Fantastic Four 5

FF5

Following on from the introduction of Namor in the last issue, we move on to the introduction of the villain most commonly associated with the Fantastic Four, Dr Doom.

Synopsis

The issue opens with an ominous looking Dr Doom moving figures of the Fantastic Four around a board like chess pieces. Doom is scheming and decides it is time to show the world that only he can stop the Fantastic Four.

Back in New York, we see office workers heading home for the evening, but the lights are still on at the Fantastic Four’s HQ. Inside, Johnny is reading a Hulk comic and claims that the monster reminds him of the Thing. The pair squabble before they are subdued by Sue and Reed. At the moment, the lights go out and we see that the helicopter that Dr Doom boarded on page 1 is now hovering over the HQ and has dropped a web over the entire building.

Doom tells the Fantastic Four to heed his words. The team do not know who Dr Doom is, but Reed recognises the voice. We then get a flashback to Reed’s college days, where a student called Victor von Doom was a brilliant student but obsessed with forbidden experiments. One of these experiments caused an explosion, leaving Victor’s face badly disfigured. Victor soon left for Tibet to find the secrets of black magic and sorcery, and was never heard of again, until now…

Doom claims the team as his prisoners, and lists his conditions for their release. Firstly, Sue is to be sent to him as a hostage to ensure their compliance. Ben chooses to let his fists do the talking and grabs the web, but receives an electric shock and has to let go. Sue then convinces the rest of the team that their only choice is for her to go up to Doom.

Doom then tells the team to board his plane and to agree not to attack him. The team agree and go up to the rooftop, where a strange plunger like device descends down and sucks them up. Doom then takes them to his castle and explains what he wants from the team. He tells them that he has invented a time travel device and that he wants the team to travel back in time and steal the legendary treasure chest of Blackbeard!

The team agree to go and at the push of a button, are transported to the past. The team only have 48 hours to complete their mission, so start to act fast. They first get some clothes so as to blend in, with Ben adorning a fake beard, eye patch and hat. Ben feels instantly comfortable in his new disguise. The team find a bar nearby and are soon offered some drinks. They do not realise that the drinks are spiked. They soon pass out, and a group of pirates take them on board a ship and set sail.

The awaken when the pirates  try to get the to start work on the ship. Ben makes short work of them, and the rest of the crew quickly fall behind him. Not long after, however, the ship is under attack by another pirate ship. Johnny turns into the Human Torch and flies over to attack the ship, followed by Reed who stretches to create a bridge for the crew to board the attacking ship.

They soon take over the other ship and find what they were looking for, Blackbeard’s treasure. But what of Blackbeard himself? It is then that the rest of the crew turn to Ben to salute him, “Hail Black-Beard!” The team agree to take the treasure chest back to Doom, but not with the treasure inside, as they never actually agreed to that. Instead, they divide the treasure with the men, and refill the chest with worthless chains. At that moment, Ben has a moment of realisation, and decides that he prefers it in the past.

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Ben then decides that he does not want Johnny and Reed to try and force him back, so orders his men to restrain them. Just then, they notice a twister coming towards the ship. The gale tears the ship apart, and the three find themselves washed up on a desert island. Ben realises what a fool he was to want to stay behind, and then a flashing light appears above them and they are transported back to Doom’s castle, in the present day.

They hand over the chest to Doom, and he explains that the treasure inside once belonged to Merlin and that they have magical powers. Johnny remembers that the treasure is now at the bottom of the sea, and worries what would happen if Namor was to find them. Doom then moves to open the chest and finds the treasure is not there. Ben then attacks Doom, only to find out that he was a robot all along. Doom is in fact in a hidden room above the team, and intends to kill them by eliminating the oxygen from their room. But he has forgotten about Sue, who turns invisible and is able to alter the controls.

The team manage to escape the castle but find they are surrounded by water. Johnny announces to the rest of the team that he is keen to try out a new power. He reaches atomic heat level, boiling the water away and fusing the ground, turning it into a glass like substance. The team are then able to make their away across the water. Johnny then encircles the castle in flame to imprison Doom, but his flame burns out and Doom is able to escape. Reed praises Johnny for the attempt, but Ben is not impressed and says he will do things his way next time.

