Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Inevitable Arrival of the Diabolical Duo

By their sixth issue (Sept. 1962), the groundbreaking superhero team the Fantastic Four faced the foes they’d inevitably been fated to meet — a super villain team. Stan Lee even extended the parallelism to alliteration — a “Diabolical Duo.”
It took six issues because the FF had to meet some villains before they could team up. As an 8-year-old, I’d already read — devoured, really — the third and fifth issues of the title, so I was delighted with Dr. Doom’s immediate return.
The Sub-Mariner I’d never heard of. But even to a child, it was clear that Namor was more hero than villain (I didn’t know the term “antihero” yet).  A kind of seagoing Superman, he boasted an impressive array of superpowers of which flight and super strength were only the most obvious.
As Mike of Comic Book Curios recalled, “The story reaches a climax when the team is forced to put on astronaut suits and attack Doom’s ship in the middle of space. Everything seems hopeless, until Namor decides to help out. He jumps into a conveniently placed tank of water, gathers up enough energy to shoot out of the building, bounces off of a conveniently approaching meteor storm, and then throws himself onto the hull of Doom’s ship. Namor reveals that he has the powers of all underwater creatures combined, and chooses to use the power of an electric eel to shock Doom through the walls. Finally, Doctor Doom flees, jumping aboard one of those passing meteors - NEVER TO BE SEEN AGAIN! (We all know better than that though!)”
“In fact, the theme of the issue seems to be how these larger-than-life characters are viewed by others,” Don Alsafi wrote. “On the one hand, you have a troubled Namor — just now beginning to see the error of his ways — cajoled into further villainy by Doom, who sees him as nothing more than an easily manipulable pawn. And the issue opens on a crowd in awe of the Torch flying overhead, and a courier at the Baxter Building flustered at a chance meeting with the Invisible Girl. And then Stan and Jack further invite us to think of the Fantastic Four as real people, as we see an expanded cutaway of their headquarters, first seen in #3 ... and the FF answering their fan mail! In fact, when Reed gets a letter from a hospitalized boy, he stretches out the window and across several city blocks to pay him a visit. More than a few letter-writers after that must surely have been thinking of that very same scene!”
Jack Kirby’s art really was fantastic, with those three-panel progressions he used to convey dramatic and emotional power and those breathtaking splash pages. I can’t count the number of times I savored that issue.

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