Widely considered to be the birth of the Marvel superhero universe, as we now know it, Fantastic Four 1 was published with a cover date of November 1961. Let’s take a peak inside…
The story starts off with a flare being shot into the sky, above New York. The flare materialises into the words “The Fantastic Four”. The people of New York are startled, and we then see a shadowy figure of the man who shot the flare. Over the next seven pages, we are introduced to three members of the Fantastic Four:
Susan Storm – having tea with a friend when she notices the flare. She turns invisible, and makes a hasty exit in a cab.
Ben Grimm – shopping, without success, for clothes. On seeing the flare, he ditches his disguise of an overcoat, hat and glasses, and makes his way into the sewer system.
Johnny Storm – working on a car. He notices the flare (which now appears as just the number “4”), bursts into flames and takes off. His journey is soon interrupted by the National Guard, who do not hesitate to fire missiles at the flaming object.
The Human Torch is able to evade the planes, but his flames die out as a missile approaches him, and he plummets to the sea below. Two elongated arms then appear and catch the missile. The arms belong to the final team member, Reed Richards.
The team have finally assembled. But before we find out why, we get a flashback to when the team obtained their powers. The team are arguing, and Ben appears reluctant to pilot a space rocket. Sue calls Ben a coward, resulting in an angry Ben agreeing to fly.
The rocket takes off, and all appears well, until their path takes them through some cosmic rays in space. This appears to have strange, and different, effects on each of the members. The ship crash-lands back on earth, and after some initial confusion, they each agree to form the Fantastic Four.
We jump back to the present, and find out why the team have been assembled. To face the threat of the Mole Man! Atomic plants are disappearing all over the world, and nobody seems to know why. Just then, Reed Richards notices another disappearance is about to take place in French Africa. We cut to the scene where confused soldiers think an earthquake is taking place. A gigantic pair of green claws is seen, and a huge creature emerges, crushing a tank.
Back in New York, Reed has identified what appears to be the epicentre of the disappearances, the fabled Monster Isle. The team board the private jet and fly there to investigate. A three-headed creature attacks them, and in the process another cave-in causes Reed and Johnny to plummet into a dark cavern. There they find a trap door, which leads them from the darkness into blinding light, causing them to pass out.
Upon waking, the duo find themselves dressed in strange suits. The cause of the light is a valley of diamonds. Above ground, Sue and Ben continue to fight strange creatures, whilst below, the Moleman holds court. We hear the sad story of what lead to the creation of the Moleman, following the mocking and ridicule that he received from humans. Following a fall, the Moleman soon learnt to control the subterranean creatures and to adapt his senses to living underground like a mole. He then goads Reed and Johnny to attack him.
Meanwhile, Sue and Ben have made their way down below, and Ben does not need an invitation to join the battle. The Moleman signals for the gigantic creature that first attacked the Fantastic Four to aid him. The Fantastic Four show their team skills and are able to overcome the Moleman and his hideous creatures. The Fantastic Four manage to escape Monster Isle, but the Moleman is left behind…to fight another day.
And so begins the Marvel superhero universe. An origin story for the Fantastic Four, sandwiched between the main story of the Moleman. We also see early signs of tension between the team, notably with Ben, as well as a potential weakness in the Human Torch’s abilities, following his flame burning out in mid-flight.
Writer – Stan Lee
Artist – Jack Kirby
Cover date – November 1961
Cover price – 10c
At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for an issue of Fantastic Four 1 was $10,200 on eBay.
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