It is October of 1962 when this issue was released. in the middle of that month, when someone, somewhere may have been reading this for the first time. The US entered the Nuclear weapon’s stand-off that we know as the Cuban Missile Crisis. On a lighter note, The New York Yankee’s would have been playing the San Francisco Giants for that years World Series, the 7 games took place over a long 12 nights. The Yankees won it in the 7th game, bringing home there 20th in 40 years.
What does any of this have to do with this comic? Both of these events would have been in the future at the time of writing, inking and publishing. So while some may say it has nothing to do with them, I feel its good to put history and the minds of people of the time in perspective sometimes when doing a comic Review. Given the tough times the kid’s, teens, and even adults needed an escape, Hero’s even unreal ones that they can turn too.
With much more relevance, The Fantastic Four became a monthly magazine this month, and here one of its members Gains his own regular feature in Strange Tales, also quite ironically. in a month when the real world is worried about a threat from communist that are so close, this issue lets our hero foil a plot of communist that are even closer.
The story is written in a way that I feel it was designed to be easier to read for younger audiences. I suspect that they found The Torch was popular; and more so with younger readers. While the story is easy to read, and light on the words. The story turns out to be one that weighs much on the minds of the people at that time.
In this issue our hero foils two plots to keep an amusement park from opening, one that would have killed the test rider of a roller-coaster. The other almost killed 5 men on another ride. After these two events, the antagonist going by the name ‘The Destroyer’ Calls out Johnny in the local news paper. The Thing makes a Cameo to show up to help, but Johnny declines the offer, and goes off alone. This is almost his undoing as The Destroyer is ready for him.
In the end it turns out that The Destroyer is a local spy, and is giving information to the communist on a sub. Their meeting location would be visible from the tall park rides. So in the end Johnny uncovers this, brings the spy and the sub to Justice, and runs off.
While this predates Scooby Doo, it almost had the feel of it as I read it, and the destroyer was unmasked at the end. I feel this was a great story for a kid, it was relevent to the events of the day, and a simple short yet enjoyable read for an adult.
The art style I felt was quite fitting to the story, it seemed almost kid like at times. I am not saying it looked like it was drawn by a child, but just in a childish style. I feel it worked well with the story, and meshed together to make a fluid peace.
I also feel this issue provides us with the best look of Johnny we have seen yet artistically. I am sure that his short features in Strange Tales will in its run provide great character development for him. But this art already worked to provide visual development in my opinion.
Originality & Continuity
I feel taking a hero, a part of an existing team, a popular team and giving him his own feature stories is quite original. The Human Touch proves to be popular, but Johnny offers a lot to connect to the readers with.
I do feel that Continuity is stretched a bit, to say that he is trying to keep his identity a secret. Given that in the same month he is honored with the other Fantastic Four in Washington DC at a dinner. During that dinner he is in his human form.
while this does not break continuity, it does leave me to wonder why the Baxter building headquarters has living quarters. I assumed from past issues that the 4 members all lived there. This story puts a pinch on what I thought was an unwritten truth.
Characters & Development
This story offers a great chance for Character development, but we get little in the way of that. We are not really introduced to any of Johnny’s friends by name. The only real development for his character we see is how highly he regards keeping his secret identity.
This is quite the opposite also of what we have seen in Fantastic Four #1 when he leaves the car he is working on as the human torch revealing who he is to one guy. Then again in Fantastic Four #3 when Sue sends up her flare.
Instead of Character development, I would say this story was filled with Character twists, to make a popular hero work well in his own stories as well.