Characters Appearing: Doris Evans, Human Torch, Rabble Rouser, Spider-Man
Strange Tales #119 (Human Torch)
Issue(s): Strange Tales #119 (Human Torch story only)
...with the ultimate goal of kidnapping a visiting foreign ally while the Torch is prohibited from using his powers in public.
The Rabble Rouser thinks his reward for this will be "a position of power in some puppet nation... I might even become another Castro" (talk about ambition!).
With that, there's no room for interpretation. The dignitary that Mr. Rouser captures is a Prince, so you might look for an alternate explanation where he's protesting a corrupt dictatorship, but there's nothing to support that. This really isn't any different than a million other Silver Age stories where the bad guy is an "undercover Red agent" except that his super-villain costume is that of a proto-hippie, with the troubling implication that all those unkempt longhairs in ponchos are fifth columnists.
The story ends with the Torch turning the Rabble Rouser's mind control device against him, turning him into a loyal US citizen (the Torch then destroys the device).
Years later he'll appear in Mark Millar's Enemy of the State story arc in Wolverine as a SHIELD agent that helps deprogram victims of the Hand's brainwashing.
Cameo by Spider-Man, who offers to give him advice on what to do when crowds turn against you, but the Torch chases him off.
Even if you're not sensitive to the political angle (which is understandable; as i say, it's really not that different than a lot of stories of the time), the Rabble Rouser is pretty lame. It's hilarious how everyone just refers to him as "the Rabble Rouser" as if it's just his name. It's like a Hostess Fruit Pie ad.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: The rest of the FF appear in a single flashback panel showing that they've gone off on vacation, which is why the city is so vulnerable when the Torch is forbidden from using his powers. The MCP places this between FF #23-24 and after the Human Torch's appearance in Untold Tales of Spider-Man #6.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Human Torch
Other than his outfit (which we might credit Ayers with, not Lee), I'm really not seeing much about the Rabble Rouser that screams hippie. For one thing his hair, mustache, and unibrow seem more like the "wild Russian" stereotype, which fits since he's a stereotypical commie. For another thing, his message isn't counter culture at all, nor is his audience young. He's preaching to suits about law & order. Were what we know of as hippies today even in the public consciousness in 1964? Seems to me that's still a few years off. Stan and his artists were all middle-aged guys who were often behind the times when it came to what was current and popular with the young folks. Seems less likely to me he would be commenting on something just breaking out in certain parts of the country (if at all yet) but rather just doing another run-of-the-mill Red story with a visual look for the villain seeming somewhat hippie-ish but more likely was simply Ayers' interpretation of a Rasputin-like Russian.
Posted by: Robert | February 5, 2016 5:14 AM
Oh and Torch sure is terrified about breaking a city ordinance. What was that probably back then, a $5 fine? Grow a pair, Johnny.
Posted by: Robert | February 5, 2016 5:26 AM
But if he did get a ticket and Reed found out, he'd bring it up over dinner, again and again, for-friggin-ever.
Worst brother in law ever.
Posted by: FF3 | February 5, 2016 6:48 AM
There were the beatniks who at least appeared more disheveled and "arty", which some claim evolved in some respects into elements of the hippie movement. But I guess there is a line to cross between being this guy and...Bernard the Poet.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 5, 2016 8:42 AM
I had the same placement for this story. I had also heard that it was originally supposed be the return of the Hatemonger but that Stan changed his mind about that.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 28, 2016 6:54 PM
The Rabble Rouser looks more like the antagonist in a spaghetti western. Add a hat, horse, cigarillo and a pair of pistols, and let Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef take care of the rest.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | October 1, 2017 5:10 PM
The Rabble-Rouser will return MUCH later in Mark Millar's run on Wolverine. As "Dr. Weinberg" (I don't think his first name is ever revealed) in 2005; he'll be a de-brainwashing expert for SHIELD in the classic "Enemy of the State" story line.
Also, for what it's worth, this issue of Strange Tales (119) also featured the Dr Strange story, "Beyond the Purple Veil!", that the hippies on the bus were reading in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.
Posted by: Andrew | November 4, 2017 2:14 PM
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