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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.

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Fantastic Four #12   Leave a comment

FANTASTIC FOUR #12

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

SYNOPSIS:

This issue begins with Alicia and Ben Grimm leaving the symphony after hearing a performance of Beethoven’s fifth. Alicia was mightily impressed with the performance, while Ben longs for some New Orleans jazz. As they leave the theater, a man spots a company of infantrymen, and while pointing them out to his wife, accidentally knocks Ben’s hat and glasses off. Ben realizes the man made an innocent mistake and lets the incident drop without any action.

Just joking.

Ben does his usual routine of blowing his top and picking the man up, lifting him up into the air with ease to give him a better vantage point of the action. The military men see the strength of the Thing and his monstrous appearance and think he may be the one they are looking for. The army men spring into action, attacking Ben and trying to subdue him. Ben fights them off and escapes all of their tactics with his great strength, before they finally gain the upper hand with some special knock-out gas. Before they can pounce on the weakened Thing, their captain shows up, telling them they have made a mistake. They are fighting the Thing, when the one they are looking for is the Hulk.

Ben is enraged he was mistaken for the Hulk and is in a foul mood as he drops off Alicia and makes his way back to the Baxter Building. He dropped the special key that opens the elevator door to the FF’s headquarters at the top of the building so he does what any of us would do in his situation: he rips the door out of the wall and climbs up the elevator cables to the 35th floor, where his teammates are waiting for him to return from his date with Alicia.

Ben tells them what happened, still angry that the army thought he was the Hulk. Reed explains that they just got a call from a General “Thunderbolt” Ross concerning the Hulk. Ross shows up and says that he needs the Fantastic Four’s help. Some military missile installations in the desert have been sabotaged and the Hulk is the only one that could have done it. He needs the FF to find and destroy the Hulk.

The FF start to argue amongst themselves over who will be the one to capture the Hulk. The Thing says that his super-strength will allow him to defeat the Hulk. The Human Torch says Ben doesn’t have a shot, as the Hulk will first fall to his flame powers. Reed claims that if the Hulk can get past Ben and Johnny, he will be ready to use his elastic body to ensnare him. Sue has no idea how she will be useful at all. General Ross claims that a pretty lady is always useful, as she can help keep the boys morale up just by being around them. Reed says that is pretty much her purpose. It is basically a giant condescending, male-chauvinist speech which Sue takes in stride. 1962 was a special, special time.

Johnny, who has been “flamed on” for this entire issue for some reason that was not made clear, runs out of flame and falls on the ground. General Ross questions having Johnny along on such a dangerous mission, seeing as how he is so young. If Johnny was a pretty girl, Ross would have no problem with it though. Reed sticks up for Johnny, saying his flame is one of their most potent weapons, along with Johnny’s mechanical skills. He shows these off by showing Ross the adjustments Johnny made to the Fantasticar. It seems the fans have been writing in and complaining that the Fantasticar looks like a flying bath tub, so Johnny redesigned it, making it more cool looking. The FF decide to show off the Fantasticar by flying General Ross in it to their destination.

They arrive at the military base, where they meet up with Dr. Bruce Banner, his assistant, Dr. Karl Kort, and his “young helper,” Rick Jones. Bruce is convinced the Hulk is not the culprit. The missile installations look like they were destroyed from the inside out, while the Hulk clearly would have destroyed them from the outside in. Ross will hear none of it and Reed doesn’t seem to be in the mood to even acknowledge this very basic piece of scientific evidence that proves the Hulk is probably innocent.

It’s been a few pages since Ben threw a temper tantrum, so he flies off the handle for no real reason. At first he is mad because Kort is surprised that a walking, talking pile of rocks is standing next to him. Mid rampage, Ben decides he is mad because Reed is having a private meeting with Ross and Banner while the rest of the team is hanging around being on fir and invisible and foul tempered. He bursts into the room, complaining about being left out of the meeting. The rest of the FF start to fight with Ben in the middle of the office. General Ross is flustered, but Reed lets him know that this kind of thing happens all the time.

