in the 1960s, Pt. 5
in the 1960s, Pt. 5
Let's get things rolling with what appears to be the last installment of:
The Human Torch and the Thing appear as the A-story only from ST 128 to 134, with the Doctor Strange as back-up. After that, Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. buddies take over the front half of the book, and so ends the first attempt at solo-FF adventures. It will be almost twenty years before one of the FF flies solo once more with 1983's The Thing. (Not counting Marvel Two-in-One, the long-running (1974-1983) Thing-plus-one book.
All the Doctor Strange and S.H.I.E.L.D. stories are great fun. The Human Torch and Thing ones? Not so much.
A few are worth mentioning, though: 1) Ever think "What really needs to happen is a mash-up of the Fantastic Four and The Dam Busters"? Well, you're in luck. The Mad Thinker makes a bouncing-ball weapon to take out a dam, and he designs it to be the most fireproof thing on Earth. The Torch and Thing are invited for the dam's opening. Hi-jinks ensue. 2) This one:
The Beatles actually appear a couple of times this year, in Strange Tales #130 and in FF #34, at least indirectly. (The Yancy Street Gang sends the Thing a Beatles wig. "Dear Thing - Here's a little gift for the man who has nothing! Love and hisses, the Yancy Street Gang." Joke's on you, ya Yancy Street losers - he always wanted to try one, he tells Alicia.)
And 3) Kang conquers Camelot! (Sounds cooler than it actually is.)
|This full-turn direct-to-reader aside really cracks me up, though.|
Kirby isn't paired with Joe Sinnott until the very last issue of 1965, so most of these issues are inked by the controversial-even-in-death Vince Colletta. Kirby (according to Kirby's long-time assistant and biographer Mark Evanier) always cringed when he learned Vince was going to be inking his stuff, as he apparently erased or obscured pencils to make his work as an inker easier. Many artists levied similar charges.
Whether that's the case in '65, I don't know, but to my eyes, (most) everything looks pretty sharp. He continued making the ships, buildings, and gadgets look truly other-worldly/ the stuff of mega-cosmic-super-science, all with his impeccable sense of proportion and storytelling flair.
I particularly like the way Kirby used splashes or big pictures (like the above) to demonstrate the heroes' superpowers without having to caption them. The writing can then inform other things - either the characters (Reed and Ben) or the plot (Sue and Johnny.) Great economy. Though he wasn't the first to do it, this was a consistency of Kirby's that he did very well, and his example was widely-copied.
And while I appreciate the sentiment:
|you named yourself that, Mister Fantastic, come on now. It's like when the Wiggles sing "Do, do the move they call the 'Wiggle Groove.'" Climb off it, Wiggles - no one calls it that but you.|
The storyline that begins, for all intents and purposes, in issue #34 doesn't really wrap up for the next twenty or thirty-odd issues. (Maybe for the next twenty-to-thirty-odd years.) And a big part of that is:
|Played by: Robey.|
Medusa (or "Madam Medusa," as she calls herself at first) is, we later learn, an Inhuman. More on those in a bit, but when we first meet her, it's as the Wingless Wizard's exciting discovery and new addition to his anti-FF super-group the Frightful Four. A bad guy, in other words.
|"Of what use are your clumsy guns and fists against my unconquerable HAIR!?" she demands. A question to which more people should demand an answer.|
Like Namor before her, she turns steadily away from the bad guy lifestyle, transitioning at least into an anti-hero by year's end, or one who has rejected the more lawless or sadistic acts of her cohorts.
THE FRIGHTFUL FOUR
The FF spend almost half the year (issue 36, then again in issue 38 and 41-43) fighting their super-villain counterparts, comprised this time around by the aforementioned Medusa and Wizard as well as Paste Pot Pete and the Sandman.
Oh wait - Paste Pot Pete finally gets tired of all the chuckles and jibes at the super-villain galas and changes his name:
I don't know if "The Trapster" has all that much in the way of dignity and drama, though it's likely Stan Lee was utilizing this opportunity to let the reader know the former-Paste-Pot-man isn't the wordliest of fellows. At any rate, any new name is not just one but several dozen steps above Paste Pot Pete.
