Fantastic Four #7   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #7

Credits listed as “By Stan Lee and J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

The issue opens on a bizarre looking alien with a gigantic head. This is pure Kirby, plain and simple. The guy had some out there designs and Kurrgo from Planet X is certainly one of them. Kurrgo informs us that he has been watching the Earth for weeks and has learned of the Fantastic Four. He proclaims how superior he is to earthlings in every way. He then laments the fact that is vastly superior planet is going to be destroyed by a giant meteor, and he needs the FF to save him. He WOULD just put all of his people on space ships and evacuate the planet, but his people never really cared for space travel, and as a result, have only two space ships on the planet. I guess his super advanced race of people couldn’t build more in the time it takes them to travel light years to Earth, capture the FF, bring them back to Planet X, and hope tat they can save the day.

Back on Earth, the FF have been invited to a dinner in their honor being held by the US Congress. Johnny doesn’t want to go because he is afraid he will be asked to make a speech, get nervous, and burst into flames. Ben doesn’t want to go because he knows he will lose his temper and trash Congress in a fit of rage. Sue doesn’t want to go because she will be too embarrassed to meet important people. Reed tells them they are all being silly babies and to quit their whining and go get dressed. After all, he is doing an important rocket fuel experiment that he has to abandon to go, and he isn’t complaining, even though he is the only one with a valid excuse.

Johnny leaves to get ready and hits the showers. Ben sneaks up and turns the water all the way to it’s hottest setting. johnny gets scared and flames on, turning all of the water to steam and causing the Baxter Building to be enveloped by fog.

The Fantastic Four jump into the Fantasticar and head to Washington. Sue had complained she had nothing to wear to a fancy dinner and I guess she was right, as the FF are going to this high class dinner dressed in their FF uniforms. On the way, they see a space ship entering Earth’s atmosphere, but mistake it for a secret test flight by the Americans. The ship arrives on Earth and a robot gets out, using a high tech scanner to search for the Four. The FF all get a weird feeling they are being watched, but the amazing coincidence of all of them becoming paranoid at the exact same time doesn’t faze them and they go on to Washington anyway.

At the dinner, the FF are treated like heroes and presented with a trophy as a token of appreciation for their hard work defending the country from evil. At this same time, the robot that Kurrgo sent to capture them blankets the city of Washington DC with a “hostility ray,” making everybody in the city hostile and angry, getting into fights with little or no provocation. It basically makes everybody act like The Thing. This doesn’t seem like the wisest course of action to me. How would making an entire city an unruly mob make it easier to kidnap the FF? And why kidnap them at all? If Kurrgo had been monitoring them for weeks, as he claimed, didn’t he realize they are heroic do-gooders? If he had just asked Reed to help with Planet X’s problem, I’m sure Reed and the rest of the FF would have not hesitated for a split second to help save the planet.

The Congressmen in attendance flip out and everyone attacks the FF, yelling that they are a menace and should be driven out of the country. The army quickly shows up, as in the 1960s Marvel U an army brigade is never more than a block away from any situation, and the FF use their powers to make their escape. As they fly away in the Fantasticar, the space ship from Planet X follows them. Reed tries to do some fancy flying to shake it, but the ship can’t be lost and it follows them back to the Baxter Building. Once they arrive on the roof, the giant robot comes out and says he has come to find them and give them a message from kurrgo, Master of Planet X. Hopefully, Kurrgos message is better than his plan so far.

The robot explains that no place on Earth is safe for the FF and that they will eventually be captured. He then tells how each of them could be detained despite their amazing powers. He offers them asylum on Planet X, in exchange for one favor that will be asked of them when they arrive. Reed agrees, despite protests from The Thing, who knows it is a trap. Reed says he has to go because of the curiosity facto of why they are needed on Planet X. So basically, all of the trickery and mob inducing wasn’t needed. Reed would have gone just to find out why he needed o be there. Looks like Kurrgo and his advanced race of aliens went through WAY more trouble than necessary. The Ff would have gone just if they were asked.

the FF arrive on Planet X and Kurrgo gives them the update on the problem. The planet is in disarray because a runaway planet is heading straight for them. Tides are rising higher and higher, volcanoes are erupting everywhere and the citizens are rioting in the street. Kurrgo informs them that if the FF doesn’t solve the problem, they will perish along with everyone else. Thing throws his usual tantrum and attacks the robot that brought them there, but to no avail. Johnny gets mad and goes to attack the robot, getting hotter than he ever has, as hot as a star! I guess he has amazing control over this ridiculous level of heat, as nobody standing inches away from him is at all effected by it. Sue jumps in front of the robot an Johnny deflames so he won’t hurt his sister. Kurrgo yells at them for fighting amongst themselves when they should be working on a solution. He obviously didn’t learn anything for all those weeks he was watching them.

The planet looms closer and a shock wave rattles the room. Reed says he has to think of something to save them. Kurrgo says he doesn’t care for the useless lives of the FF. It is always  good idea to call the only people in the universe who can save you “useless” minutes before your world is about to be destroyed. he also says he doesn’t care about his 5 billion subjects, he only wants them to be saved so he can continue to be their master. Nice guy, this Kurrgo. Reed has Kurrgo take him to a lab so he can whip up something.

And whip up something he does! We are treated to the first in what will be a LONG running series of Fantastic four splash pages, the “Reed makes an invention with the help of the FF” page. All of these pages are very similar: Reed is working on a delicate piece of equipment, while Johnny uses his flame powers to weld something and Ben carries some huge piece of equipment. Sue usually has little to o in these pages. here she is shown carrying some cables over to the boys. Reed coming up with some wacky invention to save the day is a staple of the FF to this day. The wacky invention in this particular instance is a giant cannon that shoots “reducing gas,” which Reed demonstrates by shrinking down some of Kurrgo’s subjects to 1/1000th of their size. The nice part about being on Planet X is that you can skip all of the clinical trials and go right to human test subjects.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Reed is going to shoot the reducing gas at the runaway planet so it gets really tiny and harmlessly lands on Planet X, doing no real damage, right? If you thought that, you obviously don’t know about the zaniness that is Stan lee and Jack Kirby! No, that solution is far too easy for The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! What Reed does instead is to shoot the reducing gas all over Planet X, covering the entire surface of the world, so that all 5 billion people on it will shrink down and they will now all fit on one space ship! They can then make their escape and find a new world to live on. When they get to the new world, they can exit the ship, open a canister of “enlarging gas” and then regain their normal size and live in peace on this new world.

Kurrgo, power mad tyrant that he is, decides he isn’t going to return his subjects to their normal height. Instead, he is going to just grow himself, then keep the enlarging gas hidden so his subjects will be like insects to him! Why he needs them to be insects, since they seem perfectly fine to be in his control as normal sized aliens, is anybody’s guess.