Comments

So unlike the much maligned Fantastic Four movie, Doom’s introduction comes five issues into the series. This issue also sees for perhaps the first time, the team really functioning as a unit and each using their own unique powers to the team’s benefit. There is still the undercurrent of discontent between Ben and then rest of the team, none more so when Ben is dressed as Blackbeard. This also throws up a nice time-travel paradox issue of Ben being Blackbeard.

Apart from all this, we also see the first Doom-bot and a new power for Johnny. All in all, an action-packed issue.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – July 1962

Financials and further reading

Cover price – 12c

At the time of posting, the most expensive listing for this issue on eBay is £4,999.99.

The comic can be read digitally on Marvel.com here and the first thirty issues are available in hard copy here.

Coming next

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

Amazing Fantasy 15

Plus Star Wars 2 in our separate series looking at the 1977 series, plus some other surprises too.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

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Star Wars 1 (1977)

star wars 1

We take a little detour from our look at the introduction of Marvel’s superheroes in the 60s, and into a galaxy far, far away.  As previously mentioned, we will be reviewing the entirety of Marvel’s 1977 Star Wars series.  This will include the movie adaptations as well as the remaining stories in the 107 issue run.  Despite including movie adaptations, all issues are labelled as “Legends” meaning they are no longer considered cannon in the new Disney universe.

Synopsis

It may not be the now synonymous screen crawl, but the first page neatly sets the scene as follows:

“It is a period of CIVIL WAR in the galaxy.

A brave alliance of UNDERGROUND FREEDOM FIGHTERS has challenged the tyranny and oppression of the awesome GALACTIC EMPIRE.

To CRUSH the rebellion once and for all, the EMPIRE is constructing a sinister new BATTLE STATION. Powerful enough to destroy an entire planet, its COMPLETION will spell CERTAIN DOOM for the champions of freedom.

Striking from a fortress hidden among the billion stars of the galaxy, REBEL SPACESHIPS have won their first victory in a battle with the powerful IMPERIAL STARFLEET. The Empire fears that ANOTHER defeat could bring a THOUSAND MORE solar systems into the rebellion, and IMPERIAL CONTROL over the galaxy would be LOST FOREVER.”

The background image is of a battle in space taking place above a planet called Tatooine. We are told that a “gigantic” Imperial Starship is pursuing a rebel spacecraft. The rebel ship is soon caught in the grappling rays of the Imperials, and following an explosion, Imperial troops come pouring through into the rebel ship.

We are introduced to C-3PO and R2-D2, two droids who are trying to avoid the shots being fired whilst C-3PO is naturally blaming R2 for their predicament.

In the first shift from the narrative of the film, we are then taking to the ground on Tatooine, where Luke Skywalker catches a bright sparkle in the sky.  Luke then jumps into his Landspeeder, and heads for town called Anchorhead.

Meanwhile, on the ship above, Darth Vader makes his entrance. He is looking for information, but is told that the rebel ship has had its information retrieval system wiped clean. Despite interrogating a rebel officer, Darth Vader does not receive the answer he is is looking for and does not hesitate in killing the officer.  He orders his troops to search the vessel and find the passengers on board.

Nearby, we see 3PO and R2 again. R2 is with an unknown girl, who soon disappears. 3PO askes R2 why he vanished earlier, and what they are going to. Unperturbed, R2 moves away, as if he has somewhere he has to be. He mentions a “mission” to 3PO via a series of beeps that whilst 3PO can translate, he cannot understand what this mission refers to. As the explosions get nearer, R2 heads to an escape pod. 3PO is initially reluctant to go inside but changes his mind on hearing another explosion. The pod ejects from the ship and heads towards the planet below. Still on the ship, the unknown woman is captured by the Imperial troopers and shot with a paralysis ray.

In another scene not in the film, we are taking back to Anchorhead where Luke bumps into his old friend Biggs Darklighter.  Biggs tells Luke that he has been commissioned on board the Rand Ecliptic. Luke tells Biggs that he thinks he saw a battle in the sky but Biggs dismisses this, suggesting it is just a freighter refueling.

