Fantastic Four #51
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #51
Ben is wandering the streets feeling sorry for himself...
...and he meets a man who initially shows some sympathy but then drugs him and uses a device to steal his powers and appearance.
Amazingly, even though Ben Grimm shows up at the Baxter Building on the heels of Fake-Thing, no one thinks this is at all suspicious. Even if this weren't a world with skrulls and robot duplicates, you'd think you'd be a little bit interested when a guy shows up looking exactly like, and claiming to be, your old friend.
Mr. Fantastic, meanwhile, has designed a device that will allow him to enter "sub-space", aka the Negative Zone.
The device will later be referred to as the Radical Cube even though that seems more like a description than a name here.
Fake-Thing is a scientist who is bitter that Reed gets all the fame and money, and he poses as the Thing and sabotages Reed's expedition into the Negative Zone...
...but then thinks better of it and sacrifices himself to save Reed.
While it's got some flaws, it's a nice change of pace. It's also the first appearance of the Negative Zone, which Reed discovers in his search to travel through sub-space.
Meanwhile, the coach at Johnny's school ponders how to recruit Wyatt Wingfoot for the football team.
It seems like Reed is schemin' like a super-villain, but nothing ever comes of this:
This issue, like the end of the Master Planner arc in Spider-Man, is one that really impacted realtime Marvel readers and signaled that what was going on at Marvel was something different and new. And it's really one of the more acclaimed stories in what is the already highly acclaimed Lee/Kirby FF era. At the same time, for a modern reader, it's a bit difficult to see it in the right context. Partially that's because the whole bit with Reed not recognizing Ben is so hard to swallow. So it feels more goofy than anything. But it's also that stories like this have had such an impact on comics that a lot of what is important about this issue is so commonplace now that it's hard to recognize, even when reading through your comics in chronological order. It's an emotional issue, a downtime issue (as Haydn notes, no one really uses their powers and there's no super-villain to fight), and a character driven issue. Very important. But still very much a product of its time.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This needs to take place before Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl #1.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel's Greatest Comics #38
Inbound References (9): show
It occurred to me, among this issue's many merits, that on the splash page, Jack Kirby placed the Thing's figure slightly to the left to provide room for the credits, top right. A small detail perhaps, but what artist would even think of such minutiae today?
Posted by: Haydn | July 24, 2012 2:40 AM
And since no one here has mentioned it yet, the only time any of the FF uses their powers is the Human Torch, as a joke, when provoked at college. Not sure if it was Stan or Jack that came up with that interesting detail.
Posted by: Haydn | July 24, 2012 3:04 AM
Wyatt Wingfoot, the Black Panther, and Black Bolt had all been developed in preparation for a doubling of Marvel's superhero line, according to Mark Evanier's introduction to the first Inhumans Masterworks. The expansion was canceled, and so the new characters appeared in a cluster of FF stories. I'm very curious about how a Wingfoot series would have worked; would he have been given powers?
And good for Stan and Jack, in '66, conceiving of black and Native American characters to carry their own books, even of it didn't happen.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 20, 2012 1:27 AM
Yes, Mark Evanier also wrote about this some years ago in The Jack Kirby Collector #44. Basically, in 1966 Martin Goodman was hoping to expand the Marvel line, largely because he heard Joe Simon was going to create a new superhero line for Harvey. Goodman told Stan to introduce more heroes (who would eventually receive their own strips). Stan told Jack and voila: we get in small space of time the Inhumans (to whose ranks the already-existing Medusa was added); Wyatt, T'Challa, Silver Surfer. But Goodman could not get the restrictive distribution deal he'd entered into with Independent News lifted or substantially revised--IN was of course a subsidiary of National--and the deal limited Marvel's output to only 12 or 13 regular comics a month. So, these new characters could not graduate to their own comics or split books at this time. (The deal expired in 1968.
Posted by: Shar | December 20, 2012 11:32 PM
so, reed does nothing to investigate the claim by a person who looks and sounds exactly like Ben Grimm and just sends him off with a "nice try"? it's cause if he did admit any doubts, he'd also have to admit that he hadn't really been trying to cure the Thing all along. a two-bit shmoe mad scientist can build a machine in his closet with zero funding that reverts the Thing back to Ben Grimm in seconds, but Reed Richards just can't seem to figure out the right formula? yeah, right. douche.
Posted by: min | December 18, 2013 9:42 AM
Fnord, just noticed that Alicia isn't included in your "Characters Appearing" section. She's in this story, even if only in a single panel :)
Posted by: Shar | December 18, 2013 8:50 PM
Thank you, Shar. I thought i heard someone at the door--? But-- no one is here now! Yet, I had the strangest feeling -- in my heart! --As though it was someone -- whom I love!
Posted by: fnord12 | December 18, 2013 9:11 PM
Fnord--LOL! Like you said, "very much a product of its time."
Posted by: Shar | December 19, 2013 3:34 PM
To quote J. M. Matteis, from the final page of The Very Best of Marvel Comics, regarding this story:
"But for all the [Fantastic Four] epics...the story that stands out in my mind was a single-issue tale. Sure, it had its cosmic angle, with the introduction of sub-space, but it was a story of great simplicity: a story of the human heart called This Man, This Monster.
The splash page said it all, quite eloquently: no heroes and villains ducking in and out; not a word of dialogue. Just the Thing, standing silent in the rain, lonely and vulnerable. That feeling permeated the whole story, which was as much about the unnamed villain of the piece as it was about Ben Grimm. For in becoming the Thing, in becoming a monster, what that nameless scientist learned was how to be a man.
Looking back from the vantage point of today's so-called sophisticated comics, it all seems a little trite, a little corny. But there's an emotional chord that all the best stories strike, a chord that keeps vibrating every time we go back to them: a chord of genuine emotion. And emotional truth. This Man, This Monster struck that chord.
And still does."
Posted by: haydn | August 6, 2014 8:12 PM
J. M. DeMatteis. Sorry.
Posted by: haydn | August 6, 2014 8:13 PM
Glad you used the splash page. Probably in my Top 10 all-time splash pages.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 12, 2015 3:29 PM
That splash page was my Facebook profile picture for about a year. Why, yes, I am a huge dork!
Posted by: Time Traveling Bunny | January 22, 2015 1:52 PM
I also loved this story for the emotional impact it had and the change of pace story it was. This was in fact rare in its day and while it has become more common, this was handled better than most. While I had heard about the expansion of the line, I still think that Wyatt Wingfoot was intended to be a supporting character.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 7, 2016 7:39 PM
I know we have saved the world multiple times, met aliens, earth-eating species, time travelled. But you being ben grimm, thats to far-fetched!
Posted by: Roy Mattson | June 29, 2017 4:22 PM
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