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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.