Meanwhile, the unknown woman is taken to Darth Vader and instantly recognsises him. She claims that Darth Vader has attacked a diplomatic vessel, but he instead accuses her of passing through a restricted system, receiving transmissions from spies and of being a traitor. Darth Vader turns to his officer once the woman is taking away and explains that he will keep her alive as she is his only link to finding the hidden rebel fortress. In the meantime, he instructs a distress signal to be sent, before the rebel ship is destroyed. They will call it a meteorite storm. The woman’s father and the senate will be informed that all aboard were killed. Lastly, Darth Vader informs the officer of the escape pod, and instructs him to send a detachment to find it, without attracting attention.

The escape pod has landed in a desert called “Jundland”. 3PO is complaining again about their situation and the two argue and go their separate ways.  We then see R2 attacked by mysterious figures in brown robes.

We cut to a conversation between Luke and Biggs (again not shown in the film). Biggs explains to Luke that whilst at the academy, he made some friends.  When his frigate passes through a central system, he and his group of friends will jump ship and join the Rebellion! Luke is amazed and skeptical, saying that Biggs may never find the Rebels. Biggs agrees but says he has to try and he has a friend of a friend on Bestine, who will help them make contact.

In a conference room back on the station, a group of Imperial officers are talking about Darth Vader’s recent actions and how dangerous the rebel alliance is. They are interrupted as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin enter the room.  Tarkin informs the officers that he has just received word from the Emperor that he has dissolved the Imperial Senate – permanently.  Admiral Motti, one of the Imperial officers in the room asks how the Emperor intends to maintain control.  Tarkin replies by using fear and the presence of the battle station they are on.  Darth Vader adds that the data the rebels were able to obtain will soon be retrieved.  Another of the officers proclaims that any attack on the battle station would be a useless gesture.  Vader reminds him not to be too proud, and when the officer attempts to reply by criticising Vader’s belief in an “ancient religion“, he begins to struggle to breath.  Vader mutters, “I find your lack of faith disturbing“, before Tarkin orders him to release the officer.

Back on Tatooine, we see that both R2 and 3PO have been captured by the robed figures, known as Jawas.  They are being held in a sandcrawler, which comes to a halt and the droids are ordered outside. The droids are lined up for inspection by potential customers, one of which is Luke, accompanied by his uncle Owen.  Luke’s uncle chooses an R2-unit but refers to R2-D2 as junk.  He then questions whether 3PO can speak Bocce, amongst other languages. Satisfied with the response, he chooses him too. As they walk off, the R2 unit blows a motivator, causing Owen (at 3PO’s suggestion) to replace him with R2-D2. 3PO doesn’t waste time in making it clear to R2 that he should be grateful for his intervention.

Luke takes the droids to be cleaned up, and whilst doing so is complaining to them about Biggs. As Luke cleans R2, an image appears of the woman from the rebel ship. “Obi Wan Kenobi…help me! You’re my only ho…” says the woman in the image before the message is repeated. Luke asks R2 who the beautiful woman is, but 3PO states that R2 is malfunctioning. R2 then states that he is the property of Obi Wan Kenobi, and it is a private message for him. Luke states that he doesn’t know any Obi Wan Kenobi, but there is an old Ben Kenobi who lives out in the dunes. He then notices a restraining bolt on R2 and when he tries to remove it, the image disappears.

Luke leaves the droids to have dinner with his uncle and aunt. Luke suggests that R2 may be stolen, due to the message and Obi Wan Kenobi. His uncle responds angrily that Luke should stay away from that “old wizard”. Luke wonders what will happen if Obi Wan came looking for the droid. His uncle responds by saying that he won’t, as he died at the same time as his father. Luke is excited to hear about his father and asks whether Obi Wan knew him. Owen shuts him down. Luke then explains that if the droids work out, he would like to submit his application to the academy. Owen tells Luke that he can apply next term, after the harvest. Luke storms off and his aunt tells his uncle that he cannot keep him here forever, as he’s got “too much of his father in him“. Owen explains “that’s what I am afraid of!

