Sunday, April 30, 2006

Tales of the Bizarro World Part 1

Following his return in Action #254 and #255, Bizarro made several more appearances. Apparently the character was popular enough that DC gave him a continuing feature in Adventure starting with #285, the June 1961 issue. This had a cascading effect. Congorilla was dropped after a long history as Congo Bill that stretched through More Fun to Action (for over 200 consecutive issues) to Adventure. Congo Bill was at the time the third-longest running feature in DC Comics, after Superman and Batman.

Aquaman was bumped from the backup spot in Adventure that he had held down for almost 15 years. He was briefly sent over to Detective, causing the cancellation of Roy Raymond, who exposed frauds on his tv show in that slot for about 12 years. After eight issues there, he was sent to World's Finest, resulting in the cancellation of yet another long-running series, Tommy Tomorrow (although DC would soon give the series several tryout issues).

Just another example of how Bizarro tended to bump things around, I guess. Now, when Bizarro appears on Earth, he's trouble for Superman and a somewhat tragic figure. But on his own world he's an everyman, with a wife and children.

Yes, children. Never mind that we had been assured from the beginning that Bizarros weren't alive, somehow they could reproduce sexually because Bizarro #1 and Bizarro Lois Lane #1 had both a son and a daughter, and there were many other children.

The Bizarro stories often focused on the oddities of that world:

The writers, egged on by readers' suggestions, came up with more and more examples of just how bizarre the Bizarros were. The Bizarro washing machine takes clean clothes and makes them dirty. The Bizarro children go off to school, where they try hard to learn the wrong answers. This causes some ironic problems:

In the second story we learn the Bizarro Code:

We also discover the name of the Bizarro planet: Htrae (Earth spelled backwards).

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bizarro, Take II

Bizarro returned in Action Comics #254, July 1959. Lex Luthor happened to discover an old newspaper story about Superboy's initial encounter with Bizarro during a visit to Smallville. He steals the plans to Professor Dalton's duplicator machine, and recreates it. Then he lures Superman to his laboratory and beams the Man of Steel. Sure enough, Bizarro appears. However, much to Luthor's dismay, the creature is not controllable and indeed, brings him promptly to jail.

Bizarro also tries to do good deeds, but because he's imperfect, he makes mistakes which are misinterpreted. He soon finds himself under an all-out assault. Then in a surprising move he tells the generals to stop trying to kill him; he will do it himself. He tries flying into a mountain but of course with Superman's powers and invulnerability he just bores a tunnel through it. Jimmy gets a photo of the action, and Bizarro overhears Lois exclaiming what a great photo it is. He assumes that she's fallen in love with him, and of course falls for her.

He brings her to a shack he has constructed on an island and proposes, but she admits that she loves only Superman. Bizarro has an idea; perhaps if he focuses the duplicator ray on himself, it will create another Superman. It does, but this one talks as poorly as Bizarro himself (although Lois doesn't notice this at first). But when she realizes it, the New Bizarro reveals himself as conceited, unlike the humble Bizarro on whom he's based. Briefly Superman and Bizarro team up to fight the New Bizarro, who is eventually killed by Kryptonite.

But Superman and Bizarro continue to battle over Lois until she has a brilliant idea. She creates an imperfect duplicate of herself for Bizarro to love. He and Bizarro Lois Lane go off together to live on their own planet.

Bizarro's popularity is not hard to understand. Gee, tries to do good, but sometimes screws up because of not thinking things through? That wouldn't describe most adolescent boys, would it? Especially since it's understood that Bizarro's not evil, he's just misguided. In addition, he lets the reader feel a little superior: we may screw up but at least we recognize it. Bizarro never regrets anything.

Prior entry in the Bizarro series.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Apes Playing Baseball? It Must Be the Silver Age!

The Fortress Keeper has a terrific post (his 100th) on Wonder Woman playing baseball with simians. Hilarious stuff; be sure to check out WW's unorthodox batting style!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ahab and the White Submarine

DC typically did not launch new comic books without some sort of trial run first in Showcase or Brave & Bold. But in May 1964, DC broke with that tradition for Captain Storm, allowing him to debut in his own book. Captain Bill Storm skippered a PT boat in the South Pacific during World War II. During a battle with a Japanese sub, his boat was cut in two and he lost his left leg below the knee. The enemy sub commander guns down all of his crew, then leaves Captain Storm alive.

