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.

 

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And then there's the story that reminded me of the resolution of Fantastic Four #50... you recall, just how do you checkmate God...er, Galactus, when he comes to eat your planet?  This is from TTA #46 (Aug. '63)This solution is very reminiscent of a What If story that either posited the Avengers facing off with Galactus or what if Reed Richards had pulled the trigger on the "Ultimate Nullifier"?

Are they in Doctor Strange's house?

Doubtful.  The characteristic skylight or occulous is missing from this location in the story.  But the detail of the grilllwork and mysterious setting is interesting, isn't it?  This is the "museum of ancient lore", and the tunic this man wears IS reminiscent of Dr. Strange and his flared collar.

(Do you think that the man in the last panel looks like an older Stan Lee?)

David Warren said:

Are they in Doctor Strange's house?

Interesting how they styled the year as 2,050 ..

This is what I think of first when I hear a reference to "Atlas Comics." Maybe we need a thread to talk about these guys, too!

And how long did this brand of Atlas comics survive? Hmmmm?  1 year?  Shorter?

If you follow this link, you'll find the complete first issue of one of Atlas/Seaboard's wackiest titles ever (and that's saying something, since Atlas pretty much had the trademark on wacky): And as long as you're on the Diversions of the Groovy Kind site, if you noodle around, you'll find an incredible assortment of great (and not-so-great) comics from the late 1960s and the 1970s.

Not only does the old guy look like Dr. Strange, the other guy (not the one that blasts himself) is dressed like Baron Mordo. And the fact the gun kills the user is reminiscent of how the Crimson Dynamo died, shooting the Black Widow's agent (who's wearing his armor) to save Iron Man. The experimental laser backfires and kills everybody but Iron Man.
 
Kirk G said:

Doubtful.  The characteristic skylight or occulous is missing from this location in the story.  But the detail of the grilllwork and mysterious setting is interesting, isn't it?  This is the "museum of ancient lore", and the tunic this man wears IS reminiscent of Dr. Strange and his flared collar.

(Do you think that the man in the last panel looks like an older Stan Lee?)

David Warren said:

Are they in Doctor Strange's house?


 There's another version of this story that has a racist commit hate crimes while wearing a similar black hood. He tries to remove it but can't. Knowing the cops are coming he desperately digs deep into several layers of hoods, trying to rip them all off at once. He screams in agony. When the police come in they find he's apparently tried to rip his own face off. The final caption says that just like his wife said, he's a sick man. I believe there was another about a burglar that used such a mask and the same thing happened to him.

There was also a story about a criminal who hides in a small store from the police. The owner begs him not to open a door in the back of his shop. He does anyway and goes inside, finding a small empty room. The door closes behind him. He sees another door and opens it, only to find an identical empty room. The door behind closes again. He opens the next door. Then the next. Then the next. Back in the store, the owner asks a police officer that's warning him about the guy what his punishment would be if he were caught. The cop says at least two years. After he leaves the store owner says to the closed door that he'll let him out in two years. The final scene shows the crook with a beard going crazy screaming that there has to be a way out, there has to be. Apparently the code wouldn't allow magic so a caption explains there's only one door and one room, but a hypnotist's power can make someone see anything. I don't believe it. That shop owner is using something a lot more powerful than hypnosis. How does the guy live without food or water for the two years he's stuck opening doors?

These are interesting stories, but unfortunately they appeared more than once. After you've seen such a story three times you feel you're wasting your money buying the same story over and over. But I saw the stories above when I was about six or seven and they stayed with me to this day. Very powerful images. The door story was by Steve Ditko. I forget who did the mask story.


 Kirk G said:

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.)

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