Friday, 29 August 2008

It Begins Here: The Fantastic Four!

Fantastic Four #1, November 1961
(Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, obviously.)

So, imaginatively enough, I figured we'd better start in November 1961, right back where it all started. Driven scientist Reed Richards persuades his fiancee, her brother, and his best friend, to help him steal his rocket ship and make the first manned space flight. Curiously, Richards seems unaware that Yuri Gagarin had made it into space six months earlier.

Anyway, our cast make it into space, but haven't reckoned on the cosmic rays which go to town on their ship, and on themselves.

One swift crash-landing later, and the fab four are demonstrating a range of unnatural abilities. After a few seconds of recriminations, the team have agreed to use their powers for good.

Our tale proper begins with Dr Richards sending out a signal to his pals, asking them to gather for an important mission. Unfortunately, he hasn't forewarned the local authorities, so his signal flare causes something of a panic.

Stan and Jack haven't worked out all the dynamics yet, as evidenced by the Thing skulking around the sewers of Central City (New York not yet established as the home of the fledgling Marvel Universe, when not being shot at by a terrified populace. On the other hand, Johnny Storm is shown as self-centered and impulsive straight off the bat.

In fact, I'm wondering now whether the reason the FF locate to New York, is because of the panic they cause in the city in the first half of this city. At one point, the Mayor of Central City is so alarmed by the team's activities, that he allows the National Guard to fire nuclear missiles at the Human Torch...

Anyway, the reason that Dr Richards has summoned his comrades, causing no end of panic to the citizens of Central City, is that giant monsters are attacking nuclear power stations all over the world. Richard's huge intellect has fathomed out that whatever is behind the attacks lives on the mysterious Monster Isle (in later years Godzilla would set up residence on just this island), and set off to investigate.

Interestingly, at this stage of the game, the FF haven't even got as far as wearing costumes, mostly just turning out in whatever they happen to be wearing at the time. It'll be a couple of issues before the team start wearing the uniforms we'll come to know and love. The team soon learn the finer points of supervillain protocol, as they encounter the Mole Man, the mastermind behind the attacks, who wearns a lovely green catsuit / red cape combination.

The Mole Man intends to launch an attack on the surface world, in revenge for having been bullied when he was a kid. Well, there are worse motivations. Anyway, our heroes make short work of Moley and his monster minions, who blows up his own headquarters in a fit of pique. And that's the end of him.

Yeah, that's right, Dr Richards, he blew himself up. Very convenient, that, saves all that due process. Still in a few decades, he'll be turfing his foes into extra-dimensional gulags, so perhaps he's doing the Mole Man a favour...

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