He is determined to return to active duty, but his commanding officer is skeptical he can handle the job with a wooden leg. With the help of a no-nonsense nurse, Storm begins his rehabilitation, eventually proving to his superiors that he is worthy of another command.

Now it is the men under him who question his ability. He's already lost one crew; will his second tour be another disaster? This suspicion is highlighted in the first issue in the men being unwilling to call him "Skipper"; it's always "Sir" or "Lieutenant".

Eventually he proves his worth by showing his ability to use his wits, and his fearless fighting when wits won't get the job done.

There are some obvious parallels with Captain Storm and the real world at the time. First, obviously, the incident with the ship cut in half by an enemy vessel is inspired by PT-109 with Storm as John F. Kennedy. In addition, there were many popular movies and TV shows with World War II themes at the time, including McHale's Navy, which also featured a PT boat captain.

The comic itself makes reference to Ahab and Moby Dick; of course the equivalent for Captain Storm is the Japanese submarine which killed his first crew. In issue #1, it appears that PT-47 has destroyed that sub, but this appears to have been conveniently forgotten in later issues to keep Storm's revenge motive alive.

Also apparently forgotten was the name of the nurse who helped Storm get back on his feet again. In #1:

But in the second issue:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Super Hippie

I confess I had forgotten about this guy:

The smoking banana peel is a gag that runs throughout the story. According to a popular myth of the times, invented by an underground newspaper as a spoof, you could get high by smoking a banana peel.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lady Blackhawk Update!

The always-alert Laura Gjovaag pointed out in the comments that Lady Blackhawk is currently appearing in Birds of Prey as Oracle's pilot.

I'd also like to update some information from that post. I had not read Blackhawk #140 at that point and didn't have access to scans of that issue. I noted:

She returned many times over the years, and appears to have been inducted as a full-fledged member of the team in Blackhawk #140 (don't have the story to check, but her next appearance opens with this line):

It is a great day for Lady Blackhawk when she joins the famed team on her first flight patrol.

This is unusual compared with the other female characters that DC added to their line: Batwoman was initially forbidden by Batman to operate, while Supergirl had to act as Superman's "secret weapon".

Perhaps I was a little optimistic there. Luckily for me, a friend managed to scan Blackhawk #140 and I've now read the story in question.

Lady Blackhawk performs magnificently in this adventure. When the Blackhawks are captured by The Scavenger, she deduces their location, then flies to rescue them. She isn't above using her feminine wiles here:

Later she uses a boomerang to kayo The Scavenger himself. But alas, my hope that Blackhawk would prove more willing to adapt to changing times than most of the DC heroes was dashed:

Maybe someday, we'll hold a vote on whether to give you honorary membership? I mean, what the heck is that? Give me a break! This is not like Blackhawk #133, where Lady Blackhawk's many positive qualities are balanced by some negatives. She's behaved like a superstar, saving the rest of the team twice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How Many Comics Make Up the Silver Age?

I dunno is the short answer. I'd like to is the longer one. Mike at DC Indexes, which is a terrific site, has a master list of DC Comics. If we just say 1955-1970 is the Silver Age, DC published 5,863 comics. From a friend's list of Marvel Comics I got 1,672 for the 1960s alone.

While there weren't as many publishers as in the Golden Age, there were some substantial publishers--Archie, Dell, ACG, Quality before they sold their titles to DC, Charlton, Harvey, Fawcett. I have a master list of all Harvey Comics which shows 6,753 issues but I don't know how many of them are Silver Age. If we estimate that it's 1/4 of their total, that's another 1,690 comics which would put us over 9,100. Archie would seem likely to have had at least another 1800 or so, which would put us near 11,000. So I'm pretty sure the answer's somewhere north of 12,000.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Yvoorg Ynnub!

Harvey Comics had quite a bit of success in the 1960s, with one breakout superstar (Richie Rich) and several titles that appealed mainly to the younger set: Baby Huey, Little Dot and Little Lotta. They also published a raft of Sad Sack comics.

