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Strange Tales 132
"The Sinister Space Trap!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND May, 1965

Edited With Reckless Abandon By: STAN LEE

Written With Daring Bravado By: LARRY IVIE

Drawn With Brash Impetuosity By: BOB POWELL

Inked Wtih Reckless Vigor By: M. DEMEO

Lettered With A Soggy Penpoint By: S. ROSEN

Reviewed With A Dusty Keyboard By: S. CHUNG

(Originally Reviewed On 02/13/02)

On the cover, The Human Torch and The Ever Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing fight back against the sinister space trap, which is billed as possibly the nuttiest, most mixed up yarn you'll read all year!

Within The Baxter Building, The Human Torch and The Thing are bending a steel girder in their own manner, when Mr. Fantastic enters the room with a visitor, who hears Johnny asking Ben to let him know when the heat is too much, and Ben tells him to bend the girder into place, and if the heat reaches the bottom, he'll be the first to know!

Sue tells them the girder is in place, and both Johnny and Ben relax, while The Invisible Girl tells their guest that the two of them get along like brothers! (Holy Cain and Abel, Batman!) Reed introduces them to Mr. Pearson of N.A.S.A., who has a mission for them, and Ben wonders if they could all get off the girder if Stretcho is going into one of his deep monologues. Johnny knows that N.A.S.A. has to do with rockets and that their last trip to Skrullworld (F.F. #37) qualifies them as experts. Pearson is amazed by The Torch's ability to flame off part of his flaming form for a handshake, and Sue figures that it must be an important mission, indeed. Pearson tells The Four about the launching of giant space magnets, which are designed to keep their satellites in proper orbit. (Holy Skylab, Batman!) They are faced with a problem... one of the project designers by the name of Professor Jack, who is now considered a security risk, and Reed wonders if he's tampered with the magnets, and Pearson stresses how important it is to maintain the launch schedule. Of course, a pilot is needed to guide the capsule carrying the magnets into space, and with the regular astronauts busy with Project Gemini, one of the four must be the pilot, and Ben figures that Professor Jack must have arranged for the capsule to explode! Pearson is aware of this and the task requires someone with astronaut training who can watch Professor Jack! Figuring it for a suicide mission, Johnny agrees to volunteer, but Ben figures that this is a job for The Thing! Reed figures that Ben is too heavy and wishes to volunteer, while Pearson agrees with him about the weight and unfortunately, a girl astronaut is not desired for the notoriety. (Holy Sally Ride, Batman!) Johnny is selected and Ben offers to help him on the ground, but Pearson figures that a man of The Thing's dimensions would be too recognizable. Johnny is concerned about his date with Doris Evans, which is about twenty minutes late, and she'll clobber him much worse than Bashful Benjy could.

At The Evans home, Doris tells Johnny that it's the one hundred - and thirteenth time she's been stood up, while Johnny vows to make it up to her, and as she relents if he promises to be in time for the game, Johnny tells her that he's got something important to do, and she clenches her fists, then runs off sobbing. At The N.A.S.A. lab, Johnny is in the company of Pearson and is introduced as Doug Brown to Professor Jack, who is pleased to have an assistant on the project. Seeing that "Doug" is rather young, Professor Jack asks if he's received proper astronaut training, and thanks to Reed and Ben, Johnny has the right stuff. Pearson wonders if Professor Jack has tumbled onto the fact that Doug Brown is The Human Torch, and suggests that they check out the launching pad, which Professor Jack attends to, and then asks "Brown" if he knows how to drive a truck..? (Holy B.J. And The Bear, Batman!) When the two men are away, Johnny flames on, and gives the place a once over.

He checks out how solid the steel panelling is, and notes as he burns through, that it is in fact, solid steel! On the other side, The Torch sees the giant claw which is to hold the space magnets in place. Hearing someone coming back, Johnny does some fast wielding on the wall, then when Professor Jack enters the lab, and sees "Doug Brown" whistling a Beatles-like tune, then wonders what the burning smell could be? When Professor Jack mentions that the room seems to be much warmer than when he left, Johnny plans to be more careful, while Professor Jack figures that it must be the new heating system, then has "Doug" take the truck and park it by the water tower near the front gate, since it is needed there for the calibration of his experiment. (Holy Elementary, Batman!) At The Baxter Building, a tearful Doris confides in Ben that she misses Johnny and wants to see him again, asking if he could tell Johnny that she's forgiven him. Blushing beneath the rock-like exterior, Ben reluctantly agrees, and was looking for an excuse to visit the project.

