Strange Tales 144
"The Day Of The Druid!"
May, 1966

Once Again, Mighty Marvel Reaches New Heights Of Brilliance, Propelled By The Titanic Team Of:
STAN LEE, Writer
JACK KIRBY, Designer
H. PURCELL, Penciller
M. DEMEO, Inker
SAM ROSEN, Letterer
STEVE CHUNG, Propeller

On the cover, as the deadly Druid casts his hands through the flames, he sees an image of a S.H.I.E.L.D. air-car, with Nick Fury at the steering wheel, while Dum-Dum Dugan prepares to fire his gun at their pursuer... a giant metallic, mechanical egg, which is firing an emerald ray from its turret! (Holy Ovoid, Batman! Fury and Dugan had better scramble if they want to avoid this threat!)

On the splash page, a strange and mysterious ceremony is taking place at a hidden sanctum, where those in attendence are clad in the trappings of the ancient druids! The Druid gestures towards the flames... and the image of their greatest foe begins to appear...

The Druid vows death to S.H.I.E.L.D. and to Nick Fury, its leader! The images cease at the Druid's command, and his followers deactivate the hidden projector, before lugging off the bust of the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader. It is time for the world to witness the power of the druids! WHHIRRRR! With the hour of destiny at hand, the Egg of Satan begins to lift from the flames! (Holy Egg and I, Batman! This plot seems to be far from hard-boiled, isn't it?) The Druid commands the Egg to hunt for Nick Fury... then destroy him! (Holy Sunnyside, Batman! Shouldn't the evil ovoid be going after Colonel Sanders, for his crimes against its bretheren?) The Egg soars into the air... and into the stratosphere...

Elsewhere, another Satan's Egg has attacked and destroyed an atomic aircraft... The emergency personnel is told to clear the area before the plane's reactor blows! Nothing may stop the flames, and with Colonel Fury inside the craft... trying to turn off the reactor... Dum-Dum Dugan is held by his fellow agents before he can lose his life, too! Inside the flaming steel craft, the S.H.I.E.L.D. director is clad in a protective suit, but is unable to see with the thick smoke from the fire! THUMP! A loose steel beam drops onto the startled S.H.I.E.L.D. agent! Even pinned under the beam, Fury knows that he must shut down the reactor... no matter what!

He figures that he has fifteen seconds before the explosion! Counting the remaining seconds... he gets to his feet, with nine seconds to go. THUD! Nick has found the door to the reactor room! Seven seconds to go... RRRAK! He uses a hunk of steel as a crowbar to force the door... with five seconds left! CLAKK! The door is open with three seconds to go... WHUMP!

Outside the aircraft... Dugan and the men have only seconds to enter the mobile fallout shelter! Only Dum-Dum stands outside, in case his fellow Howling Commando needs him! WHUMP! The door to the shelter is locked... with two seconds to go! One second...!!! Dugan braces himself for an explosion which never comes... and a familiar voice asks why the lantern-jawed, bug-eyed, mule-headed creep is doing outside! At first, he figures that he has ended up in the other place, because Nick Fury's voice would never be heard up above! Fury assures him that he isn't dead... except between the ears! So glad is Dugan to see his boss that he has him in a crushing bear hug, with Fury vowing to pulverize him!

At a S.H.I.E.L.D. coastal defense command room... another Satan's Egg has been sighted... and is fast approaching the area where Nick Fury is at! It may be coincidence, but... jets have sighted it, and are giving chase! Even these sleek aircraft aren't able to catch a U.F.O. which is flying at 3,000 miles an hour! The Egg quickly descends to tree-top level where the jets can't follow! On a long and winding road... Nick and Dum-Dum are talking about the report of the flying egg which blew up their bomber! Dugan suddenly notices that Fury is driving much faster than he should, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. director tells him to take a look out of the rear window! The Egg is now chasing their car...

WHROOOSH! A crimson ray burns the road where their car had just been, and while Dugan keeps an eye on their pursuer, Nick checks out the auto's extras... THWOOM! Their flivver has been outfitted with a borer bomb! (Holy Jemas, Batman!) SKRAKKKKK! The borer bomb scores a bull's-eye, as it drills through the egg's outer shell! VA-ROOOOOM! Dugan notes that this egg will never hatch, but as Fury agrees, the egg continues the chase!

Beneath a forest of gnarled trees, the subterranean observatory of the Druid is camouflaged, with he and his men watching the egg's progress on the monitor! The Druid takes over personal control of the flying egg... for FURY MUST DIE! Since the thermo-ray has been disabled, the traction nodules are now activated... CLICK! Two artillery shells from the egg pass over the car... PTWEEE! The shells explode... and pieces of plastic are scattered all over the road in front of them!

