Cover Date May 1962
On-Sale Date 8 February 1962
Cover Price $0.12 US
Pages 32 (23 story pages, 1 pin-up & 1 letters page)
Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Sol Brodsky. Colours: Stan Goldberg. Script: Stan Lee. Letters: Artie Simek
The Coming of... Sub Mariner!
Chapter 1: "On the Trail of the Torch!" (5 pages)
Chapter 2: Enter the Sub-Mariner! (5 pages)
Chapter 3: Let the World Beware! (3 pages)
Chapter 4: Sub-Mariner's Revenge! (5 pages)
Chapter 5: "Return to the Deep!" (5 pages)
Script: Stan Lee. Pencils: Jack Kirby. Inks: Sol Brodsky. Colours: Stan Goldberg. Letters: Artie Simek.
The Human Torch has quit the team, and the rest of the FF go out looking for him. After a violent confrontation with the Thing, he hides out in the Bowery, where he encounters an amnesiac super-strong hobo. Johnny identifies the hobo as Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and revives his memories by dropping him into the ocean. Namor, finding that his former homeland has been destroyed by atomic tests, declares war on the human race. He summons a giant sea monster called Giganto and attacks New York. The Thing defeats the monster by carrying an atomic bomb into its stomach. The Human Torch defeats the Sub-Mariner by creating a whirlwind and hurling him out to sea, but Namor vows that he will be back.
The Human Torch burns through a wall to escape from the US military.
The Torch burns the Monster from Mars statue, blinds the Miracle Man, and quits the team in a recap of events from Fantastic Four (1961) #3.
There is a pin-up that shows Mister Fantastic stretching up from the ground and reaching towards a criminal who is leaning out of a skyscraper window and threatening him with a gun. It also has an inset that shows a close-up of Reed's face.
Len Blake thinks that Fantastic Four lives up to the tagline of "The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World". Anthony Gonzales thinks that the Thing grumbling about his new costume was great. The suspiciously named "S. Goldberg" compliments the way that the characters bicker like real people. Shirley Howard wants to know, now that Marvel have finally had a hit, what they are going to do for an encore. Bruce Fogel wants an explanation for how the gem in FF #2 turned invisible along with Sue Storm. Jim Moony (probably not the future Marvel inker Jim Mooney) wants biographies of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And "Unsigned" wants the Human Torch to have his own solo book (be careful what you wish for, mate).
Several pages have text running along the bottom, with messages such as "The Hulk is Coming!", "Who Is the Hulk??", "What Is the Hulk??", and "You've Never Seen Anyone Like the Hulk!". There's no indication here of what these messages mean, but they're ads for Incredible Hulk (1962) #1, which goes on sale about a month after this issue.
The Fantastic Four
When the story begins they are more accurately "The Fantastic Three", as the Human Torch quit the team in Fantastic Four (1961) #3. He's back with them by the end of this issue.
Mister Fantastic (aka Dr. Reed Richards)
Following on from last issue, Reed is determined to find Johnny. He doesn't seem to be worried about the Torch's safety, as he reassures Sue that he is sure the Torch is okay; presumably he's concerned about the possibility of Johnny turning against humanity (as he said in issue #3). He's quick to blame the Thing for Johnny quitting the team, putting it down to his jealousy of Johnny's achievements in their battle with the Miracle Man, and he demands that the Thing help search for him. (To be honest he seems exasperated with the Thing this issue, telling him to be quiet on more than one occasion.)
His search tactics leave much to be desired though. He begins well, by suggesting that each of them take a section of the Fantasticar to comb the city. After that it goes downhill, as he is seen talking to random teenagers, recklessly pulling a young man from his moving motorcycle, accosting the crew of a helicopter (in the air), and questioning the passengers of a moving train. Shouldn't he be able to whip up a scanner or something?
Reed has heard of the Sub-Mariner, but thought that he had died years ago. He doesn't have much interaction with Namor, except to express his determination to stop him from destroying the human race.
Powers and Skills: Reed shows the customary use of his stretching abilities, with a little bit of super-strength while doing so (pulling a kid from a moving motorbike, catching Johnny in mid-air). He's shown stretching from the ground to a helicopter flying above the Manhattan skyline. He's also seen stretching to converse with passengers on a moving train, so he's able to stretch fast enough to keep up for at least 30 seconds or so. As an example, the R33 was a railway car that operated in New York starting in 1962, and it had a top speed of 89km/h, so it would be somewhere in that vicinity.