After the FF stop fighting amongst themselves, Ross yells at them for acting the way they do. I’m surprised they don’t get this lecture every issue. Thing decides to yell at Ross, who fires back that Ben is probably scared of the Hulk. Ben reacts by taking a huge stack of books off of the shelf and tearing them all in half at the same time, claiming he will do the same to the Hulk when he meets him. Ross is very upset at this, because Ben has destroyed his “bound set of telephone books.” Reed tells him that they will reimburse him for the collection, but to be careful what he says to the Thing in the future. This is probably the strangest thing I have ever seen in my thirty years reading comic books. Why would anybody collect phone books? And who has them bound in leather? No wonder General Ross fails all the time while trying to capture the Hulk. The man is clearly insane.

Speaking of insane, the next plot point is pretty bizarre, even by Lee and Kirby standards. When Karl Kort left, he dropped his wallet, which Johnny found. Johnny gave it to Rick to return to Kort, and Rick goes to do so. While walking towards Kort’s room, he sees a card sticking out of the wallet, which turns out to be a membership card in a subversive communist organization. No wonder the Soviet Union collapsed, they sent their secret agents to the USA with cards in their wallets identifying them as Communist spies!

Meanwhile, the FF get ready to capture The Hulk by fixing a “rocket sled” for the military. The rocket sled resembles a bizarre chair on a track and the Thing is strapped into it like an astronaut. He goes flying down the track, but some mysterious metal prongs jut out of the ground and break the track, sending Ben flying into the air. The Human Torch flies over and grabs Ben, but Thing is too heavy and Johnny can’t hold him. He slows the Things descent just enough to give Reed time to get underneath them and form his body into a trampoline and catch the falling Thing.

Just then, Bruce Banner comes rushing onto the scene, saying Rick jones is missing and has been captured by “The Wrecker,” which is what Banner calls the mysterious saboteur. The FF balk, saying they know it’s The Hulk who is causing all of the damage.  Banner says the Hulk is innocent, but will not tell the Fantastic Four how he knows this. with the FF not listening to him, Banner decides to take matter into his own hands. Using a machine that reenacts the effects of the gamma bomb on his body, Banner transforms into the Incredible Hulk.

Karl Kort takes Rick Jones into the secret tunnels underneath the military base, where he is holding him hostage. The Hulk also knows about the secret tunnels and goes down them, looking for Rick. While he searches the secret tunnels, he hears the fantastic Four, who also found out about them. I don’t think Stan lee is quite sure what the word “secret” means, as every character in this story knows about the supposedly secret tunnels.

The Hulk lies in wait as the much anticipated meeting finally takes place. The Hulk comes face to face with the Fantastic Four! Hulk wastes no time proving who is the strongest one there is, knocking the Thing for a loop with a left hook. Johnny tries to get in on the action, but the Hulk just picks up a bunch of the ground and throws it at Johnny, covering him in dirt and dousing his flame. The Hulk heads to the land above, packing the hole he created with dirt and rocks, but there is just enough of a crack left in the ground to allow Mr. Fantastic to pop his elastic arms through and grab the Hulk.

Reed can’t hold the powerful Hulk, who breaks free and responds by throwing a house at the FF. Hulk decides he needs to take the FF out one at a time, but before he can attack the Thing, Reed wraps his body around the Hulk. This didn’t work five seconds ago and it doesn’t work this time, either. Johnny tries to attack the Hulk again, but Hulk defeats him easily, slamming his hands together and creating a sonic boom that flattens johnny, Reed, and even Sue, who Kirby and Lee finally remember is supposed to be a part of the fight. Only the Thing remains, and he grapples with the Hulk, the two of them talking a lot of trash to one another. Hulk is overpowering Ben, but before he can decisively win the fight, an “atom powered ray” shoots out of the ground, hitting Hulk in the head and knocking him out cold.

Thing thinks he won, but sue informs he wasn’t what defeated the Hulk. Thing is angry that his victory was stolen from him and tears into the ground where the beam originated from, finding a gigantic robot. Thing makes short work of the giant robot, which they theorize the Wrecker used to simulate damage caused by the Hulk. Thing then discovers a giant door, which he enters, followed by an invisible Sue. They discover the Wrecker, who is still brandishing the gun he used to defeat the Hulk. He tries to shoot the Thing with it, but Sue uses her invisibility to sneak up to him and knock his aim off. thing grabs the Karl Kort, who they realize is the Wrecker, just as Johnny and Reed make their entry to the secret room.

