Most Ridiculous Comic I’ve Read In A Long Time: Journey Into Mystery #2 (1952)

Journey into Mystery issue 2 is definitely of the most ridiculous–and most enjoyable–comic books I’ve read in a long time, and as fans of this site know, I read a lot of comics. I’m always on the lookout for all things ridiculous and campy. The one criteria I have is that books and movies can’t be ridiculous and campy on purpose. I like my ridiculousness to be genuine. On those grounds, Journey Into Mystery #2 is a gem.

Most nerdlingers know Journey Into Mystery as the comic where Thor first debuted. What you might not know is that Thor didn’t enter into it until issue 83. The series itself started as a horror anthology book. Over the years, the pressure of censorship coerced Stan Lee and the gang to modify Journey Into Mystery into another superhero book, but prior to that, the book was a vehicle for any cockamamie idea the writers at Marvel had in mind.

About a week ago, I read Journey Into Mystery #1 and wasn’t too enthused. Today I read #2 and was delighted. Apparently, they hadn’t got into the swing of things in the first issue, but got their act together in the second. Somehow, the writers manage to stuff 5 or 6 horror shorts into a 26 page comic. 

It’s the first story that earns Journey Into Mystery #2 the award of being one of the most ridiculous comics I’ve read. The title is “The Scarecrow.” Don’t be fooled, there’s no actual scarecrow in the story. If that’s what you want, check out Goosebumps. Instead, the scarecrow refers to the main character, a skinny, wimpy and angsty young man who can’t seem to get ahead in life. At the start of the comic, he’s employed posing as the weak nerd in ads modeled after the Atlast fitness ads. He’s essentially the “before” pic. Later, he spies on a muscular lunkhead type winning the affection of a vivacious brunette in a bikini. As she strokes the guy’s muscles, the shrimpy young man thinks “I wish I could get one woman to sigh over me like that… Even an ugly one.”

If I may, I’d like to go ahead and spoil this one. It’s too good to resist. Tired of being looked over due to his scrawniness, the main character visits a curio shop where he picks up a vial of something that’s sure to make him increase muscle mass in minutes. The clerk suggests he buy the antidote while he’s at it, but, caught up in the moment, the shrimpy guy says if he’s buff, why would he want to revert to normal?

He takes the potion and, just as advertised, bulks up right away, so fast in fact that he ruins a perfectly fine pair of pajamas. Once he’s buff, young women flock to him and he beats up bullies. As you may have guessed, he becomes the type of man he formerly despised.

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because there was a Twilight Zone episode just like it where Mickey Rooney wishes to be a big guy, then ends up growing too big and can barely fit in his own bedroom. If The Scarecrow stole that idea, it at least took it somewhere a TV show couldn’t go: into pure absurdity.

Pride comes before the fall, as the saying goes, and the main character’s fall is quite literal. He wakes up in the morning finding his bed bending. He quickly realizes he’s become too buff, and his new weight will make his life an ergonomic nightmare. He reaches for the phone and calls the clerk, claiming he’ll pay anything for the antidote, but before he can get an answer, he breaks through the floor of his apartment, and right through the floor below! The last panel of The Scarecrow shows the character plummeting through the earth’s crust!

There’s plenty of things that make no sense here, but the weirdest of all is that he’s the one narrating the story. How’s he telling the story if he’s plummeting towards the earth’s core?

The other stories are quite bizarre too. My second favorite features a sleazy agent stealing his client’s girlfriend, and his client happens to be a pro wrestler. He’s caught with his arms around her by the wrestler, and he quickly locks the door. As the wrestler pounds on the door, the woman turns into a ghoulish vampire! It ends with the agent stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Journey Into Mystery #2 will probably cost you a pretty penny if you’re a collector, but if you have a subscription to the Marvel website (costs about $9.99 a month) you can read it for free online. This is one I’d definitely recommend. The horror is slight, but the laughs are plentiful.

—-Hey, make sure to read my book The Madness of Art: Short Stories.

Also, head on over to my new public Facebook page for fun updates from a poor writer’s world.

If you have happened to read Journey Into Mystery #2, what was your opinion?

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