Archive for the ‘FF’ Tag

Fantastic Four #14: Reed is a Pig! or A Fish for Every Need!   1 comment

FANTASTIC FOUR #14

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering; Art Simek

SYNOPSIS:

After defeating The Red Ghost and hi Super-Apes last issue, the FF are returning to Earth. They are first humans to make a round trip to the Moon and are expecting a heroes welcome when they return. As the FF land the space ship, they see a huge mob of reporters and on-lookers gathered to witness the landing, which is being broadcast to TV stations around the entire globe.

When The Fantastic four emerge from the plane, they are met by throngs of fans, reporters and people looking to make a quick buck. Reed is grabbed by two rival factions of the Mr. Fantastic Fan Club, who are swooning over the handsome scientist/super-hero. Ben Grimm sees a promoter who is challenging Ben to take on his wrestler in a match, a challenge Ben answers in his usual fashion: he grabs the wrestler by the legs and dumps in head first into a garbage can. Sue is offered both a lifetime Hollywood contract and the chance to endorse a deodorant on TV.

For some reason, nobody seems too interested in Johnny and he uses the opportunity to try out a new trick. He flies around in a circle faster and faster, making a current of air that sucks up his teammates and flies them to the top of their skyscraper headquarters. Back inside, the four are happy to be home, when they have this glorious exchange:

Sue: Hmmm, I think I better do a little house cleaning!

Reed: Just so long as you do it silently!

This male chauvinist pig is the guy all those teenage women were fawning over two pages earlier? the Marvel universe was a very special place in the 1960s. And Reed actually wonders why Sue won’t choose him over Namor?

After this incident, Reed goes looking for Sue. Is it to apologize for talking to her as if she were an abused orphan child in a Charles Dickens novel? Of course not! Reed needs her to do some typing for him! Reed finds her looking at the ocean floor on TV, searching for Namor. Reed wishes the FF would find Namor again so they could settle their differences once and for all, then wanders off, leaving Sue to do his typing for him while he thinks about how wonderful he is and how he can do anything he sets his mind to…..except win the heart of the woman he loves. I swear I am not making this up. This is what happens in the story.

Our story then shifts to a local sanitarium, where a mysterious man is being released. The official at the looney bin says the man is cured and can be released. The man replies that he has been cured for months, but he is staying at the sanitarium so the world can forget him, something that other people would not understand. Which is clearly an indication that this man is not, in fact, sane and should not be released into society. Of course, this being the wacky Marvel U, nobody thinks this answer is strange and the man walks out, revealing himself to be the Puppet Master. PM is ready to seek revenge on the FF and he will use the Sub-Mariner to do it.

Namor is swimming under the sea, looking for clues as to the whereabouts of his lost people. He finds some evidence of their existence, but he is overtaken by the Puppet Master before he can investigate further. Namor uses his “Mento-Fish” to send his thoughts to Sue Storm, pleading with her to come to meet him. Sue receives the message telepathically and takes off, making sure she isn’t seen by her male teammates in the Fantastic Four. Sue finds Namor on a pier, where he uses a “hypno-fish” to hypnotize Sue. The fish then encases her in an air bubble and Namor brings him under the ocean to his aquatic home.

Back at the Baxter Building, Reed is testing the limits of Ben’s strength, while Johnny screws around with them. Namor suddenly appears and Torch attacks him, flying straight through him. Reed informs them that one of Namor’s powers is the ability to project a holographic image of himself using his Atlantean undersea technology. Namor informs the FF that he has Sue held captive and he dares them to come and get her. The FF check to see if Sue is around, as they never notice her absence until they need the ironing done or something, and find out she is gone. This causes the FF to launch into action as the Puppet Master, in a Navy surplus sub, gloats about his master plan.

Before they leave, the FF make plans in case they don’t return. Reed and Johnny go to leave the keys to their secret files with the police commissioner while Ben goes to say goodbye to Alicia. Alicia is terrified about the FF going to fight Namor, especially in his undersea domain. Ben, feeling horrible that he made his girlfriend cry, decides to take her with them. Naturally, if I was going to fight my most powerful opponent in the environment where was at his strongest, I would bring my blind girlfriend with me too.

