Monday, May 31, 2021

"Bedlam At The Baxter Building!"


Over fifty-five years ago, the city of New York was gearing up for the wedding of two of its most famous residents--a celebration which spilled over into the year's action-packed Fantastic Four annual!

...but not everyone was thrilled with the impending nuptials.

It's been over eight years since the PPC briefly tipped its hat to this 1965 issue, and it's high time it was given its full due. But try explaining that to Dr. Doom, who, at this point in time, has recovered from the injuries his hands received from the crushing attack of the Thing, though it's his earlier defeat at the hands of Reed Richards which continues to gnaw at him. Fortunately, through the magic of what we used to call "back issues," we can pair up scenes in which Doom continued to rage at past humiliations he has suffered from both members of the Fantastic Four, moments of bitter recollection which began to fester just around the time when the Frightful Four were about to launch their final attack against the FF at their Baxter Building headquarters--after which, we jump ahead to follow up with Doom's harsh treatment of his copy of the "Daily Press." In both instances, it's clear that few can hold a grudge like this armored foe.

Well, not to contradict someone of Doom's volatile temper, but one look at Fantastic Four #100 gives us an idea of how unsuccessful even an army of super-villains would be against the team; and in this earlier issue, it turns out they'll even have the help of other heroes at their side. Understandably, however, Doom is in no mood to plan this operation carefully, as he successfully did in an alternate timeline--he only wants to send hordes of enemies against his enemies in a pure fit of pique.

Of course, you won't find many weddings that have the benefit of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents working security on them--which means that even those who aren't so blatant in their efforts to comply with the sudden urge to attack the FF will find it's no easy matter, even on so joyous an occasion.

At first, however, the Thing resists his impulse to spoil his best friend's day with news that this incident could be a sign of trouble. Yet there's nothing like a destructive breach of the Baxter Building by the Mole Man and his army to rid Ben Grimm of that notion.

With artist Jack Kirby in the process of withdrawing from the X-Men book around this time, what we're seeing is perhaps his final full-fledged penciling of the team in action--and since they end up with a generous amount of exposure throughout this story, it's safe to say their appearance in an FF annual presented an excellent opportunity to promote their own title as it continued to strive to catch on with readers.

And speaking of exposure, the cover alone turns out to be a good deal of fun in terms of not only identifying those depicted, but also in noting those who never take part in this melee. For instance, none of the Frightful Four would join the battle, considering that three of them are in jail and Medusa is on the run; Doom is in Latveria, so he can't be worried about Cyclops taking aim at him (not that he'd be worried in any event); Dragon Man, Loki, the Leader, the Invincible Man, the Red Skull, the Wasp, the Scarlet Witch, and Diablo are all no-shows; and Nick Fury seems to be presented twice. (Or, if not, then who's the Sgt. Fury look-alike near the Grey Gargoyle?) People that were difficult to recognize (at least for yours truly): (1) the guy peering up from beneath the Mole Man's staff; (2) whoever is beneath Sue's left armpit; (3) the cowboy near the masthead; (4) the villain near Thor's hammer (for some reason he reminds me of Mad-Dog, though obviously that can't be the case).

As for the Hulk and Namor, neither of whom shows up, we're provided pitiful explanations for their absence:

Which is pure baloney--for the simple reason that, if this emotion charger is able to reach someone who resides in another century, neither the depths of the ocean nor the Hulk's current location would limit its ability to reach and affect its targets.

But what about the stars of this mag? It looks like they have problems of their own, since the Red Ghost doesn't have to worry about SHIELD agents stopping him at the door. (We'll have to figure out later how three more corporeal super-apes slip by them.)

And along with the X-Men and Dr. Strange on the scene, others begin showing up, either responding to the growing turmoil or because they've received formal invitations to the wedding.

It's news to me that the Super-Skrull possesses "every power known," regardless of his shape-changing ability. At any rate, don't you just love how Thor takes a bead on him from below before smashing his ship?

With clear indications of the crisis in their midst, three of the FF head into the streets (and the sky) to head off those making a beeline for their building. (Apparently writer Stan Lee feels no explanation whatsoever is needed for why Sue isn't suiting up to join them.) No doubt the FF's landlord is gratified to see this conflict moving from the confines of the Baxter Building and heading into the streets--which is where we find Matt Murdock, who, along with members of his firm, was also an official guest but who now appears as someone better equipped to deal with the growing violence.

The forces of Hydra were a sensible inclusion to the effects of Doom's machine, guaranteed to draw a response from those who are attempting to stem the tide of evil that's suddenly engulfing the city. As luck would have it, however, Daredevil's efforts to divert Hydra's deadly weapon head off what could have been a serious threat which might have overwhelmed all involved.*

*Attuma and his forces--an entire invasion force which apparently just happened to be not in the depths of the ocean but within range of Doom's charger--likely wouldn't have cared who fell from their attack, whether hero or villain.

