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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Things get biblical when we look to see what happens When Opens THE COCOON!

But first, we get Ben being weirdly impatient at how long it's taking Reed to build a teleporter bracelet, off of blueprints he gleaned from looking at the heat images left behind in a room hours after everyone left it. Even Dr. Doom himself would have to concede that it takes a couple of minutes to get something like that done, Ben.

But Ben ain't having none of that, and decides to go sulk in the kitchen and glumly eat Wheatcakes, while watching Johnny and Crystal flirt.

Two sidebars about this scene; first Are "Wheatcakes" a *thing*, or did Stan forget the name for Pancakes or what? Had the copyright on "pancakes" not expired back then?

Second; Johnny and Crystal are having breakfast together, and it's been well established that they've BARELY stopped their relentless make-out sessions since reuniting; I think this is as close as the CCA would allow to suggesting that any two characters might conceivable be having adult sleepovers.

Meanwhile, somewhere deep under the Citadel of Science

We cut back to Alicia, who was NOT incinerated last issue; that massive wall of psionic flame was just a warning trying to drive people away from HIM. And Alicia is also starting to have second thoughts about this whole "We need you to make a sculpture of this supreme being we've created so we know what he looks like before we kill him" plan she's gotten roped into. More specifically, she has a problem with WHY they'd have to kill a supremely powerful being who is incapable of wickedness immediately?

She doesn't stop to consider why her needing to make a sculpture real quick is required at all.

As it turns out, though she doesn't know this (thanks to the magic of cutaways), the reason the Enclave wants HIM dead has nothing to do with him being an uncontrollable godlike entity, and everything to do with the fact that they can't control him; turns out they were FAR less scrupulous than previously established, and wanted to create a cosmically powered Demi-God so they could conquer the world with it.

Also, they admit to doing a LOT of murders to get to this point, but they don't elaborate on how that related to them building a supreme being. Maybe it was a side-hobby.

ANYHOW, Alicia is beckoned farther into the cave complex by HIM, while the scientists who were acting as her escort get held back by HIMs psychokinetic powers; causing tentacles to explode out of the wall and knock him off his feet and all, and eventually she reaches HIM, himself;


A weird, gross sleeping bag that looks like a rack of ribs!

The Gross Meat-Sack is far and away my least favorite part of HIMs' entire deal. It is so unpleasant in every way.

Anyway, while Alicia busies herself sitting next to a gross meat-sack waiting for it to *splurch* open and release a God, Reed Richards completes the work on the teleporter bracelet, smugly drinks a cup of coffee in order to drive home how much of a big deal all this wasn't, and then leads Johnny and Ben into the Citadel of Science, using the Bracelets energy (He leaves Crystal and Sue behind because he really can't go even one issue without establishing how little he thinks of women), and upon arriving at the Citadel, Johnny and Ben see a whole bunch of nerds and decide to WRECK HOUSE on them.

This all comes at a VERY bad time for the Enclave, as a whole building full of dweebs is no match for Ben and Johnny, even if the former weren't in a blind panic looking for his girlfriend, and the fracas rattles the entire complex and, being startled by the riot upstairs, HIM starts to emerge from his cocoon, releasing a titanic amount of energy; killing the scientists, but sparing Alicia.

Good thing Stan awkwardly established that the Enclave were actually evil, otherwise the Comics Code definitely wouldn't have let a supposedly good guy like HIM killed them all indiscriminately.

Ben and Sue reunite, as the Citadel starts to collapse between Ben and Johnnys rampage, and HIM emerging, and they all quickly head back to the Baxter Building using the Bracelets, while we finally see what HIM looks like, as he meets his makers;


Turns out he was That Guy From Rocky Horror all along!

And normally I'd do a quick recap on the guy here but, well... it's the end of the issue and if you're looking for more exciting HIM action, you'll have to read The Mighty Thor, since that's his next appearance. It's a couple years before he gets named Adam Warlock, however.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Kids in 1968 REALLY got their moneys worth, as we see in Divide and Conquer and also This is a Plot? and furthermore, The Peerless Power of THE SILVER SURFER

With that much story, they ain't beatin' around the bush this month; kicking off with Sue suddenly passing out in the middle of the Baxter Building, and insisting she's fine. Other than putting her on the couch, nobody seems terribly concerned about this, and Ben opts to leave to spend his time with his girlfriend rather than seeing Reed faun over his enervated wife.

I think this is also because having Reed show concern for his wife would be straining Jack Kirbys imagination too badly to draw.

As it would happen, because this is a Silver Age comic, and Coincidence is the strongest force in the universe, Ben arrives just as a delivery man drops off a large glowing brick in her apartment. Turns out it was a mistake, delivered to the wrong address; as the mysterious glowing brick was actually intended to be sent to the secret lab of this months villain (who... I guess... lives in the same building?);



Psycho Man, besides having a kind of ableist name, isn't really named for what he does, and CERTAINLY isn't named for what's interesting about him; he's a guy in a suit of Kirby Armor (which makes him look like a first draft of Darkseid) who has a really cumbersome Emotion Ray that can fill people with a crippling amount of fear, doubt or hate.

The Psycho Man also has three henchmen with him; Live Wire, Shellshock and Ivan who are basically The Enforcers from Spider-Man, except I don't think these guys ever came back.

Adam Warren did a mini-series called Livewires about a decade ago, according to Google, but that's about it.

It looks exactly like a Adam Warren comic called "Livewires", for the record.

Anyway, Psycho Man reveals that he's a bad employer immediately by blasting the delivery man who screwed up his Weird Glowing Brick delivery with a Fear Ray, that shows him a hallucination so terrifying he immediately flings himself out of a window to his death. Or that's what Jack drew, at least. According to the Comics Code, he hit a ledge just below the window and nobody will believe him while he recovers in the hospital.

Dragonball Zs translation has nothing on the CCA.

Anyway, not even waiting for the delivery guy to land in ANOTHER DIMENSION, Psycho Man heads off to retrieve his weird glowing brick, explaining it's a component he needs to upgrade his Emotion Ray to an enormous degree; capable of affecting huge groups of people at a time instead of just one; he also blasts his henchmen with Maximum Doubt in order to make them more subservient, which is really just a means to establish him as a bad guy (as if blowing the Fed Ex guy off the roof wasn't enough proof of that), and hits Ben with the Fear Ray and making off with the brick while he's distracted by that.

While the delivery man saw an unseen (but plainly terrifying) mass of terror when he was hit, Ben just sees... a big monster. Which is kind of underwhelming when the idea is that he's confronting his greatest fear. More of a startled concern than anything else; and eventually he gets over it since, well, it's not like Ben hasn't seen big monsters before.

Ben brings Alicia back to the Baxter Building, figuring that she seems to have been caught up in Superhero Shenanigans *again*, and the Baxter Building is probably the safest place in the city for situations like that. And, as it turns out, Reed has scientifically figured out why Sue passed out suddenly earlier; she's preggers!

I'm not an expert at how you handle birth announcements, but I'm pretty sure that "My wife is going to have a baby" is a good example of how you shouldn't do it.

Ben is WAY more excited about this news than either of the Richards'.

Anyway, Ben gets back on task really quickly, and decides that any potential future nieces or nephews of his aren't going to have to deal with a world with any kind of Psycho Men in it, and so he recruits Johnny, Triton and Lockjaw to track him down and stop... whatever it is that he's trying to do.


Once again straining my disbelief beyond the limits I already thought possible, the Inhumans have arrived at a small secluded island which they have decided to make the place of a new Attilan (as the previous Attilan is still pretty badly wrecked. And by shocking coincidence, this island is ALSO a private getaway recently purchased by The Black Panther! And, because this is the first time these particular groups of superheroes have met, they commence with the obligatory comic book handshake; everyone fighting everyone else.

Eventually, the respective kings realize that they're both good guys, so they stop fighting, and besides, in an EVEN GREATER STILL coincidence, Panther Island is also the secret lair of The Psycho Man (so either he has two secret lairs, or the delivery man mixed up "Alicia Masters' apartment" and "Panther Island, Off the Coast of Greece"), and the two groups decide to team up to fight the more obvious threat of a Guy in Space Armor with a Fear Ray.

So the two groups enter Psycho Mans island fortress, and fight those henchmen from earlier (one of them, has what might be the winner of the Clunkiest Dialogue I've Ever Heard, declares "So his name is Karnak? eh? Well, he'll be NAMELESS FOREVER after he takes the direct hit I'm going to beam at him!"), but they're barely in the book long enough to bring up the page count, so the Inhumans and Panther are in no danger.

And, because the coincidences just can't stop coming at this point; this is also the point where Ben, Johnny and Triton all appear in the Psycho Mans base, alongside the other two groups, having teleported there thanks to Lockjaw. Psycho Man would be concerned at this point since he's... pretty badly outnumbered by some pretty darn heavy-hitting superheroes, but luckily, he just finished building his improved Emotion Ray, and is able to hit all the assembled heroes with his Fear Ray.

Which, again, mostly consists of fighting Cool Jack Kirby monsters, a couple of them actually are confronted with things that are coded to their personalities (Triton gets locked in a completely arid room, Karnak gets his arms stuck so completely in a wall that he'd have to lop them off to escape), but it's mostly Jack having an excuse to draw Cool Monsters that everyone really overreacts to.