Up above, the Hulk realizes the FF have captured Kort and saved Rick Jones. Feeling weak and not wanting to risk another fight with the Thing before regaining his full strength, the Hulk jumps away, content with Kort being captured and his friend Rick safe. The FF say their goodbyes, but get a ceremony rewarding them with medals before they fy off, being watched by the Hulk, who wonders if they will meet again.

COMMENTS:

This is a very historic issue, as it is the first ever meeting between the Fantastic Four and the Hulk. It seems as if in the early days of the Marvel universe, the heroes spent as much time fighting each other as they did super-villains. The confrontations between the FF and the Hulk are easily my favorite “hero vs hero” fights in comics. Power wise, they match up well and the fight is usually very even. Also, Hulk holds a special place in the FF rogues gallery (and I do consider the Hulk an FF “villain” as they will clash many times over the years). While almost all of the FF villains either have an issue with the entire team or with Reed Richards, Hulk is one of the only opponents who is primarily a Thing rival.

The Hulk and the Thing are very similar. Both were normal men turned into monsters by accident. Both are feared by the public and both are known for their tempers. The main difference between them is that the Hulk spends art of his time as a monster while the Thing is a monster full time. When Bruce Banner is in Hulk form, he is more powerful than Thing, but he also takes on a separate personality. Thing is not as powerful, but he retains his mind while in his monstrous form. The Thing shouldn’t be able to stand toe to toe with the Hulk, yet he always does, because his enormous heart and determination make up for his lesser power level.

The first ever fight between the Fantastic Four and the Hulk is a lot of fun, as the Hulk uses his power and cunning to go toe to toe with the entire FF. At this point, both the FF and the Hulk are in the early stages of their time as heroes, and are at a much lower power level than they will be in the future. Sue in particular is very limited, as there is nothing she can do at this point to even be of use against the Hulk. Reading these early issues, where Sue is mostly useless, it is hard to remember that today she is, by far, the most powerful member of the FF.

Outside of the brawl between the FF and the Hulk, this issue doesn’t have a whole lot going for it. The story is kind of weak, and has some bizarre touches, like the military not knowing that the Thing isn’t the Hulk, and General Ross’s collection of bound phone books. However, there are a few nice touches. The continuation of the relationship between Ben and Alicia is particularly nice. Ben shows he is willing to do something he doesn’t necessarily enjoy himself for the benefit of his girlfriend, as ben prefers jazz to classical music, which is a nice little character touch.

The Wrecker is not a good villain and his identity is never really a mystery, even without the benefit of the fact he carries an ID card proclaiming himself to be a Communist spy in his wallet. However, the Wrecker isn’t meant to be a great character, just an excuse for the FF to come into conflict with the Hulk, and in that capacity, he succeeds just fine.

Having the FF do battle with the hulk in this issue was a great move, especially at this time. The book was on the verge of getting into a rut, with the FF seemingly coming into conflict with Dr. Doom and/or Namor in almost half of the issues so far. Not only do they have a new opponent in this issue, the opponent is another Marvel hero instead of a new villain.

All in all, while it isn’t the best issue of the Fantastic four so far, it has enough going for it that it was a fun read and another brick in the foundation that future FF stories will be built on.

Fantastic Four #11   2 comments

Fantastic Four #11

Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

SYNOPSIS:

The cover of this issue promises to reveal more secrets about the origin of the Fantastic Four. This was a subject of many of the letters the marvel editorial staff received, so Lee and Kirby were sure to include a special segment in this issue, “A Visit With the Fantastic Four.” The story opens with the FF approaching a newsstand, where a line is flowing out the door of people waiting anxiously to get their hand on the new copy of the Fantastic Four comic book.

The FF meet a group of kids who are play acting that they are the Fantastic Four. the real FF give a short demonstration of their powers, making the kids day, before going back to their Baxter Building headquarters. There they meet up with Willy Lumpkin, the old mail-carrier who will be a recurring bit character in the FF for decades.

The FF read the letters of the adoring fans as Ben discovers a package addressed to him. Opening the box, Ben is hit in the face with a boxing glove on a spring. He flies into a rage, blaming the Yancy Street Gang, who are always trying to get a rise out of him. This is another concept that will be brought up over and over again in the coming years: the Yancy Street Gang playing practical jokes on Ben. It’s a fun concept that a lot of different writers will use over the years, most recently mark Waid who had a great, unexpected twist on it (which i won’t spoil here.)