These FF/anti-FF issues have a lot of the usuals (the city complaining about the property damage and endangerment of life that comes with their presence, team members storming out, losing and regaining their powers, etc.) as well as some less-familiar ones: the Thing, brainwashed! Johnny, pretending-to-be-brainwashed!
|John-ny... angry Johnny...! (Hello, 1995)|
|Pre-wedding violence! ("Stop sounding like a WIFE and find me that gun, lady!")|
|And bizarre sex games!|
And most of the above are even from a single crackerjack of an issue, #38, which is the one we're going to look at in more detail.
|The issue begins with the gang studying super-enlarged photos of their recent trip to Planet Skrull.|
|Little do they know, though, that they are being stalked by the Frightful Four, who eventually kidnap Sue and Johnny. (I love that shot of the Wizard zooming into the upper atmosphere.)|
|Is "Geronimo" going to make sense to anyone out of context? Do people still say that before leaping off anything?|
They eventually make their way to the anti-FF's Island HQ and rescue Sue, but not before tasting defeat at the super-villains' hands. Sort of. Technically, it's more of a draw, but the anti-FF escape, leaving our heroes stranded on the island, which is about to blow sky-high due to the "atomic Q-Bomb" the Wizard has rigged up.
Sue's force field is able to save them but at the cost of their powers. Nothing Reed can't fix, eventually. After a brief Doctor Doom interlude (below) ends with Reed zapping Ben back into rock-form against his will so that he can defeat Doom, the Thing storms off and is brainwashed by the Frightful Four, leading to another epic three-issue showdown. This time, the group is smashed for good.
Well, for a few issues anyway. They'll be back.
|Medusa escapes. She'll be back, too.|
When Reed comes up with a scheme to artificially mimic the FF's powers so the world will never know they've lost them, he asks their attorney Matt Murdock to help with the details. (Mainly to position him for when Doom attacks so we can see Die Hard in the Baxter Building. And unlike the Kang Conquers Camelot story in Strange Tales, this one is as good as it sounds.)
This time around, Doom's pissed because - well, for all his usual reasons, but specifically because he'd been basking in his "ultimate" victory over the FF (as seen in Annual 2 - still coming up below) and discovers it was all a hypnotic ruse planted in his mind by Reed. Furious, and unaware they've lost their powers, he storms off to attack them and quickly seizes control of the Baxter Building.
Reed is able to get everyone's powers back and with the aforementioned help of Daredevil, they manage to oust the Latverian Monarch, who is allowed to get away because "diplomatic immunity."
|Spoiler alert: the shattering of Doom's ego/ confidence is vastly overstated. World's smartest man indeed!|
The last issue of '65 brings in a group that will be with us for many of the issues still to come but of whom we learn we very little. So let's table discussion of them until next time. (And as I neglected to put up a FF-in-the-60s post in May, there will be two in June, so next time will be sooner than usual.)
For the nonce, let's just meet some of the principals:
|Crystal, yet to sport those distinctive horizontal black streaks in her tresses.|
|Lockjaw. (And look out, Dorrie Evans, you're about to get a one-way ticket to Dumpsville...|
|Karnak. Don't take liberties with him.|
|Triton and Gorgon. And of course:|
|King of the Inhumans and a character that has captivated my imagination since picking this one off the spinner racks way back in 1983:|
|It came out in '82 but we didn't get it in Germany 'til '83.|
Reed and Sue get married, and everyone in the goldarn Marvel Universe comes to the wedding, both friend -
Doom's wedding gift is to construct a device that emits a signal that infects every super-villain in the world with the irresistible urge to crash the wedding with fists and fury.
|Soon the Watcher - concerned or so he says about the cosmic balance or somedamnsuch but he's obviously got cabin fever up there on the moon - shows up and spirits Reed away.|
|Reed susses out which of the Watcher's many gadgets will reverse the effect, and it's Here Comes The Bride.|
|Two guests are turned away, though, as we see in the last two panels.|
It's a very fun and very Silver Age little tale, and when the FF finally joins its friends and family in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it might be the perfect way to integrate them - and all FF-ness - into the fold.
One last thing:
|I couldn't help but wonder why the Mole Man didn't just grab the whole church, guests and all, and bring them to him, as he's demonstrated the ability to do in every other appearance. My guess is: like the Watcher, he's lonely and just acting out.|
COVERS AND SPLASHES
More Inhumans, plus: Galactus! The Silver Surfer! Black Panther!
More Inhumans, plus: Galactus! The Silver Surfer! Black Panther!