Thursday

OMU: Daredevil -- Year Five

The life of Daredevil takes another turn as he concludes his sojourn in San Francisco and returns to New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood when his relationship with the Black Widow falls apart. Most of the villains he encounters in the months before his departure are tied together by a conspiracy involving the esoteric Moondragon, herself being manipulated by a diabolical mastermind. This in turn leads Daredevil to be tangentially connected to Thanos and his plot to conquer the solar system, which, along with some high-profile guest-stars, helps the series feel less isolated from the rest of the Marvel Universe.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Here comes… The True History of Daredevil, the Man Without Fear!


January 1966 – At their north shore townhouse in San Francisco, Matt Murdock, Natasha Romanoff, and Ivan Petrovich continue to recuperate from the injuries they sustained fighting the Man-Bull a couple months ago. Nearly recovered, Matt starts going out on crime patrols at night as Daredevil. When a young acrobat hits his head on the sidewalk one evening while performing for the crowd outside a movie theater, Daredevil uses his hypersenses to monitor the man’s condition until an ambulance arrives to take him to the hospital. Feeling he’s done all he can, Daredevil then goes to assist the police in capturing an armed gang of teenagers shooting up a university research center. The next day, the young acrobat reappears, now possessing superhuman powers and calling himself the Dark Messiah, and frees hundreds of prisoners from jail. Daredevil works with his friend on the San Francisco police force, Lt. Paul Carson, to track the villain to Golden Gate Park. Unfortunately, the Dark Messiah empowers three henchmen, whom he calls the Disciples of Doom, and they give Daredevil a beating before teleporting away. Later, Natasha insists on suiting up as the Black Widow and joining Daredevil in hunting down the villains. They soon find the Disciples of Doom menacing the passengers of a wrecked trolley car and defeat them, though the Black Widow collapses in pain since her wounds are not fully healed. This leaves Daredevil to face the Dark Messiah alone, leading to a brawl in a drugstore that only ends when the villain unexpectedly explodes. Daredevil digs himself out of the rubble and staggers out into the street to find the Black Widow with Lt. Carson, but he’s at a loss to explain what’s happened.

Carson escorts Daredevil and the Black Widow back to their townhouse, where they are surprised to find Hawkeye waiting impatiently. Hawkeye declares his undying love for Natasha, which annoys her and makes Daredevil jealous. The ex-Avenger continues to press the point, manipulating Natasha into admitting she has a “soft spot” for him in her heart. Infuriated, Daredevil shoves Hawkeye, prompting the archer to punch him in the face. As they fight, the two men crash through the bay window and continue their donnybrook in the yard until Hawkeye activates a phosphorous arrow. Realizing it’s emitting a bright light, Daredevil pretends to be blinded, giving the gloating Hawkeye a chance to leap atop a passing Greyhound Bus. Natasha is outraged that they are fighting over her like a piece of property and argues with Daredevil about it. Nevertheless, he goes after Hawkeye, finding him battling a motorcycle gang downtown. The two rivals fight again, each one managing to disarm the other, before finally declaring a truce. They agree to let Natasha decide which man she prefers. However, when they return to the townhouse, they find the Black Panther, Thor, and the Vision have come to recruit them for a battle with Magneto. Hawkeye angrily refuses and storms out, saying he’s severed all ties with the Avengers. Daredevil isn’t too sure about being a member of a large group, thinking it would be overwhelming to his hypersenses, but the Black Panther calls in the favor Matt owes him from the Blue Talon affair last year. Thus, the five heroes board the Avengers’ Quinjet and fly to New York City.

At Avengers Mansion, Daredevil discusses the situation with the Black Panther, Thor, and the Vision, though the Black Widow seems to have other things on her mind. As the team’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, serves coffee, the Black Panther explains how Magneto defeated the X-Men and took them prisoner before coming after the Avengers. He then captured Iron Man, Captain America, and the Scarlet Witch and made good his escape. Scanning a newspaper on the table with his fingers, Daredevil suggests they check out a special meeting of the Atomic Energy Commission, thinking it seems a likely target for Magneto due to his interest in radiation-induced mutations. Thor concurs, so the five heroes head out to the conference, which is being held at a large estate outside the city. When they arrive, though, they are unable to stop Magneto from kidnapping the commissioners, as he has Iron Man, Captain America, the Scarlet Witch, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, and Iceman under some form of mind-control. Daredevil is frustrated that he and the Black Widow weren’t more help in the fight. They then head to the X-Men’s headquarters in Westchester County to search the area. Daredevil’s radar sense detects a large cavern beneath the woods surrounding the estate, and when Thor smashes a tunnel down to it, they find Magneto and his prisoners. The heroes are again forced to battle the villain’s mind-controlled minions until the Vision phases inside Magneto’s henchman Piper in order to get close enough to knock Magneto out with a karate chop to the back of the neck. The X-Men’s leader, Professor X, then appears, having also been held prisoner, and puts Magneto into a telepathically induced coma. Taking charge of the defeated villains, the X-Men return to their nearby headquarters, intent on searching for a missing teammate. Captain America conveys the Avengers’ thanks to Daredevil and the Black Widow and offers them full membership on the team. Daredevil declines, but, to his surprise, Natasha accepts and snaps at him when he reacts negatively. Stung by her rejection, Daredevil leaves the cavern immediately, wondering whether she might still be in love with Hawkeye. Later, the Black Panther arranges for a Quinjet to take Daredevil back to San Francisco.

As soon as he arrives, Daredevil stops an armed robbery, though he suddenly becomes extremely disoriented for a moment. He is curious to find that the robbers were stealing not cash but files of some kind. A young Bay Area journalist, Jann Wenner, approaches and says that the files were stolen from his publisher’s offices, so Daredevil helps him carry the papers back inside. There, Wenner requests an interview, though he soon becomes frustrated by Daredevil’s evasive answers. Matt is also frustrated when he gets tripped up by his old “Mike Murdock” cover story, as he forgot that Wenner thinks he’s talking to the second man to wear the Daredevil costume. The interview is interrupted when reality suddenly goes topsy-turvy and Daredevil is attacked by phantoms of his old foes. He notes that whatever is causing the illusions is affecting everyone in the area. When the phenomenon passes, Wenner reveals that similar events have been reported all over the city the past few days. Daredevil phones Lt. Carson at police headquarters for confirmation, only for the illusionist to reveal himself—a young hippie calling himself Angar the Screamer. Angar hits Daredevil with his perception-altering scream again, causing the hero to slam into a brick wall and knock himself out. When Daredevil comes to, Carson is on the scene but Angar has gotten away. Unable to provide a useful description of Angar to the police, Daredevil claims to be too shaken up to think clearly and heads for home. Matt is thrilled when Natasha soon enters the townhouse, having left the Avengers to be with him, but their reunion is spoiled when Angar unleashes his scream from the street outside, making Natasha and Ivan see Matt as a monster. Issuing a challenge to Daredevil, Angar then laughs and drives off in his convertible. Rather than pursue the villain, though, Matt and Natasha decide to call it a night and retire to have make-up sex.

The next morning, Matt goes into work at the offices of Broderick, Sloan, and Murdock, Attorneys-at-Law. Matt is frustrated by the counterintuitive instructions he keeps receiving from the senior partner, Kerwin J. Broderick, on how to handle his cases, especially since he and Broderick still have not actually met. Matt tries to argue with the other partner, Jason Sloan, who relays Broderick’s messages, but to no avail—Sloan credits Broderick’s unconventional decisions with making the firm so successful. Fuming, Matt leaves the office, only to be kidnapped by Angar the Screamer as soon as he exits the building. As they drive out to a nondescript house in Berkeley, Matt is intrigued to learn from Angar’s complaining that he is not acting on his own but is taking orders from a mysterious employer who wants Daredevil and the Black Widow dead. Matt uses this information to his advantage, arguing that Angar’s countercultural values are being corrupted by his boss’s violent schemes. Unable to deal with his own hypocrisy, Angar finally releases Matt. However, the Black Widow then arrives on the scene with the police, and so, fearing they are no match for Angar’s powers, Matt changes into Daredevil and tries to stop them from storming the house. Unfortunately, Angar comes out and attacks them, his mind-altering scream causing the police to start shooting at each other. Daredevil tries to beat Angar senseless but is overwhelmed by the sonic assault. Finally, the Black Widow jumps Angar and threatens to shoot him in the head with her “widow’s bite” stinger at point-blank range, which is likely to prove fatal. Believing she means business, Angar surrenders, but still manages to escape while Daredevil and the Black Widow are arguing about how dangerous he is. Matt is unsettled by the realization that Natasha really was willing to use deadly force against their foe.

February 1966 – While searching the city for Angar the Screamer, Daredevil comes across Wilbur Day, better known as the Stilt-Man, engaged in a smuggling operation on the waterfront. He beats up the smugglers, though Day manages to escape. Discovering that the crooks were dealing in high-quality electronic equipment, Daredevil takes the Black Widow with him for some after-hours research at the San Francisco Public Library. There, they learn that Day’s former employer, Carl Kaxton, and his daughter Barbara vanished about three weeks ago. Daredevil surmises that Day must be trying to force Kaxton to turn his molecular condenser into a powerful weapon, and the Black Widow worries that turning a shrinking ray on San Francisco could trigger the San Andreas Fault and destroy much of California. Thus, they split up, with Daredevil searching the city for the Kaxtons while the Black Widow hunts down Stilt-Man. Several hours later, Daredevil finds Carl Kaxton being held prisoner in an abandoned building and frees him. Kaxton reports that Stilt-Man intends to turn the shrinking ray on the Golden Gate Bridge and has taken Barbara with him to test it. Daredevil sets out at once and soon comes upon the Black Widow fighting Stilt-Man high above the city. The villain shoots Natasha with his ray gun, causing her to fall. She manages to save herself with her grappling hook but dislocates her shoulder in the process. Daredevil slams into Stilt-Man’s backpack, knocking out his gyroscopic controls and sending him tumbling into an automobile showroom. After Daredevil sets the Black Widow’s shoulder back into place, the two heroes reunite the Kaxtons and take them out to breakfast while the police take Stilt-Man into custody.

March 1966 – Jann Wenner requests that Daredevil and the Black Widow take the files that were nearly stolen in January for safekeeping, as they relate to an exposé on San Francisco’s biggest crime boss that the newspaper is putting together. After locking the papers in the wall safe in their townhouse, Daredevil goes downstairs and is surprised to find the Black Widow chatting with Spider-Man, who, it turns out, has come in the guise of photojournalist Peter Parker to interview them for the New York newspaper The Daily Bugle. Pretending not to recognize his fellow superhero, Daredevil invites Parker into their library to conduct the interview there. However, a muscle-bound bruiser with an armored head and shoulders smashes into the house, rips open the safe, and steals the files. Daredevil and the Black Widow pursue the thief, who calls himself “Ramrod,” into the city and soon find him battling Spider-Man, confirming Matt’s sensory impressions of Peter Parker. At Daredevil’s suggestion, Spider-Man takes the document box and swings off into the city, but in the ensuing fight, Ramrod nearly kills the Black Widow when he knocks her out and throws her off a roof. Daredevil manages to save her, though, and, after catching their breath, they find Spider-Man and Ramrod battling atop a skyscraper in the Financial District. Startled to see that the Black Widow is still alive, Ramrod loses his footing and falls off the building, crashing into the sidewalk far below. Spider-Man returns the files to Daredevil and swings off, only to show up as Peter Parker again a few minutes later. As the comatose Ramrod is taken to a nearby hospital, Daredevil and the Black Widow give Parker an exclusive interview about their crimefighting adventures while they stroll along the Embarcadero.

May 1966 – Following a global wave of violence, Daredevil and the Black Widow are shocked when people around them inexplicably start changing into hideous, demonic monsters as San Francisco transforms into a weird, alien landscape. They try desperately to contain the rampaging creatures until, less than an hour after the phenomenon began, the city and its people suddenly revert to their normal forms. A couple minutes later, all the damage is abruptly undone, as if by magic, leaving Daredevil and the Black Widow baffled. Later, the Avengers report that it was all a mass hallucination created by a super-villain whom they’ve defeated.

June–August 1966 – Daredevil and the Black Widow focus on fighting crime on the streets of San Francisco, disrupting the city’s various rackets and frustrating its crime bosses, who are unused to dealing with superheroes. Ivan occasionally assists them with basic detective work. Meanwhile, Matt continues to butt heads with his law partner Jason Sloan while dealing with bizarre dictates from the reclusive Kerwin Broderick. Ramrod remains hospitalized in a coma, and there is no sign of Angar the Screamer.

September 1966 – When the one-year lease on their townhouse expires, Natasha is able to convert it to a month-to-month contract while they figure out what to do. She is clearly frustrated that her career as a fashion designer is going nowhere, forcing her to deplete her savings. However, Matt is happy to pay the bills from his salary at the law firm, though it annoys Natasha to be dependent on him to maintain their lifestyle.

October 1966 – Matt returns from work one evening to find the townhouse a shambles. Ivan, who has been left bound and gagged, reports that Natasha has been kidnapped to lure Daredevil to the San Francisco Zoo. When he arrives at the zoo, Daredevil discovers that the kidnapper is Spider-Man’s old enemy, Kraven the Hunter. After trading punches with the villain, Daredevil learns that the Black Widow has been tied up in the elephant enclosure. Kraven blows a horn that drives the elephants into a frenzy, then escapes while Daredevil is rescuing her. Despite their best efforts, the couple is unable to track down their foe.