The FF and Alicia hop into a undersea vehicle they borrowed from a Navy Admiral and head to the ocean floor, looking for Namor. They have no clue where he is, so they just randomly explore the deepest parts of the ocean, hoping to stumble upon him. Because it’s not like the ocean is that big or anything.

They must be getting close to Namor’s undersea home, as they are suddenly attacked by super powered porcupine fish that shoot needles at them, followed by something causing an undersea tornado. The escape that only to be swallowed a gigantic undersea clam, which gives off chloroform vapors that put the FF and Alicia to sleep.

They awake in Namor’s undersea fortress, where Namor declares they are his prisoners. Reed boasts that they were not taken prisoner, but instead finally succeeded in tracking down Namor. I’m sure that bing knocked unconscious by a giant, chloroform emitting clam was all part of Reed’s master plan.

namor shows the FF that he has Sue encased in a giant air bubble, which is being assaulted by the mightiest giant octopus in the seven seas. Then, for the first time in this issue, Reed says something that actually doesn’t make him sound like either a male chauvinist pig or a total moron. He realizes that Namor actually loves Sue and would never willingly put her in that much danger. Something must be wrong here.

The insanity continues as the FF do battle with Namor, who uses various fish as weapons. He uses a flame eating fish in the shape of a two pronged battle club to beat up the Human Torch. When The Thing joins the fray, Namor first attacks him with a giant razor sharp needle fish, then throws some undersea fungus at him, which expands and hardens, trapping Ben in a giant stone like ball. Thing uses his super strength to burst free, much to Namor’s surprise.

Reed decides he will take on Namor one on one while Ben goes to rescue Sue. Reed uses his stretchy body to trap the Sub-Mariner in an elastic cage. Meanwhile, Thing jumps into the watery tank and attacks the octopus, tossing him out of the cage. He also talks a lot of trash, using his before now unrevealed power to speak underwater. Ben then rescues Sue and mentions how happy he is she hasn’t made a sound during the ordeal, observing he has never met a woman who could keep her mouth closed this long. Women’s Lib was probably started because of Stan Lee dialogue.

The Puppet Master is unhappy with how the fight is going and decides he needs to intervene. Puppet Master orders Namor to kill the FF. Namor takes his ultimate weapon, a fish that is shaped like the barrel of a Gatling gun and releases a gas that no living thing can withstand. How he plans on surviving this is something he doesn’t appear to give much thought to. Alicia senses another presence, a mental controlling power, like that of her step-father. Reed realizes that would explain everything and tries to reason with Namor, and Sub-Mariner struggles with the mental control he is under.

Namor fails an releases the deadly gas, but Reed was prepared and covers everyone face with “Flex-O-Gen” plastic sheeting. I don’t know what that is or why reed didn’t sell it to the US military for millions of dollars. I think he secretly likes to reveal his greatest inventions only in dramatic situations.

Meanwhile, as the FF attack Namor while Sue begs them not to, the giant octopus that ben flung to the ceiling crashes through the dome and into the ocean. The octopus, angry at being hurled across a high tech death palace and into the ocean, attacks the first thing it sees, which is the Puppet Master’s submarine. PM tries to control the octopus, using his clay to make a puppet of the octopus.  He is forced to use the clay that comprises the Namor puppet, as he only has seconds to make the puppet. Namor is freed from the PM’s control, but it was al for naught, as Puppet Master can not control the mind of a creature that is almost mindless. The octopus assaults the sub as Namor comes to his senses.

Sub-Mariner has no memory of what happened, but he is hoping Sue has come to share his undersea kingdom with him. Sue says her loyalty is with Reed, but her heart may one day belong to Namor. With the incident over, Namor has no desire to fight the FF. He only wants to continue his search for his missing race of “Sub-Mariners.” the FF leave the undersea domain, wondering if Namor will ever be their friend and if the Puppet Master was really behind this altercation.

COMMENTS:

This issue continues the recurring theme of Reed being, to put it bluntly, a real piece of shit. Seriously, this guy is a grade A asshole. He tells Sue if she cleans the house, she should do it quietly so as not to disturb him. Next time he goes to see her, is it to apologize? No, it’s to have her type up his report to NASA about his new rocket fuel. He berates her, gives her menial secretarial chores to do, then goes off to wonder why she doesn’t love him completely.

