Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #13

Credits:

“The Fantastic Four Versus the Red Ghost and His Indescribable Super-Apes!”

Cover Date: April 1963

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Steve Ditko

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos

What’s Going On?

In his ongoing quest to help the US win the Space Race, Reed Richards has created a new rocket fuel that will allow the Fantastic Four to be the first humans to land on the moon. Little does he realize that Ivan Kragoff, the Soviets’ top space expert, had timed a moon launch that happened to coincide with theirs! The difference: the Fantastic Four would be protected from cosmic radiation (this time), while Kragoff was purposely exposing his ship to the same dangerous radiation that gave the FF their powers. Will there be a super-powered battle between America and the USSR for the right to claim the moon? And what will the mysterious Watcher have to say about that?

Is It Good?

As stupid as the Red Ghost and his super-apes are — and they are a ridiculous idea — this is a really fun issue. Ditko does a good job inking Kirby here, giving the Thing, the apes, and the Blue Area of the moon a lot of cool textures. The concept of the Watcher — so far advanced beyond humanity that he seems omnipotent, but is willingly inactive — is also great.

Sub-Plots:

  • Reed initially wants to fly to the moon on his own, but the team convinces him that they all should go.

  • Ivan Kragoff’s space crew is made up of trained apes.

  • Kragoff exposes himself and his apes to more cosmic radiation than the FF received on their first flight. This results in Kragoff becoming the Red Ghost, gifted with the power of intangibility. His three super-apes gain the powers of super-strength, shape-shifting, and magnetic control, respectively.

  • Upon landing in the Blue Area of the moon, the Thing is ambushed by the Red Ghost and his super-apes. Their fight is interrupted by the Watcher, who breaks his oath of non-interference to basically tell them to get off his lawn.
  • The Watcher forces the Fantastic Four to battle the Res Ghost and his super-apes for the right to control the moon. Naturally, the FF are victorious and head back to Earth; the Red Ghost is last seen trying to escape his mutinous super-apes.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of the Watcher, Red Ghost, the Red Ghost’s Super-Apes (who are currently unnamed), and the Blue Area of the moon.
  • Reed apparently has an asbestos-lined suit made of unstable molecules, because it stretches with his body.
  • Reed’s discussion of the meteor that landed in Siberia is a reference to the real-life Tunguska Event.
  • The Blue Area of the moon is where the Watcher’s citadel is located, near the ruins of an ancient city. The Blue Area has an atmosphere with breathable air.

  • The Watcher’s central conceit is introduced. He is a member of an advanced, ancient alien race that is pledged to observe the universe without interference.

  • The strong super-ape is stronger than the Thing, which puts it on par with the Hulk.

  • The Watcher states that, since mankind has reached the moon, he will move to a more distant vantage point to continue his observations on the human race.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • This may be the first time someone tries to save the Human Torch from fire. I get it, there are dangerous fumes, but he is literally on fire. Maybe his biology is atypical?

  • Can’t the Torch control nearby flames? Why didn’t he try to do that the reduce the flames when searching for Reed?
  • I love this sequence of panels, but it is funny that Reed’s head shrinks as it’s shoved into the beaker.

  • Reed’s super-fuel is based on a meteorite that contains “limitless energy.” That might be the least scientific claim Reed has made so far.
  • Correction: Only a crazy person, such as you, would have tried to train a gorilla to operate a spaceship.

  • Only in comic books would giving a hungry animal a Tommy gun be the act of a genius, and not a detail in a Darwin Awards nomination.

  • If they are really going to try and sell the “cosmic radiation is dangerous” line, maybe everyone exposed to it shouldn’t get cool powers. Just a thought.
  • Yes, this definitely makes sense. A “chemical tuxedo” is a thing, and it would allow fire to burn in space. Sure.

  • I really like that, when Torch tells the rest of the team that he saw a dude and some super-apes in space, Reed immediately (and correctly) surmises that Kragoff is in the other ship, like he has a well-known kink for zero-gravity monkeys or something.

  • I get the Watcher stopping the first fight between Thing and Red Ghost; it was too close to the Watcher’s home, and he didn’t want them to wreck the place. Why he forced the two teams to battle — and why he ended the battle — makes a lot less sense.
  • Invisible Girl gets captured again, this time by a magnetic ape that can use its magnetic powers to attract the human body. Human flesh: susceptible to magnets.

  • “What are the Watcher’s powers, Stan?” How about literally anything?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Now you know how America won the Space Race in 1963: limitless energy.

  • Nationalistic propaganda coming from the mouth of scientist/adventurer Reed Richards just feels wrong.

  • Natural dialogue from Sue, who has drank the Kool-Aid:

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