The Thing (aka Ben Grimm)
The Thing initially doesn't seem interested in looking for Johnny. He says that the Torch is a spoiled teenage brat, and that the team doesn't need him. When Reed blames him for Johnny's disappearance, the Thing plays the victim, complaining about being blamed for everything. Once it becomes clear that Reed is going to make him search for Johnny, he's suddenly eager to do it, implying that he wants to beat him up for deserting the team.
Despite his obvious antipathy for Johnny, the Thing seems to know him well, as he's the only member of the team to think of looking at Swanson's Garage, one of Johnny's old hangouts. Upon finding him he instantly attacks. He says that he wants to teach Johnny a lesson for quitting the team, but it soon becomes apparent that he's angry because he thinks that the Torch has been laughing at his ugliness.
The Thing plans to "rough Johnny up a little" (not kill him), but when a freak occurrence reverts him back to his human form he is ecstatic, and no longer cares about fighting. The reversion only lasts for a short time, however, and the Thing grows despondent at becoming a monster again, sinking to his knees in a "helpless rage".
Upon the arrival of Namor the Thing is confident, claiming that nothing human can stand up to him. Namor attacks with a sea monster instead, however. Upon seeing Giganto smashing New York, the Thing is quick to devise a plan which involves him carrying an atomic bomb into the monster's stomach. (His exclamation of "One side woman!" to Sue isn't his finest hour, though.) He shows bravery and determination in executing the plan, and once he's away from the team his anger and bitterness are not as apparent. He shows some trepidation and fear at the thought of entering Giganto's mouth. After Giganto has been blown up, and Johnny has expressed his pride in him, the Thing cracks a joke that might be the first piece of dialogue in which he genuinely sounds like the character he would become: "Big deal! That and a dime will get me a cup of coffee!"
The last exchange between the Thing and Johnny, though a small one, is important, as it signals the end of their animosity. They'll still have fights and arguments, but for the most part they'll be more playful than genuinely hostile from now on.
Powers and Skills: The Thing's feats of super-strength are minimal in this issue. He smashes some furniture and walls, lifts and throws a car, and easily defeats the monster inside Giganto's stomach. The most impressive thing he does is carry an atomic bomb on his back. The bomb looks to be about the size of Fat Man (the bomb that was detonated over Nagasaki), which weighed 10,300 pounds, or about 5 tons. He is bent over under the weight, but otherwise seems to have little difficulty carrying it.
The Thing shows great resilience in surviving the shockwave of an atomic explosion, although he is stunned. The art isn't entirely clear, but it's likely that he was shielded from the majority of the blast by Giganto's body.
The Thing mysteriously reverts back to his human form just as he is about to pulverise the Torch. It's presented here as a freak occurrence, but the later revelations about the nature of his transformation make it possible that he reverted subconsciously to stop himself from hurting Johnny.
The Invisible Girl (aka Susan "Sue" Storm)
Sue is understandably worried that Johnny is still missing, though not hysterically so. She's even more understandably worried that the Thing might hurt Johnny if he finds him. She cries when the Torch's section of the Fantasticar is left behind, and is relieved when her brother is found.
Sue begins the search for Johnny in the centre of town, in a neighborhood where there are a lot of teenagers. Her search tactic seems to be nothing more than walking around while invisible, which seems even less effective than Reed's random questioning. And despite the concern she showed earlier, she still takes the time out to stop and enjoy a soda. Eventually her search takes her to the Bowery (and several feet from Johnny), but she refuses to believe that her brother would end up in a place like that.
Sue shows some initiative when she steals Namor's horn, but she is easily captured thereafter. Her beauty causes Namor to instantly propose to her, with the idea that he might then show mercy to the human race. Sue seems reluctant to make a decision, but later when Namor lays out exactly what he plans for the surface world she accepts his proposal in a state of near-panic in order to save humanity. (At this stage, there's no indication that Sue is attracted to Namor. Her motivation here is strictly about saving the human race, and her acceptance of the proposal is treated as though she's sacrificing her own life. Later, of course, this will change, starting with Namor's next appearance in Fantastic Four (1961) #6.) Sue has been aware of Namor in the past, as Johnny remembers her talking about him when they were young. What Johnny remembers is her talking about his powers, and there are no other hints to let us know what she thought of Namor previously.