Back with the droids, 3PO is startled by Luke’s appearance and claims it “wasn’t his fault“. When Luke asks him what he is talking about, 3PO explains that R2 has left to complete his mission. It is nightfall now on Tatooine, so Luke rises at first light to go and look for him, with 3PO in tow. Whilst Luke and 3PO are looking for R2, Imperial troopers have landed on Tatooine and found the escape pod. On closer inspection, they also find evidence of droids.

Luke and 3PO find R2 and R2 explains that there are savages close by. Luke fears they may be Sandpeople and tells the droids to hurry, but the Sandpeople spring a surprise attack. And that brings to an end, the first of the six part movie adaption.

Comments

Other than the scenes with Biggs, the first issue is a very close adaption of the film, with numerous lines taken directly from it. Even the Biggs scenes where part of George Lucas’ script, so there are no major surprises here. In the last scene with Biggs, mention is made of a planet called Bestine, which does not sound familiar, and may be an early alteration of Bespin. There is also a nice little plot summary at the end of the issue, for those not familiar with the movie.

Details

Writer – Roy Thomas

Artist – Howard Chaykin

Cover date – July 1977

Financials and further rerading

Cover price – 30c (although there are also rare 35c version available)

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Star Wars 1 on eBay was $2,499.99 (this is the 30c version).

The comic can be read digitally at Marvel.com here or on Comixology here. If you prefer your reading a little heavier, you can get the Marvel omnibus which collects the first 44 issues of the series. Link to Amazon UK here, but if you are in the US, InstockTrades offer better value.

Coming next

The next reviews in our chronological look at the Marvel superheroes will be:

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

Plus a look at Star Wars 2

And perhaps some more detours…

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comictretrospect

The Incredible Hulk 1

Hulk 1

Following on from the success of the Fantastic Four, Marvel decided to add to their pantheon of characters by introducing the Incredible Hulk in May, 1962.  Let’s take a look at his comic debut.

Synopsis

The story begins at an army testing facility in the desert.  We learn that a Dr Bruce Banner is about to test a gamma-bomb, but not all of the army personnel are in favour due to the apparent dangers.  It becomes clear that Dr Banner has not informed his clients of all the details about the test, including the “secret of the gamma ray“.  The test is delayed while Dr Banner makes some last-minute checks, much to the annoyance of the soldiers on sight, including one “Thunderbolt” Ross.

Ross’s daughter, Betty, comes to Bruce’s defence.  It’s finally time for the test to go ahead. Bruce’s colleague, Igor, again asks him to reveal the secrets of the gamma ray.  He explains that nobody has checked Bruce’s work, and if a mistake is made, many millions of people will suffer.  Bruce retaliates by saying that he does not make errors.

The countdown begins, only for Bruce to notice that a teenager in a car has driven into the test area.  Bruce tells Igor to delay the test while he speeds off to stop the teenager from being harmed.  Unfortunately for Bruce, Igor decides against delaying the test…

Bruce manages to get to the teenager and warns him about the bomb.  The teenager escapes but Bruce is still in the test area when the bomb explodes, enveloping him in gamma rays.

Hulk1pg4pn4

Hours later, Bruce is still screaming but appears to have survived the blast.  We then learn that the teenager, Rick Jones, brought Bruce back to the army base.  As darkness falls, both Bruce and Rick are still being kept on the base.  Just then, Bruce begins to fell strange and starts to hear a ticking sound.  Bruce then unbelievably changes before Rick’s eyes into a monster.  The monster swats Rick away and then smashes his way out of the cell they were being kept in.  He then destroys an army vehicle and strides off into the desert night.

The army immediately starts to search for the creature.  The monster keeps on moving, closely followed by Rick.  The monster is making his way back home.  He walks into his cabin, only to find Igor there searching for Bruce’s gamma ray formula.  Igor shoots the monster, but he doesn’t flinch.  He crushes Igor’s gun in his bare hands and then throws Igor across the room.  In doing so, he knocks a glass beaker over, and taped to the bottom of it is Bruce’s secret formula.