The 5 billion Planet Xers shrink down and get into a space ship to make their escape. If you wondering how they got so organized that 5 billion people from an entire planet could get shrunken down to the size of an insect and get onto a ship in an orderly fashion instead of running amok when they were suddenly shrunk down unexpectedly, you are thinking way too much about this story. Kurrgo, the rat bastard, can’t put the enlarging gas capsule down and run fast enough and he is left behind as the space ship takes off. It’s a good thing that Planet X had TWO space ships, because the FF use the second one to make their own escape. On the way home, the members of the quartet ask Reed if he is sure the enlarging gas would work, unaware that Kurrgo didn’t make it on the ship with the capsule. Reed informs them that there is no enlarging gas at all! he only pretended there was so the aliens would go along with his hair brained scheme. He figures once they get to their new home, they will all be the same size, so it doesn’t matter if that size is so tiny. It’s great how Reed is so casual about other people’s standard of living as they try to discover a new world to live on. Who cares if they have to float around space forever in the hopes they can find another world to live on? And what difference could it possibly make if once they arrive on that planet, they are one thousandth of their normal size? Reed said he would get them off Planet X alive and that’s what he did!

COMMENTS:

This issue is a little silly, even by 1962 standards of comics. The problem of the people of Planet X, with it’s highly advanced race, has to have a better solution that kidnapping the Fantastic Four. Also, the FF seem very petty and weak in their fear about going to see Congress. Johnny has been portrayed up t this point as a confidant, brash, fun-loving kid. There is no reason why he should be afraid to talk in public. Sue in particular seems very weak by saying she would be too embarrassed to meet important politicians and the like. This is a far cry from the Sue who exists today, who is one of the most strong, stable and confidant heroes in the world. It really shows how far she has come. In the early days, Sue was mostly a damsel in distress, needed to be saved by the rest of the team. Today, Sue is by far the strongest member of the Fantastic Four, not only in terms of power, but in her emotional maturity as well. She has become the heart and soul of the team, the one the others can depend on in all situations, as well as the most dangerous in terms of powers. But in these early appearance, she has none of the poise and grace she exhibits today.

Interesting note from the letters page in this issue: a reader wrote in to ask about the relationship among the members of the FF, if they were all related to each other in some way. The explanation given is that Johnny and Sue are brother and sister and Reed was a good friend of Sue’s. Ben was the pilot hired to fly their space ship. there is no mention of Ben being Reed’s best friend and college roommate at this point. I’m curious at what point that became part of continuity.

Just like issue #3, the main thing this issue provided was some more characteristics of FF stories that will become regular features of the book. It establishes Reed as the smartest scientist on Earth, if not the entire universe. It is the first time Johnny exhibits what will be later known as his “nova flame.” It is also the first time the FF travel to an alien world, something they seem to do on a weekly basis these days. It is also the first time the FF use their powers to make a Reed invention to save the day, which is how they end up solving a great many of their problems in the future.

The plot itself is pretty weak, even by 1962 standards of comic book story telling. The aliens of Planet X are very bizarre looking and it seems the way they went about solving their problem was very strange for such an advanced race. Reed’s nonchalance about their fate after he shrunk them down and rocketed them into outer space was also a little weird. However, the issue did have some fun moments, and introduced  few more classic FF concepts. The FF are not yet fully formed into the characters they are today, but as this issue wraps up, they are well on their way.

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Fantastic Four #6   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #6

Credits simply “By Stan Lee and J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

The story begins with The Human Torch flying through the air towards the Fantastic four’s skyscraper headquarters. Pedestrians in the streets are gawking at the Torch, proclaiming him a “living legend” and amazed that they were able to catch a glimpse of him. The idea of the FF as celebrities in NYC was toyed with previously, but with this page, it seems to be becoming more of a staple of the book. The Invisible Girl is also among the crowd, wondering of Johnny has found any news as to the whereabouts of Dr. Doom. The crowd is a little unnerved that she was around and they didn’t know and she quickly leaves before the crowd turns on her.

Sue arrives at the FF headquarters, which is now given the name “The Baxter Building.” She uses a special belt buckle device to open the express elevator to the 34th floor, where the FF make their home, and we get another classic cutaway view of their headquarters and all of the various rooms and vehicles they have on hand.

With no sign of Doom, the FF start to read their fan mail. Reed realizes a sick boy in the hospital across the street is a big fan of theirs and stretches across the street into his window. This is an important conversation because it establishes the concept of “unstable molecules,” a fabric that Reed created that allows his costume to adapt and change to his stretching body. back at the Baxter Building, the Thing is challenged to a fight by The Yancy Street Gang, a bunch of teenage hoodlums who will be a thorn in Ben’s side from this point forward.

The FF continue to discuss Doom and Namor. they seem to be very worried about these two, which instantly makes them seem like legitimate threats. they comment that Doom is the more purely evil of the two, while Namor is more of a man who has just been hurt and is now angry and bitter. It’s an important distinction, as Namor has always been more of an anti-hero than a true villain, the groundwork for which is laid in these early issues.

As if on cue, we find Namor swimming in the ocean with a school of dolphin, where he is approached by Dr. doom in an “aerosub.” Doom introduces himself as a fellow man who wants revenge on the Fantastic Four and the rest of the human race. Namor quickly agrees to join forces with Doom to take on their common enemy.

Doom uses his vehicle to follow Namor to his undersea home. There, Doom claims that the surface world no longer fears Namor, as he has seemingly called off his war on the surface world. Scanning the room, doom quickly discovers the reason why: Namor has a framed photo of the object of his desire: Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl. If Namor were to do battle with the FF, it would bring him in opposition of the woman he loves. Namor is angered at Doom’s interest is Sue and Doom pounces on that anger, reminding Namor how the surface dwellers destroyed his kingdom of Atlantis with atomic bomb tests and caused his still missing people to flee their homes. Doom goads Namor, making him angrier and angrier, until Namor proclaims that while he won’t hurt Sue, he will help Doom defeat the other three members of the FF. He then shows Namor his newest invention, a “grabber” that can be sent in any direction and used to pick up and transport any object, no matter how large.

Back at the Baxter Building, Johnny discovers a photo of the Sub-mariner hidden behind some books. Sue tries to get it back, but Johnny is mad that his sister is keeping a picture of their arch-enemy. She tries to get it back but Johnny burns it to ash. Reed and Ben come in, and Johnny tells them what is going on. Reed seems mildly annoyed that his fiance is keeping a photo of another man, who just so happens to be their enemy. Sue defends herself, saying she doesn’t understand the attraction. yes, Namor tried to defeat them, but she feels something gentle inside of him. Just then, Namor himself makes an appearance. Thing tries to attack him, but Reed holds him back as Sue demands the FF allow Namor to say his piece. Johnny throws a ring of fire around Namor, but Sub-Mariner is unfazed by it.

