Wednesday

OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year Four

After reaching its creative peak in 1966, Marvel’s flagship title Fantastic Four started a downward slide less than two years later. Jack Kirby’s formidable imagination suddenly seemed to dry up, and the few new characters he introduced tended to be bland and forgettable. In fact, Kirby had merely become disenchanted with Marvel management and, feeling he was being ill-used, decided to reserve his best new ideas until he was able to secure a more favorable arrangement, whether at Marvel or one of its competitors. In the meantime, he brought back previous villains for rematch after rematch until it became rather tedious, with the unimpressive Mad Thinker being the FF’s most persistent foe. Worse, Kirby slowed down the pace of his storytelling to the point where an entire issue could go by with nothing much happening. Fantastic Four #89, for example, featured five splash pages—meaning fully 25% of the story consisted of single panels in which very little occurred. The next issue just transitioned between two storylines without making much progress. The opening page of most issues during this time featured the FF standing around doing nothing. By early 1970, Kirby had had enough of Marvel and quit in the middle of a story arc, moving to DC to develop his “Fourth World” concept.

Nevertheless, the next twelve months in the lives of the characters feature several significant events, such as the birth of Franklin Richards, and are filled with insights into the characters’ personalities as Stan Lee used the storylines to really explore the FF’s psychology in depth. Reed Richards’s attitude toward his wife during and after her pregnancy, Ben Grimm’s conflicted feelings about regaining human form, and Johnny Storm’s tempestuous relationship with his “foreign” girlfriend all make for a fascinating read. The female stars, Sue Richards and Crystal, receive less attention, unfortunately, but even they display stronger personalities than ever before, and the book remains rich with interpersonal dynamics despite Kirby’s growing lassitude.

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 Fantastic Four!


January 1964 – The Fantastic Four enjoy a quiet month at the Baxter Building in New York City. Sue Richards informs her husband, Reed Richards, that she is going to have a baby, though they keep it to themselves for the time being. Reed begins to worry about Sue getting into dangerous situations as a member of the team now that she’s pregnant. As no major crises arise, Reed makes significant progress on a multitude of research projects. Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters continue dating, but Ben worries constantly that Alicia will leave him for a normal man. When she starts hearing strange voices when she’s alone in her apartment, Alicia decides to see a psychiatrist. She doesn’t tell Ben about it, not wanting to worry him. Johnny Storm and Crystal begin having sex, and though she sees no shame in it, he insists they try to be discreet. Crystal’s chaperone, Triton, is satisfied that she has acted in accordance with the Inhumans’ moral code and returns to the Great Refuge, feeling his presence is no longer required. One day, the Avengers call the Fantastic Four for help after Diablo steals the Dragon Man from Henry Pym’s laboratory, so Reed gives them the coordinates for Diablo’s castle in Transylvania.

February 1964 – The Fantastic Four are captured by Ronan the Accuser, a high official of the alien Kree, who sentences them to death for destroying Sentry #459 and the abandoned depot several weeks ago. Despite his fearsome Universal Weapon, the FF overwhelm Ronan and drive him off. Wounded in the fight by his own weapon, the Kree adjudicator does not return. The next day, the FF discover that Alicia has disappeared. Ben is frantic with worry while Reed methodically pursues his efforts to find out what happened to her. Using his experimental devices, Reed determines that she was taken from her apartment by a form of transdimensional teleportation. Another day passes as Reed assembles a new device that will enable them to follow Alicia to her unknown destination.

Finally, they are ready to go, but Reed insists that Sue remain behind in the Baxter Building. Unaware of Reed’s reasons, Johnny asks Crystal to stay with Sue. The teleportation device then takes the three men to an enormous research installation elsewhere in the world, where they battle a number of armed guards. The defeated guards reveal that Alicia has been taken into the caverns below the complex, so the FF race to her rescue. They find her being menaced by an immensely powerful creature lurking in the dank tunnels and rush her back to the teleportation terminal. The creature’s energy blasts start wrecking the installation, but the FF escape to the Baxter Building just in time.

Alicia is overcome with exhaustion after her ordeal, so the team takes her to the hospital for observation. There, she reveals that she was kidnapped by a group of four famous scientists bent on world domination: Maris Morlak, Wladyslav Shinski, Carlo Zota, and Jerome Hamilton. Reed is shocked, as all four are believed to have been dead for twenty years. Alicia reports that they faked their deaths and retreated to their hidden research complex to attempt to create a powerful artificial lifeform to serve them. They were successful, but could not control the creature, which was just about to emerge from its cocoon when the FF rescued her. Reed is curious what sort of creature it was and what became of it. However, Ben insists that Reed redouble his efforts to cure him of being the Thing so he and Alicia can have a normal life together. Having recently come upon a promising new avenue of research, Reed agrees. He contacts the world-renowned physician José Santini and invites him to the Baxter Building at his earliest convenience.

March 1964 – When Sue suddenly faints one evening, Reed announces that she is going to have a baby. Johnny, Crystal, Alicia, and Ben cannot contain their excitement. Thus, Reed elects to remain behind when Ben and Johnny go to investigate the theft of a large package from Alicia’s apartment. A frightening figure calling himself the Psycho-Man and his three accomplices had taken the package after debilitating the Thing with some kind of fear ray. As the thieves made their escape, Alicia overheard them bragging that they would now be able to control the emotions of everyone on the planet. Fortuitously, Triton arrives with Lockjaw just then to check on how Crystal is doing, so Ben and Johnny recruit his help in tracking down Psycho-Man.

Lockjaw teleports the Human Torch, the Thing, and Triton directly to Psycho-Man’s hidden base, where they are surprised to find the rest of the Inhumans and the Black Panther are already battling the villains. Together, they overcome fearsome illusions and destroy Psycho-Man’s weapons, learning in the process that he has come from the “sub-atomic” realm called the Microverse to conquer the earth for colonization. When Psycho-Man is defeated, the heroes are unsure whether their microscopic foe has escaped back to his own world or is trapped somewhere within his damaged armor. Lockjaw returns Ben and Johnny to the Baxter Building. After hearing their report, Reed immediately begins devising a means to explore the Microverse.

The Human Torch agrees to appear in a film directed by Federico Fellini, but while shooting on location in Manhattan, Johnny is attacked by Spider-Man, who mistakenly believes the Torch has gone berserk. Their well-documented fight becomes a media sensation, and, a few days later, the Torch is contacted by Paragon Studios in Hollywood with an offer to make a feature film out of the incident. Johnny agrees and goes out to Los Angeles. Meeting Spider-Man outside the studio, the two hot-headed heroes agree to try to get along for the duration of the project. But, while Johnny is in his trailer studying his script, Spider-Man suddenly attacks him. They battle on one of the soundstages until they realize they’ve been set up. They flush out the villains behind the plot, the Wizard and Mysterio. After their foes are defeated, the Torch collects the reward money for their capture and gives half to Spider-Man. Learning that Paragon Studios was just an elaborate front for the Wizard’s scheme, Johnny returns to New York. Meanwhile, fretting about the effect pregnancy will have on her appearance and hoping to keep her husband’s interest, Sue designs a miniskirt version of her FF uniform.