But by the end of the decade, the downside of a reliance on younger readers may have become apparent as the baby boomers moved into their teens and twenties. Harvey experimented with two issues of a Spirit Comic that apparently didn't sell enough to justify continuing (although they were terrific). And so in 1967, they tried launching a comic book for pre-teen to young adolescent girls, called Bunny.

Bunny was clearly intended as a knockoff of Millie the Model. But what set it apart from that title was the conscious attempt by the writers to use teen slang. Or at least, what the writers thought was teen slang. In Bunny everything was groovy or zoovy or outasight. The ultimate compliment was that something was yvoorg! (Groovy spelled backwards).

I was an adolescent at the time these comics were coming out and while I wasn't the most with-it guy even I knew that this comic was trying too hard by half to be really hip. But my sister liked the comic despite snickering at the language, so it seemed to hit its market.

Bunny stories followed a pretty familiar pattern. She and her egotistical rival Esmeralda would meet some hip young artist, magician or rock star who would immediately fall in love with Bunny despite Esmy's desperate attempts to seduce him. The second part of the story usually involved the young man's occupation--he would show off his paintings, do some magic tricks, or put on a concert. The stories would continue as long as the writer and artist could come up with more gags, then they would stop abruptly. This will give you a flavor for it:

It was really just an extension of Little Dot's aunts and uncles.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Lady Blackhawk Goes Bad

In the late 1950s, DC began introducing female counterparts to their male heroes. Batman had Batwoman, Superman had Supergirl, and Blackhawk had Lady Blackhawk. Originally introduced in Blackhawk #133 (February 1959), Zinda Blake (her real name) wanted to become a member of the Blackhawks. She proves her worth by saving the team from a jungle stampede, and introduces herself rather dramatically:

She's been training for years to become skilled at the tasks the team members perform. Unfortunately for her, Rule 14 (c) of the Blackhawk Code says "No Dames Allowed!"

But of course, she's undeterred. She gets the team caught, but manages to help them escape. They are sneaking up on the crooks when:

But once again she saves the day by kayoing the crooks with gas that she keeps in the heels of her boots. In the end, she notes that she's not quite ready to be a Blackhawk, but she's determined to overcome her weaknesses.

She returned many times over the years, and appears to have been inducted as a full-fledged member of the team in Blackhawk #140 (don't have the story to check, but her next appearance opens with this line):

This is unusual compared with the other female characters that DC added to their line: Batwoman was initially forbidden by Batman to operate, while Supergirl had to act as Superman's "secret weapon".

Lady Blackhawk appeared regularly over the next few years, in #143, #147, #151, #155, #161, #163, and many other issues. Things changed dramatically for Zinda in Blackhawk #200. While battling their old foe, Killer Shark, the Blackhawks are startled to note that he has a new accomplice:

They quickly realize it's Lady Blackhawk, who has suddenly gone bad. Killer Shark reveals that he obtained a chemical from a scientist that would change anybody from good to bad. He kidnapped Zinda and:

At the end of this story, Zinda escapes, still in her Queen Killer Shark persona. Killer Shark himself is brought to justic. Queenie returns in Blackhawk #204. In this story, Blackhawk forces down Zinda's plane in the water. The shock jolts her back into her normal self. However Killer Shark is free again and he attempts to blast her with a concentrated dose of the formula. Unfortunately it hits Blackhawk and he is turned evil.

In the end of the story, Zinda manages to hit Blackhawk with the ray to reverse his transformation. Unfortunately, it turns her evil again and she escapes (although Killer Shark is caught once again).

In Blackhawk #216, Killer Shark is on the loose again, racing the Blackhawks to an inventor's secret weapons. Queenie is with him, and Blackhawk reluctantly orders the downing of their jet, which crashes. That turns out to be a scheme, however, as they beat the Blackhawks to the weapons. In a memorable moment, they use the Blackhawks as a human bridge to get the third weapon.

In the end of this story, Queen Killer Shark and her boyfriend are finally captured. Can the Blackhawks find a cure to bring back Lady Blackhawk?

She next appeared in Blackhawk #225. Apparently the writer and editor had forgotten that Killer Shark and Zinda were captured in their last appearance, since the story begins with them on the loose. This time Queenie wants her new boyfriend to capture all the Blackhawks for her. He does so, but she pulls a double cross on him, locking them all in a bathysphere that will roam under the water for years. Killer Shark escapes and steals Zinda's gun. But the Blackhawks have also escaped and they win the final battle. However, once again there's no resolution at the end of the story.