Powers and Skills: Sue uses her invisibility powers to explore New York unnoticed (and to drink a soda, which we'll assume she paid for). She later puts her power to use in stealing the Proteus Horn from Namor, but he captures her with ease shortly after. At this point Sue has yet to show that she can turn other objects invisible (aside from her clothes and costume), and this proves her downfall.
The Human Torch (aka Johnny Storm)
Johnny has been hiding out from the army, the police and the rest of the Fantastic Four since last issue. His hiding skills aren't that great, because he's spending his time working on hot rods with his friends, in a garage where he's been known to frequently hang out. It's a miracle that it took so long for anyone to find him.
Johnny seems to enjoy showing off his powers for his friends, although he doesn't have a lot of regard for their safety, as he is messing about with his flames near drums of gasoline. He claims that his power is completely under control, but it's a bit reckless. When the Thing shows up and attacks, he shows a lot more concern for the safety of the hot rod he's been working on than he does for his friends.
After his discovery by the Thing, Johnny goes to the Bowery, the one place where he believes that nobody will find him. Despite being basically homeless, he shows no signs of self-pity at all, and even finds time to enjoy reading an old Sub-Mariner comic.
Johnny shows concern for the "old bum" who is eventually revealed to be the Sub-Mariner, and tries to stop the other derelicts from harassing him. He shaves Namor with his flame, as a way to help him regain his memory, though it seems like a dubious method. As soon as he realises who the old bum really is, he shows no hesitation or thought for the consequences, and drops him into the ocean to restore his memory.
Despite his feelings about the Fantastic Four - he never wanted to see them again - he summons them as soon as it becomes apparent that Namor is a threat to mankind. He and the Thing go right back to insulting each other, but after the Thing defeats Giganto, Johnny tells him that he's proud of him. (As mentioned above, that pretty much marks the end of the genuine animosity between the Torch and the Thing.)
The Torch utters his famous catchphrase "Flame on!" for the first time in this issue.
Background: Believe it or not, this issue is the first to specifically state that Johnny is a teenager.
Powers and Skills: Johnny's standard flaming powers are on display here, but he uses them with more finesse than he has in previous issues. He claims to be able to completely control his flame, and demonstrates by flaming on near drums of gasoline without them catching fire. He's also shown welding a hot rod engine with a single flaming finger, and using the same trick to shave Namor's beard and hair.
He is able to fly to a height of at least 1,000 feet. By flying in circles, he's able to create a tornado of such strength and suction that it's able to hurl Namor and the corpse of Giganto out to sea.
Johnny's apparently great at modifying hot rod engines.
Namor the Sub-Mariner (1st modern appearance)
At the beginning of this story, Namor had been living as an amnesiac bum in the Bowery for a number of years (for reasons that aren't explained in this issue). It's made clear that he was an active super-hero in the 1940s, and quite well-known; Johnny finds an old comic based on him, and most of the characters in the story have heard of him.
As an amnesiac, Namor seems dull and confused, and only wants to be left alone. He is only roused to anger when harassed by other flophouse derelicts. As soon as he is immersed in the ocean his memories return, along with his intelligence and sharp temper. He is quick to vow revenge on the human race for the destruction of Atlantis, even though he is sure that his people have survived; he opts to attack New York with Giganto rather than go looking for them.
Upon seeing Sue Storm for the first time, Namor declares that she is the loveliest human he has ever seen, and offers to show mercy to the human race if she will marry him. He does not give her much say in the matter, however; as soon as the rest of the FF arrive, he declares that he will have her as well as his revenge. He seems even more offended when Sue realises the extent of his plans, and offers to marry Namor for the good of humanity; he considers marriage to himself to be an honour, not a sacrifice. (These scenes are the basis for most of Namor's appearances over the next few years. His infatuation with Sue, and the subsequent love triangle with Reed, will drive most of his stories until Reed and Sue are married in Fantastic Four Annual (1965) #3. Sue doesn't show any signs of attraction to Namor here, but she also doesn't show outright disgust.