As for the group of villains which Cyclops heads into--while it's amusing to see the Beetle count himself in the company of the likes of the Mandarin, the Unicorn, and the Melter, he does raise a good point in that any one of those individuals was more than capable of flooring Iceman with a single strike, let alone unleashing their combined power. Perhaps that would have also been the fate of Cyclops, who is an average man to a super-powered attacker if he's not firing his force beam; but he has not only their terrible aim to thank for his life, but also the concussive force from their exchange of fire which halts their attack for the time being.

The only other street scene of note involves two of the Avengers, Hawkeye and Captain America, facing the unusual foursome of the Executioner, the Enchantress, the Cobra, and Mr. Hyde--with a cameo by a certain web-swinger.

Meanwhile, the explosive sound from the attack of, er, "the Beetles" (come on, why shouldn't the luckless Beetle form a new criminal group with those other four, though "the Thunder-Bolts" would probably be more fitting) has most of the combatants converging in one spot--which if you think about it is along the lines of what Doom had in mind for the FF, minus any assistance from their fellow heroes.

Finally, however, this conflict draws in a deus ex machina to put it to an end, in the form of the Watcher--a being who supposedly follows the credo of his entire race in restricting their activities to observing the developments and conflicts of other species but avoiding interference. Yet the Watcher has apparently developed a soft spot for Earthlings, and for the efforts of the FF in particular--and so rather than watch this battle from afar, he appears on the scene and transports Reed to his home, where he makes available to the leader of the FF any device which Reed feels would help him. Fortunately, one such device seems tailor-made to deal with all of the combatants at a stroke--and, as we'll learn, the conflict's instigator.

Despite the circumstances of a snap ending to the hostilities, all things considered it's nice to be left with only a sea of friendly faces to escort the groom to his wedding, and to his bride-to-be. But for two prospective attendees, there are regrettably still hurdles to be faced, even though a friendly nod to this story's creators might be in order at so auspicious a moment. Unfortunately, to the agents of SHIELD... well, a job's a job.

Artist Alex Ross adapts this issue's cover to include another wedding down the road.

(Hey, nailed him this time, Cyke!)


dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Ok. Behind Thor's hammer I think it's a miscoloured Melter.

The cowboy at the top will be someone from Marvel's Western comics - was Two Gun Kid being published at this time?

Under Mole Man's staffI think it's Handsome Harry Phillips from the Titanic Three.

Behind Sue I have no idea. A Spider Slayer?

And on the Avengers Assemble panel that's everyone always asks who the guy is in the bottom left with a tache, I think that's Gregory Gideon.

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

And on a separate point, the Coletta inks on this issue are far too rushed. He makes Kirby look like an amateur. A bad choice of resource allocation by Stan.

Big Murr said...

The Character Identification Game took a confusing turn for me. I have a scanned copy of the (original?) FF Annual, so I opened up the cover to be able to zoom in more easily. To my surprise, the colours didn't match the cover you uploaded! Each colourist made choices that are good and bad and curious. Too bad they couldn't be shuffled together, cherry-picking each character.

One example is my edition has Quicksilver wearing his blue and white costume on the cover and inside the story. Your's has Pietro in his green and white togs thru out.

The character under Sue's arm on mine definitely has the classic green and purple arrangement of Kang. My issue then has Kang in green and purple inside the story while yours has him decked out in orange. This doesn't match the grey fellow on your cover.

The character under Mole Man's staff on my cover is in a rumpled blue suit compared to the brown and tan suit on your cover. Neither colour choice makes for a solid ID.

The dude behind Thor's hammer is unknown to me, but he's sporting a mint-green helmet-mask with a blue costume on my cover. The colourist on your cover sure had a thing for brown, because this "hammer guy" is tan and brown. Whoever he may be, to my eye, he looks to be featured pretty thoroughly thru the issue, though never with any lines to say. Judging by the "ears" on his helmet design (and there's a consistency of colouring in my issue), I *think* he's in the gang assaulting Ice Man. He then stands beside the Mandarin in the panel where Reed appears with the deus ex machina. The colouring continuity fails, but the "ear helmet" makes me suspect he's the guy between Enchantress and Executioner in the big collection vortex round-up.

Big Murr said...

All that puzzle fun aside, this issue was pure wild & woolly fun. It's practically a "Not Brand Ech" story. A grandiose splash of cross-connection and cementing that the Marvel Universe was one grand tapestry.

And I can understand Stan's reluctance with Namor and Hulk. In this era, which side of the donnybrook would they be on??

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Just looked at my Marvel Masterworks vol 25 and it looks like it has most of Murr's colouring.

With the corrected colouring, I agree it's clearly Kang under Sue's arm.

Hammer guy is definitely the Melter. Blue helmet and yellow ochre cape in two places inside (attacking Ice Man and next to Reed) but with different colours in two places (on cover and sucked up by the machine). Looking at Avengers #16 it should be blue helmet and green cape? But given how I've already forgotten the colours, no surprise that the FF Annual #3 colourist did.

B Smith said...

Just wondering - when did the final edition of a daily newspaper hit the streets back then? It's just that it's pretty impressive that said final edition has not only appeared on sale, but Doom's managed to somehow have one in his metallic mitts half a world away in very short time!

