Monday, May 3, 2010

The Fantastic Four #9



Cover Date: December 1962
Release Date: September 4th, 1962
Cover Price: $0.12 US

Pages: 32 (23 story pages, 1 pin-up, and 1 letters page)
Format: Colour on newsprint

STORY TITLES:
The End of the Fantastic Four! (5 pages)
Part 2: Sub-Mariner Gives the Orders! (5 pages)
Part 3: "The Fury of Mr. Fantastic" (3 pages)
Part 4: "The Flame of Battle" (5 pages)
Part 5: Vengeance is Ours! (5 pages)

CREDITS:

Script: Stan Lee
Art: Jack Kirby
Inking: Dick Ayers
Lettering: Art Simek

NOTE: Although it's not mentioned in the credits, it's very likely that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby co-plotted this issue. The cover of this issue was pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers and lettered by Art Simek. The book was edited by Stan Lee.

SYNOPSIS:

The Fantastic Four have gone broke due to a stock market crash, and are forced to sell their equipment and split up. They receive a letter from a movie studio offering them money to star in a film. They hitch-hike to Hollywood only to discover that the offer comes from the Sub-Mariner, who has bought his own movie studio. The FF accept his offer and soon begin filming. Sub-Mariner lures Reed, Ben and Johnny into deadly situations under the pretense of shooting the movie, then in their absence tries to seduce Sue Storm. All three of them escape to confront Namor, but a conflicted Sue stops them from attacking him. Namor leaves, but not before agreeing to honour the deal and finish the movie. The Fantastic Four movie is released months later, and is a big hit that makes the team rich once more.

FLASHBACKS:

Namor is shown in flashback retrieving treasure from the bottom of the sea.  There is also a one-panel scene showing one of his ancestors spying on pirates about to bury their ill-gotten booty.

CONTINUITY:

There are no clues in this issue to place it in relation to other Marvel comics.

TRIVIA:

The Sub-Mariner makes another early appearance here, his first since The Fantastic Four #6. As he has done earlier, he manifests the power of an undersea creature, in this instance the radar sense of a cave fish. In many of his appearances around this time Namor uses a lot of fish-related powers that he does not possess later on. The nature of these powers, and why they disappeared, has never been explored.

The movie studio that the Sub-Mariner sets up is known as S.M. Studios. When it appears later on, circa Fantastic Four #191, it has been renamed as Imperial Studios. Fair enough, given the implications of its original name.

The mythological cyclops makes an appearance in this story. Given its location on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, it is likely that this is the same one that appeared in The Odyssey by Homer, or possibly one of its descendents. It has not appeared since this story. A mechanical cyclops appears on a Mediterranean island in the Ant-Man story in Tales to Astonish #46, but its appearance is different from the one in this story. It is very unlikely that they are the same being. It is indicated in Eternals #6 that many mythological monsters are descended from the Deviants, and it's possible that this may be the case with this cyclops.

An atlantean appears in this story, the first time we have seen one outside of Namor in the modern Marvel Universe. The atlantean is seen only in flashback, spying on some pirates.

The Human Torch creates multiple flame images of himself for the first time in this story. He had previously created a single duplicate in Strange Tales #101. He also uses his Nitro-Flame for the first time, to explode his way out of a bamboo cage.

The Fantastic Four encounter a number of Hollywood celebrities of the time during their visit to S.M. Studios. Among these is Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, James Arness, Amanda Blake, Alfred Hitchcock, Jackie Gleason, Charles Bronson and Dean Martin. Given the vagaries of Marvel Time these meetings are probably no longer in continuity.

When Reed is on the island waiting to be attacked, he wonders if the supposed mechanical cyclops will look anything like King Kong. This is a reference to the 1933 film of the same name, which features a gigantic ape living on an island.

Namor references Davy Jones in this story. This is a nickname for the god of the seas, most often heard in the phrase Davy Jones's Locker (which means the bottom of the sea).

Ben is said to be lounging at Muscle Beach. Muscle Beach is located in Venice, California, not too far from Hollywood. From the 1930s to the 1950s it was often home to various athletics and gymnastics events. So the various muscle-bound showoffs that annoy the Thing in this story were based on the real thing.

CHARACTERS APPEARING:

Feature Characters: The Fantastic Four (Human Torch, Invisible Girl, Mister Fantastic, The Thing)
Villains: Sub-Mariner, the Cyclops, flame-proof tribesmen
Regular Characters: Alicia Masters
Other Characters: A newsreader, Baxter Building's landlord, electronics company representative, other people owed money by the FF, men dismantling the Pogo Plane, taxi driver, mailman, actors, receptionist, Johnny's girlfriends, beachgoers, waiter, woman in restaurant, ship crew, crowd and press at movie premiere

BEHIND THE SCENES:

There was an actual stock market crash in late May of 1962, several months before this issue was published. This may have been an influence on the story.

EXTRA MATERIAL:

This issue has a feature page that spotlights the Human Torch, and explains some aspects of his power and personality. Once again it says that Johnny can fly because his flame affects the molecules of his body, making them lighter than air. His maximum speed is said to be capable of producing a sonic boom, and it is explicitly stated that his flame only burns for a limited time. Then we get some stuff that seems at odds with the Torch's personality. Apparently he practices maneuverability at least once a week, and trains himself to be observant. He even studies weather maps to find out where it's going to rain, so he can avoid those areas. I don't know, it doesn't really sound like fun-loving Johnny to me. This page was written by Stan Lee, pencilled by Jack Kirby, inked by Dick Ayers and lettered by Art Simek.

IN THE ADS:

I don't have access to the ads in this issue.

ON THE LETTERS PAGE:

I don't have the letters page for this issue.

REVIEW:

On the surface this story seems like it should be unbearably goofy, but it has so much going for it. Whenever comic book journalists need an example of how realistic the Fantastic Four comic was compared to others, they invariably bring up the team losing all of its money in a stock market crash. It's an iconic moment, and effectively played here both for laughs and for drama. The action set-pieces from later in the story are very well done, and the romantic tension between Sue and Namor is kicked up a notch. The only real flaw here is the somewhat silly premise, but if you can get past that it's great.

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