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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

The last few dozen issues of FF have had a real sense of drastic escalation; the FF losing their powers fighting their evil counterparts, then having to deal with their deadliest enemies while powerless, then being forced to turn against one another and made evil and then battling an entire hidden civilization of powerful superhumans. All this comes to a head in what's still considered the biggest comic book arc of all time in The Coming of Galactus.

Sidebar, but there were two things that I saw a lot in cartoons and comics and the like that absolutely terrified me as a concept when I was tiny; one was being shrunk down tiny and falling inside someones body and killed by their immune system (still haven't had a chance to confront and overcome this one) and the other was Galactus. Well... Unicron, technically, since I saw the Transformers movie before the Fantastic Four cartoon, but there's a couple of important fundamental differences between the characters. But I'm getting ahead of myself; we're still not actually finished with the Inhumans Saga.

Last time, having realized that his conquest of Attilan crumbled the very instant he met any kind of resistance, Maximus the Mad lived up to his name by activating the Atmo-Gun, a weapon capable of producing vibrations capable of ripping people apart at a molecular level, carefully tuned to leave Inhumans alone, as part of a bid to keep the people of Attilan safe from Humans interference.

Black Bolt quickly realizes what his brother is up to when the hidden city starts literally shaking itself apart, and confronts him; setting up what's sure to be a dramatic and exciting conclusion to this conflict between royal brothers, a saga as old as time.

Except that Blackbolt is having none of it and just backhands Maximus across the room, right in the middle of evil evil rant.

And the threat of the Atmo-Gun turns out to have been far worse than the reality of it, as it didn't actually do much; despite all of Maximus grand-standing and denigrating of the human race, there's no difference between the two; Inhumans just figured out how to trigger super-powers in people; we're all the same species. All the Atmo-Gun wound up doing was knock some people over with its shockwaves.

Max takes THIS defeat far less calmly than the last several and demands that the people of Attilan will respect him as leader when he saves them from humans once and for all; if he can't kill the human race he's going to FORCE the Inhumans to be safe; and he activates his final trump card; a fully indestructible Negative Zone Barrier that envelopes the city, causing it to sink deep into the earth. The FF barely escape the city before the barrier finishes forming, locking them outside forever, while the Inhumans are trapped within.

Also; despite the name, I don't think this Negative Zone has any connection to the other more popular Negative Zone in the Marvel Universe, Stan just knew a cool name for some mad science when he came upon one.

Johnny and Crystal are both just absolutely inconsolable at this, both firing everything they have at the barrier trying to break it so they can be together (they managed to fall for each other pretty hard, despite the only thing they know about each other being that they're both hot, in both senses of the word), but the laws of physics, even crazy made-up physics are stronger than the hearts of two love-struck teens and you don't get out of being called an Indestructible Negative Zone just because a doofus and princess want to smooch.

One of the few times I actually feel for Johnny though, kid is just CRUSHED by this whole experience, big props to Jack for the layouts here. And so, bringing the Inhumans saga to a close, the FF head back to New York, with Reed having to add another impossible scientific challenge in trying to break open the Negative Zone Barrier, turn Ben back to Human, cure Alicias blindness and make his wife divorce him.

That last one is conjecture on my part, but there's lots of evidence to support it.

MEANWHILE IN DEEPEST SPACE

We cut to the Fifth Quadrant of the Andromeda Galaxy, specifically around the Skrull Homeworld, where the Skrulls are in a complete panic when their sensors pick up a mysterious silvery man surfing nearing the planet and immediately command a blackout for the entire empire out of the desperate hope that whoever this silver figure is, that'll be enough for it to overlook them.

One of the Skrulls thinks this is a bit ridiculous, they have an interstellar empire with unquantifiable weaponry and advanced technology, surely they can stop just one person. And the Emperor insists that even if that were true, which it *certainly* is not, the problem isn't him, it's what follows him.

And this is our first big hint that this is going to be a BIG DEAL in the very near future, because what we have here is the Herald of Galactus, The Sentinel of the Spaceways;



The Silver Surfer

Surfers origins got expanded on in a spinoff comic a few years later which, apocryphally, was the last straw in getting Jack Kirby fed-up with Marvel and leaving the House of Ideas since he had no input whatsoever in fleshing out a character he wholly created and which went against all the characterization he'd laid out. A good chunk of that characterization was brought back in by later writers, but still, had to sting. What's immediately clear is that the Surfer is single-mindedly hunting down specific planets in service of his master, Galactus, he can travel easily through space and literally surfs on the wake of exploding stars and crashing comets, which looks rad AF and is another case of Jack Kirby just drawing the HELL out of a comic book. Or possibly the side of a van. You know, whatever medium he's working with at the time.

And by george, the Surfer thinks he's found just the planet he's been looking for in the next galaxy over.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH

The FF don't really get time to catch their breath after the emotionally draining day they've just had, as when they arrive in New York, they're a bit surprised to see a second sun in the sky. They're slightly more surprised when this second sun immediately *sets the entire sky on fire*. Johnny sees this and figures this is right in his wheelhouse and flies off to investigate things. Sue's happy because this will get him out of the moping he's been doing for the last couple of hours of watching a girl he has a crush on be sealed away forever by an energy wall. Reeds less happy because the entire city of New York is understandably panicky because ALL OF THE SKY IS CURRENTLY ON FIRE, and they might turn on the known doofus who solves all his problems by creating fire and not considering the outcomes of his actions.