Rick manages to get the monster to stop attacking Igor by mentioning Bruce Banner.  The monster then sees a picture of Bruce and Rick explains to him that before he became a monster, he was Bruce Banner.  He slowly starts to remember as the sun starts to rise in the distant.  And then, the monster transforms back into Bruce.  At that point, the army, with General Ross and Betty in tow enter Bruce’s cabin looking for “The Hulk”.

Rick persuades the soldiers that Bruce is not the Hulk and they soon leave, leaving only Betty and Rick behind.  Betty apologises for her father’s behaviour.  Betty then leaves and Bruce explains to Rick that he thinks he will again turn into the Hulk when night falls.

The story switches to the cell that Igor is being held in, and we learn that he is a spy with some form of miniature communication device on his nail that allows him to send messages behind the “iron curtain“.  The message is received by soldiers and passed on to The Gargoyle!  He immediately gets into a sub and sets course for America.   Upon nearing his destination, .the sub fires a man-carrying rocket, with the Gargoyle inside.  The missile is soon destroyed, but not before the Gargoyle is able to land safely.

Meanwhile, Rick and Bruce are driving away when night descends and the change occurs.  The car crashes and the Hulk sets out on foot to find Betty.  Rick tries to stop him, all while they are both being watched from a distance by the Gargoyle.  The Hulk finds Betty outside, contemplating, but his appearance causes her to faint.  Just then, the Gargoyle makes his move.  The Gargoyle has a gun with a special pellet inside.  Upon being hit by the pellet, the victim will fall under the Gargoyle’s control.  He fires the gun at the Hulk and Rick, but does not notice Betty on the ground.

The Gargoyle leads both the Hulk and Rick to a secret plane, and they fly back to Russia.  However, by the time they land, it is daytime again and the Hulk has turned back into Bruce.    The effects of the pellet have worn off but it doesn’t take long for the Gargoyle to work out that Bruce is the Hulk.  The Gargoyle cannot understand why Bruce would want to be the Hulk, as he does not want to be the Gargoyle.  Bruce explains that he can cure the Gargoyle, by using radiation.  The treatment is successful and the Gargoyle transforms into a man.

The Gargoyle returns the favour by helping Bruce and Rick escape.  As they fly off in the Gargoyle’s rocket, they see an explosion down below and know that it is the end of the Gargoyle.

Comments

There’s lots to talk about in this first issue.  Firstly, the introduction of so many well-know characters: Bruce Banner, Rick Jones, General “thunderbolt” Ross, Betty Ross and of course, the Hulk.

What’s interesting is that there are many details about the Hulk which are either not consistently used, or are no longer considered part of the character.  The first and most obvious are his colour.  When he first appears on page 5, he appears blue or grey, rather than the traditional Hulk.  And the fact that the change was controlled by the sun or moon was a surprise.

It’s also clear that the Hulk is intelligent, but does not necessarily appear to have access to all of Bruce’s memories.  Many of these issues will be further developed in later issues.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – May 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Incredible Hulk 1 is a staggering $33,995 on eBay.

Coming next

The next reviews in our chronological look at the Marvel superheroes will be:

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

Journey into Mystery 83

We will also be taking a detour to start our retrospective review of the 1977 Marvel Star Wars series.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 4

Fantastic Four 4

After an absence of nearly 7 years, a well known character makes a reappearance in the new Fantastic Four comic.  But is he a hero or villain.  Let’s take a look…

Synopsis

Issue 4 kicks off hot on the heels of Johnny’s departure at the end of the previous issue. Reed is trying to persuade the team that they should be looking for him, but Ben is not convinced. Sue gets upset with Ben and Reed tells Ben that it is his fault Johnny left.  We then get a brief recap of the events of the last issue, and Reed informs the team that they will try to find Johnny.  Ben reluctantly agrees.

The team board the Fantasticar, which soon separates, allowing each member to search a different part of the city.  Sue and Reed resort to their powers to help them in the search, but to no avail.  Not far away, we see Johnny is busy working at a garage, and using his flame to help with a spot of welding.  This attracts the attention of Ben, who confronts Johnny.

