Carbon Copy Crap: Al Hartley’s Thor

Journey Into Marvel – Part 76

Other men reveal their feelings! Why don’t I? Why don’t i just up and tell Jane that I love her?? What am I afraid of?? Blast it!! Am I a man or a mouse?!! I, who possess the greatest strength on Earth…who would battle entire armies…who would defy the heavens themselves! I fear nothing!…Nothing! Nothing…except the mocking laughter of a beautiful woman, upon learning that afrail, timid doctor is hopelessly in love with her! – Dr. Blake/Thor

It's all discombobulated.

It’s all discombobulated.

Extremites, Journey Into Marvel is bi-polar. One moment I’m reading a historically significant issue, that has far reaching repercussions for fandom, and the next I’m neck deep in  crap. After the last issue where Hulk crossed over with the Fantastic Four and changed comic book history, I return to a Marvel rush job with Journey Into Mystery.

If you’ve followed his series on the regular you will be familiar with my term ‘Marvel Rush Job.’ For those who are uninitiated: the Marvel Rush Job was result of limited resources and a surplus of responsibilities in the Silver Age writer’s bullpen. The Marvel Bullpen, circa 1963, was overwhelmed with work and most of that work fell on the shoulders of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. In some issues like Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery — Tales to Astonish too— Stan Lee’s brother Larry Lieber was roped into writing the occasional script, although Stan Lee is almost always credited as having conceived  the plot. The artwork has, with the exception of Spider-Man, always been the work of Jack Kirby. But Journey Into Mystery #90 is the first issue thus far that another name is in this position. That name is Al Hartley.

Who is this Hartley?

Al Hartley... the offender.

Al Hartley… the offender.

Although I promise to take these issues at face value and just read what is presented in front of me without any outside opinion to colour my impressions of the story at hand, this time I felt compelled to research who this Al Hartley is. Al Hartley was a ringer artist that has credits at DC, Archie Comics, a couple other places, and the occasional Marvel comic. There were tons of artists like this in this period. Names that come into a company when someone needs to complete an issue on time. Extremites, I have said many negative things about Jack Kirby in the past, normally in reference to his inability to draw women, but Jack Kirby looks like Da Vinci compared to Al Hartley.

This issue looks like I drew it. That is not a compliment because I am no artist. Don Blake’s head is huge and his body is rendered like a stick figure. The faces are without lines and expression. Jane Foster resembles a doll and everyone is plastic in all things, movement, expression, and even skin tone— although that’s not necessarily Al Hartley’s fault as the artist did not colour his own work. This has to be the worst art I have encountered thus far in my Journey. I have done some research and discovered that many fans complained about Al’s work in this one and when the story was rereleased in the 1970s another artist rerealized it.

As to the story, this is also a typical rush job. Rush jobs often feature one of two antagonists: either Communists or Alien invaders. Sometimes both. This story concerns an alien race called the Xartans who have the power to change into anything they see and create a ‘carbon copy’ of it. Never mind that these characters are rip offs of Skrulls, this race is like the plethora of others in the Marvel Universe: empty headed and moronic fillers. About the only interesting part of this issue is the cameo from Odin where he iterates that it would blasphemy for Don to announce his alter-ego to Jane Foster. Although Odin never gives a reason for this, and I guess he doesn’t have too because he is a god and all.

At the very end of this issue the aliens are duped by Thor into changing into trees. Where like trees they loose all cognition and are stuck in the form forever. I don’t know why I felt like I had share that. I just think it is funny. It’s moments like that show the possibility for wit these comics can have.

Stick figure Don.

Stick figure Don.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:Trapped By The Carbon Copy Man!” (Journey Into Mystery #90 Mar. 1963)

Rating: 1 out of 5

Pros: Funny ending.

Cons: The art is god awful. The Xartans are rip offs of Skrulls. Most of this story is wasted space.

Next Review:The Metal Master” (The Incredible Hulk #6 Mar. 1963)

Last Review:The Incredible Hulk” (Fantastic Four #12 Mar. 1963)


About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on May 1, 2015, in Comics, Marvel, Odin, Thor and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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