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Unearthed: Fantastic Four #3

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Well well well, look what the cat dragged in! … … Me. It’s me. The cat overwhelmed me, I was helpless before her. Anyway, today we’re looking at Fantastic Four #3, but this one’s actually a bit different than the usual Stan Lee nonsense… there’s some drama and mystery! Let’s get to it:

The skyscraper’s secret is that it’s rent-controlled.

So if I can float in the air, I can do anything. And the bar for calling something a ‘miracle’ is awfully low here. I’d also like to point out that there’s no credit here for the letterer or colorist, or even editor. Pretty sure Kirby isn’t coloring his own work, but he probably is inking himself.

Typical recap section for new readers, but here’s a cool thing that only comics does: as you can see from the first and second panels, we’re looking at the same scene, divided in time by the panel gutters. That’s the essence of comic books: presenting temporal space using physical space.

But in this sequence, Sue and Reed are inhabiting the same space, so Kirby is playing with both time and space here. It’s a neat trick that only comics can pull off. Alan Moore uses it to great effect in many of his later work, too.

Why is the Thing still bothering to wear clothes? Does he not realize that a gigantic lumbering person wearing heavy clothes, hat, sunglasses, and a scarf to completely hide their face is just as suspicious and threatening to the average passerby as what he actually looks like? And hey: the FF isn’t a secret. The world knows they exist. So why cover up? Don’t want people to see you? Just don’t go outside, I reckon.

Sorry, I’m being insensitive to the… rock… enabled.

This is a hilarious expression.

“It’s time for me to take this dramatic flashlight off the floor!”

Man, Kirby expressions KILLING IT in this issue.

When I was a kid I LOVED these cut-way panels. As a broad characterization, boys love functionality. They love things that DO something. So seeing the potential of all these rooms and technology would always send me into flights of imagination where I invented all kinds of crazy adventures.

Once again, Kirby draws the coolest monsters.

This issue features the first costumes. And though Sue says “colorful”, they’re really all just blue.

But! Something to note: superheroes typically have unique costumes that identify themselves. Here, the FF have actual uniforms that show they’re part of a team with a unified look. There’s something to this that makes the FF different from other superhero teams… they’re not just heroes fighting crime, they’re an organization dedicated to exploring and uncovering mysteries, like the Challengers of the Unknowns (which we’ll get to sooner or later!). They’re science-based, so their use of uniforms makes sense, in ways that other hero outfits don’t.

Sue was ahead of her time with her unisex outfits. But that helmet for the Thing… kick it to the curb, sister!

It’s fascinating to go back to these old issues and see Kirby’s work evolve. Compare this panel to anything in the Avengers issues we’ve already covered. The texture on the monster’s legs ALONE is far advanced.

It was really nice of the Miracle Man to format his note to perfectly fit the angle with which the Commissioner is holding it.

Also, apparently the FF work for the Commissioner now?

Reed fights monsters and superhumans, and he’s taken out by one guy with a brick. HE HAS A RUBBER SKULL.

This also reminds me of the old Superman black and white show, in which Supes would stand there as a gangster drills him with bullets, but once the bullets run out and the gangster THROWS the gun at him, Superman DUCKS.

You know, it’s bad when the Commissioner is angry with you, but it’s so much worse when he’s disappointed.

Got to… fight it… must… warn… others…

… DAD?!

SISTERS ARE DOIN’ IT FOR THEMSELVES

Recap: Sue creates an outfit for the Thing, only to have him rip it off himself “so I can move!” He actually rips it off. And now here he is in ANOTHER uniform? He hates them! Why is he wearing another one?

Also: holy cats, that lamp.

“Guys! Guys! C’mon! I bet the AVENGERS don’t fight like this!”

“Unless Hawkeye’s on the team.”

“… okay.”

Marvel Presents: Amazing Emotional Adventures, Issue 5!

Okay, but… why not just hold a damn gun on them from the start? Why’s it gotta be a novelty oversized key? How’s that help ANYTHING?

Also, you KNOW you can’t hurt the Thing, and Mister Fantastic’s body is made of rubber, essentially… although, you did take him out with a BRICK, earlier, so…

Okay, what? When did he do THAT? Man, the unnecessary things Lee puts into his scripts.

You know, there was just an inventiveness to the older comics that you just can’t get anymore. You’d never see Reed do this these days.

Johnny, you just MELTED HER EYES FROM THEIR SOCKETS.

This is kind of a cool reveal, but… what about the cars that swerved out of the way and crashed, reacting to the giant monster? What about the soldiers who fired actual ammunition into it? What’d THEY hit? Not to mention whatever the Thing and the Torch destroyed while pursuing it?

The FF walk off into the sunset, laughing, while New York burns behind them.

Jeez, Reed, the Miracle Man took him out really easily earlier with chemical foam. That too tough for your big brain to handle?

And that’s it for the Fantastic Four… for NOW. Monday we’ll be back with a new title! What’ll it be… Marvel? DC? Something else entirely? Tune in and find out, True Believers!