Around this time, the one Inhuman who HADN'T shown up yet, the gentleman named Gorgon, arrives at the island, as he was off on a scouting mission, and sees a evil science base that suddenly appeared, and the scene of a struggle leading up to it, and figures, "Okay, that's something I should be involved with". And then we learn the one weakness all of Psycho Mans beam-induced hallucinatory monsters share; they're vulnerable to earthquakes.

Which is a pretty good weakness, all things considered, if you aren't currently fighting a guy who makes Earthquakes every time he steps; and one stomp disperses all the illusions, and also damages the Fear Ray. Regrouped and kinda ticked off at the impromptu immersion therapy they all suffered, the heroes all confront Psycho Man again who explains his origin and why he isn't particularly concerned about anything they can possibly threaten him with;


Psycho Man is actually a power-mad tyrant from the teensy-weensy dimension of Sub-Atomica in the Microverse (last seen in FF #16 -Smiling Stan), who was concerned that the planck-sized planet his people live on is in danger of over-population, so he decides to conquer an UNFATHOMABLY GIGANTIC world in order to give them enough room; and so he had built a proportionally Gurren Lagann-sized giant robot body that would let him go about on Earth and conquer it by affecting peoples emotions with a laser.

There are SO MANY levels to everything about this completely bonkers plan!

God, I love Psycho Man.

Anyway, while he was in the middle of laying out his absolutely bananas backstory, Psycho Man doesn't hear Black Panther sneaking up behind him and just breaking his ro-body; which everyone agrees is fince, because he was a robot, and nobody is QUITE sure if Psycho Man was controlling it directly (and thus trapped forever in a prison a trillion times bigger than his entire galaxy), or from afar, but, well, it's kind of a moot point, he'll definitely come back at some point.


THIS IS A PLOT? is an entirely Jack drawn and written short story about the creative process he and Stan use to write each issue of FF. There was a similar backup story in a Spider-Man annual a few years earlier, and while it's really easy to read between the lines in that one that Stan and Steve Ditko hated each other, this one is just straight up Mad Magazine parody of the Marvel Method and it's pretty light-hearted and goofy. Not sure if this came out before or after Not Brand Ecch, but I think it might have been the inspiration for that book. We won't hold that against it, though.

I would definitely read a comic about a superhero whos costume was a beard, and a ballerina with phosphorous dandruff, fwiw.

Finally, The Peerless Power of the Silver Surfer is actually a follow-up to the previous annual; focusing largely on the Mad Thinkers abandoned computer; the Quasi-Motivational Destruct Organism (or QUASIMODO), but first, The Silver Surfer!

Ol' Norrin was flying around, still feeling like he backed the wrong horse by saving humanity from Galactus (he hasn't seen a lot of reason to think otherwise) when he's suddenly shot at by hunters; thinking he's under attack by frightened humans again. He realizes his mistake (the hunters were shooting at ducks near him) but doesn't actually feel any better and thinks it's a pretty messed up sport that humans made up here, and leaves again.

While the Surfer is brooding, again, that he's having a hard time finding any humans that aren't big ol' stinkers, he suddenly picks up the psychic anguish of someone hidden deep underground and who desperately needs help; and while the Surfer doesn't think much of humanity, he still can't let something like that sit, and tracks down the source of the despair, only to find... a computer with a face; the aforesaid Quasimodo.

Norrin listens to Quasimodos sad story (built by an genius, was an advanced enough AI that he became sentient, and was stuck in a box) and didn't think to ask any follow-up questions (moral alignment of scientist, if "Quasimodo" was a clumsy acronym for anything he should discourage) and decides to help the poor TV out by using the Power Cosmic to rebuild him into a proper form;


Despite the coloring here, he has fleshy hands; it's... a real look.

Quasimodo is at first delighted to have a body he can move around in, and bodily sensations and everything; but he's horrified when he sees a window and learns that the Surfer didn't do anything to make himself more handsome. Surfer points that that he's an alien comprised of pure Power Cosmic who spent most of his life dealing with Jack Kirby Aliens, so he really has no means to judge what is or is not attractive.

And Quasimodo then blasts him through a wall, because Destruct Organisms gonna Destruct.

And Quasimodo runs amuck through New York, convinced that everyone hates him because he's a metal hunchback with a big eye, and not because he's also gleefully exploding things with his laser vision and general misanthropy (less introspective than you'd think, this guy who was a TV set until recently), and the Surfer realizes he backed the wrong horse AGAIN when it comes to saving the people of Earth; and he flies off and blasts Quasimodo with some Kirby Krackle that turns him to stone.

Ona Bell Tower, which somehow escapes Stans attention.

He's written a lot of books this month, we can let him have this one.

NEXT TIME: Oh, he's Bad Again

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We get some murky chronology, a lot of self-pity and a short-lived new costume all in His Mission: Destroy the Fantastic Four!

We open at the hospital, where Alicia is recovering from her ordeal in the last issue. Stan is unusually coy about what that ordeal was specifically, but since nobody mentions the fight against Psycho-Man or Sue being pregnant, it must have been the thing with HIM. But this is a four-part story, so that would mean that the Annual was a glimpse at the future, and that works better chronologically since she doesn't give birth until the following annual, so the timing works out pretty nicely.

You accidentally did it perfectly, Stan and Jack! Good job!

Anyway, Ben still hasn't quite given Alicia enough credit to realize that she's probably aware he's a big rock man, and is worried that in recuperating in a hospital she might suddenly get working eyeballs, realize she's dating someone who isn't traditionally handsome, and dump him. So Ben pleads with Reed to find a way to turn him back into a human RIGHT NOW.

Fortunately, Reed was one step ahead of his friend, and requested the help of the worlds foremost expert on chemical science; Dr. Santini!


Well, that's what they were going for, at least.

And it's a moot point, because this months MYSTERY VILLAIN has him kidnapped by androids as soon as he steps off his plane and taken to a secret lab, where he's hypnotized into revealing everything he knows about why Reed requested his presence and then, Darkman style, copies his facial features perfectly to turn himself into a perfect duplicate of Dr. Santini. Except his mustache, which he proudly states was his own anyway

The Mystery Villain mentions that the hardest part of this whole process was a crash diet that brought him down to Santinis exact weight, down to the gram.

The end result is a forgery of a person that's so accurate that even Reed can't tell he's dealing with an imposter; even when he starts doing uncharacteristic things like being more knowledgeable about computers than chemistry (the imposter does point out that "scientist" covers a lot of ground in the Marvel Universe) and, more damningly, he has chosen bad guy colors for his hazmat suit.

Also, full credit to Jack and Stan here; they do a good job of keeping who this guy actually is a mystery; there's plenty of clues that point to different people, but the answer is not forthcoming.

Though that was more of a hint for the reader than for Reed; just in case him constantly thinking "Soon I will destroy the accursed Fantastic Four" every other panel escaped your notice.

Anyway, while Reed is busy being oblivious to the fact that he's secretly let one of his enemies into the World Famous Baxter Building, Ben is so busy torn between moping that he's a big rock man, and thinking Reed is the greatest because he's trying to make him stop being a rock man (even though being a big rock man saved saved the team, and entire world, on many occasions) he doesn't even notice the Yancy Street Gang pranking him.

Which is so outside their experience with the world, that the entire gang has an existential crisis.

Also, in an effort to cheer Ben up, Reed harrasses Sue while she's making some changes to her uniform; by removing the pants from it. It's hardly the worst Sue Storm redesign, but only because some of the other ones have been truly dire. Luckily, like Sandmans stupid space armor, it doesn't last long.

Also, Johnny takes Crystal to the garage he works on hotrods in, as Stan and Jack just remembered that customizing cars is his hobby; and Crystal responds to everyone at the garage hitting on her by pointing out that she's THREE TIMES the superhero Johnny is since she can control Fire Water AND Wind, instead of just one of those things LIKE A CHUMP.

Anyway, back at the lab, things are all set up between the Fake Dr. Santini, the Real Reed Richards (who is starting to be suspicious of Santinis motives when he catches him fiddling with the computers and making last minute alterations to the chemical formulas) and the Actual Ben Grimm (who has forgotten he lives in a comic book world, and should REALLY pay attention when a guy who looks like Vincent Price pointedly tells him things like "I promise you, this will make you a CHANGED MAN!") and Ben enters a chemical bath that will permanently turn him back into a human.

Or that's what Reed built it to do, at least. What happens instead is that Ben is still as much of a rock man as ever, but now he's single-handedly focused on killing Reed!


NEXT TIME: Yup, he's still bad again

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

A mystery is solved anti-climactically, Sue puts on some pants, and Ben spends 20 pages punching Reed in By Ben Betrayed!

Scant seconds after revealing that a chemical bath designed to make him human made him evil instead, Ben proceeds to punch the Christmas out of Reed Richards, which is honestly something he's had coming for a while from a lot of other people (some of them villains, mostly his wife), but Ben isn't really on that list.

To Reeds credit, he's genuinely shocked and hurt by Bens attempts on his life. Both physically and emotionally. And the rest of the team steps in to keep Ben from killing Reed outright.

Everyone is able to instantly recognize that Ben is shooting at Reed with a Hi-Voltage Energy Discharger, even from several rooms away. Which is either a very good guess, or they've often had chances to learn what the sound of all the weird science-gizmos he's got kicking around sound like.

