“The Return of Doctor Doom”
Cover Date: January 1963
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: Dick Ayers
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
What’s Going On?
Doctor Doom has returned to Earth, and wants to take his revenge on the Fantastic Four. His first step is to lure Mr. Fantastic into a trap, where Doom then switches bodies with the hero.
With his mind in Mr. Fantastic’s body, Doom plans to trick the rest of the Fantastic Four into letting him use a shrink ray on them.
How will the Fantastic Four uncover Doom’s plot, when he looks like their trusted leader?!? Dun-dun-DUNNN!
Is It Good?
This is certainly a goofy issue with an impressive amount of pseudoscience, but it is pretty entertaining. There’s some unusual plotting, a bizarre bit of metatextuality, and the typical team banter and Kirby art. All in all, it’s pretty good, even as it gets pretty crazy. And you’ve got to love Kirby’s evil Reed face:
- Reed is involving the rest of the team in his science experiments. In previous issues, his science had been alluded to, but this is the first time anyone (except the Thing, as a test subject) has contributed.
- Apparently, sometimes Johnny acts as a lab assistant to Reed.
- Reed and Sue briefly address her affection for Namor, and their relationship.
- Doctor Doom invades the Marvel Comics office and forces Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to lure Mr. Fantastic into a trap.
- Apparently, the Fantastic Four (or at least Reed) meets with Marvel Comics to discuss story ideas for the comics.
- Doctor Doom survived being shot into the depths of space (in Fantastic Four #6) when he a benevolent alien space craft came across his path and rescued him. From the aliens, Doom obtained some advanced technology and he learned how to transmit his mind into a new body.
- Doctor Doom shows how effective Mr. Fantastic’s powers can be in a fight, something Reed hasn’t really shown thus far.
- Doom ends the issue a victim of his own nefarious plot. He and Reed switch back to their normal bodies, and he is accidentally hit with a shrink ray that shrinks him into nothingness, and presumably death.
- Alicia is shown as a talented sculptor for the first time.
- Alicia is referred to as Ben’s girlfriend for the first time.
- Maybe Reed and Sue are not engaged…? When discussing Sue’s feelings for Namor, Reed says that he thought they “had an understanding,” which I assume is 60’s-talk for being “engaged to be engaged.”
- This is the first appearance of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as characters in a comic book.
- This is not the first time a Marvel comic has made a reference to Marvel Comic books existing in the Marvel Universe. It is, however, the first time cooperation with the comic creators is implied.
- This is the first appearance of the Ovoid alien race.
Comics Are Goofy:
- You “forgot” that your body was on fire, Johnny? What the hell, kid?
- The Thing uses the team’s distress flare to have them come to Alicia’s studio. Maybe they don’t have phones in the Baxter Building?
- What kind of sorcery is this? Johnny can burn without heat, but he gives off visible flames? First off, my (admittedly imperfect) understanding of science allows for heat without flames, but not flames without heat. Also, burning and heating are necessarily interlinked, right? How does Reed not react when Johnny presents this physics-defying feat as “I learned something new!”
- For a group that was recently working directly with the police commissioner, the Fantastic Four have some unusual notions of “cruel and unusual punishment.”
- Reed (in Doctor Doom’s body) is left in a trap with one hour of oxygen. In that hour, Doctor Doom (in Reed’s body) visits the zoo, shrinks a bunch of animals, steals the shrunken creatures, brings them to the Baxter Building, leaves the building, waits for the zoo theft to be front page news, and returns to the Baxter Building —- all as part of his plot to shrink the team. Okay, sure, that timeline works.
- Wait, back up. Why did dinosaurs go extinct? I love that dinosaurs in space is the logical endpoint for this theory.
- I realize that Doom (his mind is in Reed’s body here) is trying to trick the rest of the Fantastic Four, but I don’t see how this passes the sniff test for any of them. They’re astronauts! They should know something about science!
- Alicia senses the good heart/soul of Reed, even as it is trapped inside Doctor Doom’s body. Is this something that any blind person can do, or is Alicia special?
- I hate to keep questioning the science in a comic book, but I don’t think heat mirages work the way Stan and Jack think they do.
- Pin-up pages aren’t that weird of a thing, but it feels like they are justifying the pin-up by showing the control panels to the Fantasti-Car here. Doesn’t it seem strange to feature Invisible Girl, who has been woefully underused in the series thus far, to receive the first pin-up?
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- I have an unnatural desire to slap Johnny when he uses slang. Or when he says “Yippee.”
- What is the most out-of-character thing you can imagine Doctor Doom saying? Slang of any kind is a close second after this specific example: