OMU: Fantastic Four -- Year Three

Marvel’s flagship title, Fantastic Four, was hyped as “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,” but after making an initial splash with its daring new take on the superhero genre, it seemed to become somewhat moribund due primarily to sub-par inking. Jack Kirby’s powerful pencils were ill-served by the sloppy rush-jobs turned in by George Roussos and Vince Colletta, and, to a lesser extent, Chic Stone. As the art suffered, the stories seemed to follow suit. The title was in a definite slump. Also, the companion series in Strange Tales, which focused on the Human Torch and the Thing, became increasingly silly and juvenile. Then, in the summer of 1965, Joe Sinnott took over the inking chores and the book seemed to suddenly hit warp speed. In rapid succession, we were introduced to the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, Galactus, Wyatt Wingfoot, the Black Panther, and the Negative Zone. Even stories featuring relatively lame villains, like the Sandman, or no villain at all, were bursting with a new dynamism. Kirby’s design work grew increasingly complex and innovative as Sinnott lent weight and dimension to the world they were depicting. In response, writer/editor Stan Lee pulled out all the stops. Real life-changing events happened one after the other, and the characters seemed to live and breathe as never before. And this was only the beginning. The next twelve months in the lives of the Fantastic Four would rock the Marvel Universe to its foundations while moving it forward by leaps and bounds.

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.

Onward and upward with... The True History of the Fantastic Four!

January 1963 – The Fantastic Four help mount a search for Spider-Man when a group of costumed criminals called the Sinister Six force newspaper publisher J. Jonah Jameson to relay a message to their web-spinning foe. The Human Torch eventually finds Spider-Man on a rooftop and offers his help, but Spidey tells him he’d rather handle it alone. The Torch is willing to give the masked man the benefit of the doubt. After the Thing suddenly tries to kill the Torch, Mr. Fantastic determines that it was another plot by the Puppet Master. Reed retreats to his lab to develop a defense against the Puppet Master’s strange mind-control powers. Then, the Torch helps Spider-Man battle the Green Goblin at a meeting of the Spider-Man Fan Club in a downtown ballroom. However, Spidey suddenly runs out on the fight, allowing the Goblin to escape. The hapless hero is branded a coward in the papers, prompting the Torch to argue with his teammates whether Spider-Man has really “turned chicken.” A day or so later, when the Torch and the Thing complain about Mr. Fantastic’s leadership, Reed devises an elaborate scheme, which involves him dressing up as a green-clad “mystery villain,” to teach them a lesson. Later, after the Torch is taken prisoner by the Sandman and the Enforcers, Spider-Man redeems himself by coming to the rescue.

Soon after, the FF are invited to a gala reception at the Latverian embassy in New York. Unfortunately, they soon discover that it is merely a trap set by Doctor Doom, who is revealed to be the true ruler of that small Balkan nation. Mr. Fantastic tricks Doom into believing that a contest of wills involving a device called an “encephalo-gun” proved fatal for Reed. Realizing Doctor Doom is entitled to diplomatic immunity, the FF know there is little they can do but watch their enemy walk away under his hypnotically induced delusions of victory.

Next, the team is drawn into combat with the Mole Man in his subterranean kingdom, after he causes several city blocks to descend into the bowels of the earth. Though the Mole Man’s plans are foiled, the Invisible Girl is badly injured in the melee. The subsequent news reports cause her father, the disgraced physician Franklin Storm, to appear at the hospital, even though he had just escaped from the state penitentiary. A week later, when Sue and Johnny go to visit him at the prison, Dr. Storm suddenly declares himself to be invincible, and demonstrating incredible superhuman powers, he smashes his way out of jail. In the days that follow, he goes on a crime spree, calling himself “the Invincible Man” and foiling the FF at every turn. However, Reed soon deduces that the Invincible Man is not Franklin Storm at all, but is actually the Super-Skrull. After the alien is defeated, Reed arranges a prisoner exchange and the Skrulls return Franklin Storm to Earth. But in an attempt to get revenge, the Skrulls attach an explosive device to Storm’s chest, and so he sacrifices his life to save his children. Sue and Johnny can do nothing but grieve for their long-lost father.

February 1963 – Lady Dorma enlists the aid of the Fantastic Four when the undersea marauder Attuma launches an all-out invasion of Atlantis. Using technology developed by Reed to help them operate effectively underwater, the FF destroy many of the barbarians’ weapons while the Sub-Mariner battles Attuma himself in hand-to-hand combat. Though Namor remains unaware of their involvement, the FF give him the advantage he needs to emerge victorious. Days later, on an afternoon when Reed and Sue are out, the Human Torch and the Thing get into a fight with Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch after the outlaw mutants suddenly barge into the Baxter Building. Inexplicably, the siblings soon give up the fight and, not knowing what else to do, Johnny and Ben let them leave in peace. Then, having developed an anti-gravity device, the Wizard escapes from prison and attempts to get revenge on the Human Torch. During their battle, however, his prototype for a miniaturized anti-grav disk malfunctions, leaving the Wizard stranded in the upper atmosphere, lost in the clouds. A day or so later, he is rescued by Paste-Pot Pete and the Sandman after their own jailbreak. The three villains decide to work together to destroy the Fantastic Four once and for all.

Meanwhile, the FF are set against each other through the machinations of the billionaire financier Gregory Gideon on a high-stakes wager, but Gideon has a change of heart when his son Thomas stumbles into the trap set for the FF at the Baxter Building. The rivalry between the Human Torch and Spider-Man comes to a head when the web-slinger stumbles across a plot by the Beetle to kidnap Doris Evans. Soon after, the Torch and Spidey get into another fight when the wall-crawler crashes a party at Dorrie’s house. Johnny’s teammates decide to intervene before anyone gets hurt, but Spidey remains defiant to the end. Later, “Handsome Harry” Phillips, Yogi Dakor, and Bull Brogin break out of jail and manage to capture the Human Torch. The Thing comes to the rescue and defeats the “Terrible Trio” single-handedly. Soon after, when the Avengers are wanted for treason, President Kennedy declares a national state of emergency, and Pentagon officials tell the Fantastic Four to keep a low profile. However, the Avengers are soon cleared of the charges after it is revealed they were framed by the Maggia crimeboss Count Nefaria.