And, well, Reed is right. The FF briefly get involved in trying to calm the crowd (a tough guy tries to pick a fight with Ben, saying "A belt in the LABONZA will take the wind outta yer sails" before breaking his hand punching him), but what calms the crowd far faster is the fact that the flaming skies suddenly disappear being replaced with the images of floating rocks, as though the earth was being torn asunder.

Weirdly, this is calming instead of even more alarming for people.

As it turns out, when Reed returns to his lab and sees him standing there, these apocalyptic visions are all being caused by The Watcher; and Sue quickly calls him out for completely terrifying the entire population of the Earth. Even by Uatus pretty relaxed standards for what constitutes "never interfering", this is pretty out of character behavior for him.

Uatu is having none of it, because something is coming to Earth, and he has to try to stop it by any means necessary; vows to watch and not interfere are meaningless if there's nothing to watch or interfere with, afterall.

And this, more than the terrifying holograms covering the planet are what make the FF realize that this is... a much bigger situation than they're used to dealing with.

And it's all for naught anyway, as the Silver Surfer has found the Earth and seen through the Watchers illusions and prepares to summon his Master. In a last ditch effort to stop whatever is about to happen, Ben punches the Surfer at full strength and knocks him clear across the city, but it's far too late;

The titanic Star Sphere of Galactus appears in the sky, descends on top of the Baxter Building, and Galactus the Devourer of Worlds appears.

Oh... Oh shiiiiiiiiii~

Next Time: Things Get Worse
 

Fredde

Let me rock you Chaugnar Faugn
While I don't think Busiek's and Ross' Marvels is 100% perfect, their version of this story is still amazing to look at.

 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
It’s also the point where Tom Sciolis Grand Design starts to really diverge from the comics, bringing in Jacks original ideas for the arc, such as Galactus and the Surfer being the Watchers creation, and completely revamping the quest and purpose off the Nullifier
 

Daikaiju

Rated Ages 6+
(He, Him)
It’s also the point where Tom Sciolis Grand Design starts to really diverge from the comics, bringing in Jacks original ideas for the arc, such as Galactus and the Surfer being the Watchers creation, and completely revamping the quest and purpose off the Nullifier
Say what?
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
As the story goes, (and I only learned this recently myself, in an interview with Scioli) Jack originally intended for Uatu to have been the one who woke Galactus up early, changing him from his intended role of Bringer of Life to a Devourer of Worlds, and that action was what caused him to vow to never again interfere with the universe.

But that wound up contradicting the much less interesting origin of The Watcher that Larry Lieber wrote a few years earlier, so Stan vetoed it.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Jack kinda tried to work that in when he wrote about Galactus’ origins later; it was because his incubator was damaged when it was caught in a war fought by aliens millions of years ago and it may have been the same species that the Watchers uplifted which lead to their vow. So Galactus is still kinda Uatus fault but far less directly

That might just be conjecture on my part, though since im
Not certain if they were the same species
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

Just gonna let the Smilin' Man handle the recap this time, because, honestly, it sells things better than I could;

"GALACTUS HAS LANDED ON EARTH! Any additional words of ours would simply pall beside the awesome portent of that one staggering phrase; Galactus has Landed on Earth... And now, Humanity itself teeters on the brink of Doomsday"

Thanks Stan, you're really stretching your legs with cosmic speeches this time, so take a breather for a few panels.

If this Be Doomsday kicks off with the FF still standing around shocked at the sheer enormity of Galactus, and the threat he poses, so The Watcher gets to interferin' and makes a plea on Humanitys behalf that Galactus leave the Earth alone.


Galactus, incidentally, has had a makeover since his single panel appearance in the last issue; his armor looks slightly different and it's Purple and Blue instead of Red and Green. He hasn't received his pants yet, however. The Power Cosmic is limitless in scale, but sometimes comfort is more important.

Galactus simply does not care about the Watchers passionate plea to save the Earth;

"Despite your power, which I know full well, it must not be forgotten... I AM GALACTUS. I am Supreme Unto Myself. This Planet contains the energy I need to sustain myself, therefor I SHALL absorb it. The lives of the billions upon its surface are of no concern."

At this point the FF realize that it's about time to stop gawping at the cosmic God that landed on their roof and start doing something about it; Ben putting all his force into the biggest punch of his life and Johnny going full Nova trying to damage Galactus.

And nothing happens.

Galactus brushes them off like the insects they are compared to him, even going so far as to spray Ben with Cosmic Powered bug repellent (which, from Bens reaction, is excruciating); and the FF are simply beaten. Every foe they've encountered so far has been beaten either by Reeds brilliance, Johnnys ingenuity, Bens fortitude or Sues compassion or by simple teamwork.

Galactus is so staggeringly beyond all of them that there are no terms for it.

So... they leave. Reed figures that if they don't have any possible means by which to actually stop what's coming they might as well face the apocalypse well rested and head back inside the Baxter Building for a shower and shave, gather their thoughts and then try again later, leaving Galactus alone to assemble his planet devouring machinery.