This issue brings forth some classic Lee/Kirby FF wackiness. The Hypno-fish and Mento-Fish are beyond strange. the gigantic clam that emits chloroform vapors is so strange I don’t even know what to say about it.

It’s nice to see The Puppet Master return, as he was a great villain and a lot of fun. Also, since Alicia has become a regular supporting character as Ben’s girlfriend, there is a nice added layer of Puppet Master being Alicia’s step-father. It makes him part super-villain, part evil pseudo-family member.

I also really like Namor back as the villain. It’s very surprising to me how Namor, and not Dr. Doom, seems to be the FF’s primary opponent. He’s a really great foil for them, as not only is he physically a match for the entire team in a fight, the Reed-Sue-Namor love triangle always makes for interesting drama. At this point in the history of the Fantastic Four, I find Namor to be, by far, their most interesting opponent. He isn’t evil, he is a confused monarch without a kingdom, looking for the rest of his people and blaming the surface world for their disappearance. His motivations are far more complex than the usual super-villain fare, and his fight scenes are always wacky fun.

Another small thing I like about this story is that while the readers know the Puppet Master was behind it all, Namor and the FF have no idea if it was really him or not. They thought he was dead after their last altercation with him. Now, they do not know if he has returned, or if their is some new menace that orchestrated events. It’s a nice little touch.

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Fantastic Four #13 “SUFFERIN’ CATS!”   Leave a comment

 

FANTASTIC FOUR #13

Story: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: S. Ditko

Lettering: Art Simek

 

SYNOPSIS:

This story starts with what is a common occurrence: an explosion in reed’s lab. The best part of this event is the fact that it makes Johnny proclaim “Sufferin’ cats!” when it happens, which might be the greatest exclamation of all time. I may start using that in every day conversation, but I’m not sure if I can pull it off. Thing and Torch frantically scramble to find Reed under the burning rubble, while Sue stands around, being her usual useful self.

Before anyone realizes what happens, Reed comes bursting out of the wreckage wearing a purple, spiky suit of armor, which is his “protective stretch suit.” If Reed has a super stretchy suit that makes him impervious to explosion and doesn’t limit his mobility, why doesn’t he wear it when the Fantastic Four are fighting monsters and super-villains? Sure, it’s a good thing to have when your blowing yourself up testing rocket fuel, but it also might have come in handy last issue when the Hulk was kicking his ass. For the smartest man in the world, Reed is pretty stupid sometimes.

It turns out that the explosion was caused by Reed testing an experimental rocket fuel, one he created with energy from a crater in arizona where a meteor landed. A similar meteor had landed in Siberia, and Reed assumes it is the energy from the crater that has allowed the Russians to do so well in the space race. Reed theorizes that using a similar technique, he can beat the Russians to the moon, which is exactly what got the four of them in all this trouble in the first place.

Reed says that he is going to the moon alone, as it is too dangerous and he won’t risk the lives of his friends. Ben, Sue and Johnny all point out that that is a great idea, as Reed’s idiotic plan to get to the moon last time turned them into inhuman freaks and ruined their lives and it would be absolute insanity to get on another experimental space ship using untested rocket fuel a second time.

I’m just joking.

Naturally, the rest of the FF jump at the chance to get on another one of Reed’s space ships and head for the moon with no planning at all. What’s the worst that can happen?

On the other side of the world, Ivan Kragoff is also planning a trip to the moon. Instead of three human partners, he has three apes he has specially trained. He has a gorilla that has been trained to operate the spaceship and an orangutan that can use tools and repair any machine. He also took the time to train a baboon to shoot a machine gun, which is always useful when one is ready to undertake a moon landing. The best part of the ape training is that he doesn’t feed the orangutan, wanting him to be vicious and mean. Now, I am no NASA scientist, but I would think that when I was making a check-list of things to bring with me on a space ship to the moon, a violent, starving orangutan with incredible marksmanship and a fully automatic machine gun would probably be towards the bottom of the list.