As the two battle, Ben suddenly turns into human form again.  Johnny uses the momentary distraction to fly away, but Ben’s transformation is brief, and he soon turns back into the Thing.

Johnny flies to the other end of the city and finds a cheap hotel so settle down for the night.  In his room, he finds an old comic of the “Sub-Mariner”, a character that Johnny seems to remember.  Someone notices Johnny reading the comic, and mentions that there is an old drunk staying at the hotel who is as strong as the Sub-Mariner was despite his appearances.

The man appears to be suffering from amnesia, and cannot remember a thing.  Johnny is intrigued to find out more about the man, and uses his flame to burn the beard off the man’s face.  To his astonishment, the man is the Sub-Mariner!

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As the team continues to look for Johnny, he takes the Sub-Mariner to a nearby river, to see if the water will bring back his memories.  The plan works.  Namor swims to his undersea kingdom, only to find it in ruins.  Namor returns to Johnny, and vows to take revenge on the human race.

The team are still looking for Johnny, when they notice the flare in the sky.  They rush to Johnny, who explains to them that Namor the Sub-Mariner has returned.  Namor’s plan is to turn a sea creature lose on land, and finds the largest sea creature of them all, Giganto.  The creature follows Namor, who instructs it to attack a ship.  The crew escapes, but the creature makes his way to the city.

The Fantastic Four confront the creature as Namor leads him towards a nearby building, demolishing it easily.  The team are helpless until the Thing comes up with an idea.  He finds a nuclear bomb, straps it to his back and approaches the creature.  After all the exertions of demolishing the buildings, the creature is resting, and the Thing uses this chance to climb inside him.  Ben leaves the bomb inside and manages to escape.  The explosion kills the creature.

Johnny reluctantly tells Ben that he’s proud of what he just did.  But the danger isn’t over.  Namor appears again, holding the item that he was using to control the creature – a magic sea horn.  Unbeknownst to him though, Sue has turned invisible and is able to snatch the horn away from him.  Namor grabs Sue and is instantly enamoured by her.

Namor tells the team that if Sue becomes his bride, he will spare the human race.  The team try to fight back, but Namor is strong enough to resist them.  Johnny then flies up into the sky and creates a tornado, which he uses to carry Namor back into the water.  As he does so, the sea horn slips from Namor’s grip.  The team is safe for now, but Namor vows to return.

Comments

The reappearance of Namor sets the scene for many future stories.  We see his motivation for disliking the human race, and his attraction to Sue.  Meanwhile, despite Johnny and Ben arguing for most of the issue, we also see the grudging respect they have for each other.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – May 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Fantastic Four 4 is $1,175 on eBay.

Coming next

The Incredible Hulk 1

Fantastic Four 5

The Incredible Hulk 2

As well as reviewing these early superhero comics, we will also begin to review another classic Marvel series, this time from the 70s.  You may have heard the film the series is based on…  That’s right, we will be reviewing all 106 issues of the original Star Wars series by Marvel.  We will intersperse these in between the main section of reviews so as to provide some variety.  We will hopefully be adding other standalone series in the future too.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrosepct

 

 

Fantastic Four 3

Fantastic Four 3

Things begin to really get going in the third issue of Fantastic Four.  We take a look inside for some significant firsts.

Synopsis

Before we jump in, a word on  the great cover of issue 3, which boldly introduces readers to both the Fantasti-Car and the famous Fantastic Four blue costumes.

The story begins with a magician called the Miracle Man on stage (looking strikingly similar to Count Dracula).  The Miracle Man notices he has four famous guests in the audience, with each member of the team introduced in their own panel.

The Miracle Man mocks the powers of the Fantastic Four, by showing what he can do, such as growing into a giant, changing his composition into a gas-like substance and controlling thunder and lightning.  The Thing unsurprisingly does not take too well to the goading.

The Thing joins the Miracle Man on stage and is challenged to cut a tree trunk in half.  The Thing smashes the trunk repeatedly and is able to do so.  But to everyone’s astonishment, the Miracle Man is able to repeat this feat using just one finger.  The Thing is outraged, accuses Miracle Man of a con-trick and then tries to punch him in the face.  Miracle Man is unmoved.

