Dan Pace (feral atom)
- Published on Amazon.com
I think Tales to Astonish had more consistent quality, but the best of Tales of Suspense holds up compared to Tales to Astonish. From the subscription rates that Marvel quoted in the 60s, TTA outsold TOS by about 10% most months.
For the Marvel Age fan, this volume is packed with concepts or characters later reused and artists that would make their name in the Silver Age doing super-heroes. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, John Buscema, Joe Sinnott, Dick Ayers, and Stan Lee. This volume includes Russ Heath (better known for Playboy cartoons, Sgt Rock and Haunted Tank at DC), John Forte (from the Legion of Super-heroes fame or infamy, depending on your view) and Al Williamson, one of the all-time great sci-fi artists. Paul Reinman, inker on many Silver Age super-hero tales, has some fine work on four stories. Bill Everett, creator of Sub-mariner, and Carl Burgos, creator of the Human Torch, also each have a story here.
Doug Wildey, co-creator of Johnny Quest, has a great story in here called "the Runaway Planet". He also does a fantastic job on "The Wrath of Chondu" for those Defenders fans out there.
Issue #1 highlights - After a great Buscema cover, we get Steve Ditko's "Prisoner of the Satellites" features great art and an interesting premise with everyday man Mark Coren afflicted by a power from outer space. This could've been turned into an Atom nearly two years before his Silver Age debut in Showcase #34.
#2 - After a great Steve Ditko cover, the lead story is by Jack Kirby "Invasion from Outer Space". The ending is a bit silly, but I like the intent. The best story is once again turned in by Steve Ditko with "The Secret of Planet X".
#3 - The highlight here is Kirby's "The Terrible Time Machine". Ditko's "The Thing from Planet X" is interesting but probably not intending to be hilarious. The face of the Flower just cracks me up. Don Heck turns in great moody artwork for "The Haunted House".
#4 - "One of Our Spacemen is Missing" by Kirby is an interesting premise with a strange ending. "The Voice of Doom" requires some suspension of disbelief but is a neat premise with very good artwork by Carl Burgos. "Beware of the … Robots" has greet Al Williamson artwork. Finally "One of us is a Martian" by Ditko would stand up well in Amazing Fantasy.
#5 - "Ditko's "I Fought the Tyrannasaurus" is excellent with very strong artwork by Steve and an unexpectedly soulful story about an out-of-time traveler.
#6 - "I Hear it Howl in the Swamp" by Ditko as he turns in a giant creature story with heart. Joe Sinnott explores the world of Mutants almost four years before the X-men in "The Mutants and Me".
#7 - "I Come From the Shadow World" is a spooky Ditko tale with a great ending. "I Know the Power of the Genie" has some of Don Heck's best artwork ever and shows his true potential. "My Name is Robot X" by Paul Reinman is a novel story that Amazing Adventures would revisit in a few years in a different context. "I Was Trapped Inside of the Martian Maze", Ditko's second tale, again exalts the common man. "I Fought the Molten Man-Thing" is a decent Kirby Monster story.
#8 - This is the best issue of the bunch!
After an unbelievable Kirby cover, we get the lead story also done by Kirby, "Monstro… the Menace from the Murky Depths" straight out of Challengers or the FF, we get the scientist hero against the Atomic Monster. What I always find remarkable is how polished his artwork looks here compared to the early issues of Fantastic Four and Avengers, which looked very raw and uneven in comparison several years later. Dick Ayers, one of my favorite Kirby inkers, inks this one. Bill Everett turns in another one of his one-shot character gems with "the Story of Sammy Snork". Everett's thick and lush brushwork is on evidence here. He had a magic quality to render everyday women as sublimely beautiful, but still in an understated way. "I Am the Changing Man" from Steve Ditko is his best art in this collection. The alien from the planet Deth could be a prototype for the Skrulls in FF#2, still more than a year away. "The Runaway Planet" by Doug Wildey is a great apocalyptic tale. "It Walks by Night" is a fantastically creepy story by Don Heck.
#9 - Another great Kirby one-two of cover and lead story with "Diablo… the Demon from the Fifth Dimension". Diablo was resurrected in the all Atomic Monster Hulk Annual #5 (which I crave to be masterworked).The story doesn't hold up as much as the art does, with inking by Dick Ayers. The figure at the story's end doesn't look like a typical Kirby or Ayers figure but more like Everett line work to me. I've always loved "The Wrath of Chondu" by Doug Wildey. The splash has fantastic artwork of Chondu, who would later appear in the Defenders as Chondu the Mystic. "Earth Will Be Destroyed" is an excellent Ditko story. "The Return of the Living Robot" reprises the earlier strong story in this volume, also by Heck.
#10 - The third in a row with Kirby providing strong artwork for both cover and lead story. "I Brought the Mighty Cyclops Back to Life" has a romance story pop up in the middle of a giant monster tale! Once again Ayers inks really make Kirby's art shine. Reinman turns in great artwork in "I Was Trapped in Nightmare Valley". Ditko has another masterful tale in "Behind My Door Waits… Medusa" which vies for #8' Changing Man for the best tale in the collection. I love his bearded character and the ornate door that he holds the skeleton key up to. This could've been a backup tale in Doctor Strange! Lastly, Heck does decent work with "I Am the Shaggy Creature".
These last four issues in particular are treasures of the transition period from the Altas Era genre stories into the Marvel Age. All the earmarks are here: monster as sympathetic anti-hero a la the Thing and the Hulk, scientist as hero a la Hank Pym, Tony Stark and Reed Richards, Robot as hero, similar to Iron Man, mystic tales gravitating to Doctor Strange with Chondu and …Medusa. The alien menaces that would soon confront the Fantastic Four. Mutants! The ever-present fear of the Red Menace. This is a valuable window into the evolution of Ditko, Kirby, Lee, Heck into the stalwarts that usher in the Marvel Age.
Topping all that is a wonderfully informative introduction by Dr. Michael J. Vassallo. He points out several interesting tidbits about the artists and stories, such as intriguing information on Bill Everett and John Buscema's tales in here as well as placing the collection in its historic context post-Atlas implosion and pre-Marvel.
This hardcover edition has long-since sold out and these reseller prices are reasonable at $39 to $55. Tales to Astonish volume 1 has been sold out a bit longer, but it's now selling for $125 to $200. Once a few of these first few resellers sell out, the price will likely head towards Tales to Astonish. (And the Frozen Cyclops cover by Kirby shouldn't be missed!)