Friday, November 08, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #90

"Trapped by the Carbon-Copy Man" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Al Hartley
(March 1963)

Al Hartley himself said he wasn't really suited for superhero comics, so I don't feel too bad saying that I don't care for the art in his lone Silver Age Marvel Superhero story (as artist). This is the first time Thor's been drawn by anyone other than Jack Kirby, and while Thor would go on to have a number of great, distinctive artists, this one just kind of threw me and left me cold. Before this, though he had certainly been working in a number of different genres, Al Hartley was mainly known as an artist on teenage and romance comics. He had about a decade-long run on one of the Marvel books I'm not reading for this series, Patsy Walker (written by Stan Lee and actually kind of enjoyable--though it's no Millie the Model, which had Dan DeCarlo as artist).

This panel, I think, shows both the strengths and the weaknesses of Hartley's art in this issue:

Jane looks amazing (better than Kirby's, even), but the framing is uninteresting and the way he draws Donald Blake kind of creeps me out a little bit. I mean, I know he's crippled and even a little sickly, but here he looks emaciated.

The big moment in this issue is that Dr. Blake resolves to tell Jane that he's actually Thor, but--without even explaining why--Odin forbids Blake from ever telling Jane the truth. At this point, though, I'm not entirely sure why he loves Jane so much, because she's kind of a bitch. When she's not daydreaming about Thor, she's constantly (and negatively) comparing him to Thor. (And we know she once had feelings for him, too, but since he's so cold and remote in order to keep his secret--and because of his real handicap, his lack of self-esteem--I'm not sure what she saw in him, either. I'm not rooting for these kids to make it, frankly.)

After that, things settle into the usual routine. This issue's villains are the Xartans, and they're basically just less-interesting Skrulls: they can shape shift, but their spies basically just try to screw up the way the city functions in the most ridiculous, purposeless ways--for example, one of them tries to drive his car on the sidewalk with the feeble excuse that he just felt like doing it. I don't know if it's somehow supposed to throw things into chaos, or just generally be annoying. Then Blake gets captured, then tricks the Xartans into letting him become Thor, and then Thor saves everyone.

Cue Jane Foster's negative comparison of Blake to Thor, and Blake's knowing wink at the audience, and that's another filler story done.

Other notes:

:: Al Hartley became a born again Christian in 1967 and did a lot of Christian comics, including the Christian Archie comics and the much-laughed-at (but actually pretty good) Hansi, the Girl Who Loved the Swastika. I may not have thought he was the right artist for Thor, but he did a really great job with teenagers.

Next up: acrobatics!


Roger Owen Green said...

that's a great panel to explain his strengths and weaknesses.

bliss_infinte said...

Yeah, when I was reading these early Thor issues I was surprised at how bad they were. Even Kirby's art could hardly save them. Then I got to this issue with Hartley's work and was just in awe how low and off the mark Marvel could go. I think they actually go lower with the upcoming Merlin story! I plowed through these and eventually was rewarded. At the time when Marvel hit it they hit it put of the park, and when they missed...

SamuraiFrog said...

Yeah, Joe Sinnot's art isn't really right for the character, either.

When I really start liking Thor is when they get into the Tales of Asgard back-up stories. Right now I'm really only digging it when Loki shows up.