March 1963 – The Fantastic Four pay a visit to Reed and Ben’s alma mater, State University in Hegeman, New York. After a brief encounter with the renowned geneticist Charles Xavier, the team happens upon a monstrous, inert android created by Professor Gregson Gilbert, which he calls “the Dragon Man.” Reed’s guest-lecture to the students is interrupted when the Dragon Man is brought to life by Diablo, who seeks to turn the creature into a weapon of conquest. Dragon Man overpowers the FF until the Invisible Girl makes an emotional connection with the simple-minded brute. Frustrated, Diablo incapacitates the team with his alchemical potions, but they recover before he can leave campus with the creature. As the FF renew their attack, Dragon Man suddenly turns on Diablo and carries him through the ice covering the campus lake, disappearing into the network of caverns at the bottom. The FF finish their visit to State University and, as Johnny and Ben are packing up the Fantasti-car, Reed takes Sue to see the Sweetheart Tree on Lover’s Lane, where he finally proposes to her. She happily accepts and they begin planning for a June wedding.

A few days later, Ben and Johnny plan to attend a rock ‘n’ roll concert with Alicia and Dorrie, but end up missing the show when they must chase down a gang of armed robbers. Meanwhile, the public announcement of Reed Richards and Sue Storm’s engagement kicks off a media frenzy and the Baxter Building is besieged by reporters. As the wedding preparations quickly move forward, Reed and Sue host an engagement party, to which they invite the Avengers and the X-Men, along with some of Reed’s scientist colleagues and Sue’s society friends. Reed makes a point of inviting Charles Xavier, wanting to get to know the reclusive geneticist better. Later that evening, after the guests have left, the Fantastic Four are attacked by the Wizard, the Sandman, and Paste-Pot Pete, who together with a mysterious woman called Madam Medusa, have banded together as the Frightful Four. Though initially overcome, the Fantastic Four drive them off after a hard-fought battle, and the villains make good their escape.

While Reed perfects his new subspace energizer, the Human Torch and the Thing are invited to the dedication ceremony for a new dam, which is disrupted by a flying sphere, roughly the size of a bowling ball, that nearly destroys the dam before the Torch manages to melt it with a blast of nova-intensity flame. Afterwards, Reed speculates that it may have been the handiwork of the Mad Thinker. Then, Sue insists that they bring her father’s killer to justice, even though it would mean a trip to the Skrull Empire. Reed agrees, wanting to test a new warp-drive ship he has built from captured alien technology, of which the subspace energizer is a vital component. After negotiating a cooperative agreement with NASA, the Fantastic Four’s ship is launched into space. Reed then activates his warp-drive device and successfully navigates the ship through hyperspace to emerge near the Skrull Throneworld in the Andromeda Galaxy.

However, the FF are soon captured by the Skrull Warlord Morrat when a cosmic ray storm reduces their powers to negligible levels. Morrat is planning to use the team’s death in a gambit to seize the throne until Mr. Fantastic tricks him into turning the subspace energizer on them, restoring their powers to peak levels. The ensuing battle with Morrat’s forces is cut short by the arrival of Emperor Dorrek, who brands Morrat a traitor and orders him executed on the spot. Dorrek’s daughter Anelle, who is in love with Morrat, runs into the line of fire and is saved only by the quick action of the Invisible Girl, who shields her with a force field. Dorrek realizes he is indebted to the humans for his daughter’s life and offers to grant them a boon. Reed demands he turn over the Skrull responsible for the death of Franklin Storm, and Dorrek is pleased to announce that it was Morrat, who now lies dead at their feet. Considering his debt paid in full, Dorrek tells the FF he considers the earth to be beneath his imperial notice, and allows them to depart. Sue is satisfied that justice has been done, and the Fantastic Four return home. Upon arriving at the Baxter Building, they meet with the minister who will perform the wedding ceremony.

Soon after, the Human Torch is recruited by NASA to go undercover and prevent a suspected security risk named Professor Jack from sabotaging a mission in high-earth orbit. With some help from the Thing, Johnny ensures that the satellites are successfully launched and Professor Jack is exposed as a traitor. Then, while attending an art exhibit with Alicia and Dorrie, Ben and Johnny stumble into a revenge plot by the Puppet Master. They manage to defeat him before the girls even become aware of his sinister scheme. Later, the Watcher appears in the Baxter Building while Reed and Sue are out and sends the Torch and the Thing back to the sixth century A.D. to prevent Kang the Conqueror from wresting control of Camelot from King Arthur. Following their return, Reed is dubious that the Watcher would involve himself in such a manner, suspecting that it may have been an impostor seeking their help to foil Kang’s scheme.

April 1963 – The Frightful Four kidnap the Invisible Girl after luring her to a prominent New York fashion house, making sure the crime receives immediate media coverage. Mr. Fantastic grows frantic as he tries to track them down. Finally, he detects their spherical anti-grav ship flying over the city and pursues them in the Pogo Plane with the Thing and the Human Torch. The chase leads them to a lonely atoll in the western Pacific Ocean, where the Frightful Four’s weapons wreck the Pogo Plane. The Thing manages to bring down the anti-grav ship and a battle ensues with the Wizard, Sandman, Madam Medusa, and Paste-Pot Pete, now calling himself the Trapster. However, when Ben hears Sue calling out from inside an underground chamber, her teammates abandon the fight to get her out. The villains use the distraction to escape in their anti-grav ship just as the heroes discover a nuclear bomb the Wizard has primed to go off any second. Stranded on the atoll, the Fantastic Four gamble that Sue’s invisible force field will protect them from the blast. Moments later, the bomb explodes and a mushroom cloud roils up over the ocean.

