies (the cover of #21 says "Greater than Godzilla! Mightier than King Kong!"; this is still a couple of years prior to the 1976 remake of King Kong, but the Godzilla franchise was going strong and there were plenty of imitators in the film world too; i'm looking at you, Gamera!)
The story begins with the Hollywood crew that we saw in the Colossus' second appearance back in Tales of Suspense #20. The Colossus itself is still laying in the middle of the Hollywood lot, it being too big for anyone to move.
TV producer Dorian Delanzy is upset because he's afraid no one will be interested in his show "Star Lords" in a world full of monsters and superheros.
Luckily special effects wiz Bob O'Bryan has a solution.
O'Bryan is already a hero for having stopped the alien invasion in the previous Colossus story, but i guess that didn't mean he got to quit his day job. Delanzy rewards him for his new special effects by making him a star in the show (which is weird) but the current star Felix Simon has a solution for that.
Simon's involvement in O'Bryan's accident goes unnoticed, and i guess O'Bryan isn't interested in workman's comp or lawsuits because "life goes on" and soon O'Bryan is back to work. He does break things off with his girlfriend, Diane Cummings.
Although he's wheelchair-bound, he soon finds that he can transfer his consciousness into the Living Colossus. This first occurs when some men, working for a Doctor Vault, show up at the studio to try to steal the statue.
Vault himself has a rare disease, and needs a new body, so he also intends to transfer his mind into the Colossus.
And to make it more practical, he intends to shrink it down to 8 feet. However, he only gets to 30 feet when O'Bryan possess it again.
While the Colossus is chasing down Vault's men, someone names it "It", so now he's "It, the Living Colossus".
The behind-the-scenes story behind that name is pretty roundabout. Marvel had published a story with a completely different "It" in Supernatural Thrillers #1. That It was a swamp monster created by Thoedore Sturgeon. Stan Lee decided the name "It" was so great he wanted to make it an ongoing series. But marvel already had the Man-Thing so they didn't need another swamp monster. So Roy Thomas and Tony Isabella scrambled around for another character they could call "It" and landed on the Colossus, who had recently been reprinted in Monsters on the Prowl.
So the first issue kinda sucks, just like the first Godzilla movie is the least interesting because it's just Godzilla fighting humans. The better movies are the ones where Godzilla is fighting other giant monsters, the more outlandish the better. So things start looking up when his rampage in the first issue is noticed by a building's gargoyle.
That leads into a giant space battle on another planet between gargoyles, including a giant one called Granitor.
This is all based on another Monster Age comic, "Gorgolla! The Living Gargoylle!!" from Strange Tales #74. The jist of the story is reprinted in these issues. Gorgolla was a giant evil gargoyle that spread spies across the earth, which became the gargoyles on all our buildings. But from observing us humans, the gargoyles came to love us, and they turned on Gorgolla when it was time to conquer Earth.
We now see that this has resulted in civil war back on the gargoyle home planet Stonius Five. Gorgolla is dead but Granitor was his father (other gargoyles have names like Crustor and Magnor).
The awakening of the Colossus has drawn Granitor's interest, so he leaves Stonius Five and comes to Earth.
With things getting out of control, Doctor Vault decides to go whole hog and also wake up Fin Fang Foom and throw him into the mix.
It's a crazy fun slugfest, with Fin Fang Foom depicted as a kung fu fighter (i mean, he is from China)...
...marred slightly by some corny dialogue and a plot (you know, just like in Godzilla movies). Highly recommended to fans of cheesey giant monster movies. Everyone else (ain't got no soul!) should probably stay away.
After these four issues, the title becomes a Deathlok book for the rest of its run. While there's a little confusion about when this story should be taking place (see the Considerations section) and whether or not it's really meant to be part of the Marvel Universe, it's clear that Isabella and Ayers were constructing a new universe made up of characters from the older Monster Age stories. I wonder who else Isabella had on deck.