Johnny next tries melting the floor around Namor, but Namor doesn’t fall, as the tiny little wings on his ankles allow him to defy gravity. Johnny’s own flame is extinguished, as he has run out of power. Namor claims he is there for a truce, but Reed is skeptical, even as Sue claims Namor is being sincere. Reed and Johnny run around the Baxter Building, looking for any traps Namor might have set. They don’t find anything, but just as Namor is busy telling of his plans to take Sue out on the town, the entire Baxter Building is torn off of the ground and begins to hurtle upwards into space, where Dr. Doom is waiting in a space ship. It seems Namor planted the “grabber” in a dark corner of the basement and Doom is using it to bring the entire building into space.

Namor is just as surprised and angered by this turn of events as the FF. Doom feels this was the only way to rid himself of the only people capable f stopping his quest for world domination: the Fantastic Four, as well as Namor himself! The FF and Namor don oxygen helmets, and the Torch tries to fly out the window, forgetting that their is no oxygen to fuel his fire in outer space. Reed saves him, then stretches after Doom’s plane. He almost reaches the ship, but Doom shoots him at the last second and Reed is sent back to the Baxter Building. The Thing realizes his strength is useless in space, so instead decides he will beat up Namor instead! Namor and Thing wrestle each other to a stalemate until Doom comes over the loudspeaker, announcing he is sending the Baxter Building, with the Ff and namor inside of it, straight into the sun.

Namor decides he is the only one that can save the day. He first goes for a refreshing swim, powering himself up for the trip through straight. He then goes flying out of the building, leaping from meteor to meteor until making his way to Doom’s spaceship. Doom quickly traps Namor to the floor using his amazing powers of magnetism. Doom’s magnetism devices are so powerful, they apparently don’t even need metal to make them work. Unable to rise, Namor instead focuses his strength downward, pushing open the ship and getting inside. Sub-Mariner tries to enter Doom’s captain pit, but Doom sends a blast of electricity at Namor. Namor, however, absorbs the electricity and sends it back towards Doom’s room, charging everything with electricity. With no way to pilot the ship now that he can’t touch the controls, Doom leaps out of the ship and grabs hold of a passing meteor, sailing away from Namor and the FF.

With Doom out of the picture, Namor uses Doom’s ship to guide the Baxter Building back to Earth and right back onto it’s foundation. The Fantastic Four owe Namor their lives. Thing still questions whether he wants to shake Namor’s hand or smash him, while Sue defends him. Namor, back in the ocean where he belongs, summons the “grabber” and disposes of it in the ocean, along with Doom’s space ship. He then says he may return to the surface world one day, but for now, the ocean is his home.

COMMENTS:

The first two issues of the Fantastic Four introduced villains The Mole Man and The Skrulls, both of which were quality opponents that we will see many more times in the future. The third issue had the FF go up against The Miracle Man, a generic opponents without much to offer in terms of longevity. The following issue re-introduced Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who is a terrific character with a rich history in the Marvel Universe. that was followed by the introduction of Dr. Doom, who will go on to the be the Fantastic Four’s greatest villain, as well as one of the best characters in all of comic books. This current issue is the first one to have returning villains, as opposed to introducing a new one. Both Prince Namor and Dr. Doom return in this issue to battle the Fantastic four, showing the faith that Lee and Kirby had in these particular characters as foils for the Fantastic Four.

In addition to establishing both Namor and Doom as villains with lasting power, this issue introduces some concepts that are staples of the Fantastic Four to this day. Unstable Molecules are introduced in this issue, and they are used to explain every problem a costume might cause from this point on. Unstable molecules allow Reed’s costume to stretch along with his body, allow Johnny’s costume to stay intact when he ignites, and any other issue that needs to be explained away. The Yancy Street Gang also get their first mention in this issue and will play a huge part in fleshing out The Thing’s character in the months and years to come.

This issue not only establishes both Namor and Dr. Doom as major adversaries for the FF, it also points out the difference between the two men. While Doom is a genius and a planner, Namor acts more on instinct, letting anger and rage fuel his actions. Doom wants to be in control at all times while Namor will fly off the handle at a moment’s notice. However, Doom is also the more evil of the two, while Namor is more an angry and hurt man, lashing out at the world that has wronged him. Doom is bent on world domination for purely selfish reasons, but Namor is more of a noble man, a ruler of a people who have been wronged and he seeks revenge on them to right that wrong.

This is another strong issue of the title and another important one, as it ads even more of the signature elements of a Fantastic four story. Unstable Molecules and the Yancy Street Gang make their debut. The Baxter Building gets its name. Dr. Doom is also established as the main adversary for the FF, for while both he and Namor made their second appearances in this comic, it was Namor who eventually joined forces with the FF, while Doom stayed the evil, would be ruler of the world he would always be.

Fantastic Four #5   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #5

Only credits once again “Stan Lee + J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

We open on Dr. Doom standing before a chess board with pieces in the shape of the Fantastic Four. He also has a book called “Science and Sorcery” on the table, which is an immediate clue as to the nature of Doom. Doom says it is time for him to deal with the Fantastic Four, for he is the only one who is capable of doing so.

Back at the skyscraper the FF call home, Johnny Storm is busy reading the first issue of The Incredible Hulk comic book and raving about it. He compares the title character to the Thing, which leads to the usual Thing vs Torch brawl, which is broken up by Reed and Susan. As the team wonders why they spend so much time fighting each other, the poer gets cut and a huge net is dropped over the top of the building.

Dr. Doom announces he has come to defeat the Fantastic Four and he wants Susan Storm as a hostage. Reed recognizes his voice and quickly tells the other three members about his old classmate in college, Victor Von Doom, who was a brilliant science student, but also interested in sorcery and the black arts. He conducted dangerous experiments, one of which scarred his face. He was expelled from the school and last anyone heard, was wandering Tibet, still searching for dark rituals to contact the netherworld.

With Sue as a hostage, the other members of the FF are forced to board Doom’s helicopter and are then flown to his castle. There, they are sent back in time to retrieve Blackbeard’s treasure. An interesting note is that Doom’s famous sense of honor and honesty is noted right from his first appearance. No matter how evil Doom is always perceived to be, he does not lie to anyone, and if he gives his word, he will keep it. it’s one of his most famous character traits and one that was a part of him right from his very first appearance.

Fearing for Sue’s safety, the Fantastic Four go back hundreds of years in the past to search for Blackbeard’s treasure. The three quickly come across some clothing, dressing in era-appropriate outfits. They even get an eye patch and fake beard for Ben, trying to hide his strange appearance as much as possible. The three decide this is a good time to take a break and go to a tavern, where they are drugged and put to sleep. The men who were responsible for their ill-timed nap bring them aboard their ship as shanghaied crew members, but the Thing wakes up and beats up all the pirates as Johnny and Reed watch from the sidelines.