Satisfied, the Frightful Four return to New York and try to take over the Baxter Building, but are scared off by Balder the Brave, who has traveled from Asgard to Earth in a nimbus of flame. Believing their enemies to have escaped the blast unharmed, the Frightful Four go into hiding. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four have indeed survived the explosion inside Sue’s force bubble, but enough radiation got through to rob them of their superpowers. When the force field fades away, the team is left treading water in the open ocean. It is more than 24 hours before they are rescued by the United States Navy. The exhausted heroes recover aboard the U.S.S. Sea Hawk nuclear submarine as it returns to North America. Realizing how vulnerable they are to their many enemies, the Fantastic Four hole up inside the Baxter Building as Reed begins researching ways to artificially recreate their lost abilities. Ben envisions a whole new future for himself and Alicia.

May 1963 – Reed determines that his subspace energizer might be able to restore their powers, but it has been completely drained by their trip to the Andromeda Galaxy and will need a few weeks to recharge. Thus, as a precaution, Reed spends that time developing crude mechanical means for the team to simulate their powers, including building a Thing robot for Ben to operate by remote control. Finally, Reed contacts their attorney, Matt Murdock, and arranges a meeting at a nondescript warehouse in the city where the team is testing the devices. When Murdock arrives, Reed goes over their estate planning with him until the warehouse suddenly comes under attack. They quickly discover that Doctor Doom has taken over their headquarters and is using their own equipment against them. Suddenly, Daredevil appears on the scene and helps the FF to survive Doom’s onslaught and reach the Baxter Building safely, although all their power-simulation devices are destroyed along the way. Fearlessly, Daredevil enters the building first to confront Doctor Doom and keep him occupied while the FF make it up to their laboratories. Once there, Reed activates the subspace energizer, even though it is not yet fully charged, and successfully restores all their abilities. Reed even transforms Ben Grimm back into the Thing, despite his old friend’s vehement objections, due to the crisis situation. Seething with rage, the Thing relentlessly pursues Doctor Doom, shrugging off everything the villain throws at him, and nearly crushes Doom’s hands in the process of disabling his armor. Thoroughly humiliated and defeated, Doom retreats, and the FF don’t try to stop him due to his diplomatic immunity. But rather than celebrating their victory, the Thing turns his fury on his friends. He angrily quits the team and storms out of the Baxter Building, disappearing into the city.

However, pushed past the point of exhaustion, the Thing is easily captured by the Frightful Four. The Wizard subjects the Thing to his “id machine,” which causes the evil parts of his nature to dominate his personality, in order to “recruit” him to their cause. Thus, when the rest of the Fantastic Four find them at the Wizard’s ramshackle mansion in New Jersey, the heroes are caught off guard by the Thing’s betrayal and taken prisoner. They quickly break free and turn the tables on the Frightful Four by taking advantage of the mind-dulling effects of the brainwashing to capture the Thing. Reed and Sue rush Ben back to the Baxter Building while the Human Torch delays their enemies. The Wizard subjects Johnny to the id machine, unaware that the Invisible Girl had disabled it during the battle. The Torch plays along, pretending to be evil, but the villains soon see through the ruse and take him prisoner. Then, with Johnny as a hostage, the Frightful Four fly to the Baxter Building in their anti-grav ship to force the rest of the Fantastic Four to surrender. However, the Frightful Four are quickly defeated when Reed’s treatment for Ben’s brainwashing proves effective. The Wizard, Sandman, and the Trapster are taken into custody, but for some reason the Torch allows Madam Medusa to escape. Weak and groggy from his ordeal, the Thing makes peace with his teammates.

Shortly afterwards, the Human Torch responds to a telepathic call for help from the X-Men’s leader. Directed to their secret headquarters in Westchester County, the Torch helps the X-Men defeat a powerful menace called the Juggernaut. However, at the conclusion of the battle, Professor X removes all memory of the event from Johnny’s mind. Confused to find himself flying around so far from the city, the Torch returns home. A few days later, Reed, Sue, and Ben attend Johnny’s graduation ceremony at Glenville High School. For a graduation present from his teammates, Johnny receives a brand-new Corvette Sting Ray coupe.

June 1963 – The big day finally arrives for Reed and Sue, and their wedding proves to be a major media event. Worried about the team’s many powerful enemies, Nick Fury, recently installed as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., decides to work security at the Baxter Building with some of his top agents. As the guests are arriving, everyone’s worst fears are realized when a veritable army of super-villains stages a mass attack. With the help of the Avengers, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, the Fantastic Four battle Attuma and his undersea legions, the Beetle, the Black Knight, the Cobra, Diablo, the Eel, Electro, the Enchantress, the Executioner, the Grey Gargoyle, the Human Top, a squad of HYDRA shock troops, Kang the Conqueror, the Mad Thinker and his Awesome Android, the Mandarin, the Melter, Mister Hyde, the Mole Man, the Porcupine, the Puppet Master, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes, the Super-Skrull, and the Unicorn. Finally, the Watcher intervenes, bending the rules by allowing Mister Fantastic to choose one device from his store of otherworldly machines. When Reed activates the device he has selected, it creates a time-displacement vortex that returns all the villains to the moment before they decided to attack, with no memory of what happened in the meantime. Reed speculates that the mastermind behind the scheme could only have been Doctor Doom. The wedding ceremony then proceeds without interruption, followed by a lavish reception in the Baxter Building’s ballroom. Between the two events, the Fantastic Four make an appearance for all their fans out in the street and are greeted with deafening cheers. During the party that evening, Ben wonders if he and Alicia will ever be able to get married, while Johnny begins to realize that he and Dorrie are just going through the motions.

The next morning, the Fantastic Four read in the newspapers that an anti-mutant riot broke out in the city during their party, sparked by a televised debate between Charles Xavier and a demagogue named Bolivar Trask. However, Nick Fury had kept news of the trouble from them, so as not to spoil their evening. Soon after, Sue sells the house in Glenville and she and Johnny move into the Baxter Building. Busy with moving and modifying his new Corvette, Johnny neglects to call Dorrie. Reed turns his attention to inventing sophisticated new household appliances, as well as developing a new Jet Cycle. Later in the month, Ben celebrates his 38th birthday.

