Twilight Zone Comics (1962)

I figured - why stop with just the TV shows? I might as well have a look at some of the Twilight Zone comics published first by Dell and then, after Dell's split from Western Publishing, under Western's imprint Gold Key. The series ran off and on from 1961 to 1982, when a single issue was published under Gold Key's brief successor Whitman.

The whole Dell/Western/Gold Key saga is an interesting slice of comics history, but for our purposes here, it's enough to know that the The Twilight Zone was one of several licensed properties Gold Key turned into comics in the 60s and 70s. Most of the back half of the series simply reprinted earlier stories, so we probably won't look at much past the 60s

The issue I want to look at today - Gold Key's sole Twilight Zone offering of 1962 - is unnumbered but is generally considered to be Twilight Zone #1. It consists of three stories, one page of prose ("Wings of Death," which was okay, but I declined reviewing it here), and two educational inserts:

I love stuff like this in old comics.

The "Custer's Last Stand" insert relates to the 2nd of the 3 stories, "Do Not Touch Exhibit." The writer is uncredited - actually, all of these stories are uncredited but I tried to track down some of the credits here and here: "Those cited by the Who's Who as writing mystery stories in the early Sixties for Western (which would include TZ at Gold Key) include Leo Cheney, Royal Cole, and Marshall McClintock. There are no specific stories they're known to have done, so I can't match up the unknown writers' styles with particular authors." 

So, it's a mystery. Anyway, it's an okay story - a crook fleeing police breaks into a museum to try and evade them. He hides in an exhibit in the American History Wing, but a sudden, unexplained flash of light sends him back into the past. Surrounded by what appear to be US army troops, he's thrown in the stockade when he attacks the base captain. When his food is brought the next morning, he knocks out the guard, steals his uniform, and escapes the base disguised as a soldier. Unfortunately, the troop in which he tries to hide himself is the Seventh Calvary, on route to its fateful encounter with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Meanwhile, in the present, the police discover his body in the museum:

The art is by Tom Gill, best known for his long run on The Lone Ranger, which is probably why he was chosen for this. The story's okay - it was easy enough to guess the twist ending from the moment he went in the museum, but no big whup - but the art is certainly pretty slick, particularly the line work on the horses. 

Given the nature of our other two stories, I thought I'd let the screencaps do the plot summary for me. Here's "Voyage to Nowhere," written by Leo Dorfman, prolific writer and editor of the Silver Age who ended his days on DC's Ghosts - my personal favorite of that era's DC's horror anthology titles - and illustrated by EC legends Reed Crandall and George Evans:

Pretty standard little ghost story, eh? Perfectly enjoyable, though personally I'd have preferred the POV stay with Roy after he boards The Wanderer

The last of our stories is "Perilous Journey," also illustrated by Reed Crandall with author unknown. And once more I'll ask you to do a little of the work yourself by reading through the following panels which attempt to pictorially summarize the plot (with a couple of captions here and there):

She leads him into an ice cavern after fleeing an indestructible polar bear.
They are separated in the avalanche, but Larry's cries are overheard.

Okay, so just a couple of things: 

1) Let's talk about that one panel up there, for starters. You know the one I mean:

Okay, so we know from the last two panels that Dan and Larry are spacemen from Earth. Are these unfortunate representations of Asian children meant to throw us off track and make us think we're in the Himalayas or something? Why do they look dead? Larry falls into a hole in the ground and finds himself at a skating rink of dead racist caricatures? Who attack him with a furious volley of... snowballs?

2) Let's talk about his savior. Why exactly does she save him? Why does she say nothing until she gets him into the ice mirror room? And as for what she does say, what the hell does any of that mean?

3) I think it's safe to say Larry's interest in his little girl savior gets pretty prurient pretty darn fast once she casts the illusion of being an adult full-figured woman. Creepy enough, but what's with his sudden smashing of the walls? What was he trying to prove? Or accomplish? 

4) And then the end - this is all some space expedition? What the hell is the point of that? I love it.