Oddly, Sue casually saying "Keep running, please" after summarizing the story for Johnny (and the readers') sake stuck with me more than anything else in this issue.

Also; Sues costume changed back and she has pants again, but with a mini-skirt over it.

Anyway, while Ben is busy demanding Reed die by his hands, and the rest of the FF tries to get the military to restrain Ben without hurting him, the Fake Dr. Santini disappears in the confusion, and removes his disguise revealing himself to be The Mad Thinker, again! A character who DOES fit all the subtle clues Jack and Stan peppered the last issue with. And he cooked up this entire plan in order to break into Reeds research lab and steal his plans for various inventions; The Thinker has a borderline omniscient level of attention to detail and manipulation, but he lacks even a scrap of creativity.

Also, he noted in the last issue, and this one, that the mustache for the fake Santini costume was his own, so... I guess he just ripped that sucked right out of his face?

And for all of the inventions the Thinker reasonably expected to find in Reeds lab, he was caught completely off-guard by the presence of the Negative Zone Portal. In fact, he's so spellbound by the sight and implications of *that* that he winds up realizing he spent too long in the lab and had to return to his hideout without having a chance to steal anything, certain that Reed probably figured out his plan by now.

Incidentally, he's right, and Reed, Sue and Johnny (along with a military escort) head off to the Thinkers hide-out after losing track of Ben somewhere in the city. And Ben, thinking Reeds turned the whole city against him, vows revenge.


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Well, there's at least two misleading things on the cover of WHEN FALLS THE MIGHTY; and that's that nothing on it actually happens until the last couple of panels.

Anyway, we're kicking off SLIGHTLY AHEAD of where the last issue concluded, with Reed, Johnny and a bunch of cops storming the Mad Thinkers secret lab, somewhere in the New York subway system; turns out that for all of his omniscient level of attention to detail in all his plans, the Thinker didn't to move his secret lab away from the place that the Fantastic Four have already found.

He DID, however, realize that the FF, and a bunch of cops, were going to find it sooner or later, so he took the time to fill it with traps. Not the kind of traps that could hold back an elastic super genius for any length of time, mind. But the ones that are built around the idea that Johnny is likely to fly face-first into every single object he can work predictably well.

It doesn't take long for Reed to outmaneuver the gauntlet and confront the Mad Thinker before he can execute Dr. Santini (not really any reason for him to do that...), and this confrontation between two brilliant minds, each at the top of their field... takes the form of them just punching each other. Reed doesn't even do any cool stretchy things to make it more interesting; just two nerds smackin' fist meat together. But Reed is the one with a speech about human determination overcoming emotionless logic, so he wins, and the Thinker is hauled off to jail.

Much earlier in this story than expected, since there's another issue and a half to go...

Anyhoo, while NERDFIGHT is happening, Ben is still wandering the city at large, though most of the city is aware that he's been given a bad dose of Mind Control that's made him evil (Ben himself seems unaware of that part, though, he's still determined to kill Reed on general principle), and eventually the police find him and, knowing full well he's not in control of his faculties due to exposure to Evil Chemicals, they still open fire on him with police issue bazookas.

Jack and Stan were really ahead of their time in some regards.

Anyhoo, by ducking into the sewers, where the police would have a harder time bazooka-ing him, Ben finds a subway engineer who informs him that the FF have gone off in search of the Mad Thinkers secret lair, which is elsewhere in the subway tunnels; proving that the Mad Thinker might have the least secret base in the history of comics. Ben thanks him for the info, then heads off back to the Baxter Building, expecting Reed to head back there shortly, putting him in prime position for a butt-whupping.

And also we cut back to Sue and Crystal, and we learn that they aren't involved with any part of this story because Sue is preggers and has elected to take a back-seat on the superheroing stuff for a bit.

AND ALSO, we go to jail, where the Mad Thinker is looking out a window and playing with the wristwatch, where we learn why he was captured so easily; it turns out it was all part of his master plan to have one of his androids activate while he was in jail and kill the Fantastic Four while he has the perfect alibi!

Let's break this plan down piece-by-piece;
  1. The Thinker suspects Reed will contract a scientist to cure Ben of ROCKMANITIS​
  2. He will specifically contact Dr. Santini​
  3. The Thinker will go on a crash diet and use advanced plastic surgery to perfectly replicate Dr. Santini​
  4. So disguised, The Thinker will sabotage the experiment to make sure Ben is turned evil, instead of human​
  5. While Ben tries to kill the FF< the Thinker will attempt to steal Reeds stuff​
  6. The FF will subdue Ben and pursue the Thinker in his hideout​
  7. The Thinker will allow himself to be captured and rely on the fact that the police will not confiscate his wrist-watch​
  8. The Thinker will use his wristwatch to control a giant robot​
  9. The Thinker will not be charged with the attempted murder of the FF by robot, but is still TOTALLY GUILTY of kidnapping and theft and attempted murder via death trap​
Anyway, just before the big robot can approach the World Famous Baxter Building, Ben also gets there and another scuffle breaks out between the FF and Ben, and Reed manages to lure him into the path of a big gizmo, which discharges and knocks Ben out, seemingly killing him; but not before Ben knocks Johnny unconscious and Reed passes out from all the beatings he's taken in the last couple of days, leaving Sue alone just as the Thinkers big robot tears down the wall.


NEXT TIME: Battle Bots

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Another solid contender for Worst Jack Kirby Cover with There Shall Come an Ending, which I am sure was already a comic title...

Picking up where the last issue ended, Sue comes into Reeds lab, to see what all the ruckus is about, only to find Reed Ben and Johnny all unconscious and The Mad Thinkers Deadliest Android (not to be confused with his Awesome one) standing above them, ready to kill them, and figuring "Welp, guess I gotta deal with this fresh nonsense".

Which kicks off a solid 20 pages of the FF trying to kill this stupid robot.

Luckily, the first thing Sue tries is to blast the Android with a huge lightning cannon that Reed was trying to knock Ben out with last issue, and while it didn't do a lick of good against the robot itself, it DID do enough splash damage that the rest of the team was knocked out of their sleep status, and Ben is no longer charmed by the enemy!

Apparently chemically induced Evil Brainwashing works on the same principle as Fred Flintstone getting amnesia, and one hard whack on the noggin un-scrambles his moral alignment.

Unfortunately, Ben woke up before Reed and Johnny did, and they see him in a fighting stance near Sue (as he knocked the robot out of the window after informing him what time it currently is), and immediately assume that Ben is *irrevocably evil* and immediately gets into a fist fight with him.

Sue eventually explains that being hit in the head UNeviled Bens brain, so they have no cause to fight, so they should REALLY take care not to bean his turnip again just in case it undoes his amnesia re: being a bad guy.

Comics, yo.

Also, the Android immediately flew back into the Baxter Building he was knocked out of moments ago as it can fly in addition to being very strong. Furthermore, it's also equipped with a radar dish to detect Sue when she's invisible, the ability to drop its temperature so severely that it freezes the room its in for Johnny and for Reed? It's got a gun in its face.

Thinker was kind of running out of ideas at a certain point.

Eventually, after every other attempt to destroy the robot fail, Reed ultimately decides to let the android be someone elses problem, and lures it into the Negative Zone Gate, and chucks it clean out of the universe.

The Negative Zone is rapidly becoming a landfill, no wonder everyone who lives there hates Reed so much


Anyway, with the threat of the robot... sidelined, I guess (gives Blastaar something to do), Reed announces that Superheroing is entirely too much stress for a pregnant lady so Sue is OFF THE TEAM!

Way to go, Reed! Keep right on justifying my opinions of you!

NEXT TIME: Beware the Nice Ones

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
It’s honestly always been my theory that the reason so many people in the negative zone hate Earth so much is because of the sheer amount of litter Reed chucks in there

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Jack goes cosmic, Norrin has cabin-fever, Uatu hears about the Good Book, and Johnny does what he does best in WHERE SOARS THE SILVER SURFER!

Last issue, Reed insisted that Sue be benched because she's just too darn pregnant to be a superhero (feels like that's her call, not yours, Reed) and he's going with her to make sure she STAYS out of any fun and exciting science-adventures, and that leaves Ben and Johnny alone, certain that this means the end of the Fantastic Four!

Since there are still another 600-ish issues to go, I don't share their worries.

Worryingly this also means that the specter of yet another story about Ben being sad thinking that his girlfriend might realize she's dating a rock man arises. Fortunately, Uatu the Watcher is as tired of that getting retread as I am and he teleports, Kool-Aid Man style into their living room to announce that there's NO TIME for Maudlin Ben to assume his girlfriend is completely oblivious; The Silver Surfer has failed a morality check and gone full Ozymandius!

It seems that the Surfer is officially SICK AND TIRED of treating the human race like a species on the cusp of greatness that he should witness and nurture and just decided to fast-track the world on the way to peace by presenting a single ultimate threat for everyone on the planet to unite against; immediately causing massive apocalyptic disasters all over the world in order to prove his bonafides.

Doom did something similar when he had the Surfers powers, except he had a learning curve and was showing off; Norrin is MUCH more familiar with the Power Cosmic and has a concrete goal of making everyone unite in hatred of him.

Fortunately, Uatu gave Johnny and Ben juuuust enough of a heads-up that they're ready when the Surfers stompin' boy style rampage takes him over New York, and Johnny figures he can take him on solo.

