FANTASTIC FOUR in the 1960s
The penultimate year of the Lee/Kirby era!
SAME OLD SONG AND DANCE
According to Mark Evanier (as quoted last time, and sorry for the slight delay in getting 1968 up here) the redundancy in plots this time around was the direct result of Kirby's commitment to not creating anything new for Stan. Whether that was truly the case or not, there's definitely some plot recycling. Some of which is just team mythology (Ben's endless ping-ponging back and forth between his rocky and human self) and isn't the sort of thing you can ding anyone for. Others, like the Wizard's two appearances in issues 78 and 81, ("with these new gloves, the FF will be crushed!"), provide for some fun fisticuffs but aren't especially compelling.
Elsewhere, (#74) a bunch of random guest stars show up and mistakenly fight the FF before realizing their mistake. More than anything, there's a conspicuous abundance of Androids this year. In issue 70, the Mad Thinker's Android attacks, and issue 71 sees the FF trapping him in the Negative Zone. (Fast becoming an other-dimensional rubbish bin - that'll never come back to haunt anyone!) Galactus' return is heralded by his sending one of his androids (well, half-android, The Punisher, #74) to attack the FF, followed by even more androids in issue 75 and 76. And then to top it all off in issue 79:
|Android Man! For real??|
I mean, that's excessive, right? Too many androids spoil the broth. #AncientChineseSecret
TRAIN KEPT A'ROLLIN'
Still plenty of great Kirby/Sinnott synergy, though.
|From Annual #6.|
Silver Surfer #1 premiered in 1968, which could not have helped Kirby's mood. To refresh your memory, this was the series created by Stan without Kirby's knowledge and for which he was not offered first refusal. (The traditional etiquette, as well as a professional courtesy, given Kirby's co-creating the character and all.) The series would not be a success, and Kirby was asked to draw its last issue - monumental hubris on Stan's part. But even Kirby's furious pencils couldn't save the series from cancellation. Nevertheless, the Silver Surfer is the best part about the FF's adventures in '68.
|We'll get to this in a moment, though.|
Is, uh, Uatu talking about Jesus? Or Adam Warlock? Either way, it's a weird and almost-certainly-untrue-for-the-Marvel-Universe remark to make. The Watcher plays by his own rules, Jack. ("Watch this, f-tards!" was under his picture in the Watcher Yearbook.) The pattern holds here, as he shrugs off his vow to warn Ben, Johnny, and Crystal (#72) that the Silver Surfer is about to attack mankind. He's cagey, though, as to why the SS is doing so - i.e. to snap Earth out of its complacency to the Galactus Threat. Which he does, but at the cost of his cosmic powers, which are removed via the US military's top-secret weapon, the "Sonic Shark," designed, apparently, to remove the power cosmic from people.
I'm almost always forgiving of adorable Silver Age logic like that, but... I mean, that sounds like a pretty powerful weapon. I guess the Power Cosmic must be fairly well understood by the military brass, then. I'm sure that will solve any number of crises, and all future issues will reflect this new balance of power in the world. Wait - the complete opposite of that.
LIVIN' ON THE EDGE
Galactus is back!
That didn't take long, did it? It's the standard MUST...EAT...THE EARTH! scenario with the FF and the Silver Surfer the only thing standing in his way. After much ballyhoo, the Silver Surfer decides to rejoin his old boss and take up his heralding duties once more. He leads Galactus to a flaming meteor that has all the nutritional goodness of Terra Firma, and Galactus' endless hunger is (temporarily) sated.
|His request for his number to be permanently retired, though, is denied.|
Prior to the Galactus and Silver Surfer's reunion, the FF had stashed the Surfer in the Microverse, aka "Sub-Atomica," as it's referred to interchangeably in this stretch of issues, to hide him. Which worked but brought its own danger. Ergo:
LOVE IN AN ELEVATOR, LIVIN' IT UP WHILE I'M GOIN'
The art for these issues is great, though it stays within the boundaries Kirby (and Sinnott) established in 1966 and 1967. Couple of those black-and-white collage-y looking two-page spreads (which I didn't bother screencapping - they all kind of look the same. Kirby abandoned the approach because he couldn't get them to work with the production tech of the time) and plenty of zig-zagging sub-atomic mayhem.
|First the Surfer shrinks himself into the Microverse...|
|and then the FF follow.|
Once inside the Microverse, all parties find themselves attacked by...
|"It's PSYCHO MAN, not MAD MAN, you IDIOT! You come into my house, you get my wife's! name! RIGHT!"|
The fight with Psycho Man is cool and all, but it's not as good as their go-round from last year's annual. ("I have obtained Component Four!!")
|All's well that ends well.|
RAGDOLL, C'MON UP AND SEE ME...
BABY WON'T YOU DO ME LIKE YA DONE BE-FORE
Crystal officially joins the FF as Sue's preggers-replacement after she proves her worth against The Wizard. Not much to say here - I like the bits with O'Houlihan above. (It's always amazing to me how prevalent this Irish "me foine bucko" stuffwas back in the day. All ethnic-dialect-trope stuff, really, not just the Irish. But yeah, it was like some kind of union rule back then, or something.)
Her powers continue to confuse me. She controls the "classical elements," i.e. fire, wind, air, water. (But, only partially? Or something?) Plus the still-vaguer "psionic abilities" imparted to all Inhumans? She reminds me of the Scarlet Witch: cool visual, a fluctuating range of supernatural abilities, and completely rebooted with each new creative team.
DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY!
|Aka The Section Formerly Known as "Reed's a Dick."|
He's a little less dick-ish this time than usual. But that's some first class bitching at Ben, there. I approve.
(There's nothing to the Aerosmith song titles for chapter headers motif, by the way. No hidden meaning, just amusing myself.)
aka She's Having a Negative Zone Baby!
When the doctors discover some highly anomalous readings in the FF Baby's "micro-photos," Reed discovers that only an element found in the Negative Zone can potentially save Sue and the baby. So, off he goes, followed closely by Ben and Johnny, of course.
No one enters the Negative Zone without drawing the attention of Annihilus, of course, who captures Reed and adds him to his menagerie. When Reed objects, Annihilus slates him for death in the arena. (Annihilus doesn't eff around.) Reed finds the anti-matter he needs in the control rod that he takes off Annihilus, who then gives chase.
|Reed remembers both previous Negative Zone adventures and the plot of "The Alternative Factor" to make good their escape and get back to the hospital.|
|Welcome to the world, Franklin Richards.|
Reed and Sue's baby will provide no shortage of wacky adventuring in the years to come. (In the Earth X timeline, he grows up to become Galactus, which was a cool twist for that series, I thought.) If you've seen The Incredibles, the character of Jack-Jack is (unofficially) based on Franklin.
"Jack protested: He was too important to the company to be treated this way. The caller told him he was nuts. Stan Lee created everything at Marvel, and they could get any idiot to draw up Stan's brilliant ideas. (His lawyer later told him the execs at Perfect Film were under the impression Stan drew all the comics, too.)
"Jack hung up, phoned Infantino, and changed companies." (Evanier, King of Comics)