Also, although you didn't show it (I went and had a look elsewhere) I suspect Patsy Walker and Hedy have had some work done by hands other than Kirby's or Colletta's.

Comicsfan said...

You know, dangermash, Harry Phillips isn't a bad guess for the guy under MM's staff. My first choice would have been Rick Jones (another no-show, but he usually appears wherever the Hulk is (who seems to have spotted him))--then, I began thinking that the guy resembles Norman Osborn, which of course had me questioning my sanity. Behind Sue would be the Unicorn; but I'm starting to agree with the consensus that the tiny figure underneath her arm is indeed Kang. I'm not so sure about Gideon--our guy in the free-for-all appears to be sporting white hair in the back, while Gideon was bald.

Murray, you made me curious to take a look at my own original copy (not one I own, but a scanned image from the 2007 FF/Silver Surfer archival DVD--complete with torn edges!--which resembles what you'll find on the Grand Comics Database site). The colors, while darker, appeared to match for the most part. Quicksilver's costume, for instance, was its proper green (within the issue, as well), which was the shade he wore as part of Cap's quartet around this time; "Kang's" uniform was too dark to make the call as to its color; and the floppy-eared character behind Thor still had an orange mask (which is indeed improperly colored if it's the Melter). BTW, it's funny you mention Not Brand Echh, because I found myself wondering if some of those caricatures on the cover could have been Marie Severin's doing (though the GCD site doesn't credit her).

B, that is a great observation about Doom and his copy of the Daily Press (and at a nickel a copy--you can't beat that). I suppose if anyone could arrange for a copy to be flown overseas in record time, it would be the good Doctor. ;)

Big Murr said...

A super genius of Doom's caliber in 1965 was no doubt far ahead of the mundane efforts in the technology of telefacsimile transmission. The Latervian Embassy in New York would likely use this "fax" machine to send their monarch the latest papers promptly.

(I'm going to pause and conjure a mental image of a Doom-built fax machine as drawn by Kirby. I wish the fax machines I used in the 1980's had "Kirby crackles" and oversized dials)

Kid said...

When this tale was reprinted in the first printing of Masterworks Vol 25, I partially re-inked, re-lettered, and re-created some parts of the cover, using a photocopy of a '60s UK printing of the art which had been altered for use as an ad. My name's in the credits at the beginning of the book. In later editions of most (if not all) Masterworks volumes, numerous 'restored' pages were substituted with newly-discovered original proofs.

Anonymous said...

This comic is fun on a bun!
I don't see how a Marvel fan wouldn't dig this. I got a copy now, but if I saw this when I was a kid my head woulda exploded.
My favorite scene was when the red Ghost and his Super Apes got sent tumbling into an alternate dimension.
It strikes me as a bit severe, though. Apparently they made it back later on, but how?
Great review of a classic, C.F.
'Nuff said.


Comicsfan said...

Thanks very much, M.P. As for the Ghost, I believe he appeared next in an Iron Man story in an uneasy partnership with the Unicorn, though there's no mention of his involvement with Strange. He wouldn't have been a victim of the effects of the Watcher's machine which would have altered his memory, so it's not like his fate at the hands of Strange "never happened"--maybe it was Strange himself who relented and retrieved the Ghost at some point. (If that's the case, you'd think he could have materialized him at a police precinct!)

Colin Jones said...

On the splash page Dr. Doom is actually reading the back of the newspaper so I assume he's finished with the Reed & Sue headline story and is now perusing the sports pages at the back (do American newspapers put the sports pages at the back?) :D

Fantastic Four follower said...

As a child this seemed to me as the greatest Marvel comic up to that point in the Marvel story!It blew me away and I still believe it's an unbelievable comic.Now the experts will tell you that Collette was wrong as an inker for the FF....I disagree.It was an amazing issue with so many fantastic images I could not list them all.I still believe that Stan and Jack gave that issue as a gift to all the MARVELITES who had made Marvel a success.It was a simpler time and I believe most MARVELITES would have been blown away by the amount of guest stars.It was a belter of a comic and remains so today.Kepp up the great work my friend.

Comicsfan said...

FF Follower, I certainly agree with you how thrilling this story must have been to its readers in the mid-'60s. I first read it as a reprint sometime in the 70s (reprints at the time were bringing me up to speed on what I'd missed), and even then I was just eating up these panels and the sheer scope of all the guest-stars and the action.

Colin, I have to say I doubt that Doom was driven to rip his paper into shreds because of the outcome of the Yankees game the day before. :) No doubt the reporting of an event as celebrated as this wedding was continued from the front page to more expanded coverage within--and Doom, if not exactly star-struck, found himself scanning all of it until, as we saw, he could stand no more.

Kid, thanks for that info--I've noticed a bit of retouching in one or two of the Masterworks series (I didn't pick up many volumes), which perhaps isn't surprising. With digital remastering/reproduction of these stories not yet even a glimmer in anyone's eye, they may have considered their Masterworks product as the highest quality standard that would be available for some time, even indefinitely.