About a week later, Matt and Natasha attend a cocktail party hosted by Kerwin J. Broderick, giving them the opportunity to finally meet the firm’s senior partner. Broderick is a gracious host and seems unconcerned that Matt has been ignoring his directives lately. Matt and Natasha try to enjoy the party, but feel rather out of place among the more conservative members of the city’s elite. Suddenly, Kraven the Hunter crashes through the window and attacks Matt and Natasha, convinced that this will draw out Daredevil. Glad for a chance to get back at Kraven for the humiliation she felt last week, Natasha holds him off while Matt flees with the other guests. Finding a secluded spot, he quickly changes into Daredevil and returns to the fray. After smashing up Broderick’s living room, the fight moves into the trees outside, but Daredevil gets distracted when Kraven produces a blowgun and hits Natasha with a poison dart. The villain presses his advantage, managing to knock Daredevil out and throw him off the fifty-foot cliff behind Broderick’s house.

Before he hits the rocks below, however, Daredevil finds himself teleported to a strange metallic building that seems to be underwater. Wandering through its labyrinthine corridors, he eventually comes upon a large chamber filled with unusual scents and sounds. He detects the presence of an incredibly fit bald woman in a cape who is in a deep trance. As he approaches, she suddenly revives and knocks him down with impressive martial-arts skill. She relieves him of his billy-club with telekinesis and threatens to kill him with her telepathy, calling him a “Thanos-thrall.” Daredevil relents and suggests they share information, since he has no idea who she is or what she’s talking about. Surprised, the woman introduces herself as “Moondragon” and relates a bizarre tale of growing up in a kung fu monastery on one of the moons of Saturn, which was eventually destroyed by a power-mad conqueror named Thanos. She fled to Earth, she reveals, only to discover that Thanos already had agents at work on that world as well. Establishing a base off the coast of California, Moondragon found an influential ally who convinced her that Daredevil was one of Thanos’s agents. Thus, she created the Dark Messiah, Angar the Screamer, and Ramrod to destroy him. Daredevil is stunned by this revelation, and is horrified to learn that Moondragon is setting all three of his foes loose on the city again at that very moment. Daredevil insists that she’s misjudged him, so Moondragon initiates a telepathic probe of his innermost thoughts. For a moment their minds meet in total communication, and it proves to be a deeply moving experience for both of them. Moondragon is convinced that Daredevil is not evil, but then her ally appears and shoots her in the back with a ray gun. Daredevil is shocked to realize that it is none other than Kerwin J. Broderick himself, who plans to use Moondragon’s creations, including a new monster called Terrex, to take over the city. After ranting a bit, Broderick shoots Daredevil as well with a painful stun-blast. When he regains consciousness, Daredevil is surprised to still be alive. Broderick is gone, but a faint heartbeat is detectable in Moondragon. Though gravely weakened, she is able to direct Daredevil to a laboratory, where he lays her on an examination table under a bank of strange devices. She starts telling him which controls to activate, but, being blind, he is not able to follow her instructions. Thus, Moondragon summons up the last of her fading strength and hits Daredevil with a telepathic jolt. Feeling like his head is on fire, Daredevil starts to panic when he realizes his radar sense is gone, but then, incredibly, his eyesight suddenly returns.

The first thing Matt sees is Moondragon’s lithe form in her skimpy green costume, and he finds her to be strikingly beautiful. She guides him through activating the medical devices, which bathe her in restorative rays until she is completely healed. A bit overwhelmed with emotion, Daredevil embraces her and tries to express his gratitude, but she says they’ve no time for that while Terrex threatens the world. They race from room to room looking for a weapon to use against the monster, but Broderick has wrecked the place. Thus, Moondragon teleports them to Broderick’s lawn to meet up with the Black Widow. Matt is entranced by Natasha’s appearance—her regal features, flowing auburn hair, and statuesque form clad in skintight black leather—but he forces himself to stay focused on the problem at hand. Lieutenant Carson is on the scene with numerous police officers, though Kraven the Hunter has gotten away, so Daredevil convinces him to give them a ride into the city. Natasha is clearly shocked that Matt has somehow regained his sight, but he doesn’t want to discuss it in front of Carson. Instead, he introduces them to Moondragon and tells them of Broderick’s scheme to set himself up as the dictator of Central California. As they race through the countryside toward the city, Matt is amazed to be able to see the stars in the sky. Approaching the metropolitan area, the squad car gets stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic as frightened citizens try to flee the chaos the villains are causing, so Daredevil and the Black Widow get out and continue on foot. They soon come upon the Dark Messiah but, distracted by the villain’s bizarre appearance, Daredevil fails to dodge his eye-beams. When Ramrod appears, Daredevil is unable to avoid his attack either, as he’s not used to operating as a sighted person. The Dark Messiah is about to kill Daredevil when Moondragon intervenes and saves his life by stripping her creation of all his powers. Realizing he’s in no shape to take on Ramrod, let alone Terrex, Daredevil asks Moondragon to put him back the way he was. She’s reluctant, but he insists that he’s finally gotten to see Natasha and that’s all he really wanted. With a tear in her eye, Moondragon grants his request, and Matt sees the world go dark once more.

With his radar-sense more powerful than ever before, Daredevil goes to rescue the Black Widow from Ramrod, but the battle is interrupted when Broderick arrives on the scene, carried by the gigantic Terrex. The megalomaniac merges with his monster, becoming a single being with the power to drain the life-force from every living thing in the Bay Area. Daredevil tries to attack him, only to have his legs temporarily paralyzed. The heroes retreat to police headquarters, where they confer with Commissioner Robert “Ironguts” O’Hara, but he is distraught over news that his younger brother has been murdered in Africa. When they receive word that the alien superhero Captain Marvel is battling Ramrod in Golden Gate Park, Carson takes Daredevil, the Black Widow, and Moondragon to the scene in a police helicopter. By the time they arrive, Ramrod has been defeated. Captain Marvel confirms Moondragon’s story and warns that Thanos has already arrived on Earth to obtain the Cosmic Cube, which will make him invincible. He and Moondragon concoct a plan to defeat Terrex, though Daredevil and the Black Widow don’t really understand it. As such, Daredevil confronts Terrex as Matt Murdock, whose defiance sends Broderick into a paroxysm of rage, as Moondragon suspected it would. However, Matt worries that the plan will be derailed when Angar the Screamer arrives on the scene, but he turns his sonic powers on Terrex, accusing the monster of killing his girlfriend. While Matt, Natasha, and Captain Marvel keep Terrex busy, Moondragon uses her telepathy to control the nature of the illusions Angar is generating and uses them to destroy Broderick’s mind. He dies as Terrex dissolves, but neither Moondragon nor Captain Marvel are willing to explain exactly what happened. Natasha is rather in awe of Captain Marvel as he flies off, which makes Matt a little jealous, though he remains utterly fascinated by Moondragon.

With her undersea base wrecked, Moondragon comes to stay at Matt and Natasha’s townhouse, where she meets Ivan. Matt is thrilled to have her around, though Natasha is not happy about it. Following Kerwin Broderick’s death, Jason Sloan goes into hiding, leaving the law firm to fall apart. Matt oversees closing it down, glad that he has enough money saved so as to not need to find a new job immediately. When Commissioner O’Hara takes a leave of absence to go to Africa to bury his brother, Paul Carson is appointed acting commissioner until he returns. Swamped with his new duties, Carson has no time for Daredevil or the Black Widow, though he is more tolerant of their vigilante activities than his predecessor.

November 1966 – Daredevil and the Black Widow continue their crimefighting crusade, something Moondragon has no interest in, although she is willing to tutor them in the martial arts. Matt notices that Natasha is getting increasingly vicious during fights and becomes concerned. He suspects she is jealous of Moondragon and it’s making her lose her cool. While on patrol one night, Daredevil and the Black Widow suddenly pass through an interdimensional portal, finding themselves in a large, domed structure filled with hundreds of rowdy men. Near a central conference table, a scantily-clad teenage girl is tied to a telephone pole, about to be executed by firing squad. The Black Widow kicks several of the executioners as she swings by, throwing everything into disarray. Before they can do anything else, the two heroes find themselves back in San Francisco as if nothing had happened. Alighting on a nearby rooftop, they discuss whether the incident was real or an illusion, but there’s no evidence either way.

December 1966 – Moondragon goes off with Captain Marvel for a while, and when she returns, she reports that they joined forces with the Avengers to defeat Thanos and his army of alien mercenaries. Matt and Natasha are relieved to know that the threat to the earth has ended.

While swinging high above the gaily decorated city streets on Christmas Eve, Daredevil and the Black Widow discuss their relationship. Natasha confronts him about his obvious attraction to Moondragon and demands to know where they stand, but Matt can give only vague, noncommittal answers. Their talk is interrupted by a mugging in a nearby alley, which the two superheroes swing down to stop. Daredevil is shocked when the Black Widow goes berserk and nearly beats one of the muggers to death. Attempting to bring Natasha back to her senses, Daredevil slaps her. Two policemen arrive on the scene then, and while Daredevil is talking to them, the Black Widow slips away without a word. Frustrated, Daredevil returns to the townhouse, where he is relieved to find Natasha waiting for him on his bed. They try to discuss what just happened, but it quickly becomes an argument, so Matt goes downstairs, where Moondragon and Ivan are decorating the Christmas tree. When the television news reports that New York District Attorney Franklin P. Nelson has been shot by a sniper and is in critical condition at Metro General Hospital, Matt tells Ivan to make plane reservations so he and Natasha can go there at once to be with his old friend and law partner. However, Natasha refuses to accompany him, since Foggy prosecuted her on a false murder charge last year and she never wants to see him again. Disgusted by her attitude, Matt thinks she’s just using the situation to get back at him. When Moondragon offers to fly Matt to New York in her spacecraft, he accepts and goes to pack a bag. A few minutes later, Matt and Natasha part without a kiss or even an embrace, still angry with each other.

En route to New York, Matt tries to express his feelings for Moondragon, but she cuts him off, dismissing their mutual attraction as a mere infatuation. She also makes it clear that Matt’s earthbound upbringing makes him too unsophisticated for a woman of her status. Feeling like a yokel from some backwater planet, Matt settles into an uncomfortable silence for the rest of the trip. When they finally arrive over Manhattan, Daredevil and Moondragon share a quick hug, then he swings down to the roof of the hospital. After changing out of his costume, Matt heads to the intensive care ward, where he finds Foggy’s girlfriend, Debbie Harris, as well as his parents, Edward and Anna Nelson. Matt is surprised to learn that Foggy also has a sister, Candace Nelson, whom he’s never spoken of. Candace laughs it off, saying Foggy always thought she was a bad influence on people. Getting permission from the doctor for a brief visit, Matt goes into Foggy’s room and finds him very weak and groggy. Nevertheless, Foggy tells Matt that the sniper attack was part of a gang war he’s been investigating—a crime wave instigated by a shadowy organization known as Black Spectre. He warns Matt of a plot to steal some government printing plates from an exhibition at the Federal Building, then passes out. After calling the doctor in, Matt decides to try to prevent the theft, hoping it will lead him to the sniper.

Daredevil soon arrives at the Federal Building, and it’s not long before his old enemy, the Beetle, appears. Despite his best efforts, Daredevil is unable to keep the Beetle from snatching the printing plates, but he does manage to stop him from getting away by disabling his armor. However, the Beetle reveals that he knows nothing about Black Spectre or the attempt on the District Attorney’s life—he’s there strictly on his own initiative. Daredevil can sense that his foe is telling the truth, but before he can interrogate him further, a tear-gas grenade goes off, enabling two Black Spectre commandos to grab the printing plates and escape. Two guards from the Federal Building arrive as the tear gas is dissipating and attempt to arrest Daredevil, whom they assume to be an impostor. This enables the Beetle to reactivate his armor and fly off, preventing Daredevil from catching him by hurling a chunk of masonry at some pedestrians on the street below. Discouraged, Matt checks into a hotel and goes to bed.

Matt spends Christmas Day with Foggy and his family at the hospital. When the news reports a mysterious nuclear explosion on an island off the coast of Canada, Matt wonders if Black Spectre could be involved. Over the next week, Matt spends his days at the District Attorney’s office going over Foggy’s files on Black Spectre, and at night he searches New York City as Daredevil for any sign of the Beetle, without success. Though glad to be back in his old hometown, he can’t shake the feeling that Black Spectre will strike again very soon.


Notes:

January 1966 – The adventures of the Man Without Fear continue in Daredevil #97 and following. He and the Black Widow help the Avengers defeat Magneto in Avengers #111. Jann Wenner, featured in Daredevil #100, is a real person who will go on to start Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco in 1967. Presumably, his experience interviewing Daredevil taught him not to ask superheroes a lot of questions about their secret identities.

February 1966 – In Daredevil #102, Carl Kaxton is misidentified as “William Klaxton.”

March 1966 – Given that Daredevil recognized Carl Kaxton’s heartbeat after almost three years, it stands to reason that he would immediately recognize Spider-Man, whom he’s encountered several times, even though he’s not wearing his costume, which Daredevil can’t see anyway. Thus, Daredevil #103 is when Matt learns the webhead’s real name is Peter Parker. Spider-Man won’t discover that Daredevil is Matt Murdock until seven years later, in Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #110. Presumably, Matt felt it would be unethical to reveal Spider-Man’s secret to Natasha, so he feigns ignorance on the subject.

May 1966 – The global wave of violence is caused by the invading demons of Sominus, as seen in Adventure into Fear #14–15. Almost immediately afterwards, Dormammu tries to annex the earth into his Dark Dimension in Avengers #118. Daredevil and the Black Widow remain behind the scenes in a sequence depicting various characters battling the monsters.

October 1966 – Matt regained the ability to see very briefly about two-and-a-half years ago when his mind was swapped into Doctor Doom’s body, as shown in Daredevil #37–38. However, he was trapped inside the Latverian embassy the entire time and didn’t see anyone except Daredevil-Doom and a couple of his guards. This time, the experience is completely different. Moondragon enhances Daredevil’s radar sense when she restores his powers.

November 1966 – Daredevil and the Black Widow make a brief cameo appearance in Man-Thing #1, just long enough to save Jennifer Kale from the firing squad.

