Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #19

Credits:

Cover Date: October 1963

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Paul Reinman

“Prisoners of the Pharaoh!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Dick Ayers

What’s Going On?

The Fantastic Four travelled back to ancient Egyptian times to find a cure for blindness (naturally), but found themselves captured and enslaved by the villainous pharaoh Rama-Tut. How can they defeat someone who can control their bodies?

Is It Good?

It’s okay, I guess. I’m not a big fan of time travel stories in general, but these Silver Age ones are goofy enough to at least be entertaining.  It’s more noteworthy for introducing Rama-Tut (who is one of Kang the Conqueror’s identities) and some continuity headaches than anything else.

Sub-Plots:

  • Taking Thing’s suggestion (from Fantastic Four #16), Reed has been researching a cure for blindness.

  • Reed notices some ancient Egyptian artifacts indicating that a pharaoh had been cured of blindness, so he decides that the FF should travel back in time to investigate.
  • The team travels to Doctor Doom’s old castle, and finds that his time machine (last seen in Fantastic Four #5) still works.

  • In the ancient past, the FF finds that the pharaoh, Rama-Tut, speaks English and knows who they are. How could this be?

  • The answer: Rama Tut is a time-traveller, from the year 3000! And he has a powerful Ultra-Diode Ray that affords him his power.

  • Rama-Tut’s ray gun takes away the FF’s superpowers and forces them to obey his commands. He then puts them to work: Ben as a physical laborer, Johnny as a court jester, and Reed as a weapon of war. Sue, however, he plans to marry. It is worth noting that the FF can still think for themselves; they are just unable to control their actions.

  • The only thing that can reverse the effects of Rama-Tut’s ray gun is a second blast from the ray gun. As luck would have it, the Thing has one of his random transformations into Ben Grimm. The Thing may be under Rama-Tut’s control, but Ben Grimm is not!

  • Ben manages to get his hands on Rama-Tut’s ray gun and free Sue from the villain’s command. She then frees the others. Realizing that he is outmatched without his ray gun, Rama-Tut escapes in his time machine.
  • The FF find the radioactive herbs and return to the present.

  • The herbs did not travel to the present with the team. Apparently, the time machine cannot transport radioactive materials. Sadly, Reed will not be able to cure Alicia at this time.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Rama-Tut. He came from the year 3000, when there was no war. Looking for action and adventure, he found an old time machine and went back to Egyptian times, where his scientific knowledge would help him conquer the ancient world.

  • Rama-Tut built a sphinx around his time machine before he traveled to ancient Egypt. When he escaped the Fantastic Four, he only took his time machine with. That means that the Great Sphinx of Giza in the Marvel Universe was built in the year 3000 and was delivered to ancient Egypt via time travel.

  • Rama-Tut hid the time machine inside the Sphinx because he felt that a giant limestone human/lion hybrid would inspire more awe from the locals than an advanced machine.
  • Rama-Tut developed his time machine by studying a time machine built by one of his ancestors. Could that ancestor be…Doctor Doom?!? Ben also mentions a possibility that Doom and Rama-Tut May be the same person.

  • It looks like Sue has traded in the updo she’s been rocking for the past few issues for another bouffant.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Reed is researching a cure to blindness, even though he isn’t a biologist or an ophthalmologist. That’s okay, though, because he only wants to try an experimental and radioactive (!) treatment on a loved one. Why not skip from theoretical science to human trials? I love that the rest of the FF have faith that their resident mad scientist is working for the common good.
  • Reed, Egyptian hieroglyphs are often difficult to translate (you really think there is a “radioactive herb” glyph?), without wider context. From what I see here, this could just as easily mean that the pharaoh needs coffee to wake up.

  • The FF travel to the past, leaving poor Alicia behind to bring them back to the present, twenty-four hours later. It doesn’t look like she brought any camping equipment or food, or anything to protect herself in the meantime. Did they even pull up the drawbridge, or did they leave a blind woman alone and defenseless in Doctor Doom’s old headquarters?

  • It’s strange how Rama-Tut used the FF when they were under his control. I understand using the Thing as brute labor, but wouldn’t he work well as infantry? Wouldn’t the Torch work well as a weapon, rather than an amusing servant? If anyone would work well as a jester, I would think the flexible Mr. Fantastic would; oddly, though, he is the one used by the military. These aren’t wrong choices, they’re just odd.

  • You would think somebody would have recorded something about the pharaoh who brought the fully-assembled Great Sphinx to Egypt, but apparently not.

  • I don’t understand why the Thing thinks Rama-Tut might be Doctor Doom. Doom would have to develop a way to greatly extend his life, fix his heavily burned face, and the forget about his past life in order for him to become Rama-Tut. When your explanation is more convoluted than time travel, Ben, you know you’ve got a bad idea.

  • Why would you know about this weakness, Reed? Why should you have guessed at something that was never mentioned before now?

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • We have a trifecta here: male-bashing, female-bashing, and Reed just being a creep.

  • Okay, I had to look up this reference. Emily Post was famous for writing about etiquette.

  • Rama-Tut is controlling Sue’s physical actions and decides to marry her. I know he’s a villain and all, but that makes Rama-Tut a rapey piece of trash.

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