I've been struggling with how to categorize the phases that both Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense, and Amazing Fantasy as well... progress through the year.

 

It would be fairly easy to split up the years or so between 1959 and 1963 into perfect yearly divisions.  Another easy split would be to look at the four volumes of TTA and TOS Masterworks and use those arbitrary divisions as guideposts.  But I'm not sure that's right. There have been some things that overlap those arbitrary division.

 I've been reading these 10 volumes. (yes, 10, thinking of 4 for each TTA and TOS, and that the Amazing Adult Fantasy Omnibus that had two introductions spaced inside the volume.)

As I've been reading these, out of order, a couple of themes or flavors have become more apparent to me, but that don't fall in convenient dividing lines.  Here's a couple of thoughts on that:

First, The first 15 or so issues of Tales to Astonish contain stories that all start with first person titles.  "I was the...",  "I discovered....", "I, Colossus"  and so on.   That practice seems to fall by the wayside, though there are frequent recurrences of those types of titles later on. (It also becomes established with the fifth issue of Tales of Suspense for a number of issues...til #12 or #13 or so.)

Now, a final phase is somewhat easy to identify as well, as they are individual filler stories left over in inventory and being used up. But it is interesting to see how many of these are either by specific artists or exclude specific artists.  Now, this is easily explained by looking at this from the other end.  Jack Kirby was busy developing the Fantastic Four, Hulk and Thor...and so didn't have time for doing many/any background filler stories.  And Steve Ditko was busy with Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and Amazing Adult Fantasy.

But this points out another very clear division in Amazing Fantasy as the title and format shifts from a rotating collection of individual stories, to all Ditko, all the time.  Enough has been said of this radical experiment that Stan Lee loved so much. The clear division is when the title changes to "Adult" and there is no question how the approach changed and why.  So, I'll leave this title and move on.

I would point out that the first ten issues of TTS include a generous number of science fiction... outer space stories or adventures.... by a few additional artists who soon vanish from the regular ranks of the bullpen. That would be my nomination for the First Phase.

The Second Phase would be the establishment of the regular rotation of one story each issue from each of the heavy hitters in the Marvel Bullpen...Kirby, Ditko, Ayers, Leiber, Sinnott, Heck.

The Third Phase would be the start of repetition in stories and plots, with just a little twist added to the end to make it a fresh story. I also link this to the final filler back-up stories.  This would also include all the margin notes where Stan was plugging the other new Marvel titles... Hulk, FF, Spider-Man, Amazing Adult Fantasy, Strange Tales Annual, etc.

However, I see a dramatic change in appearance in these final filler issues, especially in TTA that might distinguish them into a Fourth Phase.... inking by Matt Fox.  His unique style of detailed inking is SO unmistakable that I frequently wonder if he was either brought in to finish off these stories, or, that his work was judged as 'not as good', and so his stories wound up as filler inventory. (His work appears in late 1963-64.  It could also be that he simply didn't enter the work place or work force until then.  But I don't recall ever seeing his work anywhere else.)


So, these are my three phases of Atlas.

I invite your comments.

 

 

 

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While shuffling my Masterworks books to select four to study tonight, I suddenly noticed something subtle about the Atlas Era Masterworks books.   Though designed to fit into the Marvel Masterworks numbered series, the gold foil framework on the variant edition front dust jacket has been altered.

Specifically, the figures of DD, Thor and Sue Storm have been cleverly altered to show Atlas Era monsters or characters.

Now, I happen to know that the original artwork of the first frame was done by Sandy Plunket, as he happens to live in my town.  So, I suspect someone else has just done a clever slight of hand alteration to his artwork so that the figures are now wearing other costuming, or clothing.  

There are a few if the images that remain the same, like Captain America's head with the A on the forehead.  But the Hulk's head has been changed to one of the Atlas monsters.

It's amusing.  But not very important.

I just noticed it and so I thought I'd share this with you all.

(If you've bought any of the more mainstream editions without the gold frame numbered dust jacket, you don't know what I'm referring to.)

As I was perusing the first masterworks volumes for TTA and TOS tonight, as well as the fourth/final volumes, I noticed something else....along the lines of repeating story ideas.  In at least two or three of the stories, we have individuals who invent a time machine and journey into the past.

The two that caught my attention had individuals who journey to ancient Egypt  and in true Twilight Zone irony, get stranded or discover that they can't get back or shouldn't have meddled.

I was also struck that Fantastic Four #20, the first Pharaoh Rama-Tut story, draws upon this same idea. In fact, several of the images that Jack Kirby uses in his FF story, as Rama-Tut shares his flash-back origin/back story with the quartet may have been drawn from at least one of these stories.  I was startled to see that Jack had drawn one of these stories and the artwork and inking was SO similar to the FF, that I began looking for similar panels. 

Now, it's too late tonight for me to break out my FF Masterworks volume and fire up the scanner, but I'm very tempted to try some comparison images later this week. So, bear with me.

Also of note, There have been several reviewers/commenters  who have observed that many of the early FF stories (Say, in the first 24 issues over two years) frequently draw on concepts that appeared in the monster era books. Off the top of my head, I can recite a few.

FF #2  Skrulls plan an invasion, but are tricked/foiled by Mr.Fantastic posing as one of them with comics books as threat.

