“The Fantastic Four”
Cover Date: November 1961
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inkers: George Klein, Christopher Rule
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
What’s Going On?
In this issue, we get the team’s origin: they went into space in a rocket ship, were bombarded by cosmic rays, and gained super-powers. They — Mr. Fantastic (Dr. Reed Richards), the Thing (Ben Grimm), Invisible Girl (Susan Storm), and Human Torch (Johnny Storm) — choose to use their abilities for the good of mankind. The team meets and defeats the Mole Man and his monsters, preventing him from sinking all major cities and power plants with his monster-generated sinkholes.
Is It Good?
Meh. It’s pretty generic for such a historic comic. Jack Kirby hadn’t really solidified his style yet, and I imagine having multiple inkers didn’t help things. There are a lot of interesting choices being made, though. This feels less like a super-hero comic than it does a sci-if/monster comic; the focus is more on the creatures than it is on the ostensible villain, Mole Man. The heroes don’t have costumes yet, either, and that just feels odd. None of the characters show much personality yet, with the exception of the Thing being bitter and holding a grudge against Mr. Fantastic. It’s not a bad issue, but it is clearly a work in progress.
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- Why did the FF go into space in the first place? To beat the Commies, naturally.
- Sue went on the mission into space because she was engaged to Reed. That’s pretty hilariously dumb, but her brother pulls a “hold my beer” moment; Johnny’s reasoning was that he was “taggin’ along with sis.” Absolutely bonkers.
- The Fantastic Four are assholes, part 1: Invisible Girl turns invisible as she rushes to join the team. She promptly knocks over absolutely everyone she can.
- The signal flare that alerted the team to assemble was clearly meant by Stan Lee to be a written message. I love how smoothly he covers up that miscommunication when he sees that Kirby only drew a “4” in the sky.
- The Fantastic Four are assholes, part 2: Similarly, when Johnny rushes off to join the others, he makes sure to destroy the car he was tuning up.
- The Mole Man is ridiculed by others, so he decides to ruin and rule the surface world. If his character was rebooted now, he probably would have settled for being Mad Online.
- The Thing is surprisingly verbose in this issue. Clearly, Lee hadn’t developed the characters in full before their debut.
- Mole Man blows up an entire island, but no one thinks that he’s dead. That can’t be right, can it? Why are the FF so relaxed about a bomb that destroys an island? Where did Mole Man get that kind of firepower? I have questions.