Strange Tales #160: "Project: Blackout"

Strange Tales #160
"Project: Blackout"
September, 1967

STAN LEE: Editor
JIM STERANKO: Writer/Illustrator
SAM ROSEN: Letterer

It was on November 10, 1965 at 7: 45 P.M. that eight states on the
eastern coast were trapped in darkness for twelve hours, while Nick Fury
and his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fought against an incredible incursion
from an unknown source.  Two years have passed since the time of the
Blackout Dossier, but the answers have not been found yet.

The Blackout Dossier is a dead end file, but a friend of Captain America
may be able to shed some light on the subject.  The Living Legend of
World War II introduces Colonel Fury to F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo.  The
F.B.I. agent had battled one of the most elusive criminal minds in the
world, but then the madman disappeared from sight.  The villain was
thought dead, but the agency has uncovered evidence that Woo's quarry is
far from deceased.  Jimmy listens as the Colonel tells his story about
what happened at the ESP Division back in 1965.

The trio of telepaths had received a psychic transmission from the
thought communicator beam device.  The SHIELD director saw that an image
had begun to form on the vue-plate overhead, and in that moment, a sense
of impending doom was felt in the room.  SHX-39 had little time to
transmit to SHIELD HQ about the incredible threat from the Himalayas in
Tibet.  This was too big for one lone agent to handle.  The entire
country is in danger unless he is stopped.  The location is Bedloe Island
and the one behind it is Yel -- RAKKOOM!  A blast of energy enveloped the
ESP device and rocked the entire room.  The telepaths were caught at the
center of the vortex.  As technicians rush to inspect the damage, they
comment to the Colonel that only something unimaginable could have caused
such an effect.  Something... or someone.

With trouble on Bedloe Island, SHIELD contacted Avengers Mansion, and
Captain America answers the call.  With the rest of Earth's Mightiest
Heroes away on personal business, the Sentinel of Liberty agrees to meet
with Fury at the Statue of Liberty.  CAROOM  The sparrow pro-pel-pak
enables Nick Fury to reach the island in a small amount of time.  Once on
the ground, and with Captain America nowhere in sight, the Colonel sets
out to search the lower levels first.  After hiding his miniature flyer,
Fury heads for the sub-basements, where he hears a strange noise up

An invading army is based under the Statue of Liberty, and their numbers
continue to stream through the walls via an anti-gravity device.  The
Colonel cannot make a move until he learns what they're up to.

As he ponders his next move, a gloved hand clamps itself over his mouth,
and Nick Fury sees that help has just arrived.  Both he and Captain
America watch as the army begin to form squads.  The silent soldiers
listen to the words of their unseen master, who commands them to assemble
the Id-Paralyzer at once.  Fury and the Captain have both heard the
super-thought projection coming from the unusual headgear.  When the
squads split up, they see their chance to act.  The fourth phalanx is to
assemble the device, while numbers nine and ten man the generators.  The
others will act as sentries, as ordered by their master.  KRAK!  KA-RAM!
SPLANG!  Even so well-prepared an assembly such as this can be caught
off-guard by two unexpected guests who crash the party literally.

The soldiers are ordered to use their electronic weaponry on the
intruders, with Cap feeling the jolt through his shield.  Their only hope
is to take down the soldiers before they can regroup.  KKRAK!  SSSZZZSSK!
A burst of electricity takes the Captain down, leaving the Colonel to
act on his own.  After donning a special hood-filter, the SHIELD director
cracks open a sleep pellet.  FFFTTT!

BASH!  THOK!  Luckily for the Colonel, his SHIELD-issued suit is
fully-insulated against live charges.  As the soldiers' helmets are
removed from their heads, they go down for the count.  WRACK!  Fury is
quick to use this piece of information to his advantage.  Without the
headgear, the army are as so many mindless zombies.  With the gas
completing its work, Nick removes his hood-filter, and gets ready to do
his job.

Seeing that Captain America is alive but unconscious, the Colonel leaves
him a note.  After tearing out some wiring, Nick dons the headgear and
uniform from one of the zombies.  Fifteen minutes later, Cap would regain
consciousness, see what happened in his absence, and find Fury's note.
With no time to reach Tony Stark for a special device to deal with the
threat, Cap is to head for the Baxter Building.  Only with the aid of
Reed Richard can they hope to stop this incredible threat.  The Living
Legend of World War II dons one of the gravity-nullifying belts worn by
the soldiers when they arrived through the tunnel.  Seconds later, the
Avenger found himself soaring through the air, but then, his velocity
began to slow.  With the belt now powerless, Captain America was now over
Manhattan, and in free fall.

In the generator room at Bedloe Island, Nick Fury was playing a waiting
game against a well-armed invasion force.  He listens as the master's
instructions are repeated via thought projection, and learns that New
York City will be the first to fall under their control.  Once the entire
east coast is theirs, three other invasion forces will divide the nation
among them, and conquer for the glory of their master.  As the generators
are being adapted for the Id-Paralyzer, their master speaks, and his
servants heed his orders to find the imposter among them.  Knowing that
his time is up, the Colonel heads for the catwalk, and grabs for a
soldier's pistol.

WRAM!  Nick Fury fires the blaster and heads for an exit, in hopes of
placing some distance between him and his foes.  After removing the armor
plating that would slow him down, the Colonel climbs up a ladder, and
thinks that he had a much easier time of it on Hydra Island.  He hopes to
find the paralyzing machine, but before he can get far, Fury sees that
the ultra-weapon is being prepared right in front of him.

A sentry gets the drop on him, but the Colonel distracts him with some
snappy patter, and begins grappling with him.  Three other armored
sentries descend upon him, with Nick Fury being forced over the side of
Liberty's Torch, and down towards a second doom.

The blackout on November 10, 1965 was an actual event.  The names have
been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent.

F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo looks snazzy in his dark suit and makes me wonder
if he possibly joined the Men In Black instead.

When Woo became part of SHIELD, he became one of the gang, and the sense
that he could function on his own was lost since then.

The ESP Machine is similar in appearance to the suspended animation
machinery in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its users sharing the same
unfortunate fate.

The ghostly image of SHX-39 on the vue-plate makes for an effective
sequence in just four panels, with the trio of faces sharing the agent's
anxiety in his final moments.

The sound effects provided by Sam Rosen and the SHIELD technology
depicted by Jim Steranko are quite cool to see.

The sight of the invading armored zombie is the stuff of nightmare.
Imagine a Mongol horde clad in such futuristic attire and wielding such
weaponry.  You'd be struck by the sight, just before you'd be struck down
from sight.

Only a mastermind with an super-ego would think of inventing an

The hood-filter resembles an ordinary plastic bag with some holes in it.
Let's hope that no under-age Marvelites attempted to emulate their hero
by imitating his actions with a supermarket bag.

I can't argue with Captain America's thoughts about using the
gravity-nullifying belt to reach the Baxter Building in a short amount of
time.  I would think that the mastermind behind such an invention would
either have it booby-trapped if used by someone other than a servant or
control it himself from a safe distance, and cause it to fail if it
strayed beyond a certain radius.

I guess they didn't have those Avengers Card communicators back then.

Cap has failed and is falling fast, but he looks in fine form.

If there's nothing scarier than an unseen voice, it's having that unseen
voice seeing through your disguise, and not knowing who you're dealing

The mastermind has ordered his minions to play the instrument of doom and
turn its listeners into mindless slaves.  (Holy Tivo, Batman!)

Nick Fury had passed the torch onto Captain America, but now both heroes
are falling to their respective dooms.

Steve Chung
"Project: Review"