I've been a fan of Marvel's monsters for as long as I've been reading comics. This discussion will be divided into two "phases." Phase One will be "The Monster Age" and will focus on monsters which will cross over into Phase Two, "The Marvel Age," particularly those who have a connection with the Incredible Hulk. I'll start with...
I suspect that even back then, they weren't all that important, but likely they still loomed large in the popular imagination, when the memory of the time when the carnival/circus might have been an American small town's only real entertainment in a given year was still fairly fresh.
And similarly with ventriloquism, vaudeville hadn't been dead that long back then (and television was the box they buried it in, as Uncle Miltie is supposed to have said), and people still probably remembered the glory days of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. Or at least, the guys writing the comics did.
Captain Comics said:
There sure were a lot of stories featuring carnivals and circuses in '50s and '60s comics. Were they a big deal back then? They weren't in my home town, but I lived in sleepy, backwater Memphis.
I had the same thought some time ago on this board about ventriloquism acts. There were so many (horror) stories in the early '50s involving ventriloquist dummies that I figured it must have been a popular entertainment.
GOOGAM, SON OF GOOM – Tales of Suspense #17 (May 1961):
SYNOPSIS: Again, Mark Langley narrates. Billy, his 14 year old son, is home from military school. When Goom’s people took him away, no one realized he left an infant son behind. Billy finds Googam in a nearby cave. Now grown to a youth, Googam is not yet fully grown, but still a giant by human standards. Googam intends to fulfill his father’s plans for conquest and keeps the Langleys prisoner in their own home. Busybody neighbor Sara Perkwhistle pays a visit. Goom frightens her away, but by the time she gets back home she has convinced herself it was a prank.
Next, the Langleys send a message though their mailman, but no one believes it. Billy challenges Googam to a winner-take-all game of… tag? Yes, tag. Billy lures Googam into a pit of quicksand and the threat is ended.
Disclaimer: Googam does not appear in the “Marvel Age” to the best of my knowledge (unless it’s in one of those more “recent” monster titles), but y’know how some people simply like names such as “Fin Fang Foom” and “Tim Boo Ba”? Well, I like “Googam, Son of Goom.”
Jeff, I like the way that you've used a smaller-size cover illustration to accompany your description of a story about a smaller-size monster (Googam, son of Goom) versus a smaller-size human (Billy, son of Mark)!
“Jeff, I like the way that you've used a smaller-size cover illustration to accompany your description of a story about a smaller-size monster…”
Ha! That was not intentional, but if it works for you…
“Googam does not appear in the “Marvel Age” to the best of my knowledge (unless it’s in one of those more “recent” monster titles)…”
Actually, Googam was part of the all-monster group Fin Fang Four.
Speaking of which...
FIN FANG FOOM – Strange Tales #89 (Oct 1961):
Chan Liuchow lives on the island of Formosa. He mother was American, his father Chinese. His mother is deceased and his father is disappointed in him. He is a scholar, but his father wants him to join the nationalist army to defend against the Communist aggressors. After word of an impending attack, Chan sneaks to the mainland. His father suspects he is a traitor.
Many miles inland, Chan finds the ancient crypt of the dragon Fin Fang Foom. Legends tell of two ancient herbs, one of which wakes the dragon up, the other to put it to sleep. Chan brushes the “wake up” herb against Fin fang Foom’s lips and the dragon awakens and speaks (no surprise, really, since he’s wearing short pants). Chan taunts Fin Fang Foom that he has the power to put the dragon back to sleep, then leads him to the surface.
Fin Fang Foom pursues Chan to the coast, leaving a wide swath of destruction in his wake. Chan plays a deadly game of cat and mouse, leading Fin Fang Foom from one ship to another until the entire fleet is destroyed. Then Chan leads him back to the crypt, distracts him with a mirror, and puts him back to sleep with the other herb. While he was leading the dragon, Chan lost his wallet, which was found by the enemy, who then put a price on his head, thereby earning his father’s respect.
COLOSSUS LIVES AGAIN – Tales of Suspense #20:
Yes, I know I’ve posted an image of the reprint, Monsters on the Prowl #25. That’s because that’s where I first read this story. MotP #25 was my first exposure to the Marvel monsters and, by my reckoning, only my 22nd comic book overall. (I’m pretty sure it’s also where I first encountered the term “Iron Curtain.”) I remember choosing this comic myself, obviously attracted by the dynamic Kirby cover.
On Cancrius III (the planet of the crab creatures from Tales of Suspense #14), a new, warlike regime has taken over. Based on the report of the creature stranded there before, it is decided that Earth will be easy to conquer if first something is done to weaken the inhabitants’ confidence and moral. Meanwhile, the Soviets have sent the now immobile statue of the Colossus to an international fair. The crab creatures take control of the statue and cause it to jump off the ship transporting it. Sometime later, it surfaces on a beach in California, terrorizing the swimmers.
