The Small Lebowski:
Strange Tales #123
Issue(s): Strange Tales #123
Review/plot: I feel really bad about what i am going to say. The Human Torch story in this issue was drawn by Carl Burgos, creator of the original Human Torch from the Golden Age. His Human Torch is OK. He draws him in the 'faceless' style of his Human Torch, which i don't really like because that's generally the way Marvel distinguishes between the two, but it's fine for a single issue.
Unfortunately, this story also required Burgos to draw the Thing. Now, i am sure the Thing is extremely hard to draw, and a real pain in the ass. But Burgos' Thing is just terrible. He's just a big lump. The art in this issue really sucks.
This issue also features the first appearance of the Beetle, who i like just based on his (eventual) classic character design. In this story the Beetle is in a really awkward bulky costume, and has absolutely no motive. He's kind of incompetent and barely manages to not kill himself the first time he tries out his new suit.
On the other hand, he does have asbestos coated wings, and a really unique look.
Nonetheless, he basically gets stomped by the Torch and the Thing the whole time, gleefully shouting "I'm winning!" all the while. Seriously.
Like three times this issue, he tries to steal a cash register, and the Torch and the Thing come after him, and he gets away by throwing the money at the Torch.
And then after he gets away, he shouts, "I've won again!". No you didn't, Beetle. You got your ass handed to you and you had to run away without the money you stole.
There's a really funny line from the Thing. As the Beetle is talking, the Thing says "Why do all the clowns I fight think they haveta make speeches every time they do somethin'?" Stan Lee's ability to poke fun at his own writing is one of his best qualities.
Mr. Fantastic gets a behind-the-scenes appearance for teaching the Torch and the Thing about beetles off-panel.
In the Dr. Strange story, Loki tricks Dr. Strange into snagging Thor's hammer, but Dr. Strange eventually wises up to him (you'd think a guy like Dr. Strange would be at least superficially familiar with Norse mythology).
I like the story because Dr. Strange is totally overpowered by Loki the whole time, and only survives because Thor shows up at the end, but really it's all about Ditko's awesome psychedelic mystic battles.
This Dr. Strange story is, of course, drawn by Steve Ditko, and in the beginning of the issue, they almost apologize for it: "The Mighty Thor, drawn in the somewhat different Ditko-style. (In fact, it's so blamed different, we're trying to hide it from Jolly Jack Kirby!)."
As bizarre as that is, it's interesting to think that the characters looks were so defined by their regular artists that they had to apologize for these variations. Ditko's art was amazingly innovative and at this point in their careers possibly surpassing Kirby in my opinion. I suspect that could be explained by the fact the Ditko was doing one and a half books a month as opposed to Kirby's ten or so, but regardless, apologizing for Ditko's artwork is just wrong.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (4): showAlicia Masters, Beetle, Doris Evans, Dr. Strange, Human Torch, Loki, Mr. Fantastic, Thing, Thor
Carl Burgos' Marvel comeback didn't last long. He quickly sued Marvel to get some ownership of the Human Torch, lost, and wound up working for former 1950s Marvel artist Myron Fass on his bottom-of-the-barrel MF Publications' color comics and Eerie Publications' b&w horror line. Myron Fass was also inadvertently responsible for making print pornography a lot harder and nastier than the original Playboy formula, but that's a much longer story.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 31, 2011 10:26 PM
You have to admire the Beetle, claiming things are going his way even if he's losing. I guess he had "long term" in his mind when he started this scheme...not sure how long term but you have to give the nut credit.
Oh and I think Burgos' Thing is a small-headed cousin of the Stone Men from Saturn.
Posted by: Ataru320 | February 21, 2014 4:21 PM
I actually interpreted the captions to the Dr. Strange story as complementing Ditko and teasing Kirby (meaning they want to hide the Ditko-Thor from Kirby because Kirby might get jealous).
Posted by: mikrolik | June 8, 2015 8:07 PM
I think the apology was meant to be tongue in cheek and not to be taken seriously. I don't know that I think Ditko was better than Kirby but they were both among the best artists of the day and are still giants IMHO.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 29, 2016 7:17 PM
The Beetle is such a crazy optimistic guy.... In Avengers #28, The Collector orders him to get all the Avengers for his collection, and he´s like "OK i´ll go for them at once".
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | November 6, 2016 4:30 PM
In the letter columns reprinted in the Amazing Spider-Man Marvel Masterworks, letters complaining about Ditko's art are plentiful. I think here Stan is anticipating those kinds of letters whining about Thor's look in these pages.
Posted by: Michael Grabowski | April 16, 2017 11:09 AM
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