Episode 177: The Absence of Evidence (Strange Tales #129 + Amazing Spider-Man #21 + Tales of Suspense #62) -- February 1965
In this episode:
Mike and Ed discuss the recent exploits of the Human Torch. In less than a week he has captured four super criminals, and he has done it with style. Meanwhile, Dr. Strange has been asked by the media to come forward and explain what magic is, and has refused. The hosts contrast the different choices that these two superheroes have made for handling public relations, and argue that Dr. Strange may be making a choice that leads to being ostracized like Spider-Man. Also: A lack of evidence does not mean something has been proven to not exist.
Behind the comic:
The three issues we discuss in this episode were all released on the same day (at least officially). Marvel’s two most popular characters at the time were Spider-Man and the Human Torch, and ASM #21 is a great example of Stan differentiating the two teenagers: in the eyes of the public, the Torch can do no wrong, and Spider-Man can do nothing right.
In these issues:
Strange Tales #129:
Three of the supervillains (who were given powers by Dr. Doom previously) have escaped from prison. Johnny “the Human Torch” Storm hears about it while on a date with his girlfriend on the golf course, and quickly races to investigate. He is overpowered by the trio after running out of energy and captured, but is able to fire a flash to alert his teammate Ben “the Thing” Grimm. Ben races to the scene but he is likewise overpowered. The two heroes are tied to train tracks, although the Thing is able to kick the train away, and thereafter capture the three supervillains.
The media want Dr. Strange to discuss magic on a TV show; he answers the requests with silence. TV presenters who decry Dr. Strange and, from their perspectives, “alleged” magical abilities have an old statue rumoured to have mystic powers that they wanted to ask Dr. Strange about. The four TV presenters mysteriously disappear, leaving only the old statue on the studio floor. Dr. Strange investigates and determines, with the help of his mentor, that the statue does have mystic powers connected with an ancient and evil magician named Tiboro. Dr. Strange confronts Tiboro and is able to best him after a fantastic battle, freeing the four TV presenters. The rescued quartet are grateful and want to put on a show about how magic is real, although Dr. Strange casts a spell so that they all forget what happened.
Amazing Spider-Man #21
The supervillain Abner “the Beetle” Jenkins is released from prison and immediately sets about planning his revenge against the Human Torch. Before the inevitable battle, we see how the public responds to the Human Torch - with love and admiration - and Spider-Man - with fear and trepidation. The Beetle first battles Spider-Man, and their battle leads to them crashing into the house of the Torch’s girlfriend Dorrie. The Beetle kidnaps Dorrie, and when the Torch arrives at her place, he mistakenly thinks that Spider-Man was involved. The two battle and, once the Torch figures out that Spider-Man was not involved in kidnapping Dorrie, they team up to fight the Beetle, eventually overcoming the supervillain.
Tales of Suspense #62:
The episode opens with Iron Man captured and at the mercy of the Mandarin, who goes about monologuing his supervillain origin story (which involves capturing rings from an alien spacecraft). Iron Man breaks free from his confinement and is able to break up the Mandarin’s efforts at starting a nuclear war. The two battle, with the Mandarin fleeing, vowing to destroy Iron Man another day.
Assumed before the next episode:
People are wondering if Dr. Strange is legit or a fraud, and they are still unsure about whether Spider-Man can be trusted. Meanwhile, everyone loves the Fantastic Four.
This episode takes place:
After news stories about Dr. Strange refusing to talk about magic, and about Spider-Man and the Torch’s battle, are aired.