December 1966 – Moondragon and Captain Marvel team up with the Avengers to defeat Thanos in Captain Marvel #31–33. It seems likely that telepathic manipulation by Moondragon is at least partly responsible for Matt and Natasha’s break-up, by amplifying Matt’s sexual desire as well as Natasha’s anger. Moondragon may not even be aware that she’s doing it, if it were a result of the subtle influence of the Dragon of the Moon on her psyche, a situation revealed in Defenders #138. The Christmas Eve nuclear explosion in Canada is a result of Hammerhead’s fight with Doctor Octopus in Amazing Spider-Man #131. Daredevil’s return to New York City brings us up to the flashback at the beginning of Daredevil #109.


Jump Back: Daredevil – Year Four

Next Issue: Iron Man – Year Five


Wednesday

OMU: Hulk -- Year Five

The Hulk continues to wander far and wide over the next twelve months in the character’s life, making his way from the frozen wastes of the Arctic to tropical islands in the Atlantic and from Montreal, Canada, to Sydney, Australia—not to mention visits to other planets, dimensions, and time periods. In fact, Hulk largely loses touch with his supporting cast, seeing them only briefly here and there in the course of his adventures. As such, his book follows two mostly separate tracks during this period, with a new character, Colonel John D. Armbruster, added to the mix but remaining just another anonymous soldier as far as Hulk is concerned. Artist Herb Trimpe continues his landmark run here, working primarily with writers Steve Englehart and Roy Thomas (with some assistance from other members of the Marvel Bullpen), giving the book a nice, consistent feel.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Continuing on with… The True History of the Incredible Hulk!


January 1966 – The Hulk wanders the snowy forests of Quebec, Canada, keeping a relatively low profile. Early in the month, he takes refuge within a cave and finds a newspaper on the ground. The headline announces a “battle of the sexes” in New York City between the Thing and a mystery woman called Thundra. Hulk recognizes his old foe, the Thing, but is confused as to why he would want to fight a girl.

February 1966 – Hulk is about ten miles north of Montreal when he stumbles upon a military convoy and assumes they have come to attack him. He flips over the last personnel transport truck, sending it sliding into a ravine. Spider-Man appears a moment later and helps the soldiers as they open fire on the Hulk. Enraged, Hulk leaps away, landing at the Maskattawan Dam several miles down the Saint Lawrence River. There, Spider-Man attacks him again, then enters the control tower and causes water to start streaming through the dam. Frustrated by the “leaking wall,” Hulk smashes the control tower, causing a rain of boulders to carry him and Spider-Man into the ice-cold water. Hulk throws some of the boulders back to shore, then creates a large wave that swamps the convoy on the riverbank. Tired of fighting, Hulk leaps off to the south and soon comes upon a construction site on an island in the river, which is to be the site of next year’s International and Universal Exposition. Since the workers have all gone home for the evening, Hulk decides to spend the night there. A little later, though, a taxi nearly crashes into him as he is wandering around. Annoyed, Hulk rips up the road surface, flipping the taxi over. Almost immediately, Spider-Man turns up again and they continue their fight, causing tremendous damage to the fairgrounds. When some military helicopters arrive and start shooting at him, Hulk leaps away, losing his enemies in the darkness. Fed up, Hulk makes his way back to the wilderness.

March 1966 – Hulk moves north through Quebec, circling around Hudson Bay, then continues on into the Northwest Territories and soon crosses the Arctic Circle. Though he enjoys the peace and quiet, the harsh conditions prevent the Hulk from changing back into Bruce Banner.

April 1966 – Hulk is taken by surprise when a trio of U.S. Air Force fighter jets finds him wandering around the Arctic. While trying to escape the jets’ missile barrage, Hulk crashes through the polar ice cap and finds himself within a huge cavern. He is shocked to see a small city, with towers the size of office buildings, completely hidden under the ice. Five Russian soldiers in bulky suits of armor fly out of one of the buildings and attack the Hulk, managing to knock him out with a powerful sedative gas. When he wakes up, Hulk finds himself a prisoner of the Gremlin, a deformed genius who explains that his father was the Gargoyle, whom the Hulk encountered four years ago. Blaming the Hulk for his father’s death, the Gremlin intends to get revenge, but only after conducting a battery of tests on the Hulk for his own super-soldier project. However, a couple days later, the Gremlin administers too high a dose of the gas that was keeping the Hulk docile, causing him to change back into Bruce Banner. Confused and disoriented, Bruce is led to a holding cell, where he discovers that General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross is also being held prisoner. Bruce is struck by the irony when Ross insists that the Hulk is their only hope for escape. The next day, Bruce starts a fight with the guards when they escort him back to the Gremlin’s laboratory, and, as he hoped, the stress triggers his transformation again. Unfortunately, Hulk then refuses to break Ross out of his cell, thinking of him as his greatest enemy, and leaves the old soldier behind as he smashes his way out of the Gremlin’s complex and makes his way back to the surface.

Hulk crosses the polar ice cap and reaches the Arctic Ocean, intent on finding his way back to the deserts of New Mexico. After leaping from iceberg to iceberg for a while, he finally drops into the frigid water and starts swimming. A few hundred miles from shore, Hulk encounters a U.S. Navy submarine and punches a hole in the hull. The sub starts sinking, only to be captured by a gigantic vessel that rises from the ocean depths. Hulk is captured as well, stunned by an energy beam, and finds that the crew of the mysterious vessel is made up entirely of oddly large, squat men. The captain, however, is a rail-thin old man who introduces himself as Nathaniel Omen. He explains that his crew’s distorted physiques are due to life on the bottom of the ocean, which he is surveying in hopes of staking a legal claim to it. Hulk breaks out of the ship and tries to swim to the surface. However, he quickly gets the bends and passes out. When he comes to, he is Bruce Banner again and the shackled prisoner of Captain Omen. Bruce is shocked when Omen reveals that his submarine left the surface world behind at the end of World War I and has not surfaced since that time. In fact, most of his current crew has never even seen the sun, having lived their entire lives aboard the vessel, which has been greatly enlarged and upgraded over the decades. However, Omen’s abuse of his crew causes Bruce to change back into the Hulk, prompting Omen to order his men to attack him. The scene of the fight is then isolated from the rest of the ship and ejected into the ocean. Hulk breaks free, but quickly realizes that was a mistake—he’s now trapped on the ocean floor with only a quick lungful of air. Omen drops the Hulk an oxygen helmet and orders him to follow the vessel on foot, like the slave he now is. Hulk grumbles but, seeing no way to escape his predicament, decides to comply.

Sometime later, Hulk is rescued by rebel members of the crew and brought back aboard. He is taken to a secret meeting of a revolutionary sect led by Captain Omen’s son Filius, where he is hailed as their savior. Filius explains that his group wishes to escape from the captain’s tyranny and live on the surface world like normal people. Though he is befuddled by their reverence for some half-century-old surface-world trash, Hulk agrees to help them take over the ship. However, Omen is ready to deal with the mutiny and releases a massive half-man, half-fish creature called Aquon to battle the Hulk. After doing tremendous damage to the vessel, Hulk defeats Aquon, prompting Filius to declare victory. Reluctantly, Omen orders the ship to surface, whereupon Filius leads his group to a nearby tropical island. Hulk goes ashore with them, only to be horrified when the relatively low air pressure causes their bodies to explode into bloody pulps. To prevent the rest of his crew from meeting the same gruesome fate, Omen orders his ship to submerge. Left alone on the island, Hulk watches Captain Omen’s ship disappear beneath the waves, having completely forgotten that the crew of the Navy submarine is still trapped aboard.

After swimming halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, Hulk pulls himself up onto a pier in the New York City harbor. Tired, he sits down behind some crates and falls asleep, changing back into Bruce Banner. When he wakes up, Bruce finds himself caught up in a crowd of people fleeing from a large monster—a humanoid form made of pure electricity calling itself “Zzzax.” The stress causes him to turn into the Hulk again, but their battle along the waterfront faces continual interference by the masked archer known as Hawkeye. Finally, Zzzax throws Hawkeye into the harbor, but the former Avenger shoots a cable-arrow through the monster’s form. When the arrow hits the water on the other side of the pier, Zzzax is apparently destroyed. Unable to see Hawkeye in the water, the bystanders assume the Hulk defeated Zzzax and cheer his victory. Annoyed, Hulk stomps off down the street, telling the puny humans to leave him alone. Hawkeye follows him, though, enraging the Hulk further. Luckily, the Sub-Mariner and Valkyrie turn up and prevent them from getting into a fight. Instead, they all head over to Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, where they are greeted by Clea and Wong. When an Atlantean warrior arrives with news that Attuma and his barbarian hordes are about to attack Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hulk agrees to join the Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, and Hawkeye in opposing them. When they reach the beach, Hulk enjoys smashing the giant mutated crabs Attuma has brought with him, but the fight is cut short when the Sub-Mariner is captured. The villain forces Valkyrie and Hawkeye to surrender and board his warship. However, Hulk recognizes the vessel as a submarine and refuses to go aboard, not wanting to repeat the experience he had with Captain Omen. Instead, he leaps away and returns to New York City, where he stalks the back alleys for the next couple of weeks.

May 1966 – Hulk is finally summoned back to the Sanctum Sanctorum by the astral projection of Doctor Strange. When he arrives, Hulk finds the Silver Surfer is there, too. Doctor Strange is concerned by the disappearance of the Sub-Mariner and the Valkyrie and, with the help of a magic spell, gets the Hulk to describe their battle with Attuma. The sorcerer then causes the Hulk to fall into a peaceful slumber, and when he awakens, Hulk sees that Attuma’s three captives have been rescued. He is annoyed to have been tricked, but decides to postpone getting back at Doctor Strange so he can help rescue his friend, the Black Knight, from the enchantment that turned him to stone. Using the Orb of Agamotto, Doctor Strange calls forth the voice of the Black Knight from the void where his spirit is adrift. The voice reveals that their only hope to rescue the Black Knight is the ancient artifact known as the Evil Eye of Avalon. Though the Silver Surfer relates the tale of the Evil Eye’s recent destruction by the Human Torch, Doctor Strange is convinced it must still exist in some form and that the Defenders must find it, no matter what the cost. A friend of the Black Knight’s from their days in the Avengers, Hawkeye vows to join them on their quest, so the Defenders welcome him into their ranks. The Orb then reveals more of the history of the Evil Eye and its owner, the man known as Prester John. Next, it shows how, when the Evil Eye exploded in the Himalayas two and a half years ago, it split itself into six segments that were scattered across the globe. Doctor Strange sends the Hulk to retrieve the section located in Los Angeles, California, while the rest of the Defenders gather the other five pieces.

Drawn to the Evil Eye’s hiding place by one of Doctor Strange’s spells, Hulk digs it up in the courtyard of a posh hotel. However, Thor arrives on the scene and demands that the arcane object be surrendered to him. Still harboring some bitterness over the way the Avengers treated him in the past, Hulk punches Thor in the face, sending him crashing into a brick wall. Thor retaliates, but the Hulk doesn’t become truly enraged until the thunder god claims to be his superior in battle. The ensuing fight tears up the street, but the two combatants quickly find themselves in a stalemate, each one’s super-strong muscles straining against the other’s as they grapple. Finally, their teammates show up—Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Silver Surfer, Valkyrie, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Black Panther, Vision, Swordsman, and Mantis—and convince them to stand down. The Defenders and the Avengers then compare notes and realize that Thor was fighting Loki in Rutland, Vermont, last Halloween at the same time that the Defenders were battling Dormammu there. They speculate that the two arch-villains must have teamed-up. Their suspicions are confirmed when the six segments of the Evil Eye are suddenly stolen by Dormammu’s servant Asti the All-Seeing. Despite the best efforts of the assembled heroes, Asti escapes with the segments into another dimension.

Almost immediately, the city around them begins to transform into a nightmarish world of horror, the people metamorphosing into monstrous demons. An image of Dormammu’s flaming head appears in the sky, announcing that he is using the Evil Eye to bring Earth into his Dark Dimension, thereby enabling him to conquer the planet without violating his oath to never invade our universe. The Defenders and the Avengers vow to prevent this at any cost. However, the transformed bystanders begin to attack the heroes, forcing them to fight back. Hulk helps keep the monsters at bay while Doctor Strange casts a spell to prevent any of the 14 superheroes present from changing into monsters themselves. The sorcerer then tries to convince Captain America that both teams need to take the fight directly to Dormammu in the Dark Dimension. Cap is reluctant to abandon the earth in such a time of crisis, but relents when Nick Fury and the forces of S.H.I.E.L.D. arrive on the scene. Leaving Fury and his agents to deal with the monsters, Doctor Strange casts a spell to transport the Defenders and the Avengers into Dormammu’s realm.

In the weird landscape of the Dark Dimension, Doctor Strange yells at the headstrong Avengers to keep them from blundering to their doom, prompting Thor to order his teammates to defer to the sorcerer’s expertise. Then, after beating off the numberless hordes of the Mindless Ones, the heroes find Dormammu, brandishing the Evil Eye, with Loki imprisoned in a cage of flames. To everyone’s surprise, the Watcher is also present, looking on enigmatically. Doctor Strange manages to breach the mystic barrier separating them, but with one wave of his hand, Dormammu’s augmented magic instantly renders the six Defenders unconscious. When Hulk comes to, he learns that the villains have already been defeated. The Watcher explains that the Scarlet Witch cast a last-second hex that caused the Evil Eye to malfunction, absorbing Dormammu’s flaming form and blasting it out again straight through Loki’s brain. Though the energies restored his lost sight, Loki’s mind was shattered in the process, leaving him with the intellect of an infant. Furthermore, the Watcher reveals, Dormammu will remain as scattered molecules until the psychic energy from his many worshipers eventually allows him to reform. Finally, the Watcher congratulates the 14 heroes on their great victory. Doctor Strange retrieves the Evil Eye, still intent on using it to rescue the Black Knight, and casts a spell that returns the two teams to Los Angeles.