July 1963 – While settling into married life, Sue celebrates her 24th birthday. The Fantastic Four are astounded when news leaks out that the Hulk was actually the alter-ego of noted nuclear scientist Bruce Banner. The Hulk is currently believed to have been vaporized following an altercation with the U.S. military in Washington, DC, and news of his secret identity travels fast.

Then, after a quiet few weeks, Madam Medusa returns, being relentlessly stalked by a mysterious man named Gorgon, whose cloven hooves can shatter a building. She forces the Human Torch to drive her out of the city, so he takes her up to the campus of State University in Hegeman. Once there, they draw the attention of the Dragon Man, causing the creature to emerge from its underground hiding place. Gorgon appears, and the ensuing battle carries them all back to Manhattan, where the rest of the FF join the fray. However, when Dragon Man seizes Sue and flies off, Gorgon takes advantage of the distraction to demolish the tenement building they had all been standing on. By the time the FF recover, he and Medusa have disappeared. Sue manages to tame the Dragon Man enough that he flies her back to the Baxter Building, where a much-relieved Reed decides to study the creature. Realizing he hasn’t seen Dorrie Evans since the wedding, Johnny calls her up for a date. However, Dorrie turns him down, having decided to date other guys. Stung by her rejection, Johnny wanders around the city, until he finds himself in an abandoned riverfront slum which is scheduled for demolition. To his surprise, he encounters a stunningly beautiful teenage girl in a white dress, but she flees when he tries to talk to her. For the rest of the night, Johnny can’t get the mysterious girl out of his thoughts.

The next day, while the FF work on preparing a room in which to house Dragon Man, Johnny loses his temper and leaves the Baxter Building. He returns to the slum, hoping to find the girl, and is not disappointed. Though she runs away again initially, she stops when she sees his flaming form and introduces herself as Crystal. After showing Johnny her gigantic bulldog, Lockjaw, she takes him though a secret passage into an underground hideout to meet her family. Wondering what he has gotten himself into, Johnny is shocked to find Gorgon and Medusa, as well as two more super-powered beings named Karnak and Triton, and learns that Crystal and Medusa are sisters. He manages to get away by burning through the ceiling of their hideout, and then summons the rest of the FF. When his teammates arrive, they are attacked by these mysterious beings, now joined by their leader, Black Bolt. Without saying a word, Black Bolt fights off all four of them single-handedly. But when Triton suddenly disappears, the group abandons the fight in fear that they have been discovered by “the Seeker.” As the Fantastic Four watch in astonishment, their adversaries enter a glowing nimbus surrounding Lockjaw and vanish into thin air. Reed speculates that they are an evolutionary offshoot of humanity distinct from mutants, and is determined to learn more about them. For his part, Johnny has fallen head over heels in love with Crystal.

Returning to the Baxter Building, the FF discover a huge hole in the wall of their headquarters and find Dragon Man has gone missing. Reviewing their surveillance-camera footage, they learn he was taken by the Seeker. Using Reed’s high-tech devices, the team tracks the Seeker to his otherworldly airship, parked in an empty lot elsewhere in the city. However, they are immediately captured and brought before the Seeker, who treats them cordially and offers to return Dragon Man to them. Reed demands an explanation and the Seeker obliges, describing his mission to hunt down members of the “Inhumans” who have escaped from their Great Refuge. He reveals that the Inhumans had developed advanced technology when the human race was still dwelling in caves, but isolated themselves when their barbaric neighbors began to greatly outnumber them. The Seeker also informs them that Black Bolt, Medusa, and the others are members of one of their society’s oldest families, and must be made to return home, by order of their sovereign Maximus the Magnificent. But then, the conference is interrupted when Dragon Man breaks out of his holding cell, escapes from the ship, and goes on a rampage. While the Thing and the Human Torch try to recapture Dragon Man, Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Girl save the aquatic Triton from death by suffocation when his water-filled chamber is wrecked in the melee. With Triton recaptured, the Seeker orders Reed and Sue off the ship. But, unwilling to let the matter drop, Reed attaches a small homing device to the outer hull so he can track the ship as it flies off into the sky. Meanwhile, the Torch and the Thing succeed in defeating Dragon Man, though Alicia’s apartment is wrecked in the process. Afterwards, Reed turns Dragon Man over to the government for study, and the creature is relocated to a desert island.

Reed tracks the Seeker’s ship to its destination somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains. Since both the Fantasti-Car and the Pogo Plane were wrecked in the initial battle with Gorgon, the FF charter a private jet and head around the world to Asia. They are amazed to discover the uncanny metropolis of Attilan nestled within a remote valley, and no sooner do they enter the Great Refuge than Crystal appears, eager to be reunited with Johnny. Black Bolt, Medusa, Gorgon, and Karnak then emerge and inform the FF that Black Bolt has regained the crown of his kingdom. The Inhumans demand that the Fantastic Four leave immediately and never reveal their secret, but Reed argues that they have no reason to remain hidden from mankind. The debate is cut short when Maximus activates his latest weapon, sending out wave after wave of powerful vibrations which knock everyone off their feet. Black Bolt quickly locates the weapon and shuts it down, but Maximus gloats that his scheme to destroy the human race has succeeded – until he sees the Fantastic Four are still alive. As it turns out, the vibrations were not nearly powerful enough, for Maximus greatly miscalculated the physiological differences between humans and Inhumans. Still unwilling to concede defeat, Maximus activates another device, which forms an impenetrable force field around the Great Refuge. The Fantastic Four barely make it out before the dome solidifies completely. Johnny is distraught at being separated from Crystal, perhaps forever. Unable to breach the barrier, the FF glumly return to their private jet and head for home.

On their final approach to New York City, the Fantastic Four are met with a frightening phenomenon—the entire sky is suddenly engulfed in flames. The city is in a panic as they race from the airport back to the Baxter Building. Flying on ahead, the Human Torch is attacked by an angry mob with a firehose. His teammates arrive via the Jet Cycle before anyone gets hurt, and then the flames suddenly vanish as mysteriously as they appeared. Upon reaching their headquarters, Reed locks himself in his lab to investigate the bizarre occurrence. After several hours, Sue starts to get really annoyed with him.

