Just added a new post to my blog, this one spotlighting the often-maligned JOHNNY STORM, THE HUMAN TORCH series.  The first 5 covers (so far), lovingly restored, in all their 4-color glory.

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According to DC Indexes Tales to Astonish #101 went on sale in Dec. 1967 and Astonishing Tales #1 went on sale in May 1970.

So, we were about three years without a "split book" before the concept was renewed.

I think silver age Marvel fans remember TTA and TOS and Strange Tales very fondly because of their unique flavor of dual companion strips running in them. (Did the order of the stories inside ever reverse? I don't think so.)  And so, for most comic fans, they remember those titles as superhero books and usually as split books, with very different art styles between the two...

example:  Gene Colan art on Subby paired with Jack Kirby layout on Hulk

               Don Heck art on Iron Man paired with Jack Kirby on Captain America

               Steve Ditko art on Dr. Strange paired with Jack kirby on SHIELD

The only one that seemed similar was Journey In Mystery with Jack Kirby on both THor and Tales of Asgard but perhaps with different inkers at different times.



Norris Burroughs wrote:
"Kirby's approach to telling a story is so dynamic that it is, as Henry and Bob
have stated so many times, obvious to anyone more than half-witted why Lee's
stories with Kirby are so obviously superior to those of say Dick Ayers."

Now let's get back to this a bit. AS YOU KNOW, "Marvel" fans are always
claiming that Kirby's comics were "better" with Stan, when, in truth, the
opposite was true. Stan's comics were better with Kirby. Because KIRBY was

On the other hand... I've read the entire run of the Johnny Storm HUMAN TORCH
series, TWICE. Love those ESSENTIAL books. Complete, and CHEAP! There's 3
periods: Kirby, Ayers, and Powell.

Kirby's stuff is nice. It's got imagination, design, and storytelling.

Ayers' stuff is nice, BUT, in an almost totally different way.

Here's my comparison: Kirby's HT is like ALL IN THE FAMILY. Ayers' is like THE
JEFFERSONS. (Or should that be GOOD TIMES ?) Not as well made, but, for what it
is, FUNNY. Entertaining. Actually, for the HT, MUCH MORE entertaining. Really!

And WHY NOT? After all, since Ayers did the original HUMAN TORCH back in the
50's, the "Human Torch" was almost more HIS character than Kirby's. Except for
the part about them being 2 different characters.

Powell's run is like ARCHIE BUNKER'S PLACE. Seems like it should be good...
but... it AIN'T. Oh well.

Of the 3 (AHEM!) "artists", clearly, Bob Powell was the one who NEEDED to be
teamed with a "real" writer. Some consistent inks would have helped, too.
(Actually, letting Powell do FULL ART would have been a MAJOR improvement.)

So, if those comics sucked, I don't blame Powell for it. Ask Jim Kirk, Captain
of the Enterprise. No matter what happens on his ship, it's HIS responsibility!

The only time I ever saw Stan APOLOGIZE for screwing up was on CAPTAIN MAR-VELL.
I think it was over replacing Drake & Heck with Friedrich & Springer. MY GOD,
those Friedrich issues SUCKED!!!!!!!

Oh yeah, and for no reason at all... here's some FABULOUS covers by Bob Powell !!!

And while I'm at it, HERE's some by Dick Ayers !!!  (and, Frank Frazetta)


Proof that the Rabble Rouser is not dead...

Kirk G said:

Courtesy of some encouragement by my impatient daughter, and paint and photoshop, perhaps he should have looked more like this.....

for those Human Torch fans who can't live without seeing/reading ALL of his solo adventures, I have a copy of the Essential Human Torch #1 (Strange Tales# 101-135) for sale.  I've flipped through it and then wound up getting the marvel Masterworks volumes for a birthday and X-mas gifts, so I need not horde this Silver Age goodness from you any longer.

P.M. me if you want to make an offer, or else I'll link you to my ebay  listing.



I love that book (of course, I've already got mine).  The one realy BAD reproduction in there is STRANGE TALES ANNUAL #1.  The crazy thing is, it was reprinted in another Essential book only a couple years earlier, and looked MUCH better! I compared the two, and it appeared someone took the stats from the previous B&W version, which had graytones, and WHITED OUT all the grays, creating a horrific mess.

The last time I read the story, I finally found the COLOR reprint I had from years earlier still.

I recently compared the 3 eras of the Johnny Storm series to a trio of Norman Lear spin-offs, which I think was a good fit...


Dick Ayers -- GOOD TIMES


The latest restoration...

STRANGE TALES #106  /  March 1963  /  Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers


This turned out to be one of the most time-consuming clean-ups I've done in YEARS. Which is ironic, considering what a 5th-rate design the cover is.  Too much text, the main figures too small, and some very awkward business with the "acrobatics" on the part of the baddie, whose costume is uninspired, to say the least. No wonder people dismiss the Johnny Storm Human Torch series...

The background was SO dirty, I wound up having to copy the entire image and "clear" out the ENTIRE background, so I could replace it with a brand-new background BEHIND the rest of the art.  This itself took several DAYS to do, and it's something I haven't done in quite some time.

Once past that, and after using "levels" to adjust the colors in general, I then had to use airbrush AND copy-and-paste-into to fix some horrific color plate registration problems,  adjust the FF uniforms, the dark blue-purple of the villain's outfit, the skin tones, the grays and the pale blues EACH on separate layers.  Further, the right half-inch or so of the grays (and pale blues) were EXTRA-dirty, and required further separate adjustment.  Not to mention, the bottom and right edges required "copy-and-paste-into"-- which, compared to everything else, wasn't as time-consuming as it might have been.

I was ALMOST done-- I thought-- when I looked REAL close, and noticed there was a TINY HINT of green in the logo. OH, NO!!! That logo was so dark, it was actually COMPLETELY BLACK for about 98% of it.  But when I used "color balance" and cranked "lightness" up, increasing green to "100", TOTAL SHOCK!! There WAS color in there-- and BLACK outlines, as well.  I wound up having to very carefully, tediously "clear" the edges of the logo AGAIN-- fix a lot of "damage" in the green areas, and use airbrush on ALL the black and red areas.  Because the "STRANGE TALES" logo is probably the MOST COMPLICATED logo in all of 60's Marvel, this alone took me SEVERAL DAYS more to do. AAUGH!!

Well-- it's DONE now!!  The cover itself may still suck-- but this image of it is absolutely STUNNING!!!

The latest restoration...

STRANGE TALES #107 / April 1963
Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky

Dirt everywhere, for the 2nd cover in a row I had to copy the art to a 2nd layer and then REMOVE the entire sky background in order to replace that smoothly. Tons of color plate registration problems, staples, filling in the right and bottom edges, creases... "the usual".



Another F.F. cover... well, okay, not quite...

STRANGE TALES #108  /  Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers  /  May 1963

For the 3rd restoration in a row, there was so much dirt, damage and color plate registration problems-- not to mention inconsistent background color-- I wound up REPLACING the entire background with a new, digital version (bye-bye, dot pattern).

That out of the way, I used airbrush on the red, yellow & white areas, and cranked up the dark blues, browns & greens on separate layers, plus used a lot of copy-and-paste-into to fill in the bottom and right edges.

WOW! Pretty good for such a 3rd-rate cover, hmm??


The latest restoration...

STRANGE TALES #109 / June 1963 / Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

Another "forgotten" story & cover by Kirby.  Although he returned to do 3 more Johnny Storm episodes, this was the last one he did regularly before Dick Ayers took over full-time.

Once again, another DIRTY image which required the ENTIRE background be removed & replaced.  In addition, the dark blue in the logo and the sorcerer, the purple, gray & brown monsters were all WAY too dark to see the linework, and required the color be cranked up using "color balance", each on separate layers.  On top of that, the sorcerer, part of the logo and several of the monsters all had DAMAGE which required "copy and paste" to repair.

WOW!  This sure looks NICER than I've ever seen it online.  Which is all the justification I needed to do it.


The latest restoration...

STRANGE TALES #110  /  July 1963  /  Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers

Considering the scan of this was so DARK most of the colors went BLACK, I'm amazed this turned out as good as it did, and, that it only took me one day to do it (while the last several have been taking almost a week apiece in my spare time).  The green in the corner box, the dark blue in the upper-right corner, the brown, green & blue areas of The Wizard & Paste-Pot Pete were impossible to see. Thank goodness for Photoshop!

This was one of my favorite Johnny Storm stories.  Paste-Pot Pete breaks The Wizard out of jail to form a partnership, then finds instead he's treated like a hired lackey by the raving egomaniacal scientist. As written by Dick Ayers, it's played for comedy, something Ayers clearly excels at.

You'd NEVER GUESS that Steve Ditko's brand-new creation, DR. STRANGE, MASTER OF BLACK MAGIC, made his debut in the back of this issue!!!  Was "Mr. Promotion" Stan Lee, comics' answer to a used-car saleman, TRYING to see Ditko fall flat on his face?


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