RETRO REVIEW: Strange Tales # 125

Hello and a happy Friday to you all.  For today’s Retro Review, I offer Strange Tales # 125, from Marvel Comics.  It’s cover dated October 1964, but would have been on the newsstands in July 1964, for the summer school break, where I, as a nine year old, might have spied it upon the spinner racks.  It’s got a nice Jack Kirby cover, likely inked by Dick Ayers, but as it’s not signed, so that’s only a guess as to the inker.

Strange Tales # 125

This book is one of Marvel’s split books, by that I mean that it features two separate features.  The first is The Human Torch and the “Ever-Lovin’ Thing” in a thirteen page story.  The second feature is Dr. Strange in a ten page story.  The lead story is written by Stan Lee, pencilled by Dick Ayers and inked by Paul Reinman.  It’s entitled; “The Sub-Mariner Must Be Stopped!”  and you guessed it, it features Johnny and Ben battling it out with Namor, the Sub-Mariner!  This story opens with a couple of Life Magazine reporters interrupting a fight between Johnny and Ben!  This was a regular occurence during the early Fantastic Four.

The reporters look an awful like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, without being exact likenesses.  But I’ll leave that up to you to decide if you agree with me or not.  But the reporters aren’t there to interview our two boys, nope, they are there to interview Reed and Sue.  Ben and Johnny are so upset they drive the reporters from the Baxter Building, after informing them that Sue and Reed are not present.

The boys see a newscast, which reports that the Sub-Mariner is heading for New York City and they get the idea that maybe reporters would be more interested in them, if they took on Subby by themselves!  After a one page flashback covering the last time the Sub-Mariner invaded New York, they fly in their “famous FF U-Car”, hey that’s what the caption said, so don’t blame me, to meet the Sub-Mariner before he makes landfall.

The result of their meeting is captured in a long seven page, under and above water, fight scene.  First, the Thing tackles Namor, only to have Subby gain the upper hand underwater.  Then it the Torch’s turn, as the battle moves above the sea, to a nearby reef, where we get a nice fire and water dust-up!  Again, Subby gains the upper hand and Ben is forced to rescue Johnny, before he drowns.  Then it’s the Thing versus the Sub-Mariner once again!

It’s at this moment, that Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Girl, arrive on the scene in the world-famous Fantasti-car!  Hey that one I’ve heard of, and the Sub-Mariner leaves with a cryptic thought balloon; “He lied to me!  And a prince of the blood of the kingdom of Atlantis, can never tolerate a lie!!”  A so very important thought, that Stan, had to use two explanation points!  Yes, he did!!

It’s on the last page of the story that we learn that the boys had screwed up royally (yes, pun intended), as Namor was coming to New York to meet with Reed, who had convinced him to meet and discuss peace between the Sub-Mariner and the surface world!  Yikes, Ben and Johnny really messed things up this time!  All that and just in the first story!

In the second feature, the Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts, story is entitled; “Mordo Must Not Catch Me!” and it  is also written by Stan Lee, with pencil art by Steve Ditko, with inks provided by George Roussos, using the name George Bell.  In this story, three followers of Baron Mordo attack Dr. Strange in his sanctum.  He easily drives them off/defeats them, then using his Eye of Agamotto, contained within his amulet, Strange attempts to contact his mentor, the Ancient One.  Only to have Mordo appear in ectoplasmic form and inform him that he has captured the Ancient One!

Thus begins a six page battle between Dr. Strange and Baron Mordo,while in their ectoplasmic forms.  The battle takes the two opponents halfway across the world, until Strange locates the Ancient One, in a hidden jungle in Tibet!  Finally Strange uses his amulet to overcome Mordo, and beaten, Baron Mordo, releases the Ancient One.

Quite the monies worth for just 12 cents back in 1964!  The Torch/Thing story is excellent with decent art.  The Dr. Strange story is okay with terrific art.  Therefore, I give this comic book four (4) out of five (5) Legion Flight Rings!  If you can’t afford the original comic at today’s prices, then I offer these reprints.  The first story is reprinted in the second Human Torch Marvel Masterworks (vol. 114 of the variant series), as well as, in Marvel Tales # 27 (July 1970).  The second story is reprinted in the first Doctor Strange Marvel Masterworks (vol. 23 of the variant series), as well as, in Marvel Collectors’ Item Classics # 16 (August 1968).

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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