August 1963 – A day or so later, Sue has had enough and demands admittance to Reed’s lab, where she is shocked to find he is working alongside the Watcher. The enigmatic alien explains that it was he who created the fire in the sky, just as he is now responsible for the curtain of space debris currently encircling the globe. He has violated his oath of non-interference because he has detected the approach of the Silver Surfer, the advance scout of Galactus, the Devourer of Worlds. Soon, the Silver Surfer is spotted zooming over the city, and the Human Torch flies up to intercept him. Easily outmaneuvering the Torch, the Surfer lands on the roof of the Baxter Building. Without a word, the Surfer releases a massive energy surge from his body, then does not resist as the Thing knocks him off the roof with one punch. The Watcher joins the FF on the roof as a great spherical spaceship descends through the sky, releasing a series of sampling devices. It finally settles over the Baxter Building, and from it emerges the gigantic figure of Galactus, who is ready to feed on the life energies of the planet.

Ignoring the humans, Galactus addresses the Watcher, who tries to dissuade him from destroying Earth, as it is inhabited by intelligent beings. Galactus concedes that it is regrettable, but his need for energy must be satisfied without delay. The Thing and the Human Torch attack, but Galactus brushes them aside like insects. Worried, the FF retreat inside their headquarters while Galactus commences with the assembly of his Elemental Converter. The Watcher conceives of a plan, and so while the Human Torch is transported to a far distant galaxy, to the planet-dwarfing space station that Galactus calls home, his teammates seek to delay Galactus by damaging his instruments. Annoyed, Galactus unleashes a powerful armored cyborg called the Punisher to deal with the FF while he conducts his repairs. Though they put up a valiant fight, Mister Fantastic, the Thing, and the Invisible Girl are quickly battered into submission. All seems lost when suddenly the Silver Surfer returns, and to the astonishment of all concerned, he launches a blistering attack on Galactus. Protected by Sue’s invisible force field, the FF can only stand in awe of the cosmic energies that are unleashed in the battle between master and servant. Then, finally, the Human Torch rematerializes nearby, in a state of shock. Reed retrieves the weapon Johnny has brought across the universe, a small metal device the Watcher calls the Ultimate Nullifier. Immediately, Reed threatens Galactus with the device, and the giant surrenders, amazed that the Watcher would go to such lengths to save one little world. Given Galactus’s unbreakable vow to leave them in peace, Reed surrenders the Ultimate Nullifier. But before disappearing in a storm of crackling energy, Galactus sentences the Silver Surfer to exile on Earth for his betrayal. With Galactus and all his machinery vanished without a trace, the Watcher departs as well.

The Fantastic Four then learn that Alicia was responsible for the Silver Surfer’s change of heart, and Ben becomes depressed when he mistakes Alicia’s fascination with the noble alien for a romantic attachment. He wanders off into the city, becoming increasingly despondent in the days that follow. The media is not sure what to make of the Galactus incident, with papers such as the Daily Bugle declaring the whole thing to be a hoax. The Fantastic Four decline all requests for interviews. Reed withdraws into his laboratory to work obsessively on devising defenses against alien menaces as powerful as Galactus, causing Sue to feel neglected.

A week or two later, when the Avengers are captured by Doctor Doom, the Fantastic Four are ready to help, but are denied clearance to launch their long-range rocket by the government. They head for Washington, DC for a meeting on Capitol Hill, where they are told that their intervention could precipitate an international crisis. Stymied, the FF return to New York. They are relieved when the Avengers defeat Doom on their own. Later, Sue is finally able to draw Reed out of his lab to celebrate his 41st birthday, but, being on the verge of a momentous discovery, he is more than usually distracted.

September 1963 – Johnny Storm starts attending classes at Metro College, just across the river from Manhattan in New Jersey. He meets Wyatt Wingfoot, an imposing Native American youth from Oklahoma. The two become roommates in the freshman dorm and find they enjoy hanging out together. Struggling to stay focused on his studies, Johnny does not see his teammates for several weeks. Meanwhile, Reed lends Hawkeye an amphibious airship so he can rescue his Avengers teammates from Attuma, who has been causing sea levels to rise throughout the globe. Hours later, the Avengers return the ship undamaged, reporting that Attuma has been thoroughly defeated.

The Thing is drawn into a trap laid by a mysterious scientist with a grudge against Reed Richards. Ben’s recent depression has been exacerbated by a “subliminal inducer” device, which has also led him to the scientist’s apartment. After giving Ben a cup of coffee laced with a powerful sedative, the scientist uses another invention to make himself into an exact doppelgänger of the Thing, causing Ben to revert to his human form. The Thing impostor then heads to the Baxter Building to kill Reed. Upon arrival, the impostor fools both Reed and Sue, even when Ben Grimm storms in and confronts him. Convinced that Ben must be the impostor, Reed and Sue turn against him. Disgusted, Ben storms out. Getting back to business, Reed reveals the nature of his latest research to Sue and the impostor, explaining that it has entered a dangerous new phase. While investigating the nature of hyperspace, he discovered the pocket dimension dubbed the Negative Zone, and is intent on exploring it. Reed asks the Thing to monitor the other end of his tether and to pull him back if he encounters anything dangerous. Seeing a perfect opportunity to get rid of his rival, the impostor agrees. However, after working closely with Reed, the impostor realizes his hatred is unjustified. Thus, when the cable snaps and Reed is in danger of falling into the Negative Zone’s matter/antimatter annihilation area, the impostor sacrifices his life to get Reed back to Earth. At the moment of the impostor’s death, Ben Grimm reverts to being the Thing, and he races to the Baxter Building. Arriving in time to overhear Reed eulogizing him, Ben’s mood brightens and the old friends are happily reunited.

