Thursday, January 09, 2014

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #93

"The Mysterious Radio-active Man!" by Stan Lee, Richard Bernstein, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(June 1963)

What can I say? It's another Bernstein issue where things just happen because the plot requires it.

Here, Thor fights the Red Chinese army, stopping their invasion of India, where Dr. Don Blake is helping with medical aid. It's kind of fun seeing Thor bat away missiles and catch tank shells in mid-air. Then he chains the empty tanks to his hammer and throws them into Indian custody, and you kind of roll your eyes. Too much.

Mao Tse Tung himself takes this as a personal affront and demands his scientist rid the world of Thor.

He's not named, but that's Mao. I'll give Bernstein this: he doesn't write the pidgin English dialogue for the Chinese. That's refreshing. We still have that ghastly pale yellow skin coloring, but it's a step.

To defeat Thor, the Chinese scientist Chen Lu goes to another mainstay of this era of science fiction: radiation. He bathes himself in it, somehow gaining radioactive powers instead of, say, just melting. How did he do it? No one will ever know: he even destroys his entire lab so no one else can do it. Mao is impressed, and they send Chen Lu, the Radioactive Man, to New York to do battle with Thor.

I do think it's a great touch that, after being smuggled through international waters in a submarine and shot into the harbor in a torpedo tube, the Radioactive Man actually makes a point of "brazenly" walking through customs just to show everyone they can't stop him.

There's actually a bit of a moral dilemma about his arrival, in that Dr. Blake is in surgery and can't just drop it to rush out and turn into Thor to fight the Radioactive Man. It's a bit undercut because Radioactive Man literally just stands around and waits for Thor to arrive. He doesn't actually conquer anything, he just waits.

And then Thor can't really fight the guy, because--as the Radioactive Man helpfully points out--he would explode with the force of an H-bomb. So Thor just sort of stands there helpless while the Radioactive Man hypnotizes him and tells him to throw his hammer away. Thor throws it too far, so the Radioactive Man has to go off chasing it and isn't around--apparently no one is--when 60 seconds pass and Thor turns back into Blake, who then rushes off to his office and just, on the fly, whips up some kind of x-ray machine that can monitor a ten mile radius and shows him, on a video screen, that Thor's hammer is lying at the bottom of the Hudson River.

Sigh. This is what I mean by things just happening because of plot requirement. This machine comes out of nowhere, is barely explained, exists in one panel, and then we'll just ignore it.

Then Blake gets the hammer back, turns into Thor, creates a cyclone to hurl the Radioactive Man back to China, and then the Radioactive Man hits China with the force of an H-bomb and explodes.

So, yes, apparently Thor nuked China and we're just never going to mention that again.

Next time: Pandora's Box is opened.

2 comments:

New York Erratic said...

I thought you'd find this project interesting: http://www.orionnotes.com/art/category/x-men-of-color/

Here's the NPR article on what inspired the project: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/01/11/261449394/who-gets-to-be-a-superhero-race-and-identity-in-comics?utm_content=socialflow&utm_campaign=nprfacebook&utm_source=npr&utm_medium=facebook

SamuraiFrog said...

That is really fascinating... I never thought about some of those points before, particularly the idea that the qualities that make Wolverine such a popular antihero would be regressive stereotypes in a black man.