Proving his superior strength, the Thing takes control of the crew. They quickly come under attack by another ship and the FF use their powers, along with their newfound crew mates, to board the second ship and attack the crew. They find the treasure chest as their crew proclaims the Thing to be “Blackbeard,” the most feared pirate on the seas. It turns out they came back to the past not to find Blackbeard, but to create the legend themselves! Reed divides the treasure amongst the crew and fills the chest with heavy chains. he says they agreed to bring back Blackbeard’s chest, not the treasure itself. They prepare to return back to the present day, but the Thing decides he wants to stay. In their time, he is a freak and a monster, but in the past, he is a leader of men and the inspiration for a legend. he orders his crew to tie up Johnny and Reed so they can’t stop him from leaving them behind. However, a twister appears over the water and destroys the ship, washing the three FF members on shore along with the chest.

As the Thing apologizes for getting caught up in the excitement and losing his head, Doom transports the FF back to the present day. Gaining the chest, Doom reveals the gems in Blackbeard’s treasure were originally owned by merlin and that the owner of the gems will be invincible. Opening the chest and finding only chains, Dr. Doom is angered, but the FF swing int action. The Thing hits Doom over the head with a powerful smashing blow, but it is revealed Doom is just a robot. The real Doom is hidden upstairs, and he is going to drain the room of oxygen, killing the three men.

As Reed, Ben and Johnny desperately try to escape the room before they suffocate, Sue turns invisible and causes havok in the castle. First, she blows up a bunch of equipment in Doom’s room, stunning him. Then she runs down to the airtight room, finding a hidden button that opens the door and saving the rest of the Fantastic Four. The four make their escape from the castle, which Johnny decides to burn down. Doom is happy his castle will burn, since it will destroy secrets he doesn’t want discovered by anyone. Dr. Doom then flies away with the aid of a jet pack at speeds that make it impossible for Johnny to catch him.

The story ends with the four wondering what is next for them with booth Doom and Namor still on the loose after the events of this issue and the last.

COMMENTS:

This issue starts a long standing tradition of Marvel comic books appearing in the Marvel Universe. It is understood that the actual adventures the heroes of this world go on are later published in comic book form, to tell readers what happened. The comic books that exist in the Marvel Universe are the same comics that exist in our world, adding some texture to the concept that all of these adventures take place in the “real” world.

This is also the first appearance of Dr. Doom, by far the most famous villain in the Fantastic Four’s rogues gallery. No villain in the Marvel Universe is more synonymous with a specific hero or heroes than Dr. Doom is with the Fantastic Four. Doom is SUCH a great character that in some ways, he is almost TOO good of a character. He is so much more popular than the other villains in their collection of foes that many casual fans feel that he is their only real threat. The truth is, the Fantastic Four has one of the largest and richest collection of villains in all of comic books, but none are so good they approach the level of Victor Von Doom. Doom is such a perfect foil for the FF, and Reed in particular, that his presence is never really gone. Even when he does not appear in the title, there is always this subtle unease, like he could show at any time. He is so intwined with the FF that he is like a member of their own family. Every Fantastic Four fan wants more Doom, and every new writer feels th need to write their version of a Doom story. Every great super-hero has their premiere arch-nemesis and for the Fantastic Four, there is little doubt that villain is Dr. Doom.

In this issue, Doom is mentioned to be Reed’s former classmate from college. What is interesting is that there is no mention of Ben Grimm knowing him, as it will later be established that Ben was Reed’s college roommate and that is how the two of them met. At this point, nothing is known of Ben’s past, save that he had some type of experience as a pilot. His connection to both Reed and Doom will not be revealed until a later issue.

This issue establishes most of the character traits Doom will possess over the next fifty years. He is supremely confidant, highly intelligent and skilled in both science and sorcery. He is obsessed with destroying the Fantastic Four and becoming the ruler of the world. he is also a master at robotics and prefers living in a castle when possible. With his dangerous inventions, high tech battle armor, and command of both science and black magic, Doom is more than a match for the Fantastic Four, and he will be a continuous presence in the book from this point on.

Posted April 26, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Fantastic Four

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Fantastic Four #4   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #4

Credits listed only as “Stan Lee + J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS:

This issue opens with Reed, Sue and Ben talking about Johnny, who had quit in a huff at the conclusion of the third issue. The three do the usual bickering that has quickly become a staple of this title, as Ben is reminded it’s his fault that Johnny ran off in the first place. The three remaining members of the FF split up and search for him, each being shown in a short little segment that shows their powers. In each issue of the series so far, Stand Lee and Jack kirby have done a great job of showing what each character is capable of right in the beginning of the book, making each issue an easy entry point for new readers.

After Sue and Reed have no luck, Ben plays a hunch and goes to the garage where Johnny was always working on hot rods whenever he had the chance. Johnny was shown working on car engines when we first met him back in Fantastic Four #1, and he is shown doing so again now in #4. Working on cars is a passion for Johnny throughout the characters history from this point on. It is while he is working on a car that the Thing bursts onto the scene and the two fight once again. During the fight, the Thing once again reverts to his human form. Overwhelmed with joy, Ben doesn’t care that the Torch takes this opportunity to fly away/ However, his happiness is short lived, as he once again reverts to the Thing. heartbroken, the Thing falls to the ground, upset and enraged that he is once again a monster after a few brief moments of humanity. The Thing is a character who has a great sadness underneath his gruff exterior. It is a big reason he is a lot of people’s favorite member of the Fantastic Four.

Johnny makes his escape to the Bowery, hoping to hide amongst the derelicts of the city and plan his next move. He finds himself in a flop house, where he discovers an old beat-up Sub-Mariner comic rom the 1940s. Johnny enjoys the comic and wonders what ever happened to the Sub-Mariner. He is informed that one of the bums in the building is as strong as the Sub-Mariner was said to be. The other tenants harass the bum, until the shaggy, bearded guy proceeds to beat them all up with ease. Johnny uses his flame to burn off the long hair and beard of the man, revealing him to be the Sub-Mariner himself! Realizing the Sub-Mariner is suffering from amnesia, Johnny flies him out of the building and dumps him in the ocean. The water revives him and gives him back his memory, just as the Torch predicted. Remembering who he is, Prince Namor swims to his undersea kingdom, only to find it has been destroyed by nuclear testing. Namor returns to the surface, yelling at Johnny and announcing that the human race will be destroyed in retribution for destroying his homeland.

Realizing he will need help to stop Namor, Johnny summons the other members of the Fantastic Four, just as Namor does some summoning of his own, awakening the largest creature on Earth, Giganto! Giganto, who looks like a gigantic whale with arms and legs, makes his way towards New York City, which is ordered to be evacuated for the first time in history. The Fantastic Four try to stop Giganto, but they are no match for the enormous beast. In a last ditch effort to save the city, the Thing gets a nuclear bomb from a military depot and straps it to his back. (Nuclear bombs are very easy to get in the early issues of the Fantastic Four.) Thing runs inside of the open mouth of a resting Giganto, setting the bomb and barely making it out in time as the nuclear weapon explodes, killing Giganto.