The storyline finally wraps up in Blackhawk #228. The Blackhawks are assigned to protect a famed pirate named Jolly Roger. But Blackhawk discovers that Queen Killer Shark is once again loose and gunning for the freebooter. He prevents her from shooting Roger, but then:

Unfortunately, Lady Blackhawk was not allowed to enjoy her return to normalcy, because the Blackhawk series had hit the iceberg. In #228, they were described as the "Junk-Heap Heroes", which meant that DC had decided to try to update them to modern times. They were about to get new identities and a new mission as members of G.E.O.R.G.E (stands for Group for Extermination Of Revenge, Greed and Evil). The series limped on for another year or so before finally giving up the ghost, with Lady Blackhawk only making limited appearances. At the time, Blackhawk was the fourth longest-running magazine dedicated to one feature, after Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Bizarros, Part I

The first Bizarro appeared in Superboy #68, October 1958. Superboy is on hand to watch Professor Dalton try out his new duplicator ray. Unfortunate, the duplication process is imperfect; when Dalton tries to duplicate radium the resulting material does not have any radiation. As Superboy leaves, Dalton accidentally trips on the machine, beaming it on Superboy. It creates an inexact duplicate of the Lad of Steel.

At first they assume the creature is dead, but then it gets up and starts moving around. Frightened by his own appearance in a storefront window, Bizarro throws a car through it, convincing everybody that he's a menace.

At this point the story becomes something of a cross between Frankenstein the book and Frankenstein the movie. Bizarro finds a friend, but it's only because the girl is blind. Eventually Superboy realizes that the glowing fragments of the machine that created Bizarro would have the same effect on the creature that Kryptonite does on him. Since Bizarro isn't really alive, it's not the same thing as killing him. In the end, Bizarro charges at Superboy and is destroyed in a sudden explosion, that conveniently restores the eyesight of the young girl who befriended him.

Some points: Is this the first "three-part book-length novel" in a Superman title? Although Bizarro died in this issue, Lex Luthor created another Bizarro in a two-part story in Action Comics the next year and the Bizarros (since there were soon lots more of them) created their own wacky world, which was the subject of a series of stories in Adventure Comics immediately prior to the Legion of Superheroes.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Man In A Tin Can

Iron Man debuted in Tales of Suspense #39, March 1963. Robots had appeared in many comics previously, and even the concept of a man inside a robot suit was not unique. Robotman, a DC hero from the 1940s and 1950s pioneered the concept of a robot suit saving the life of a man who would otherwise have died. So there is nothing particularly original about Iron Man.

Tony Stark, millionaire playboy and ace weapons designer, is in Vietnam testing some devices when he trips a wire and is nearly killed in a grenade blast. A piece of shrapnel near his heart is too dangerous to remove and so he's doomed long-term. The communists, who have captured him, put him to work building a weapon for them. They don't know that he's secretly trying to build a suit of armor for himself that he hopes to use to save his life.

He's assisted in this by Professor Yinsen, a South Vietnamese physicist who opposes the communists. Together they finish the suit just as Tony is about to die. Professor Yinsen sacrifices his life so that Tony can regain some of his strength. Once he does, it's clobbering time! We get some Stan Lee science here:

Art by Don Heck.

I suspect that Iron Man was introduced so that Marvel could say their new superhero team, the Avengers, which would debut in September 1963, was made up of existing heroes; the hope was that having Iron Man, Thor and Antman in one book would also help spur the sales of their main books.

Tales of Suspense #40 continued the trend of Marvel heroes battling aliens in their second outing. One of my commenters (Thelonius Nick?) suggested that perhaps these stories were breathers to allow Lee to decide further what to do with his characters. The story is significant only in that Iron Man decides to paint his robot costume yellow, so it won't be as frightening.

Oh, yeah, that wouldn't frighten a child!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Killer Cover

A Russ Heath classic from 1963. Click 1-2 times to see at full size.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spiderman 34-38

These are the last five issues that Steve Ditko produced before leaving Marvel. Unfortunately they are a relatively mediocre batch of stories, with largely forgettable villains. They do move Peter Parker's life forward quite a bit and set the stage for the big showdown with the Green Goblin in #39-40.

