Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #35

Credits:

Cover Date: February 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

“Calamity on the Campus!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Chic Stone

What’s Going On?

Diablo returns and seeks his revenge on the FF! Somehow, that revenge involves using his potions to give a monstrous Android life.

Details:

  • When the Fantastic Four visit Ben and Reed’s old college, State University, they are the toast of the campus! Except Johnny, apparently.

  • Elsewhere, in Europe, Diablo manages to escape the makeshift prison the FF left him in. The villain’s only desire is to get his revenge.

  • Somehow, Diablo knew that the FF were visiting State University, so he travelled there incognito. There, he introduced himself to Professor Gilbert and demanded to see his secret experiment. Gilbert obliges, and shows Diablo the Dragon Man, a lifeless Android that Professor Gilbert wants, more than anything, to give life to.

  • Diablo’s potions somehow give the Dragon Man life. Professor Gilbert’s mind is suitably blown.

  • Unfortunately, the Dragon Man only responds to Diablo’s commands, and he instructs it to destroy the Fantastic Four.

  • Dragon Man is able to overpower the Thing, and its fire overwhelms the Human Torch. Clearly, it is a formidable foe. But Invisible Girl takes a big risk and tries comforting the Android…and it responds to her kindness!

  • Diablo doesn’t like that, so he uses a potion to temporarily knock the FF out while he takes Dragon Man to a remote location to regroup and plot. Professor Gilbert desperately pleads with Diablo to change Dragon Man back into a lifeless husk, so he won’t do any more damage.

  • When the FF catch up with them, Dragon Man reacts to Diablo attacking them; he turns on his master, and drags them both into a frozen lake.

  • The Thing dives in after them, but both Diablo and Dragon Man are gone, presumably sucked into one of many subterranean caverns by the lake’s powerful whirlpool currents.
  • And it looks like Reed and Sue are unofficially engaged again!

Is It Good?

It has its moments, but this isn’t a great issue. Diablo is just an awful villain —- his powers are whatever the plot needs them to be, and his personality doesn’t extend past being a mustache-twirling baddie —- and he drags the story down. When Diablo shows up, the plot becomes absolute nonsense, every time.

Seriously, if Stan and Jack wanted to have the FF fight Dragon Man, why not have something improbable (lightning? an accidental chemical combination?) happen to give the Android life? Why did they waste energy on bringing back Diablo?

The good news is that the character work in this issue almost makes up for Diablo’s presence. We get to see Johnny being ignored by the public for a change, and the hit his ego takes. The Thing gets to be happy and goofy for a while issue; it would have been very easy for him to act sullen when reminiscing on his pre-rock-body past, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him written differently. Also, we finally seem to be getting some traction in the Reed / Sue romance, after a year-plus of treading water.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Dragon Man. He is an android that was given life by Diablo’s alchemical concoctions. He is stronger than the Thing, can breathe fire, and fly.
  • This is the first appearance of Professor Gregson Gilbert, the creator of Dragon Man.
  • Diablo last appeared in Fantastic Four #30.
  • Mr. Fantastic and the Thing both graduated from State University; they attended with a young Doctor Doom.  Curiously, Doom is not mentioned once in this issue.
  • It’s interesting that they show Professor Xavier and Cyclops on a recruiting trip for the X-Men. I guess Professor X is back in charge of the team, after the events of X-Men #9.

  • Diablo’s costume has changed its color scheme from green to red.  He also appears to have lost his sleeves and pants.

  • Apparently, Peter Parker is considering going to State U after high school.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • It looks like Diablo is teleporting by swallowing one of his magical pellets, right? And that pellet was in his glove this whole time, right? Then why didn’t he teleport out of his prison?

  • That’s a very good question —- how did Diablo learn about a secret experiment across the globe, while he’s been trapped for several months? —- but that answer is hilarious.

  • Really, Reed? Only one man? What about the various illusionists you’ve met? Or maybe Doctor Doom and his ingenious talent for automating robots? Or maybe Molecule Man? I’m just saying that Diablo is pretty far down the list.

  • I can buy that absorbing too much fire means that Johnny needs to expel the excess heat. That’s just basic comic book science. I don’t know if I buy it “affecting [his] body’s chemical balance,” though. That’s just silly.

  • Ben, you went to this college and were a legend on campus. You didn’t know about the romantic hangout?  That’s…kind of sad, actually.

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