Namor is unfazed by this defeat. he proclaims that with his horn, he can summon countless creatures to do his bidding. As if on cue, the Invisible Girl runs up and grabs the horn from his grasp. Namor chases the floating horn, grabbing Sue, who turns visible while struggling with the Sub-Mariner. Namor, taken in by Susan’s beauty, says he will spare the surface world if she agrees to become his bride. The other three members attempt to save her, but Namor quickly knocks them all back with ease. Sue, realizing they can’t stop the Sub-Mariner and wanting to save mankind, agrees to become Namor’s bride.

The rest of the FF won’t stand for this, and Johnny springs into action. Flying high above Namor and  going in ever increasing circles, he creates a man made tornado that sucks not only Namor, but the gigantic, dead, radioactive carcass of Giganto out of New York and deposits them in the middle of the ocean, where Namor drops the sea horn, losing it forever. Without the horn, Namor can not control the hordes of sea creatures he was going to use to conquer the world. However, he still promises he will one day enact his revenge on the surface world and defeat the FF in the process.

COMMENTS:

This is the first issue that mentions the FF living in New York. In the first issue, they were said to live in “Central City.” No mention of the city’s name is given in issue #2 or 3. In #4, we have now entered a real life city, not the made up cities that were a staple of super hero comics to this point. While DC comics were taking place in Metropolis, Gotham, Keystone, etc, Marvel Comics were now taking place in New York City, making Marvel a universe that operated in something that more closely resembled the real world. It was a subtle, but important shift in super hero books, one that went a long way in Marvel’s quest to update and modernize a tired genre.

In another first, this is also the first issue with the slogan “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” over the title. This would be used in practically every issue for decades from this point on. While that might be a bold claim, and seen as Stan lee’s famous hyperbole, the letters received from the previous three issues certainly show that some fans agree with this. The letters page is full of people who are amazed that their are actually super heros that behave more like real people, fighting amongst each other instead of acting like two dimensional do-gooders. People particularly liked when The Thing complained about wearing a costume, saying it was goofy kids stuff and he didn’t need one. It was a breath of fresh air for the comic book gnre, and one of the many little touches that put the Fantastic Four ahead of the curve when it came to modern, hip comics.

Last issue, the Human Torch underwent a drastic change in the way Jack Kirby drew him. In this issue, the Thing undergoes a bit of a change of his own. While it’s not quite as drastic as the change in the Torch’s appearance, Thing, over several issues, begins to more closely resemble the classic look he has had for the last fifty years. When he was first drawn in Fantastic Four #1, his skin was more lumpy than has been his usual look. As the issues go on, his skin tone looks more and more like interlocked bricks than the more solid rock-like look he had in his first appearance. It is a gradual change and one that gives his visual identity more personality. In another personality quirk, this is the first issue in which Johnny yells “FLAME ON!” when activating his fire based powers. It is something that will become a staple of the book, appearing in the vast majority of issues from here on out.

This issue also reintroduces Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, to the modern day marvel universe. A very popular character during the 1940s, Namor still had a place in modern day comics. Fantastic Four was the perfect place to bring him back. Not only was he a match physically for the foursome, his greatest opponent during his first run as a comic book character was against the original Human Torch. it was only fitting that the book the updated the Human Torch for a modern audience would be the place to bring Namor into the modern era as well.

The Sub-Mariner would go on to become a both a foe and an ally of the FF, as well as a major player in the Marvel universe as a whole. Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain, Namor was a character with a great deal of depth and a personality that fit in perfectly with the new type of super hero book that marvel was putting out. After the forgettable Miracle Man from last issue, Namor was a huge step forward in the villain department for the Fantastic Four. However, the greatest leap forward of all was still to come.

Posted April 24, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Fantastic Four

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Fantastic Four #3   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #3

The only credits given are a simple “Stan Lee + J. Kirby”

SYNOPSIS

The third issue the Fantastic Four opens with a magic show being performed by The Miracle Man. He is hovering above the stage and points out the four celebrities in the audience: Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Thing and the Human Torch. He then proceeds to mock their powers, saying they are nothing compared to the miracles he can work. Miracle Man grows into a giant, turns into a cloud, controls lightning bolts, and says the FF are nothing next to him. The Thing flies into a rage and MM challenges him to a test of strength. Miracle easily wins, and even takes a right cross from the Thing that does nothing. The FF leave the performance in their new flying Fantasticar, saying they are grateful Miracle Man isn’t a criminal. As if on cue, Miracle Man is shown getting ready to commit a crime.

The FF arrive at their new skyscraper headquarters and we get a cut away view of the layout of the building. The FF have acquired a pogo plane, a helicopter, a missile that can reach any part of the world in minutes, an observatory, and various other gadgets and rooms. They are also revealed to own the entire building. Apparently they came into some huge money. Maybe they are making a fortune on milk from the Skrull cows in last months episode?

Once inside their new headquarters/home, the FF kick back and relax. Johnny turns on the world’s biggest TV screen to watch the premiere of a new movie called “The Monster From Mars,” which is showing at a nearby theater. The theater has a huge statue of a monster on display to help promote the film. As the three male members of the FF watch this, Susan shows up wearing a costume she made. She said if they are going to be a crime fighting team, they should look like a crime fighting team, and so made colorful costumes for each member. Just as the FF are trying on their new duds, the monster statue on TV comes to life and begins to terrorize the people outside the theater.

The FF spring into action, each taking a section of the Fantasticar, which splits into 3 separate flying vehicles. Mr. Fantastic finds the monster first, and traps him by turning his body into a giant net. However, The Miracle Man is there and he defeats Reed by hitting him with a brick. Seriously. Not the best start for the leader of the world’s greatest super hero team. As if that isn’t enough humiliation, the commissioner hauls Reed into his office and berates him for failing to apprehend the gigantic monster that is destroying the city. I wonder if he is this harsh with all of his police as well?

Johny Storm is the next member to encounter the beast. he leaps out of the Fantasticar and flames on, only to be grabbed by the monster. However, since the monster is only made of wood, it quickly burns to ashes. Why this weakness wasn’t evident when bullets were bouncing off of it is not explained. Seeing the Torch save their new atomic tank from capture, the army thanks Johnny by shooting him with chemical foam and extinguishing his flame. The FF members get yelled at when they fail and attacked when they succeed. Looks like the poor guys can’t catch a break.

Susan and Ben show up on the scene, Thing ripping his shirt apart and tossing off his helmet for better mobility. He attacks Mircale Man, telling Sue to hide in case he needs her later. Thing then charges MM, but is quickly dispatched when the ground opens up and swallows him.  Sue decides she has to handle this on her home and turns invisible, sneaking into the stolen tank as Miracle Man makes his escape.