In Hollywood, set designer Bob O’Bryan is in love with actress Diane Cummings, but she has eyes only for her dashing co-star, Grant Marshall. News comes that the giant Colossus is on its way toward Hollywood. O’Bryan has an idea. He and his two assistants set to work. Soon, the Colossus attacks the studio, Diane’s gown gets caught, but rather than help her, Marshall runs away. Just then, Bob throws himself between Diane and the statue and threatens to destroy it.
Bob and his assistants have built a statue even bigger and more powerful than the Colossus. But his plan seemingly backfires, because as soon as the crab creatures see it, they transfer from the Colossus to the bigger statue. Then Bob triggers a detonator, destroying the aliens along with his statue (which was constructed only out of plaster of Paris in the first place, which is how it was built so quickly). Then the shallow Diane transfers her affections to Bob.
Monster on the Prowl #25 serves as a transition between “phase one” of this discussion (the Monster Age) and “phase two” (the Marvel Age), which I will begin next week. Phase one began and ended with It, the Living Colossus, and (spoiler warning) so will phase two.
I’m pretty sure it’s also where I first encountered the term “Iron Curtain.”
I feel old.
ASTONISHING TALES #21:
I still remember seeing this cover for the first time on the spinner rack at Ahmann’s newsstand. :That ‘IT’ looks an awful lot like Colossus,” I thought, at first blush. Then I took a closer look and saw it was Colossus! I knew Monsters on the Prowl had been a reprint, and thought what a “coincidence” it was published right before this new story. How lucky I was to have found them both! I would read these isues over and over and over when I was a kid, but then I didn’t read them again for decades. I re-read them in the ‘90s and now it has been decades again since I read them last. (Now I feel old.) Y’know what? The still hold up (although I can’t say for sure how much of that feeling is nostalgia).
The series is written by Tony Isabella and drawn by Dick Ayers. Reading these stories after so many years, I was struck (in the ‘90s as now) just what Ayers’ inks brought to Jack Kirby’s pencils. The events of Monsters on the Prowl #25 happened “a few months back” and the inanimate statue is still on the Delazny Studio grounds because it’s too big to move. Dorian Delazny has called a staff meeting. His television show Star Lords is in danger of cancellation because, frankly, more interesting things are happening in real life.
Bob O’Bryan, who is now a special effects man rather than a set designer, has invented a new kind of special effects he assures will redefine the industry. It’s tempting to retrofit CGI at this point, but he’s working with film, not computers, and he himself describes his technique as “similar to King Kong, but more advanced.” So some kind of stop-motion photography, then? He is shown at one point sitting before a model city on a table-top. He shows a film of Colussus in action. Delazny at firt thinks is stock news footage, except it’s in Washington, D.C. and the statue never made it that far. Then the ship from the Star Lords television show appears on the screen. Delazny is so impressed he renews the show for a second season on the spot.
Tempers run high when Grant Marshall is jealous that a “technician” is getting more attention than he is. He decides to cause a few accidents around the set. Later, he drops a heavy piece of equipment from above. Bob pushes Diane Cummins out of the way, but the weight hits him square in the back. He will never walk again. Diane still wants to get married, but Bob, feeling sorry for himself and not wanting to tie her to a “cripple,” rejects her.
Later, Bob witnesses the theft of the Colossus and, somehow, transfers his consciousness into it. (This will be “explained” next issue.) The statue is being stolen by Dr. Vault, a typical “mad scientist” type. He came “prepared” for the statue to come to life and sprays it with nerve gas. This tactic works (for some reason) and the Doctor gets away with Colossus. Dr. Vault is dying from a rare disease and plans to transfer his own consciousness into the statue, but first he plans to use “matter condenser rays” to shrink it to eight feet. Vault’s assistant is Dr. Braun, a Teddy Roosevelt lookalike who plans to betray his boss eventually.
Meanwhile, O’Bryan has been concentrating on transferring back in. When the statue gets down to a more wieldy 30 feet in height, Bob succeeds and breaks free. (Somehow, the statue can see, hear and even speak.) Dr. Vault flees from his coastal cave headquarters and seals the entrance with explosives. Colossus finds a huge door leading to an underwater sea lock and uses it. Minutes later, the statue appears on the beach.
Some of Vault’s fleeing henchmen lose control of their car and crash into an apartment building, causing a fire. Colossus rescues two kids trapped inside, then collapses on the pier as Bob realizes there is a time limit to how long he can stay in the statue. On the Old Beach church nearby, a gargoyle observes the scene and flies off to report to its “master.”