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Silver Age September – The Debut of the Cosmic Cube!

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

We recently looked at how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby worked the Red Skull into the Silver Age. Well, now, from a year later, see Tales of Suspense #79-81, one of the most memorable battles of the Silver Age, as Captain America faces off against the Red Skull – who is powered by the Cosmic Cube (in its first appearance)!!

Enjoy!

Our tremendous tale begins in Tales of Suspense #79 (by Lee, Kirby and inker Frank Giacoia), as we see the creation of the Cosmic Cube (the Red Skull is “working with” AIM, but he is preparing even then to betray them)…

That betrayal takes place at the beginning of #80 (same creative team except Don Heck now on inks), and it leads to a great action sequence of Captain America springing into battle, countered with the Red Skull being particularly horrific (to a character who was established last issue as one of his closest allies)…

Once on the island, Cap fights the Skull, but while the Skull is outclassed, fighting-wise, he has an edge – he doesn’t mind playing dirty!!

Things are looking bad for Cap in #81 (Frank Giacoia is back as Kirby’s inker), as he tries to take the Skull out before he’s too used to the power…

Lee and Kirby are crackling here, aren’t they? It’s a really interesting premise for a story, which is why the Cosmic Cube has been used a lot ever since – it is a great plot device!

In any event, in the story, it looks like this is the end for Captain America until he tries one last gambit…

To see how Cap’s plan worked out, pick up Essential Captain America Vol. 1, which has this story plus FORTY OTHER Captain America stories (from Tales of Suspense, so they’re not particularly long)!!!

11 Comments

Awesome stuff. You could fill the entire “best of Silver Age” month with Kirby!

always wondered when the red skull got a hold of the cosmic cube.

Another story I was just reading (I’ve got a ton of Essentials). Why is the Skull a good villain? He knows he’s evil and he says everything with a sneer. You’ve gotta love that. Silver Age Cap is so fun, even with his obsession over dead Bucky.

As noted below, I think this is the first time a Silver Age villain kills an underling; and also as below, my suspicion is that the reason they could kill the underling in this story and not in the prior Skull story was that the Skull suffers a serious defeat here. In the wartime stories, the Skull always escapes, which would violate the Code’s “no villain goes unpunished for capital crimes” rule.

Thus we get dialogue in the first Silver Age Skull story that turns a string of murders into the use of “amnesia gas,” and a later dialogue fix that turns a man being gunned down into a man terrorized by having the buttons shot off his coat.

Also of minor note: while Wolfgang clearly won’t be appearing again, Horst shows up in J.M. DeMatteis’s 300th issue sequence — the “Death of the Red Skull” story — where he, like the Skull, starts aging rapidly. The Skull seems to care for him, but in fact is simply observing how long Horst takes to die so that he can plan for his own seeming demise.

Man, I love Kirby’s renditions of the Skull here!
Those side views of the Skull cackling with evil!
The whole green jump suit with ascot (and the carnation!) “costume” is classic!

Another great story.

A great pick. Some comments:

1.Frank Giacoia: To my mind, he is Kirby’s best inker. He seems to preserve more of Kirby’s rough hewn dynamism than, say, Sinnott.

2. Lee and Kirby: Man, they were on fire during this period.

3. MARVEL Continuity: One of the fun bits about this storyline is how interconnected the Cap series in TALES OF SUSPENSE was with the Nick Fury series in STRANGE TALES.

4.Omar Karindu: Interesting stuff about this possibly being the first SA super villain killing an underling scene. It somehow seems appropriate that the Red Skull should get the (dis)honor.

I’ve always wondered about villains killing their underlings. I don’t think a lot of people would be lining up to work for the Red Skull if he had a reputation for killing his employees. I also always wondered who’d want to be an imperial officer if Darth Vader would choke you to death on a whim. I wonder how often this happens with real criminals.

This few pages and panels give the Skull so many expressions. In one of them, he looks like a child!

As a long-time Captain America fan, I have never actually been too enthusiastic about the Cosmic Cube. Thinking about it, yeah, this very first story to feature it, by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, is definitely good. But then Lee and numerous other writers just kept bringing it back over and over again. I think the same thing applies to both the Cosmic Cube and Galactus: the law of diminishing results. The more times they were used in subsequent stories, the less impressive and special they became.

For example, even as early as the second appearance of the Cube, wherein the Red Skull uses the Cube to swap bodies with Captain America, its potential as an all-powerful weapon was squandered. The Skull once again gains absolute power over all reality and he just wastes it spending four issues watching Cap fleeing the authorities and fighting those geriatric Nazi losers the Exiles. If that storyline hadn’t featured the introduction of the Falcon, it would be quite forgettable.

At least in the Captain America movie the Cosmic Cube was used less spuriously by the Red Skull, namely to energize an entire armament of Hydra’s weaponry into super death rays.

I love the Skulls eyes as he is about to touch the cube.

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