One last thing - Gold Key was / is known for its iconic painted covers. Many of them, including the one for this first issue of the Twilight Zone, were painted by George Wilson. I've got an issue of Comic Book Artist devoted to Gold Key (I love its Bruce Timm cover so much) and broke it out last night to see if there was any Twlight Zone info in there. No luck, really, but there's a nice, short interview with George covering his career. "George was an enigma, shy and outgoing, reticent and generous, open and articulate but protective of his privacy, talented and modest. He was grateful for having his work appreciated but adamant about not seeking fame for his efforts."



Fantastic Four: 1969

FANTASTIC FOUR in the 1960s,
Pt. 9

Our year-by-year look at the Marvel Universe's Ur-comic comes to a close. Technically, Kirby was the interior artist on the book through issue #102, but I'll stick with the original plan and cover only those FF issues cover-dated to the 60s.

We're not missing much for leaving the last handful of Lee/Kirby FFs out. If things began getting repetitive and a tad lazy in 1968, the trend accelerated in 1969 and into Kirby's last days at Marvel in 1970. The details of his departure from Marvel have been covered in a million different places. Long story short: the promises Martin Goodman made to Kirby (which were not put in writing) were not honored by Marvel's new owners. After being insulted over the phone by the new owners' lawyers, Kirby went to DC.

Stan's less-than-effusive comment on Kirby's departure in the Bullpen Bulletins (Sep 1970.)

The Fantastic Four sailed on under Stan and other artists, then other writers, then down into history. 

So what was the last full year under the original creative team's stewardship like? A slight improvement over 1968, perhaps, but the momentum earned from the few years previous meant it could plateau for quite awhile and still entertain. 

The annual for '69 reprinted stories we've already covered. Let's dig in to the rest.


The still-unnamed Franklin Richards is mostly minded by Alicia Masters. Nothing like a blind nanny to help ease a new Mom's anxiety! 

Reed and Sue ostensibly are just taking their time in naming their firstborn until they're 100% on the right name, but the letter's page solicits the fans' help in the choice. That reminded me of the Name the Schumaker Baby campaign from It's Garry Shandling's Show. (RIP, Garry.) I'm not exactly sure how they arrive at Franklin, but they do so in #94 (Jan 1970).


Stan and Jack revisit the Inhumans drama one last time as a creative team in issues 82 and 83. Crystal remembers she must receive her liege's formal permission to join the Fantastic Four, but before they can all go for a visit, a gang of Alpha Primitives - a new strata of Inhuman society - arrive to forcibly bring her back to Attilan. The FF give pursuit and discover that - once again - Maximus has taken over and plans to fire a giant weapon at the world and that - once again - a smidgen of the Royal Family's vocal powers is all it takes to free themselves and foil his plot.

The story ends with his exile to the stars (notably, he leaves the Alpha Primitives behind. Probably doomed to sweep the Attilan streets and clean the sewers for their part in the insurrection.)

Crystal gets the honors of destroying the big gun this time time around.
Point of interest: if you want people to stop calling you madman, quit acting like Dreyfuss in The Pink Panther Strikes Back.

Black Bolt seems able to wield his vocal-devastation ability with such precision and control that no real danger exists. God forbid he belches or something, of course, but it's hard to generate much dramatic excitement when the Inhumans are "trapped" somewhere. We've seen this a lot the last few years - Karnak will try and karate-chop it and fail, then Black Bolt breaks everyone out, which he probably should have just done in the first place.

Then again, he's not the only Inhuman (Medusa, Crystal, Lockjaw, pretty much all of them) with inconsistencies. Who cares, anyway? I don't value Silver Age superheroics for their strict consistency of imaginary powers. It's like the Instant Replay in NFL - it imposes a lunatic sense of scientific analysis and fairness on a game where the rules are completely arbitrary and inconsistent to begin with. I digress. 

I don't believe Kirby ever returned to the Inhumans, so this is his Attilan swan song. In many ways (and as always not to dismiss Stan's contribution to things) they are a run-through for later Kirby concepts like his Fourth World titles, The Eternals, or even Black Panther (1977 to 1979). 


Doom gets a fun 4-parter from #84 to #87 which is mainly a huge knock-off of The Prisoner. Doom - with the help of an ex-Nazi-scientist-turned-Latverian-toady whom Doom harangues mercilessly - builds a killer robot army. With them he intends to defeat the FF but also put down those in his realm who are rebelling against his authority. 

