“The Menace of the Miracle Man”
Cover Date: March 1962
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Sol Brodsky
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
What’s Going On?
A famous stage performer, the Miracle Man, declares that he wants to rule the world with his wide-ranging powers. It is up to the Fantastic Four to save the world from this threat.
Is It Good?
Well, the villain is super-generic, and the plot is pretty dumb. On the other hand, the FF are growing more distinct as characters, with the Thing and Human Torch really standing out. We are seeing a lot more of the inter-team bickering that helped differentiate Marvel from DC’s blander heroes. Jack Kirby’s art is improving with each issue, and we get the first schematic drawing of the FF’s home base.
- Ben apparently has a crush on Sue. I believe this is quickly and quietly dropped from future issues.
- Ben is still upset that he is stuck looking monstrous as the Thing.
- The Human Torch quits the team at the end of the issue after squabbling with the Thing.
- The cover proclaims this as “The Greatest Comics Magazine in the World!!” While not the exact phrase that will be on most FF issues going forward, this sort of bombastic declaration soon becomes the norm for Marvel books.
- Sue designs uniforms for the team, marking not just the first appearance of the classic Fantastic Four costume, but the first super-hero costume of Marvel’s Silver Age.
- The Thing’s costume doesn’t last long.
- Also this is the first appearance of the Pogo Plane, and what will eventually be named the Baxter Building.
Comics Are Goofy:
The Human Torch has two left hands on the cover of this issue.
- The Miracle Man is clearly a magician or illusionist of some sort, but the general public, police, and Fantastic Four seem to take his accomplishments at face value. Like, if he played “got your nose,” I’m pretty sure the crowd would rush to the hospital.
- Why does the Human Torch look like such a doofus in these early issues?
- When the Miracle Man decides to break bad, he wants to make a big splash to show the world how powerful he is. He chooses to animate an oversized movie prop…which seems like a questionable tactic. Remarkably, his plan has the intended effect.
- The FF apparently have a trusting relationship with the police commissioner. That seems weird, since the FF will generally be exploring weirdness more than they will fight crime in the future.
- The Miracle Man’s note to the commissioner is hilarious. 1) I love how brief it is 2) I like that it was clearly written around where he thought the commissioner would place his thumb and 3) he doesn’t tell the government or United Nations that he plans to rule the planet, instead, he sends a note to the local police:
- How do you defeat a man whose body is super-flexible? You throw a brick at him! He has no defense against that!
- Dogs never growl for no reason?
- This panel would be improved if it had some cartoon sound effects.
- Reed’s words here imply that he doesn’t have a contingency plan to counter the Torch if he needed to. I imagine that, if there was an additional panel here, it would have Reed saying, “I guess we could try using water, fire extinguishers, and asbestos. That wasn’t too difficult!”
Behind the Scenes:
- The FF originally had a different chest logo on their costumes, and they all had masks. Presumably, that was dropped when someone pointed out that the team were already celebrities in their civilian guises. Here is a Kirby’s pencil drawings showing Mr. Fantastic with a domino mask and “FF” on his chest, instead of the classic “4” (image taken from Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, which borrowed it from Greg Theakston’s Pure Images #2)
- Per Brian Cronin’s Comic Book Legends Revealed, the reason the FF did not have super-hero uniforms in the first two issues was because Marvel was hedging their bets. Their biggest sellers were monster comics, and they weren’t sure if super-heroes would sell. That’s why the team didn’t have costumes and why the first two covers focused on the creatures, not the heroes. At some point, either sales numbers or fan mail convinced them that super-heroes could sell comics, and Marvel started emphasizing them on the covers. Not before Jack Kirby completed this unused cover for Fantastic Four #3, though (notice the emphasis on the monster):
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- Sue is an important part of the team…if and when she is needed.