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Strange Tales 89
"Fin Fang Foom!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND October 1961

STORY ONE! 'Fin Fang Foom!'

Script: Larry Lieber (?)
Art: Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers

'Today, inside the totalitarian regime of Red China, scenes such as this occur frequently...' It's night in a city setting, as two men with pale yellow-colored skin (thus, Chinese) and clothed in sport jackets, slacks and narrow-brimmed hats, run from the police! These latter, dressed in heavy jackets and wearing fur-lined caps, are firing on the fleeing pair as their commander yells, 'The freedom-loving traitors must be seized and punished!' 'But as they race through the narrow winding alleys, the servants of communist tyranny suddenly stop dead in their tracks!' Written on the side of a building is the dreaded name Fin Fang Foom! The chase is abandoned as the police hurridly wipe the words from the wall!

The story now becomes the first-person narrative of Chan Liuchow, who is American on his mother's side. He lives on the island of Formosa (Taiwan), and is a disappointment in his father's eyes. 'Why do you not join the Nationalist Army as your brother has done?? You know the army defends Formosa...it prevents the Iron Curtain aggressors from attacking our people! Why do you refuse to take part in our fight against evil???' Chan replies that he serves his country in his own way, but his father is not swayed. 'Your OWN way?? Hah! By studying ancient legends and old history texts?' Chan's brother Chung, standing nearby, chimes in against our hero, who leaves the room. Father then flatters Chung, his staunchly dedicated soldier son. In reply, Chung swears to defend the people's freedom with his life, if necessary.

One day, Chung rushes into the house and announces that the Reds are massing on the mainland coast, and that he'd been called to 24-hour duty. Chan thinks, 'There are MANY ways to fight tyranny! Chung has chosen HIS way, and I have chosen MINE!' That night, Chan takes a small boat and sails to the coast of Red China. Since he'd unearthed an ancient manuscript telling the legend of Fin Fang Foom, which he believes to be far more than a legend, he'd been working on a plan. Now is the time for him to ACT! A couple of guards with binoculars didn't see his boat arrive under the full moon, and he slips past them, 'silent as the cobra!' By dawn he'd penetratred their defenses.

Meanwhile, since the boat was seen as it left for the mainland, Chan's father assumes that his son became frightened by the imminent attack, and went to join the enemy!

Later, many miles inland, Chan arrives at the crypt described in the manuscripts. Even better, it's guarded by a 'primitive tribe' who don't know what it contains! Since they themselves are forbiddem to enter, Chan races through this armed group and descends the chambers, which lead under the Great Wall of China! At last, he stands before the sleeping behemoth, his height matching the distance between Foom's chin and the bottom of his nose. 'The ancient manuscript described two kinds of HERBS! One to make the monster sleep...and the other to AROUSE him as it's brushed against his lips...like THIS!' And, ooh baby, it works...the monster wakes! Foom speaks, expressing gratitude. Chan replies that, now that he's seen that Foom is so huge and ugly, that it's best to put him back to sleep forever! Foom declares Chan his enemy, and after some taunting, gives chase. The tunnel is too narrow, so Foom burrows to the surface. The guardsmen panic, Foom rants, and Chan revels in the success of his plan.

PART 2!

Foom lifts a section of the Great Wall and snaps it like a bullwhip! Chan, now on horseback, calls to him and the monster gives chase! Chan's plan is to stay just out of reach so that Foom will follow where he leads. While crossing a river, Chan is separated from his horse but makes it to the other side, taunting the monster again. The big dummy somehow manages to lag behind as the running Chan eventually gets back to the coast...and the Red batallion! The soldiers are so amazed by the sight of Foom that they don't notice Chan running through their line, leading the monster to destroy their barracks, artillery and ships while in pursuit. In very short order, the troop is scattered, their invasion thwarted.

Chan now stands defiantly in the open, mocking Foom as inferior! The ground trembles as Foom follows Chan's Jeep back the way they came, miles inland. In one of the peasants' homes near the temple, Chan sees that they'd left all their possessions, and he grabs one useful item. Foom, having seenChan nearby, clambers down his tunnel, satisfied that Chan will be unable to escape these catacombs without passing him. And hah! Foom catches sight of his quarry! Balling a fist, Foom adminsters DOOM! However, what he's really hit is a mirror in front of a tunnel wall! Chan uses the moment to dart from hiding and rub the sleep-inducing herb against Foom's lips. In a moment, it's over. The heroic, disheveled young man returns easily to his home island, as the coast is now unguarded.

However! He'd lost his wallet in the fray, so the Reds learned his identity and have posted a large reward for his capture! As brother Chung looks approvingly on, the father speaks to Chan admiringly though with some puzzlement: how did he stop the invasion? 'There are many ways to wage war, father! Some men do it with a sword...others with a bit of knowledge, which they manage to glean from ancient writings!' The end!

STORY TWO! Step up, dear reader, and meet THE GREEN THINGS! (Signed by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.) Wealthy Martin Kastle, a retired businessman, dotes over the plants in his greenhouse. One night, when all the servants are away, a burglar scales the wall of the secluded estate, and ties a bandana over his lower face. Entering the greenhouse, he points his gun and declares it a stickup.