Background: We learn here that Namor was the prince of an undersea civilization that has existed for centuries. He was active circa the 1940s, and renowned as the world's most unusual character. He starred in his own comic books, at least one of which depicted him fighting soldiers on the cover. Some time later he lost his memory, and lived as a derelict in the Bowery for "long years", with his mind in a fog. During the time that he was an amnesiac, his home was destroyed and his people scattered by atomic testing.
Powers and Skills: Even in his amnesiac state, Namor is easily strong enough to scatter a group of Bowery derelicts. He is able to live underwater, and is said by Johnny to have "the strength of ten men". Sea water revives him instantly, restoring his mind and his vitality. Once revived, he is shown as strong enough to scatter Reed, Johnny and the Thing all at once.
Namor is described as "travelling in his native element like a careening torpedo", so it's probable that he swims significantly faster than a normal man.
Namor claims that his people could not be harmed by radiation, and that probably also applies to Namor himself.
In addition to his natural powers, Namor has knowledge of the location of the Proteus Horn, and was able to use it to command Giganto. Later issues will show that he knows the locations of many treasures and relics buried at the bottom of the ocean.
Giganto (1st appearance)
Described by Namor as "the largest living thing in all the world", Giganto is found slumbering on the bottom of the ocean, as he has done for "ages". He can only be awakened by one thing: the Proteus Horn, which Namor's people buried near him centuries ago. The creature is described as mindless, and once awakened it will follow the trumpet-horn wherever it leads.
Giganto is large and strong enough to splinter a tramp steamer, and later is shown smashing several large buildings at once. It is resilient enough to withstand heavy cannon fire, and the only thing shown to be able to harm it is an atomic bomb detonated inside its stomach (which kills it).
Although Ben says that Giganto breathes through its mouth, it also has a blowhole, which it uses to fire a jet of water at the Human Torch. It's possible that the creature uses both to breathe, and is amphibious; it seems to have little trouble surviving on land.
Despite Namor's claims that Giganto has been asleep for ages, the contents of the monster's stomach suggest otherwise. There are several ships there: one resembling a galleon, one that could perhaps be a Viking longship, and another that looks like a steamship. (Please be gentle, my knowledge of ships is rudimentary at best.) Even if Namor is correct, Giganto must wake up periodically to swallow some ships before going back to sleep.
The Monster Inside Giganto's Stomach (1st appearance)
Giganto doesn't just have ships in its stomach, it also has at least one living creature. It's somewhat larger than the Thing, with a fish-like face and six limbs that each end in pincers. It attacks the Thing silently, and he makes short work of it. Presumably it's killed in the subsequent atomic bomb explosion.
The Miracle Man (in flashback)
The Miracle Man is shown here in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3, being captured after Johnny has blinded him.
The Monster From Mars (in flashback)
The statue of the Monster From Mars is shown here in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3, being burned to a crisp by the Human Torch. Although come to think of it, it's just an illusion cast by the Miracle Man, so the real thing doesn't appear here at all.
Atlanteans (1st mention; not shown or named)
The people of Atlantis are only named here as "Namor's people". They are described as being "old when the stars were young" (a bit of Stan Lee hyperbole, no doubt). At the very least their civilisation is centuries old, as that's how long ago they are said to have buried the Proteus Horn. Namor's home city was destroyed a few years ago by atomic testing; the ruins are of green stone, with elaborate carvings and engravings. Like Namor, his people must be able to survive underwater. According to Namor, they are immune to radiation.
Three of Johnny's friends are hanging out with him at Swanson's Garage, telling him how great he is at fixing engines. They don't stick around for long once the Thing shows up. It's probable that they're the same friends that appeared last issue, and I've provided some visual reference to compare.
|The left panel shows Johnny's friends from Fantastic Four (1961) #3, and the middle and right panels show them from #4. It's hard to draw a conclusion either way, especially considering the crude colouring in #3.|
Others: US soldiers, citizens of New York, a soda shop customer, motorcyclists, kids playing baseball, bowery bums, helicopter crew, train passengers, tramp steamer crew, New York police, New York city officials (or perhaps other governmental types, it's not clear).