To calm down the Thing, Reed produces yet another serum he hopes will cure Ben of his monstrous form. Reed pours the serum on Ben, who reverts back to normal. The problem doesn’t seem to be changing Ben back to human, the difficult part seems to be making the change last. This particular cure will turn out to be no exception. Not wanting to see Ben get upset when he reverts to Thing form, Johnny takes off.

To pass the time during the cure’s duration, Reed and Ben tell stories of how they met and their time together as college students. It turns out that Reed and Ben were college roommates who, although they were polar opposites with nothing in common, became the very best of friends. Reed cheered louder than anyone at Ben’s football games, and ben beamed with pride as his best friend won science awards. After graduation, both men were in the military, each serving his country with honor.

Reed also brings up that he and Sue were neighbors when they were younger and how he has loved her for years. Sue doesn’t want to talk about this, as she doesn’t know yet if she loves Reed or Namor, the Sub-Mariner. We then get a recounting of the FF’s origin shown in issue 1, and then Sue gets upset because some readers wrote in and claimed she doesn’t do enough and should be kicked off the team. Reed jumps to her defense, telling a story about how Abe Lincoln did everything he did because of his mother, and Sue plays a similar role with the FF, encouraging them and propelling them to success. They also recount how Sue helped them fight off the Skrulls and saved the other three members when they were trapped by Dr. Doom. Ben gets enraged at the letters and once again reverts to his Thing form.

Sue tells ben she should stop wallowing in self-pity and should instead be trying to comfort him, as he is one of the most wonderful people she knows. The alarm goes off, signaling trouble in the flying saucer they kept after their adventure on Planet X. The three enter, only to find Johnny with a birthday cake for Sue. It turns out the three men of the FF have been planning this for days and they celebrate Sue’s birthday as Willy Lumpkin brings in another huge sack of letters.

From there we get to the main story, the introduction of the Impossible Man. Traveling from the planet Poppup in the 10th Dimension, Impossible Man arrives on Earth, where he meets a group of hobos. Impy is starving, but the hobos won’t give away food, he has to buy it. He doesn’t know what cash is, so they tell him to go to a bank and get some. Impy transforms into a rocket ship and blasts off. He finds a bank and changes into a tiny insect, crawling under the vault door. he then steals a bunch of cash, not realizing what he is doing is wrong, and is confronted by the police. They can’t stop him, as Impossible Man transforms into bullet proof steal.

At this point, the FF are called in. They investigate, finding IM at a restaurant, stuffing his face. he explains that his home planet is so dangerous, the population has learned to evolve instantly to survive, so in effect, he can transform into anything he wants with a thought. The Thing naturally loses his tempter and attacks the alien but Impy turns into a thorn covered plant and Thing gets a bunch of thorns stuck in his hand. Johnny tries to attack him, but IM turns into a giant bag of water and douses his flame. no matter what they try, the Impossible Man has a solution. He leaves the restaurant, having had his meal, and his vacation, ruined by the FF.

When he leaves the restaurant, he realizes that human beings can’t change the way he can. He also comes to the conclusion that he is the most powerful being on the planet now. He can whatever he wants! What he wants to do first is drive a car, so he jumps in one and takes off, having a glorious time driving around. The FF find him and he gets mad at them for spoiling his good time. They once again try to stop him, but to no avail. The national guard shows up, but Impossible Man turns into a bomb and they all run away.

The FF try in vain to stop him again, but the Impossible Man has the time of his life fighting them. he hasn’t had this much fun in ages. In fact, he is going to recommend Earth to the tourist division of Poppop! At this point, reed has one of his more brilliant ideas: he just ignores the Impossible Man and shows no interest in anything he does. He instructs everyone else to do the same, and by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. The entire planet Earth just ignores the Impossible Man, no matter what he does. With his wacky hijinks getting no response from anyone, IM soon grows bored and leaves the Earth, vowing never to return and to tell the rest of his planet to also stay away from the boring Earth.

The FF have saved the day by ignoring their opponent. This was such a great solution, I wonder why it hasn’t been tried on anyone else? I would love to see an issue of the Fantastic Four where Dr. Doom proclaims he is going to take over the world and Reed responds with “Go ahead. Who cares?” It would probably be the greatest issue ever of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!