Kastle stares him down, telling him there's nothing that he would want. Burglar tears a flower out of the soil, and threatens to tear the place apart! Kastle lunges foward, tearing the bandana away: 'You mustn't harm my friends! I won't let you...oh! I know you! You're the chauffer I fired last month!' The burglar slams a right hook against Kastle's jaw, knocking him backward; Kastle's head hits hard on the way down. The embittered burglar points the gun, releases the safety catch...and the gun is pulled from his hand by some highly movitaved vines! Now all the plants are reaching toward him! Burglar tries to run, but is tripped by some sturdy fronds! Snaking tendrils then hoist him aloft by his ankles!

Meanwhile, some large leaves delicately nudge Kastle into a sitting position, while dantier ones frame his face, filling his senses with chlorophyll. Soon, he revives, thanking his 'pets.' Then, as a vine holds the gun on the burglar, Kastle points accusingly at him and declares, 'NO man is helpless! Not so long as he has friends!! And as you now know--I DO have friends! Angry, venegeful friends!' The burglar stammers, 'Wha-what are they gonna DO??' The caption takes us out: 'What did they do, you ask? Well, what would YOU do, dear reader, if YOU were one of Martin Kastle's...FRIENDS?' The end!

STORY THREE! 'The touch of MIDAS!' (Signed by artist Paul Reinman.) Wealthy Simon Kluge was one mean guy. When his butler asked for the afternoon off, to take his wife to the hospital, Kluge tells him he must work the entire afternoon, for if he leaves early he doesn't have to bother coming back! Later, Kluge instructs his agent to buy a kids' playground so that he can turn it into a parking lot! But, this wouldn't concern us if Kluge didn't have a particular obsession. His researches have convinced him that the Midas touch is more than a legend! Kluge's reverie shows King Midas of ages past, who had been granted the power to turn things he touched into gold. This apparent blessing was soon revealed to be a curse, as all the food Midas touched turned to gold as well. Kluge smirks to himself that the answer is to simply wear gloves, and since he has gloves, all that remains is to obtain the enchantment!

Month later, his quest takes him to a remote castle in a small European country. The gate is locked, but his desperation leads him to clamber over the stone wall. In the courtyard, he spies a well, filled with water, and he lunges for it. An elderly man tells him to stop, as the well is enchanted, but Kluge argues with him. The old man insists he not touch the water, implores him, but Kluge pushes past him and soaks his hands. An old wagon wheel catches his eye, and as he touches it it changes into gold! Then, he touches the wall and its length is transformed to gold! He runs and touches the castle and its entirety becomes gold!

Giddy with his own cleverness, Kluge reaches into his jacket and puts on the gloves...which (shock ending) turn to gold! He jumps to the conclusion that anything touched by the gloves will likewise turn to gold, and breaks into a sweat. The Midas touch has claimed another victim! The end!

Three great...well, riveting...stories for your ten cents.

One month after this issue was on the stands: Fantastic Four #1.

While the cover story takes place on Formosa, the human figure is colored as if Caucasian. Notably, he is wearing sandals. Maybe the colorist missed this tip that actually he's Chinese, and maybe editorial didn't want to risk alienating potential customers in our Commie-fearing nation; I'm assuming the former. In the story itself, none of these urban folks wears sandals. For that matter, Fin Fang Foom is green on the cover and orange inside the book, where he's larger and more serpantine to boot. The covers were drawn before the interiors, so perhaps Jack took the character in a slitherier direction as an afterthought. FFF is wearing huge shorts in both contexts, as did nearly all the huge monsters in these books. Heck, Charlton's Gorgo didn't wear no shorts! Charlton Comics Give You More!

It's commonly held that Stan's name appears on the things he wrote, westerns and romances and the rest. This one's unsigned, so it's possible Larry scripted it, though Stan seems to have claimed it in interviews. Perhaps Stan supplied only the plot and the beastie's name. He did sign the Ditko story, but not the Reinman.

Since Chan's mother is referred to as American, I suppose we're to assume she's Caucasian, and thus the root of Chan's rebeliousness. There's also the possibility she was also of Chinese extraction but raised and educated in the West, and thus the cause of his rebelliousness. In either case, darn those Westerners and their offspring's fascination with ancient writings!

Just how far inland from Formosa is the Great Wall, anyway? The guy was mostly on foot, two round trips! And the whole thing took place in a day or two!

Marvel later had one other Chinese character whose American mother who nad no role in the proceedings: Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. That series was originally developed as 'Son of Fu Manchu' at a time when Marvel was pursuing any number of licenses. The title was changed to emphasize the action over the sinister roots, if not with an eye to dropping the Fu Manchu license once the character was established. Other literary and movie tie-ins at the time included Conan, Planet of the Apes, War of the Worlds, James Bond, Dr. Who, and various Cthulu elements in Dr. Strange.

This business of waging war based on 'knowledge gleaned from ancient writings' cuts a little too close to current envents.

Paul Reinman was a solid professional, with credits at several publishing houses for three decades. While he was never considered in the top ranks, he knew his stuff. For a time in the 40s, following the great Burne Hugarth, he drew the syndicated Tarzan page. When Marvel was hitting its stride in the early 60s, he was among the first new hires. Apparently, his Mighty Comics work, not his best but not at all bad, has just been reprinted.

Tom Orzechowski