Is it too much to ask?

Nick Fury intercepts the FF on their way back from Attilan to ask them to investigate. It's only natural that S.H.I.E.L.D. be concerned; it wasn't too long ago that Surfer Doom tried to subjugate the world. The world is very forgiving! Nations have been invaded and governments toppled for far, far less.

The Soviet Union, who had several elite fightercraft and pilots destroyed by Doom, deserves turn-the-other-cheek props in particular.

Doom captures the FF, hypnotizes them (again) into believing they don't have powers, then stashes them in a village, which he intends to have his robots destroy. When Hauptmann interferes with Doom's carefully orchestrated plan for destroying the FF once and for all, he sandbags it in fury and lets the FF leave.

Dr. Hauptmann will be avenged years later in Iron Man 149-150 by his younger brother, whom Doom recklessly employs years later.
Doom not only returns from the past, he also has Hauptmann incinerated as part of a scientific experiment to see if a human body can conduct the Power Cosmic.
(FF #258)

I haven't read #258 in awhile. Doesn't Doom already have the answer to this experiment, having channeled the Power Cosmic himself when he stole it from the Silver Surfer and tried to take over the world? Byrne's not the kind of guy to overlook such a thing, so I'll assume there's an answer in the issue itself. Or perhaps we're meant to infer that Doom is simply using the occasion to avenge himself for the good doctor sending him back to King Arthur times with Iron Man.

As for the Prisoner stuff, that's kind of fun. It mainly consists of the people of Doom's Village looking and acting like the Village from The Prisoner. Good times, though.

Even with a Doom-centric version of Rover:
Doom of course gets to play the Number Two role.
"Be seeing you."

This is not the only instance in 1969 of Kirby (living on the West Coast at the time) sending in art heavily inspired by what he was watching on television at the time. Though as we've seen in previous posts, Kirby often weaved in whatever he was reading or seeing into his work. This habit probably reaches its height, though, in 1969.


In issue 88 and 89, Sue is tasked to find a new home for her, Reed, and the baby. What could go wrong?

Sounds perfectly on the level.
The house turns out to be a forward operating base for our old friend:

Like many a Mole Man's scheme, despite some impressive logistics to get the ball rolling, it blows up pretty fast. After subduing him, an inordinate amount of time is spent discussing what to do with him. So much so that he even has time to escape from right under their noses. (below left) Whereupon Reed makes a curious remark (below right):

I'm pretty sure that's not actually the case. But maybe the law isn't Reed's strong suit.


The storyline of the last three issues of 1969 involves a Skrull slaver coming to Earth and kidnapping Ben to sell him to a gangster-gladiator planet. Once there he inspires a slave revolt, and the FF arrive to more or less topple the government. (Though they warp out before the consequences of their intervention in planetary affairs become too evident.)

This issue is clearly inspired by many Trek episodes, starting with the Skrull himself, which (despite having established a visual and conceptual throughline over the 60s) looks like he stepped out of an early morning session with Fred Phillips:

The episode that comes to mind more than any other is of course "The Gamesters of Triskelion", with the general set-up and all the betting going on Thing and Torgo's fight,

but the forced gladiatorial combat also brings "Bread and Circuses" to mind. As well as a little "Amok Time" in these weapons the Thing and Torgo (the champion/ Spartacus of the bunch) have to use.

Speaking of "Amok Time," even the visual composition here recalls that episode.
And like Kirk with the Metrons in "Arena," or "Gamesters" again, Torgo refuses to kill.

Many of these things are common enough sci-fi tropes, for sure, but the real kicker is the gangster-planet itself, which might as well be called Sigma Iotia II. 

With a little Bonnie and Clyde thrown in -
as well as expanding the canvas to fit the comic book page.

Both Torgo and Boss Barker come back down the line.


As mentioned way back in the first part of this series, quoting Mark Enblom from Comic Coverage: "Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four run is the Mount Olympus of comic book storytelling. Nothing else can touch it in its innovation, sustained excitement, consequential events, and unprecedented character development."