Back at the FF headquarters, the other three members await Susan’s signal as Thing once again recaps their origin from the first issue. Reed says fate was good to them and they have the ability to fight evil. Thing counters that fate was kind to the other three members, but he himself has been turned into a monster. He wants to look like himself again, in the hopes that Sue will look at him the way she looks at Reed. Johnny gets upset at this remark and once again Thing and Torch fight. Reed yells at them and they break it up, but Johnny gets mad and storms out while reed wonders what’s wrong with them.

Meanwhile, Miracle Man brings his shiny new atomic tank to a junkyard and proceeds to cover the tank with old cars to hide it. Sue sees all of this from her invisible hiding spot, but a dog catches her scent and alerts MM to her presence. Miracle Man hypnotizes her and forces her to turn visible, then summon the rest of the FF so he can defeat them once and for all.

Mr. Fantastic and The Thing arrive at the junkyard, but The Miracle Man fights them off with a machine gun. He tries to make his escape, but The Human Torch arrives and the three give pursuit in an antique race car that they find at the junk yard. They lose a tire, but reed takes the shape of one and becomes a spare as the Torch flies on ahead, increasing his flame and blinding Miracle Man.

With his eyesight gone, Miracle Man is now powerless. It turns out he is not a true Miracle Man, he is just a master of mass hypnosis. Reed knew that a real Miracle Man wouldn’t have needed to steal jewels, he could have just conjured them from thin air. He also wouldn’t have fled from the FF, he could have easily dispatched them. With the threat over, Thing and Torch begin arguing once again, and TJohnny announces he has had enough and quits, flying off into the distance. Reed wonders what they could do if he decides to turn against them?

COMMENTS:

Issue #3 of the Fantastic Four is a mixed bag. The villain himself is very forgettable. Unlike the adversaries from the first two issues of the comic, I don’t believe Miracle Man ever makes another appearance, while the Mole Man and the Skrulls appear in Fantastic Four, along with other Marvel comics, to this day. However, in every other way, Fantastic Four #3 is a huge step forward for an already great comic book.

It is in this issue that the Fantastic Four come as close as they ever will to embracing the qualities of a true super hero team. They get a high tech headquarters, suped up vehicles, and even costumes in this issue. The costumes were so iconic that they remained basically the same design as this one for he next 50 years. The Human Torch also underwent a visual change in this issue. In the first 2, he was drawn as a human shaped mass of flame, with no real form to him. In this third issue, he is drawn with a much more refined look. He no longer looks like a burning Christmas tree with arms. Now he is drawn in a clearly human shape, colored red with black lines to indicate the flame. This is the way Johnny will be drawn in his “flamed on” appearance for the vast majority of the next 50 years.

While the Fantastic Four are now clearly a super-hero book, they never quite completely embrace the specific traits of the super-hero genre. Yes, they are a crime fighting team with colorful costumes, but they stop just short of being totally formulaic. They still fight amongst themselves, which is actually mentioned as something realistic and refreshing in the first ever Fantastic Four letters page in this issue. Also, while they wear bright costumes, they don’t maintain secret identities. If you have ever seen the original pencils by Jack Kirby, you know that the FF were originally supposed to wear masks. In between the pencilling stage and the inking/coloring stage, somebody changed their mind, and the FF never got secret identities. They are publicly known right from the start. In fact, the beginning of this story is the first inkling that not only are the Fantastic Four known by their civilian as well as their super hero names, they are also celebrities in their own right. This is something that will be expounded upon a lot in the future, as the Fantastic Four become almost America’s equivalent to the Royal Family in later years.

The high tech headquarters, the imaginative vehicles, the classic uniforms, the public identities, the fame and celebrity, the over the top villains, the in-fighting between the group, almost all of the elements that make the Fantastic Four so special are already in place by the third issue. Almost every single staple of the FF over the last 5 decades can be traced back to the first three issues of the title, specifically the third one. Stand and Jack clearly have a vision for this title and in this issue, it has become almost fully formed.

Posted April 24, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Uncategorized

Fantastic Four #2   Leave a comment

The Fantastic Four #2

No official credits given in this issue.

Stan Lee: captions and dialogue

Jack Kirby: pencils.

Lee and Kirby: co-plotters

SYNOPSIS:

As the issue begins, we are treated to scenes of members of the Fantastic Four committing various crimes. The Thing destroys an off-shore oil tower, The Invisible Girl steals a diamond valued at $10 million, the Human Torch melts a priceless statue at it’s big unveiling and Mr. Fantastic stretches his arm out into a power plant and flips a switch, knocking out power in the entire city. It is revealed that these acts were not, in fact, committed by the FF, but by a group of shape shifting aliens called the Skrulls. The Skrulls have plans to invade Earth and feel the only thing standing in their way is the Fantastic Four. In order to eliminate the threat of the FF, the Skrulls decide to use their shape shifting ability to make the people of Earth believe the Fantastic Four are criminals. After the humans hunt down the FF, there will be nothing standing in the way of the Skrull invasion.

Meanwhile, in a remote hunting lodge, the Fantastic Four learn that they are being hunted as criminals. Realizing they are being framed, they begin to speculate on how it’s even possible for anybody to pose as them. The Thing does not take the news well and goes on a bit of a rampage, before being subdued by the others. Reed claims it is his fault they are the way they are, and we get a brief recap of their origin from the first issue.

With the explanation out of the way, the FF begin to plan their next move when they are surrounded by the US military. Not wanting to fight the entire army, the FF go along quietly, each member confined to a special cell. It doesn’t take long before each member breaks free of their prisons, giving the reader a chance to learn their powers, and make their escape.

Hiding out in one of their secret apartments, the FF formulate a plan. A new rocket is being tested and Johnny decides that if he tries to sabotage it, the other impostors might think he is one of them and come to help him. Thing says he should be the one to do it, since Johnny is just a kid and the two argue over it until Reed breaks it up. Ben bemoans his fate as Johnny goes to the launch site. Once there, he melts an unfinished launching platform and is quickly picked up by the Skrulls, who think he is one of them. They bring him back to their hideout and quickly discover he is the real Human Torch, but not before Johnny can shoot off a flare gun, alerting the other three members of the FF to his presence.

Torch fights off the Skrulls, when the fourth member of the alien group arrives, stopping Johnny. They are about to shoot him when the rest of the Fantastic Four arrive. The FF quickly subdue the aliens, then learn of the Skrull invasion force ready to invade Earth. Pretending to be the aliens, the FF members go to the Skrull mother ship and tell the Skrull leader the Earth defenses were far more advanced than originally expected. Realizing they could not defeat the humans, the Skrulls prepare to leave. The FF, still posing as the Skrulls, offer to stay behind and erase all evidence of their coming to Earth. Moved by their sacrifice, the Skrull leader gives them a military award for honor and leave the Earth.