The Defenders and the Avengers materialize on the same street in L.A. to find the crisis is over. The people who had been transformed into monsters have reverted to normal and are wandering around the rubble-strewn streets in a daze. Nick Fury offers the two teams his congratulations on their victory. However, wishing to keep the existence of the Defenders a secret, Doctor Strange removes all memory of their involvement from Fury and his agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as any bystanders who witnessed their presence earlier in the day. Furthermore, he combines the power of the Evil Eye with his own sorcerous might to undo all damage and destruction the world over caused by Dormammu’s scheme, leaving everyone believing they had just suffered a mass hallucination. Finally, after bidding farewell to the Avengers, Strange teleports his team back to the Sanctum Sanctorum to attend to the Black Knight.

Using the power of the Evil Eye, Doctor Strange attempts to locate Dane Whitman’s astral form again, but it has disappeared. He has only begun to explain the enigma to his teammates when they are suddenly enveloped in a nimbus of energy that carries them across space and time to deposit them in the Middle East in 1190 A.D. Here they discover that the Black Knight has taken physical form by possessing the body of his own ancestor, Eobar of Garrington, and has joined King Richard the Lionheart in fighting the Third Crusade. After a clash with an Arab army and a contingent of super-powerful gnomes, the Black Knight fills the Defenders in on what’s happening. The gnome alliance is due to the involvement of the spirit of Mordred, the villain of Camelot, who is aiding the wicked Prince John in his bid to overthrow King Richard. Since Mordred has manifested physically, a spell cast by Merlin plucked Dane Whitman’s astral form from limbo to give Eobar an advantage against his magical foe. The Defenders agree to help the Black Knight free King Richard from an Arab prison and defeat the gnomes. During the ensuing battle, the villains manage to get the upper hand when Prince John seizes the Evil Eye. He is about to turn its power on the Defenders when an elderly Prester John suddenly materializes and reclaims his weapon. After knocking the villains out, Prester John convinces the Black Knight to remain in the 12th century to help King Richard. Excited by the prospect, and glad to have regained the Ebony Blade from the Valkyrie, Dane Whitman agrees. Finally, Prester John uses the Evil Eye to return the Defenders to their own era. Back in the Sanctum Sanctorum, Hawkeye elects not to continue his association with the team. Hulk, the Sub-Mariner, and the Silver Surfer also go their separate ways, leaving Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie wishing them well.

June 1966 – Hulk suddenly finds himself teleported to a ghost town in the southwestern United States, where he gets into a fight with the Thing. Their battle lasts about 20 minutes and demolishes several buildings. Hulk realizes that his foe seems much stronger than he was in the past. Suddenly, a spaceship appears overhead and draws the Hulk into its cargo bay with a tractor beam. The Thing grabs Hulk’s ankle is carried aloft with him. Aboard the ship, they encounter an alien called Kurrgo, whom the Thing accuses of having artificially enhanced his strength so he could beat the Hulk. Angered, Kurrgo sends his robot servant to attack them. Hulk and the Thing smash the robot, but it crashes into a control panel, setting the ship on fire. When the Thing jumps out through the cargo bay door, Hulk follows him. Tired of fighting the Thing, Hulk leaps away as the spaceship blows up behind him. Feeling that he misses Betty Ross Talbot, Hulk decides to finally resume his search for her.

A few days later, Hulk is in a swampy marshland near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York when he is found by Jim Wilson. Having a friend to talk to gets Hulk to relax, causing him to finally change back into Bruce Banner. Jim fills Bruce in on some of the things that have been happening the past few months, revealing that Major Glenn Talbot was killed while rescuing General Ross from the Russians. As a result, Betty had a complete mental breakdown and is currently getting treatment at a sanitarium on Long Island. Blaming himself for her woes, Bruce goes to see Betty, but she reacts violently. The stress triggers Bruce’s transformation into the Hulk, who is confused as to why Betty is hitting him. At first, he runs away but then decides to take Betty some flowers so she will like him again. When he returns to the sanitarium, Hulk finds M.O.D.O.K., wearing a giant prosthetic robot body, apparently spying on Betty. Hulk starts tearing the robot’s limbs off, forcing M.O.D.O.K. to flee. When Hulk goes into Betty’s room, however, he finds she has disappeared. The police and the sanitarium staff drive Hulk away, so Jim gives him a ride in the back of a pick-up truck out to the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey. There, Hulk meets Jim’s girlfriend, Talia Green, who isn’t too happy with Jim’s plan to have the Hulk hide out in her basement. Annoyed by Jim and Talia’s squabbling and intent on finding Betty, Hulk makes his way back to Manhattan, where he is attacked by a gigantic green bird-monster calling itself the Harpy. During their battle, Hulk is shocked to see that the Harpy has Betty’s face, enabling her to knock him out with a powerful energy blast.

When he regains consciousness, Hulk finds himself and the Harpy in a strange city in the clouds, its only inhabitant a bizarre two-faced creature called the Bi-Beast. After a brief three-way battle, the Harpy is knocked out and the thin air causes the Hulk to change back into Bruce Banner. Learning that Bruce is a scientist, the Bi-Beast takes him to a laboratory and charges him with repairing the floating city’s decaying systems before it crashes back to earth. However, Bruce instead creates a device he hopes will restore Betty to her normal self. Unfortunately, the Bi-Beast discovers what he’s up to and angrily confronts him just as he’s activating the device. Bruce turns into the Hulk and fights with the Bi-Beast until the Harpy hits him in the back with an energy blast and knocks him out. When he comes to a few minutes later, he is Bruce Banner again and finds the Bi-Beast has been killed in a gun battle, but there is no sign of his assailants. The city is shaking itself apart, so Bruce pulls the dazed Harpy outside, thinking that at least she will be able to save herself by flying away. However, the cure finally takes effect and the Harpy changes back into Betty Talbot just as the ground caves in under them. As Bruce and Betty plummet to the ground eight miles below, the floating city is destroyed in a massive explosion.

On the way down, Bruce turns into the Hulk, cradles Betty in his arms, and makes an explosive landing on a remote volcanic island. As a monsoon blows in, they take refuge in a cave, but Betty panics and flees into the jungle. Hulk searches for her for many hours and finally finds her being menaced by an alien rock monster. Hulk drives the creature off, then carries Betty back to the cave as another squall hits. As night falls, Betty becomes feverish and delirious and, after a hysterical fit, collapses into a restless sleep. Confused and worried, Hulk watches over her throughout the night. In the morning, she is in a calmer state of mind, and so they spend most of the day searching for food. At one point, they encounter a second monster lurking in a pool of water, but Hulk dispatches it with ease. Even so, Betty remains wary of the Hulk and recoils from his childlike affection. That night, after the Hulk has dozed off, Betty sneaks out of the cave, only to be captured by more of the alien monsters. When he discovers she is missing, Hulk tracks Betty and her captors to the island’s central volcano. He knocks the monsters into the lava, where they burn to death. As the volcano begins to erupt, Hulk grabs Betty and leaps to safety, landing in the jungle about a mile away. Luckily, the eruption draws the attention of a military search-and-rescue helicopter, which picks Betty up. Hulk grabs onto its landing struts as it takes off, then stows away aboard the Air Force jet that returns Betty to Hulkbuster Base in New Mexico.

Hulk dozes off aboard the jet and changes back into Bruce Banner, who then finds a spare Air Force uniform and sneaks into the base’s underground complex. Overcome with exhaustion, Bruce falls asleep in an emergency bunker. When he wakes up 14 hours later, Bruce realizes that the base appears to be abandoned. He soon discovers Betty, General Ross, and other personnel locked in one of the containment cells meant for the Hulk. Before he can free them, though, he is caught by the Abomination, and the stress triggers his transformation into the Hulk. Suddenly, Hulk is attacked from behind by the Rhino, and he realizes two of his enemies have teamed up against him. Hulk retreats to the surface, where he finds Jim and Talia sneaking around the deserted base. Jim devises a plan to use Talia as bait to draw the Abomination and the Rhino to the surface, where Hulk can fight them out in the open. Though Talia objects to the idea, Jim is able to talk her into it. The plan works and, after a fierce brawl, Hulk is victorious when the Abomination and the Rhino crash into each other and are knocked out. As military reinforcements arrive, Jim emerges from the underground complex, having freed the base personnel. A TV news crew tries to interview the Hulk, but he does not cooperate. However, General Ross shakes the Hulk’s hand and expresses his gratitude for saving them from the two supervillains. Before Hulk can react, he is suddenly caught in a cage and gassed into unconsciousness.

When he comes to, Hulk finds himself trapped in one of Hulkbuster Base’s containment cells. Convinced that General Ross tricked him, Hulk tries to smash through the cell walls. Then, Peter Corbeau appears behind a sliding panel and fires an energy beam that transports the Hulk into another dimension. However, he rematerializes inside the cell a moment later, but with the Juggernaut at his side. Though wary of trusting the Juggernaut, Hulk agrees to work together to break free. Their efforts are successful, and they fight their way through everything the Air Force throws at them and escape into the desert. Later that night, though, Hulk comes upon the Juggernaut menacing a family whose camper has crashed. Hulk fights with the unstoppable villain for several minutes, growing increasingly angry and frustrated. Finally, Hulk manages to tear off the Juggernaut’s helmet and smash him into a butte, knocking him out. Satisfied, Hulk drops the helmet and wanders off into the desert.

August 1966 – After making his way east for several weeks, Hulk is attacked by Xemnu the Titan and knocked unconscious with a series of painful mental blasts. Sometime later, Hulk hears Doctor Strange’s voice in his mind, urging him to wake up and free himself. Realizing he is trapped inside a statue, Hulk breaks out and finds himself in the small Midwestern town of Plucketville, where Xemnu is directing the townsfolk into a nearby spaceship. Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie are held prisoner by contorted lampposts and can only watch helplessly as Hulk battles Xemnu. Unable to defeat his angry foe a second time, Xemnu decides to retreat and levitates himself into the sky. However, Hulk picks up the spaceship and throws it at him, causing a tremendous explosion. With Xemnu apparently destroyed, Doctor Strange and the Valkyrie are finally able to free themselves. They then convince the Hulk to accompany them back to New York City.

Arriving at the Sanctum Sanctorum, Doctor Strange takes the Hulk into the dining room for a meal Wong has prepared, as the Valkyrie and Clea talk in the outer chamber. However, to Hulk’s surprise, he suddenly fades away in the middle of his repast and finds himself inside a tiny space capsule. Bursting out of the capsule, Hulk is left adrift in a featureless void and becomes distraught. Suddenly, he is transported to a star field where the Sub-Mariner is battling ghostly warplanes. After destroying all the airplanes, the confused pair passes through a dimensional warp into a mind-boggling mystical environment where Doctor Strange is being menaced by a phantom with a handgun. They rescue the sorcerer, who is bleeding profusely from a bullet wound, enabling him to cast a spell that returns them all to the Sanctum Sanctorum. There, Clea apologizes for inadvertently trapping them in the mystical void, and Strange admonishes her to be more careful in the future. As the Sub-Mariner is teleported back where he came from, Hulk returns to his dinner while Doctor Strange heals himself. The Defenders are able to convince the Hulk to hang around the Sanctum Sanctorum off and on for the next couple of months, hoping to keep him out of trouble.

October 1966 – While getting some exercise, Hulk drops into the middle of a construction site on the New Jersey Palisades, frightening the workers. When they try to drive him off, Hulk retaliates, destroying some of their equipment. Suddenly, he is afflicted by a strange buzzing sensation in his inner ear and leaps off in search of its source, determined to smash it. The buzzing grows more intense as he approaches the Catskills, and when the Human Torch drops out of the sky, Hulk suspects the young hero is the cause of his discomfort. However, the Torch leads the Hulk to an alien called Blastaar, who is wrecking a nearby factory with explosive energy blasts from his hands. Realizing that Blastaar is somehow to blame for the buzzing in his ears, Hulk attacks him, giving the Human Torch a chance to evacuate the last few people from the factory. At the Torch’s suggestion, Hulk wraps Blastaar up in a ball of metal wreckage from the factory and sends it hurtling toward the Atlantic Ocean some 600 miles away. As the buzzing in his ears fades, Hulk is glad that the Human Torch was able to help him solve his problem. He soon returns to the Sanctum Sanctorum and his other friends.

November 1966 – Hulk and the Valkyrie are listening to Doctor Strange’s tales of the occult when the Sanctum Sanctorum is invaded by a costumed man who battles them when they try to drive him off. Finally, Doctor Strange stops the fight and gives the man the opportunity to speak his piece. The man introduces himself as Nighthawk, former member of the supervillain team known as the Squadron Sinister. He has come seeking help to stop his evil associates from flooding the earth with a doomsday weapon they have created with the help of an alien speculator called Nebulon, the Celestial Man. Nighthawk had sought out the Avengers first, he explains, but Nebulon’s powers had rendered him invisible and intangible as soon as he entered Avengers Mansion. Luckily, he overheard the team discussing the Defenders’ role in defeating Dormammu and Loki a few months ago, and so he rushed over to find them. Suddenly, Nighthawk is apparently disintegrated right before their eyes. Faced with this impending crisis, Doctor Strange forcibly recruits the Sub-Mariner over the Atlantean monarch’s strident objections. Namor is furious, but the Valkyrie convinces him to stay and fight by their side. Hulk is curious about Namor’s new black costume, but he refuses to discuss it.