A few days later, Reed and Ben save Captain America’s life when an anti-grav device he is using fails high over Manhattan. Cap tells them that he and Nick Fury are attempting to stop an alien invasion on Liberty Island, so Reed lends Cap an experimental weapon to turn the tide of the battle. The weapon draws so much electricity from the power grid that it causes a blackout of the entire east coast of the United States. Afterwards, Cap reports that he and Fury were successful, although they were unable to determine who was behind the invasion attempt. Meanwhile, swamped with schoolwork, Johnny decides he will spend his 19th birthday with Wyatt at Metro College. Sue is disappointed, but decides to respect her brother’s newfound independence.

October 1963 – The Fantastic Four receive an invitation to the remote African kingdom of Wakanda, and as Johnny has a break from school following his midterm exams, he and Wyatt Wingfoot accompany them on the trip. Upon arriving, they are astonished to discover a technological wonderland hidden within the jungle. They meet their host, the chieftain T’Challa, also known as the Black Panther, when he attacks them to test his own fighting prowess. Once he is satisfied, T’Challa explains that he is pledged to protect Wakanda’s sacred mound of vibranium, an ultra-rare mineral with amazing properties. Ten years before, he reveals, the unscrupulous Dutch scientist Ulysses Klaw had killed his father, the previous chieftain T’Chaka, during his first attempt to hijack the vibranium. Recent intelligence suggests Klaw is ready to try again. And so, when the villain makes his move, the Fantastic Four join the Black Panther in fighting back. They find that Klaw has developed the means to create artificial creatures out of solidified sound, and the FF are kept busy battling his creations while the Black Panther tracks down Klaw in his hidden lair. After Klaw is defeated in a tremendous explosion, the FF are treated to a lavish Wakandan victory celebration. However, Johnny remains dejected about losing Crystal, and he decides to use the rest of his long weekend to take another crack at freeing the Inhumans. Wyatt volunteers to accompany him and, to show his gratitude for their help, T’Challa gives the pair an amazing vehicle called the Gyro-Cruiser. Reed and Sue decide it would be a good time to start their honeymoon, after dropping Ben off in New York.

While Johnny and Wyatt are crossing the Sahara Desert that night, the Gyro-Cruiser suddenly falls into an incredibly deep shaft that leads to a large subterranean crypt. Exploring the ornate chambers, the pals discover a man in a chair who appears to be in suspended animation. Awoken by their approach, the dusty figure rises and introduces himself as Prester John, then tells them of his adventures in the thirteenth century which led to his discovery of the fabled land of Avalon. He demonstrates the fearsome weapon he obtained there, known as the Evil Eye. Realizing the Evil Eye might be powerful enough to free the Inhumans, Johnny seizes it and flies off. However, its energies are quickly building to a critical mass, so Wyatt and Prester John must chase him down in the Gyro-Cruiser. Wyatt shoots the weapon out of Johnny’s hand just in time, and the Evil Eye explodes over the desert with the force of an atom bomb. The shockwave snuffs out the Torch’s flame, but he is otherwise unharmed. Sympathetic, Prester John returns to his crypt, while Johnny and Wyatt continue on toward the Himalayas.

Meanwhile, back in the Baxter Building, Reed and Sue pack for their trip while Ben goes to visit Alicia. An hour or so later, though, the newlyweds receive a frantic phone call from Alicia, telling them that the Thing has gotten into a brawl with the Silver Surfer. Reed and Sue soon find the pair demolishing a block of abandoned warehouses and put a stop to the fight. They convince Ben that his jealousy is completely unfounded. Baffled by human behavior, the Silver Surfer streaks off without holding a grudge. On the other side of the world, Johnny and Wyatt reach the Himalayas and stumble upon Lockjaw, who has used his power of interdimensional teleportation to escape from the Great Refuge. Realizing Lockjaw could take them to Crystal, Johnny and Wyatt start trying to gain the canine’s trust. Now having a real hope of success, Johnny decides he will not return to school until the matter is resolved, and Wyatt agrees to see it through to the end.

About a week later, Reed and Sue return from their honeymoon, and Reed immediately immerses himself in further study of the Negative Zone. After learning that it contains complex life-forms, his theories about the nature of his discovery begin to shift, and he is convinced that the pocket dimension must be explored, no matter what the dangers. However, Reed’s work is interrupted when the Baxter Building is attacked by Klaw, who has created a new body for himself out of solidified sound after his human body was mortally wounded during his showdown with the Black Panther. Possessing strange new powers, Klaw fights Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, and the Invisible Girl to a standstill until Reed manages to contact the Black Panther. Immediately, T’Challa sends two bands of pure vibranium via intercontinental mini-missile that enable Reed to defeat their foe in hand-to-hand combat. The Thing crushes the sonic weapon Klaw wears in place of his right hand, and the villain is turned over to the police.

Not long after, Lockjaw teleports Johnny and Wyatt to the Baxter Building, and they are frustrated that the canine seems willing to take them anywhere but the Great Refuge. Then, wanting to experiment with his nova flame, Johnny flies out to the deserts of Nevada where he can really cut loose. There, to his astonishment, Johnny is attacked by his childhood hero, the original Human Torch, who disappeared in the area eight years before. In the course of their fight, Johnny learns that his assailant was revived by the Mad Thinker and some kind of supercomputer called Quasimodo. Johnny is on the verge of losing when his teammates arrive, accompanied by Wyatt and Lockjaw. The original Torch is frantic that Quasimodo will destroy him by remote control, but suddenly Lockjaw teleports them all straight into the heart of the Mad Thinker’s headquarters. Before the heroes can react, the Mad Thinker signals Quasimodo to hit the kill switch. The android Human Torch flares up in a blinding flash, then falls to the floor, apparently dead. While the FF are thus distracted, the Mad Thinker escapes. When Lockjaw then powers up for another teleport, Johnny and Wyatt bid their friends a hasty farewell and go with him, still hoping to penetrate the Great Barrier. Unable to resuscitate the android hero, Reed decides it would be best to leave him where he is, letting the Mad Thinker’s base serve as his tomb. The FF do their best to seal all the entrances upon leaving. Later, Reed issues a statement to the press describing the incident.