As they pass through outer pace, the Thing begins to change, reverting again to the human form of Ben Grimm. Upon landing on Earth, the FF are met by the police and Ben has a moment of joy as he realizes he is no longer a monster. However, his happiness is short lived, as he quickly reverts back to his monstrous Thing form. The cops arrest the FF, but Reed asks for a chance to explain. He brings them to their apartment, where the Skrulls are being held captive. Seeing the shape changing aliens try to escape and be subdued once more by the FF, the Fantastic Four’s name is cleared.

The only loose end is what to do with the Skrulls. Since they can change shape and size, it would be practically impossible for any cell to hold them. The Skrulls, totally defeated and cowering for their lives, claim they hate being Skrulls and would live contentedly as anything else. Reed hatches a plot that will insure the Skrulls live out their and cause no more trouble. Reed has them transform into cows and the hypnotizes them into forgetting they are Skrulls. Believing they are actual cows, the Skrulls are last seen in a field, munching on grass as the FF wonder what is in store for them next.

COMMENTS:

The second issue of the Fantastic Four is even stronger than the first, building on themes that were touched on in the debut story. We see Thing as a bitter, angry man, who hates the fact that he has been transformed into a hideous monster. His quick temper boils over several times in this issue and he fights with his fellow teammates, especially Johnny. We also get our first glimpse of Reed’s tremendous sense of guilt, since it was his rocket that was improperly shielded from the cosmic rays that transformed them into the Fantastic Four. What makes it even worse is that Ben was the one who warned Reed about the cosmic rays, but Reed, in his arrogance, didn’t listen, and it was Ben who suffered the worst fate of the four as a result.

Once again, the FF are not in costumes, which was very unusual for a super hero book.  The book also didn’t present itself as a full-blown super hero book for the second issue in a row. Instead it is almost more of a science-fiction/adventure book, as the FF face not a super-villain, but an alien invasion force. This issue also introduces the Skrulls, who will make many, many more appaerences, not only in the Fantastic Four but in other Marvel titles as well. The Skrulls have been a mainstay of the Marvel Universe since their very first appearance and have played a major role in several very famous story lines throughout the fifty year history of Marvel comics.

This second issue of the Fantastic Four was a very strong continuation of the first, proving that the first issue was no fluke. The characters are beginning to how the personality traits that have made them favorites with readers for five decades. I also really like the “cow solution” to the Skrull problem. It’s fun and original and not the kind of thing you usually see. it’s a good testament to the creativity of Lee and Kirby. This issue showed that  The Fantastic Four comic book was a legitimate great title in it’s early stages and there was nowhere to go but up.

Posted April 19, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Fantastic Four

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Fantastic Four #1   Leave a comment

The Fantastic Four #1

No official credits given in this issue.

Stan Lee: captions and dialogue

Jack Kirby: pencils.

Lee and Kirby: co-plotters

SYNOPSIS:

As the issue opens, a flare gun is fired in the air, leaving beyond the words “The Fantastic Four” in enormous letters over the sky in what we are told is “Central City.” The gun has been fired by the leader of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards. it is the first time he has ever had to summon his teammates to him. We are introduced to the members of the team one by one as each answers the call.

First, Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, turns invisible and rushes past a crowd of people into a cab. Being invisible most likely makes this simple task far more difficult than it needed to be, but it is an excuse to show us her power. From there, we are introduced to Ben Grimm, The Thing, who is bundled up in a huge trench coat and hat, looking for clothes his size. He is told that there are no clothes his size in the store, and Thing complains that he is too large to fit in with our world. When the signal is brought to his attention, he throws off the coat, revealing his orange, rocky hide. If I were the Thing, and I found clothes my size difficult to attain, I probably wouldn’t just throw the few garments I had on the floor, especially since being nearly naked doesn’t make running to the meeting place any easier. But again, it is more dramatic if his appearance is revealed to us after the disrobing.

Thing’s journey to his destination is far more eventful than Sue’s invisible ride in a cab. After smashing through the doorway of the store, citizens of central City run away in terror, thinking Grimm is a Martian invader. The police fire on him and Thing makes his escape by ripping a manhole cover out of the ground with his bare hands. he then travels through the sewers to what he thinks is the predetermined spot. There is no manhole cover above him, so he just smashes through the ground into the street, totally an oncoming car and yelling at the frightened pedestrians and motorists around him, calling them “Lily-livered cowards.” This is our first inkling that the Fantastic Four is not your normal comic book, and the FF are certainly not your normal heroes.

We are next introduced to young Johnny Storm, The Human Torch, working on a car in a local garage. When Johnny sees the words, he bursts into flames, melting the car he has just spent his time working on and taking to the air. The United States government, getting reports of a flaming man soaring through the air, sends out the air force to engage him. Johnny asks them to stay back, but they don’t listen and come too close to him, their planes melting from the intense heat he generates. As the men parachute to safety, a missile is launched at the Torch. it’s a heat seeking missile with a nuclear warhead. I’m not sure where central City is supposed to be, but it seems the US government isn’t too concerned about delivering nuclear annihilation to it as long as they get the flame covered man in the sky in the process. As the missile is about to strike Johnny, killing him and most likely everyone else in the city, a pair of arms stretches out and grabs the missile, tossing it into the ocean, where it harmlessly explodes. Harmless, that is, unless you are the marine life who are now irradiated with nuclear energy. The Human Torch, his flame extinguished, falls from the sky, only to be caught by a stretching Reed Richards.

Reed informs the Fantastic Four, including the Thing, who is somehow fully clothed again, that they have a fearful task awaiting them. Before we learn what that task is, we are let in on the secret origin of the Fantastic Four. In one of the most famous origin stories in all of comics, Reed Richards, the brilliant scientist who designed the space ship the United States planned to use to beat the Communist Russians into space, along with ben Grimm, the test pilot who has agreed to fly the ship for his best friend, sneak onto the spaceport and steal the ship. They don’t have time to wait for official clearance, as conditions are just right on this night. Susan Storm tags along, as she is Reed’s fiance, and she goes where he goes. Johnny Storm also tags along with Susan, because that’s what annoying kid brothers do, even if it means getting onto a space ship with zero qualifications or training to do so. Try not to think about it too hard. The foursome race past the one guard in the entire place, and steal the ship, blasting off into outer space.

Once in space, the ship is bombarded with cosmic rays, beams of light that penetrate the bodies of the adventurers. Ben had warned Reed that the ship didn’t have enough shielding from the rays, but Reed was hearing none of it. Even in his first appearance, Reed Richards was an arrogant man who never took anyone’s opinion seriously. Since he was the smartest guy on the planet, clearly they couldn’t possibly know something he didn’t. He is eerily similar to a man who will be introduced a few issues from now.