Meanwhile, we come back to the Silver Surfer, whom Ben punched clear across the city in the last issue, and by sheer coincidence, he lands in Alicia Masters' apartment. By even more shocking coincidence, he happens to land perfectly on her sofa. Which she is barely startled by.

When you're dating a giant rock man and hanging out with his friends, the superhero astronauts, and have been kidnapped by a science-wizard a couple times and your step-dad is a supervillain with mind-control puppets, it takes a lot to catch you off guard, so she immediately decides to help this mysterious metal man from outer space by fixing him a sandwich, and having a little chit-chat with him.

Surfers reaction to seeing a sandwich for the first time is priceless;

"Hungry? Eat? Can it be that you actually consume these morsels? Galactus is right! The mysteries of the universe are without limit!"

Norrin is... pretty easy to impress considering his day job.

Back at the Baxter Building, Bens finished his bath and Reeds done shaving, so they're going to give this Galactus thing another shot, but are interrupted by the Watcher who feels like they still aren't *quite* grasping the situation they're dealt with, so he whips up a cosmic power-point presentation of what, precisely, Galactus means when he says he's going to devour the Earth. All of which reaffirms that the FF simply have no hope of defeating him in a straight fight; but the Watcher has a plan to save the Earth; by leading Johnny to Galactus' World-Ship and having him steal one of the weapons within it; the Ultimate Nullifier.

The rest of the FF agree to this plan and decide to fight Galactus anyway in order to buy time for Johnny to get the Nullifier.

The rematch goes... precisely as badly as the first fight for the FF; Ben deals some damage to Galactus' machinery, but not enough to stop it. Ben also chucks Reed directly into Galactus' nards, which knocks him off balance a bit, all of which... annoys the giant. And instead of spraying them with cosmic poison again, he goes one step higher and sends THE PUNISHER after them!

Which is a weird robot frog-man, not Frank Castle. Eventually, he would send Frank Castle after people, granted, but this time it's this guy;



And even this fourth-string memeber of Galactus' arsenal is beyond the FFs ability to fight; it just beats on Ben for a while until the FF are forced to flee and then Galactus calls it back, confident that the heroes know their place and they're content to just sit back and watch the end of the world.

Meanwhile, in space, Johnnys speed an maneuverability helped him survive the trip through Hyperspace, and brought him to Galactus' Worldship, and now he has to contend with finding just one weapon in a space-station the size of an entire solar system;



Gotta give props, the Worldship is one of the coolest spaceships Jacks ever drawn.

So while Reed Sue and Ben have been thoroughly defeated by a frog man, and Johnny is lost in a Dyson Sphere (Dyson Mobius-Strip?), we cut back to Alicias apartment, where the Surfer reveals why he's so mystified by the concept of chewing and swallowing food; he gains sustenance by converting matter into energy and absorbing it, and to show off how good he is at it, he also converts most of her artwork and furniture the same way. She's upset at this, but he informs her not to worry, because that's about to happen to the entire planet because he lead a planet-devouring Space God to the Earth. So any annoyance she has will be pretty short-lived.

Alicia is... much more upset about hearing how blasé the Surfer is about the impending destruction of Earth than she is about her apartment being wrecked (unstandable), and the Surfer is... moved by her words. Apparently he's never stopped to consider that the people on the planets he's fed to Galactus may be reluctant to be sacrificed to Galactus' hunger.

In fact, he's so overcome by pity and compassion for the planet about to be destroyed, that he does the unthinkable and decides to turn against his Master.

Next Time: Goodbye to Everything
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

Not gonna lie; after the last couple of issues, the conclusion to The Galactus Trilogy falls a little flat, as we see in The Startling Saga of the Silver Surfer. It certainly has one of the most lack-luster covers of the entire Lee/Kirby run. Even Ben looks surprised and disappointed.

Johnny Storms first day of college isn't QUITE the incentive to pick up a comic you might think it is, Stan!

ANyway, the underwhelming part comes later, first we have to finish being overwhelmed. Last time, the FF attempted to beat Galactus, and failed so completely they decided to take a bath before trying and failing again. The Watcher sent Johnny off through Hyperspace in order to track down one of the weapons in Galactus' Worldship that could help and Alicia Masters, after an impassioned speech and showing him that earth has such wonders and beauty as sandwiches, has convinced the Silver Surfer to turn against his master and fight to save the Earth.

Which is precisely where this issue picks up, with the FF hiding in Sues forcefield, still trying to ride out the impending apocalypse for as long as they can; and the Surfer charging into battle insisting Galactus stop his feeding. And the fight is unsurprisingly, pretty damn fun. Jack always has the most fun when he can completely cut loose with logic when drawing cosmic beings battling, and Stan gets to use phrases like "Blasts of Solar Destructogen", and if I could get paid to say things like that I'd never stop smiling.

Moreover; for the sheer amount of force the Surfer is bringing against Galactus, which is itself beyond anything that's shown up in the comic so far (and the collateral damage to New York is staggering), Galactus still isn't moved. Not physically at least. He spends the entire battle reacting more like a stern father who isn't mad, just disappointed at his rowdy kid and it's quickly made clear that the Surfer is literally the only entity in the universe that Galactus actually has any affection for and its the perceived betrayal that hurts him, and not the bolts of cosmic starfire or Solar Destructogen.

