Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Way It Began!

Since we've so recently taken a fresh look at Daredevil's emergence as a character in 1964, and since the Fantastic Four were included in that story as a humorous cameo (as well as a helpful sales push, no doubt), why don't we turn the tables on the FF and showcase their own updated origin from late 1972, when writer Roy Thomas steps aboard to replace Stan Lee as the book's writer and, just as was the case with Daredevil, appeals to our sense of nostalgia.

But how to break the ice on having the FF recall their origin, which they'd already revisited in great detail as well as covered the basics on several other occasions? For the hook, Thomas reached back eight years, where Reed Richards happened to be testing another one of his (what else?) fantastic inventions--in this case, a thought projector, which Reed puts through its paces in a way that makes it clear that this man's mind isn't always on his work.

The Thing gets his wish, though not exactly in the way he was hoping. On the bright side, at least he doesn't have Dr. Doom materializing in a swimsuit.

For the new story, it appears that Doom again plays a key part in its introduction--but this time, the implications are far more deadly.

Fortunately, Thomas still has the earlier FF story in mind, and the Thing is relieved to find that all isn't what it seems. (Though he takes another fall in the process.)

All the ruckus rouses the rest of the FF and brings them rushing into the room--but with Reed still recovering from a case of severe exhaustion, tempers become frayed all around, and everyone departs if only to take a break from each other.

Everyone except the Thing, who feels the need for distraction and reaches for a device he once again can't keep his hands off of.

A "sudden urge to see the way it was" is as good a plot device as any, as deftly as Thomas has opened the door to it by taking the thought projector out of mothballs and handily making use of it to reflect the Thing's memories. Up to this point we've never seen this story from the perspective of the Thing, the man who was dead set against the flight that was the cause of their transformations. But Thomas has Ben only making sparse observations of the scenes he projects, rather than going into his opinion on the subject to any detail.

Since Thomas's apparent purpose for this story is to help usher in a new wave of Fantastic Four readers and familiarize them with the elements of what made the FF so unique in comics, Ben's offhand interjections suffice; after all, he'd already said his piece when he strongly and repeatedly warned Reed about the dangers of cosmic ray exposure, so repeating himself now through his narrative would be redundant in light of the scenes playing out before us. For a really interesting take on this origin, someone should put together a story that explains why Reed, of all people--who's always so insistent on safeguards and covering all the bases--failed to raise his own concerns about cosmic ray exposure, rather than completely disregard them. (Such a scenario would play out--to an extent--in the 1987 Fantastic Four versus the X-Men.)

But what's done is done, and the unauthorized flight is on its way to making history--though that's understandably the last thing the four people aboard are thinking about.

To see one of their own inexplicably fade out before their eyes in terror, in what appeared to be a portent of this rash flight ending in disaster, must have been horrifying to watch and had the "survivors" fearing the worst. And even when it becomes clear that Sue is only invisible to their sight, the tension level among them was very likely off the charts. Fortunately, Sue turns visible again; but they're all clearly in uncharted territory, which becomes even more evident when they turn to see what happens to their pilot.

With the rest of the group now all in the same boat--but still alive--their collective mood shifts from alarm to thoughts of their immediate future. It's almost odd that Thomas has apparently advised artist John Buscema to stick to the basics and instead doesn't take the opportunity here to inject new material in this pivotal scene--for instance, it's probably a good bet that Reed's position at that rocket base is in the trash can, along with a good deal of his security clearance. What steps do these people take from here to "help humanity"? How will they present themselves to the very people they plan to strive for? The first Fantastic Four film solved the problem nicely with a spontaneous media appearance, thanks to the savvy of the attention-hungry Johnny Storm, but that doesn't take place here. With Ben narrating this story, you'd think the Thing would have some comments on his own concerns about how to fit in with this new group's plans; instead, he seems perfectly fine with closing this series of recollections with only minor revisions by Thomas.

The Thing's concern for his girlfriend Alicia's blindness, which he sought a cure for once before, fills out the rest of this issue, as the Thing sifts through memories of the FF's first encounter with the Mole Man--a blind foe who would later use a weapon against them that caused blindness in all of them, albeit temporarily. But the recollection causes Ben to make a leap in logic that sets up the events of the following two issues...

...though hopefully the Baxter Building doesn't fall down around HIS ears.

Fantastic Four #126

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Costanza


Kid said...

First bought this comic in a newsagent's shop in Hamilton, Scotland, on Friday, October 6th 1972. One of my all-time favourites.

Anonymous said...

"Do you want a foreign power to beat America to the moon ?" - so this time it's "a foreign power" rather than "the Commies". Kid mentioned he bought this comic on October 6th 1972 and only a week earlier Marvel UK was launched with "Mighty World Of Marvel" #1 featuring the Hulk, Spider-Man and the original...er,origin...of the Fantastic Four. I didn't discover Marvel comics till 1974 so I missed the FF's origin first time around but in September 1977 Marvel UK launched "The Complete Fantastic Four" #1 which included the Lee/Kirby stories as a back-up strip, beginning with the origin of the FF. So next month (September 21st) will be exactly 40 years since I first read the FF's origin :)

Comicsfan said...

Happy anniversary, Colin! We've all gotten together and chipped in to send you on a round-trip solo flight on the rebuilt "pocket rocket." There wasn't time to improve on the shielding, but what the hey--you'll circle the Earth and hopefully return a new man! (Or, at worst, something that resembles one!)

Anonymous said...

I'll look forward to it :)

Anonymous said...

Well, we lost Venus to the Soviets.
Now the Europeans and the Japanese are going to plant their flags on Mercury!
Where will it all end?!
At least we'll always have the Moon and Mars.