Ivan Kragoff, not content to be only mostly insane with his violent ape crew, decides to go full on insane, when he says he is going to purposely expose himself and his apes to the same cosmic rays that gave the Fantastic Four their powers, so that he and his apes can get even more powerful than the FF. This is truly a wonderful, wonderful moment that ONLY could have happened in a Stan lee comic book. A genius scientist has not only trained an orangutan to shoot a machine gun with pin point accuracy, he has also starved it to make it mean and violent, then locked it on a spaceship to the moon with himself, and THEN he has exposed it to cosmic radiation, hoping to also give it super powers.

There is NO WAY this can end badly for Ivan, right?

The FF are enjoying their flight to the moon, when Sue notices another ship in space with them. it was nice of Kirby to draw Sue pointing, as she rarely does anything useful at all. Maybe the rest of the team won’t talk about her like she’s a useless airhead while she stands right next to them in this issue, like they did last issue. Johnny puts on a special suit that allows him to have his own personal atmosphere in so he can flame on in the vacuum of space. This is the kind of invention that Reed whips up in his spare time, but never mentions to anybody. This suit would probably have made the FF billionaires, but instead Reed threw it in the corner, just in case Johnny needed it, where it made them zero dollars. This is why the FF are always going bankrupt and having to sell the Pogo plane to make the rent.

The Torch flies over to the ship, which is transparent, because Ivan wanted to make sure as many cosmic rays as possible got it. After they were bombarded by the cosmic rays, Kragoff did what any rational scientist with his superior intellect would do: he kept the three apes contained and subdued while he did exhaustive tests on them to determine what effect the cosmic rays had on them in as safe a way as possible.

Naturally, I am once again joking.

What Kragoff  does is just rip off the restraints and let the apes run free, hoping to observe their new super powers! The gorilla has gained super strength, while the orangutan has gained the ability to transform his shape into a copy of any object. The baboon became magnetized, a power he uses to repel Johnny away from their ship. I don’t know how, as Johnny is not made of metal, but I am not a scientist. Although I feel I am more of one than Stan Lee is. Johnny hauls ass back to his own ship to warn the FF that there is a man with three super powered apes in the ship next to them and they may be even more powerful than the FF. Truthfully, I wouldn’t have worried about it. I would have just waited ten minutes for the apes to go batshit crazy and rip Ivan to shreds. However, I am a rational, clear thinking person, and not a super-hero in the 1960s Marvel universe, so clearly, the Fantastic Four will react in a different way.

The FF’s plane lands in the mysterious “blue area” of the moon. There, they find the remains of an ancient city, as well as an atmosphere that is the same as the one on Earth. They can breath normally and Johnny can flame on. They also see one house that is super modern and not in ruins like the rest of the city. The FF, finding a long lost civilization on the moon, one so advanced it was able to create a breathable atmosphere on a dead rock in space, go running off to find the other space ship. For a group of space explorers, the FF aren’t very curious.

Reed, Sue and Johnny take off, leaving Ben behind to catch up. Ben thinks he sees a rock move and tries to kick it, but it transforms into a baboon and jumps on him. Soon, all three of the super-apes are on him, while Thing talks trash to them, not realizing they probably don’t speak English, as even if they DID understand human speech it would most likely be Russian. As the apes are busy pummeling the Thing, Ivan Kragoff makes his dramatic entrance, now calling himself The Red Ghost. Ben tries to punch him, but Red Ghost can make his body “unsolid” and Thing’s hand flies harmlessly through him. Ben points out that while the power is kind of useful, if he is unsolid, he also can’t hurt the Thing. Red Ghost says this isn’t true, as he can make just parts of his body solid, solid enough to pick up a big club that he can wallop Ben with.

Before Red Ghost can swing his club, the entire group is ordered to stand down by the Watcher. The Watcher explains he is from a race of people who watch everyone else. They are the creepy, Peeping Toms of the universe. They have always just watched and never once interfered. however, he will do so now, as he doesn’t like people fighting on his front lawn. The Watcher is not only a Peeping Tom, he is also the cranky old guy yelling at the kids to get off his lawn. He doesn’t want a wide-scale conflict, and instead orders just Red Ghost and The Thing to fight it out and settle their differences.

Before Thing and Ivan can throw down, Reed’s gigantic, stretchy hand comes flying over and grabs Ben, whisking him away. The Ff finally realized  that ben was missing and decided to loo for him. And by “look,” I don’t mean with their eyes. I mean that Reed would stretch his arm out across the surface of the moon and feel around blindly for Ben. I know I have said it over and over, but Reed is pretty stupid for the smartest man on the planet.