Several days later, after Reed has made the necessary preparations, José Santini arrives to try to cure the Thing. As the two scientists work throughout the day, Reed becomes concerned when Santini displays an unaccountable carelessness. Sue also feels suspicious of their guest, but since she can’t explain why, she keeps it to herself. Finally, they are ready to begin and Ben is subjected to a series of chemical and radiological treatments. At the critical moment, though, Santini adjusts the controls, producing unexpected results. Ben remains the Thing, but has been changed into a murderous, paranoid menace. He immediately attacks Reed, Sue, and Johnny as Santini gloats. Reed orders Johnny to take Sue and Crystal to the safety of a nearby police station while he faces Ben alone. The ensuing battle carries the former friends into the streets outside the Baxter Building. Reed’s attempts to reason with Ben are fruitless, and Ben knocks the Torch unconscious when he tries to rejoin the fight. Aboard a police helicopter, Sue enables Reed to get away from Ben by turning him invisible. The Thing slips into the evening shadows as the rest of the FF regroup at the police station.

Reed deduces that Santini is an imposter, and is really the Mad Thinker in disguise. Thus, he leads the police in a search of the Thinker’s last known hideouts in the city, and they soon discover the real José Santini. Reed stops the Mad Thinker from killing Santini and batters the villain into unconsciousness. The police take him into custody and escort Santini to his hotel, while Reed and Johnny prepare to hunt down Ben. However, the Thing finds them first and attacks. Reed is able to lead them back to the Baxter Building before Ben can kill him. Once there, he shocks the Thing into unconsciousness with his menta-wave unit. Fearing their teammate is dead, Reed and Johnny collapse in exhaustion. Suddenly, the Mad Thinker’s most powerful android smashes through the wall just as Sue enters the room. Sue avoids the green android’s initial attacks by turning invisible. Then, the Thing revives and proves to be back to normal, though his memory of the last day is rather hazy. However, the android quickly defeats the Thing and the Human Torch. It is on the verge of killing Mr. Fantastic with its disintegrator ray when he manages to open the portal to the Negative Zone. The android is sucked through the dimensional barrier and flung into the antimatter universe with no way to return. In the aftermath of the battle, Reed realizes the Baxter Building is too dangerous for his pregnant wife, and announces that he and Sue must take a leave of absence.

April 1964 – Reed and Sue take a transcontinental train out to California, leaving Ben, Johnny, and Crystal to look after things at the Baxter Building. Then, the Watcher suddenly appears at their headquarters and warns Ben and Johnny that the Silver Surfer is preparing to attack the human race in a misguided attempt to unite the world against a common foe. While the Torch and the Thing do their best to battle the Surfer in Manhattan, the Watcher materializes in front of the train, bringing it safely to a halt, and explains the situation to Reed and Sue. Though Sue wants to accompany her husband, Reed forbids it, so the Watcher teleports Reed back to New York alone. Mister Fantastic and the Human Torch regroup in the Baxter Building and locate the Silver Surfer heading straight for Washington, DC. They pursue him in the Pogo Plane, picking the Thing up on the way. The trio learns en route that the military has launched its experimental Sonic Shark missile, which Reed believes may be powerful enough to kill the Surfer. They intercept the missile before it reaches its target and Ben knocks it off course, causing it to explode harmlessly in the upper atmosphere. The Silver Surfer is willing to listen to them, and the FF convince him to abandon his scheme. He agrees to leave the human race in peace. Finally, Johnny and Ben return to New York and Reed meets up with Sue in California. While there, Reed continues to collaborate with José Santini through correspondence, and they make significant progress on a cure for Ben. After a couple of weeks, Reed decides he must return to his laboratories in New York, and Sue insists on coming with him.

May 1964 – While Sue is alone in the Baxter Building one day, she admits a visitor she believes is Daredevil. However, upon entering he reveals himself to be the Trapster in disguise. She is rescued by the real Daredevil, who disposes of the Trapster’s bomb before Reed and Johnny return. The FF are grateful for his help and reminisce about how they fought Doctor Doom together a year ago. Daredevil reveals he has hypersensitive hearing when he detects the Trapster returning on his anti-grav platform. The Torch takes off after the Trapster, but DD insists it’s his fight. Reed agrees and calls off the Torch. Daredevil leaps aboard the anti-grav platform, and their battle carries them away from the Baxter Building.

A couple hours later, after the Thing has returned, the FF receive a call on their secret radio frequency from Doctor Doom, claiming to be Daredevil. He warns them that Doom switched bodies with him, and is coming to destroy them disguised as Daredevil. Reed thinks the story is plausible, based on Doom’s past schemes. To be on the safe side, Reed has Crystal take Sue out of the city. An hour or so later, they receive a second call from Daredevil, saying the disguised Doom will soon attack the Baxter Building. The Torch scouts the area and sees Daredevil approaching across the rooftops. Daredevil manages to knock Johnny unconscious, then fights with Reed and Ben at the Baxter Building, trying to convince them he’s the real Daredevil. The problem grows when Thor and Spider-Man intervene and the FF can’t be sure they’re not impostors too. Thus, the Thing battles Thor, the Torch goes after Spider-Man, and Mr. Fantastic continues the battle with Daredevil. The Baxter Building suffers extensive damage in the melee. Though Reed begins to second-guess himself during the fight, he realizes he can’t take the chance of trusting DD before he has subdued him. Finally, Sue arrives and stops the fight with her invisible force fields. She has heard on the news that Doctor Doom just arrived in Latveria to meet with his ministers to rescind the declaration of war he ordered a little over an hour before, thus Daredevil must be who he says he is. There are no hard feelings, and Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Thor go their separate ways.

While making repairs to their headquarters, the FF learn from the Silver Surfer that Galactus is returning for his former herald, which indicates that the world-devourer is starving and desperate. Sure enough, Galactus’s drone, the Punisher, soon attacks them. The Human Torch and the Thing hold him off while the Surfer goes into hiding. Meanwhile, in a hotel across town, Reed is trying to convince Sue to leave the city until the baby is born, due to the constant threat of their many enemies. Looking out the window, Crystal notices the Torch’s aerial battle with the Punisher and signals Reed. Keeping Sue in the dark, he rushes off to join the fight. The three teammates are unable to defeat the Punisher, but suddenly, the strange robotic creature vanishes into thin air. Then they see a search beam from space scanning the city. Reed realizes it is Galactus looking for the Silver Surfer himself. Unable to locate the Surfer, Galactus attacks the FF, creating crude but powerful doppelgängers of Reed, Ben, and Johnny to fight them. The FF manage to defeat their doubles by switching foes, forcing Galactus to contact them directly with a telepathic ultimatum. He threatens to send a large planetoid crashing into the earth unless they hand over the Surfer. With no other option, Reed agrees, and they track the fugitive alien into the Microverse using an exploration capsule Reed had only just finished.

