If the title of this thread seems overly clever or familiar, it's because I've stolen/ borrowed this title from the four page introduction to the final Tales of Suspense Masterworks volume #186, penned by Barry Pearl, because I think it's very appropriate to start a discussion of those three years or so of TOS and Tales to Astonish (volume #144) that lead directly up to the start of the Marvel Age of Comics.
Recently, I acquired the final volume in my quest for masterworks to look at these monster books, ALL the monster books over this period... and while the Journey into Mystery and Strange Tales volumes have not yet (if ever) caught up to this time period, I have secured the Amazing (Adult) Fantasy companion Omnibus, and so, feel I have a very good view into what the Marvel Bullpen (as they could come to be called) were doing...what was being produced, writing, copied, swapped, and hung onto to continue into the Marvel Age that birthed the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man.
I could spend endless hours struggling with my scanner to reproduce panel after panel of examples, but I find it far easier to simply scan the rear cover of these Masterworks volumes and crop the image down to the cover that show or represents my point in each case. Forgive my laziness, but the books just won't lay flat and so there's always a rolled spine that pulls away from the glass of the scanner, frustrating not only me, but also the reader who is attempting to follow along.
As I start this thread, I want to point out the numerous times that a concept or image is held, borrowed, swiped, recycled, only to show up inside the next year or two to help launch the Marvel Age of Comics.
This has been noted before by others, in the pages of the Overstreet Price Guide as a justification for higher back issue prices. You may have seen the listings for "Thor-prototype" or "Doom proto" and a higher price listed for all grades if the issue. Many have rejected this as highway robbery or trying to create the demand for these books. Now, through the marvel of Masterworks, you can see them for yourself.
One of the most obvious examples of this copying or assembly of elements into another character is the cover creature from TOS #31 "The Monster in the Iron Mask". Marvel fanboys will immediately recognise the cover mask as almost a dead ringer for Doctor Doom's mask, particularly in the earliest appearances of the Fantastic Four #4 and #6 as well as #10, 16 & 17.
But the famous green cloak was used in another Atlas comic, as a Dr. Druid or Druum becomes a recurrent character in TOA, but not enough to warrant specific cover billing. In fact, there are some interior pannels that show the good doctor from behind, and if you didn't know you were reading an Atlas comic for 10 cents, you'd swear it was the profile of the nefarious Doctor Doom.
No, that's not the Hulk's body that you see under Doom's mask, but many people have suggested it might be. It's pretty clear that Kirby was working up to the Hulk's body type, as even his face appears in a background poster in a story set in the comic book editor's office in TOS # 33. Specifically, in the first panel of page 2 and in the fourth panel of page 7, you can make out the face of the Hulk...complete with grey tones, as he first appeared in Incredible Hulk #1. (For those of you following along in the TOS Masterworks volume #186, these would be pages 28 and 33.)
Now, one might wonder what that " Cover Dummy for OK" might mean, and while we pass it off as a written comment by the editor, it just might be that the intent was for a reduced stat of the current cover of TOS #33 was supposed to have been attached there, so that the reader would get a "world within a world" idea when reading this story. But I'm not sure. Perhaps a more learned scholar will be able to answer this question.
Another example of repeating imagry falls in the cover ov TOS #35, with the challenge of ZARRKORR...
However, the interior image of this same character, doesn';t quite communicate the same thing. The interior image of Zorrkarr is far more similar to the image of Utau, the Watcher. Especially in the costume and clothing. Now the head, doesn't look enough like the round face to look anything like him...it's actually more similar to the puppet of Balok that shows up in the end of the Star Trek episode "The Corbomite Manuveur", and forever appears as the final image in the final credits of the original series... but I won't go into the other similarity to this comparison for fear of ruining your experience in reading this Atlas Tale.Now, Barry Pearl, who has also pointed out the similarity to the name Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man over in Journey into Mystery's #86 THOR feature should be credited for that and several other of these random sightings.
And finally, before I take a rest, we have the appearance of a title logo style, YEARS before Marvel fanboys make it famous as Marvel's best seller in "The X-men". Look how extremely similar this interior title is in design and concept, except for the letter X and the direction of the increase in size. This splash page is from TOS #53, which by now has evolved into an Iron Man feature book with shell-head on the cover.