Meanwhile, Johnny has apparently finished exploring the Dyson Sphere-sized Worldship of Galactus and found the Ultimate Nullifier (this happened entirely off panel, but it's abundantly clear that this took a toll on the kid), and the Watcher summons him back; where he immediately collapses to the ground sobbing "Worlds... too big, there's... no words. We're just ants... ANTS!".

Reeds advice to a teenager who just had his brain shattered by the sheer expanse of a Godlike cosmic beings home and a trip through infinity is to just forget about it.

It wasn't too long ago that Reed tried to unbrainwash someone by poking his brain and screaming "I AM YOUR FRIEND!" at them, so... psychology isn't one of the areas he has a PHD in.

Fortunately, at the expense of his sanity and naïve viewpoint on humanitys relevance to the universe, Johnny did get the Ultimate Nullifier and handed it over to Reed; who immediately points it at Galactus telling him to scram.

And Galactus takes this threat much more seriously than his ersatz sons temper tantrum or the rock man who punched his knee; the Ultimate Nullifier has the power to obliterate the entire universe if mishandled, and it's in the arms of what he would charitably call an especially stupid baby.

He specifically says its like "giving a match to a child who lives in a tinderbox", and I want to know how the planet devouring space-god knows what a tinderbox is.

Galactus acquiesces to the threat; less out of fear for himself and more out of concern for the universe; it's not clear that even the Nullifiers power could injure him, but the collateral damage is too much to risk, and for the first time since time began, Galactus *abandons* a planet he was to devour. But first he grounds his son.

Literally; as he robs the Surfer of the ability to leave the Earth; stranding a guy who had the ability to explore the sweeping majesty of infinity on a single over-crowded polluted mudball. But given how overwhelmed he was with the beauty of a sandwich, I think it'll be a while before the shine comes off the apple for him.

And that's about it for Galactus (for a couple of years, at least), we're only midway through the comic and the rest is all wind-down;
Ben learns that Alicia is the one who convinced the Surfer to make a face-turn and decides that she must like Norrin more than him because he's much more conventionally attractive (while also reminding himself constantly that she's blind and therefor that's the only reason she was dating him)
Reed is so shaken up by how drastically he was outclassed by Galactus and has fully absorbed himself in trying to find some means to deal with threats on that scale if they come up again (this becomes relevant soon)
Sue resumes harping on that her husband doesn't react to her new haircuts enough because Women, Amirite?
A Mysterious Bald Guy insists that only HE has the power to destroy the Fantastic Four (which is... pretty ambitious of him, considering)
The Inhumans are still trying to break down the Negative Zone Barrier around Attilan
Galactus is dismissed as A Nutty Publicity Stunt (ADVERTISING WHAT?!?!?)
And Johnny, as promised on the cover, attends college!

The most important part of these denouments (which isn't foreshadowing the next couple of issues, at least) is the introduction of Wyatt Wingfoot


He... doesn't have as many cool reinterpretations as the other characters I've showcased. Wyatt would go on to be one of Johnnys best (non super) friends, and an honorary member of both the FF and Avengers, thanks to his natural skill at piloting and the fact that he's, like, the size of Dwayne Johnson and Terry Crews combined (as a point of comparison, a Smurf is only the size of three apples). And more surprisingly, despite being a Native American character created in the 1960s, he is NOT an insulting stereotype of an entire culture!

Johnny, incidentally, has kind of checked out of Wyatts backstory being explained, since he's still reeling with the severe PTSD of his trip to and from the Worldship of Galactus, and the dean of ESU berates him for not paying attention. I'm assuming the Dean didn't look out his window over the last couple of hours.

Oh Johnny, nobody respects your severe trauma.

Next Time: So here's The Thing
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
You know when you’ve got your comfy pants on at the end of a long day and you want nothing more than to eat a bowl of popcorn and watch Netflix?

Uatus kind of does that backwards
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I am very interested in what advertising firms are like in the Marvel Universe, given the sheer amount of stuff that is immediately dismissed as “a nutty publicity stunt”.

Also, forgot to mention it before but Galactus was redesigned again in this issue; now he’s wearing pants and his purple is more maroon. Still sleeveless and still has a big G on his chest.

My No-Prize explanation is that since Galactus’ form varies from species to species, and this is the first time he’d come to Earth, it took some time for his “For Humans” appearance to settle
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
As a point of comparison, I decided to watch a couple other interpretations of the Galactus Trilogy; starting with the 90s cartoon.

If you can look past the just awful sub-Nelvana level animation, it’s not bad, and reasonably faithful; biggest departure being that this was also the episode that introduced The Watcher, and nobody seems to notice or care that Galactus has appeared. There’s also a subplot about the FFs landlady trying to evict them, as that’s a recurring motif in this show. On a smaller scale, Galactus sends his other Heralds to fight the FF rather than a Punisher Robot, Johnny seemed completely unfazed by his trip through infinity, and Reed up and shoots Galactus in the face with the Nullifier, which looks like a Nerf Gun, and makes him say “ow”.

Also, the Surfers punishment for his rebellion is to be restricted to the entire Milky Way Galaxy, as opposed to just the Earth, which seems much more lenient.