Reed, Ben, and Johnny soon catch up to the Silver Surfer, but he easily drives them off and outdistances them. Undeterred, the FF continue their pursuit, until they are attacked by an indestructible android. The battle takes place on a planetoid with stronger gravity than Earth’s, putting the FF at a disadvantage. Their unspeaking foe counters their every move, and the frustrated FF realize that time is running out. Reed yells to his partners to go find the Surfer while he holds off the android, willing to sacrifice himself so the earth may be saved. Suddenly, the android is disintegrated. The Silver Surfer, standing on a nearby ridge, announces that he had returned to watch their defeat, but was moved by their selfless heroics. He volunteers to return to Earth and surrender himself to Galactus rather than allow the earth to be destroyed. As the Surfer flashes off into the void, Reed says they need to take this opportunity to track down Psycho-Man, which was his main reason for wanting to explore the Microverse. They can never rest easy while Psycho-Man remains a threat. However, Psycho-Man soon captures them and transports them to his stronghold, where he taunts them with artificial versions of himself. They finally confront the real Psycho-Man, clad in a new suit of battle armor. Reed ends the battle by convincing Psycho-Man that if Galactus destroys the earth, the Microverse will be destroyed along with it. Not wanting to waste time, Psycho-Man transports them directly to the Baxter Building using his own technology.

Reed, Ben, and Johnny materialize back in their headquarters and realize that the Silver Surfer was successful; the earth has been saved from the threat of Galactus. Crystal informs them that Sue has been taken to the hospital after suffering some complications, though her condition is now stable. Reed is very concerned when he learns that Sue’s doctors have determined that the residual cosmic radiation in her body is having an adverse effect on her pregnancy. Meanwhile, Ben and Johnny keep themselves busy by finishing the repairs to their headquarters and getting the Fantasti-Car back in service.

A few days later, Reed summons Ben and Johnny to the lab and announces that he believes he and José Santini have finally created a chemical formula that will cure Ben of being the Thing. The treatment causes Ben’s body to discharge a blast of cosmic radiation as he changes back to his human form. However, they are suddenly attacked by the Wizard sporting his latest weapon, a pair of deadly gauntlets he calls his “wonder gloves.” His first blast knocks out Ben, and his second attack sends the Torch crashing into a wall. Ben quickly regains consciousness and, forgetting he is no longer the Thing, leaps into the fray and attacks the Wizard. The villain easily defeats him, but Reed prevents the Wizard from killing Ben. The Torch is able to defeat his old foe with the help of the equipment in Reed’s laboratory, and confiscates his wonder gloves. Reed and Ben enter, having finally regained consciousness, but while they are talking to Johnny, the Wizard comes to and uses his anti-grav disc to escape out the window. Feeling useless, Ben asks if Reed can figure out a way for him to change into the Thing and back again at will, but Reed says that if he becomes the Thing one more time, the change will be permanent.

June 1964 – For several days, Ben procrastinates about calling Alicia, afraid of how she’ll react to him as just a normal man. Finally, he can put it off no longer and arranges to pick her up for a date. Due to his nervousness, he takes the wrong box with him, so instead of a gift for Alicia, he has the Wizard’s wonder gloves instead. While out to dinner, Ben convinces himself that Alicia is less attracted to him now that he’s not the Thing. Suddenly, they are attacked by a super-powerful android who has mistaken the energy signature of the wonder gloves as a homing beacon. Ben attacks him, but is no match for the artificial man, who reveals that he was created by the Mad Thinker. When the strange being menaces Alicia, Ben decides he must become the Thing again. He reasons that, since an energy surge turned him human, another energy surge will reverse the process. Thus, he dons the wonder gloves and gives himself a shock. He instantly changes back into the Thing and smashes the android to a pulp. The Human Torch soon arrives on the scene and is shocked to find the Thing, but Ben downplays his transformation.

Meanwhile, Sue is being kept in the hospital for observation, and Reed works with her doctors to research the effects the cosmic radiation in her body is having on her pregnancy. Reed begins to worry about the very real possibility that their child will be born a mutant, but he can’t bring himself to tell Sue about it. Nevertheless, she senses that he is hiding something from her. Later, after hearing Ben’s account of how he changed back into the Thing, Reed conducts extensive tests on the wonder gloves, but can find no means by which they could have caused it. He is further puzzled that Ben seems less depressed than before. A few weeks later, Ben celebrates his 39th birthday, and Reed and Johnny both wonder why he seems so happy to be the Thing.

July 1964 – At a Fourth of July picnic at Avengers Mansion, Reed tells Captain America about Doctor Doom’s time machine, still at Doom’s remote castle in the Adirondack Mountains. However, he warns Cap against trying to use it due to the unpredictability of time travel. A few days afterward, Reed, Ben, and Johnny are paid a surprise visit by Spider-Man, who is desperate to get to Algeria. Reed has been meaning to take a Stark Industries air-car prototype for a shakedown cruise and sees this as a perfect opportunity. He flies Spidey to Africa and drops him off over the Casbah in Algiers, then turns around and flies home. Reed is pleased with the vehicle’s performance and submits a positive review to Stark.

Later, Johnny receives a letter from Wyatt Wingfoot, who is spending his summer vacation back home in Oklahoma. He requests the FF’s help as his tribe is being attacked by a mysterious menace. Thus, Reed, Ben, and Johnny take the Pogo Plane and fly out to the Keewazi Indian Reservation, where they meet Wyatt’s grandfather, Chief Silent Fox. The chief tells them the tribe has been threatened of late by the angry god Tomazooma. They have also been harassed by the Red Star Oil Company, which seeks to acquire the tribe’s oil fields, the source of their great wealth. The FF then find one of the oil fields has been set on fire by the gigantic armored form of Tomazooma, but during the battle they determine that it is actually just a robot. With the help of Wyatt’s tribe, the FF destroy the robot. Silent Fox then announces that the Red Star Oil Company has been exposed as a front for Soviet espionage and ordered shut down by the American government. The Keewazi lands are safe and their faith in the true Tomazooma is undiminished. And so, after visiting with Wyatt for a while, Reed, Ben, and Johnny return to New York. Soon after, they have a party in the hospital to celebrate Sue’s 25th birthday, though her condition is worsening.