As the cosmic rays bombard the ship and it’s crew, each person begins to feel different symptoms. Johnny’s body heats up and he feels like he is on fire. At the same time,ben’s body feels so heavy he can’t even lift himself off the floor of the ship. The ships autopilot engages and the shuttle crash lands back on Earth, where the four escape the wreckage relatively unharmed, except for the cosmic rays that bathed their body. Sue begins to feel strange, turning invisible before their eyes and then reappearing. Ben yells at Reed as he himself transforms, his skin turning orange and rocky. Ben rips a tree out of the ground and swings it at Reed, who’s body stretches out of the way. He uses his elastic arms (and equally elastic clothing) to wrap Ben up, subduing him. Johnny freaks out, his body erupts in flames, and he takes to the air, causing a small fire.

As Johnny returns to the earth, the four realize they have immense power, power that they must use to help mankind. Johnny decides to call himself The Human Torch, presumably after the original Human Torch, who was one of the three signature characters for Marvel comics predecessor, Timely Comics, along with Captain America and Namor, the Sub-Mariner. Sue Storm takes the name The Invisible Girl, and Ben calls himself what Susan called him in her panic stricken state, The Thing. Reed Richards, once again showing that humility is not among his super powers, calls himself Mr. Fantastic. The Fantastic Four has been formed.

The flashback ended, we are brought back to the current day, where Reed tells the others the situation. Atomic power plants all over the world have been sinking into the ground after seemingly impossible earthquakes. Reed’s instrumentation tells us that another earthquake is coming, and we are brought to the scene of that disaster, somewhere in Africa. A hole opens up, swallowing the plant, and a gigantic reptilian creature emerges from the ground. Bullets bounce off of this monster, and he tears a path of destruction through the army, easily crushing tanks with one hand. The creature is stopped only when a voice orders him to. We are told the voice belongs to the creature’s master, The Mole Man.

Reed’s equipment pinpoints the origin of the quakes, an island known as Monster Island. The FF rush off the Monster Island in their private plane, where they are met by, you guessed it, monsters. Using their super powers, the Fantastic Four fight off the monsters, but not before another earthquake sends Reed and Johnny falling to the earth below, where they are captured by the Mole Man.

The Mole Man recounts his own origin story for Reed and Johnny. The surface world mocked him wherever he went because he was ugly. Being spurned by women who found him repulsive, turned down for jobs because he was too ugly,a nd just harassed by jerks on the street was too much for the poor Mole Man. He ran away from society, looking for the famous center of the earth. He found it, but there was an earthquake (a recurring theme in this issue), and the Mole Man was trapped underground. the fall almost completely blinded him, but he developed other abilities to compensate, much like Daredevil would much later. Showing off his fighting prowess, the Mole Man is seemingly unbeatable, as he proves he can never be taken by surprise, and no blow can land on him.

In the middle of his tirade explaining how he will take over the world that scorned him, Sue and Ben enter, looking for their teammates. Mole Man summons his horde of giant monsters to attack them, and Reed grabs a hold of Mole Man, disproving all of the things we have just been told mere panels earlier. Johnny burns a path out of the underground cavern, allowing the FF to escape. Reed, showing once again he isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is, let’s go of the Mole Man in the escape, claiming he won’t bother anyone ever again. Apparently, insane victims of abuse with plans for world domination give up after being grabbed one time by a guy with stretchy arms. As the four make their escape, the island explodes, sealing the Mole Man and his creatures underground. The four hope that he has found peace and that they have seen the last of him, as we readers are told we have not seen the last of…..The Fantastic Four!

COMMENTS:

Fantastic Four #1 was the first comic book published under the Marvel Comics company banner. Super Heroes had done huge business in the 1930s and 1940s, but by the 1950s, their best days were behind them. Other genres moved to the forefront of the comic book industry, as westerns, war stories, crime stories, romance stories, horror stories and comedy books rode the tops of the sales charts. For most of the 1950s, Superman and Batman were the only super heroes to retain a large audience. However, as the decade of the 50s came to a close, suer heroes started to have a bit of a comeback, starting with the introduction of a more modern version of an old hero, The Flash. The appearance of the new Flash was a big success and super heroes started to make a comeback. All of these new heroes were teamed up to form the Justice League of America, a book that was a huge seller.

Martin Goodman, the publisher of Timely Comics and Atlas Comics, the predecessors to Marvel Comics, was famous for following trends. Whenever a company had success with a book, Goodman would demand his staff create a version of that book for him. When he saw how many copies Justice League of America was selling, Goodman ordered Stan Lee, his top editor and writer, to create a team of super heroes. Accounts vary as to who was actually more responsible for the creation of the Fantastic Four, Stan Lee or Jack Kirby. Both men tell different versions of how the book came about. However, anyone familiar with the work of either man can see what each individual brought to to the creation process.

Jack Kirby’s design work is all over the Fantastic Four. The creatures the Mole Man commands, as well as the Thing, are pure Kirby. The dialogue and character traits are classic Stan Lee. Lee was tired of super heroes who were flawless and perfect as they fought crime. He felt it would be far more interesting is the super heroes in his world had human flaws and emotions. His team bickered with each other and showed jealousy and anger and bitterness. Yes, their powers and appearances were outlandish and larger than life, but at their heart, they were far more human than super.

Lee’s belief that people wanted to read more realistic super hero comics turned out to be true, as Fantastic Four was a huge success. Fifty years later the book seems hokey and corny, but when it was released, it was leaps and bounds more serious and realistic than what the competition was doing. The Justice League never argued with each other or fought amongst themselves. Superman was never fired on by the air force as he flew over Metropolis. It was only in Fantastic Four that the heroes acted even remotely like people would if this situation actually happened to them.

An interesting historical note is that Fantastic Four is almost a super hero book in disguise. In 1961, when this book was published, super heroes had begun to become more popular, but they hardly were the top genre in comics. When Lee and Kirby created a super hero book, they did their best to not go all the way with it. In fact, the first issue of the Fantastic Four is more of a science-adventure/monster book with super hero elements than a full fledged super hero book. In this issue the Fantastic Four do not fight a traditional super-villain, they do battle with gigantic monsters. Monster books were very popular at the time, and the famous cover image is much more indicative of that type of book than a super-hero book. The thing himself also resembles the monsters so popular at the time. Super hero costumes, a staple of the genre up to this point, don’t even appear in this story.

Whether people thought they were buying a monster book or a super hero title, the fact is they bought it and in huge numbers. Fantastic Four was a huge success. It was unlike any other comic book on the racks in those years. This initial issue was just a beginning. In the coming months and years, Fantastic Four would go on to make Marvel comics a force in the publishing industry, as well as change the way comics were written and drawn from that point on.

The Marvel Age of comics had begun and the world of super heroes would never be the same again.

Posted April 16, 2011 by John V. Ferrigno in Fantastic Four