November 1963 – Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, and the Thing nearly fall into a trap set by the Wizard and the Sandman as part of an attempted jailbreak. Although the Sandman manages to slip away, the Wizard is recaptured before he can even leave his cell block. Later, the Sandman invades the Baxter Building and makes off with some of the FF’s high-tech equipment before Reed and Sue can stop him. Annoyed, Reed sets about devising a defense against their granular foe.

Soon after, Reed and Sue plan a romantic getaway weekend at a secluded cabin in Southampton on Long Island, leaving Ben alone at the Baxter Building. That night, the Thing is attacked by Doctor Doom, who has somehow stolen the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, as well as his cosmic powers. After kicking him around a bit, Doom knocks the Thing into Central Park and turns him into a living statue. As the power-mad villain zips out to Long Island to kill Reed and Sue, Lockjaw brings the Human Torch and Wyatt Wingfoot to the roof of the Baxter Building. Seeing the damage to their headquarters caused by Doom’s attack, Johnny flies off to investigate. He soon finds the Thing immobilized in the middle of the park and determines that he is still alive. Returning to Reed’s labs, the two pals find a device that should free Ben. Wyatt rushes to the park while the Torch flies out to Southampton. Upon arrival, he finds Reed and Sue being menaced by the now all-powerful Doctor Doom. The Torch battles Doom, raising his flame to maximum intensity. But, even though the cottage is burned to the ground, the villain is unfazed. The Thing and Wyatt soon arrive as well, but despite their best efforts, the Fantastic Four are unable to affect Doom in any way. Finally deciding that the FF are now beneath his notice, Doom streaks off, leaving his foes stewing in the knowledge that they have been thoroughly and hopelessly defeated.

Mr. Fantastic makes a worldwide broadcast to warn of the threat posed by Doctor Doom. Then, he secures the cooperation of the American military, which goes on high alert while waiting for the Fantastic Four to make the first move. Fearful that the nations of the world will resort to an all-out nuclear strike against Latveria, Reed works around the clock creating a prototype device that may turn Doom’s cosmic powers against him. However, the hot-headed Human Torch sets off to tackle Doom all by himself, leaving Wyatt to alert the rest of the FF. Using an ultra-fast airship provided by the Black Panther, the team follows Johnny to Europe for the showdown with Doctor Doom. Reed leaves his new weapon to be constructed by Army Ordinance in conjunction with Stark Industries, hoping that they will complete the project in time. When the FF arrive in Latveria, Doctor Doom destroys their ship and toys with them, savoring the helplessness of his foes as they battle valiantly in the face of overwhelming odds. Then, at last, Reed’s weapon is deployed, a flying wing that siphons off a noticeable amount of Doom’s cosmic power. Enraged, Doom pursues the craft atop the Silver Surfer’s surfboard, disappearing high in the sky. Moments later, the effects of Doom’s power suddenly vanish, and Reed realizes his gambit was successful. He explains to his teammates that he had programmed the flying wing to continue into outer space, leading Doom straight into the barrier Galactus must have erected to enforce the Silver Surfer’s exile. While hiking to the nearest city, the FF see the surfboard flash back to Castle Doom, then the Silver Surfer emerges, destroys much of the castle, and finally streaks off into the sky. Assured that the danger from Doctor Doom is over, the Fantastic Four return home.

Having been abandoned by Lockjaw, Johnny loses hope of being reunited with Crystal, so he and Wyatt finally return to Metro College to try and salvage what remains of the semester. Johnny finds he is too depressed to really apply himself. After initially resisting the idea, Wyatt allows the football coach to talk him into trying out for the team. Days later, the Fantastic Four are shocked and saddened by news reports of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Although the team had frequently butted heads with the Kennedy administration, they had developed a respect for the President and his ideals. That same weekend, Reed gets Sue pregnant.

December 1963 – The Sandman attacks the Fantastic Four again, now wearing a high-tech costume that enables him to achieve a greater variety of effects with his powers. The battle rages through their headquarters until it leads them into the antechamber to the Negative Zone. There, the Sandman knocks the Thing into the delicate apparatus, which collapses. Although Ben could easily lift it, Reed warns him that he might inadvertently set off a chain reaction that would destroy the city. Then, as the Human Torch blasts the Sandman, the crook activates a new defense, releasing a chemical from his costume that interacts with his sand to produce poison fumes when heated. In order to clear the deadly gas before they are overcome, Reed opens the portal to the Negative Zone. Unfortunately, the resulting vortex sucks him through the dimensional barrier. The portal automatically seals itself behind him, but Reed has no means of getting back. Barely escaping the same fate, the Sandman beats a hasty retreat. Before they can pursue their foe, the rest of the FF see Reed floating helplessly within the Negative Zone.

Suddenly, to the anguished team’s astonishment, Lockjaw materializes with Crystal at his side. Johnny can scarcely believe his eyes, but Crystal explains that Black Bolt finally managed to destroy the Great Barrier, though every building in Attilan was shattered in the process. But, upon learning of the danger Reed faces, Crystal and Lockjaw teleport away again to confer with the Inhumans. Long minutes later, they reappear with Triton. Accustomed to navigating in the murky depths of the ocean, Triton enters the Negative Zone, maneuvering by means of a compressed-air gun. His instincts lead him unerringly to Reed just seconds before he falls into the matter/antimatter annihilation area. Triton returns Reed safely to the Baxter Building, and the rest of the FF are overjoyed. The crisis averted, Johnny and Crystal depart to celebrate their reunion.

Moments later, the ceiling collapses on Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Girl, the Thing, and Triton, as they are attacked by a menace that slipped out of the Negative Zone behind them. Calling himself Blastaar, the alien being demonstrates his ability to generate powerful concussive blasts from his fingertips. He immediately enlists the Sandman, who has been lurking on the roof, to assist him in conquering the earth. The Human Torch and Crystal postpone their date to stop the evil pair, and the Thing soon joins them in an all-out battle on the streets of Manhattan. Meanwhile, Reed devises a helmet that will cancel out Blastaar’s power and brings it to the fight. The Sandman is defeated when the Thing knocks him into the East River and his sand particles are dispersed on the current. Then the others use teamwork to defeat Blastaar. Ben carries the alien’s unconscious form back to Reed’s lab and tosses him into the Negative Zone where he belongs.