By dawn, the Defenders locate the Squadron Sinister and their doomsday device somewhere in the Arctic, and to their surprise find Nighthawk being held prisoner there. After an initial skirmish with the Squadron Sinister, the Defenders are captured by Nebulon and imprisoned within a spherical force field. Intending for them to witness the destruction of their world, Nebulon sends Hulk, Doctor Strange, Sub-Mariner, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk into orbit. However, they manage to break out of the force field and return to the Arctic in time to delay completion of the doomsday weapon. Doctor Strange’s magic then reveals Nebulon’s true form, that of a hideous non-humanoid creature. Nighthawk takes advantage of the distraction to activate the doomsday device and turn it against Nebulon. The alien creature disappears in a massive implosion, taking the Squadron Sinister with him. However, the weapon overloads and explodes before Nighthawk can jump clear. He is mortally wounded in the blast and lies close to death as the Defenders gather around him. Doctor Strange says Nighthawk’s only hope is if each of the Defenders sacrifices a small portion of their own life-essence, to be channeled through his magic amulet to heal his wounds. They agree, moved by Nighthawk’s heroic self-sacrifice. The spell is successful and Nighthawk recovers immediately. Out of profound gratitude, Nighthawk asks if he might join their team. Doctor Strange tries to explain that they’re not really a team as such, but Namor interrupts angrily, saying that he is terminating his association with the Defenders, so they might as well accept Nighthawk as his replacement. Namor flies off, and the remaining Defenders agree to give Nighthawk a chance. Though Doctor Strange, Valkyrie, and Nighthawk head back to New York City, Hulk decides to strike out on his own again.

A week or two later, Hulk stows away aboard a ship after being chased out of San Diego, California, by the Army. After changing back into Bruce Banner, he meets another stowaway named Ted. They manage to evade the crew for a few days but are finally captured and taken to face the commander of the expedition, former Stark Industries scientist Ralph Roberts, who turns out to be Ted’s older brother. After explaining about his past misadventures as the Cobalt Man, Ralph reveals that they are headed to the site of an upcoming French atomic-bomb test in order to protest such above-ground nuclear detonations. When they arrive, though, Ralph refuses to enter the radiation-proof chamber in the ship’s hold and instead exposes himself to the radiation from the nuclear blast. Ted runs out on deck to stop his brother, prompting Bruce to try to shield him from the radiation with his own body. Bruce is reminded of the day almost five years ago when he had to save another young man, Rick Jones, from a nuclear bomb. Ralph is mutated by the radiation into a superhuman form and quickly dons his redesigned armor to become Cobalt Man again. The stress causes Bruce to change into the Hulk, though the radiation he absorbed makes it difficult to maintain his transformation. In the brief time that he is the Hulk, his battle with Cobalt Man sinks the ship, but before Bruce drowns in the ocean, Cobalt Man rescues him and leaves him in a lifeboat with Ted and the crew. Ted tries to convince his brother to go to a hospital for treatment, but Cobalt Man ignores him and swims off. Dazed and exhausted, Bruce passes out.

When he regains consciousness, Bruce finds himself in a hospital room in Sydney, Australia. Both General Ross and Betty are there, having heard what happened from the ship’s crew. Bruce becomes very agitated when he learns that Cobalt Man is still on the loose, but the doctors are able to sedate him before he changes into the Hulk. Later, though, Betty gives him a mild stimulant to counteract the sedative’s effects and leads the groggy Bruce to the hospital’s roof. She nearly pushes him off the building before he realizes what she’s doing, but in the ensuing struggle he stumbles over the edge anyway. Bruce turns into the Hulk before he hits the ground and stomps off down the street, confused and angry. When he comes upon Cobalt Man ranting and raving high atop a suspension bridge, Hulk attacks him despite his own radiation-induced weakness. However, Hulk’s strength increases as his anger grows, leading Cobalt Man to fly him straight up into the sky, hoping to suffocate him. Instead, Cobalt Man suddenly unleashes a powerful explosion when the energies in his body reach a critical point, propelling Hulk across the sky at the very edge of space. Hulk finally crashes back to earth some 6,000 miles away in the Himalayas.

Bruce Banner crawls out of the hole in the ground made by the Hulk and is surprised to find the royal family of the Inhumans—Black Bolt, Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, Crystal, and her fiancé Quicksilver—on the scene. Triton identifies Bruce from the Fantastic Four’s records, so they escort him back to the Great Refuge. There, Bruce is astonished by the large spacecraft they have constructed. Karnak explains that they have discovered the existence of Counter-Earth and are considering immigrating there. Bruce decides to take a walk and wonders if he should ask to join the Inhumans if they decide to move to another planet. However, he is accosted by a gang of malcontents in the street, and the stress causes him to turn into the Hulk. Gorgon, Karnak, Triton, and Quicksilver try to subdue the Hulk without success. Finally, Black Bolt is forced to intervene and manages to knock the Hulk out with his super-powerful voice, although the shockwave demolishes several buildings as well. When he regains consciousness, Hulk finds the Inhumans have launched him into space aboard their colony ship. He lashes out at his high-tech prison, causing damage to its navigational and propulsion systems, but eventually settles down when he realizes he is trapped aboard a spaceship.

December 1966 – When the Inhumans’ colony ship finally splashes down on Counter-Earth, Hulk is lulled to sleep as it bobs on the surface of the ocean, whereupon he changes back into Bruce Banner. Bruce awakens sometime later in a military hospital, where he is accused of being an impostor and interrogated about a superhuman menace called “Adam Warlock.” The stress causes Bruce to change back into the Hulk and rampage through the planet’s counterpart of Washington, D.C. His battle with the armed forces results in the destruction of their Washington Monument, but the Hulk is then knocked out and captured by a quartet of the High Evolutionary’s New Men. He comes to later as Bruce Banner to find the New Men are experimenting on him under the direction of their leader, the Man-Beast, which quickly causes him to turn into the Hulk again. He escapes the laboratory by breaking through the floor into a labyrinth of tunnels under the city, where he is met by another group of New Men. Hulk recognizes their leader, Porcunius, from his brief visit to Counter-Earth last year, and agrees to accompany them to their secret base in an abandoned power station. There, Hulk is introduced to Adam Warlock and an alien robot called the Recorder.

Over the next few days, Hulk stays with Adam Warlock and his followers, enjoying their philosophical discussions and learning of their plans to overthrow the Man-Beast’s tyrannical regime. However, during supper one night, Hulk is driven berserk by a brain implant the Man-Beast had placed in his skull while he was unconscious. Lashing out in a blind rage, Hulk attacks his friends, providing a distraction that allows the Man-Beast and his minions to storm in and capture them all. The implant’s control unit is destroyed in the fight, but the Man-Beast has another weapon that renders all the rebels, including the Hulk, unconscious. Bruce Banner comes to the next day in a holding cell, where he remains for the better part of a week, kept sedated to prevent him from turning into the Hulk. Bruce is horrified to learn that the Man-Beast, while disguised as a man named Rex Carpenter, is actually Counter-Earth’s President of the United States. Finally, Bruce is taken to witness Warlock’s public execution on the White House lawn, where “President Carpenter” has assembled a bloodthirsty mob of supporters. Pinned to a large ankh-shaped platform, Warlock cries out for the High Evolutionary as he dies in agony under a barrage of lethal rays. As the life leaves his body, a cocoon of some unknown material completely envelops Warlock. The sheer horror of the spectacle enables Bruce to overcome the sedatives in his system and change into the Hulk. After scattering the police and defeating the Man-Beast’s lieutenants, Hulk grabs Warlock’s cocoon and leaps off into the surrounding countryside. Wishing Doctor Strange were there to advise him, Hulk tries to revive his fallen friend, without success. He finally gives up and sits with the cocoon through the night, overcome with grief.

Just before dawn, Adam Warlock’s followers find the Hulk, having escaped from their captors during yesterday’s chaos. They move the cocoon into a nearby cave and spend the day in mourning. The following day, they receive word that the Man-Beast is intent on starting a nuclear war. Hulk joins them on a raid of the villain’s command center, where his destructive fight with the Man-Beast is suddenly cut short when Adam Warlock turns up alive. Hulk is shocked, but glad to see his friend is not dead after all. More powerful following his resurrection, Warlock releases a blast of energy that causes all the New Men, including the Man-Beast, to devolve back into their original forms. The wolf that had been their foe then runs out of the room with its tail between its legs. Warlock announces that he must leave Counter-Earth to seek his destiny among the stars. Feeling strangely at peace with himself, Hulk watches as Warlock rises into the sky and soon disappears from sight. The Recorder then takes charge of the Hulk, and, after conferring with the High Evolutionary, convinces him to return home, as they feel his continued presence on Counter-Earth would be too disruptive. A lunar exploration rocket is modified for the long journey around the sun and soon blasts off from their version of Florida, carrying the Hulk back toward Earth.


Notes:

January 1966 – Hulk makes a cameo appearance in Fantastic Four #133.

February 1966 – While in Canada, Hulk runs into Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man #119–120.

April 1966 – Hulk’s adventures pick up again in Hulk #163 and Defenders #7. The hidden city beneath the polar ice cap where Hulk meets the Gremlin is probably the abandoned refuge of the Kallusians, last seen in Avengers #14.

May 1966 – Hulk guest-stars in Avengers #116–118 as part of the Avengers/Defenders crossover event.

June 1966 – Hulk and the Thing have their third battle royal in Marvel Feature #11. Hulk seems to remain unaware that the Leader is responsible for teleporting him to the ghost town for the fight. In Hulk #169, the Bi-Beast is killed when M.O.D.O.K. and his A.I.M. commandos try to take over the floating island, but they retreat before Bruce regains consciousness. As a result of her transformation into the Harpy, Betty Talbot actually spends the entire next issue completely naked, but her modesty is preserved thanks to the Comics Code Authority. At the end of Hulk #172, Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl turn up to deal with the Juggernaut, but the Hulk has already left the scene.

August 1966 – Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner fall victim to Clea’s wayward spell in Giant-Size Defenders #1.

October 1966 – Hulk joins forces with the Human Torch to defeat Blastaar in Marvel Team-Up #18.

November 1966 – In the Original Marvel Universe, Ted Roberts dies of radiation poisoning about a year after the events of Hulk #173. Interestingly, in Hulk #175, Black Bolt essentially condemns the Hulk to death, since the Inhumans reprogram their spaceship to miss Counter-Earth and fly off into interstellar space. It is only because Hulk starts damaging the ship’s control systems that it reverts to its original course.

December 1966 – While the death and resurrection of Adam Warlock is an obvious homage to the Passion of the Christ, the Man-Beast’s four lieutenants are based on the Watergate figures John Mitchell (Barachuudar), H.R. Haldeman (Cobrah), John Erlichman (Weezhil), and John Dean (Snakar). Porcunius is misidentified as “Porcupinus” throughout the story. This brings us up to Hulk #178 and Defenders #14.


Jump Back: Hulk – Year Four

Next Issue: Daredevil – Year Five


Saturday

OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year Six

The Fantastic Four continue on a downward spiral, barely managing to hang together as a team, under the guidance of editor Roy Thomas and writer Gerry Conway. Without the Invisible Girl, the group soon splinters, with Mister Fantastic suffering from severe depression, the Human Torch likewise heartbroken and adrift, and the Thing increasingly striking out on his own. If Susan Storm Richards was the glue that held the Fantastic Four together, her replacement, the cool, detached Inhuman Medusa, is not equipped to do the same job. And unfortunately, over the course of the next twelve months in the characters’ lives, matters merely go from bad to worse. During that time, members of the team have strange run-ins with some of their more obscure early foes, such as the Miracle Man, the Molecule Man, the alien dictator Kurrgo, and billionaire Gregory Gideon, not to mention the Mole Man and Doctor Doom. This lends an air of nostalgia to the proceedings that suggests the Fantastic Four’s best days may be behind them.

Note: The following timeline depicts the Original Marvel Universe (anchored to November 1961 as the first appearance of the Fantastic Four and proceeding forward from there. See previous posts for a detailed explanation of my rationale.) Some information presented on the timeline is speculative and some is based on historical accounts. See the Notes section at the end for clarifications.


Let us continue with The True History of the Fantastic Four!


January 1966 – Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters are in Manhattan’s Times Square to ring in the new year. Medusa has accompanied them, wanting to witness the annual ritual, and has dragged Reed Richards and Johnny Storm along, even though they are both very depressed. The event is disrupted by Thundra, who issues a public challenge to the Thing to meet her in combat in three days at Shea Stadium. The illuminated sign on the Allied Chemical Building reads out the details of the challenge for all to see. Ignoring the danger to the innocent bystanders, Johnny flames on and attacks Thundra, but she easily defeats him and sends him crashing into his teammates. Thundra then grabs Alicia and flies off with her on a large anti-gravity disk, obviously provided by her associates in the Frightful Four. The Thing is enraged as the Fantastic Four race back to their Baxter Building headquarters to see if there’s a way to track Thundra to her hideout. Unable to help in the lab, the Thing starts training for the grudge match, and is frustrated when his teammates fail to find where Alicia is being held. Over the next couple of days, there is a media frenzy over the upcoming “battle of the sexes,” which some newspapers are touting as “the fight of the century.”

Before dawn on the morning of the fight, the Thing and the Human Torch help the grounds crew at Shea Stadium clear the ballfield of snow under the harsh stadium lights. While they work, the stadium fills with eager spectators who have braved the cold to witness the battle. As the first rays of light streak the sky, Thundra descends on her anti-gravity disk to meet the Thing in the infield. She announces her intention to defeat the world’s strongest man in full view of the public, though her motivations remain mysterious. As they start to fight, the Thing is astonished by his opponent’s sheer strength and realizes he can’t afford to think of her as “just a woman.” Then, to the consternation of the crowds, Thundra picks the Thing up and hurls him out of the stadium, sending him crashing to the ground in Flushing Meadows Park across the street. They continue their fight atop the Unisphere, where Thundra clearly gets the better of him, though Ben refuses to concede defeat. Finally, Mister Fantastic arrives and shoots an energy beam at the Thing that temporarily changes him back to his human form. Outraged at being cheated of her victory and saying it would be “unfeminine” to hurt a weakling, Thundra flies off. The Thing is unconscious for several minutes, but when he comes to, he sees Johnny escorting Alicia toward him. She reports that Thundra forced her compatriots to release her, and Ben is impressed with Thundra’s code of honor. The Fantastic Four then return home, wondering why Thundra was so eager to beat the Thing in a duel.