Now that the superbowl is over, here's a couple of the other, additional images that coincidentally come from the same Atlas Masterworks #144 that features Tales of Suspense #24 and 31.
Note that the first image, though colored pink instead of dark green, is a typical midevil cloak, but a dead ringer for what Doom wears. Just imagine that mask from #31 mixed with this cloak, and you've got him!
Now, on the facing page of this story "Beware the Ticking Clock" from TOS #24, drawn by Kirby, we see a couple more images that look a lot like Doom, moving, plotting, thinking...but also not the top image (panel 3 on this page)... a classic Kirby tight shot of the eyes. He will repeat this with Magneto, with Doom, and with other villains through his career.
Here's another image that will come up later in Tales to Astonish. When the Submariner is co-opted by the head of the Secret Empire, the villain will wear a hood, much like this one. Now you may say that a hood is a hood is a hood, and a cloak is a cloak, but the imagery is there.
Note also two other interesting things about this page. Not only does it show the ending of this "Hidden Face" story by Ditko (sorry if it's a spoiler...I considered sharing the page before, but wanted to make this point...) but it also shows a common thread with Ditko. His stories (whether he 'wrote' them or crafted them, frequently end with the idea of the prisoner deluding themselves into being happy, or pacified, by hypnosis or something similar. In at least three stories in these Atlas Era tales, the storie ends with a guard or doctor looking on, commenting that the subject is: 1) Mad, 2) Hypnotized, or 3) Content while in jail.
Another interesting feature is the one line promotion along the bottom for Amazing Adult Fantasy, which would have been running at this time, and featuring all Ditko work in the final 8 issues. This type of in-house advertising is the start of Lee's Marvel Universe, where all the mags (if not the characters) are inter-connected. (Well, Duh, you say. It's just self-promotion. Yeah, but such clever advertising that costs him nothing to conduct. I'd like to know from someone who was there at the time if it worked on the kids.)
And for our final entry tonight, we look at the strange case of Bruttu... a hapless human who accidentally was transformed into a monster...a sentient monster, who is aware of his plight. This is from page 4 of TOS #22.
But you'll also note a great similarity to how Ben Grimm transforms in the Fantastic Four #1, even more in the sequence that ends his experience. The imagry is almost the same.
Note the similarity with how the Hulk transforms in his original six issues, by means of a FOOT controller, and a machine that emits rays. There's at least several instances where Banner as Hulk, is desperate for the change to succeed. And even toward the middle part of his run in Tales to Astonish (approximately where the Abomination is born) the plot re-introduces the Gamma-ray machine which could transform him back and forth, when the plot needed it. In at least two instances, that was a life and death situation.
So, everything old is new again.
You can imagine my surprise when looking through the final volume of Tales to Astonish when I saw Tony Stark looking back at me. Well, maybe not Tony per se, but certainly the image of Iron Man....
Yep this was a story from TTA #42 (April '63) about a robot that is upset. But I think you'll agree that the image of the chest plate, complete with the central beam is pretty clearly Stark's chest for years.
Continuing our theme of robots, I was shocked to see this beaut from TTA #32. It's called "Bully Boy", but the image is right out of Spider-Man #8 "The Living Brain".
Now I should also add that while this story appears to be about an educational robot, the person that he advises turns out to be a milksop, very much like Peter Parker...and yes, he's picked on by a cruel pack of fellow students, who look a lot like Flash Thompson, Liz Allen and company. But in this universe, the tables get turned, and the mouse becomes a man...and the a monster. A really, "Bully Boy" you might say...
And finally, There was something about the story in Tales to Astonish #35 that really jumped out at me. It wasn't the artwork, although by now that was pretty familiar. It was something about how the main character saved the earth. In fact, it seemed that it was right out of Fantastic Four #2. See if you can recognize anything familiar.Gee, isn't that Ironic...that at the end of this tale, there's a plug for yet another Fantastic Four issue... Hmmmm....
And finally, I was struck by the idea presented in the ending of this TTA #32 story "I am A Martian", that really set the locals to sweating. Yep, it's a concept that really struck it rich for Brian Bendis not too long again in about 100 books that he wrote over a several year period. Wonder where he got his concept from? Hmmmmmmm?