"Johnny! Wait! You don't have a chance against the Surfer alone!"
"I can't let that stop me!"

Naturally, everyone is right to yell at Johnny Storm for making a stupid decision; and the Jack gets to have a lot of fun drawing the Surfer just absolutely humiliating the kid using the Power Cosmic to erect a maze in the sky for Johnny to slam his head into a bunch. Ben he simply beats up real bad without trying, which is much less embarrassing.

Realizing he plainly backed the wrong horse in deciding on what superheroes to rely on, Uatu takes a mulligan and heads off to intercept Reed and Sues train and ask them to try instead. Reed immediately vetoes Sue doing any superhero stuff (and also one of the people on the train forbids her from joining in the fight... that might have been Artie Simek messing up the lettering, though), and Uatu just accepts this because he's getting kind of tired of arguing with humans at this point.

"But what can Reed do against the all-powerful Silver Surfer?" asks Sue, seeing her husband be teleported away
"All-powerful? There is only one being who deserves that name. And his only power... is love" replies Uatu, which is a heck of a thing to hear coming from an omniscient moon-man.

Anyway, it seems Reed chose a good time to get involved with the story since Norrins plan didn't *quite* work the way he intended; he didn't unite the world against him so much as he antagonized the US army enough to get them to mobilize against him. And, moreover, they've got their hands on Anti-Galactus Weapons, such as the Sonic Shark, which are specifically designed to take out beings chock-full of Power Cosmic; and they're totally going to murder Norrin with it.

Reed really doesn't like the idea of his friend a guy he tried to stop from destroying the planet once already being killed by a weapon he helped design, so he, Ben and Johnny go after the Surfer to try to talk him down before the military nukes him with a shark.

Comics are fun!

Anyway, Johnny, naturally, tries first and fails badly because a missile designed to take out Heralds of Galactus are way stronger than A Guy Who Is On Fire, so instead Ben just clobbers the time out of it, knocking the missile into the stratosphere, where it explodes harmlessly.

Seeing both that the army could have TOTALLY killed him just now without breaking a sweat, and that the Fantastic Three Quarters risked their lives to save him, Norrin realizes that his plan to unite the world in terror wouldn't have worked and there's still good people (and Reed) so he's going to resume just sulking about how much he hates being stuck here.


NEXT TIME: Let's All beat Up Daredevil!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

There's a lot of comic firsts you can trace back to the Lee/Kirby era of Fantastic Four. In the case of The Flames of Battle, we have one of the first examples of being utterly confused when walking in to the middle a crossover event. So... for context, this story takes place directly after Daredevil #38 and Thor #149. One of those stories is far more germane to the story being told, but both are referenced a lot.

Spidey didn't have any storylines he was cross-pollinating with, but he's around too.

So the first page splash is Stan and Jack doing their damnedest to get you up to speed about what happened in Daredevil #38 in the course of two or three narration boxes. Which is a trial since that particular Daredevil story was a TRIP, especially if you're unaccustomed to how long it took for the style and tone of a Daredevil story to take form. It seems that Doctor Doom not only survived his exploding in outer-space that seemingly killed him back at the end of the Cosmic Doom story, but he kidnapped Daredevil while DD was trapped without his passport in Europe by The Gladiator; then used a Mind Swap device on him in order to frame Daredevil for various evil deeds in order to turn the superhero community against him AND THEN, just before swapping back, he also called up the Fantastic Four to warn them that Doom and Daredevil swapped bodies, so the next time they (the FF) see him (Daredevil) they should IMMEDIATELY BEAT HIM UP, because he's actually Doom.

And Daredevil didn't know that last part, so, after getting his brain back in the right body, he decides to visit the FF to tell them directly that he is no longer possessed by a Science Wizard, but Reed is convinced it's a really lazy trap from Doom, and immediately starts fighting Daredevil.


Hell of a lot of squeeze for that juice.

Anyway, as one might expect from any team with Johnny Storm in it, Johnny decides to immediately attack Daredevil (who he presumes is Doom) heedless of any thought to strategy or reacting to DD being genuinely confused why he's being attacked by a fellow super-hero. Furthermore, as one should be even less surprised by after reading 73 issues of Fantastic Four, Johnny immediately flies headfirst into a water tower and knocks himself out.


Just in time to see Daredevil drag an unconscious Johnny out of a water tower so he doesn't drown is Spider-Man, who is extremely quick to accept Daredevils story about how he spent his weekend, and decides that Daredevil is *probably* going to need some back-up if he's going to survive the entire FF trying to kill him because of a very confusing case of mistaken identity, and luckily, he happens to spot Thor wandering around in a daze nearby.

Thor, as anyone who picked up that same months Journey Into Mystery would know, is in a bit of a daze because he was just literally, not figuratively, murdered by The Wrecker (he got better, Sif made a deal with Hela, it was a whole thing), and also his dad robbed him of a good chunk of his powers (I forget why, but presumably because Odin is terrible).

That said, Thor ain't the kind of guy who is going to stand aside and let an innocent man get the crap kicked out of him by 3 superheroes, even if he was recently a ghost and also has no super powers, so he agrees to help Spidey defend Daredevil. And Spider-Man has to give him a piggy-back ride because Thor can't fly or anything.

Spidey also mentions that "Even Moishe Dayan would think twice about tangling with the FF!". I had to google it and can only presume Stan meant this guy and spelled his name wrong

Meanwhile, DD hasn't decided to reconsider his plan to tell Reed, in person, that he stopped being mind-swapped by Doom, so he finds himself in a two-on-one fight against Reed and Ben, with Daredevil being at a complete loss at trying to find a way to prove he was formerly, but is not presently, the worlds foremost master of science and sorcery.

Johnny recovers from nearly drowning, meanwhile, and sees Spider-Man and Thor fighting alongside Daredevil and immediately assumes that Doctor Doom has obviously built Doombots that look like Thor and Spider-Man because... that's... basically how Johnnys thought-process works.

The Fantastic Four REALLY do not come across great in this issue.

Anyway, the resultant fight is Jack getting a chance to have some fun again, so I'm back on board (and one of the rare instances of SInnot inking Thor); Daredevil, Spider-Man and Thor fight Reed, Johnny and Ben, respectively. Ben is first convinced that Thor is a robot duplicate because he isn't as strong as he should be or shooting lightning or anything, but then changes his mind when he realizes he's talking all Shakespeare-y to such a ridiculous degree that even Doom would find embarrassing, Reed becomes convinced that Daredevil is actually a doombot and not Doom himself, when his radar-senses kick in (assuming it's an actual radar) and Spidey... tricks Johnny into flying face-first into something until he passes out.


Anyway, the entire fight eventually ends thanks to the timely appearance of Sue (still on maternity leave) who was watching TV at the time and saw Dr. Doom holding a press conference in Latveria (we don't learn what it's for, I presume he holds one at least once a week in order to tell the world what he thinks about Reed Richards) and so decided that Reed might have perhaps jumped the gun on his "Attack Daredevil for literally no reason" plan.

For once, Reed Richards listens to what his wife has to say and feels like a REAL TURKEY, and gives a half-hearted non-apology to Daredevil ("As Mayor Laguardia used to say, When I make a mistake, it's a Whopper!"), and Thor just leaves in order to go try fighting The Wrecker again.

Rest well, our heroes!


Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We get some gas-lighting, robot fighting, contract work disputes AND the kind of decision making that can only come from being real hangry, as we all learn about When Calls Galactus!

The start of the second (and far less highly regarded) Galactus storyline!

Kicking things off in Alica Masters' apartment where both Ben and the Silver Surfer have some good news/bad news they're both trying to cope with. Norrin may finally get a chance to leave the Earth, as he's been REALLY eager to do ever since learning that Sandwiches, are about the only thing Earth has going for it as a planet BUT that's only because Galactus has come to appreciate how much easier his job became once he had a Herald to find food for him (kind of like trying to cook for yourself instead of having Doordash cover it for you). Ben, meanwhile, is happy that his (perceived) chief romantic rival is going to leave but having to contend with a hunger-crazed Galactus doesn't forecast a very relaxing weekend for him.

As for Big G himself, well, for one thing, his design has changed *again*, but it's now the look he has today; right color scheme, no... err... big G, his weird hat is slightly less cumbersome and he's finally got some pants on. Furthermore, he misses his metal space-son and the meals he can provide, and has decided to summon everyones favorite compact, supremely merciless, hard-core mass of mayhem from beyond the outer rim of the known universe; The Punisher!

Which, again, is a weird Toad-Man looking robot, not Frank Castle. We're still a good 50 years away from those two guys hanging out.

Anyhow, Galactus summons the Punisher to scour Earth (specifically New York, since even a planet devouring Space God from the previous multiverse notices which city on Earth has all the superhero related stuff happening in it) for Norrin in order to force him back into his old job. And Johnny Storm is all too happy to take a break from arguing with the repair crew fixing up the Baxter Building, after it got wrecked in last issues fight, so he flies off to fight the Punisher as it searches the city.

Try and guess how many panels until Johnny flies head-first into something or forgets how fire works.

And the Punisher has some outer-space jet-lag, so it doesn't seem to care too much when Ben tells him it's Clobberin'-o-clock, so it doesn't take long for him to be knocked out either.

