Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #99

"The Mysterious Mr. Hyde!" by Stan Lee & Don Heck
(December 1963)

It's alarming how easy it is to piss people off and make them turn supervillain in the Marvel Universe. Take this guy: Calvin Zabo, a scientist who wanted to get a job working for Dr. Donald Blake. Now, Zabo was already a weasel, and he wanted to work for Blake so he could rob him later "at my leisure," but Blake immediately turned Zabo away because he'd been fired a lot and he'd heard "you're no good." Zabo, humiliated, decides he's going to get revenge on Blake for making him feel bad.

So he becomes Mr. Hyde.

That's the terrifying origin story of this month's villain: I'm going to become a rage creature inspired by a Robert Louis Stevenson story because you made me feel bad. It's like Thor's about to get in a fight with an internet message board. Insert whichever one you think is the saddest. I'm sure one just came to mind.

Well, now Calvin Zabo is Mr. Hyde, who has the strength of 12 men, and who can apparently change his shape, even down to his fingerprints. You know where this is going, right? It's bank robbing time.

Meanwhile, Thor is in Asgard, begging Odin yet again to let him marry Jane. Odin is over it. Officially. No Asgardian will marry a mortal. Thor then asks Odin to make Jane immortal, which Odin finds outright offensive. But he's taken aback when Thor raises his hammer to his father in anger, and Odin agrees to listen to Thor's petition once more, if Jane proves worthy of immortality: "noble, unselfish, fearless, and possessing virtues far in excess of those which the ordinary earthbound human possesses." So, we'll see.

The wrinkle Stan Lee adds to this is that Jane is genuinely in love with Dr. Blake. When Mr. Hyde shows up for his revenge, he throws Blake out the window, and in the story's lone suspenseful moment, Blake is only barely able to tap his cane to the side of the building and turn into Thor, surviving the fall. When he returns to the office, Hyde is gone, and Jane is much more worried about Blake's fate than the presence of Thor. So it's an inversion of the earlier situation. Before, Thor was Don Blake's rival for Jane's affections; now, it's the other way around.

Hyde isn't thrilled to hear on the radio that Blake lived. But he still plans on having his revenge.

And then Thor robs a bank.

To be continued!

Other notes:

:: Zabo does indeed site Stevenson as his inspiration for creating a formula that gives him his powers. He also credits his new powers with giving him a "devious, scheming brain," but I don't think he really needed help there.

:: Zabo is also jealous of Blake for having "everything! Wealth, fame, a beautiful nurse!" First off, I just need to add, having someone beautiful work for you is not a status symbol. Let's stop thinking like that. A beautiful assistant is not a job perk you just get to indulge in, she's a person working a job in order to feed herself. But second... wealth? Don Blake has wealth? We've really seen nothing of his home life. We know he's taken seriously as both a doctor and a scientist, and he seems to have no shortage of colleagues who envy him and want to ruin him out of professional jealousy, but is he really a wealthy guy? He should probably have nicer suits, then. I don't know, Blake doesn't have much of a personality other than pining for Jane.

:: Tonight the part of Mr. Hyde will be played by Patrick Troughton.

:: Don Heck's art is being kind of wasted on this series. He's not a fantasy guy, I think, and his vision of Asgard isn't very compelling. I wish he was still doing those neat-o spy-fi Ant-Man comics. We've got to find a better place for him, because he's fantastic.

"Tales of Asgard: Surtur the Fire Demon" by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

This visually splendorous short tells the story of Odin fighting trolls on his way to battle Surtur, the gigantic king of the fire demons. To hurt Odin, Surtur tries to destroy the Earth--as yet uninhabited--by burrowing into its center, driving out a chunk that becomes the moon. Odin creates the Rainbow Bridge, goes to Earth, and plunges his sword into the planet, drawing "all the electro-magnetic particles of the cosmos" in order to start the planet rotating, which traps Surtur inside, imprisoning him forever. The heat of our planet is really the demon trapped at its core. That's more or less how Carl Sagan explained it on Cosmos, right?

(Alright, just being a wag.)

Once again, beautiful art. Jack Kirby really, really shines in these stories. They're short, but he really gets to play with the scale and the scope in these, and is creating a cosmology that will only grow and grow in the future.

And these always make up for less exciting Thor stories, which is most of them...

Next time: the rivalry between the Human Torch and Spider-Man continues, and the origin of Dr. Strange!


bliss_infinte said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it's interesting that this Thor episode appears to be the first continued story by Stan. I always thought it was Ditko's Dr. Strange that started that trend. Too bad it's such a very uninteresting cliff-hanger.

SamuraiFrog said...

Stan touts it as such, too, in the Fantastic Four letters page this month. (He calls it an experiment.) I think this month's Giant-Man story is also going to be a cliffhanger (I think it's the one with the Human Top).

Back in FF, there was an *implied* cliffhanger. The FF freed the micro-world from Dr. Doom's control, and it seemed like the fight was about to continue, but it wasn't really a continuation. The next issue proceeded as another standalone issue, but started with everyone trying and failing to find Doom, who was secretly monitoring them.