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...

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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.”

ASTONISHING TALES #22:

This issue opens with a double-page spread of two factions of gargoyles fighting each other (with machine guns, no less) on the planet Stonus V. Granitor, Gorgolla’s father (see Strange Tales #74), defeats the rebel forces and teleports himself and his army to Earth. Meanwhile, the authorities deliver the colossus statue back to Delazny Studios, much to Dorian Delazny’s chagrin. Magnor, one of the rebel gargoyles, looks on. He reflects on the past (in the form of a four-page reprint of the original story).

Granitor’s forces attack and carry Bob O’Bryan and Diane Cummings away. Then the crippled O-Bryan kicks loose (which probably wasn’t the wisest course of action because he’s 50 feet in the air. He transfers his mind into the statue and catches himself. He lessens the impact by forcefully blowing into his palms thereby creating a cushion of air. Whatever. It is explained that he is able to activate “special psychokinetic nerve endings” left by the crab creatures. In a statue made of solid stone. Right. (See? I told you it would be explained this issue.) I didn’t think too hard about it then. I still don’t. I just accept it. He catches up with Granitor and a huge fight ensures, but Granitor gets away with Diane.

The big battle this issue takes place on and in the vicinity of the Capitol Records Building. That didn’t mean as much to me the first time I read the story as it would come to mean in later years, but I still remember the first time I was driving through L.A. and, quite unexpectedly, passed the site of this seminal (for me) comic book battle.

ASTONISHING TALES #23:

Colossus, dizzy, climbs down the Capitol Records Building shortly before his time limit is reached. (The limit varies based on distance, energy expended, etc.) Suddenly finding himself back at the studio, Bob asks Star Lords actor Felix Simon for a lift back to Capitol. Magnor and Diane are captive of Granitor. Diane reflects on how a supposedly “crippled” man could have kicked himself free.

Not-quite-meanwhile, Dr. Vault has activated a device which “combines science and sorcery” designed to allow him to revive and control Fin Fang Foom. (A two page reprint of Strange Tales #89 follows.) Bob and Felix close in and Granitor and his army in the sky. Bob is now close enough to transfer his mind back to the Colossus. His body, of course, collapses which freaks Felix out.

The three factions (Colossus, Granitor and Fin Fang Foom) converge on the beach. Dr. Vault loses control of Fin Fang Foom, and the dragon quickly sizes up the situation and sides with Colossus to fight for Earth!Granitor and his minions retreat through the teleporter back to Stonus V. Colossus destroys the machine while they are still in transit, inadvertently killing them all. All would be fine and dandy except for two cliffhangers: 1) Dr. Vault regains control of Fin Fang Foom, and 2) Felix took Bob to the nearest hospital where he was declared dead and are about to perform an autopsy!

ASTONISHING TALES #24:

Now that Granitor has been defeated, the rebels begin to return to their home planet, Stonus V. Then, in a double-page spread, Fin Fang Foom, back under Dr. Vault’s control, viciously attacks Colossus! They fight. The police arrive and Colossus ducks into the ocean. He finds the underwater sealock and returns to Dr. Vault’s abandoned headquarters. Then he transfers back into his body. Everyone at the hospital freaks out to see a “dead man” return to life. Diane and Bob reconcile. Back at Delazny Studios, Grant Marshall tries to get Bob and Diane fired (simply because he doesn’t like them). Dorian throws him out of his office, where he meets a rough-looking guy who’s looking for Delazny.

The scene switches to Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, outside of which the Chinese New Year celebration is underway. Dr. Vault causes Fin Fang Foom to run amok in hope of drawing out Colossus. The ploy works. They fight. They fall into some live wires, which doesn’t affect Colossus, but snaps Fin Fang Foom out of Vaults control. The dragon can’t speak in this story, but he scratches Vault’s likeness in the street, then swims home. Back at Vault’s hideout, Dr. Braun quits but is electrocuted by Vault before he can leave.

Looking back, I was lucky to obtain all four consecutive issues of this series back in the days before I could drive a car. There were a lot of questions left unanswered, but Colossus was not to return for many years. Regarding the plot thread of the “rough-looking guy” looking for Delazny, back when Tony Isabella was writing his “Tony’s Tips” column for CBG, I wrote and asked what he had in mind for that character. He was happy to tell me, and… I forgot. This is not Tony’s explanation, but on Earth-J I think of him as the Russian sculptor who made Colossus in the first place.

Next issue begins a new feature, something called "Deathlok the Demolisher."

Jeff of Earth-J said:

The scene switches to Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, outside of which the Chinese New Year celebration is underway.

This jumped out at me. As far as I know, in Los Angeles, the Chinese New Year celebrations always happen in Chinatown, not Hollywood. Chinatown is near downtown, far from Gramann's. When this comic was published my office was right next to Chinatown.

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