Issues #22 and #23 are padded with partial reprints from the original Gorgolla and Fin Fang Foom stories. Issue #21 has a Ditko reprint from Amazing Adult Fantasy #9. It's the story where someone captures death and then realizes that death is a part of the natural order of things. Interesting how much the old guy looks like Ditko's Vulture.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is deliberately written in the style of the old Marvel Monster stories. It works best if it is placed as a part of the Monster Age, especially since you have three giant monsters fighting it out and causing a big mess and no super heroes show up to save the day. And when i had only had issues #23-24 (which i had picked up for Fin Fang Foom, obviously), i originally placed it in the Monster Age until i read Hulk #244 and saw that the cast of these issues appears there and refers to these events as having taken place about a year ago (although it would have been about 6 years by publication date). So i moved it to modern times. Now that i'm adding issues #21-22 i see my original inclination had more support than i realized. It's said that the events of Tales of Suspense #20 took place "a few months back". And the opening credits say "Return to the most thrilling days in monsterdom". But by issue #22 it's said to have been "several years" instead of "a few months". The fact that Delanzy is still upset about the Colossus' attack indicates this story takes place soon after that story, but the fact that he uses the phrase "monsters and superheroes" suggests a more modern placement (and an intention for this to be integrated into the Marvel Universe). Ultimately i've decided to stick with placement in the modern age thanks to the appearance of these characters in Hulk. Another possibility is that more time passes than we realize after O'Bryan's accident and before the rest of the story, but that doesn't explain the "superheroes" line. I guess the solution here is that Tales Of Suspense #20 happens, then "a few months" pass and now the Fantastic Four and other superheroes start cropping up, then the first few pages of Astonishing #21 happen, and then "several years" pass and now we're caught up with publication time. Yeah... that's the ticket! Marvels: Eye of the Camera #2 also references the events of this story as taking place around this time, so i guess that settles it.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
in issue #24, L. Lieber is given co-credit with Ayers for drawing and V. Colletta is credited for inking.
how many people did It and Fin Fang Foom kill during their slugfest in downtown LA? gawd.
at least the colorist used the same shade of green on Fin Fang Foom's underwear as the rest of him so he doesn't look quite as silly as he does in the magenta drawers.
Posted by: min | May 15, 2007 6:00 PM
"Delazny" is probably a reference to SF writer Roger Zelazny.
Death later bleached his skin and changed his name to D'Spayre.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 30, 2013 3:51 PM
Forgot: The title to #24 refers to the crude-but popular kung fu film "Five Fingers of Death".
Actually, the Godzilla films were really on the wane by this time, and the Gamera series had already ended a few years before. I don't think there were any more Japanese giant monsters(except maybe on Japan TV) for quite a while after 1974.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 30, 2013 3:55 PM
The awesome vs. Megalon would have been out around this time, and the two Mechagodzilla movies were still to come!
And i think all of these movies (Gamera too) would have been staples of late night TV at this time, thanks to the likes of Sandy Frank.
Don't you disparage Godzilla movies! I'll shut this site down and replace it with my Godzilla Chronology Project. (works in IE only, and kinda sucks)
Posted by: fnord12 | March 30, 2013 4:08 PM
I have been a Godzilla movie fan since I saw my first one around 1975; I'm just pointing out that the Japanese giant monster genre was close to ending its original run in theaters at this time(I don't think they were making much impact in American theaters on a regular basis either), and wouldn't come back until the kids who were fans at the time grew up and got into making films themselves.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 30, 2013 4:20 PM
I wonder if Isabella's Strange Tales research for this series led to his decision to dust off Master Khan for Iron Fist.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 30, 2013 9:52 PM
Somebody was going for a Steve Ditko look in the pencils, weren't they?
Posted by: Jay Patrick | April 1, 2013 4:08 PM
I was going to comment on Godzilla movies were losing tickets in Japan in 1974 and 75 would close the old fashioned ones with Terror of Mechagodzilla for nine years. I've forgotten that once upon a time they put Godzilla movies on television though. TNT's Monster Vision!
None the less I have to protest the first Godzilla sucking because he fights no other monsters. I guess there are two types of Godzilla movies: outlandish and serious. I've loved both since I was 4 but I think I like the serious ones a tiny bit more. Looking at Gojira, 1985 and Biollante here. Love the new one too.
Posted by: david banes | September 5, 2014 12:10 AM
I insist on an "It/Her" team up book. They can fight "They".
Posted by: kveto | October 3, 2016 4:28 PM
Dick Ayers looks great here, and he's stated that he was inking himself with an assist from his son. He and Isabella did a fantastic job, this is all crazy stupid fun and proves how comic books are the best medium for such things.
Posted by: Wis | January 19, 2018 7:40 AM
I'd guess that Dick Ayers' son, who assisted with the inking, is probably also the "R.B. Ayers" who receives a letterer's credit on the splash page for #21, shown in the first scan above. Couldn't help but notice the odd shapes of some of the dialog balloons, too.
Regarding the question of chronological placement in the Monster Age vs. the Marvel Age, or super-hero age, Delazny (or Delanzy or however you spell it) mentions the TV sitcom "My Mother the Car" in the 2nd scan, a series that was canceled after only a single season starting in 1965. I know that's only a "temporal reference" in the sliding timescale POV, but still, I would offer that 1965 is definitely in the Marvel Age of super-hero comics, in support of this placement.
Posted by: Holt | February 1, 2018 8:38 PM
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