With the FF reunited, the Watcher once again whisks them away to do battle with the Red Ghost and his Power Apes. He broke up the four on one confrontation earlier because he didn’t want a large scale battle on the moon. But four on four? He’s fine with that. The two foursomes meet in the deserted city, with the red Ghost getting the upper hand. First he fires a freeze gun at the Torch, but hits Reed instead, freezing him solid. He then grabs Sue “The Human Hostage’ Storm and runs off. Torch and Thing give chase, but the orangutan transforms into an asbestos blanket and smothers Johnny, while the gorilla tosses Bena cross the moon like he was nothing.

The FF, defeated, go and regroup as the Ghost gets away. Johnny thaws out Reed, who says they need to outsmart the apes, not use brute force. Normally, I would say a team of explorers could probably outsmart some apes with no problem, but when it’s the Fantastic Four, I’m not too sure. Reed makes a weird cylinder for Ben to sit on, which Johnny powers with his flame, sending the two of them hurtling through the moon towards the Red Ghost. This causes Ben to use Johnny’s exclamation from earlier, “Sufferin’ cats!” Two different people have now said “Sufferin’ cats!” in one issue. Combine that with a gy who starves an orangutan, teaches it to shoot a machine gun, then bombards it with radiation to give it super powers while he is alone with it on a space ship and this is the greatest thing i have ever read in my life. While Ben and Johnny race off to save Sue, Reed explores the abandoned city, thinking he can make a weapon out of what he finds.

Red Ghost runs outside to try to lure the rest of the Fantastic Four to their doom, leaving Sue alone with some starving apes behind a force field. Sue disables the force field and the apes make a bee line for the food, stuffing their faces, before smashing through the door. Ben and Johnny try to bust through into the Red Ghost’s lunar lair, but Sue runs out and stops them, warning them of a trap. Sue shows them the disintegration ray that Red ghost was going to use on them, and Johnny disables it. Red Ghost runs away, showing up at The Watcher’s house, but the technology is so alien he can’t understand any of it. Watcher gets mad and throws Red Ghost out of the house, where the FF catch up with him. Reed shoots him with a paralysis gun he whipped up in twenty minutes or so and the Red Ghost is stopped. However, the Ff still don’t know where the starving super-apes are, or what the Watcher will do next.

The Watcher appears, saying that now that man has reached the moon, he must go even farther away to spy on them, as he must be ever aloof. Meanwhile, the super-apes have taken the paralysis ray and freed the Red Ghost. However, they are kind of mad at him for starving them, bossing them around, exposing them to cosmic rays, and making long-winded super villain speeches at him, and they chase him away with vengeance in their eyes. The FF get back on their space ship and head back to Earth, their moon mission over, lookin forward to some rest.

COMMENTS:

Interesting note in the credits: in this issue, Steve Ditko is credited as the inker over Jack Kirby’s pencils. Ditko, a legendary penciller in his own right, is not thought of as an inker, but he fills that role in this issue. Kirby and Ditko teaming up on art is a “dream team” from this time period, and it’s interesting to see Kirby’s characters take on a subtle change with Ditko putting his own spin on the art to an extent.

Yet another classic FF villain is introduced in this issue, The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. This is the first four member group the FF have gone up against, although it will be far from the last.

This issue was your usual Stan Lee wackiness, with outrageous plot lines and crazy slang. There was also a LOT of pro-USA/anti-communist dialogue in it, as the Cold War between the US and Russia was in full swing at this point. The tension between the two nations was bleeding over into the world of comics, and Stan lee made sure the FF were well on the side of Democracy in this issue, as they fought not only the Russian villain the Red ghost, but also amde frequent comments denouncing his Communist beliefs.

Not only was the Red Ghost and his Super -Apes introduced in this issue, so was The Watcher. Initially just a bizarre alien who spied on the Earth, the Watcher today holds a very special place in the Marvel Universe as the “Shit Just got Real” character. Whenever something MAJOR is about to go down, the reader is told that this is serious business by The Watcher showing up to observe it in person. He holds a very strange place in comics, one that has been used for easy dramatic effect for the next fifty years.