Wednesday, January 27, 2010

19: Fantastic Four #8

Fantastic Four #8
August 2, 1962

  • And so we meet Phillip Masters, the Puppet Master - a man who, by sculpting figures out of radioactive clay (!), can then control the people in question. Essentially, it's a new twist on the voodoo doll. And how wonderfully creepy he looks! With those oversized eyelashes, the maniacal grin, and the arching eyebrows, Jack Kirby has daringly designed the villain as a virtual puppet in his own right.

    Ether vents: Now standard in all modern New York apartments.

  • Of course, what makes this issue such a landmark is the introduction of his daughter, Alicia Masters, who would go on to be an important and frequent member of the FF's supporting cast for the next 30 years. A blind sculptress herself, Alicia is unable to see the Thing's disfigurement which still causes him so much anger and self-loathing - but nonetheless instantly sees the inner goodness beneath. Ironically, instead of realizing he's found someone who appreciates him for who he is, and not what he looks like, Ben fears that she only likes him for his rocky appearance, and wouldn't care for the man inside. Comic book characters with insecurities so present, and so recognizable, had never been seen with such gripping potency.

    The level of detail the Puppet Master has put into this one part of his plan is staggering.
    And a bit insane.

  • Interestingly, the issue could be read as a treatise on the limits of control. Reading the comic with modern insight, one can't help but notice that the Puppet Master's main flaw (besides the ludicrous leaps of logic in his master plan) is the need to replicate everything one is controlling. Note the way the warder's office contains a miniature desk, chair, keys, photographs! See how the jailbreak requires a sculpted figure of every inmate needed to escape! Taking this to its logical ends, one can conclude that the Puppet Master could indeed control the entire world ... but only if he went through the staggering work of recreating the world, in painstaking detail, down to the very last rock. Rather than try to control the world and everyone in it, how much better had he simply learned to live in it...?

    And so begins the budding relationship between Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters,
    here disguised as Sue Storm for reasons too complicated to explain....