Monday, March 1, 2010

33: Fantastic Four #11

Fantastic Four #11
November 1, 1962

  • This is a very odd comic. For one thing, this is the first time we see the Fantastic Four break the fourth wall! In FF #5, we saw the Torch reading a Hulk comic. And last issue, the team confirmed that they're aware of the comic book that's published about their adventures. But there's a fine line between that, and speaking directly to the audience, as when Mr. Fantastic says "You're right, Ben! Remember how we were when we were younger?" and Sue prompts him, "Perhaps our fans would like to hear about this, Reed." All of them gazing directly out of the panel.

    Pranked yet again by the Yancy Street Gang.

  • That said, the bits we learn about Reed & Ben's younger days is extremely intriguing, despite taking only a few panels. We hear that they met as college roommates: two young men from incredibly different backgrounds who quickly became inseparable. Shortly after graduating, they served in World War II, where Ben learned the piloting skills that led him to fly the rocket that would give the four their powers. Marvel didn't have any war comics currently on the stands (just westerns, romance comics, and monster mags, in addition to their new line of superheroes) but this would change in just a few months. Did the few panels here on Reed & Ben's war days whet Stan's appetite to try one in full?

    Despite the mention of Reed's wealthy background - finally explaining how he was able to finance
    his own rocket ship - we wouldn't see the father in question until 1984.

  • If we're really paying close attention to all the details we're given in this issue, the ages and years are a bit dodgy. In the letters page, we're told that Ben and Reed are in their late 30s, and the math pretty much adds up: If we're assuming that the story takes place in the "present" of 1962, then the end of World War II (1945) was 17 years beforehand. By taking the numbers at their maximum range - that Reed and Ben are 39, and they only served in the last year of the war - we would find that they joined up at the age of 22, which also fits what we're told about the two men enlisting right after receiving their diplomas. The thing that doesn't quite gel? Stan states in that same letters page that Sue is "in her twenties", and yet when Reed talks about his love for Sue, he tells her, "It's always been you, since we were kids together living next door to each other!" Which, even if we're being extra generous and allowing that Sue is 29, still describes a brainy 16-year-old guy in love with his 6-year old neighbor. All together now: Ew.

    To be fair, Stan & Jack hadn't really given Sue much to do up till now.
    Hopefully, from here on out that will start to change.

  • For the first time, the Fantastic Four comic explicitly features two separate stories. (Their first issue featured their origin story and the Mole Man adventure, but the one was nested inside the other as a flashback.) In the tale entitled "A Visit with the Fantastic Four" we find the team discussing their backgrounds (as above), playing with the kids on the street who idolize and emulate the FF, and answering fan mail delivered by their mailman Willie Lumpkin - himself lifted from a short-lived syndicated comic strip by Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo. The other story featured the Impossible Man from the planet Poppup (seriously), an overexcited alien whose powers include changing his shape at the speed of thought, and irritating everyone around with his antics. Apparently he was very successful at this, and the readers HATED him; the character wouldn't be seen again for another 14 years.

    The one time where "ignore a problem till it goes away" actually works!