The Baxter Building
The Baxter Building is barely seen this issue, but it's reiterated that the location of the FF's headquarters is still a secret.
The Bowery (1st appearance)
After he is discovered by the Thing, Johnny goes to the Bowery, where he believes that nobody will ever find him. It's shown to be a very poor district of Manhattan, full of derelicts and bums. Sue describes it as a "haven of lost souls", and refuses to believe that Johnny would ever end up there. This was true of the area in the real world from the Civil War up through the 1970s, after which a slow gentrification process forced the vagrant population out.
Swanson's Garage (1st appearance)
Located in an area of Manhattan with plenty of greenery, Swanson's Garage is one of Johnny's favourite hangouts, and it's here that he goes when hiding out from the FF and the military. It suffers quite a bit of damage at the hands of the Thing in this issue.
Atlantean Outpost (1st appearance, not named)
After having his memory restored, Namor swims directly to his "undersea kingdom", only to find that it is in ruins due to atomic testing. The rubble is made of green stone, and covered in elaborate carvings, and the city probably resided off the coast of New York. The implication in this story is that this was the capital of Namor's kingdom, but it was later revealed in Sub-Mariner (1968) #1 that it was only an outpost.
Fantasti-Flare (not yet named)
Johnny fires his flare to summon the FF after he has revived Namor.
Horn of Proteus (1st appearance)
This trumpet-horn is, according to Namor, the only thing that can command Giganto; the monster will follow its sound wherever it leads. It was buried near Giganto's sleeping place centuries ago by the Atlanteans, and only now retrieved by Namor to use in his revenge on humanity. Namor claims that it can also be used to summon other sea monsters as well as Giganto. At the end of the story Namor is hurled out to sea, and he loses his grip on the horn, which sinks to the bottom of the ocean, apparently lost forever.
(Proteus was a god of the sea from Greek mythology, and no doubt this is what Stan and Jack were referencing here. There is also a villain called Proteus who shows up in Sub-Mariner (1984) #2, an Atlantean wizard, but he has no known connection to the Proteus Horn.)
Reed, Ben and Sue use the Fantasticar when searching the city for Johnny, splitting into sections so that they can cover more ground individually. This is the first time that Johnny's section of the Fantasticar has been left behind.
Atomic Tank (in flashback)
Miracle Man was driving the tank when Johnny blinded him, in a flashback to Fantastic Four (1961) #3.
This comic from the 1940s was conveniently lying around in the very same flophouse where Namor himself was staying. It doesn't appear to be depicting an actual real-world comic, but it's in remarkably good condition.
It's hard to say from this issue, because there are no conclusive battles. Namor and the FF never come to grips, and even though Johnny is able to hurl him out to sea it's not really a proper fight. Giganto is beaten when the Thing sets off an atomic bomb inside it, but the sense given is that it could beat the FF with ease in a straight battle. The only thing we can definitely state is that the Thing is able to beat up the monster that lives inside Giganto's stomach.
This story seems to take place all in a single day, but given that New York City is evacuated it should probably take place over a bit more time than that. It shouldn't take place more than a week or so after Fantastic Four (1961) #3, as Johnny just recently quit the team and is still on the run.
CONNECTIONS & RETCONS
The Sub-Mariner's history, and the events leading up to this issue, are given plenty of attention in later stories. His amnesia isn't explained here, but in Sub-Mariner (1968) #1 it's revealed that it was caused by Paul Destine, a would-be world conqueror, using the Serpent Crown. The date of this event is given as 1959 in Saga of the Sub-Mariner (1988) #6. This fits well with Namor's prior publishing history, as the last comic he starred in was published in 1955.
Atlantis was not destroyed by atomic testing as Namor believes in this issue, but was actually ruined by Paul Destine. The people of Atlantis did not die, but instead fled to the Atlantic Ocean to set up a new kingdom under the rule of Byrrah (as established in Saga of the Sub-Mariner (1988) #7. Namor won't find them again until Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #1.
It's established in Marvel Universe (1998) #7 that Giganto, and others like him, were created by the Deviants. An entire race of Gigantos is seen in Fantastic Four (2014) #3. I don't believe that the subterranean Giganto from Fantastic Four (1961) #1 has been specifically linked to the undersea monster, but as both have Deviant origins it's possible that they may be related.
