Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks, with each week devoted to comics from one decade. This week’s decade: the 1960s! Today’s page is from Strange Tales #166, which was published by Marvel (although the indicia lists “Vista Publications”) and is cover dated March 1968. I borrowed this and several other comics over the next few weeks from Howard Harris, my comics retailer, who was nice enough to let me take them home and scan them. Enjoy!
The second story in Strange Tales #166 features an amateurish splash page that really isn’t worth talking about, so let’s check out this sucker, shall we?
This was when Stan Lee was still putting his name above everyone else’s, because as the editor, he was the most important person, consarnit! I do like how they credit letterer Artie Simek: “Voice creations.” I don’t know what that means, but I guess they were being clever.
Anyway, “nothing can halt … Voltorg” and all, according to the title (it takes Dr. Strange exactly nine pages to prove this wrong), and we see that Yandroth, “scientist supreme,” has “unleashed” Voltorg “to thwart Dr. Strange’s rescue of Victoria Bentley.” That’s really all we need to know, isn’t it? Of course, Jim Lawrence lets us know that Yandroth isn’t from around here (why else would he tell Voltorg to destroy the “Earthling”?) and that Voltorg has “atomic electrodes” and that only the “most potent spells” can save him. That about sums it up, doesn’t it? I’ve seen Victoria before, even though I’ve never read these old Strange stories – she showed up in Alan Moore’s Captain Britain series, helping Betsy Braddock control her telepathy. This is just a small reason why continuity is awesome if writers know how to use it. In case you’re wondering, according to the Internet, Ms. Bentley is currently dead. Well, of course she is.
Tuska’s splash page is kind of adorable, isn’t it? Yandroth wears a standard “futuristic” outfit, and baldness often connotes evil (even with Xavier, who was kind of creepy in the 1960s … and in each subsequent decade!). Yandroth wants to marry Victoria, and you can just see her reaction: “But … but … you’re bald! And Stephen has such a luxurious head of hair!” Voltorg, however, looks like a robot who just wants some love. He’s even carrying sparklers to play with! Tuska tilts him right, and it’s actually quite effective, because it makes him look more like a robot (this has always been a problem with comic book robots like Cliff of Doom Patrol or the Vision, who I know isn’t really a robot but is close enough). He has an impressive bulky body that dwarfs Dr. Strange’s, and Tuska gives him a slightly open mouth with teeth lines – is he grinning or clenching in rage? I don’t know, but I like it! Dr. Strange is hidden behind his cloak, and Tuska makes him nice and vulnerable. The spell-casting is very nice, with Tuska using Zip-A-Tone to contrast the spell with Voltorg’s purple armor. It’s a very cool effect, and gives it a more modern look even though Tuska has a fairly old-fashioned line. It’s quite keen.
Next: Speaking of modern, tomorrow’s artist is, according to me, one of the first artists whose work wouldn’t look out of place today, it’s that cutting edge. See who it is … or look at some modern art in the archives!