Professor Jack watches his monitor, not sure what it is about Doug Brown that he doesn't like, then sees the truck at the gate. "Brown" is unaware that a space magnet is on the truck and he is testing the power by seeing how the metal water tower sways. Near the swaying water tower, Johnny sees a familiar waddling figure at the gate, who can hardly believe his baby-blue eyes in seeing the rocking water tower! Seeing Ben, Johnny drives towards the gate, and Ben sees the tower begin to move, with the truck changing the polarity of the space magnet, pulling the tower along in the direction of the truck's path! Ben sees the supports buckle, and warns Johnny, who sees the shadow above him... CRASH!

CRUNCH! The Thing steps in and lifts the water tower, telling Johnny to flame on, but he can't or else he'll blow his cover. KLUNK! Ben drops the tower, after Johnny leaps free. Pearson and Professor Jack arrive on the scene, with "Doug" assuring them he's fine, and when Professor Jack asks if the visitor managed to sustain the tower briefly, Pearson introduces the bashful Benjamin J. Grimm as Dr. Josiah Verpoorten, from the biological lab, who has his back to them, and who is understandibly shaken up from the ordeal. Professor Jack has the launch moved up for the morning, and in Pearson's car, Johnny figures that Ben's cover is a weak one, while The Thing wonders if there's anyone named Josiah Verpoorten, and why it couldn't be a handle like Rock Hudson or Bill Smith? (Holy Rushmore, Batman! With his profile, he could be Rocky!) Pearson tells them that it would be a good opportunity to examine the lab while the launch takes place, and Johnny tells Ben where the light wielding he did is located for easy access...

The next day finds positions taken and the countdown begins. Professor Jack thinks that once the mission is completed, he'll be out of the way, as a specially timed acid will disintegrate the capsule weldings prior to re-entry into the atmosphere! "Verpoorten" arrival at his lab has been foreseen, since he located the weak spot in the wall, and The Thing is punching his way into a trap, as the giant claw has him in its clutches!

Ben has the sinking feeling that he was expected. Professor Jack figures that even The Thing can't break away from the claw's magnetic grip. Professor Jack sees to Johnny's imminents demise, and in space, the capsule is in position, with the magnets sent off on schedule. Professor Jack appears on the capsule's monitor and congratulates him, then tells him about the acid which is slowly eating the capsule, which will completely fall apart just prior to re-entry, and the magnets will be placing their creator in a unique position of power. Johnny knows that his flaming abilities can't help him in a place without oxygen! Professor Jack also gloats about his color monitor, particularly the orange blob known as The Thing!

The first part of the capsule is gone, with Ben struggling to reach a magnet, knocking it over, and changing the polarity (Holy Pertwee, Batman!) and upset the delicate magnetic field! It's Clobberin' Time, for The Thing is free and Professor Jack is racing for the door, and pulls a lever, putting a steel barricade between him and The Thing!

In space, the capsule continues to fall to pieces, with Johnny wondering if he's activated the controls in time to be in re-entry, where he can... FLAME ON! His own life saved, Johnny is concerned for Ben, who is beating on the steel door, then puts his best shoulder forward...

Seizing a steel girder, Ben hurls it at the steel door, then uses the impacted girder as a can opener. Seeing Professor Jack racing up yet another flight of stairs, Ben is unaware that The Human Torch has just burned his way through the ceiling, intent on avenging his friend's demise in a magnetic grip! The frantic, screaming scientist is simultaneously tackled by both Ben and Johnny, who bicker over who has first rights, and all combatants falling to the floor!

Both are pleased to see the other, and soon Ben and Johnny embrace one another, glad to have to put up with each other for at least another month! Pearson arrives with the authorities, thanking Reed Richard, who intercepted the transmission, while Johnny tells Ben it was his mission to undertake, and as Pearson plays peacemaker, Ben tells him that Doris wants him back! With the mission accomplished, Johnny is able to meet Dorrie before the game, and she even has time to war her official M.M.M.S Membership Pin at the high school football game. Not wanting to share Johnny with the other girls in the bleachers, Doris wants them to stay at home and hear how his mission went, while Johnny wonders if he'll ever understand women?

Professor Jack. Truly a name to strike terror in the hearts of do-gooders everywhere. Better than Springheel Jack, who sounds like a rockette.

I wonder if Larry Ivie is a pseudonym for Larry Lieber?

Bob Powell would also draw Giant Man's feature in Tales To Astonish, prior to High-Pockets' departure to the title.

Professor Pearson was the name of the character played by Gene Barry in 1953's The War of The Worlds, from the book of the same name.

Professor Jack resembles Mastermind, complete with a goatee!

It seems that countdowns in The Marvel Universe can never go without a hitch!

If this story were to be told today, Ben might find himself in the tight grip of Velcro... or worse... The Sinister CGC Trap!

This Review Is Dedicated To Professor Jack Selegue

Steve Chung
"The Sinister Space Review!"