Some days later, Luke Cage, the “Hero for Hire” who’s been working out of Times Square the last few months, storms into the Baxter Building and requests help getting to Latveria, as Doctor Doom owes him money and he means to collect. Amused, Reed agrees to lend Cage an airship, overruling Ben’s objections. He programs an experimental drone plane to fly Cage to Doctor Doom’s kingdom on autopilot. Several hours later, Cage returns and strides back into their headquarters. Reed at first assumes that something went wrong and Cage didn’t make it to Latveria, but Cage assures him that everything went smoothly and the matter is resolved. Ben follows Cage out of the building, pressing him for more details of his encounter with Doctor Doom, but Cage remains tight-lipped. Reed examines the rocket’s flight logs and sees that Cage did indeed spend a couple hours in Latveria before returning to New York. Impressed, Reed thinks better of Cage’s offer to lend a hand should the Fantastic Four ever need his help. Ben is flabbergasted when the late edition of the Daily Bugle reports that Doctor Doom has fought off a robot rebellion to retain control of his kingdom and wonders what Cage’s role in the incident was.

Meanwhile, Susan Richards and her 17-month-old son Franklin are living on a horse farm in rural Pennsylvania owned by Sue’s childhood friend Carol Landers and her husband Bob. Sue devotes herself to raising Franklin, though she also helps out with the horses. She is concerned from time to time by Franklin’s odd behavior and wonders if he might be autistic. Her brother Johnny flies out to the farm periodically to visit her and Franklin and to bring news of the Fantastic Four’s activities. Sue is sympathetic to Johnny’s broken heart, for he’s lost his girlfriend Crystal to another man—the obnoxious former Avenger called Quicksilver. Sue also explains to Johnny some of the issues that are keeping her and Reed apart, and he remains steadfastly supportive of his sister.

February 1966 – Johnny is home alone at the Baxter Building one Sunday morning when Spider-Man mysteriously appears in the laboratory housing Reed’s time machine. Spider-Man explains that he was attempting to help Iron Man penetrate a force field surrounding Avengers Mansion when they fell into a strange dimension, where they were picked up by a time-traveler named Zarrko. He took them to 23rd-century New York to help fight off an invader from even further in the future. That turned out to be Kang the Conqueror, who was holding the rest of the Avengers prisoner. Kang incapacitated Spidey and Iron Man, but then Zarrko entered and revealed that he was just as much a villain as Kang. Having read about Zarrko in the Avengers’ files, Johnny laughs at Spider-Man’s ineptitude. The wall-crawler continues, revealing that Zarrko has sent three chronal-displacement bombs to the present day, hoping to steal America’s nuclear arsenal during the resulting chaos. The bombs should soon be materializing in Greece, Japan, and Venezuela, Spidey reports, and he hopes the Fantastic Four can locate and destroy them. Johnny agrees to help, but notes that the rest of the team is unavailable so it’s up to the two of them. Spider-Man whines about that, clearly having hoped to pass the buck to the Fantastic Four, but Johnny lays a guilt trip on him. And so, while Spidey heads to Venezuela, Johnny launches the team’s Pogo Plane and flies to Japan. Arriving a few hours later, the Human Torch flames on and flies around the archipelago until he comes across the time-distortion effect caused by Zarrko’s bomb. Finding the bomb inside a barn, the Torch starts to black out as he approaches it, so he quickly melts the device into slag. As he takes the Pogo Plane to rendezvous with Spider-Man in Venezuela, Johnny notes that there was something familiar about the waves of energy emanating from the chronal-displacement bomb.

Many hours later, the Human Torch finds Spider-Man on a pier near Simón Bolivar International Airport outside Caracas. A second chronal-displacement bomb is producing the same distinctive energy waves, and Spider-Man is clearly being affected by it just as Johnny was. Thus, the Torch melts this bomb to slag as well. After comparing notes, the two heroes take the Pogo Plane to Greece, where they again get caught in chronal-displacement waves. After crash-landing the Pogo Plane, the Torch is about to melt the third bomb when Spider-Man stops him. The wall-crawler merely switches the device off instead, pointing out that they need to examine it for clues. Johnny then realizes where he’s encountered that type of radioactivity before—it’s very similar to the force field Maximus generated around the Great Refuge of the Inhumans a couple years ago. However, Johnny is unwilling to go to the Great Refuge, since he doesn’t want to see Crystal—especially with it being Valentine’s Day. Leaving Spider-Man with detailed instructions on how to find the Inhumans’ hidden city in the Himalayas, the Human Torch departs, confident that Spidey and the Inhumans can rescue the Avengers and defeat Kang and Zarrko. Johnny spends the next few days enjoying the Greek Isles while making repairs to the Pogo Plane. When he finally returns to New York, Johnny finds his teammates were too wrapped up in their own affairs to even notice his impromptu vacation.

March–April 1966 – As Black Bolt requested, Medusa spends much of her time studying the social mores of New York, taking the city as representative of human culture, with an eye toward determining how to reveal the existence of the Inhumans to the world at large in the most productive way possible. However, her efforts are hampered somewhat by her refusal to be seen without her ceremonial facemask, the mark of royal status among her people. Also, she is frustrated that the Fantastic Four aren’t really doing anything, as Reed Richards is too depressed to do more than putter around in his laboratory at all hours of the day and night. For his part, Reed focuses on trying to perfect a cure for Ben, encouraged by the temporary change effected in early January. Aside from distracting him from his marital troubles, Reed feels he owes it to his old friend not to wreck his life too.

May 1966 – The Fantastic Four finally go into action as a team when people all around the world inexplicably start changing into hideous, demonic monsters. Soon, New York itself also starts to transform into a weird, alien landscape. While trying to contain the rampaging monsters in the streets, the Fantastic Four run into Spider-Man, and they coordinate their efforts. Less than an hour after it began, the city suddenly changes back to normal and the demons revert to their ordinary human forms. A couple minutes later, all the tremendous damage done to the city during the battle is abruptly undone, as if by magic. Later, the Avengers report that the entire incident was merely a mass hallucination created by a super-villain whom they have defeated, but Reed suspects there’s more to the story than that.

In response to an urgent summons from Agatha Harkness, the Fantastic Four fly up to Whisper Hill, but they find only a large smoking crater where the house had been. To Ben’s consternation, Reed gives up on the investigation almost immediately and decides they should return to the Baxter Building. En route, the Fantasti-Car is hit by an energy beam that causes it to crash in a meadow. After searching briefly for their unseen assailant, the four heroes slowly make their way back to Manhattan. When they arrive, Reed receives a call from a frantic Carol Landers, who reports that Sue and Franklin have been kidnapped by Dragon Man. He departs immediately in one of the older Fantasti-Cars, leaving Ben, Johnny, and Medusa behind. On his way to Pennsylvania, Reed is notified by his contacts at the Strategic Air Command that they’ve tracked Dragon Man to a research installation on Long Island, so he changes course. When he arrives, Reed spots Dragon Man lying unconscious outside the facility and lands near the android. However, he is taken by surprise by a squad of security guards and gassed into unconsciousness. A short time later, Ben and Medusa arrive on the Jet-Cycle, having traced the Fantasti-Car’s homing signal. Before they can begin their search of the grounds, though, the pair is captured as well.

Meanwhile, Johnny has gone to the Bronx to look up his old girlfriend Dorrie Evans. He is shocked to find that Dorrie has gotten married and already has two small children. Embarrassed, Johnny makes up an excuse and leaves quickly, only to be attacked down the street by the same kind of energy beam that crashed the Fantasti-Car earlier. Spotting the flying drone that is firing at him, Johnny flames on and follows the small craft to the Long Island research installation, where he finds Dragon Man lying in the grass. However, the android creature revives and blasts the Torch into unconsciousness with his flame-breath. When he comes to, Johnny discovers that he and his teammates have been taken prisoner by Gregory Gideon, the wealthy financier with whom the Fantastic Four clashed about three years ago. Medusa explains that Gideon and his son Thomas are dying of radiation poisoning, and Gideon believes he can find a cure by absorbing the Fantastic Four’s radiation-spawned powers into himself. While Gideon subjects the unconscious Reed, Sue, and Franklin to his “Eternity Machine,” the Thing, the Human Torch, and Medusa break free and start fighting the security guards. Thomas Gideon enters during the fray and begs his father to stop, but the older man ignores him. Using her prehensile hair, Medusa manages to disable the brain implant Gideon was using to control Dragon Man. The creature goes berserk, turns on its master, and wrecks the Eternity Machine. The resulting explosion kills Gregory Gideon and puts Dragon Man into a coma. Sue revives first and, wanting to avoid a confrontation with Reed, takes Franklin and leaves the facility. After several minutes, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa become concerned that Reed has yet to regain consciousness, so they rig the wrecked Eternity Machine to discharge the energies that it absorbed. As they hoped, the jolt of energy revives Reed, though he is disoriented and confused at first. After making a cursory examination of the inert Dragon Man, Reed invites Thomas Gideon to accompany them back to the Baxter Building, offering to try to devise a cure for his radiation sickness. Gideon accepts, and they depart. Ben, Johnny, and Medusa honor Sue’s parting request that they not tell Reed that she and Franklin were there.

On their way back to the Baxter Building, though, a strange wave of energy sweeps past them, causing the Fantasti-Car and the Jet-Cycle to crash in a wooded area of suburban Long Island. To their astonishment, the Fantastic Four are then attacked by a group of young men dressed like a 1950s biker gang, riding on flying motorcycles and shooting laser guns. Mister Fantastic and the Thing fight the bikers very aggressively, though the Human Torch and Medusa feel sympathetic to the young men. Thus, when the bikers retreat after having grabbed Thomas Gideon, Johnny and Medusa go with them. The authorities, in the form of middle-aged men with crewcuts and 3-D glasses, arrive in flying Edsels and complement Reed and Ben on fighting off the youngsters. They escort the two heroes to their domed fortress, which reminds Reed of a fallout shelter, and interrogate them. Meanwhile, the biker gang takes Johnny, Medusa, and Thomas Gideon to their hangout in a local malt shop, where they meet the gang’s leader, “Wildman”—a combination of Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, and James Dean. Johnny begins to realize that they are trapped in some kind of nightmare version of the Fifties, though of course it’s all lost on Medusa. After being indoctrinated by the warring factions, the two halves of the Fantastic Four are sent out to fight over a doomsday weapon created by a reclusive genius. Luckily, Reed and Ben quickly shake off their mental conditioning and are able to bring Johnny and Medusa out of it after a brief scuffle. The doomsday weapon turns out to be a giant gorilla with a head like Sputnik, which the Fantastic Four battle at a drive-in movie theater. Reed deduces that they’re being manipulated by some outside force capable of twisting the very fabric of reality, and he is proven right when a bizarre-looking alien calling himself the Shaper of Worlds reveals himself. The Shaper apologizes for creating such a violent scenario, admitting that his source—one of Gregory Gideon’s henchmen—was not worthy of having his dreams manifested. The Shaper then offers to replace him with Thomas Gideon, who will be cured of his terminal illness in exchange for the use of his imagination. Gideon accepts the offer and teleports away with the Shaper. The Fantastic Four suddenly find themselves back in their vehicles heading toward Manhattan.

When they enter their headquarters, the Fantastic Four are surprised to find Wyatt Wingfoot waiting for them. Wyatt has come to invite them to attend his graduation from Metro College tomorrow, and also hopes they will be willing to fly out to Oklahoma afterwards as he believes his tribe’s reservation is under threat. Johnny, Ben, and Medusa agree immediately, but Reed declines, though he is impressed that Wyatt completed his undergraduate degree in only three years. Retiring to his laboratory, Reed leaves the others to get caught up. He is worried that the house on Whisper Hill may have been destroyed by Franklin’s mutant powers running amok. He theorizes that the energies of Annihilus’s cosmic control rod, to which Franklin was exposed at birth, may have altered the boy’s genetic structure and could cause his mutant powers to manifest well before puberty. Thus, Reed starts working on developing a means to shut down those powers should it become necessary. He will work on the problem obsessively for the next several months.

The next morning, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa fly Wyatt to the Metro College campus in the Pogo Plane. During the graduation ceremony, Johnny becomes wistful, regretting somewhat his decision to drop out of college. He feels extremely proud of Wyatt as he receives his diploma from the college president. After the ceremony, Ben and Johnny accompany Wyatt to a reception for the honors graduates while Medusa is given a tour of campus by some fraternity guys who are fans of hers. At the reception, Johnny runs into the football coach, Sam Thorne, who laments never having managed to convince Wyatt to join his team. Before Coach Thorne gets a chance to talk to his old classmate Ben Grimm, though, Wyatt is informed that his grandfather has telephoned with news of an emergency on the reservation. Ben, Johnny, and Wyatt collect Medusa and race to the Pogo Plane, then take off for Oklahoma.

When they arrive at the Keewazi Indian Reservation, they are greeted by Wyatt’s grandfather, Chief Silent Fox, who tells them that a demon from the Dark Hills has just destroyed a nearby village, forcing the inhabitants to seek refuge with Silent Fox and his neighbors. The “demon” turns out to be the Miracle Man, whom the Fantastic Four defeated over four years ago. At first, Ben and Johnny laugh off their foe’s attacks, taking him to be a mere illusionist. However, the Miracle Man reveals that he has gained actual mind-over-matter powers from the legendary Cheemuzwa tribe, reputed to be a race of immortal sorcerers. Escaping from the Miracle Man’s death-traps, the Thing, the Human Torch, and Medusa fight a hopeless battle against their raving foe, who seems to only grow more powerful. Suddenly, the Miracle Man is teleported away by the ghostly Cheemuzwa elders, who take responsibility for his rampage and promise to try to cure him of his insane lust for power. After enjoying some Keewazi hospitality, Ben, Johnny, and Medusa say goodbye to Wyatt and return to New York.

