Saturday, November 17, 2018

100-Page FAKES! presents: ASTONISHING TALES # 1

100-Page FAKES! imagines mid-1970s DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars that never were...but should have been!

Anthology comic books were common from the '30s through the early '50s. Titles such as Detective ComicsAction Comics, Adventure Comics, Marvel Mystery Comics, Whiz Comics, Flash Comics, All Winners Comics, and innumerable others offered a variety of ongoing comic strip series wrapped in a single cover, all in color for a dime. Shrinking page counts eventually made anthology titles less common; some former anthology titles that survived into the Silver Age became characterized instead by a lead feature (like Superman in Action Comics or Batman in Detective Comics) supported by a back-up feature.

Split books seem to have been mostly a '60s phenomenon. Rather than present a lead feature and a back-up feature, split books divided a title about equally between two features. Marvel Comics had three regular split titles in the '60s, each of which had begun its spinner-rack life as a science-fiction/fantasy/monster book prior to the ascension of the Marvel superhero: Tales To Astonish (with Sub-Mariner and The Incredible Hulk), Tales Of Suspense (with Iron Man and Captain America), and Strange Tales (with Dr. Strange and Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Each of these co-features graduated into solo titles in 1968, when Marvel freed itself from a stifling distribution set-up that had limited the amount of books it could publish each month.

But Marvel came back with a couple of split books in 1970: Amazing Adventures (with The Inhumans and The Black Widow) and the subject of today's 100-Page FAKE!Astonishing Tales, co-starring the jungle hero Ka-Zar and The Fantastic Four's arch-enemy Dr. Doom.

The Tarzan-inspired Ka-Zar predates Marvel Comics itself, having debuted in the company's pulp magazine line before appearing in 1939's Marvel Comics # 1. The Silver Age Ka-Zar was introduced in The X-Men # 10 in 1965, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Lee and Kirby are the credited co-creators for the Ka-Zar story in Astonishing Tales # 1, and I believe it was their final collaboration before Kirby left Marvel to create his Fourth World saga for DC Comics. (Astonishing Tales # 2 also featured art by King Kirby, but the scripting was credited to Roy Thomas).

Was Dr. Doom the first supervillain to star in his own comics series after the Comics Code was initiated in the '50s? My gut says yeah. There had been some '40s bad guys whose name appeared above the title--notably The Claw in Lev Gleason's anthology book Silver Streak Comics--but I don't think any other nogoodnik grabbed the post-Code spotlight before our Victor von Doom. Doom's brief Astonishing Tales run is notable for some luscious artwork from the legendary Wally Wood.

To transform Astonishing Tales # 1 into a faux 100-pager, we add reprints of the first-ever solo appearances by Ka-Zar and Dr. Doom, both from successive 1969 issues of Marvel Super-Heroes; those would have been way too recent for reprinting in a real-world 1970 Marvel comic book, but we're suspending most rules and rational thought for Marvel Week at 100-Page FAKES! To complete the package, we go back to 1948 for adventures starring The Blonde Phantom and Captain America, the latter introducing a leggy distaff crimefighter named Golden Girl, who effectively replaced Cap's stalwart young partner Bucky. Hussy.

Ka-Zar in "The Power Of Ka-Zar!," Astonishing Tales # 1 (August 1970)
Ka-Zar in "My Father, My Enemy!," Marvel Super-Heroes # 19 (March 1969)
Blonde Phantom in "Best Man For Murder!," Blonde Phantom # 17 (Spring 1948)
Captain America in "Golden Girl!," Captain America Comics # 66 (April 1948)
Dr. Doom in "This Man...This Demon!," Marvel Super-Heroes # 20 (May 1969)
Dr. Doom in "Unto You Is Born...The Doomsman!," Astonishing Tales # 1 (August 1970)

Everything is copyright Marvel Entertainment, and can only be depicted here in representative sample pages; I share the whole book with my patrons. As Marvel Week concludes, I regret that I couldn't show more classic Silver Age work by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but I just don't have scans of very much of it. We're back to DC next week, but I won't rule out an occasional 100-Page FAKE! return to the House Of Ideas. 'Nuff said? Excelsior!


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