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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Strange Days

Most people I know who start collection series or long runs almost always go for the "big" titles, Spider-man, X-men, Fantastic Four etc...Typically the very last titles to be collected are series like Tales To Astonish and Strange Tales.

I have to plead guilty as well as both are the very last Marvel Superhero titles I still need to collect/complete. Although I should say "needed" as I just completed the Super-hero run of Strange Tales.

A nice benefit of collecting these titles is that they are cheap compared to the flagship titles. You can buy books that were on the stand at the same time as Spider-man #1 for a fraction of the price and most of the Silver Age books have very cool retro covers. Stories and art may not always be of a high quality, but let's be honest, a lot of "bigger" Silver Age books aren't exactly works of art either.

The reason why I never really got into collecting Strange Tales before was mainly because I didn't really know the series, and like all things, unknown is unloved. Sure I knew that it was fabled for the first Dr Strange stories where Ditko did amazing work and that Steranko did some wonderful things with Nick Fury and SHIELD, but still it remained on the back burner and I only starting collecting them because there was almost nothing else left to collect. But let's make it loud and clear...I was wrong. This is a wonderful series and I should have started on it much, much earlier.

Strange Tales ran 168 issues, from June 1951 to May 1968. It began as a horror anthology in the vain of the very popular EC line of comics, but with the 1954 imposition of the Comics Code, which prohibited graphic horror, it became a more sci-fi oriented comic seemingly featuring a different monster every month.

The anthology switched to superheroes in the very early 60's, retaining the sci-fi, suspense and monsters as backup features for a time. Strange Tales' first superhero, in 12- to 14-page stories, was the Fantastic Four's Human Torch, Johnny Storm, beginning in #101 (Oct. 1962).

But the real magic started with #110...with the introduction of sorcerer Doctor Strange, by Stan Lee Steve Ditko. So this means that Strange Tales #110 is one of the major Marvel key books...first Dr Strange, maybe the only key book where the most important character doesn't even appear on the cover. Very humble beginnings for the Sorcerer Supreme. For many people these issues were Ditko's best work.

Here's Marvel's most understated KEY book ...Strange Tales #110 First Dr Strange.

But there's more...Another giant of comicdom would use Strange Tales as a launching pad, The Human Torch had already been replaced in #135 (Aug. 1965) by Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD.The 12-page feature was initially by Lee and Kirby but soon was taken over writer-penciler-colorist Jim Steranko, under whom it became one of the
ultimate works of the Silver Age. Steranko introduced or popularized in comics such art movements of the day as psychedelia and pop art.


Issue #168 was the last issue in the then series,Dr Strange got his own mag, continuing the numbering (Dr Strange #169) and Steranko took Nick Fury to dizzy heights in the self-named series.

This was the fastest series I ever put together,took me only a few months,but I was pretty lucky. Got all the Fury books from the same seller and most of the #101 - 152 books I got from an original owner collection.
Still needed 9 books missing, the #101 & #102 I won on eBay and the others I managed to snag at Heritage. Alas I don't have all of them in hand at the moment, but I'll pick them up next month when I'm in the US.

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