Friday, July 19, 2013

Watch Out for The Wizard

When you think of formidable foes for the Fantastic Four, you may think that his association with the now-pretty-much-a-joke Frightful Four disqualifies the Wizard from that list. Indeed, the Wizard hasn't really distinguished himself in battle since he adopted those goofy anti-grav discs as his weapon of choice, nor has Reed Richards had to lose much sleep over the thought of the Wizard ever rivalling him in the brilliant inventions department.

People tend to forget about those times when the Wizard lorded it over the Frightful Four with an iron glove, coming within a hairs breadth of defeating the FF on more than one occasion.  In fact, his "Id Machine," had it not been sabotaged, could have had both the Thing and the Torch in his thrall, giving his evil team 6-2 odds in subduing the remaining half of the FF without much credible resistance.  So the time was when the Wizard was no slouch at plotting to destroy his enemies, and devising the means to do so.  I haven't adapted and armed a Q-bomb lately, have you?

Nor did he limit himself to one weapon, with his battle suit hosting a variety of devices as well as an impressive internal power source. He really didn't need discs to harness the power of anti-gravity--they were simply remote devices that could dispatch his enemies without diverting his own power to the task. And after the Frightful Four was finally defeated and Medusa had left the team, we would see that the Wizard didn't really need his teammates to be a deadly threat to the Fantastic Four in his own right. He still had his inventive genius, as well as a thirst for revenge that wasn't quenched with his release from prison. So when he returned to his lab in Fantastic Four #78, he decided to add to his suit's arsenal:

As luck would have it, the Wizard would be catching the FF at a vulnerable time. The Invisible Girl was in the hospital, soon to give birth; and Reed had finally succeeded in his promise to Ben Grimm, to rid him of his existence as the Thing for good:

But before the remaining members of the FF can properly celebrate with their now-human teammate, their congratulations are interrupted by a sudden attack:

Well, you and I have some inside info that Johnny doesn't, so we know who's come calling, don't we.

It certainly looks like the Wizard has got the FF dead to rights, but his arrival has me wondering about a couple of other things. For one, is "wingless" really the best he can do as far as choosing a fearsome adjective for his name? We know the dude can fly, yes--but aren't "wizards" (or plain old criminals, for that matter) usually wingless? They may ride horses, or have cloaks of levitation, but I don't know of any with wings. Why would he point out the obvious? Secondly, do the FF's vaunted protective devices only work on walking foes, while their flying enemies get to take advantage of easy rooftop access?

Still, we're here to see the Wiz wipe the floor with the FF, and the Torch steps right up:

I don't know--Johnny may be fatuous at times, but I've never known him or anyone else to be "wronger."  Is "wronger" an actual word? Is "righter"? If you're wrong, how can you be more wrong? Isn't "wrong," like "right," an absolute? Since the Beast isn't here with his pocket dictionary, I'll have to ask one of you to clarify it for me--because I could be wrong. But if so, I don't think I'm wronger than wrong.

But let's get back to the battle. Look at all the things the Wizard can now do with a pair of gloves. We've seen force rays and amped up strength--how about a remote-controlled typhoon?

I'm betting that's a clever manifestation of his anti-grav power, dressed up as a new weapon. But even though the Torch is down, Reed is just getting started. Remember his old whiplash trick that he used on Dr. Doom? It works just as well on Wizards, even wingless ones. But Reed is in for a shock, literally:

Which brings a fighting-mad Thing into the fight. Or, rather, a fighting-mad Ben Grimm, who still thinks of himself as the Thing:

But against a foe who's just laid out Mr. Fantastic and the Torch, a fighting heart won't be enough to turn the tide:

It's a crucial point in the story, since Ben will later be told that he can transform one more time into the Thing--but if he does, he can never again regain human form. And he must decide what is more important to him--the well-being of his friends and teammates he's developed ties with, or his existence as a normal human. Because as it stands, his liability to the team is obvious:

With the three active FF members seemingly down, the Wizard wastes no time in taking a preliminary victory lap. And can you blame him? With the successful use of these new "wonder gloves," he has every right to crow. And as the Torch takes another crack at him, we'll see these gloves can be used for defensive as well as offensive purposes:

It's nice to see Johnny not have to take his cues from Reed for a change. Because he comes up with quite the idea for trapping and hopefully defeating the Wizard:

The plan works, and a very soggy Wizard is fished out and deprived of his deadly gloves. Yet with his anti-grav ability still intact, it's understandable that the man isn't eager to return to a prison cell:

The Wizard would return again to take on the FF with a new pair of gloves--only this time he'd be facing the team at their full fighting strength, including one member whose unexpected power would throw him off his game. Still, both issues left no doubt that the Wizard was a worthy adversary on his own--though such treatment by Marvel would prove to be the exception rather than the rule.

Fantastic Four #78

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

This is classic Kirby, all right. He had a way of pulling in action and slapstick in the same panel...
I always liked the Wizard, even if his ultimate intentions were pretty vague. I never understood what that guy was after, and apparently, nobody else did, so he got regulated to comic relief (Monarch from the Venture Bros.) But I loved the scene in Acts of Vengeance were he told the Red Skull exactly what he thought about him.

Comicsfan said...

I've only glanced at the Wizard's early appearances in Strange Tales, but it seemed to me he was always after status and recognition more than anything else. He may have felt unfulfilled in that respect by pursuing more legal endeavors that made him rich--so perhaps he turned to crime as a way to satisfy his ego.

Anonymous said...

Wrong wronger wrongest. More wronger most wronger mostest wrongest. If you're not right you're wrong, if you're really not right you couldn't be wronger. If you're not right three times, you're left! LOL! Three not rights, left!