Reed, for his part, has decided that the best way to deal with the women in his life is by making Crystal act as a bodyguard for his wife while he gaslights her about impending Killer Space Robot danger, and just skeedaddles when she's distracted.

I really can not overstate how much I dislike 60s Reed.

Anyway; it turns out Reed needn't have bothered; he contributes absolutely nothing to the fight against the Punisher, and it simply leaves shortly after he arrives at the scene of the fight having realized that the Surfer is nowhere to be seen on the surface of the Earth, this, along with the Surfers last words before he disappeared ("There are Worlds Within Worlds") leads Reed to the conclusion that Norrin is attempting to hide from Galactus be running into The Microverse!

NEXT TIME: Stop Hitting Yourself

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Reed forgets what he just announced, Ben forgets a lesson he already learned, and Galactus has a crisis of conscious as we see Worlds Within Worlds!

Now, it's not shocking by this point that, for its highs and lows, I hold FF to be my favorite Marvel book, and team, overall. And a big part of the reason for that is the Lee/Kirby run (as evidenced by the fact that I made a whole thread dedicated to me reviewing every issue of it. And you can also tell that it's perhaps the book Stan and Jack have the most affection for (give or take Spider-Man and Thor, respectively). And I gotta say; year 6 of the book is really where you can tell that the shine has started to come off the apple for them. At least partly because Jack was on a kind of creative strike against Marvel after they gave him the runaround a bit too much.

LUCKILY, "Jack is fed up with his poor treatment and crushing debt" did in no way stop him from drawing up a really fun story that holds up as one of the better issues in this bunch.

We open up on a rocky outcropping just off the coast of New York (I... guess?) where all the dudes of the FF are catching their breath after defeating distracting the Punisher Robot last issue. Sue is still on maternity leave, and Crystal is under strict orders to gaslight her to make sure Sue is unaware of any fun and exciting space adventures she could be involved in.

Sue also spends all her time in bed and is still in her jammies at, like, 3 in the afternoon and is heedless of any impending apocalyptic events in this issue so it comes across less like she's resting from pregnancy and more like she's got clinical depression.

ANYWAY, Ben is all fired up from his perceived victory over the Punisher, (which, again, was basically ignoring him in and just decided that its quarry, the Silver Surfer, wasn't anywhere on the face of the Earth), and is feeling confident enough to take on Galactus himself now; referring to him as "an over-sized Space Zombie", which is... definitely not one of the ways I would describe him.

Reed, meanwhile, has forgotten what he realized in the last panel of the previous issue, and the title of this particular issue, and is still trying to figure out where the Surfer disappeared to.

And Johnny is kicking back enjoying a cold one.

In space, Galactus apparently heard Bens "oversized space zombie" remark and takes it MUCH more personally than I would have (I'd have just been confused) and decides to remind him of the nature of their relationship; one of them is a Literal God who Devours and Destroys Entire Worlds for Food, and one is a guy made of rocks.

Specifically, G blasts the small island they're on with a *teensy weensy bit* of Power Cosmic; which is basically Jack Kirby drawing a Roland Emmerich movie;

We spend three or four pages on a full on localized apocalypse; the island literally turns inside out, the FF are rapidly drowned, burnt, shot into space, frozen and forced to confront Galactus' raw naked power incarnate for a second or two, then they, and the island, are instantly restored, and before they can catch their breath, we see that Galactus has also created evil soulless copies of the FF to emerge from the cosmic detritus to beat the hell out of them for a bit.

This would perhaps be overkill by most peoples standards, but for Galactus, this is the equivalent of wagging a finger and leaving a passive agressive note on the fridge. He wants to know where his Herald is and he isn't taking any backtalk from someone who has a hard time dealing with the Yancy Street Gang.

The Dark FF, being emotionless homunculi crafted by a ravenous space god, prove to be more thana match for the Good FF; having stronger powers, a complete lack of mercy and willing to use the abilities to much deadlier effect. And the resulting fight is really fun; lots of Jack getting a chance to be creative with character designs and Reeds stretchy powers; the FF are overwhelmed until they decide to stop fighting their own copies and start fighting everyone elses.

Galactus doesn't mind when his servants take a beating, as his priorities have changed a bit; while he vowed not to EAT the Earth after his last appearance, he didn't say about leaving the planet *intact*; and is going to just start throwing other planets at it in order to force the Surfer to reveal himself and take back his old job of hunting down worlds to feed on. He's aware that he's violating the spirit of the vow he made, and that Galactus' Word is Law. But it's even more important Immutable Cosmic Law that Galactus Must Not Starve. And he knows that the Surfer is on the Earth somewhere, so if he completely annihilates it he'll have nowhere to hide.

Reed comes to the same conclusion and manages to contact Galactus saying he'll deliver the Surfer to him, if he just eases off with the complete annihilation of the planet for a few minutes; and Galactus accepts, giving him a hard time limit of a few hours to present Norrin or else he's going to resume throwing planets in a cosmic temper tantrum.

Heading back to his lab, desperate to work out where Norrin could have gotten to, he remembers (again) that the Surfer said "There are Worlds Within Worlds" and then disappeared in his lab, which must mean that he's shrunk down into the Microverse; and he Ben and Johnny have to enter Sub Atomica to convince him to return to Galactus before the entire Earth is destroyed!

NEXT TIME: We have a Small Problem

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We've got a new standard for Johnny Storm screwing up, some real mission-creep from Reed, and the return of a little trouble-maker as the Fantastic Four are... STRANDED IN SUB-ATOMICA.

So this time, Reed retains the knowledge that the Silver Surfer has fled to the Microverse in order to escape Galactus' notice, and he, Johnny and Ben board the special shrinky-ship he built in order to travel to Sub Atomica in order to find him and ask him to PLEASE resume being Galactus' herald so the big guy doesn't obliterate the planet in an effort to ease his hunger pangs.

Like a Snickers Commercial, except if Joe Pesci killed everyone.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, Sue has a doctor check in on her, since she's still so darn pregnant, and she's informed that she will soon cease being so darn pregnant. Furthermore, the doctor also calls out Reed for being a friggin' jackass and not spending any time with the mother of his soon-to-be-born child AND ALSO he also casually mentions all the local cataclysms that Sue was being very carefully gaslit about over the past few issues.

Crystal, ever the trooper, tries to pass that last remark off as being news reports about how the Vietnam war is going which... still probably shouldn't have reduced anyones stress levels. And Sue ain't a fool and figures Reed isn't around because he's off on some science adventure trying to save the planet or other such malarkey, and is content to let him have his fun.

Which is the first time in 76 issues of this comic where they were on the same emotional page about anything.

Meanwhile, where everything is much smaller, Reed and company manage to find where the Surfer is hiding; which is some ASTOUNDING luck since the Microverse is proportionally the same size as the Macroverse; and all Reed did was arbitrarily pick one molecule inside his lab and shrink down into that. Reed mentally prepares a speech that he hopes will convince the Surfer to save the Earth as he once did.

Unfortunately, Reed made one tactical error, and that was forming a superhero team with Johnny friggin' Storm.

I don't know if Johnny forgot what they were looking for the Surfer for, or he was panicked from the stress of having to confront Galactus or he got bored or what, but he immediately jumps out of the Micro-Craft and attacks the Surfer for no friggin' reason at all. Ben also joins the fight but it's more of trying to keep the Surfer from killing everyone in response to the unprovoked attack on him.

Eventually the Surfer leaves after feeling he's proven his point about the FF really not being in his weight-class and resumes just being absolutely GIDDY at having found a loop-hole to the fact that he was banished to being confined to a single planet instead of the entirety of the universe. But seeing the Surfers intense display of power, and thinking "Oh crap, this is going to be a problem for me, I bet" is none of than this arcs OTHER surprise villain, and the worst psychologist in two sizes of universe; The Psycho Man!

Psycho Man either doesn't recognize the FF, or correctly remembered that they were barely a factor in the last story he was involved in (it was Gorgon and Black Panther who beat him before, after all), but he does send a specialized android killing machine; THE INDESTRUCTIBLE out to apprehend the Surfer and figure out what he's doing in his Tiny World.

The Surfers already long gone before The Indestructible shows up, but Reed quickly susses out what's going on and the FF decide to try to destroy the Indestructible before it can pursue Norrin.

To be fair, they don't know that it's called The Indestructible before they attempt that; doesn't take too long for them to come to that conclusion however. The FF have been 0 for 3 in fighting robots lately.

Fortunately, the Surfer manages to hear Reed make some off-handed comments about trying to save the Surfer and the threat the Earth faces at Galactus' hands and decides he was hasty when a flaming teenager tried to set him on fire with cosmic flame for no friggin' reason whatsoever, and easily trounces The Indestructible and heads back up to the Regular Universe to have a chit-chat with Galactus about his diet restrictions.

Furthermore, Galactus is tired of waiting for these shmucks to find his baby boy and is done humoring them about looking for the Surfer and is just going to commence eating Earth before he starves to death!

And Reed doesn't know that and decides they might as well go ahead and attack The Psycho Man while they're in the neighborhood.

To be fair to Psycho Man, they came into HIS house and started busting up HIS robots so... Reed doesn't really have a lot of moral high-ground here.