August 1964 – As Sue’s health deteriorates, Reed determines that the antidote to the cosmic radiation affecting her pregnancy can only be found in the Negative Zone. But when Reed, Ben, and Johnny enter the strange dimension to search for it, they are immediately captured by a murderous, armor-clad, insectoid despot called Annihilus, who confiscates the jetpacks they need to maneuver in the Negative Zone. Reed realizes that the source of Annihilus’ power is the cosmic control rod he wears at his throat, and it is exactly what he needs to save Sue and the baby. And so, in escaping from the villain’s deathtraps, the Thing knocks Annihilus out and Reed takes the cosmic control rod. They make a hasty escape and head back to the dimensional boundary, with Annihilus in hot pursuit. When they all become trapped in the matter/antimatter annihilation area, Reed strikes a bargain with Annihilus to return the cosmic control rod in exchange for their jetpacks. Desperate, Annihilus agrees and, after Reed drains the rod’s energy into a receptacle he has brought with him, the exchange is made. The FF jet back to the dimensional interface and seal the portal behind them. Then they race to the hospital where Reed administers the treatment to Sue. The childbirth begins to proceed normally, so Reed is ushered into the waiting room. After several hours, the doctor announces that the delivery was successful and mother and son are doing fine. A crowd of reporters descends on the waiting room to record the happy moment. Then, Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Crystal go into the maternity ward to meet the newest member of their family.

Sue remains in the hospital for several days for recovery and observation. Crystal, who is frustrated by the way the others constantly try to keep her out of danger, decides she will replace the Invisible Girl on the FF, hoping their attitude will change if she is a full-fledged member of the team. Thus, she designs a modified blue uniform for herself. However, Johnny and Reed are initially resistant to the idea. But then, the Baxter Building comes under attack by the Wizard, who has created a new, more-powerful set of wonder gloves. His first act is to destroy the original pair from afar. The Human Torch flies out to intercept him, but the Wizard battles him to a standstill. Reed, Ben, and Crystal soon arrive in the Fantasti-Car, driving the Wizard to the riverfront. Intent on proving herself, Crystal takes the lead and uses her elemental powers to batter the Wizard until he decides to retreat. Though the villain manages to escape again, the three male members of the FF are very impressed with Crystal’s abilities and welcome her officially to the team.

After the shocking suicide of presidential candidate Paul Destine, his ancient Helmet of Power is taken by the police and turned over to the government for study. The Thing is enlisted to safely deliver the helmet to Washington, DC. However, the Sub-Mariner claims the helmet is an Atlantean artifact and wrests it from the Thing after an epic battle. Ben is helpless to prevent Namor from taking the helmet down into the ocean depths. Shortly afterwards, Sue brings the baby home from the hospital, and they work on trying to come up with a name for him. Then, Reed celebrates his 42nd birthday.

September 1964 – The Fantastic Four are invited to the wedding of the Wasp and Yellowjacket, which is being held at Avengers Mansion. Sue and Crystal help the Wasp get ready before the ceremony. Reed, Ben, and Johnny mingle with the other guests, who include Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Vision, the Black Knight, the Black Panther, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Cyclops, Marvel Girl, Angel, Iceman, Beast, and Nick Fury. The ceremony is brief and straightforward, but the reception is interrupted when a giant python bursts out of the wedding cake. Reed volunteers to help, but the Avengers ask their guests to step out for a while so they can deal with the situation. About half an hour later, the police arrive to take the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime into custody. The guests are surprised to discover that the mysterious Yellowjacket is none other than Hank Pym, the Wasp’s long-time beau. Not long after, while the Hulk is on a rampage in New York, Reed is asked by Air Force personnel to finish designing a weapon started by Bruce Banner months ago, intended for just such an emergency. Reed agrees, and soon has the weapon constructed and hands it over to Major Glenn Talbot and Rick Jones. Reed has grave concerns that the device might kill Banner while neutralizing his green-skinned alter-ego. After learning that the device was only temporarily successful, Reed decides to keep working on a solution for the problem of the Hulk.

Crystal decides she must return to the Great Refuge to obtain official permission from Black Bolt to be a full-time member of the Fantastic Four. However, Lockjaw suddenly materializes, followed by a horde of Alpha Primitives, the Inhumans’ worker drones, who kidnap Crystal. Reed, Ben, and Johnny fly to the Himalayas aboard their passenger missile, but are immediately attacked by a large robot called Zorr. The robot reveals that it serves Maximus, who has once again usurped the throne from Black Bolt, confirming the FF’s fears. Zorr quickly overpowers the FF and leaves them trapped. Reed soon theorizes that their prison is illusory, resulting from some form of hypnotic field, which enables them to escape and defeat Zorr. They hear a chanting crowd and look out a window into the main square. They see Maximus, in full regalia, addressing his subjects. He proclaims himself Emperor Eternal and boasts that his latest weapon, a giant Hypno-Gun, will make everyone on earth his helpless slaves before he turns it on the stars and conquers the universe. Suddenly, Crystal and the rest of the royal family appear, having escaped from Maximus’ traps. Crystal unleashes a shockwave that shatters the Hypno-Gun, and Maximus decides to flee with his band of loyal followers. Black Bolt reclaims his rightful position and calms the outraged populace. The FF join them outside in time to witness Maximus’ escape rocket blasting off. It soon disappears into the sky, but the Inhumans know that someday Maximus will return to plague them again. Black Bolt grants his permission for Crystal to join the FF.

On their way home, the Fantastic Four are intercepted by S.H.I.E.L.D. fighter jets and directed to a secret base elsewhere in Asia. There they are briefed by Colonel Nick Fury himself, along with his trusty right-hand man, “Dum-Dum” Dugan. Fury asks the FF to investigate rumors of a secret army of robots being created by Doctor Doom. Reed agrees to help, and so the FF are air-lifted to Hungary, where they cross the border into Latveria by car. They are immediately attacked by Doom’s armored soldiers and gassed into unconsciousness. The FF wake up the next morning in a luxurious inn in a small walled village in the shadow of the imposing Castle Doom. The FF are perplexed by this show of hospitality. As they leave the inn, they are met by the mayor, who declares a fiesta in their honor. Though the villagers participate in the celebration, the FF can see they are merely going through the motions out of fear. To force Doom to show his hand, Reed makes a run for it but is brought down by a stun blast. A video monitor rises from a hidden alcove and Doom announces that he has stripped the FF of their powers, and they shall be his helpless subjects for the rest of their lives.

Later that day, a grim announcement is made—Doctor Doom’s new robot army is out of control and heading straight for the village. The FF realize this is a field test of Doom’s new robots, and he is willing to sacrifice the entire village to put his artificial soldiers through their paces. Reed rallies the villagers to mount a defense while he tries to hack into Doom’s own defensive systems. As the robot army descends, the FF find their powers gradually returning as Doom’s hypnotic conditioning wears off. However, Ben and Johnny prove no match for the robot horde, and the cache of weapons the villagers find proves useless. They fall back to the town hall to make their last stand. After finally locating a control unit for Doom’s defense grid, Reed manages to destroy the robot army using the dictator’s own weapons. Suddenly, the village is annihilated in a tremendous explosion as Doom detonates a powerful bomb. But to everyone’s surprise, the building the FF and the villagers are in is left untouched. Stepping outside, they discover the Invisible Girl, who shielded them with her force-field. Sue says she forced Nick Fury to tell her where they were, left the baby with Alicia, and rushed to their aid. Then, as the villagers flee into the hills, Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, and Crystal head straight to Castle Doom for the showdown.