I hope I've shown some of that or at least emphasized the groundbreaking ways it steadily and relentlessly expanded the Marvel Universe. A more comprehensive examination of the book's impact and one that extends the analysis well past the Lee/Kirby years can be found here. I didn't quote from that very much (if at all) during these posts. The thesis its author pursues (that the FF is the Great American Novel, and that Sue is its protagonist) is not one I wanted to argue for here. I think it's a decent argument, just not one I feel a lot of enthusiasm for. But definitely click over and explore for yourself. I've had that site bookmarked since 2011 and have been making my way through it for years, now. 

I've named this section and am devoting this last bit to Jack exclusively but let me clearly state here at the end of things: Fantastic Four was co-created by Stan and Jack. No disrespect to Stan intended by any of this. Martin Goodman certainly screwed Jack over, but I do not share the view of so many that Stan is tainted by that. If anything, Stan's had the patience of a saint getting raked over the coals periodically by folks like Gary Groth. (Here is a good and fairly recent interview with Stan on the subject.)

Stan rules, okay? Of any of the Stans to whom "the man" is affixed as an honorarium, Stan Leiber Lee deserves it more than any other. (Hard to picture Kubrick as a "Stan," so he doesn't count.) 

That said, let's talk one last time about Jack Kirby.

I think there's probably more of Jack in FF than there is of Stan; Stan seemed to pour himself most into Spider-Man and maybe The Avengers. (Tough to tell since he was single-handedly scripting and editing Marvel's entire line.) And while Kirby certainly gave his all to Cap and Thor (among all his other contributions) it's FF that seems most imbued with Kirby's personality and ethos. 

I'd like to end this series of posts with the anecdote Mark Evanier ends his biography Kirby: King of Comics with to illustrate, hopefully, what I mean by this.

"I was one of Kirby's assistants at DC. I felt about as useful as a Radio Shack in Amish County. Jack did what he did so well and with such single-minded force that other hands and minds could only impede progress. My big contribution? Not getting between him and the drawing paper, which was about all a body could do. Mostly, I kept him company and declined Roz (Kirby, his wife)'s omnipresent coffee. As wise as the two of them could be, neither Jack nor his wife could ever grasp that I didn’t drink coffee. 

"Watching him create, you'd have no idea where it all came from. None at all. Other artists would rough in their compositions, vanishing points, and horizon lines. What little underdrawing Kirby did was all about the storytelling, figuring out the action. The second he realized what should happen, he 'saw' the picture. What remained was the least interesting part: filling in the panel, usually starting at the left and working his way to the right, as it tracing a pre-existing piece that only he could see. 

"I don’t know how he did it, but that was how he did it. It had something to do with honesty. And I guess integrity as well. I mention the honesty because it was not only such a shining part of Jack’s life but also of his work. But there was one other thing about Jack that made his creations so very special.

"In 1970, soon after I began working with Kirby, I quit a job working the company that put out Marvel mail order merchandise. The man who ran the firm combined the less appealing aspects of insanity and grand larceny, and when I resigned, he went all Darkseid on me. His business was failing big, and it was suddenly convenient to blame all that on me. He began phoning my home, telling me that he had proof I had sabotaged his company and would soon see me in prison. (…) I was eighteen years old at the time, a bad age for handling anything more unsettling than jock itch. I did what I could to hold myself in check around others, but didn't always succeed. One day when we were out working with Jack, he sensed something was wrong and (after sending the other assistant out on an errand) sat down, lit his pipe, and said "So… is anything wrong?"

"I told him everything was fine (and) did a fine job keeping up the pretense for almost 90 seconds before breaking down and telling him everything. Jack immediately went to the phone, called my harasser, and though it was Saturday, caught him at the office. 

"All I heard Kirby say was, 'If you ever bother Mark again, I’ll come down there and punch your goddamn face in,' but that was more than enough."

"Then he hung up, turned to me, and said 'Come on, let’s have Roz make us some coffee.' As he headed for the kitchen, I just sat there and started to feel better.

"I think of that moment often (and) thought of it frequently while writing this book. It was my first real clue as to why Jack Kirby was so good at drawing super heroes."

Thanks for reading! See ya round the Baxter Building.