NEXT TIME: A Little Bit of Common Sense

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

Everyone calls out Reed! Reed calls out everyone else! Galactus goes Freegan, and offers up the highest concentration of Crazy-Ass Space Machines possible in 22 pages as we finally learn the answer to the question of... SHALL EARTH ENDURE?

Also; love that cover.

Anyway, despite the bulk of this arc being everyone hunting down the Silver Surfer in order to have him help Galactus in order to save the Earth, the last issue actually ended with Reed deciding right the crap out of nowhere to beat up Psycho Man, since... you know... they were in the neighborhood.

Like; literally inside his fortress and beating up the robots he sent to defend it from invaders, such as the FF.

Reed really doesn't have nay kind of moral high ground to call his own here, even if he weren't shrunk down to sub-atomic size; and both Ben and Johnny (rightly) call him out on this, and say that attempting to stop Galactus from devouring the Earth is the bigger priority right now.

And Reed literally says "I'm trying not to think about that!" before resuming his pointless attack on Psycho Mans planet (atom) sized death fortress.

I am genuinely unsure if this was Stan trying to justify the direction the plot has taken because Jack was the one doing all the drawing and he wanted to lay out a lot of completely bonkers Kirby Tech or what, but this is what we're faced with. I'm not really complaining though, as if you're a connoisseur of Kirby either going cosmic or designing weird machines then BUCKLE UP, because we have that in spades!

Psycho Mans deal has changed a little bit from his first appearance, instead of scaring people with big monsters, he's just making convincing illusions using his Encephalo-Beam Emitters and what follows is the FF running through Psycho Mans maze-like planet sized fortress avoiding traps, tearing up Kirby Devices and fighting Psycho Man himself dozens of times over, only to find out it's a realistic hologram or robot drone each time; dudes got Dr. Doom beat for sheer number of robot duplicates.

Eventually, after wrecking a sizable chunk of the base and beating up four or five fake Psycho Men, the REAL Psycho Man shows up, this time wearing an Iron Man-esque powered armor, on top of his regular armor. Or else it's another drone and Psycho Man is faking again, it's impossible to tell with this guy.

Even though this armor is more than a match for any of the FF individually, it can't handle three of them at once, and it's eventually disabled when Ben knocks a Big Thing down on top of it, and then friggin' Reed gets on his high horse against the guy whose house he broke into and then beat up, telling Psycho Man that he can't waste any more time in the Microverse; Galactus is attacking the Earth and since Sub Atomica is located WITHIN the Earth, if it's destroyed, Psycho Man will be to. He also leaves out the fact that he already sent the Surfer to talk to Galactus which was literally all he had to do in this story.

And Psycho Man doesn't waste too much focus on picking out the pretty serious flaws in Reeds argument re: who is at fault for this whole malarkey and what exactly Reed had left to offer to solve the situation, and instead agrees because everyone who lives on a planet has a common cause to oppose a guy who eats planets, and sends Reed Ben and Johnny back to the Macroverse.

Back in the Regular Sized Marvel Universe, Norrin reappears in Reeds lab, after re-bigulating himself, where he finds Sue, still in her jammies and very sad about her husband gaslighting her about the end of the world (still not convinced this is pregnancy related and more about extreme depression on her part), and Norrin apologizes as a big part of this was kind of his fault, and gives Sue a teeny blast of Power Cosmic to ease her mind and body a bit before heading off to confront Galactus.

Incidentally, him infusing a very pregnant Sue with a portion of Power Cosmic is my no-prize explanation for why Franklin is as powerful as he is; His parents powers of "Stretchy" and "Shields" don't really translate to "nigh-omnipotence", after all. Power Cosmic *does*.

In space, Galactus is in NO MOOD to waste time or words on Surfer; he needs to eat IMMEDIATELY, and commands the Surfer to get him a filling meal; dropping the barrier he constructed to confine Norrin to the Earth until he can find a suitable world to devour or else he's taking the Earth IN TWO SECONDS.

Luckily, Surfer knows just the place, and leads Galactus to a planet that was JUST destroyed by a meteor impact; so everything on it is already dead but the planet is just surging with released life energy; enough to keep G fed for a while. And Galactus thanks him... by tossing him back to Earth and restoring the barrier around it; if he gets hungry again he wants to know where the Surfer is without having to look for him.

So Galactus gets a good meal, Reed gets a wife who is too doped up on Space Magic to complain to him about how badly she's treated, Psycho man gets to continue living and the Silver Surfer gets his own brand new comic with no input from Jack Kirby ,ultimately inspiring him to quit Marvel Comics all together!



Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Now I did break from my usual posting schedule in this thread by accident, but THAT'S OKAY since this was a two-part story anyway so I can do them both at once. Also, the most important bits of story are relegated to two single side-stories that take up a page each in the two issues. Furthermore, I'm not completely sure people are even still reading this thread or if I'm just posting for myself.



So The Thing No More kicks off right where the last issue ends; with Johnny Reed and Ben returning from Subatomica and being relieved to find out that, thanks to literally no effort of their own, the Earth exists. It's less a moment of triumph for them, and more like the first time you leave a puppy alone in the house and it doesn't poop on the carpet.

Anyway, our conquering heroes decide to celebrate the way you might reasonably expect them to at this point; Johnny goes off to smooch on Crystal a bit, Reed decides to go visit his wife (that's what he says he's doing; he got distracted by some science to do instead) and Ben decides to be sad because, yup, he's still a rock man.

Fortunately, Reed actually has some good news on that front; while Galactus' return stopped him from announcing it before; it turns out that The Mad Thinker frigging around with Reeds experiment to make Ben human again in order to make him evil instead ACTUALLY DID require him to get most of the way to making a permanent cure for Ben being a Rock Man! He just had to scoop out the Evil Brainwashing bits from the serum and completely electrocute the hell out of Ben and BOOM, he will be THE THING NO MORE!

Hey! Just like the title of the issue!


It seems Sue has been admitted to the hospital because of complications with her pregnancy (either Reed didn't know this or he was REALLY invested on a chance to do some science on his best friend and needs to take a hard look at his priorities). And the specific nature of those complications are... completely unknown; it seems come combination of the Cosmic Rays that gave her her powers, the Power Cosmic blast that the Surfer gave her as a sedative last issue and the body changes that come about from being pregnant set off a strange chain reaction in her body that could quite possibly kill her and her baby.

Also she lives in an apartment with a trans-dimensional doorway and a lot of toxic and radioactive elements with a guy who gets distracted really easily, so that probably isn't super healthy, long term.


The Wingless Wizard has paid his debt to society, and been released from prison... and immediately swears vengeance on the Fantastic Four.

We learn this because the Wizard is seen reading a Daily Bugle that says "Wizard released from prison- swears vengeance on Fantastic Four". And I honestly have no idea if that's them editorializing or not, but it's easily one of my favorite panels of this comic in a WHILE.

Anyway, now that he's not presently in jail, The Wingless Wizard (as he constantly insists is a cool name) decides to make good on the threat he... I guess gave as a quote, by revealing his newest, greatest invention; The Multi-Powered WONDER GLOVES! Personally I don't think they're worth bragging about since he's already invented anti-gravity and designed a new kind of weapon of mass destruction, so "Gloves That Shoot Lasers And Are Strong" isn't THAT impressive.

But the Wizard doesn't agree with me and decides to immediately fight the FF with his fancy gloves.

As it happens, he crashes into the window to fight the FF just scant moments after Reed succeeds in turning off Bens powers, and Sue is still hospitalized, so instead of a full Fantastic Four, he's just fighting a Terrific Two.

Fortunately, it's just the Wizard, and, gloves or no gloves, this is a guy Johnny used to fight solo in back-up stories of Strange Tales, so the fight is astonishingly one sided.

When you lose because Johnny Storm outsmarts you, it's time to take a good long look at your career choices.

Ben, after waking up from the fact that a scrawny nerd with a dumb hat just cleaned his clock, decides that there are definite advantages to being a giant rock man, especially given the sheer number of vengeful supervillains he's personally thwarted and wants Reed to make him some means to turn him back into The Thing, temporarily, so that he can deal with them.

And Reed informs him that he could; but the change would be permanent; if he becomes a rock man one more time, he'll that monster FOREVER!


And since the next issue is called This Monster Forever, it's kind of hard to maintain a lot of suspense over that. Even if there weren't another 600-ish FF stories, the vast majority of which having a big rock guy in them.

Anyway, Ben is still wrestling with the idea that he's human forever, again, and wonders how excited Alicia will be to know she's dating a ruggedly handsome guy instead of a big rock man and, since it's been about 10 minutes since the last time any evil scientists knocked down any walls swearing revenge or alien warships landed in the world famous parking lot of the world famous Baxter Building, Johnny assumes he's free to take Crystal out on a date.

...to pick up his car from the garage.


To be fair, Stan and Jack also had a long history of writing romance comics before getting into the Superhero stuff, so this is pretty well in their wheelhouse and while Johnny is a short tempered idiot when it comes to superhero stuff, he's plainly a lot of fun to hang around with, and everyone loves him.

MEANWHILE, back at the hospital, Sues doctors have to turn to the worlds leading expert on the effect of cosmic rays on the human body; Reed Richards, to try to figure out what's wrong with Sue, and how to save her and their unborn child. And Reed has no idea. He can't bring himself to even admit to his wife that there's anything wrong because he's so incredibly bad at processing his own emotions let alone others; and we get a full page splash of Reed holding his wife while staring ahead blankly being unsure of what to do, and Sue knowing her husband is keeping something important form her but having no idea what.