Conversely, in the Silver Surfer cartoon, things go wildly off script; no Fantastic Four for one thing. Galactus is actively malevolent in this series, and the Surfer is motivated less by seeing the beauty in humanity and more in rage at realizing he’s been made a slave to Galactus. Also, Frankie Ray gets involved for some reason and is made the Surfers replacement. The Surfers punishment is both milder again and far crueller; he’s not denied anything except Galactus’ protection and the entire universe knows him to be one of the worst mass murderers in history, and he’s reviled by everyone throughout the cosmos, and the only place that could conceivably be a safe haven for him has been removed from the universe.

Also, the show had a MUCH higher animation budget (low bar to clear) and most of it went to making sure Galactus was at least as intimidating as he’s supposed to be; he’s miles tall glowing with Kirby Krackle and his planet absorbing machinery acts like a couple of Roland Emmerich movies worth of destruction; nothing has done as effective a job in setting up Galactus as a cosmic danger quite so effectively.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

This Man, This Monster! is generally considered to be one of the high-points of the the entirety of Fantastic Four, and it's easy to see why. Also, Stan and Jack managed to condense what Dan Slott took a year to accomplish in Spider-Man in 22 measly pages AND STILL had enough space left over for the gripping drama of how the coach of the university football team can convince Johnnys friend to join the team. Which is less compelling drama compared to everything else that's ever happened in this comic; but hey... maybe its not if you're big on sports.

We pick up with Ben, just as we last saw him, just after dealing with Galactus; incredibly sad. Just wandering the rainy streets feeling sorry for himself, and totally convinced that his blind girlfriend is more attracted to the handsome metal guy they'd both just met, and everyone in New York is trying to be kind to him. But he's completely unresponsive, until a Bald Scientist shows up. This guy never gets a name, and he never shows up again after this issue, so... let's call him Monsterman.

Anyway, Monsterman gives ben a sympathetic ear, a kind word and enough Quaaludes to knock out a giant rock-man.

That last one should be enough to convince even the 1960s audience that there's something perhaps iffy about this guy.

Monsterman, as he then reveals, is a mad scientist who blames Reed Richards for the fact that he's not nearly as famous or respected as he should be; convinced that Reed is a greedy, arrogant, jackass, who only pretends to be a genius for fame and glory. He's only one-third correct about this. Moreover, Monstermans only apparent contribution to science was building a Bio-Duplicator, a machine that can copy every scrap of DNA into someone else. Which is PROBABLY enough to win a few Nobel prizes in our world, but this is the Marvel Universe, so it's a little less impressive than a Baking Soda Volcano.

Anyhow, Monsterman uses the duplicator to make himself into a perfect duplicate of Ben, right down to the accent, and which has the unexpected side-effect of also sucking the cosmic rays out of Ben and turns him back into a human. This has the added benefit of, when they both show up at the Baxter Building, Reed believes the rock-man with the Brooklyn accent to be his dear friend Ben, and dismisses the guy who looks like his dear friend Ben in human form as being a very short-sighted conartist who's trying to scam him some-how.

Reed, incidentally, has been really busy since the last issue; it seems he did not take the fact that the FF were *absolutely* outclassed by a variety of cosmic beings over the last few issues very well, and has been working himself nearly to death and using up all his cash in order to try to create some manner of defense in case the Earth ever faces another threat on that scale; and to that end, he's created a sub-space portal that leads directly into The Negative Zone



The Negative Zone is one of the more dangerous areas in the Marvel universe; a miniature solar-system just outside the universe; none of the laws of physics work quite correctly, the atmosphere is deadly to nearly everything in the universe and it's ruled by a psychopathic bug-man obsessed with murdering every living thing it sees. We'll get to that bug-man in... err... about a year and a halfs worth of comics, if I recall correctly.

For now, Reed is happy that, his very good friend, the giant rock-man Ben has gotten over his misplaced jealousy at the handsome stranger he thinks his Girlfriend is into, because Reed is going to hop right into the next dimension over and see what's over in there, hoping it would be enough to thwart the next cosmic danger.

This works out great for Monsterman, since he was hoping to just find some proof that Reed is a glory boat phony, and now he has a chance to just kill him by hucking him into another universe.

However, as it turns out, Monstermans duplicator machine worked better than even he had assumed; he didn't just get Bens appearance, powers and accent, it even copied his heart; and he realizes that his jealousy of Reed Richards was completely misplaced; there's no press covering Reed possibly sacrificing himself to protect the planet, and Reed spent all his money creating the Subspace Portal.

So, when Reeds safety harness breaks, and he starts plummeting into an anti-matter barrier that will *absolutely* kill the hell out of him, and his only concern was for Sue and Ben to clear out of the lab so they'll be safe from whatevers about to happen; Monsterman jumps into the portal himself and throws Reed to safety; rationalizing that the world needs Reed in it far more than it does a bitter, spiteful jerk.

When the Scientist himself hits the antimatter barrier, Ben immediately returns to being The Thing, and also immediately loses the nerve he'd worked up to ask for Alicas hand in marriage, and he sulks off, leaving Alicia the distinct impression she's received a ding-dong ditch. But he does come back into the Baxter Building where Reed and Sue are presently mourning the guy that just stole his identity.