COMMENTS:

This issue is a big step in building the relationship between Marvel Comics and its readers. That was part of the appeal of Marvel comics when they first hit the scene. All other comic companies just presented their stories. Marvel Comics attempted to create an atmosphere of fan interaction and even fan participation. Stan Lee always tried to get across the concept that the Marvel creative teams weren’t just these names that produced the issues, they were real people with distinct personalities. They weren’t presented as stuffy professionals just doing a job for a pay check. Lee always tried to make the marvel writers and artists seem like fun-loving people who were trying to make the fans happy. These were almost like your pals, writing and drawing comics just for you.

Marvel always encouraged fans to write in to the comics and made it a point to have jovial, familiar responses to fan letters. this particular issue not only shows a fan on the first page who is thrilled that his letter made the fan page of the FF comic, but it was advertised that the fan letters and post cards actually caused the first part of this comic to be written. The message here is clear: you write and we will listen. Marvel was the comic company for the fans and to an extent, by the fans. This inclusive attitude and embracing of fandom did as much to propel Marvel to the top of the industry as Stan Lee’s more believable, flawed heroes did.

This issue also does a great job of more fully integrating Ben as part of the FF “Family.” Sue and Johnny are siblings, and Reed is Sue’s boyfriend, at least when Namor isn’t around. The three have a strong bond with each other. But before now, Ben was just written as the pilot they hired to fly Reed’s space ship who stays around because he turned into a freak with them. With this issue, he is given a much stronger emotional connection to the other three as it is revealed he and Reed were college roommates and have been best friends for years. Even Sue and Johnny knew him for a long time, as Johnny remarks how he used to cheer for Ben on the football field. Portraying Ben as a close friend of Reed’s for years was a very small detail that made a huge difference in the relationship between the four. They are now not three people with a bond and some guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead, the Fantastic Four are truly a quartet and a family.

The main things that happen in this issue are all in the beginning tale. The main feature is a silly story of the Impossible Man. The story is pure wackiness, but it works because we are warned in advance the story is meant to be silly. As a short story that only takes up a few pages, it was a fun chance of pace with a creative ending. It is also a nice breather before next issue, with is the first ever encounter between the Fantastic Four and one of their all-time great adversaries: The Hulk!

Fantastic Four #10   Leave a comment

Fantastic Four #10

Script: Stan Lee

Pencilling: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

SYNOPSIS:

The story opens with a classic Fantastic Four scene: Reed Richards performing an experiment. This time he is trying to use a fancy X-ray camera to take a picture of Sue while she is invisible. In the early days of the FF, Reed was always performing experiments on his teammates, trying to get a better understanding of their powers and how they work. Johnny is there taking notes, but he “forgot” he was flamed on and the heat he is generating is making Sue uncomfortable. I know Johnny is portrayed as bit of an airhead in these early issues, but not realizing you are on fire is a bit of a stretch. Reed is able to get a faint outline of Sue with his special camera when they notice the FF emergency flare, which must have been fired by The Thing, as Ben is the only one not there.

The FF try to spring into action, but they can’t because the door is locked. Seriously. There is some nuclear powered lock on the door and it is jammed. Johnny tries to burn his way out, but Reed warns him that the nuclear lock is very sensitive to heat and they will be blown up. He then tries to stretch his arm under the door and pilot the Fantasticar to the window, but Reed, the smartest man on the planet, can’t figure out where the hangar for the Fantasticar is, ending up in the Pogo Plane hangar instead. Meanwhile, Johnny makes a discovery: he can burn his fire so hot that it doesn’t give off heat. I don’t understand that either. It’s also nice how Johnny decided to test this theory about his power on the super heat sensitive nuclear powered lock that could have killed them all.

Having finally escaped the dreaded locked room, the FF take to the streets, where they are harassed by everybody they meet. The FF use their powers to get past the throng of fans that are pawing at them as they try to rush to the Thing. They arrive at the apartment of Alicia, who is Ben’s blind girlfriend and the step-daughter of the Puppet Master. The team bursts in expecting an emergency, but instead find out that ben just wants to show them what Alicia has done. It turns out that even though Alicia is blind, she can make amazingly accurate sculptures. She has made small statues of all of the villains that FF have faced up to this point: The Mole Man, the Skrulls, Dr. Doom, the Miracle Man, Korrgo, and Namor. She seems to have forgotten her own step-father was also one of the villains the FF faced.