It might be the single most intensely emotional scene Stan and Jack ever produced, and it doesn't involve someone swearing revenge on space monsters or whatever.

The effect is dampened by the thought bubbles where Reed and Sue lay that out bluntly for the kids reading along at home. And also the narration box where Stan says that this was for everyone that keeps complaining that Reed acts like he plainly doesn't like his wife very much.

Luckily, for all those kids who ARE reading along at home and aren't invested in Johnny going on a date, Bens body dysmorphia and Sue and Reeds existential troubles, we have some SUPERHERO STUFF happening!

The cops who were assigned to dismantle the Mad Thinkers old hideout and take his gear in as evidence were a bit too careless and wound up unboxing The Android Man!


Who... umm... is... this guy. Kind of looks like a cross between AMAZO and Mike Haggar

The Android Man was apparently a robot that The Mad Thinker built in order to get revenge on the Wizard. I have no idea why he needed revenge on the Wizard; I don't think they ever interacted. Maybe the Thinker figured there was only room for one Non-Magical Mad Scientist in the FFs life?

The box that Android Man was stored it was also warned to keep below room temperature, and it activated the moment it was heated up, which really feels like a set-up for how it was going to be defeated, but... it is not. The Android Man comes to life, swears vengeance for the Mad Thinker and starts to home in on the nearest source of The Wizards technology.


Ben was so flustered as he went on his first date with Alicia after turning human that he accidentally brought along the Multi-Powered Wonder Gloves instead of flowers when he went to pick her up (hey, we all make mistakes) and so the Android Man is heading directly for them. Also, Ben is surprised to learn that Alicia really isn't as into him now that he's ruggedly handsome; turns out she's into cool monster guys.

Fortunately, before the date could get any more awkward, a large man explodes the wall behind them, and wants to destroy a pair of gloves!

Ben decides to escalate things by fighting back, even though he REALLY doesn't care too much for respecting The Wizards property and this robot was designed to match the strength of a giant rock man, and not a slightly-above-average flesh man; and Android Man just completely wipes the floor with him.

Fearing for Alicas safety, as well as everyone elses nearby, Ben realizes that he'll need to turn into The Thing again in order to save everyone from Android Mans rampage, so he dons the Wonder Gloves and uses them to administer a huge shock of energy to himself; deactivating the cure Reed made for him and turning him into Aunt Pentuias Ever Lovin' Nephew once more.

And, again, GREAT panel layout for this shot; human Ben winds up for a punch, and a giant rocky fist collides with the Android; turns out that the one thing The Thinker didn't build into him was a clock, because he had no idea it was clobbering time.

Ben just completely demolishes the robot now that he has his strength back; wrecking him so bad he almost never appears again in any other comic (according to wiki; a similar looking robot showed up in a later issue as "The Super-Android"), and Ben is happy to have saved a bunch of people, and having confirmation that his girlfriend DOES think he's hot because he's a big rock man, he's still kind of sad that he can now never be human ever again.

Ah well.

Next Issue: I Really Hope This One Isn't Problematic!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Since we’re in the homestretch now (Jack left shortly after issue 100) I’m curious what I should cover next; either keeping up with Fantastic Four or moving on to another Marvel series.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Well, hoping this wouldn't be problematic was a bit optimistic


Also, if you're curious about that special display allowance plan, I'm sorry to say that it wasn't reproduced in Marvel Unlimited. We'll have to live with the mystery. A mystery like one that which surrounds the land Where Treads the Living Totem.

Anyway, no real sense of continuity in this issue, outside of some off-handed comments about Sue being in the hospital (you know *dying and pregnant*) and since she's out of commision, there's no reason the rest of the FF can't have a bit of fun going on a Boys Only vacation to visit Wyatt Wingfoots tribe.

Remember how the last issue had the single hardest emotional gut-punch that the whole of the Marvel Universe had yet produced with Reed realizing how desperately ill Sue actually was, and her realizing her husband was keeping something about her and her childs safety from her?

Well Reed sure as frig doesn't! He's excited to leave his dying wife to go and check out a Living Totem.

I literally cussed out loud at fictional science-adventurer Reed Richards when I read that.

Thankfully, for my blood pressure, now the book moves away from Reed Richards for a bit, and brings us up to speed on what Wyatt Wingfoots been up to since his last appearance (waaaaay back in issue #59); as it turns out; not much. He kept the Gyro-car that Black Panther gave him way back when and... that's about it. I will assume he resumed not wishing to play football for ESU despite the coach wishing he would. He didn't comment either way. He's largely been driving around his tribes territory, on the lookout for nice scenery I guess.

Also, in case you were curious; no they do not mention what tribe he belongs to. Furthermore, they also exclusively use the Bad Terms for Native Americans.

Luckily for the sake of keeping the plot moving forward, and unfortunately for everyone else, Wyatts tear-assing through a rocky mesa with a futuristic GYRO CAR is interrupted by The Walking Death; Tomazooma: The Living Totem. Which is an awful lot of epithets for a one-off villain that I'm fairly sure Marvel immediately buried in the deepest memory hole they could.

Wyatt is surprisingly reluctant to believe that his tribes protector spirit, Tomazooma is real; even when it's standing ten feet in front of him, shooting flame from its eyes.

The FF, meanwhile, arrive at Wyatts tribelands (you are correct to assume it's a teepee village), where the village chief fills in Reed on the local happenings; such as that the tribes protector spirit is apparently real, and violently angry for some reason, and also made of metal. Furthermore, it started showing up shortly after the tribe refused to sell its land, and the enormous amount of oil underneath it, to the Red Star Oil Company; an oil company which Reed identifies as *Russian* and therefor BAD!

Gotta spread the racism around a bit, I guess.

Around this time, Wyatt makes his way back home, and informs the Chief, and the FF that Tomazooma is Apparently Real, And Angry and presently busting up the oil company that the tribe owns; leading the Chief to determine that this Tomazooma is a giant robot built by the Red Star Oil Company in order to Scooby Doo the tribe off their land. And then he straps on a gigantic Kirby-tech walkie talky to call Washington DC, and informs them tht Commies Are Trying to Steal American Oil, and also calls a squadron of bazooka-wielding warriors on dune buggies in to to explode the hell out of a giant racist robot.

So THAT part is cool, at least.

And the FF help out too, since fighting giant robots is basically how they earn their rent money.

Unfortunately, for all their other failures, those PESKY COMMIES are really good at building giant robots, and Tomazooma proves to be bullet, missile and Clobbering Time proof, so Reed has the good idea of loading HIMSELF into a bazooka and having Wyatt shoot him directly into Tomazoomas mouth-hole, where he can disable the robot from the inside. Which works very well, since there's only about 3 panels left and nobody wanted this story to go on longer than it had to, and we end on the image of the REAL Tomazooma, who was getting ready to intervene to save his people, but didn;t need to because some white guy saved the day.

NEXT TIME: Meet the Newest Bundle of Joy to join the FF Family; A Murderous Space Bug!

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
There's a handful of stories I was really looking forward to getting to when I started this project. This is one of them.


The debut of not one but TWO of the most important Marvel Cosmic characters and a desperate hunt for a thermos in what Smilin' Stan decrees is "A Movie-Length EPIC"; Let there Be... LIFE.

Reed apparently heard what I was cussing him out about last issue; and is a great deal more concerned about the fact that his wife is dying of cosmic radiation poisoning that's also affecting their unborn child. He's so concerned, in fact, that he's dismissive and rude to Ben and Johnny, and they're not even married to him!

Fortunately, Reed has actually managed to find a solution to that problem! Trouble is, we've got a Frogurt situation;
Sue Richards is dying of Cosmic Radiation (that's bad)
But it can be cured with Element X! (That's good)
Element X can't be found anywhere in the Universe (that's bad)
Reed Richards has a gate to another universe in his toolshed (That's Good)
Literally Everything in that Universe Insists on Killing You (can I go now?)

Ben and Johnny agree to help Reed enter the Negative Zone in order to find Element X, which Reed is grateful for since, as he finally practically states outright; he's completely oblivious at how to express emotions outside of toxic masculinity.

And, after a quick check-in at the Hospital where Crystal is informed that, yup, Sue is dying (entirely off panel; Sue BARELY appears in this comic) and a few Jack Kirby collages (By Gar, it's been a while), Reed Ben and Johnny arrive in the Negative Zone. On a planet that was VERY RECENTLY inhabited; but is now a graveyard. Turns out, whatever this place was; it caught the attention of the Lord of the Negative Zone; The Living Death That Walks; That Which Comes Before Nothing; HE WHO ANNIHILATES:


I admit there's a few Jack Kirby creations I have an inordinate amount of fondness for, but Annihilus is on my short-list for being my favorite villains The King ever conceived; and definitely his last great Marvel creation (sorry Aaron Stack fans, I feel like I feel); on the surface, it's easy to see why; he's an outer-space bug-dracula who is constantly screaming, and has a list of titles that all sound like death metal albums. And frankly, that alone gets him most of the way there.

Annihilus's entire thing, besides being the ruler of a deadly alternate dimension where Everything Wants To Kill You is that, between his alien biology, advanced technology, and that glowy thing around his neck (more on that in a minute) he's nearly indestructible.

