Just before Marvel was Marvel, the comic book company was a nameless but distinctive and seemingly endless parade of giant monsters.
Stan Lee was weary of it, but the talents of Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko enlivened the standard twist-ending plots and kept those dimes coming in.
Substances and species were switched every month to supply new rampaging creatures. A water monster in April, a smoke monster in May. A giant ant in June’s issue, and a giant lizard in July’s.
Disposable, all. Yet one of them — a tree monster named Groot — has become an immensely popular movie character for Disney-Marvel. How ironic, as they say in the comics.
Marvel’s past was recalled and its future foreshadowed n Strange Tales 76 (August 1960). This time, the substance was fire. A giant flaming alien named Dragoom terrorizes Earth until he’s conned by movie special effects in a wrapup that’s implausible even by comic book standards.
But who cared? The fun was in Kirby’s art. He had a trick of having his giant alien invaders describe the horrific world-destroying plans they had for humanity, giving him the opportunity to draw several big, entertaining disaster scenes that really had nothing to do with the plot.
In 1960, most readers were too young to recognize Dragoom as a monstrous variation on the theme of one of Marvel’s most popular Golden Age superheroes, the Human Torch. He hadn’t been seen since Human Torch 38 (August 1954). And they couldn’t know he would be seen again, soon, in his fresh, edgy teenage incarnation in Fantastic Four 1 (November 1961).