The team marvels at the detail and skill Alicia has shown, although Sue wonders why Namor was included in the gallery of evil, as he is not bad like the others. Reed takes this moment to finally confront Sue on her feelings for Sub-Mariner, and Sue refuses to talk about it, saying she doesn’t know how she feels.

At this point, the story is interrupted, as it is as far as Stan and Jack were able to get before they had a strange visitor at the Marvel offices: Dr Doom himself! Doom has returned to Earth after being shot into space on a runaway meteor. Doom doesn’t have time to tell the creative team how he survived, let alone returned to Earth. he has much more important things to do, and he needs Lee and Kirby to help him. They have to call the Fantastic Four and say exactly what he says, or he will kill them!

Stan Lee does as he is told, calling the FF and asking Reed to come to their office to discuss a plot. Reed thinks it’s odd, since he just agreed on a story with them yesterday. Ben complains about how ugly they make him look and Reed asks why Ben is in such a bad mood all the time. Uh, Reed? Maybe because you didn’t listen to him about the dangers of cosmic ray exposure and turned him into a deformed, stone skinned, hideous freak for the rest of his life? For somebody who is supposed to be so intelligent, Reed is pretty stupid at times.

Mr. Fantastic takes the bait and shows up at the Marvel offices, where he is knocked out with a sleeping gas gun by Doom. Doom then instructs Lee and Kirby to call the rest of the FF, who will come to save their leader. He gives the writer and artist a card with his address on it and uses mystical means know only to him to vanish. I love the fact that when Doom got back from outer space, not only did he make a new plan to destroy his enemies, he got new business cards made up.

Doom arrives at his new home, where he commands Reed to awaken and tells him his story. Doom was rescued by a super-evolved race of aliens called the Ovoids, who took him in and shipped him back to Earth. However, before Doom went back to Earth, he learned much from the Ovoids, stealing some of their technology, as well as learning the secret of “body switching.” Doom uses this power now to switch bodies with Mr. Fantastic. Doom’s mind is now n Reed’s body and Reed’s is in Doom’s. Reed tries to stop Doom, but Doom uses his new stretchy powered body to make quick work of Reed in Doom’s body. It’s interesting to note that when Doom’s mind is in Reed’s body, he can dispose of Doom’s body with Reed’s mind in two panels, yet when Doom is in his own body, he can take on the entire Fantastic Four. Maybe Doom is just better at having an elastic body than Reed is.

At this point, the rest of the Fantastic Four storm the building, smashing through the door looking for their missing leader. The find Doom and Reed and start to beat up Doom, not knowing it’s really Reed. Doom, as Reed, is urging them on, while Reed tries to tell them that he isn’t actually Dr. Doom, but Reed Richards in Doom’s body. Naturally, the team thinks it is a desperate lie and don’t believe him. They then try to come up with a variety of ways to keep Doom trapped where he won’t do any harm to anybody ever again, like keeping him a flame cage or covering him with a huge boulder. No wonder Reed seems so smart all the time, he is surrounded by idiots. “Reed” then tells them to just keep Doom where he was going to keep them, in a giant glass cage with an oxygen supply. They dump Dooms body in there and take off, leaving fake Reed to taunt fake Doom, telling him he has enough air for an hour and then will die.

Back at the Baxter Building, Doom has settled into his role as Reed Richards. The rest of the FF are hanging around when a collection of tiny animals comes racing out of Reed’s lab. Miniature bears, horses, elephants and others are running around the room as the FF scamper around trying to gather them up. Reed/Doom arrives back and sees the team collecting his tiny animals, which he shrunk with a reducing ray. He tells the team he is going to use the reducing ray to increase their powers. I know what you are thinking: how can a reducing ray make somebody more powerful? It just so happens that Reed/Doom has an answer, and its a doozy!

