Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) Annual #1

Credits:

Cover Art: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

Cover Date: July 1963 (see Behind the Scenes for more info)

 

“Sub-Mariner Versus the Human Race!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Steve Ditko

 

“The Fabulous Fantastic Four Meet Spider-Man”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Steve Ditko (see Behind the Scenes for more info)

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Steve Ditko

 

“A Gallery of the Fantastic Four’s Most Famous Foes!”

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: George Klein

 

What’s Going On?

In “Sub-Mariner Versus the Human Race,” we learn that Namor has successfully located his royal subjects, and they have embraced him as their ruling Prince.

His first concern is to prepare for war against the surface world. After luring the Fantastic Four out to sea and capturing them, Namor has them act as his messengers to the United Nations —- the oceans and the skies above them are the sovereign territory of Atlantis, and any intrusions would be cause for war!

Namor doesn’t even wait for the UN to vote; he observes their discussion in disguise, and abruptly declares war in the surface world when he senses that they will not meet his demands. A coordinated, worldwide attack then takes place. The Atlantean troops swarm major cities so quickly that New York City is conquered without a shot fired. How will the Fantastic Four defeat Namor and his army?

Is It Good?

I am a little surprised to say “yes.” This is a long issue — 56 non-reprint pages — and 36 are devoted to the Sub-Mariner story. Most of Marvel’s superhero stories at this point were 14 pages long, so this is a jump in complexity, and it worked. Namor’s plight doesn’t interest me all that much, but there are a lot of genuinely good moments in this issue, and the weaker points were at least amusingly silly. The longer story length also allowed Jack Kirby to put in some fun fight scenes, and that’s never a bad thing with his kinetic pencils.

What a great panel! Check out this fun scene with Reed and Namor:

Good stuff, all around.

Sub-Plots:

  • Lady Dorma was engaged (or maybe was engaged to be engaged) to Warlord Krang, but was promised to Namor first. Lady Dorma loves Namor, and Krang loves Dorma. It would be a love triangle, but it is unclear if Namor has any feelings towards Dorma.

  • The Thing is still dealing with the Yancy Street Gang in his free time.

  • Namor and Sue still have feelings for each other, even though Sue sides with the Fantastic Four.

  • Mr. Fantastic quickly recognizes a weakness in the Atlantean soldiers: they cannot breathe air. He whips up an evaporation ray that forces all Atlanteans worldwide to retreat to the water or suffocate.

  • When Dorma realizes that Namor has feelings for Sue, she tries to kill Sue.

  • The hostilities between the FF and Namor immediately stop when they realize that Sue is in danger. Namor saves her from drowning and rushes her to a hospital for medical attention.
  • When Namor returns from saving Sue, he finds Atlantis abandoned. Lady Dorma and Warlord Krang saw his devotion to a land dweller, and convinced the Atlanteans to abandon their leader.

Continuity:

  • There were four sections in this Annual; there was the Sub-Mariner story, an extended retelling of how the FF met Spider-Man (taken from Amazing Spider-Man #1, but pencilled by Jack Kirby this time),a reprint of Fantastic Four #1, and an assortment of pin-ups and diagrams.
  • This is the first time it has explicitly been stated that Namor is from Atlantis.
  • This is the first time Atlanteans have been shown with blue skin. In the Golden Age, the men were greenish and the women were Caucasian, although both had fishlike features.
  • This is Lady Dorma’s first Silver Age appearance, and it is Warlord Krang’s first appearance.
  • Once again, asbestos gets the better of Johnny Storm.

  • Atlantis has intercontinental, water-powered missile-things with pinpoint accuracy.

  • The evolution of Atlanteans is explained in this issue. The gist is “for some reason, some cavemen returned to the sea and evolved to breathe underwater.” Aside from that, their evolution appears to have paralleled that of the surface world.

  • Namor is described as a mutant for the first time (in the Silver Age, anyway), months before the X-Men debuted.

  • New Power alert: Johnny can now make his flame into a “probing device.” Even Johnny seems surprised here.

  • Fantastic Four FAQs, part 1:

  • Fantastic Four FAQs, part 2:

  • Fantastic Four FAQs, part 3:

  • Fantastic Four FAQs, part 4:

  • We have an updated diagram of the Baxter Building! Note that the FF now take up six floors, instead of just 4.
  • Spider-Man has an electro-web? Sure, okay.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Why does Jack Kirby’s Spider-Man appear to be scaly?

  • Maybe I’m wrong here, and Sue’s distress is legitimate, but I had no idea that water could ruin a wardrobe.

  • Yeah, Johnny, who would believe in sea monsters? Unless, maybe, they remember the time Namor called Giganto from the ocean depths to attack New York City.

  • “Can you prove that there aren’t sea creatures that can do these things?” —- Stan and Jack, probably.

  • I really like that Namor successfully disguised himself as the expert on Atlantean history for the United Nations. Who cleared his background check?

  • I don’t expect superhero costumes to make a ton of sense, but these Atlanteans don’t even have the equivalent of a diving tank to give them fresh water to breathe. This looks as effective as wearing a fishbowl on your head for deep-sea diving.

  • You know this is a fictional story, because New York City was taken “before a shot can be fired.” Even if I believed the NYC Police were that careful (which I don’t), I find the notion of NYC’s criminal element surrendering without a fight ridiculous.
  • Reed invented an “evaporation ray” to drive off the invading Atlantean forces; this ray covered the entire planet and evaporated the water in the Atlantean soldiers’ helmets. What else did it evaporate? Did rivers and lakes dry up? Were there ridiculous rainstorms almost immediately afterwards?
  • Please tell me that someone at Marvel knows that hammerhead sharks don’t use their heads as hammers. The sharks aren’t even trying to bite anything; they are just ramming the boat.

  • Caveat: I’m not a doctor. How do Namor and Reed know that Sue has only minutes to live without medical attention? She is obviously breathing, otherwise they would have tried CPR. What do they think is wrong with her?

  • The Atlanteans decided that they didn’t want Namor to lead them because he loves a human. That sucks, but you have to be impressed with their organization. They evacuated their city in a matter of hours, out of spite.
  • He was old enough to serve in WWII. He is, bare minimum, in his late 30s — and is probably older. Stop lying and embrace Reed’s sophisticated touch of grey.

  • Johnny is a 16-year old high school senior? Why does he act like an idiot, then?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • What is this bullshit?

Behind the Scenes:

  • The Cover Dates for early Marvel Annuals aren’t always easy to determine. The cover only says “1963.” Marvel Unlimited says July of that year, and Marvel Wikia agrees. The pin-up galleries in this issue go up through June’s Fantastic Four #15, so it can be no earlier than that. Like Strange Tales Annual #2, I’m going to agree with the Marvel Unlimited Date, if only to make my life easier by not questioning the cover dates they provide.

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