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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2 (1964)



OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN

Views and Reviews of Comic Books from the Past


By
John "THE MEGO STRETCH HULK" Cimino


FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #2 (1964)



 Written by: Stan Lee
Drawn by: Jack Kirby
Inked by: Chic Stone


This is a king-size issue dedicated to the mighty, majestic, master of Marvel malice himself; Dr. Doom! Yes, this second annual for The Fantastic Four is absolutely packed with "72 BIG PAGES" of superhero goodness. The first part starts off with the bread and butter of the issue, a full-blown origin story of Doctor Doom told for the first time. Then a reprint of Doom's debut in Fantastic Four #5 follows, along with 11 pages of pin-ups. Ending everything off is a brand new Fantastic Four/Dr. Doom story - which means that this "double length epic" is chock full of action and adventure as only Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the Mighty Marvel Bullpen can bring you. How could any red-blooded kid resist such a magnificent issue during the summer of 1964??

Simply put: They couldn't!!




This 12 page story is what makes this comic so memorable. First off, the title itself is enough to get my mouth to start salivating. Doom's origin story is one of my all time favorites for a fictional character. It has a very Gothic-type-fairy-tale quality to it, beginning when he was but a wee young lad, the son of a gypsy healer in the Bavarian Alps. When the local baron's wife falls deathly ill, he has his men take the older Von Doom by force, demanding that he save her with his healing arts (or else). Von Doom is unable to do so, however - she's simply too far gone - and he is thus hounded through the woods, doing whatever he can to protect his boy, and eventually dying from the strain. The young Victor Von Doom swears vengeance (but of course) so it progresses rather nicely when he discovers that his dead mother had been a sorceress. He then finds a strange chest containing all manner of magical artifacts and paraphernalia. Using these magics and his own mechanical genius, he soon begins a campaign of swindling the upper class through a variety of tricks and potions, nobly giving all his ill-gotten gains to the poor. These such actions gave the character such depth that many might find it incredible that Marvel's greatest villain of all first began as a strange sort of Robin Hood, waging class warfare against the aristocracy!




Before long, Doom's numerous inventions bring him to the American attentions of State University, who offer him a scholarship on the spot. There he meets (and instantly dislikes) a young Reed Richards, who instead becomes fast friends with football star Ben Grimm. One day, Reed stops in at Doom's dorm room while he's out, and reads over Doom's notes about his newest invention, having to do with "matter transmutation" and "dimension warps" (kid's got some big ideas). When Doom appears at the door, Reed tries to point out a few mathematical errors, but the arrogant Doom banishes Reed from his room, and goes on to try the experiment anyway. The machine explodes, disfiguring Doom's face and causing his expulsion. Subsequently turning his back on the world, he goes into seclusion, tracking down and then training with a hidden group of secret Tibetan monks. Months later they address Doom as master and he has them create an ominous suit of armor... now fully garbed, he is ready to finally take his leave and return to the world as Doctor Doom!





There have been a few theories regarding the initial accident, and the status of Von Doom's face. Doom is said to be horribly scarred in the explosion, which is why he had to go into hiding (as Stan Lee's dialogue describes). However, Jack Kirby would later say that the explosion only gave him a slight scar. And Doom being possibly the most vain character in the Marvel Universe, witnessing this imperfection declared himself unfit to be seen by the world. Later Doom instructs the monks to set the iron mask upon his face while it was still red-hot (notice the steam from the mask while it was being placed on his face in the picture above) and disfiguring it even further. This makes the story much more compelling in my eyes, while making Doom's horribly scared face the result of his ego and pride.




