Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Fog Up a Smoke Monster

An unintended consequence of overreliance on your physical strength can be intellectual weakness. In other words, bullies aren’t too bright.
Homer knew it. Who survived the Trojan War — the vainglorious tough guy Achilles or the canny Odysseus? And Stan Lee and Jack Kirby knew it, too, in their seemingly endless series of giant monster stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
These planet-shaking wonders could typically be conned by a clever human who cut some pictures out of a comic book, or threatened them with a cigarette lighter.
That’s what happened to poor Diablo, the lead monster in Tales of Suspense 9 (Dec. 1959). Despite his gigantic size, telepathic powers and Dr. Doom-like habit of shouting “Silence!,” the alien smoke monster was chased back off into interstellar space by some guy who terrified him by puffing out the smoke from a lighter.
The story, a favorite of mine, illustrates one of the tricks Kirby used to jazz up his monster invasion and early Marvel superhero stories. As the alien invader or supernatural threat indulges himself by describing the horrors to which he plans to subject we poor human weaklings, Kirby goes to town illustrating his thoughts, thereby bringing in more spectacular action scenes and making the tale less static.
Diablo reappeared in Marvel’s first 25-cent giant comic, the excellent Strange Tales Annual 1 from 1962, and later returned to make the mistake of threatening the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk is unimpressed by smoke monsters. 

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