The Fantastic Four head home in their flying Fantasti-Car, with Reed commenting that it is lucky that the Miracle Man is not a criminal, as he may be impossible to stop.  But just what are the Miracle Man’s intentions?

We find out soon enough.  The Miracle Man has decided it is time to show the world just what he is capable of, and decides a high profile stunt is the way to do this.  He notices a huge monster statue on exhibit opposite the theatre, and decides to turn it into life.

The Fantastic Four arrive at their headquarters.  This is the first time we have seen this, and we get a nice diagram on page 5 of the building layout.

Fantastic Four 3 Pg 5.jpg

The team decide to relax, and Johnny turns on the tv.  He notices that they are showing the premiere of “The Monsters from Mars” and Reed comments on the huge statute.  Meanwhile, Sue shows the team the uniform she has designed for herself, and for the rest of the team.  The Thing isn’t too keen on the costume and is in the middle of complaining to Sue when Johnny notices that the Miracle Man is at the premiere.

Amazingly, the statue appears to come to life and starts to cause havoc.  It is as Reed feared, the one man they cannot stop is intent on using his powers for evil.  To confirm their suspicions, the police commissioner has received a note from the Miracle Man, declaring war on the whole human race!  The commissioner authorises the Fantastic Four to do whatever is necessary to stop him.

The Fantastic Four head out to find the Miracle Man.  They split up to search different parts of the city.  Reed finds the monster and seems to be able to stop him, before he is attacked by the Miracle Man.  The surprise attack allows the monster to escape, much to the commissioner’s disappointment.

The army then tries to stop the monster, but similarly fail to do so.  Johnny then engages the monster.  The Human Torch is able to stop the monster and sets fire to him.  To his astonishment, the monster is made from wood and plaster.  Johnny cannot understand how he was able to move.  The army are still on the scene, and decide not to take any risks, and so fire water at the Human Torch.  His flame starts to fizzle out and he falls to the ground, but not before telling Ben that the Miracle Man is the cause of the monster moving.

The Thing confronts the Miracle Man, but he is again bested by him.  Miracle Man appears to be able to make the ground open up beneath the Thing.  With both the Thing and the Human Torch catching their breath, the Invisible Girl decides to take matters into her own hands, and turns invisible.

The rest of the team regroup at their headquarters and Johnny is angry at Ben for allowing Sue to take on the Miracle Man by herself.  Ben angrily reminds the others that he will be ready to act and explains that he cannot forgot the events that led them to becoming the Fantastic Four.  We then get a brief re-cap of this.  Johnny teases ben, and Ben lashes out at him.  Johnny storms out.

We cut to the Miracle Man, who is at a junkyard, and is still being followed by Sue.  A dog starts barking at Sue’s invisible form and the Miracle Man is able to command her to make herself visible.  He then tells her to fire her flare gun and summon the others.  Within minutes both Ben and Reed arrive at the scene.

Miracle Man starts to shoot at Reed, who is able to dodge the bullets.  The Thing then stands in his way, but the Miracle Man grabs Sue and runs off.  Johnny then arrives and they jump into an old car and race after them.  Johnny is impatient however, and decides to fly off ahead.  He creates a bright flash which stops the Miracle Man.  They recover Sue and Ben is about to exact some revenge on the Miracle Man before Reed stops him.  The Miracle Man then releases Sue from his trance and he is revealed to be merely a hypnotist, with no powers, magic or otherwise.

Reed praises Johnny for his actions, which angers Ben again.  Johnny has had enough, and decides to leave the Fantastic Four.  Sue is distraught to see her brother leave, but Reed is more concerned about the danger Johnny could cause.

Comments

An issue of many firsts.  We get the first glimpse of the Fantasti-Car and the team;s headquarters.  We also get the teams costumes, which have remained the same for the majority of last 50 years.  From a story perspective, we get more in-fighting, culminating in Johnny leaving the team at the end of the issue.  He’ll be back though…

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover Date – March 1962

Financials

Cover price – 12c (a 20% increase from the last issue!)

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for Fantastic Four 3 is $1,575 on eBay.