So this day was an emotional roller coaster for them.

Oh, and also Johnny is busy dealing with a Gil Thorpe comic in college.

NEXT TIME: WAKANDA FOREVER!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I've only read the book piecemeal in a Peter David book called "How to write comics" but it is still the gold standard to superhero storytelling in my opinion.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

Hell yes we have The Black Panther in The Black Panther, which is another one of the rare instance of a character appearing fully formed and basically being completely unchanged from intro to present day.

We open up this story with Reed enjoying a new flying car he was just gifted by a goodwill ambassador from the reclusive African nation of Wakanda. Apparently it's much nicer than all the other flying cars he has in his garage, though it's controlled by a touch-tone phone keyboard, which can't possibly be intuitive, and also the experience leaves Ben air-sick.

Which means it must be one HELL of a rough flight, considering how he travels to the depths of space, like, every other month.

Anyway, Reed is very appreciative of the flying car, and happily agrees to the dignitary's request to repay the gift by visiting Wakanda with the rest of the Fantastic Four in order to join their king, on a royal hunt. And the diplomat contacts his king with the Most Jack Kirby cellphone ever; he shoves a mechanical pole into the roof of the Baxter Building, then dons a circuit-mask that lets him speak directly to his king.

And the king is excited to be visited by the world famous Fantastic Four and decides to put on his ceremonial hunting clothes right then and there, for King T'challa isn't the kind of ruler to delegate things to others; he's the kind of king who flippin' rules


Black Panther is another one of those characters where I really don't feel like I NEED to elaborate further to add more context; we all know this guy, right? Basically the only changes to the character from 50 years ago to today is that his costume lost the cape in exchange for cool, purple tron-lines and he got the Avatar-esque power to speak to his ancestors. And also a sister.

Meanwhile, back in New York, Reed realizes that he should probably bring Johnny along, since the hunting trip request was for all of the Fantastic Four, not just the good ones. Johnnys delighted because it turns out that college is BORING.

Stay out of school, kids, that's what Johnny Storm says.

And speaking of things Johnny Storm says that you shouldn't actually follow-through on, he also assumes that a royal request for four specific people is no reason not to include a +1, so he invites Wyatt Wingfoot along too. Or rather, he insists Wyatt Wingfoot come along.

Or, perhaps more accurately, he kidnaps Wyatt Wingfoot, since Wyatt was sound asleep through this entire conversation and also for the whole plane-ride over to Wakanda.

And while the FF and their... err... prisoner... are enjoying a trip to the reclusive nation of Wakanda, we cut to the equally reclusive nation of Attilan, where the Inhumans are still trying to break their barrier that has imprisoned their city; Karnaks been warming himself up by shattering diamond boulders with nothing but his bare hands, like a Mortal Kombat bonus stage, and only succeeds in breaking his hand when he tries the same thing on the barrier. Turns out that Maximus is the only one who knows how to disable the barrier, but he's completely lost his mind and is ranting about how he's saved the Inhuman race by making sure everyone is safe and under his care from the royal dungeon under the palace.

So they ain't going anywhere for a bit.

Back in Wakanda, the FF+1 have touched down and are a bit surprised at the landscape; Wakanda likes to keep to itself so there isn't much known about its geography, but given the location, they were expecting a veldt or jungle or something. Instead, they land in what can only be described as a Mega Man level; with vast machines disguised as plants and rocks. Another thing they weren't expecting to see was a mysterious figure in a black armored suit. Furthermore, they didn't realize that when they were invited to go on a hunt was which side of the hunt they were on.

Yup, T'challa dunn Most Dangerous Game'd the FF, and immediately sees to just humiliatingly the team between his tactical genius, advanced technology and vaguely defined powers; Johnny is immediately captured by a flame-proof cell, Sue realizes that invisibility isn't much good when your senses are as keen as a cats, Reed is outmaneuvered at every turn, and Ben gets... tranquilized by several paralyzing lasers, and also a lake full of more tranquilized, and also frozen solid by a liquid nitrogen vent.

Most of the comic is, in fact, Black Panther just *trouncing* the FF. Mostly Ben.

Fortunately, while the Panther is a certified genius when it comes to strategy, he simply did not consider what a bad friend and foreign dignitary Johnny is; and that he would have abducted his dorm mate, Wyatt while he was sleeping and left him on the plane. Wyatt wakes up and uses his own immense strength, ingenuity, and the scouting skills from his upbringing to manage to aid the FF; eventually breaking each of them free from their respective traps.

And so, reunited and working together, the FF is able to beat the Panther, who happily accepts defeat and reveals himself to be King T'challa himself; the entire hunt was a test that the FF passed and he needs their help.

As to why? I guess we'll see in the next issue!

NEXT TIME: Sound and Fury
 

Bongo

excused from moderation duty
(he/him)
Staff member
Which means it must be one HELL of a rough flight, considering how he travels to the depths of space, like, every other month.
Ben Grimm is a test pilot, but I guess it's different when you're not flying it yourself.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
One thing I only realized about re-reading this comic because of the Marvel by the Month podcast, is that this story came out when the civil rights movement was in full swing, and perhaps at its rowdiest, to the point that the publishers at Marvel were hesitant to include any possible mention condemning racism because they were still trying to sell books in the particularly bad states (Stan has very clearly tried to sidestep those decisions every chance he could, to his credit)

And here we have a comic where a black man is shown to be far more capable and resourceful than a full team of super powered white guys, and who then needed a Native American to save the day for them.
 