ASM #34 features Kraven the Hunter. He is obsessed with killing Spiderman and mounting his head on the wall with his other trophies. Pretty grotesque. He returns to New York despite his prior deportation at the end of ASM #15 in an attempt to defeat Spidey. Dressing up as our hero, he assaults JJJ, knowing that the resulting news is sure to bring Spiderman into action to check it out. He and Spidey battle it out with a couple extra crooks thrown in for good measure, but in the end there's little real drama as Kraven is dispatched. He confesses to the police that he had been responsible for the assault on JJJ, clearing Spiderman's name.

The Molten Man returns in ASM #35. He was a pretty boring character and this is a nothing story. Ditto with #36, which highlights a new villain, the Looter, who became super after inhaling gases from a meteor. About the only interesting part of the latter story is this rather obvious characterization swipe from Superman/Clark Kent/Lois Lane:

ASM #37 is a stage-setter. Professor Stromm (first appearance) has been released from prison and is determined to get the man who sent him there. It turns out that this is Harry Osborn's father, Norman. The professor sends robots to destroy Osborn's facilities. Spiderman defeats the robots. As he is about to capture the professor, though, his spider sense reveals somebody at a window with a gun. Pushing the prof out of the way, Spidey jumps up to the window, but the person is gone, and it is clear that nobody could have been standing there. As the story ends, Peter wonders if he's losing his spider sense. We also see Norman Osborn with a rifle (perhaps the one at the high window?) vowing to eliminate Spiderman.

In ASM #38, Spidey faces "A Guy Named Joe". Joe Smith is a washout as a fighter and wrestler. But when he appears as an extra in a movie, he is transformed when power cables hit a puddle of chemicals he is standing in. When filming resumes, Joe discovers that he's extremely strong, and that he's angry at everybody. He goes berserk and breaks out of the studio.

Steve Ditko gives us his analysis of college protestors here:

Meanwhile Norman Osborn puts out a $20,000 contract on Spiderman. This causes every crook in town to immediately attack our hero on sight. Spidey battles them off, then manages to knock some sense into Joe Smith. In the end, Smith's manager arrives to tell him that the movie studio loved his work and want to sign him to a long-term contract, much to Spiderman's annoyance.

The end of the Ditko era is mentioned in the Bullpen Bulletins:

It's a shame that the last few issues of Ditko were mediocre, because the series as a whole was terrific, among the greatest runs in comic book history, with excellent plots, superb characterization, and surreal art.

Spiderman changed dramatically after #38. The most visible difference is that Peter Parker began to emerge as a hip, with-it guy instead of the nerdy bookworm of the Ditko era. But that is a subject for a future post.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Spiderman 28-33

This is another excellent run of Spiderman, with several classics and no clunkers.

ASM #28 features Peter Parker's graduation from high school. That may not seem like much, but Dick Grayson had been in high school for about 25 years at that point (although he too would move on to college before the end of the Silver Age).

Spidey faces a new foe, the Molten Man. Old Molty got splashed with some "liquid metal alloy" (more Stan Lee science) and somehow the metal fused with his body, turning him into a foe with hard fists and a virtually indestructible body. Spidey is able to defeat him only by hand and foot-cuffing him with his webbing.

Then comes Peter's graduation ceremony. He's thrilled when he is awarded a scholarship to Empire State University because he has achieved the highest grade point average in the history of his high school. But he's deflated a bit by Liz Allen (incorrectly identified earlier in the issue as Liz "Hilton") here:

That's a pretty remarkable little sequence for a comic book.

In Spiderman #29, Max Gargan, aka the Scorpion, returns. He breaks out of prison by using his strong tail like a spring. He's still after JJJ, although that doesn't make a lot of sense, since presumably by now the authorities know who the Scorpion really is. We also learn that Ned Leeds has returned from his assignment in Europe, and is dating Betty Brant again, and that Aunt May has been feeling a little ill lately.

Spiderman #30 begins another string of classics. Webhead must tackle a clever cat-burglar, as well as "the Cat". This part always confused me because at several points in the story the cat-burglar himself is referred to as "the Cat", but that appears to be a mistake.