With another epic title, the main story opens with the Thing losing control of the Fantasti-car and he is forced to bring the rest of the Fantastic Four in for a rough landing on the Manhattan streets. As they crash into a car, the owner jumps out and starts laying into the Thing, yelling about damages and remuneration and the like. Up walks another man, however, introducing himself as an art dealer and offering to buy it from the driver on the spot. As soon as the cash trades hands, he asks the Thing to bust up the auto even more, claiming he'll sell it as an original "Clobber Creation!" (Who says this isn't the World's Greatest Comic Magazine)

Meanwhile Doctor Doom (who was last seen drifting off into deep space at the end of Fantastic Four #23) is picked up by the time-traveling pharaoh, Rama-Tut. At first, Rama-Tut claims that Doctor Doom is clearly his ancestor who created the time machine which the Pharaoh's own time traveling sphinx was based on. But then they get to wondering if the two of them might actually be the same man, at different points in his life: Does Doom eventually travel to the 25th century and start calling himself Rama-Tut? Or, alternately, will the Pharaoh take a visit to the past and become the gypsy who would one day call himself Doctor Doom? It's really a very bizarre conversation. The time logic gets even weirder, in fact. Rama-Tut suggests that the two of them team up to take down the FF, which has now defeated them both, but Doom says that they can't attack together - because if they're the same person, and the younger version is slain, the older version will die too. So Rama-Tut instead just drops Doom back on Earth, to pursue their vendetta on his own, and goes to live his conquering life back in the 25th century. (Yeah, I don't get it either but hey, it's all about the fantasy... right? ... Right??)

As the plot gets underway, our heroes receive an invitation to a gala at the Latverian embassy, honoring them with a scientific fellowship A few panels later we see them at the event, where Sue comments, "Reed, I'm rusty on my current events! Who is the actual ruler of Latveria?" Well that question will be answered later as the Fantastic Four's drinks are drugged and they quickly hallucinate and turn on each other before discovering Doom as the culprit.




Knowing Doom's grudge is mainly with him, Mr. Fantastic comes face-to-face with his arch-nemesis, has a toast to their upcoming battle (which is a great scene) and whips out a crazy device he invented called: The Encephalo-Gun (nice Stan Lee name and Jack Kirby design right there)! This device, pits both of the combatants' willpower against each other, and whoever loses... is sent away to a timeless limbo forevermore (yup, you read that right). In what could be the mind vs mind battle of the century readers are subsequently shocked to see Doctor Doom actually win, gloat over Reed's disappearing form, and then walk away satisfied. Sue is quite confused at Doom's actions, and asks Reed for an explanation - now seen casually leaning against the door - who points out that the gentleman's toast which Reed offered Doom before their duel was spiked with the same drug that had been used against them earlier that night, causing Doom to merely imagine his final victory against his foe (Huh??).




HERO ENVY REPORT CARD
Story: 5
Art: 5
Action: 3
Flow: 3
Reread Factor: 5
Overall Grade: 4
(grading numbers 1 thru 5, with 5 being the highest)

I absolutely adore the early Marvel annuals, especially when they had the different colors on the title letters. Something about it screamed Supa-Dupa-fun to me! That only enhances the incredible Jack Kirby cover that shows the FF struggling in the grip of this magnificently terrifying foe... Dr. Doom! While Doom's origin was flawlessly scripted, it was the second story that hurt the overall flow of the issue. I sometimes had to check out of the story to scratch my head due to some of the strange scenes; the convoluted interaction between Dr. Doom and Rama-Tut, the bizarre Encephalo-Gun, and the final ending with liquid hallucinogenics involved (hey, it's the 60's). But this is what the Silver Age of Comics was all about. Outlandish scenes and events mixed in with fantastical characters that grabbed our imaginations and took us on a magical ride. I always return to these type of stories and you should too...



Agree, disagree? Let's hear it fanboys!


OTHER "OUT OF THE BACK ISSUE BIN" REVIEWS

AVENGERS #164, 165, 166 (1977)
   John "The Mego Stretch Hulk" Cimino
John Cimino is a Silver and Bronze Age comic, cartoon and memorabilia expert that runs a business called "Saturday Morning Collectibles." He buys, sells, appraises and gives seminars  on everything pop culture, so if you got something special, let him know about it. He contributes articles to ALTER EGO, BACK ISSUE and THE JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR from TwoMorrows Publishing and has appeared on the AMC reality show Comic Book Men. He also represents some of comicdoms biggest stars and brings them to a Comic Con near you. John still thinks he's really Captain Marvel, people just don't have the heart to tell him he's just an obsessed fanboy that loves to play superheroes with his daughter Bryn. Contact him at johnstretch@live.com or follow on twitter at @Elastic_Hulk and have some fun.