As soon as they arrive, the villain captures Sue and Crystal, leaving the men to storm the castle. Inside, Doctor Doom invites the pair to an elaborate formal dinner, playing the perfect host, much to their consternation. Meanwhile, Reed, Ben, and Johnny make it into the castle, and pass through an art gallery filled with masterpieces from all over the globe. There they find Fury’s missing S.H.I.E.L.D. agent being threatened by one of Doom’s underlings with a flame-thrower. The former Nazi, Gustav Hauptmann, is about to incinerate the entire gallery in an attempt to kill his foes, when he suddenly dies screaming. Sue and Crystal meet up with their teammates moments later and tell them that Doom killed Hauptmann to save his art collection. The dictator then summarily dismissed them, promising them safe passage out of the country. Confused but not surprised by Doom’s incredible arrogance, the FF and the secret agent depart. On the way home, Reed reports to Fury that Doom’s robot army has been destroyed.

Upon returning to New York, Sue announces that, while they were away, she found an unusual little house out in the country to serve as the Richards family residence. The team flies out in the Fantasti-Car to take a look. The remote structure proves to be more bizarre than they expected, but despite the strange underground design, it seems to suit their unique needs. Reed is hesitant to commit to the purchase, but Sue thinks it’s perfect. Then, early one morning, a mysterious intruder steals Reed’s latest energy weapon, the “Space Scrambler.” Johnny chases the thief into the sky, but can’t fly high enough or fast enough to catch up. Reed is frustrated by how easily their security was breached. Soon after, the Thing hears a nationwide radio broadcast by an unidentified villain demanding a ransom or he will blackout the entire country. Ben turns off the radio, thinking it must be a prank. A few days later, the FF celebrate Johnny’s 20th birthday.

Believing that he has developed a means to cure Bruce Banner of being the Hulk, Reed makes an announcement to the mass media, hoping that Banner will see the headlines and come to Baxter Building. That very night, the Hulk smashes his way into their headquarters. During the battle, Crystal and Sue see a small pouch on the floor that had been tied to the Hulk’s waist. Opening it, they find a handwritten chemical formula scrawled by Banner at some point. They finally manage to subdue the Hulk and strap him into the apparatus Reed has prepared. He works Banner’s ideas into the process and by morning he is ready to activate the device. The machine breaks the Hulk down into his component molecules, treats them, and then reassembles them into the form of Bruce Banner. Revived, Banner is eager to leave and does not want to subject himself to the battery of tests Reed advises. To Reed’s surprise, Banner demonstrates that his additions to the formula will not prevent him from becoming the Hulk, but will instead allow him to control the transformation and maintain his own intellect while in the Hulk’s form. Ben convinces his teammates to leave Banner alone, and Reed is satisfied that the experiment was a success. They wish Banner good luck and he leaves.

October 1964 – Sue talks Reed into purchasing the weird house in the country, and they begin moving their things out of the team’s headquarters. However, as the move progresses, each member of the FF begins to experience severe eye-strain, and they all visit an optometrist whose office is in the Baxter Building, though none of them wants to mention it to the others. After Sue serves her first home-cooked meal at the new house, the FF are suddenly struck blind and attacked by the Mole Man, who reveals the building is actually part of a gigantic machine he has constructed to cause a worldwide epidemic of blindness. Despite their disability, the FF defeat the Mole Man and destroy his blindness ray. They recover their sight, though Reed is badly wounded in the battle and requires CPR. While he’s recovering, the Mole Man escapes and causes the house to self-destruct. The FF get out just in the nick of time.

Returning to the city, the Thing is kidnapped by a Skrull slaver who disguises himself as Reed Richards. The FF become worried when Ben fails to return to the Baxter Building, and they immediately initiate an exhaustive search. While hunting through the city, the Human Torch happens upon Spider-Man battling the Lizard. Seeing that Spidey’s in trouble, the Torch decides to lend a hand, although his heroic rival keeps telling him to get lost. As the Lizard continues his rampage, the Torch can’t understand why Spider-Man seems determined to go easy on the monstrous menace. The battle leads them to the waterfront, where the Lizard is finally defeated. The Torch is ready to have it out with Spider-Man once and for all, but Spidey tells him his “spider-sonic hearing” detected a distress call from the Fantastic Four. Thinking there is news of Ben, Johnny speeds back to the Baxter Building, only to learn that the web-spinner has duped him. Extremely angry, the Torch goes looking for Spider-Man, but fails to locate him again.

Meanwhile, the Thing is transported to the Andromeda Galaxy and learns that he has been abducted to serve as a slave in the Skrull equivalent of the gladiatorial arena. He is taken to the planet Kral, which Ben is shocked to find is a recreation of Prohibition-era Chicago gangland culture. He learns from a guard that, on a visit to Earth in the 1930s, a Skrull slaver captured notorious gangster Machine-Gun Martin, and the Skrulls were so amused by his antics that they based their entertainment world on the stories he told. Despite all his efforts to escape, the Thing is purchased by a Skrull calling himself “Boss Barker” and sent to fight other aliens in the arena. In the training center, he gets to know his scheduled opponent, Torgo, a mechanical life form. Torgo reveals that if the slaves refuse to fight, their home planets will be destroyed by the Skrull’s weapons. During their match, Ben tries to talk Torgo out of fighting and turning on their alien masters.

On Earth, various clues lead Reed to believe that Ben was most likely kidnapped by a Skrull, and so he preps their interstellar flying saucer for a second voyage to the Andromeda Galaxy. He orders Sue to remain at home with the baby and takes Johnny and Crystal on the mission. Once in space, Reed is able to track the energy signature of the slave ship’s radiation emissions, and it leads them straight to Kral. Near the planet, they intercept the slave ship and board it, forcing the pilot to reveal the Thing’s location. Entering the city, the FF disguise themselves as gangsters to blend in and reach the arena just as Torgo refuses to deliver the killing blow. To punish him, the Skrulls activate their planet-destroying weapon, but Crystal shatters it with a shockwave. With the weapon destroyed, Torgo frees the other combatants and they massacre the Skrulls. The FF slip out in the confusion and make it back to their saucer. Ben is grateful to his friends as they jump into hyperspace and head for home. A few days later, the Fantastic Four have a strange experience as they are all suddenly overcome by an all-consuming determination, as feelings of sympathy and mercy well up within them, followed by a deep-seated desire for freedom and a sense of needing to right the wrongs of centuries. Finally, a wave of courage and decency washes over them, and then their minds clear. They are at a loss to explain what has just happened.