His theory is that the dinosaurs once ruled the Earth, but their bodies grew huge while their brains stayed the same size. If the dinosaurs were smaller, they would probably rule the Earth to this day. He then says he will shrink the FF members down to tiny sizes, but their powers will remain the same. Then, when he grows them back to their normal sizes, their powers will increase to enhanced levels. If you are thinking this is ridiculous, you are correct. You are also much smarter than the other members of the Fantastic Four, who proceed to brawl with each other hoping to be the first to get the ray used on them. Doom says he will use the ray on all of them, but he needs time to perfect it. The other members leave and Doom reveals his real plan: he will shrink them, but he will keep on shrinking them until they vanish forever. He also says he knows that his explanation was ludicrous, but only Reed Richards was smart enough to realize it. In this issue, the FF are portrayed as being really scatter-brained.

Meanwhile, Reed is trapped not only in a giant glass bowl, he is also trapped in doom’s body. He tries to smash his way out, but it is no use. he then uses the two oxygen tanks to make an explosion, freeing himself. He makes his way to Alicia’s apartment, hoping to convince her of what has happened. However, Alicia is not alone, as an invisible Sue smashes Doom/Reed over the head with a vase and knocks him out. Doom is a very dangerous man, until you put Reed’s body in him. Then he can get manhandled by anybody who crosses his path. Alicia thinks something is wrong, as she senses nobility in Doom’s body. At that moment, Thing and the Torch show up, and Ben is about to kick the Hell out of Doom, but his instinct stops him. He knows something is wrong, but not what. They toss Doom’s body in the Fantasticar and head back to the Baxter Building.

At the Baxter Building, the truth comes out. The Thing and the Human Torch get the feeling that Reed isn’t talking like Reed, and Johnny comes up with a wacky plan. There are some construction workers excavating a building foundation nearby. Johnny super heats up the air around the dynamite, creating a mirage and making it appear as if the dynamite is in the room. Why this didn’t make the actual dynamite explode and kill the workers is not explained. Seeing the dynamite, Reed, in Doom’s body, leaps on top of the dynamite to save his teammates. Doom, in Reed’s body, tries to slither up a vent to escape and save himself. Thing grabs a hold of him and drags him back into the room. The shock of being discovered snaps Doom’s mental concentration and he and Reed switch back to their original bodies.

Surrounded by the FF, Dr. Doom tries to fight his way out of the situation. He fires a blast from his armor at Reed, but Mr. Fantastic dodges it. the blast hits the reducing ray and triggers it, bathing Doom in the beam. He then shrinks down to nothingness and vanishes as the FF realize how smart Reed is.

COMMENTS:

The cover of this issue is of particular interest. Not only does it show the intriguing prospect of Dr. Doom as a member of the Fantastic Four with Reed Richards being evil, it also shows a rear view of the creators of the FF themselves, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The issue promises that Stan and Jack would be in the actual issue.

I really like that the love triangle between Reed, Sue and Namor is mentioned in this issue. When the book first started, Reed and Sue were engaged and in love. Early on, Sue became enthralled with Prince Namor and Reed didn’t seem to mind. In this issue, Lee and Kirby seem to remember that Reed and sue are supposed to be an item and have Reed finally call Sue out on her blatant lusting after another man.

I also enjoy the relationship between Ben and Alicia. Before Alicia was introduced, ben was just angry and bitter all the time, flying off the handle at the smallest provocation. After Alicia shows up, Ben begins to show the inner sensitivity and soul beneath his gruff exterior he is now known for. Alicia, being blind, can’t see how hideous Ben has become and it allows him to be himself around her. Around everyone else, he always seems self-conscious and defensive. but with Alicia, he can just be himself. Alicia isn’t bothered at all by Ben’s appearance. she only cares about what kind of man he is on the inside. There is also the interesting factor that while Ben desperately wants to look human again, Alicia actually prefers him as the Thing. They have a great relationship, one of my favorites in comics.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby appearing in the issue is a classic Marvel move. This issue establishes the concept that the Marvel characters exist in our world and the comic book that the reader is holding in their hands is based on the heroes actual exploits.  It’s an idea that will be referenced from time to time in the Marvel Universe to this day.

There are some nice little touches in this comic. The Reed/Sue/Namor stuff is nice and the Ben/Alicia relationship is always great. The introduction of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby into the Marvel U is a lot of fun. However, the plot itself for this issue is pretty weak. The science logic is bizarre and the FF are written as being power hungry idiots for most of the issue. The main thing about the plot that is good is that Dr Doom has returned to Earth, even if he was shrunken down to nothingness at the end.

We all know that won’t last long.