And the operative word is "nearly".

Annihilus is so terrified that someone MIGHT figure out how to kill him that he instantly launches a preemptive attack on LITERALLY EVERYTHING THAT EXISTS in order to discourage anyone from having any bright ideas about questioning his immortality.

Later writers (I want to blame Hickman for this, but I can not confirm that) toned that down a bit to "Annihilus hates the fact that he can't be killed so he wants to destroy everyone that exists so they can experience the joy of cessation" which is *fine*, but a lot less bonkers and fun.

Also, I always hear all his dialogue in Cobra Commanders voice, and you can't tell me I'm wrong to do so

Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh right; the Fantastic Four. Those guys.

They aren't in the Negative Zone for ten seconds before they're instantly captured by drones in Annihilus' army; the Annihilation Wave (not named as such for about another 40 years) and heaved into a prison in Annihilus' flagship. At least some of them are *definitely* existing Jack Kirby creations from the Marvels Monster Comics days (Xemnu: the Living Hulk was in there), Anni brings Reed aside, as he'd never met anyone from the Positive Zone and was curious if the being from that universe could possibly threaten his rule.

Then he instantly decides "Yes, everything that lives must die so that Annihilus will Endure" and attempts to kill Reed, alongside all the other inmates in the ships brig, with a blast from his Cosmic Control Rod; the sparkly thing under his chin. Fortunately, because Annihilus is in the habit of screaming literally everything he does as he does it (this is normally a Stan Lee thing, but Annihilus has never NOT done this), Reed is able to determine that the Cosmic Control Rod is the source of the Element X he detected in the Negative Zone.

Also fortunately, Reed proves way too flexible to hit with the Cosmic Rods blasts, and he soon attempts a prison breakout when Anni tries to kill the rest of the FF with weapons designed to kill them (a gyro-scopic chainsaw robot for Reed, a Cacodemon from Doom for Johnny and... err... a really big shoe to smoosh Ben with), and also The Supremely Bestial Borers (giant lizards with can-opener heads), all of which results in Ben knocking Annihilus the heck out by throwing a big machine at his face and Reed stealing the Cosmic Rod while he lay comatose.

And they ATTEMPT to flee back to the Positive Zone, but hit a bit of a snag with that plan, as the first thing Annihilus did when he captured them was steal their dimension-travel packs. They hit a second, larger snag when they remember that all foreign matter in the Negative Zone is inexorably drawn to an explosive Anti-Matter barrier that separates the universes.

They hit a much larger snag when Annihilus chases them with a war ship and is just apoplectic with rage that they stole the thing that makes him immortal and is just NOT entertaining the possibility of letting these chuckleheads be alive for any length of time; to the point that he jumped out of his spaceship and was flying after them with just his wings, shooting a pistol at them screaming revenge.

I *love* Annihilus.

Eventually Reed is able to calm down the bug-boss by pointing out that he doesn't need the whole rod; he just needs a little of the energy contained within it, and Annihilus just does a COMPLETE emotional 180 on this, and explains that the Control Rod has a little nozzle in it, and he can pour out a bit of Element X no problem. It's less of an all powerful cosmic weapon and more of a fancy thermos.

So Reed gives Anni back his rod in exchange for the Dimension packs, which they receive just before the asteroid they're on can be dissolved by anti-matter (not before Reed can theorize what live on an Anti-Matter planet must be like, which is a weird detour to take, especially given everything else in this issue) and everyone goes back to their respective homes happy. Reed making a point to remember to destroy the Negative Zone Portal later, so that Annihilus never poses a threat to the Positive Zone (he... probably should have written himself a note about that), and the team returns to New York, where they speed through the city in order to administer the Element X to Sue before she can succumb to the Radiation Poisoning, and scant seconds before she goes into labor.

As we are so told; we do not see Sue until the last panel of this story.

Anyway, we get a time-passing montage of the three of them sitting in the waiting room, trying REAL hard not to emote, while Sue gives birth to little Franklin Richards


I... don't think he's actually named in the remainder Lee/Kirby run, but this little tyke is one of the most powerful beings in the whole of Marvel canon; eventually proving himself to be the successor to Galactus in the next universe; able to rewrite the laws of reality so absolutely he can construct an entire multiverse, affect time so that everything in the Marvel universe happens no more than "about ten years ago" and managed to completely terrify the concept of entropy itself.

He's also the lesser of Reed and Sues kids.

NEXT TIME: Oh Thank Goodness, there's a Competent Woman on the Team Again

Johnny Unusual

definitely his last great Marvel creation


But yeah, when he came back from DC, it feels like he lost a step, like he spent most of his good ideas there and, let's face it, was probably just completely chewed up by the big two at that point. Which is why in the 80s he did independent stuff like Silverstar and Legally Distinct From Howard The Duck And Also Fuck Marvel Signed Kirby and Gerber.


Also, I was somewat aware of Annihilus but man did Annihilation sell me on the fact that he's just a better villain than Thanos. To be fair, part of that is when a "scheming villain" type is so big, they constantly get put into a box where they are often doing empty posturing or making deals or get put into an antihero box (like Doctor Doom) rather than making big villainous moves because you want the character who is popular to have a big presence and keep hanging around but I love that the once unstoppable Thanos, who is plotting to murder more life in the universe than there isn't, and then has to admit the space vampire is worse because his philosophy is "I don't want to die so I need to murder everything else."
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption

We've got a new member of the team replacing another member of the team, several new fashion choices and what is debatably the best guy to show up for your first day on the job as a Superhero in... Enter the Exquisite Elemental!

We ain't wasting no time this week, as the opening splash page is Crystal, wearing an FF uniform, announcing her intent to join the team since Sue is out on Maternity Leave (so "Out on Maternity Leave" that she is not even appearing in the next several issues) and she has really good elemental super-powers; and this causes some small amount of furor with the rest of the team; Reed is concerned because Crystal is too young to be Superheroing (she points out that she's the same age as Johnny, and "the same age that Sue was" when the team formed, which... is something to think about), and Johnny because she's too impulsive and reckless (and the team only has room for person like that), and Ben... is kind of put out by the fact that she and Johnny make out *constantly* and he doesn't care for public displays of affection.

Anyway, they decide to suspend deciding whether or not to jump her in to the team for a little while. Sure would be convenient if a minor super-villain got it into their head to make a nuisance of themself.


Guess who has a giant hat, a chip on his shoulder, and a brand new pair of Multi-Powered Wonder Gloves; THE WINGLESS WIZARD, THAT'S WHO!

He was apparently so upset that the Thing stole his pair of Multi-Powered Wonder Gloves (and that a robot consequently woke up to wreck those gloves), and then the Human Torch tricked him into a bathtub and made him run away, that he spent the last several issues toiling away on a SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT pair of Multi-Powered Wonder Gloves; now they can control gravity as well!

And yeah, that sounds SUPER impressive, but he could do that anyway with those little hockey puck things he has so... I guess he just made things a little more convenient for himself.

Having completed his new gloves, the Wizard immediately decides to fight the entire FF; assuming it would be easy because now Sue is out of commission and apparently forgetting entirely that in his last appearance the team was also missing Ben, and Johnny managed to outsmart him. Furthermore, Johnny used to beat him with such humiliating ease he had to team up with Paste Pot Pete.

To the Wiz's credit; he's right to be confident; his Gloves make him a match for Johnny (who, despite what he said to Crystal earlier about needing to keep a cool head and follow directions, immediately flies off half-cocked the moment he sees the Wizard out a window, and, of course, crashes headfirst into a bunch of things) and Ben (his Gloves and gravity manipulation let him match Bens speed and strength easily) and Reed... more or less sits this one out; which means it's all up to Crystal to save the day.

Which she does really well and Jack gets to spend a good dozen-ish pages drawing Crystal making an absolute goober out of the Wizard; which is pretty much as expected, since Crystal is basically The Avatar and Wizard is a guy with a nice gloves and flying hockey pucks. Eventually, Crystals control over the wind and water and holds him under the river until he stops coming up for air (Reed assumes his helmet had a breathing apparatus and he just swam away, since the both the CCA and established characterization wouldn't have let Crystal drown a man to death on her first day).

Having successfully defeated what is arguably the least dangerous member of their rogues gallery single-handedly, Reed decides that Crystal deserves to be a part of the team and declares "By the power invested in me by nobody in particular, I welcome you into the Fantastic Four", and then Johnny and Ben make some sexist jokes because it was still the 1960s afterall.

NEXT TIME: I'm Mad as Hell and I'm not Going to Maximize It Anymore!

OPEN QUESTION: Who would you consider the best villain to have to deal with on your first day superheroing?


Arm Candy
OPEN QUESTION: Who would you consider the best villain to have to deal with on your first day superheroing?​
Hmm. Depending on my powerset, Tombstone, Absorbing Man, or Super-Skrull. Villains that are powerful enough to be threatening, but won't oversell me as a superhero.

Johnny Unusual

Hmm. Depending on my powerset, Tombstone, Absorbing Man, or Super-Skrull. Villains that are powerful enough to be threatening, but won't oversell me as a superhero.
All good choices. Especially if the character has a power that can also be used as a weakness, so you can show off your wits. Like Electro. He's dangerous but there are lots of ways to beat him with readily available elements.