In an amusing twist, J. Jonah Jameson is robbed by the cat-burglar and offers a reward for his capture. Spidey decides it would be fun to earn that reward, and teases the newsman about it. Of course JJJ has a horrible daydream:

So he sends Foswell out to try to find the cat-burglar with his underworld contacts. Meanwhile, Ned has asked Betty Brant to marry him. She breaks the news to Peter, who realizes that he must take the risk of admitting his double-identity to Betty. But as he leads into talking about Spiderman she shudders, explaining that what initially drew her to Peter was his studiousness and hard work. She could never marry somebody who worked in a dangerous field after the death of her brother. Peter storms out, leaving Betty crying that he's the one she loves.

That pretty much clears the decks on the romance front for old Petey, and to add injury to insult, he doesn't win the reward money for capturing the cat-burglar.

By ASM #31, Stan must have recognized the mistake he'd made with "the Cat" because the villain Peter must find is now known as "the Master Planner". Probably designs new home communities, right?

Nope, he really does seem to be a planning genius with every contingency covered. This issue also features Peter Parker's first days at college. Unfortunately for him, his aunt collapses and is in the hospital, so he's far too distracted to make friends early and everybody begins to think he's a snob, including a young lady who we'll be seeing quite a bit more of in the Silver Age:

In #32, we learn the identity of the Master Planner: it's Doctor Octopus making his first appearance since ASM Annual #1. Meanwhile Peter gets bad news about Aunt May; it turns out that she's got some radioactivity in her bloodstream, no doubt caused by the transfusion she received from Peter way back in ASM #10. But it's causing her problems.

Peter realizes that perhaps Curt Connors (fka the Lizard) could help him save Aunt May. They order a rare chemical from the West Coast, but it is stolen by the Master Planner. Spidey must go into action again to save her. He begins busting up crooks all over town, looking for information on the Master Planner. Finally he tracks the hideout down and battles with Doc Ock. Unfortunately, their battle destroys much of the undersea hideout, and at the end of the story Spiderman is trapped under a giant machine, only feet away from the chemicals he needs to save Aunt May.

The saga concludes with ASM #33. Spidey is still trapped under the machinery, but he is determined not to let Aunt May die the way Uncle Ben did. And thus begins one of the most famous sequences in the history of comics:

Spidey eventually gets free of the machine, but then he must fight his way through the Master Planner's henchmen. Once again his determination wins out:

Not too much doubt in my mind that Steve Ditko wrote the dialogue for that panel; it's classic Ayn Rand, and Ditko was a well-known disciple of hers. And in the end:

Just a superb series of stories capped by The Final Chapter, one of the greatest moments in the history of comic literature.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Incredible Hulk 4-6; Marvel Stumbles

Although most of what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby touched turned to gold in the 1960s, as pointed out by commenter Thelonius Nick, in mid-1963 they did not yet look like a guaranteed winner. Their second book, The Incredible Hulk, failed to generate sufficient sales to justify continuation after the sixth issue.

Why did the Hulk fail? Looking at the first six issues as whole I would point to several things:

1. Poor development of the supporting cast. The three backup characters are Rick Jones, Thunderbolt Ross, and Betty Ross. Yet after six issues we know nothing more about them than we had in the first issue. Rick's a teenager with a jalopy; how many of those have we seen in the comics? Thunderbolt had some potential as the first JJJ, but his daughter Betty was a typical Marvel love interest of the 1960s; only useful as a hostage.

2. No real sense that the Hulk/Banner relationship has been well-thought out. In the first couple issues the transformation takes place at night a la Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. That seems to have cramped the storylines, so they went to it becoming voluntary for Banner by stepping in front of the gamma ray machine. In the final issue it was changed so that emotions triggered the switch. In fairness, the Hulk was a new type of character among superheroes in that he was not voluntarily "super", so they may have been feeling their way.

3. Few worthy villains. The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime had several more appearances, but Tyrranus (who appeared in #5) and the Metal Master (#6) were characters of limited interest.

4. In an obvious attempt to prop up the sales, there was a crossover into Fantastic Four #12. But that was the same month that Incredible Hulk #6 was published, so it was a little late to save the title. In addition, Steve Ditko took over the artwork with that issue; changing artists is another symptom of a flagging title.