Unearthed: Fantastic Four #2

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Welcome back as we usher in the era of the Skrulls! Those of you who only know of them through the MCU might be surprised at their lowly origins here. But fret not! They grow in stature and prominence throughout the Marvel Universe over the decades, eventually becoming one of the Great Alien Races. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Let’s just begin with the cover, shall we?

Almost adorable, aren’t they? But oh, so full of mischief, they are.

Take a good look at Thing’s ear here; you may never see it again.

Quick catch-up: crimes are being committed all over the city by what appears to be the Fantastic Four. Including…

… the melting of this marble statue. Yes. Somehow the Torch has melted marble. That’s a crime of an entirely different sort.

As is this! Holy cats, Reed TURNED OFF THE LIGHTS! What’ll we — oh, wait, the technician just turned them back on. Oh. Okay, we’re fine.

So you… set yourself on FIRE just to impersonate the Torch? Wow! J’onn J’onzz would be so impressed!

Oiks! Here’s my question: the Skrulls can change shape into anything. Why do they look like THIS? Or, rather, why do they all look the SAME? Is this some government-mandated effort against appearance-related tall poppy syndrome? Or, on the Skrull homeworld, is this considered the height of beauty?

These are the questions that drive us.

It’s because you paired that lavender hat with that royal blue coat, Thing. C’mon, man, you have to TRY.

Bear Head: FREEDOM! HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE FREEDOM!

Wondering how Reed’s clothes stretch along with his arms? Shut up, that’s how!

“Plum Squad, deploy to the right! Pumpkin Orange Squad, flank left! Yellow Squad will guard the rear — yes, AGAIN. Sh-shut up! We’re not COWARDS! That’s — that’s not why we’re called Yellow Squad! I — I’m telling SARGE!”

Escape in 3, 2, 1…

I really enjoy pointing out dumb Stan Lee plot points whenever they occur. Here we go:

Yo, Torch, bursting into flames wasn’t the problem. You weren’t in an air-tight room. How did you melt through that asbestos? You know, that flame-proof stuff you YOURSELF mentioned in the last panel?

You… you DO know what ‘invisible’ means, right?

“And now I’ll carefully screw it back into place and remain in my cell! Fair’s fair, they caught us, after all!”

You’ve set the entire BASE afire. Are you… SURE you’re the innocent ones here?

Okay, now’s the time to mention that at this time in comic book history, this kind of inter-team bickering and hostility was a new thing. Why, you’d never see the Justice League behaving like this! How do I know? Check it out!

Recap: the FF decide to smoke out the Skrulls by pretending to be one of them. And apparently the fact that they all look the same works to their disadvantage here, because they couldn’t even tell Johnny wasn’t one of them. Or they don’t talk to each other ever. Or something, whatever, Stan Lee.

UNNECESSARY DRAMATIC LIGHTING

“Got to… FIGHT it! Must… warn… others…”

It must really rankle the Thing to be constantly wrapped up in Reed’s arms like this, right? Or… OR… this is why Ben gets so riled up all the time… for some sweet, sweet stretchy lovin’! I have cracked the case.

UNNECESSARY DRAMATIC LI– wait, how is he even DOING that?

What would a GUILTY water tower look like? Goatee?

Okay, okay, time out. Reed is claiming these to be photos of Earth’s actual defenses and the lead Skrull is buying it. Stan, are you saying that these guys can’t recognize a drawing? Or that they’re scared of monsters, even though they THEMSELVES can become any kind of creature?

So anyway, Reed fools the Skrulls into leaving earth, and they come back to Earth in the spaceship they commandeered. On the way, they pass back through some kind of radiation belt, and Ben briefly becomes human again. And then this. Cripes, the poor guy, right? Sadly, this whole pathos angle gets shunted aside in the years to come, getting resurrected every now and then just for a quick, cheap stab at sentimentality. But man, he looks so DOWN in that final panel, dun’t’e?

How… is he holding on to the building?

Okay, well, there goes my earlier supposition that this is the Skrull epitome of beauty.

Promise you –? You don’t get to make demands! 10 seconds ago you were begging Reed not to KILL YOU.

Is it wrong that the thing I’m most drawn to in this panel is that weird, leaning tree?

And there you have it! The Fantastic Four #2! Friday we get to see #3, and hoo boy, you’re gonna wanna be here for THAT!

Please be here for that.

Unearthed: Fantastic Four #1 — PART TWO

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Welcome to Part Two of our look at The Fantastic Four #1! In the last episode, the FF were hurtled through space in an experimental rocket, bombarded by cosmic rays, then crashed back to Earth, where they exhibited strange new powers. But what will they do with these weird abilities? Let’s find out, SHALL WE?

This has never sat well with me. Everyone else names themselves what they are or do. Reed clearly calls himself out loud what he already names himself in his head.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good goatse joke, so here it is.