Then, a week before Halloween, Reed and Sue announce that they have named the baby Franklin Benjamin Richards. They have also hired a child-rearing expert to care for Franklin at her remote mansion on Whisper Hill in upstate New York. The FF fly up there in the Fantasti-Car and Agatha Harkness meets them at the door with her cat, Ebony. As a bad storm has rolled in, she invites them to spend the night. However, as the team is getting ready for bed, they are attacked by the Frightful Four. The Wizard, Sandman, and the Trapster manage to imprison the unsuspecting heroes, but then Medusa turns on the villains and attempts to rescue her friends. She is subdued by the Trapster’s paste. Suddenly, Agatha Harkness confronts them and easily defeats all three criminals with her sorcery. The FF and Medusa suddenly find themselves free and their enemies all unconscious. Rushing upstairs, they discover Agatha Harkness knitting in her rocking chair with Franklin sound asleep in his bassinette. Reed and Sue are reassured that their baby is in good hands, though Ben is a bit disturbed by the suggestion that Agatha Harkness may be a witch. On the way back from Whisper Hill, the FF are prevented from entering Manhattan by a force field over the city, created by the international crime cartel Zodiac. Several hours later, the force field dissolves, and the FF learn that Daredevil and the Avengers have dealt with the crisis and captured the crooks.

November 1964 – Following the controversial presidential election, the Fantastic Four are recruited to guard the delegates at a special meeting of the United Nations. Reed, Sue, and Ben patrol the area in the Fantasti-Car, but they are attacked by an unseen assailant with a disintegrator beam. Analyzing the damage to the Fantasti-Car, Reed creates a means of countering the weapon. They flush out the assassin at the UN building, neutralize his disintegrator weapon, and apprehend him. Calling himself the Monocle, the enemy agent refuses to divulge who he’s working for. Meanwhile, Lockjaw brings Medusa to the Baxter Building to take Crystal back to the Great Refuge, by royal order of Black Bolt. Johnny argues with them about it, but, though she doesn’t want to go, Crystal obeys. Lockjaw and the two sisters dematerialize, leaving Johnny angry and sullen.

A few days later, Ben and Johnny try to stop a bank robber calling himself Janus, the Nega-Man, but are soundly defeated. While recovering at the Baxter Building, they fill Reed in on the situation, but they unexpectedly receive a call from Janus, who turns out to be an old college classmate of Reed’s. Ben and Johnny are surprised by the drastic change in their foe’s demeanor; where before he had been bellicose, he is now almost meek. The transmission is cut off when Janus is attacked, so Reed decides to split their forces. He sends Ben and Johnny to patrol the city in case the Nega-Man should strike again, while he and Sue go to visit Janus in the suburbs. Once there, Reed’s suspicions are confirmed as he learns that Janus was conducting experiments with energies derived from the Negative Zone and accidently created the Nega-Man, his evil doppelgänger. When the Nega-Man returns after besting the Torch and the Thing a second time, Janus takes out a gun and shoots his insane double, causing him to dissolve into crackling energy. The crisis solved, Reed and Sue return to New York, leaving Janus to his own tortured thoughts.

Later, Ben, Sue, and Johnny are captured by android doubles created by the Mad Thinker. Luckily, Reed overcomes his double and storms their headquarters to free the Thing. Ben smashes the androids as Reed captures the Mad Thinker, forcing him to reveal how he bypassed their security. They find a secret passage leading to the basement of the Baxter Building, which Reed realizes could only have been installed while they were in Latveria. On the building’s lowest level, they discover the Thinker’s lair, defeat his henchmen, and free Sue and Johnny from stasis tubes. The Mad Thinker is then turned over to the police. A day or so afterwards, the FF are visited by a military officer who asks them to track down the Silver Surfer to assist with the American space program. However, the Surfer misinterprets their intentions, believing they are trying to capture him. The Human Torch pursues the Surfer all over New York, trying to get him to listen to reason, but the Surfer is too angry at the apparent betrayal. The chase ends when the Surfer blasts the Torch into unconsciousness in a subway station and disappears. Soldiers revive the Torch, who observes that the Silver Surfer must hate humanity more than they thought.

Reed and Sue take Franklin on a vacation to Florida, accompanied by Ben and Johnny. Reed is contacted by the U.S. Navy and asked to investigate a number of reports of a monster sinking ships in the area around Lost Lagoon. Reed agrees on the condition that he gets to try out the Navy’s new air-sea cruiser from Stark Industries. Reed hires a dolphin-handler from the Lost Lagoon Oceanarium who exhibits superhuman skill in the water to guide them on an expedition to the underwater caves in the area. At the bottom of the lagoon, he destroys their vessel and swims off, but the FF manage to find an air-filled cavern before they drown. There they encounter the monster they are looking for and Ben battles him. However, they soon discover that the monster is merely an alien castaway trying to protect his mate while repairing their spacecraft. The aliens leave Earth, and Reed regrets that they were unable to communicate with them. Upon returning to the Baxter Building, he immediately begins working on a device to translate alien languages.

After months of frustrating setbacks, NASA finally launches their first manned mission to the moon. In his lab, Reed intercepts a transmission from space that he recognizes as being of Kree origin. Though his universal translator is still in its initial stages, he manages to decipher a single word: “tranquility.” Its meaning eludes him until he sees a headline in Ben’s newspaper about the Apollo 11 mission landing on the moon’s Sea of Tranquility. He speculates that the Kree are planning to disrupt the moon landing to keep the human race earthbound. Reed, Ben, and Johnny trace the signal to an uncharted island in the Pacific Ocean, where they find Kree Sentry #9168 operating a strange device. The device is sending an energy beam directly to the Apollo 11 landing site, no doubt to some sinister purpose. After defeating the Sentry, the Thing demolishes the machine. It causes a chain reaction that destroys the entire island, and the FF escape to their rocket ship just in time. As they launch into the sky, they see the Sentry beating a hasty retreat. Back in New York, the team hears reports that the moon landing occurred with no problems.

Reed initiates a project to capture and cure the Hulk and recruits Tony Stark and Charles Xavier to work on it with him. They meet with Air Force General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross, who arranges for them to have facilities set up at Hoover Dam. The three scientists then begin working on the project in close collaboration. Later, Reed uses his instruments to verify that the aerial phenomenon plaguing S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is in fact the Silver Surfer. He discusses the situation with Nick Fury over the visi-phone, but Fury is clear he doesn’t want the FF to interfere. When Reed gets a fix on the Surfer’s current location, he alerts S.H.I.E.L.D., then leaves it up to Fury’s agents to deal with the problem.

Fed up with being separated from Crystal, Johnny slips out one night and flies around the world to the Great Refuge in the Himalayas. Discovering his note the next day, Reed, Sue, and Ben follow him in one of their aircraft. Reaching his destination, the Torch confronts the royal family of the Inhumans. Crystal begs him to leave, but Johnny thinks she’s been brainwashed, so he fights with Medusa, Karnak, and Triton, refusing to listen to anything they have to say. Crystal blasts him to stop the fight, and Johnny takes it as a rejection. In a blind rage, he creates a massive fireball to destroy the palace. Luckily, the rest of the FF arrive at that moment, and Reed launches a cylinder to absorb the flames. Sue yells at Johnny and forces him to listen to Crystal’s explanation. It turns out that Black Bolt had been injured while conducting an experiment and they needed Crystal to administer micro-shockwaves to keep his heart beating until a cure could be devised. Gorgon arrives with a restorative serum for Black Bolt, and the shamefaced Johnny is reconciled with Crystal. The FF remain in Attilan for a few days while Black Bolt recovers his strength. They introduce the Inhumans to the traditions of Thanksgiving.