Fredde

Let me rock you Chaugnar Faugn
The design of Black Panther's costume also has an interesting history. Kirby's first design looked like this:


Then, it was made into something closer to the final product, with one crucial difference: The area around his mouth was uncovered.


The final design with the fully covered face was apparently made because it was deemed too controversial to have a superhero with visible brown skin on the cover.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I think I kind of love colorful Black Panther. The basic black look is better but I'd love to see it on another character. Wakanda has room for more than one or three superheroes.
 

Fredde

Let me rock you Chaugnar Faugn
Then you might be interested to know that Kirby later planned to re-use that design, slightly modified, in his New Gods comics. Sadly, it never came to be.

 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
The design of Black Panther's costume also has an interesting history. Kirby's first design looked like this:


Then, it was made into something closer to the final product, with one crucial difference: The area around his mouth was uncovered.


The final design with the fully covered face was apparently made because it was deemed too controversial to have a superhero with visible brown skin on the cover.

Gotta say; really appreciate the second pass he took.

And that second point might explain why every black character in 60s Marvel (all four of em) is kind of greyish purple. Or it could be a limitation of the colouring process
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)

I hope you're geared up for an origin story, because this is The Way It Began!

Picking up shortly after the last issue ended; the FF and their unwilling vacation guest, Wyatt, are being honored in a traditional Wakandan celebratory feast, and less Wakanda-centic celebrations, like brandy and cigars and futuristic home theaters.

Really; T'Challas futuristic 1960s red-room is weirdly similar to my contemporary 2020s rec-room, give or take some Tribal masks and torches. Jack was more on the ball than he realized. Also, this entire time, Ben is weirdly uncharacteristically dismissive of the entire Wakandan culture; to the point that Reed, *Reed*, has to tell him to quit being such a friggin' dink.

And also at this same time, and far more germane to the story, some members of the Wakandan border patrol are attacked by a MASSIVE, crimson gorilla-like monster, which explodes with enough force to leave a crater when it's damaged. Hmm, that feels... worrying.

But that's not relevant just yet; back in T'challas throne room/rec-room, he explains his origins to the FF and Wyatt; all of Wakandas material wealth and technological superiority comes from The Sacred Mound; a mountain in the heart of the country that is a seemingly limitless supply (and only source) of Vibranium, a virtually indestructible super-metal that absorbs all vibrations, and while they're generally really good about keeping all of that a secret from the rest of the world, word got out to a particularly cruel... err... I don't think "poacher" is right, since that's for animals and not metals, Claim Jumper maybe?

Anyway, his name is Ulysses Klaw, and he's a jerk.



The vast majority of the GIS results for him were either of Andy Serkis or him after getting his much more popular glow-up later on, but... Andy here looks exactly like he does in the comic so good on you, Black Panther casting and make-up teams.

Anyhow, as noted, Klaw is obsessed with plundering the Sacred Mound of its Vibranium, not because it's just absurdly, unimaginably valuable as a resource; to the point that a rock of it the size of your fist could bankroll a medium sized nation, but because of its unique properties with vibration, which makes them the crucial final ingredient for his ultimate weapon; a Sound Converter that can make any object he can imagine out of hardened noise.

Like a Green Lantern ring, except LOUD.

Anyway, his dogged pursuit of the Vibranium Mound leads him into conflict with T'challas father, T'chaka. But it's not a long lived conflict, since Klaw just up and shoots him and everyone in attendance, only leaving T'challa alive, hiding under some shrubbery and watching his father being cruelly gunned down. Luckily, Kid T'challa is precisely as prone to taking things laying down as Adult T'challa, and he picks up the unfinished proto-type of Klaws Sound Converter and blasts him and his men with it; killing most of the hench-men, driving off the rest, and blowing Klaws hand clean off at the wrist. And, as an added measure, he also swears to avenge his fathers death by making sure nobody can victimize Wakandans like that again and dedicates himself to training his body and mind to wage a one-man war on crime.

Like Batman, except KITTY.

And as for the heightened strength, reflexes and senses? Ah, T'challa ain't sayin'. Gotta keep some secrets, y'know?

Anyway, T'Challa has recently received word that Klaw didn't die just because he lost a hand, and he's suspected as trying to make another attempt on the Vibranium Mound, so the Panther decided to lure the Fantastic Four to his training ground and see if he's good enough to beat them all in a straight fight; figuring that if he could, he could handle one jackass with a loud gun pretty handily.

By WILD coincidence, just as soon as T'challa finishes this story, Klaw and his men begin their attack on Wakanda; that giant crimson ape earlier was a scout, and it's soon joined by another couple of giant apes and a monster elephant; all of whom are comprised of solid sound, making them impossible to damage and capable of exploding with terrible force. The FF and Wyatt head off to fight the animals, badly, while the Panther tracks down Klaw (easily) and destroys his rebuilt Sound Converter (handily).