Ah, yes, let’s get back to the fact that Stan Lee knows nothing of science. “Radar machine”, Stan? Not a seismograph? Okay. I get it, you’re writing thirty-four comics each month, it’s fine.

Just a quick aside, here: I much prefer this outfit to what Ben eventually ends up in. ‘Cause those three-fingered white gloves are awesome. Also: where the hell did he find them?

We do Comics Breakdown because we’re petty, that much should already be clear to you, Dear Reader. And here’s our petty remark for these panels: are these disembodied eyes? Because if there are skulls attached, how are they all fitting so closely to each other?

Mankind has never produced a finer example of the expression of bewilderment.

So… Mister Fantastic has super-strength too? And being dunked in water is enough to put the kibosh on this monster?

A rare wordless panel. Eerie, isn’t it?

“I feel it too, Johnny! I’ve felt it since I first laid eyes on you! We were MEANT to be together!”

Also: Johnny can turn into flame. Flames shed light. Why is this a problem?

I can’t tell whether this panel was meant to be played for laughs or not, ’cause Reed with the fabric over his eyes complaining that he can’t see is pretty damn funny.

Yeah, okay, wondrous, etc., but you guys are UNDERGROUND. Where’s the light coming from?

Meanwhile, I just want to say that that’s a cool monster behind Sue there. Kirby. You have to love him.

“Yeah, and if only YOU could see that Reed’s got the hots for your brother!”

“… touché, Ben.”

Yeah? You sensed the blow coming that you screamed at him to try? That IS amazing. Also, ‘first fatal mistake’? Surely you get just ONE fatal mistake? Because that’s the one that kills you? No? Just me? Okay.

Forever, yup.

You’re right. Never again.

Oh, totally. Forever. Yeah.

Well, sure, Sue. We’ll never see the Mole Man again. He’s gone forever, like you guys keep saying. Too bad. He could’ve been an iconic FF villain. Oh well.

And that’s Fantastic Four #1! What a heady ride, eh? Kind of makes you wonder what’s gonna happen next, dunnit? Well fortunately for you, True Believer, we’ll get a look at FF #2 on Wednesday! MICROSOFT EXCEL SIOR!

Unearthed: Fantastic Four #1 — PART ONE

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It’s time for us to visit Marvel’s First Family… the Fantastic Four! In this first issue we see how much farther along Kirby’s art has progressed since the Avengers work we showcased in our first series… truly, one of the greats! There’s so much to cover here we’re splitting it up over two episodes! But first, the oft-mimicked cover:

Now, a few things off the bat: Stan Lee will always be one of the legends of the comics industry, but that doesn’t mean his work is unimpeachable. There are some odd storytelling bits we’ll highlight throughout this series.

Second, the cover here attests that this is the first time these four have come together… but as far as we know, they’ve never been seen even SEPARATELY before.

Third, for those of you new to the Fantastic Four, the exploits of Pixar’s Incredibles were based loosely on the FF… right down to the villain who shows up at the end of the first movie, The Underminer, a clear nod to this first issue’s Mole Man.

Okay, enough preamble. Now… THE AMBLE.

Your Fantastic Four starting line-up: Vincent Price as Reed Richards! Chris Cooper as Ben Grimm! Doris Day as Sue Storm! And Kasey Kasem as Johnny Storm!

“Why… it’s almost as though she… WALKED OUT OF THE ROOM!”

And thus begins Stan Lee’s run of needlessly complicating things.

And yet you’re clearly wearing clothes right NOW.

“Dat’s right, buddy boy, take a gander at my THING!”

And yet… you were able to get IN…

Just a word of appreciation for Kirby’s layout skills. Look at the wonderful variety on display here: foreground to background, the way the action leads the eye around the panel, the angles that contribute to the feeling of chaos… simply masterful.

And again here… there’s a sense of the sweeping movement of the water that leads directly to the “camera”. And look at the piping on the walls, which manages to look genuine but probably isn’t.

And Stan Lee writes the Thing in this first chapter as though he were some kind of melodramatic stage actor. In the second chapter he gives Ben more of a street New York accent. No reason for the change at all.

Sorry, are these not teenaged kids? The hell else COULD Johnny be talking about that this other dude wouldn’t know?

So, car completely destroyed because Johnny couldn’t open a door first. Not pictured: the horrific third-degree burns this kid suffered almost certainly.

“Grab me, Johnny boy! That’s it! Lower! Awww YEAH”

This is how you get Ben to do anything: eat his veggies, shower, do simple math… and he reacts with anger EVERY time. It’s hilarious, really.

Four of them easily sneak past a heavily-guarded launch pad wearing bulky flight suits. Okay, Stan.

So, Stan, cosmic rays are 1) made of light, 2) pass through you (just like light does, right?) so you can’t feel them, and 3) make a sound on metal, even though they pass through things. CITATION NEEDED

That’s just puberty, Johnny.

An unexpected side effect of cosmic rays: they allow you to think the same thing as everyone else.

And thus ends Part One of the Fantastic Four #1! Please to enjoy Part Two, coming soon!