On the way home from the Himalayas, the FF’s aircraft is attacked while over the Middle East. Reed, Sue, Ben, Johnny, and Crystal bail out, and Crystal uses her elemental powers to give them a safe, slow descent. The FF inspect the wreckage of their airship, but are suddenly attacked by Kang the Conqueror and Doctor Doom. Crystal blasts a large tree, causing it to fall on the villainous pair. Moving in for a closer look, Reed realizes they are androids and deduces that they are once again being attacked by the Mad Thinker. Suddenly and in rapid succession, they are attacked by android doubles of a Kree Sentry, Dragon Man, the Sub-Mariner and his Atlantean legions, the Hate-Monger, Diablo, the Super-Skrull, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, the Wizard, Sandman, and the Trapster, but the FF defeat them all. Finally, they reach a nearby NATO base and hitch a ride home on a military jet.

Days later, the Fantastic Four must foil a plot by the international crime syndicate known as the Maggia to evict them from their headquarters and gain possession of all their technology. They unmask the Maggia leader known as the Top Man, who was disguised as one of the Baxter Building doormen, after he assassinates his own lieutenant, Gimlet, who was overseeing the takeover operation. Charged with murder, the Top Man’s scheme is foiled and the Baxter Building reverts to its previous owners.

December 1964 – Reed continues to collaborate with Tony Stark and Charles Xavier on their project to capture and cure the Hulk. He also continues his study of the Inhumans and their culture, showing his teammates a film he shot in the Great Refuge. Crystal admits she is worried about her family since their discovery by the outside world. Later, Reed and Sue take Franklin Christmas shopping. Johnny and Crystal dance to some music on the record player, but Ben has started to feel ill and decides to rest in his room with the newspaper. Soon, Ben discovers that Lockjaw is holding his door closed and he struggles to open it. When the door breaks off its hinges, Black Bolt and Karnak subdue Ben, shredding his bathrobe in the process. Medusa puts Crystal out of action with her hair while Gorgon takes on Johnny, quickly knocking him unconscious. Then, Reed and Sue return with the baby to find their residential wing a shambles. However, the Inhumans announce that their conflict has ended, explaining that the Great Refuge had suffered a missile attack for which the FF had been framed. While the rest of the royal family tried to capture the FF, Triton checked up on Maximus and discovered that he was the true culprit. By way of apology, Black Bolt repairs Ben’s bathrobe by manipulating its molecules, then Lockjaw takes the Inhumans back home. Their rash retaliatory action only makes Crystal more worried about the situation in the Great Refuge.

Ben’s illness gets worse and he is diagnosed with a bad case of the flu. Reed is concerned for Franklin’s health in the midst of the city-wide influenza epidemic, but the constant thunderstorms have discouraged him from flying back up to Whisper Hill. In the meantime, Reed uses his scientific know-how to fine-tune the recipe for Franklin’s baby formula. After the latest rainstorm clears up, the city is subjected to a stranger phenomenon, a storm of small pieces of metal that sweeps across town. Reed determines it is being caused by a magnetic force and traces its source to Atlantis. He sends a powerful sonic wave to the source as a warning. Suddenly, the magnetic force invades their headquarters, causing their own defensive systems to turn on them. Crystal destroys the machines with a shockwave. Angry, Ben launches a concussion missile at the source in retaliation. Reed takes him to task for his rash actions, and soon after, their long-range scanners detect a fleet of Atlantean warships heading for New York.

After contacting the Pentagon and the White House, Mister Fantastic convinces the government to give the Fantastic Four a chance to end the crisis before the military gets involved. He orders Sue to take Franklin to the safety of Whisper Hill, then tells Crystal to remain in the Baxter Building’s communication center to coordinate with the authorities while he, the Torch, and the Thing intercept the fleet. Crystal is angry at being left out of the fight again, but Johnny insists she comply. As the Fantasti-Car approaches the fleet, Namor’s flagship launches a missile at them, followed by the Sub-Mariner himself. Mister Fantastic explodes the missile harmlessly with an energy beam, but Namor is caught in the blast. The Thing leaps into the sea to fight with him, and Reed and Johnny soon join the fray as the Atlantean fleet leaves them behind. Meanwhile, as the Invisible Girl arrives in her aero-car to rendezvous with her teammates, the vehicle suddenly goes haywire. She is knocked out, captured, and taken inside the flagship. While fighting with Namor, the FF learn that both sides were manipulated into this conflict by Magneto, the infamous mutant terrorist. Then, they all discover that Magneto has seized control of Namor’s flagship and has taken both the Invisible Girl and Lady Dorma hostage.

The FF and the Sub-Mariner decide to join forces against Magneto. The evil mutant leads the Atlantean fleet into Upper New York Bay and starts bombing the city. He also uses the Atlanteans’ technology to greatly amplify his magnetic powers so he can disable the American military forces at long range, grounding jets, deflecting missiles, and causing destroyers to drift out of control. Though they feel powerless to stop Magneto, Reed convinces Namor to return to his fleet and pretend to serve the villain, until they have an opening to strike back. After apprising the President of the situation, Reed works furiously on a device to counteract Magneto’s powers. Meanwhile, in Central Park, Sue and Dorma are on display in transparent cylinders on either side of Magneto’s throne. Namor is outraged at this treatment of Dorma, but Magneto ignores him and orders the FF to come out and swear allegiance to him, the new overlord of the earth. When they do not appear, he sends Atlantean soldiers to storm the Baxter Building. While Ben, Johnny, and Crystal hold them off, Reed finishes his weapon. Then, they take it in the Fantasti-Car and meet Magneto in Central Park. Crystal causes a distraction that gives Reed a chance to activate his weapon, which turns Magneto’s power back on him. The Torch and Namor free Sue and Dorma from confinement, and then Namor orders his legions to withdraw and return to Atlantis. Defeated, Magneto is taken into custody by the American military. Finally, back in the Baxter Building, the Thing has a chance to relax and recover from his bout with the flu.