A few days later, Johnny flunks his final exams for not studying, and decides to drop out of college. He says goodbye to Wyatt and moves his things back into the Baxter Building. The two pals promise to keep in touch. Triton stays in New York as a chaperone for Crystal while she and Johnny begin dating. Reed and Ben work for several days to secure the entrance to the Negative Zone. Finally, Sue has had enough of her husband’s workaholic ways and insists they take a vacation. Reed agrees, but when all the commercial flights are booked up due to the holidays, he realizes they’ll have to take the Pogo Plane and fly themselves. Ben picks a remote island in the South Pacific at random where he believes they’ll be able to kick back and relax. However, Johnny and Crystal opt to remain in New York to enjoy the festivities the city has to offer. Later, upon arriving at their island getaway, Reed, Sue, and Ben are attacked by a giant robot that identifies itself as a Sentry for an alien race called the Kree. Intent on protecting the long-abandoned Kree depot beneath the island, the Sentry relentlessly battles the heroic trio. When the alien robot gains the upper hand, Sue radios a message to Johnny, who uses Lockjaw to join the fight instantaneously. The Sentry dodges the Torch’s high-intensity flame blast, but it hits the Kree power grid and causes it to overload. A series of explosions begin to rip the island apart. The Thing manages to rescue two hapless explorers that he finds, and then Lockjaw teleports them back to New York just seconds before the island is obliterated. As they are dematerializing, Reed notices that the Sentry refuses to abandon its post. Once back at the Baxter Building, Reed confers with the explorer, a Dr. Daniel Damian, and listens with interest to his theories about the Kree. However, Sue refuses to let him get sucked into a new research project and insists they choose another vacation destination. The next day, Reed, Sue, and Ben begin their second annual Christmas vacation.


January 1963 – The Fantastic Four involve themselves in Spider-Man’s battle with the Sinister Six in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1. The Human Torch and the Thing continue their supplementary adventures in Strange Tales #126 and following. Then, the Torch continues to involve himself in Spider-Man’s affairs, as chronicled in Amazing Spider-Man #17–19. Doctor Doom is revealed to be the ruler of his own tiny kingdom in Fantastic Four Annual #2. Although Latveria was initially described as being located near Bavaria, it was eventually established that it was part of the Balkans. The Fantastic Four resume their primary adventures in Fantastic Four #31 and following.

February 1963 – As was pointed out by Marvel continuity pioneer George Olshevsky in his series of indices, the Wizard story in Strange Tales #118 occurs out of sequence, as the villain could not survive being stranded in the upper atmosphere for three months before being rescued by his partners-in-crime. Similarly, the back-up story in Amazing Spider-Man #8 is also out of sequence, as Peter Parker clearly meets Doris Evans for the first time in Amazing Spider-Man #21, when they battle the Beetle. Count Nefaria frames the Avengers, thus creating a backlash against all other superheroes, in Avengers #13.

March 1963 – On this timeline, the rock ‘n’ roll concert depicted in Strange Tales #130 occurs a full year before the Beatles came to America. Thus, the headliners were, in fact, some other band, possibly the Beach Boys. It is likely that it was actually Immortus who recruited the Human Torch and the Thing to travel through time to prevent Kang the Conqueror from changing history, as depicted in Strange Tales #134. He disguised himself as the Watcher to ensure their cooperation. This was the end of the Human Torch’s run in this title; in the next issue the slot was turned over to Nick Fury, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

April 1963 – Balder the Brave unwittingly protects the Baxter Building from incursion by the Frightful Four in Journey Into Mystery #116.

May 1963 – The Human Torch helps the X-Men defeat the Juggernaut in Uncanny X-Men #13.

June 1963 – The chaotic wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm is chronicled in Fantastic Four Annual #3, with some additional information provided in Patsy Walker’s flashback in Avengers #144. Doctor Doom attempted to include the Hulk is his army of villains, but the jolly green giant was at that moment 500 years in the future. The debate between Charles Xavier and Bolivar Trask, and the ensuing anti-mutant riot, is depicted in Uncanny X-Men # 14. Although Xavier and the X-Men attended Reed and Sue’s wedding ceremony early in the day, they had to excuse themselves from the reception that evening. The OMU counterparts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, creators of the FF’s official based-on-true-stories comic book series, attempted to crash the festivities, but were turned away by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at the door.

July 1963 – Rick Jones spills the beans that Bruce Banner and the Hulk are one and the same in Tales to Astonish #77.

September 1963 – The Fantastic Four are prevented from aiding the Avengers in Latveria in Avengers #25, but they do offer some behind-the-scenes assistance against Attuma two issues later. Reed and Ben also give Captain America some back-up in the S.H.I.E.L.D. flashback story in Strange Tales #161.

October 1963 – The new Human Torch battles the original Human Torch in Fantastic Four Annual #4. Although it was believed for several years that the first Torch was subsequently converted into the Vision, this was eventually revealed to be not the case (at least in the OMU). The original Torch makes his next appearance in Avengers West Coast #50. A flashback in that issue shows the Torch’s old partner, Toro, reading of the android’s demise in the newspaper. A similar flashback occurs in Sub-Mariner #14.

November 1963 – In Fantastic Four #57, the Thing is seen watching a television program called The Marvel Super-Heroes Show. While in the real world this was a children’s animated cartoon, in the Original Marvel Universe it was more likely a weekly magazine-format news show that covered the exploits of super-heroes and super-villains. It was sponsored by the same company that published the officially licensed comic books, Marvel, hence the name. The segment the Thing is watching is about Captain America. The Kennedy assassination occurs behind the scenes, naturally. This satisfies my initial research question as far as the Fantastic Four are concerned.

December 1963 – Dr. Daniel Damian returns in Eternals #1. Kree Sentry #459 will soon be found by pearl divers and turned over to the United States Navy, and will then be transferred to the NASA installation at Cape Kennedy for study, as seen in Marvel Super-Heroes #13. This brings us up to Fantastic Four #64.

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