Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fantastic Four #1 - The Moleman Introduction

Fantastic Four #1 - The Moleman
The Fantastic Four
November 1, 1961
Issue: 1 Reading Order#: 1 SUMMARY
In this issue, we meet the Fantastic Four for the first time. It might be the most awkward set of character introductions I have ever seen.  After Mister Fantastic shoots a strange flare gun into the sky, the entire teams notices their call to action.  Immediately they all drop what they are doing, freak out and start obliterating the city with their powers.  Obviously, this was Stan Lee's method of introducing the unique powers for each hero but it left me wondering if the town was going to hate them now.  That question was quickly answered when the Army attempts to nuke one of them over a civilian population.  After the failed nuking attempt, everything seems to calm down rather quickly.  I guess the army just threw up their hands and exclaimed in the typical 60's fashion, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"

The second portion of this issue is where we get to learn how the Fantastic Four gained their super powers.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed with this back story.  It just seemed really weak.  At any rate, the comic explained that for some reason they feel compelled to steal their own space ship.  It seemed like they thought that "the commies" were on the brink of making it into space before the Americans and they felt they had to risk everything and jump into a mostly unfinished rocket and hurtle themselves into space.

Okay.  Sounds reasonable.  Gotta beat those darn commies.  So they steal their own spaceship.  They start cruising toward space when they realize, "Oh crap! This ship wasn't built with any shielding from solar radiation".  The ship goes into auto-pilot and they all start to die from radiation poisoning.  No big thing, though.  They all mutate and gain super powers which somehow saves them from the harmful radiation. Well, they never called it a mutation, exactly.  They describe it as if their cells are filled with "cosmic power".  I will just be referring to it as a mutation from here on out because any other explanation is just weird.

So, auto-pilot takes them back to Earth and the flash back ends.  The flashback left me wondering if people during this time period were really this worried that the Russians would beat them into space.  To give you some perspective, Sputnik had just been launched like 4 years earlier.  Also, Kennedy launched the space race with his famous speech in May of that year. I find it hard to believe that anyone thought the US would be anywhere close to being ready for a manned effort to land on the moon just a few short months later.  Maybe they did?  I have no idea.  If anyone wants to clear this up, feel free.

Almost as a side note in this edition, the Fantastic Four fight the Mole Man who is pretty much just a nobody.  I mean his super powers are just simply adapting to the dark and knowing how to make evil friends in subterranean creatures.  We discover that Human Torch is hot enough to melt rock when he saves the day by simply causing a rock cave in that traps all the denizens of the underworld to end the story.

It was obvious that this was not the last we shall see of the Mole Man.  This is probably due to the fact that in the comic, his minions were planning to dig holes under every power station in the world (specifically the atomic ones for some unknown reason).  Once they were destroyed, I guess it would cause enough chaos for them to simply take over the world.  The point here is that they have already dug tons of holes.  They spent two whole pages talking about it.  Not sure how a cave in would even begin to stop a large group of determined, burrowing creatures.

One other issue left unresolved was why Mister Fantastic decided to name himself "Fantastic".  What a douche!  Seriously?  Your friend is suffering from low self esteem after his transformation and has taken to calling himself The Thing.  So I guess it makes perfect sense to follow that up with naming yourself Fantastic.  Ridiculous.

Mister Fantastic and The Thing fight the Moleman
PICTURED: Mr Fantastic seemingly foiled by a simple length of rope.
As a side note, the cover has nothing to do with the actual story.  Is this common?  Somehow the green creature has completely confused the crap out of Mr. Fantastic with a simple length of rope.  In the cover art, he's just chilling out on some rock trying to get untangled.

NEXT ISSUE IN READING ORDER: Fantastic Four #2 - The Skrulls Introduction

Friday, June 15, 2012

Welcome to Marveling Comics

Until now, I have never really done the comic book thing.  I am a comic noob, you could say.  As a child, my brother was really into them.  Shortly after purchase, he'd cautiously place them into protective sleeves with the intensity of an EOD Technician, watching their corners for any sign of contact with another surface.  Bags of Captain Crunch with Crunch Berries would be scattered about our pantry with their useless boxes missing neatly cut rectangles from each side.  To him, this was happiness.  To me, this was just weird.

In reality, I was probably a little jealous.  I marveled when he told me about the story of the Infinity Gauntlet for the first time. The concept had me very intrigued.  I was familiar with some of the characters from movies.  Other characters, like the X-Men, were favorites of my brother's.  We would often find ourselves watching the X-Men cartoon on Saturday mornings, musing about who had the stronger power; Magneto or Professor X.  The discussions always agreed on Magneto, btw.  He has a guy you simply hated to root against.

I have always been a completionist though.  If I began reading something, I wanted to absorb every ounce of it.  I want to root down every distant reference and pull them together like some crazy comic book obsessed Sherlock Holmes.  Its probably more of an OCD, really.  It would have to be, to even consider trying to read the entire Marvel Comic chronology in order.

I got the idea when I stumbled across Travis Starnes' "The Complete Marvel Reading Order".  Its a website dedicated to determining the optimal reading order for the major story arcs within the Marvel universe from its dawn of creation.  He calls it a "massive work in progress".  I call it insanity.  Nice job Travis, keep up the good work!

So my plan from here on out will be to read a few comics and post about them each week.  I fully expect that workload to increase as I gain interest in particular plot-lines.  I will briefly outline the comics that I have read, give my own description of the events that have unfolded that week, and provide any immediate thoughts I have about the series up to that point.

As a note, I will occasionally be adding comics to the reading order as I go along.  Travis's list focuses on the story arc of the main Marvel universe, but I am reading this for general enjoyment of the Marvel universe.  With this in mind, I might occasionally wander off the reservation with something that strikes my interest at the time.

I hope my efforts on this blog will act as inspiration or at least a reference for fans of these comic books. Thank you all for joining me on this massive journey!