Crystal and Johnny continue to argue about her value to the team in combat, as she insists she’s easily as powerful as any of them and has been instrumental in their victories on a number of occasions. However, Johnny refuses to back down and so, fed up with his overprotective attitude, Crystal announces that she’s returning to the Great Refuge to spend a couple of weeks with her family. After she leaves, Johnny sinks into a funk of self-pity. With his project at Hoover Dam nearing completion, Reed suggests they spend their third annual Christmas vacation in Las Vegas. Thus, on Christmas Eve, Reed, Sue, Ben, and Alicia take the Fantasti-Car to pick up Franklin at Whisper Hill before heading out west. Johnny, not feeling the holiday spirit, decides to remain at the Baxter Building. His sulking is interrupted by Spider-Man, who has come to alert the FF that the Sandman has resurfaced. Comparing notes, the two heroes speculate that the Sandman must have a hideout somewhere in the vicinity of the George Washington Bridge, and they agree to team up to try and track him down. They finally trail the Sandman to a modest residence in Fort Lee, New Jersey, which the crook reveals is the home of his ailing mother. He plays on their sympathies and the heroes agree to give him five minutes alone with her. However, by the time they go in to check on him, he has escaped down the drain in the bathroom sink. Deciding to call it a night, Spider-Man goes off for a date with his girlfriend, leaving the Torch to return to the deserted Baxter Building. Realizing he’s been behaving foolishly, Johnny flies out to Las Vegas to join his teammates for Christmas morning.


Notes:

January 1964 – The FF’s adventures pick up again in Fantastic Four #65 and following. Reed lends the Avengers some tactical assistance in Avengers #42. During this time, the FF hear the worldwide broadcast of HYDRA’s ultimatum, as seen in Strange Tales #156.

February 1964 – The creature lurking in the caverns beneath the Enclave’s secret laboratory, referred to as “Him” in this story, will later be better known as Adam Warlock.

March 1964 – Reed and Sue’s big announcement, as well as the battle with Psycho-Man, is featured in Fantastic Four Annual #5. Then the Human Torch and Spider-Man tag-team the Wizard and Mysterio in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #4. Italian film director Federico Fellini, a Marvel fan and “close personal friend” of Stan Lee, is called “Bellini” in this story. Stan loves to tell the tale of Fellini’s surprise visit to the Marvel offices in 1965 and their mutual admiration for the other’s work.

May 1964 – Daredevil saves the FF from the Trapster and then briefly switches bodies with Doctor Doom in Daredevil #35–38. The story continues directly into Fantastic Four #73.

June 1964 – The story in Fantastic Four #79 is the basis for the theory, developed further by John Byrne 166 issues later, that Ben Grimm’s anxieties about his relationship with Alicia cause his body to reject all attempts to cure him of being the Thing. Ben believes that as a regular guy he is unworthy of Alicia’s love, and that she would surely leave him if he were no longer the Thing. Furthermore, it suggests that Ben was never truly trapped in his Thing form. Changing back to Ben Grimm was difficult, perhaps even physically painful, but he could have done it at any time—at will—just as his teammates could control their own powers. The crucial difference is that Ben believed he couldn’t. And after meeting Alicia, he didn’t want to, deep down. Thus, in this story, the wonder gloves actually have nothing to do with changing him back into the Thing beyond allowing him to believe that it could be done. They provide a sort of placebo effect, but that’s it. This incident would plant the seeds of the idea in Reed’s mind, but it would be several years before he worked out the truth. Later, when the Thing was living on the planet created by the Beyonder in Secret Wars, the psychological blocks were removed and he suddenly found he could change at will. This was because Alicia was on the other side of the universe and Ben was realizing on some level that their relationship was over. After returning to Earth, Ben had some ups and downs, but I believe he eventually mastered the ability to control his transformations.

July 1964 – Captain America mentions having discussed the time machine with Reed Richards in Avengers #56. Reed then helps Spider-Man with his travel plans in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #5.

August 1964 – The birth of Franklin Benjamin Richards occurs in Fantastic Four Annual #6, which also introduces the last great character created by the team of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Annihilus. The Thing battles the Sub-Mariner for possession of the Helmet of Power (actually the Serpent Crown) in Sub-Mariner #8.

September 1964 – The chaotic wedding of Janet Van Dyne and Henry Pym is chronicled in Avengers #60. Mister Fantastic helps the Air Force battle the Hulk in Hulk #105. The story of the FF’s first trip to Latveria in Fantastic Four #84–87 was Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s homage to The Prisoner, the hit British spy show that premiered on American TV during the summer of 1968. Eight years later, Kirby adapted the show into a comic book for Marvel. He wrote and penciled the first issue, but Stan Lee cancelled the project and it was never finished. The mysterious thief of the “Space Scrambler” was none other than the Silver Surfer, as seen in Silver Surfer #5. The Thing is unimpressed by Egghead’s ransom demands in Sub-Mariner #14. The FF attempt to cure Bruce Banner of being the Hulk in Hulk #122–123.

October 1964 – The Human Torch competes with Spider-Man to capture the Lizard in Amazing Spider-Man #76–77. The storyline featured in Fantastic Four #91–93, which has an alien planet imitating the Chicago gangsters of the 1920s, is clearly Stan & Jack’s homage to the Star Trek episode “A Piece of the Action,” which had premiered in mid-January 1968. Then they are part of Professor X’s worldwide consortium of righteous human minds that repel the approaching Z’Nox invasion fleet in Uncanny X-Men #65. The take-over of Manhattan orchestrated by Zodiac occurs in Avengers #82.

November 1964 – For more on the 1964 presidential election in the Original Marvel Universe, see OMU: POTUS -- Part Three. The Fantastic Four’s battle with the Nega-Man is seen in flashback in Fantastic Four #108. The Human Torch chases the Silver Surfer all over New York in Silver Surfer #15. The Apollo 11 mission to the moon, depicted in Fantastic Four #98, was ready five years earlier in the Original Marvel Universe than it was in the real world due to advanced technology from Stark Industries and others. Reed’s joint project with Tony Stark and Charles Xavier to cure the Hulk is revealed in Avengers #88, and he helps S.H.I.E.L.D. defend itself from the Silver Surfer in Silver Surfer #17. When the Fantastic Four are attacked by an army of android duplicates of their old foes in Fantastic Four #100, they immediately realize they are being attacked by... the Puppet Master! This is nonsensical, as the Puppet Master’s modus operandi was to control actual people’s minds using puppets created from radioactive clay. Android doppelgängers are the calling card of the Mad Thinker, as seen four issues previously. Actually, the Mad Thinker and the Puppet Master were working together, and I think Stan just got a little confused.

December 1964 – Maximus the Mad frames the Fantastic Four for a missile attack on the Great Refuge in Amazing Adventures #1–2. Fantastic Four #102, which starts off the classic Sub-Mariner / Magneto team-up / double-cross story, turned out to be Jack Kirby’s last issue. After Kirby quit, John Romita had to be brought in at the last minute to finish up the tale in the next two issues. Romita drew the President to look like Richard Nixon, who was in office at the time, but this is a topical reference. This brings us up to Fantastic Four #104. The Thing is seen recuperating after the battle in Sub-Mariner #31, and then the Human Torch and Spider-Man have themselves a Sandman little Christmas in Marvel Team-Up #1. Johnny’s fight with Crystal happens behind the scenes before the story begins.




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