The Horn of Proteus is not lost in the depths of the murky sea forever, as this issue would have you believe. In the real world, it reappears again in Sub-Mariner (1968) #21, where the Atlantean warlord Seth uses it to summon some undersea monsters to attack the US Navy. Chronologically, it was first retrieved by Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Comic Magazine (2001) #3.
While this isn't the true first appearance of the Sub-Mariner (that happened in Marvel Comics (1939) #1), it is the first time he appears in the Silver Age, and also his first meeting with the members of the Fantastic Four. He spends the early-to-mid 1960s as an antagonist for the Fantastic Four, until transitioning into a heroic role and headlining his own strip beginning in Tales to Astonish (1959) #70.
Likewise, this is the first Silver Age mention of the Atlanteans and their civilisation. Atlantis will be one of the more prominent "hidden civilisations" of the Marvel Universe going forward.
It's also the first appearance of an undersea Giganto, as well as the Proteus Horn. Both of these will reappear from time to time, but their major claim to fame is that they're involved in this particular issue.
Johnny utters his famous catch-phrase "Flame on!" for the first time in this issue. He must know he's onto a good thing here, because he uses it no less than four times.
The tag-line of "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine!!" appears on the cover in its proper form for the first time ever. The tag-line - or a variation of it - will appear on most FF covers going forward; of the first volume of the series, every issue after this has it except for #232, 286, 319, 350, 358, 374, 376-380, 386, 389, 392, 406, and 413.
SIGN O' THE TIMES
When Johnny checks into the derelict hotel, he thinks to himself, "It's not the Waldorf, but it'll keep me safely hidden..." This is a reference to the Waldorf-Astoria, a highly-regarded New York hotel that opened in 1893.
Stan Lee frequently spells teenager as "teen-ager" throughout this story (and in most Marvel Comics of this vintage). The concept of being teenage was something that came into prominence after World War 2; no doubt the word is still a novel one, and hadn't reached the point where the hyphen would be dropped.
The 1940s Sub-Mariner comic that's just lying around in a Bowery flophouse becomes less and less plausible as the Marvel Sliding Timescale drags the story forward in time. Even in 1962 it seems a little unlikely to still be around.
This one is hardly indicative of the time, but as Ben is entering Giganto's mouth he compares the experience to the Biblical story of Jonah and the Whale. Jonah was a Hebrew prophet, who was commanded by God to go to the wicked city of Nineveh and raise his voice against it. Instead he tried to flee his task by ship, and was cast overboard by a storm and swallowed whole by a whale. Inside the whale he prays for deliverance, until the whale vomits him up on dry land, and Jonah is free to go to Nineveh and do his duty. Aside from the whale the stories bear little resemblance, but Ben's knowledge of it is consistent with the later revelation that he's Jewish.
THINGS THAT MAKE NO SENSE
There aren't any egregious errors or plot holes. The only "mistakes" that I can think of are issues with time. How long would it really take to evacuate Manhattan, for example? This comic seems to think a few hours to a day would do it, which seems unlikely. It's possible that only the section nearest to Giganto's rampage was evacuated, but the comic seems to suggest that it was the entire city.
IS THIS ONE IMPORTANT?
Extremely. Not only is it the Silver Age debut of Namor, the Sub-Mariner, but it's also the link that ties the modern Marvel Universe back to its Golden Age roots. A cohesive timeline, and the idea that all of these stories fit together somehow, is one of the cornerstones of the Marvel Universe, and connecting all the way back to Marvel Comics (1939) #1 goes a long way towards establishing that.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
Now this is more like it. With Jack Kirby getting a handle on the visuals and character designs, and Stan Lee starting to get the voices right, Fantastic Four begins to come into its own. The icing on the cake is the reintroduction of Namor, a real masterstroke. Not only does it provide the story with a villain who comes with tons of personality and motivation built-in, but it also provides a link back to very beginning of Marvel's publishing history. It's all wrapped up in some tense action, and the sequence where the Thing carries an atomic bomb inside Giganto's stomach is brilliant. There's a lot of improvement to come, but this is miles ahead of the first three issues.