Taking down the Converter causes the entire hillside, and all the creatures on it, to instantly disintegrate, and with no sign of Klaw in the wreckage, T'Challa naturally assumes that the explosion that obliterated an entire mountain probably took out Klaw with it, and also decided that just because his arch nemesis is dead, that's no reason to STOP fighting against the evils of the world and decides to expand his crime-fighting outside of Wakandas borders.

All in all, a pretty darn good first showing for a guy who would eventually become one of Marvels flagship characters.

As an epilogue, we cut back to the ruins of the recently destroyed mountain base Klaw was exploded inside of, where we see that he and his Converter weren't fully destroyed by the explosion, but both are in REALLY bad shape; and so, as a last ditch effort to spit in the reapers eye, Klaw climbs into the Sound Converter and uses it on himself; turning him into a man made of LIVING NOISE.

Which will be relevant soon, but not immediately; we have a much dumber story about Johnny to deal with first;

NEXT TIME: The Eyes Have It!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Might as well get this dud out of the way so we can get back to the Good Stuff all the sooner;


According to a narration box, an alternate title for this issue was Blackbolt SCREAMS, but they went with the much less compelling Whosoever Finds The EVIL EYE!

Anyhow, we're picking up not long after where the last issue ended, with T'challa still *pretty jazzed* about having seemingly killed his arch enemy Klaw by exploding a mountain on him, and he and the FF decide to celebrate by playing super-power baseball. This was years before the X-Men played baseball every time a new character got introduced in order to show off their powers, so this is another Marvel first, I guess. And the Panthers gifts don't stop with making up some home-rules to accommodate super-stretchy arms in catching pop-flys, he also gives the team gifts for their help in the fight against Klaw;

Reed and Sue get a new wardrobe, Ben gets a specially designed grip-strengthener (complete with backhanded compliment, which I assume to be T'challas way of getting back at him for his ongoing uncharacteristic racism), and Johnny gets a gyroscopic super-car. One of these gifts is way better than the others.

Johnny is rpetty happy about this car because it's an easy way to get back to Attilan so he can try burning off that Negative Zone Energy Dome again. It didn't do bupkis last time, but, well... maybe it's gotten more flammable in the meanwhile. And Wyatt agrees to go along because Johnny is his ride his friend.

And speaking of Attilan, we cut back there where, again, the city is still stuck under that pesky dome, and Maximus the Mad has become... less stable over the months; spending all his time raving about what a good king he is and how he's providing for the Inhumans by building them toys (offering to build a mechanical kite for Blackbolt in exchange for letting him be king again). Medusa tries some reverse psychology in order to get Maximus to work instead on destroying the barrier, but it doesn't work and he builds a reverse Scuba-suit for Triton instead.

I mean, Tritons pretty happy about it, but he's the only one.

Anyhow, while Max is busying unwatering a fishman, Johnny and Wyatt take the Gyro car to North Africa (they don't specify where and it's a pretty big continent) where they get waylaid by a sandstorm which blows them into a spooky haunted temple buried under the sands of whichever part of Africa happens to have a desert at the moment based on Stan Lees understanding of Geography. And more to the point, the only living thing in that spooky temple is a somehow still alive medieval knight; Prester John!


...ah close enough

As opposed to the historical (and apocryphal) Prester John, who was some manner of missionary statesman who set up shop *somewhere* in Africa (as I gleaned from skimming Wikipedia), the 616-Universe Prester John was basically that knight from Last Crusade; a semi-immortal old man who travelled the ancient world, tracking down forgotten super weapons and locking them away for safe keeping. And also he has a special bed that keeps him from aging, but doesn't keep his clothes from getting ragged.

Anyhow, Johnny Flaming on wakes up and startles Prester into thinking he's being threatened by flaming demons, which he attempts to drive off using one of those aforesaid ancient weapons; The Evil Eye; Johnny tries to explain that, no they're not demons; just a typical teenage astronaut who can turn into living flame, and his buddy, a very large Native American he kidnapped and brought to Africa. Prester doesn't accept this as any means to calm down and shows off the power of the Eye some more by attacking them with it.

When Johnny sees that one of the abilities of the eye is to create and dispel Negative Zone Barriers, he immediately decides to steal it and take it to Attilan to free the Inhumans. All of which Prester would have actually been fine with, had the situation was explained to him, but Johnny is as Johnny does and in just yanking it out of Presters hands he keeps the safety from being turned on and the Eye is going to build up energy until it explodes like an atomic bomb. Fortunately, Wyatt has a rail-gun in the gyro car and he manages to shoot the Eye out of Johnnys hands before it can detonate saving his friends life. And ticking off Johnny to no end who is convinced his buddy just destroyed the means to save his girlfriend a girl he spent, like, 20 minutes with once.

And back in Attilan, Blackbolt realizes that relying on his brother to keep on task for any length of time and take down the barrier simply isn't going to happen, so he prepares to sacrifice his life; strapping himself into a device that will amplify his already overwhelming power to deadly levels hoping that will be enough to destroy the barrier; a plan which ends with the pain becoming so unbearable that the otherwise eerily silent Blackbolt screams in pain.

And we'll have to wait until next month to see what THAT means.

NEXT TIME:
 
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