Like Tales to Astonish and Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales was an anthology title that gradually became a Marvel Universe book. It started with #101, which was the first Human Torch solo-story. In the grand tradition of never leaving money on the table, Stan Lee knew the Fantastic Four was a hit comic, so he tried to expand the title. This was still prior to a full-fledged “shared universe,” but we did see very brief crossing-over with The Fantastic Four.
These early stories really aren’t very good, and they don’t matter at all—so I’m grouping a bunch of them together. But there is a map! And it’s pretty fascinating. Johnny has detailed undersea maps, which me must assume means he is tracking Namor. And he researches pyrotechnics and star charts and “experiments with chemicals”–and yet he never seems very brainy!
In the first Strange Tales stories, Johnny Storm is a “secret identity” for the Human Torch, even though in Fantastic Four he never wears a mask and appears with his sister all the time. In issue #106, though, they “explain” it by saying that the town Johnny lives in was just humoring him and they knew all the time.
Kinda makes Johnny seem stupid. But I have to forgive Stan and Jack for this—nobody had ever paid that much attention to continuity before. By making their comics so good, they made people care—and start to believe in the universe that was forming right before their eyes in these early years.
Creators: Stan Lee (plot), Larry Lieber (script), Jack Kirby (pencils), Dick Ayers (inker)
First Appearance: The Wizard (#102), Paste Pot Pete (#104).
Grade: D. Below average, pretty much fodder for a pulp machine and nothing else.
For the complete history of the MU, year by year, go here.