Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Daredevil, Thor, the Teen Titans: short notes from the Silver Age

While it’s fun going into detail about particular issues or trends as I reread the Silver Age, 1965 has simply more going on than I can blog in detail about. So here’s a few quick notes on various issues.

Daredevil #9, “That He May See” is a real headscratcher for me — the villain is so much a cut-rate Doctor Doom I wonder if artist/plotter Wally Wood wanted to use Victor and Stan Lee (as usual providing dialog) turned him down. The villain, Klaus Kruger, is a former classmate of Matt and Foggy, just as Victor was for Reed and Ben. He rules Lichtenbad, a small European duchy, using a robot army to keep the populace in check. He plans eventual world conquest. Kruger also plans to add luster to his name by collecting the greatest minds in the world for his court; that seems very Doom-like.

That’s also how Matt gets involved: Dr. Van Eyck, the one eye surgeon brilliant enough to cure Matt’s blindness, is one of Kruger’s recruits. Karen’s hopeful that if Matt regains his sight he’ll finally express his love for her so she pushes Matt into visiting Lichtenbad for the treatment. That suits Kruger’s plan to gather the world’s great minds because Matt is … wait, when was he one of the world’s great lawyers? But that puts him in a position to fight the evil duke and liberate Lichtenbad though Van Eyck dies stopping Kruger from detonating a doomsday device. No sight for Matt! It’s an uninspired issue overall, though Stan writes Foggy well: in love with Karen himself, he’s half-hoping Matt never returns from Europe, then hates himself for wishing ill on his best friend.

By contrast, Thor’s series in Journey Into Mystery was firing on all cylinders around this time. It’s not just that the stories were good: starting with #114 we have the stories seamlessly flowing one into the other in a way quite unlike anything else at the time (except the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four).  After Loki sics the Absorbing Man on Thor, Odin calls for a Trial of the Gods to see which of his sons is telling the truth. Loki can’t use his magic to cheat without Odin spotting it but he uses a bag of magical Norn Stones to do it discreetly. He wins the Trial, then scatters the Norn Stones on Earth so Thor can’t prove he fought dirty.

Thor heads to Earth to find the evidence; Loki unleashes the Destroyer to prevent him. Thor defeats him and finds the stones but leaves one of them behind; a revolutionary finds it and becomes the Demon a few issues later. When Thor arrives back in New York he discovers his practice is shuttered. Why didn’t Jane ask his usual fill-in doctor to take over? Where is Jane? We see that she’s with some mysterious man who won’t let her leave, but don’t learn why (I don’t remember how this plays out and I’m not spoiling my rereading fun by looking ahead)? Later, while Thor battles the Demon, Hercules shows up, leading to Thor’s epic battle with Pluto.

This is harder to pull off than it looks. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern told a big epic story but he was so fixated on the epic that eventually none of the individual issues worked when read by themselves. What Lee and Kirby do here is closer to Chris Claremont on X-Men a decade later, seamlessly seeding upcoming stories while making the current yarn as gripping as possible. The difference, of course, is that no matter how cosmic Claremont got, he kept things human and personal; Lee and Kirby give them operatic grandeur. I don’t mean that as an insult, just a description; I’m loving this run of Thor.By contrast, I love Bob Haney’s origin of the Teen Titans in Brave and the Bold #60 because it’s so down to earth. No “forged in the fires of battle, a new team arises,” just Kid Flash, Aqualad and Robin realizing after they teamed up in B&B #54 that a super-team devoted to helping teens in trouble would be a good thing. So they created one. When teen Tommy Holmes asks for help proving his father hasn’t returned to crime as the Separated Man, the Teen Titans roll!We have no explanation how Wonder Girl wound up as part of the team, but I’m guessing they knew about her through the JLA grapevine (BATMAN: “Wonder Woman says her sister is ready to leave the island. She might be a good match for you.” ROBIN: “Bruce, you sound like Aunt May in Spider-Man, trying to match-make Peter Parker with her best friend’s niece.” BATMAN: “Peter who?”). Figuring they could use someone with super-strength, they contacted her; she jumped at the chance.

More Silver Age goodness soon.

#SFWApro. Art by Wallace Wood, Jack Kirby, Kirby again, Nick Cardy and Bruno Premiani.

One comment

  1. Le Messor

    ROBIN: “Bruce, you sound like Aunt May in Spider-Man, trying to match-make Peter Parker with her best friend’s niece.”

    WONDER GIRL (when they finally meet) : “Face it, cheetah, you just hit the jackpot.”

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