FF #3  Mr. Miracle hypnotist makes a wooden/paper mache monster outside a theater marque come to life

FF #8 Kurgo, the Master of Planet X shrinks his population down to escape disaster, but plans on restoring only himself.

FF #10 Dr. Doom switches bodies for the first time, after meeting Ovoids that can mentally do this at will. Shrinks away.

FF #11 Impossible Man can assume any form he wishes, leaves out of boredom when the FF ignore him to win.

FF #15 The Thinker plans a master scheme to defeat the FF, except he overlooks the random X factor, mailman Willie L.

FF#16 Dr. Doom strikes from Sub-atomic, shrinking the FF suddenly, and ruling the kingdom at the heart of the atom.

FF #17 Dr. Doom escapes but has a spaceship hidden in the clouds, with specific traps waiting for each of the FF.

FF #18 Super Skrull arrives to take vengeance over the FF, by mimicking each power, but self hypnotizes self.

FF #20 Time Traveler comes to ancient Egypt but gets hoisted on his own petard when he goes blind. Didn't build the time machine himself, but stole plans from museum, another ancestor, Dr. Doom or someone else in modern day.***

FF #23  Dr. Doom give powers to 3 henchmen, only to dispatch them to limbo once they've defeated the FF.

Dr. Doom gets hoisted on his own petard by being caught in solar waves and transported to Jupiter space 25 years before 2001...and 3 years before Arthur C. Clarke's novel is optioned for the 1968 movie of the same name. Hmmmm....

FF #24 The Infant Terrible  terrorizes NYC with impulsive powers until revealed that he's a child lost by Mommie/Daddy,

These are just a handful of the repeating concepts or ideas that first surfaced in Atlas era monster books TTA or TOS or Amazing Adult Fantasy only to be re-used in the FF.  There are others that  crop up in Thor, Hulk and Spider-man books.

...I'd thought long ago that Stan (or whoever) was rather obsessed with the " World within worlds " concept.........

Kirk G said:

As I was perusing the first masterworks volumes for TTA and TOS tonight, as well as the fourth/final volumes, I noticed something else....along the lines of repeating story ideas.  In at least two or three of the stories, we have individuals who invent a time machine and journey into the past.

The two that caught my attention had individuals who journey to ancient Egypt  and in true Twilight Zone irony, get stranded or discover that they can't get back or shouldn't have meddled.

I was also struck that Fantastic Four #20, the first Pharaoh Rama-Tut story, draws upon this same idea. In fact, several of the images that Jack Kirby uses in his FF story, as Rama-Tut shares his flash-back origin/back story with the quartet may have been drawn from at least one of these stories.  I was startled to see that Jack had drawn one of these stories and the artwork and inking was SO similar to the FF, that I began looking for similar panels. 

Now, it's too late tonight for me to break out my FF Masterworks volume and fire up the scanner, but I'm very tempted to try some comparison images later this week. So, bear with me.

Also of note, There have been several reviewers/commenters  who have observed that many of the early FF stories (Say, in the first 24 issues over two years) frequently draw on concepts that appeared in the monster era books. Off the top of my head, I can recite a few.

FF #2  Skrulls plan an invasion, but are tricked/foiled by Mr.Fantastic posing as one of them with comics books as threat.

FF #3  Mr. Miracle hypnotist makes a wooden/paper mache monster outside a theater marque come to life

FF #8 Kurgo, the Master of Planet X shrinks his population down to escape disaster, but plans on restoring only himself.

FF #10 Dr. Doom switches bodies for the first time, after meeting Ovoids that can mentally do this at will. Shrinks away.

FF #11 Impossible Man can assume any form he wishes, leaves out of boredom when the FF ignore him to win.

FF #15 The Thinker plans a master scheme to defeat the FF, except he overlooks the random X factor, mailman Willie L.

FF#16 Dr. Doom strikes from Sub-atomic, shrinking the FF suddenly, and ruling the kingdom at the heart of the atom.

FF #17 Dr. Doom escapes but has a spaceship hidden in the clouds, with specific traps waiting for each of the FF.

FF #18 Super Skrull arrives to take vengeance over the FF, by mimicking each power, but self hypnotizes self.

FF #20 Time Traveler comes to ancient Egypt but gets hoisted on his own petard when he goes blind. Didn't build the time machine himself, but stole plans from museum, another ancestor, Dr. Doom or someone else in modern day.***

FF #23  Dr. Doom give powers to 3 henchmen, only to dispatch them to limbo once they've defeated the FF.

Dr. Doom gets hoisted on his own petard by being caught in solar waves and transported to Jupiter space 25 years before 2001...and 3 years before Arthur C. Clarke's novel is optioned for the 1968 movie of the same name. Hmmmm....

FF #24 The Infant Terrible  terrorizes NYC with impulsive powers until revealed that he's a child lost by Mommie/Daddy,

These are just a handful of the repeating concepts or ideas that first surfaced in Atlas era monster books TTA or TOS or Amazing Adult Fantasy only to be re-used in the FF.  There are others that  crop up in Thor, Hulk and Spider-man books.

The relative size of populations, invading armies, and micro-words and macro universes always seemed to be a topic ready to be exploited in Marvel Comics.  Whether it was Stan or Jack or Steve makes little difference, as it was a common theme in science fiction of the day.

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