Azrael: Agent of the Bat: 1 issue from 2002
Writer: Denny O’Neil
Read this because I was looking something up, but while I’m mentioning it, this is actually a pretty underrated series. It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure in some ways, but I recommend it.
Strange Tales: 34 issues from 1965-1968
Writers: Stan Lee (co-writer on Nick Fury story in 16 issues, co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 16 issues), Jack Kirby (Nick Fury story in 1 issue, co-writer on Nick Fury story in 18 issues), Steve Ditko (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 12 issues), Roy Thomas (Doctor Strange story in 1 issue, co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 4 issues, co-writer on Nick Fury story in 2 issues), Denny O’Neil (Doctor Strange story in 2 issues, co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 5 issues, co-writer on Nick Fury story in 1 issue), Bill Everett (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 2 issues), Marie Severin (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 8 issues), Jim Steranko (Nick Fury story in 14 issues, co-writer on Nick Fury story in 1 issue), Raymond Marais (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 2 issues), Dan Adkins (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 8 issues), Jim Lawrence (co-writer on Doctor Strange story in 5 issues)
This is basically two series in one. I’m really here for Nick Fury, but I don’t mind catching the Doctor Strange stuff while I’m at it.
The Kirby-era Fury stuff is brilliant, and just so perfectly Kirby. There’s some new crazy idea every couple pages. Fury himself also has a lot of personality for a ‘60s character. And I mean, some of the stuff like Hydra’s secret weapon being attack squads of skateboard-riding assassins or S.H.I.E.L.D. distracting Mentallo and the Fixer with metronome attack sleds are perfectly ridiculous, but it’s also perfectly ridiculous. Fury seems to have noticed ‘60s characters’ habit of announcing the perfectly obvious, and his resulting sarcasm is great fun.
The Ditko Doctor Strange stories are OK, but there’s a lot of points where it seems essentially arbitrary what the characters can or can’t do. Like, sometimes Doctor Strange just does complicated magic stuff easily, and then other times the narration is all “No, really, trust us, this is really hard.” There’s also a ton of turnover in the creative team after Ditko leaves. Unsurprisingly, the O’Neil issues were my favorites. The Ancient One’s backstory at least has sort of a neat, mythic quality to it, and he tried to introduce some more relatable tension with the money problems, even if Bill Everett immediately undid it. Severin’s run gets a little ridiculous introducing a NEW MOSTEST POWERFULEST VILLAIN EVER, one after another. And it’s 99% the Ancient One’s fault, that guy is an idiot.
Jim Steranko’s run on Nick Fury is supposed to be where it gets good, but… hm. It’s got less of the sheer manic energy of Kirby’s run, but there are lots of neat twists and reversals. I liked the Hydra Island arc, but the immediate next thing it does is dredge up the Yellow Claw, who is an extremely unfortunate (and unusually literal) yellow peril stereotype.