Today we're used to superhero comics recycling characters from decades back, slapping a new coat of paint on the suckers, and putting them out there for nostalgia, ironic laughs or both. But back in the 70s this environmentally conscious recycling practice was still new. Sometimes it felt more like desperation than self-awareness.
So, 1974, we're deep into that Bronzey age of comics, Marvel is settling into a confused time as kung-fu fighters, wizards, barbarians, and cosmic messiahs crowd into their crimefighter comfort zone, and the 70s horror boom means vampires and werewolves and Frankensteins roam the pages too. Astonishing Tales started out featuring Dr. Doom and Ka-Zar but at some point somebody looked at how well Marvel's monster comics were doing - a slew of titles that were reprinting the horror, suspense, and monster stories from the 1950s and early 60s - and said, hey, why not do some new stories with these giant monster characters? And we could get Gil Kane to draw the cover. Let's do It." And when I say "let's do It," that's exactly what I mean.
It is here! What is It? It is It! The Living Colossus! You may remember It! from It!'s original appearance in two 1961 issues of Tales Of Suspense, or reprints of those stories in 1973 issues of Monsters On The Prowl. It! is a giant Russian statue which is taken over by aliens and runs amok, and then the aliens leave It! and things are fine. And then the aliens come back and It! runs amok again. The aliens are tricked into leaving It! by a Hollywood special effects designer who builds an even bigger statue for the aliens to take over. This new statue is rigged with dynamite and explodes, killing the aliens and leaving It! standing around waiting for Astonishing Tales to give him something to do.
We join our story already in progress as It! The Living Colossus, animated by the mind of crippled FX genius Bob O'Bryan, stands defeated by Granitor. Granitor has also kidnapped Bob's fiance Diane, leaving It! to mope around causing structural damage to the Capitol Records building in Hollywood. But who, you ask, is Granitor?
To answer that question we plunge into a life and death struggle between rival factions of alien gargoyles from the planet "Stonus Five," drawn by Dick Ayers in one of his more wrinkle-focused periods. We first met these gargoyles when Gorgolla, their king, invaded the Earth in in Strange Tales #74 (reprinted in Where Monsters Dwell #35) but was overthrown by gargoyle rebels. Now Gorgolla's son Granitor is leading a counter-revolution, and for us this means lots of characters with names like "Magnor" and "Crustor" hollering their names at each other.
Much like the attention span of a millennial, or maybe a Zoomer, it's Zoomers that are the generational punchline now, right, anyway Bob's consciousness can only stay in It! for a limited amount of time. The hectic life of a Hollywood special effects genius combined with always passing out to control a giant stone statue means he never gets to change out of that nerdy sweater vest he's been wearing since 1962.
Granitor, King Of The Gargoyle Men, gazes with approval upon the suprisingly meaty thighs of Earth women. What fate awaits us all when our planet is renamed "Stonus Six?" Lots of CBD edibles, I'm guessing!
It's weird how a giant statue destructively rampaging around the world always seems to show up at the worst times of Diane's life. That's right, it's all about you, Diane.
Speaking of Diane, she has nothing to do with these OTHER characters, two evil scientists out to control It! for their own nefarious purposes. And to that end the evil Dr. Vault has dug through his vault of old reprint comics to unearth a being that is certain to defeat It! And what is it? Not It!, but it?
Why it's our old buddy Fin Fang Foom, seen here in a page reprinted from Where Monsters Dwell, which was in turn reprinted from Fantasy Masterpieces, which was a reprint from his original appearance in a 1961 issue of Strange Tales. Just wring all possible value out of that page of artwork there, why don't you, you House of Ideas you. Here's an idea... maybe pay your artists residuals when you reprint their work?
Here the 1974 dialogue is mixed with the 1961 caption, and we begin to view this comic not as a piece of narrative pictorial fiction but as some sort of archaeological palimpsest mixing dynasties and eras on the same tablet, rendering history itself into one simultaneous action. Or maybe it's just lazy comic book production.
As far as the art department is concerned, the best giant-monster teleportation device is the one described in a caption laid on top of a stat of 15 year old artwork.
Hey comic book writers, if you aren't confident about your word choices in a dialogue balloon, just call your editor up and talk about it. Don't put your uncertainty into the word balloon itself! We don't want to hear it.
Why are they tying the Colossus up? They're securing their load properly to the flatbed trailer before moving out into traffic. Or do you want the Hollywood tactical squad to have to write themselves a ticket?
Just imagine getting a paycheck for writing the line "It's It!"
Dr. Vault once hiding out in a cavern seems to imply that somewhere there's a Dr. Cavern who hides out in a vault. Now conceal yourselves, my gargoyles! Find whatever gothic structure you can that's lacking decorative rainspouts!
Looks like my hundreds of letters have been answered and that crossover between the Marvel Universe and Little Dot comic book covers is finally happening!
Whoops, sorry, it's just flying gargoyles with laser guns, and I think that one guy has a pitchfork or something, maybe they're selling devilled ham. Meanwhile, there's a Ghost Rider comic you could be reading right now that's probably more entertaining.
The only thing that stands between Earth and domination by stone gargoyles is this purple reject from Bert I. Gordon's "The Amazing Colossal Man?" We ARE doomed, I guess.
And hey! This comic just went all "mysterious philosophy of the East" on a green dragon in swim trunks! I guess we really can Orientalize anything.
It's purple stone man and green dragon and flying alien gargoyles vs grey stone gargoyle and other flying alien gargoyles in a FWACK to the finish. All we need is a grinning robot and we'll be at peak Godzilla Vs Megalon!
Make no mistake about it, friends, this comic really wants you think this scene is impressive and awe-inspiring without actually, you know, being impressive and awe-inspiring.
"Back to Stonus Five" is, by a weird coincidence, also the title of my double-LP free-form jazz album!
Usually when I find out that the people who were trying to kill me and enslave my planet had just been painfully disintegrated, "depressed" isn't quite the emotion that I feel. But it's the 1970s! Everything stinks, even winning!
Hey, it turns out Dr. Vault actually needs that Colossus body because he's got a terminal illness. You know, if he asked nicely, O'Bryan would probably let him have It. But no, mad scientists gotta mad science.
Control Fin Fang Foom - beat up Colossus - (???) - take over Colossus body! Success! Because you need a giant dragon for that. Sure, Marvel has spent a lot of time digging up all these characters in recent years - everybody, even Gorgolla, has shown up in one form or another as the churn machine of monthly content and a talent pool of nerds turned pros are allowed to run hogwild through the character backlist. Not gonna lie, I'd do the same myself, given half a chance! But these Astonishing Tales stories, this clumsy attempt to retrofit monsters and gargoyles and dragons and reprints into the Marvel universe, well, filled with righteous fury, It astonishingly was not.
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