While out for an evening stroll, the Thing is tricked into fighting Captain Marvel by the Super-Skrull, who fools each hero into thinking the other is a Skrull impostor. After a battle that wrecks a tenement building in Hell’s Kitchen, the Thing and Captain Marvel realize their folly. Hearing a horrible, inhuman scream, they race up to the top floor and break down a door, finding a Skrull who’s been turned to stone. A massive, craggy-faced alien steps out of the shadows, claiming responsibility for the Skrull’s fate. He introduces himself as Thanos, king of Titan and soon-to-be emperor of the universe. Ben is not impressed by the alien’s boasts, but just looking at the mysterious hooded figure behind Thanos gives him the chills. Even so, the Thing charges at Thanos, only to be knocked out by a powerful blast of energy. When he comes to, Ben finds himself alone. Unable to locate Captain Marvel, Thanos, the Super-Skrull, or their mysterious associate, the Thing heads back to the Baxter Building, thinking that the alien superhero is in for the fight of his life.

On another evening, Spider-Man drops by the Baxter Building to present the Human Torch with a unique opportunity—the chance to design and build a “Spider-Mobile” from scratch to promote an experimental non-polluting engine created by Corona Motors. Spidey explains that he’s been offered money for the project by an advertising firm representing Corona, but lacks the mechanical engineering skills to pull it off. Amused by the notion, Johnny agrees to kick some ideas around. They end up working late into the night, drawing up some initial plans and schematics, and Johnny becomes impressed by Spider-Man’s scientific aptitude. However, the web-spinner seems uncharacteristically glum, and Johnny wonders what his problem is. Eventually, one of Reed’s police scanners goes off, reporting a break-in at a nearby nuclear laboratory by a man with a super-leaping ability. Claiming that it’s a personal grudge match, Spider-Man leaves to capture the crook, declining Johnny’s offer of help. Though he doesn’t return that night, Spidey does show up on a semi-regular basis through the summer to continue working on the Spider-Mobile. Johnny has fun with it, treating the entire scheme as an elaborate joke.

June 1966 – Ben infuriates Reed when he intentionally wrecks the machine meant to change him back to his human form, saying he couldn’t stand the thought of yet another failed cure. A few minutes later, the Thing suddenly finds himself teleported to a ghost town in New Mexico by the Leader, who declares that he’s been chosen to fight as the champion of Kurrgo, the former dictator of the planet Xanth. The Leader, naturally enough, has chosen the Hulk to fight for him. Ben refuses, but the Leader claims to have planted a time bomb on the other side of town capable of destroying all life on earth. Thus, when the Hulk suddenly materializes, the Thing tries to overpower him. They fight for about twenty minutes, as the Hulk refuses to listen to reason. Finally, the Thing manages to punch the Hulk in the back of the head, sending him crashing into a building that then collapses. Surprised by the force of his blow, Ben quickly locates the time bomb and smashes it, only to discover that it’s a fake. Kurrgo’s spaceship then descends from the sky and seizes the Hulk in its tractor beam. The Thing grabs onto his foe’s ankle and is lifted into the ship as well, where he finds Kurrgo waiting for them. Ben accuses Kurrgo of cheating, having realized that his strength was being artificially enhanced during the fight. Thus, the Leader claims victory by forfeit, but Kurrgo refuses to concede defeat. He sends his robot bodyguard to subdue the Thing and the Hulk, but they knock it into an instrument panel, starting a fire. Ben dives out of the cargo hatch and the Hulk follows him, just before the ship explodes and crashes to the ground, killing Kurrgo. Having lost interest in the fight, the Hulk leaps away and disappears into the distance, leaving the Thing to begin a lonely trek across the desert.

After several hours, the Thing sees Iron Man streaking by above him and tries to wave him down. Annoyed that his call for help is ignored, the Thing follows Iron Man, intent on giving him a piece of his mind. He soon arrives at a high-tech installation hidden inside a mesa, where he finds Iron Man fighting two savage aliens called the Blood Brothers, who turn out to be a pair of space-vampires in the employ of Thanos. After a vicious brawl, the Thing and Iron Man are able to defeat the Blood Brothers. The unconscious aliens are then either teleported away or disintegrated by their angry boss, but Ben has little sympathy for them. He suggests that Iron Man could give him a ride back to civilization, but the Golden Avenger insists that his power levels are too low to carry him any distance. As Iron Man flies off, the frustrated Thing stomps off into the gathering darkness. By morning, the Thing finally reaches a dusty crossroads and buys a bus ticket to New York City. However, he changes his plans when he sees a report in Time magazine about a Florida swamp monster called the “Man-Thing.” Angry that his brand is being diluted, the Thing intimidates the hapless shopkeeper into changing his ticket so he can go to Miami instead.

Thirty-six hours later, the Thing arrives in the Florida Everglades, where he is ambushed by a man claiming to be the son of the Molecule Man. Their fight draws the attention of the Man-Thing, who turns out to be considerably stranger than Ben expected. Suddenly, the Molecule Man fires an energy beam from his wand that changes the Thing and the Man-Thing back to their human forms. The villain teleports away, leaving Ben Grimm to explain to a very confused Ted Sallis what’s going on. Worried that the Molecule Man will seek revenge on the rest of the Fantastic Four, Ben convinces Sallis to help him. Sallis agrees to lead Ben to his laboratory elsewhere in the swamp, thinking he’ll be able to devise some scientific means of defeating the Molecule Man. However, they end up hiking aimlessly around the swamp until dawn, when they find themselves on the outskirts of Citrusville, Florida. Ben is fed up with Sallis, who talked non-stop all night long, and they argue. However, the Molecule Man appears and kills an innocent bystander by changing him into a doppelgänger of Mister Fantastic and stretching him to death. To taunt his foes, the villain then changes them back into their monstrous forms, but the Thing is too angry to care. When the Man-Thing mindlessly attacks him, the Thing rips out a handful of the creature’s sludge and throws it at the Molecule Man’s smirking face. He misses, but the muck knocks the Molecule Man’s wand out of his hand. Immediately, the Molecule Man collapses and ages into a withered husk that rapidly turns to dust. The Thing is shocked, but feels no compassion for the heartless villain. When the wand proves to be useless, the Thing tosses it to a little boy to play with. The Man-Thing then shambles back into the swamp, leaving Ben with a new appreciation of Ted Sallis’s tragic fate.

Returning to New York City, Ben takes Alicia out on the town to celebrate his 41st birthday. He decides not to tell her that he gave up the chance to be a normal man again in order to stop the Molecule Man’s rampage. Alicia is happy that her career as a sculptor has been going very well, but she worries about the effect Reed and Sue’s separation is having on the team.

July–August 1966 – Sue celebrates her 27th birthday with a picnic on the Pennsylvania horse farm with Bob and Carol Landers and their friends. She’s still concerned by Franklin’s occasional bouts of odd behavior, which often manifest as moments of intense focus on seemingly random details of the world around him. But for the most part, he seems like just an ordinary toddler. She is grateful to have had time over the last few months to also focus on personal growth and to cultivate a new feminist consciousness. A few weeks later, Sue has a little party for Franklin’s second birthday, which Johnny flies out to attend. Ben and Alicia come too, though Ben feels awkward being there when Reed has not been invited. Medusa decides to stay with Reed in the Baxter Building, not particularly interested in the rituals of human child-rearing. Reed has grown increasingly reclusive as the summer has worn on, and when his own 44th birthday rolls around, he doesn’t bother to celebrate it.

September 1966 – Johnny pulls an all-nighter with Spider-Man to work on the Spider-Mobile. They have a good time, though Spidey is clearly still down in the dumps and refuses to talk about it. Although Spider-Man originally envisioned creating a sleek sportscar, Johnny has decided to turn the Spider-Mobile into a dune buggy instead. Shortly afterward, Johnny, Ben, and Medusa fly out to Oklahoma again to visit Wyatt. While they are there, Ben is saddened to learn of the tragic death of his old friend Desmond Pitt, a fellow Air Force test pilot who once saved his life after a crash. Wanting to learn more, Ben phones some contacts in the military, who tell him the case has been designated top secret—apparently Pitt had been selling military secrets to a foreign government to pay his wife’s medical bills, and when she died, he became careless and was killed by spies. Shocked that his old friend could turn traitor, Ben can’t quite bring himself to believe that it’s all true.

Meanwhile, at the Landers’ horse farm in Pennsylvania, Sue is frightened when Franklin suddenly goes glassy-eyed and emits a high-pitched scream before passing out. At first, she refuses to call a doctor, trying to assure herself that the boy is fine now. However, Sue worries all night and decides in the morning that she had better contact Reed. At the Baxter Building, Reed is frustrated that he made a careless mistake and wrecked the prototype for the device meant to neutralize Franklin’s mutant powers. Ben, Johnny, and Medusa return from Oklahoma, bringing Wyatt with them, and they all get into an argument about Reed’s attitude lately. They are interrupted by Sue’s call, which is abruptly terminated, sending Reed into a panic. When Ben and Johnny are unable to restrain Reed, Medusa merely picks up a wrench with her hair and wallops Reed in the side of the head, knocking him out. Ben and Johnny are both annoyed by Medusa’s notable lack of empathy. Thinking Reed may have hung up on her, Sue decides to drive Franklin back to the Baxter Building, but her car is hijacked along the way by Agatha Harkness. Agatha admits that she inadvertently caused Franklin’s strange fit yesterday while trying to contact them through mystical means, then lures Sue and Franklin from their car and teleports them away.

In New York, Reed, Ben, Johnny, Medusa, and Wyatt have resumed their argument, but they are interrupted when Triton brings the injured Sub-Mariner to them for help. Reed determines that Namor has been exposed to an experimental nerve gas that has caused a cellular transmutation in his body, leaving him unable to survive outside of a marine environment. Thus, Reed designs a special suit for Namor to wear, a refined version of the one Triton uses. When Namor regains consciousness, he is grateful for the Fantastic Four’s help, though he still views the surface world as a threat to his kingdom. Leaving Wyatt behind, the Fantastic Four then fly out to the Landers’ horse farm to check on Sue and Franklin. Carol is worried, as Sue left several hours ago and should have reached Manhattan by now. Reed soon locates Sue’s abandoned car and determines that the ground is saturated with the peculiar sort of anti-matter particles found only in the Negative Zone. Worried, they race back to the Baxter Building, only to be ambushed by Annihilus.

The defeated Fantastic Four come to in their foe’s citadel in the Negative Zone, where they find Sue, Franklin, Wyatt, and Agatha Harkness are also being held prisoner. Annihilus gloats about his triumph, revealing that he’s been plotting for two years to get revenge on the Fantastic Four for stealing the energies from his cosmic control rod that formerly made him immortal. He expended a great deal of time and resources, he explains, to construct a gateway between the Negative Zone and Whisper Hill in order to kidnap Agatha, though in the process her house was completely destroyed. After holding the witch prisoner for months, Annihilus was finally able to compel Agatha to kidnap Sue and Franklin and bring them to the Negative Zone, where he plans to absorb the boy’s cosmic energies back into himself. While Annihilus is setting up his machines to do that, Reed, Ben, Johnny, Medusa, and Wyatt escape from the villain’s dungeon and regroup outside the citadel. There, Reed finally confides in the others that he’s been worried about the effects the cosmic control rod’s energies may have had on Franklin when he was born and has been working on the problem for many months. However, when they storm into their foe’s laboratory to rescue the others, Reed sees that they are too late—Annihilus has already triggered a chain reaction within Franklin’s cells. He immediately deduces that if the process isn’t stopped, Franklin will explode, releasing a blast of psychic force that will kill every living creature in the solar system. Medusa, Johnny, and Ben manage to overpower Annihilus and knock him out, enabling them to free Sue and Agatha. They are concerned by the eerie light shining from Franklin’s eyes, but Reed has Agatha teleport them all back to Baxter Building as quickly as possible. Without stopping to explain, Reed grabs his defective prototype, which looks to the others like a large gun, and fires an energy beam at Franklin. Sue screams as the weird light in her son’s eyes dies out and he lapses into a coma. Distressed, Reed is at a loss for words as Sue lashes out at him. Ben, Johnny, and Wyatt, also shocked and horrified, then follow Sue out of the building. Only Medusa remains by Reed’s side, believing his actions were justified.

As Reed and Medusa necessarily set to work repairing the Negative Zone portal, the distraught Sue drives Franklin back to the Landers’ horse farm in Pennsylvania, where Bob and Carol are stunned by Reed’s apparent callousness. Ben checks into a Manhattan hotel and sinks into a depression, believing the Fantastic Four will never be able to be a team again. Johnny and Wyatt, who has borrowed the Jet-Cycle, fly out to the campus of Metro College to seek advice from Sam Thorne, expecting him to condemn Reed’s actions. However, Johnny becomes annoyed when Coach Thorne sees Reed’s side of the issue and is sympathetic to the terrible choice he was forced to make. Later, Johnny and Wyatt retreat to the Catskill Mountains for a camping trip, where they celebrate Johnny’s 22nd birthday. Wyatt tries to get Johnny to let go of the idea that Reed betrayed them all, arguing that he was put in an impossible situation. Even so, Johnny remains resolutely on Sue’s side.