Upon striking the cement pavement, the plastic expands to become tank traps! The car's air sacs are activated... and serve to cushion the shock! THWOK! Now in mid-air, the car's air jet-fans are activated... Dum-Dum suggests that they land the car and arm themselves with the grenade guns! Now on the ground, the two men prepare for the approaching egg...

The grenade-guns are armed for one shot each, and both men know they must make it count! WAH-HOOO! PYEOW THWOK! WA-BOOOOM! They succeed in the egg's destruction! At a neighborhood barber shop in New York... a young man claiming to be Colonel Fury's newest recruit reports in to the barber, who is reading a newspaper! He tells the young man that if he doesn't want his haircut, he should leave, but the fellow commends his fellow agent on not taking any chances!

The young man is eager to prove that he is an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and dares the barber to come out of his chair! The man begins to rise, but finds himself stuck! The fellow's hidden device is affecting the motor portion of the barber's brain! He presses the device, which is concealed inside his jacket pocket, and the barber's nerve endings cause him to laugh! Another press and the barber's reflexes betray him... as he leaps out of the chair like a shot! When asked where he got such a device, the young man tells the barber that it was given to him by Tony Stark! The lad is about to introduce himself, just as the barber threatens to knock him down! The young agent assures the older man that he has an extremely high physical combat rating! It is at this point that both Nick Fury and Dum-Dum Dugan enter the barber shop...

Jasper Sitwell, S.H.I.E.L.D. Academy Class of 1966 introduces himself, and tells them that he will help them on the case of the flying eggs! Dum-Dum is less than impressed by the young man, but Fury reminds him that they're on the same side. He assures them that he graduated at the top of his class and has trained hard for the assignment. S.H.I.E.L.D. must learn who is responsible for launching those eggs and Nick must make himself a target in order to wait for their next attack! Sitwell continues to assure the S.H.I.E.L.D. director that he will do his best, and Nick smiles when Jasper thanks him for the commendation. Sitwell closes his eyes and continues to vow to be worthy of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s trust, while Nick and Dum-Dum sit in two barber chairs! When the barber asks the colonel if he wants the usual, Fury frowns and says, "Yeah, and make it fast!" Sitwell still has his eyes closed and his mouth open... knowing that he is among the few entrusted to serve in S.H.I.E.L.D., a responsibility he doesn't take lightly! The barber chairs begin to descend through the floor... with Dugan asking Fury if the kid's fer real? The S.H.I.E.L.D. director knows that you meet all kinds in the spy business. Jasper is about to wrap up his speech... promising to humbly add new luster to the glory of S.H.I.E.L.D. and this being reward enough! He then spouts, "Don't Yield... Back S.H.I.E.L.D.! Dum-Dum is starting to feel nauseous and Nick figures that they can lease him to U.N.C.L.E. Now opening his eyes, Jasper Sitwell sees that the two men and the barber chairs they were sitting in are... gone! The barber sighs and knows that some guys have all the luck!

On the cover, the Druid's outfit is colored green instead of purple.

H. Purcell must be Howard Purcell, who drew Congorilla, among other features at D.C.

M. Demeo is none other than Mike Esposito.

A flying egg is the favorite transportation of Mork from Ork.

Nick's protective suit bears some resemblance to the Human Bomb.

The S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued car resembles a yellow Jaguar automobile.

This issue marks the first appearance of Jasper Sitwell, and one wonders if this particular agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. sat well with the rest of his co-workers.

Sitwell had a memorable appearance in the pages of Tales of Suspense, where the Grey Gargoyle is on the rampage at the factory of Tony Stark, and the over-zealous agent soon finds himself in a petrified state at the villain's touch.

In the '70s, Jasper Sitwell would be part of a triangle involving himself, Tony Stark, and Whitney Frost, aka Madame Masque.

If I were asked to draw a conclusion as to whom would serve as Jasper Sitwell's D.C. counterpart, I would come up with both Johnny Thunder and Jimmy Olsen. You look at these characters and wonder what the heck they're doing in S.H.I.E.L.D., The Justice Society of America, and being Superman's Pal, respectively. They are fun characters, nonetheless, and provide much comedy relief in the books they are in.

The Druid would re-appear in the '70s in the pages of Captain America in 1975.

The Druid would then reappear in Captain America #256 in a story by Bill Mantlo and Gene Colan. The story takes place at Greymoor Castle, a place which Cap had last visited during World War II in the pages of Tales of Suspense.

Bill Mantlo had the Druid searching for an arcane book, but the star-spangled avenger ended up with it, before turning it over to the Scarlet Witch.

The mystery of the book would be unraveled in the pages of the first Vision and Scarlet Witch four-issue miniseries, which was drawn by Rick Leonardi, and inked by Ian Akin.

Steve Chung
"The Review of The Druid!"