Coming next

Fantastic Four 4

The Incredible Hulk 1

Fantastic Four 5

ComicRetrospect 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 2

FF2

After the unexpected success of Fantastic Four 1, Marvel followed up with issue 2 in January 1962 (two months later).  Let’s take a look inside.

Synopsis

In scenes reminiscent of Fantastic Four 1, we are introduced to the four members of the team individually.  However, this time, the Fantastic Four appear to be up to no good:

The Thing is seen attacking an off-shore tower.

Invisible Girl is seen stealing a priceless gem.

The Human Torch flies past, and melts a priceless monument at its unveiling.

Lastly, Mr Fantastic is seen causing a city-wide power cut.

When the team regroup, we find out that it was not in fact the Fantastic Four, but four aliens impersonating them.  The aliens, known as Skrulls, appear able to take different forms, though they do not have the actual powers of the Fantastic Four.

The media soon turns against the Fantastic Four, much to their (and Ben’s in particular) annoyance.  Ben wants to take action, whilst Reed re-lives the events that led to them gaining their powers, and the responsibility he feels for this.

Whilst this is happening, armed soldiers approach the cabin where the Fantastic Four are, and take them prisoners.  It doesn’t take long, however, for the Fantastic Four to escape, as no mere prison cells can contain them.  The Fantastic Four then decide to set a trap for their impostors.

The Human Torch attacks a rocket that is to be tested, in the hope that their impostors assume he isn’t the real hero.  The plan works.

FF2pg12pn3

Johnny fires off the flare gun (as seen in the first issue) to alert the other members of the team.  Reed, Sue and Ben soon arrive and overpower the Skrulls.  However, they learn that the Skrulls are planning an invasion of Earth!

Reed decides the best way to stop the Skrulls from invading is to convince them they would not succeed.  The four turn the tables on the Skrulls, and impersonate them before flying to their star ship, in near Earth orbit.  Reed shows their leader images of the terrifying creatures on Earth (actually monsters from other Marvel comics – Strange Tales and Journey into Mystery, in a nice in-universe joke).

The plan works, and the four return to Earth.  But not before passing through a radiation belt that changes The Thing back into human form.

On landing, the Fantastic Four are met by soldiers again and Ben soon turns back into the Thing.  Reed is able to persuade the soldiers of what happened and the four then turn to one remaining problem.  What to do with the four Skrulls on Earth.  Reed forces the Skrulls to change into cows and then hypnotises them, so that they forget their past life and how to change back.  A problem solved?

Comments

This issue sees the introduction of famous adversaries within the Marvel universe, the Skrulls.  This expands the known superhero universe to beyond Earth.  We also get the first indication that Ben’s change into the Thing may not be permanent, as well as continuing friction within the team.  And lastly, the Skrull cows will make a reappearance some 50 years later during Secret Invasion!

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – January 1962

Financials

Cover price – 10c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for an issue of Fantastic Four 2 was $1,539.99 on eBay.

Coming next

Fantastic Four 3

Fantastic Four 4

The Incredible Hulk 1

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

Fantastic Four 1

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…

Synopsis

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.

Comments

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.

Details

Writer – Stan Lee

Artist – Jack Kirby

Cover date – November 1961

Financials

Cover price – 10c

At the time of publishing, the most expensive listing for an issue of Fantastic Four 1 was $10,200 on eBay.

Coming next

Fantastic Four 2

Fantastic Four 3

Fantastic Four 4

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect

A look back at the very early days of Marvel Comics

Welcome to ComicRetrospective.  On this blog, we will be looking at the very early days of Marvel Comics, starting with Fantastic Four number 1, published in November 1961.  Each blog post will look back at the Marvel superhero comics from this era, in chronological order, focusing on the story, the characters, notable appearances and anything with may seem unusual from our vantage point 55 years later.  All these comics are available on the great Marvel Unlimited service, so if you haven’t read them, you now have no excuse not to.

Depending on what digital archives become available, we may be able to add to this with independent and DC comics.  We would definitely like to!

We hope you enjoy the blogs.  Let us know what you think.

ComicRetrospective 2016

@comicretrospect