October 1966 – One night, Reed finds Spider-Man caught by one of the Baxter Building’s security devices. Assuming the wall-crawler has come to work on the Spider-Mobile, Reed informs him that the Human Torch is out of town—in fact, the Fantastic Four have disbanded. Spider-Man is incredulous, but Reed refuses to discuss the matter. However, Spider-Man reveals that he’s actually come for help tracking down Captain Marvel, who disappeared while they were fighting a supervillain called the Basilisk over two Kree power crystals. Depressed, Reed is at first disinclined to help, but Spider-Man shames him into changing his mind. Modifying a device meant to track Kree Sentry robots, Reed detects the power crystals in Subterranea. He then flies Spider-Man in the Fantasti-Car to the wreckage of the strange house in the country where the Mole Man’s drop tube is located. No sooner have they arrived in the underground realm than they are overwhelmed by a horde of Subterraneans and dragged into the Mole Man’s throne room. The Mole Man rants about his plan to use a gigantic laser-cannon, powered by the Kree crystal in which Captain Marvel is trapped, to destroy the surface world. He orders the Subterraneans to throw Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man into a nearby open pit of magma, but the two heroes save themselves. Suddenly, the Basilisk appears and gets into a fight with the Mole Man and his Subterraneans. During the fracas, Captain Marvel escapes from the giant crystal by transforming into his human alter-ego Rick Jones, the energy released by their interdimensional transposition disrupting the crystal’s molecular matrix. Reed uses the distraction to alter the laser-cannon’s controls, causing it to self-destruct. The resulting explosion triggers a violent eruption in the magma pit, and both villains are lost in the ensuing conflagration, along with the Kree power crystals. Mister Fantastic, Spider-Man, and Rick Jones race to the Fantasti-Car as the tunnels collapse behind them. Once they have reached the surface, Jones changes back into Captain Marvel and flies away. Mister Fantastic then gives Spider-Man a lift back to Manhattan.

In the Catskill Mountains, Johnny and Wyatt discover Blastaar trying to destroy a computerized factory called F.A.U.S.T.—the Fully Automated Unit of Structural Technology, designed by an old friend of Reed’s named Paxton Pentecost and built out of secondary adamantium, a weaker alloy of the indestructible metal. Blastaar shrugs off the Human Torch’s fiery attacks and sends him hurtling away with a powerful concussive blast. As luck would have it, the Hulk is in the area and catches Johnny before he hits the ground. Seeing that the Hulk is agitated by a painful buzzing in his ears, Johnny convinces him that Blastaar is to blame. Thus, the Hulk follows Johnny back to the factory, where he fights with Blastaar. The Torch flies into the factory to make sure it has been evacuated, only to find Pentecost and some henchmen holding his former business partner, financier Ferguson Blaine, at gunpoint. Johnny convinces Pentecost to abandon his revenge scheme and hurries them out of the building. Remorseful at having unleashed the unstoppable Blastaar on the world, Pentecost suggests that they may be able to imprison the villain in the metal wreckage. Johnny tells the Hulk to do just that, so the green behemoth wraps Blastaar in a large ball of adamantium scrap and hurls him into the Atlantic Ocean some 600 miles away. After the Hulk has left, Pentecost is taken into police custody, but Johnny berates the greedy Blaine for driving the scientist to desperation in the first place.

Ben receives word that Alicia has traveled to Transylvania for an experimental new surgical procedure that may restore her sight, so he flies out immediately to join her. When Ben arrives, Alicia introduces him to the surgeon, Dr. Hans Stuttgart, but they are distracted when people on the street seem to flee from the sight of the Thing. Alicia assures Ben that they’re actually superstitious about a legendary demon said to stalk the countryside at night. Even so, after dropping Alicia off at the hospital and starting back toward his hotel, Ben worries that she’ll find him repulsive once her eyesight has been restored. Suddenly, he is ambushed by Darkoth, the Death-Demon, who purports to be a devil from the pits of Hell. Ben is unimpressed, though Darkoth does prove to have superhuman strength as well as other powers. The fight ends abruptly when gas lines under the street are ruptured and sparks from Darkoth’s metal claws cause an explosion. The Thing is stunned, and when the smoke clears, he finds that Darkoth has fled. Ben wonders how Darkoth knew personal details about him and suspects he may be working for Dr. Stuttgart, since few other people even know the Thing is in the country.

Back at the Baxter Building, Medusa decides she must attempt to cheer Reed up, noting that he is nearly overwhelmed with grief at being separated from his wife and son. Believing a change of scene will do him good, Medusa convinces Reed to take her out to dinner at a nice restaurant. Though he feels it is an exercise in futility, Reed relents and agrees to go. Medusa realizes that, to avoid drawing undue attention to herself, she must finally remove her mask and adopt the fashions of New York City, thus she slips into a tight yellow minidress and high-heeled shoes. She has determined that her sex appeal is likely to take Reed’s mind off his troubles. As they are getting ready to leave, Medusa finds an invitation to a class reunion dinner that Reed has recently received. He had decided not to go, he says, but Medusa insists that he will attend, even if she has to drag him there. Throughout dinner, Medusa tries to charm Reed, but he is unresponsive.

The next day, Ben arrives at the hospital, only to be informed by Dr. Stuttgart that Alicia has already been sedated and is being prepped for surgery. He spends the next few hours in the waiting room feeling dejected. Eventually, Ben grows suspicious and bursts into the operating room to find it is completely empty. He is attacked from behind by Darkoth and realizes the whole thing has been a set-up. Darkoth forces the Thing through a hidden passageway into a series of caverns, where he finally rakes his foe’s rocky hide with poisoned claws. The drug hits the Thing’s system a minute later, and he drops to the ground, unconscious. When he comes to later, Ben finds himself trapped in a power-dampening force field inside a large laboratory complex. Strangely, Darkoth is also imprisoned in a similar device nearby. Numerous scientists and technicians bustle around the lab, but they completely ignore their monstrous captives. Worried about Alicia, Ben struggles to escape, but to no avail.

Two days later, Reed and Medusa get dressed up again and go to the alumni dinner at a high-rise building in Manhattan, where they find Coach Sam Thorne and his wife Belle. Reed and Sam are happy to see each other, noting that it’s been about ten years since their last encounter. Sam mentions running into Johnny not long ago, but before they can continue their conversation, they are all escorted into the dining room. Reed and Sam are shocked to see their old classmate—Doctor Doom—standing at the head of the table. Intent on protecting the Thornes, Reed and Medusa immediately attack Doom, but he calmly activates a trap door that sends them tumbling into a chamber below. Doom then leads his captives into the large laboratory where the Thing and Darkoth are imprisoned, boasting of the ease with which he has defeated the Fantastic Four. He also reveals his plan to use an orbiting satellite to brainwash everyone on earth, demonstrating its effectiveness by making two minions who have betrayed him shoot each other in the head. Then, leaving to prepare the satellite for launch, Doom orders that Reed, Ben, and Medusa be locked in power-dampening cells on a lower level, where they can witness his ultimate triumph. However, Darkoth enters the cell block a little while later, dismisses the guards, and deactivates the force fields. He explains that he has learned that he is not, in fact, a demonic creature of legend but one of Doom’s lackeys transformed into a monster three weeks ago. Wishing revenge on Doctor Doom, Darkoth leads Reed, Ben, and Medusa down into New York City’s sewer system, where they make their way back towards the Baxter Building.

Meanwhile, Doctor Doom captures Johnny and Wyatt outside Buffalo, New York, and brings them back to his high-rise headquarters in Manhattan. Trapped in a transparent cylinder, Johnny is worried for Doom’s other prisoners, Alicia and Sam and Belle Thorne, but is relieved to learn that Reed, Ben, and Medusa have already escaped. Enraged, Doom sends a synthetic creature called the Seeker into the sewer system to pursue them. With Darkoth’s help, Reed, Ben, and Medusa defeat the Seeker and take it to Reed’s lab in the Baxter Building. While Reed attempts to reprogram the Seeker, though, Doctor Doom launches his satellite into orbit and activates it. Having run out of time, Reed disassembles the Seeker, turning it into a makeshift disguise for Darkoth to wear so he can infiltrate Doom’s stronghold. This enables Darkoth to break in and free Johnny and Wyatt before attacking Doom. When the Thing smashes through the wall, Doctor Doom chooses a strategic retreat, but Darkoth follows him. Suddenly, the building starts to crumble, forcing Ben and Johnny to focus on getting Alicia, Wyatt, and the Thornes to safety. On a rooftop across the street, they all watch as Doom’s spaceplane, camouflaged as the building’s tower, blasts off, causing the rest of the structure to collapse. At the Baxter Building, Reed and Medusa monitor the spaceplane’s ascent and are surprised when it explodes on the edge of space, destroying the mind-altering satellite as well. When no trace of Darkoth is found in the rubble, Reed theorizes that he must have stowed away aboard the spaceplane and caused it to blow up, thereby saving everyone on earth from becoming Doctor Doom’s slaves. Reed suspects Doom may have escaped, though there’s no sign of him either. Soon after, Wyatt goes home to Oklahoma.

November 1966 – Feeling conflicted about the phony blindness cure—he is actually relieved though Alicia is disappointed—Ben sinks into a funk. Johnny tries to cheer him up by taking him to an action movie, but Ben doesn’t enjoy it and seeing all the winos and prostitutes in Times Square just makes him feel more depressed. After Johnny has left, Ben gets into a fight with a super-strong young man who drops out of the sky and demolishes a parked car. During their destructive battle in the streets, Ben begins to suspect that his unspeaking opponent may be mentally disabled. Suddenly, the Sub-Mariner and his cousin Namorita arrive on the scene to break up the fight. Before the two Atlanteans can explain themselves, a large spacecraft descends and disgorges a pair of gun-toting aliens and their giant killer robot. They identify the young man as Wundarr, a potential political agitator they have come to eliminate. Working together, the Thing and the Sub-Mariner destroy the robot and drive the aliens away. However, claiming that Atlantis is in imminent danger, Namor and Namorita leave Wundarr with the Thing, explaining only that he has the mind of an infant in an adult body. Frustrated, Ben takes Wundarr back to the Baxter Building, where Reed confirms that he is indeed from another planet. Alicia agrees to help Ben take care of his helpless charge. Johnny finds the whole situation to be very amusing, though Medusa wants nothing to do with any of it.

December 1966 – A few days before Christmas, Spider-Man wakes Johnny up early in the morning, eager to pick up the completed Spider-Mobile. They load the dune buggy into a freight elevator and take it down to the alley behind the Baxter Building, where Johnny points out all the specialty controls on the instrument panel, including activators for the car’s spider-signal and web-shooters. However, when Spidey takes it out for a test drive and almost slides into oncoming traffic before swerving up onto the sidewalk, Johnny realizes the web-slinger has no idea how to operate a motor vehicle. Spider-Man sheepishly admits he never took driver’s ed, so Johnny spends the next few hours giving him basic driving lessons. Both of them get stressed out and tempers run high, but eventually Spidey gets the hang of it and Johnny sends him on his way.

The Fantastic Four celebrate an awkward Christmas morning, mainly for Medusa’s edification. Ben and Alicia give several wrapped gifts to the uncomprehending Wundarr as the others look on. Johnny and Medusa soon decide to go out to lunch, but Reed drifts off into his laboratories again to spend the day tinkering aimlessly with various projects. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Sue cares for the comatose Franklin, feeling utterly isolated and alone and filled with rage over what Reed has done to their son. As far as she is concerned, their marriage is over.


Notes:

January 1966 – The Fantastic Four’s adventures resume in Fantastic Four #133 and following. Luke Cage pays a visit to the Baxter Building in Luke Cage, Hero for Hire #9.

February 1966 – The Human Torch lends a hand to Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #10. The Pogo Plane does not actually appear in the issue, but it’s the only way to make the logistics of the globe-spanning story make sense. Ironically, Quicksilver is being held prisoner by Kang along with the rest of the Avengers and is not even in the Great Refuge, a fact of which Johnny is unaware.

May 1966 – The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man team up against the demon hordes of Dormammu in Avengers #118. Doctor Strange undoes all the damage caused during the battle by augmenting his magic with the power of the Evil Eye of Avalon. However, in order to keep the Defenders’ involvement a secret, the Avengers are necessarily vague about what actually happened. The Thing encounters Captain Marvel and the Super-Skrull in Captain Marvel #26, where he also meets Thanos. The Mad Titan’s mysterious associate is, of course, a manifestation of Death itself. Spider-Man asks the Human Torch to help him build the Spider-Mobile in Amazing Spider-Man #126. The wall-crawler is depressed about the death of Gwen Stacy, and the villain he goes off to stop is the ill-fated Kangaroo.

June 1966 – At this point, the Thing received his own team-up series, which debuted in Marvel Feature #11–12 before settling into Marvel Two-in-One for a long run. Interestingly, Marvel Two-in-One #1 has an early indication of “Marvel time”—Ben says it’s been five years since he last encountered the Molecule Man, even though that issue was published just over ten years before. On my OMU timeline, it occurred just under four years ago. Though the Molecule Man believes himself to be the son of the original here, that eventually turns out to not be the case. When his original body dies, the Molecule Man’s consciousness takes refuge within his wand and starts possessing a series of host bodies. Eventually he creates a new body for himself, as seen in Avengers #215.

September 1966 – The Human Torch and Spider-Man continue working on the Spider-Mobile in Amazing Spider-Man #127. The Thing discusses the apparent death of Desmond Pitt in Fantastic Four #193, where it is revealed that it was Pitt whom Doctor Doom transformed into Darkoth, the Death-Demon. Mister Fantastic creates Namor’s new black costume in Sub-Mariner #67.

October 1966 – The scenes of Alicia leaving her apartment and traveling to Eastern Europe, seen in Fantastic Four #135, 138, and 141, actually all occur at this point in the timeline. The comics show them out of sequence for dramatic effect. Transylvania is not identified in the comics, but it is the most likely of Latveria’s four neighbors to be the setting of the story. Mister Fantastic and Spider-Man team up against the Mole Man and the Basilisk in Marvel Team-Up #17, with the Human Torch and the Hulk battling Blastaar in the following issue. The collapse of Doctor Doom’s latest scheme to rule the world brings us up to Fantastic Four #144.

November 1966 – The Thing, the Sub-Mariner, and Namorita rescue Wundarr from some interplanetary assassins in Marvel Two-in-One #2. The movie Ben and Johnny see at the beginning of the story is probably The Professionals with Burt Lancaster and Lee Marvin, rather than a kung fu flick.

December 1966 – The Human Torch teaches Spider-Man how to drive in Amazing Spider-Man #130.


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