Friday, January 11, 2013

Marvel Comics Silver Age DisContinuity 002
Fantastic Four #2

Marvel Comics DisContinuity, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
One of the greatest guides to the concept of continuity in a specific series is The DisContinuity Guide: The Unofficial Doctor Who Companion by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, first put out in 1995. From my point of view the genius of this work is in the way the authors peel back the layers of a complex text like Doctor Who, and start back at the beginning, when we didn't know anything about the series or what it would eventually evolve into.

This allows us to see the ways in which the universe was expanded, sometimes carefully, often times not. We get to see undeveloped themes and the earliest examples of new themes.

Like an evolutionary biologist studying our small, brown furred burrowing human ancestors, we get a look at the way things were without the baggage of the way things are.

This is the second of a series of posts in which I hope to look at Marvel Comics the same way.

Marvel Comics DisContinuity 002 

Title(s) :
The Fantastic Four Meet the Skrulls from Outer Space
Prisoner of the Skrulls
The Fantastic Four Fight Back!
The Fantastic Four... Captured!

Publication Date/On Sale Date : 
January 1962/September 1961

Writer/Artists : 
Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Sources : 
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Adventures of Superman episode "Three in One", Martian Manhunter








No Prizes : 
In order to trick the Skrulls who are impersonating them, Johnny sets out to sabotage a rocket test, hoping to be mistaken by the Skrulls as one of them. Then Johnny actually commits the sabotage, and somehow fools the Skrulls. It's a terrible plan, it depends on Johnny committing a terrible crime, and worse, it works!

Reed fools the Skrull commander by showing him pictures "clipped from Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery.  Remarkably, the Skrull commander is unable to tell the difference between comic book art and actual photographs.

Marvel Comics DisContinuity, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Reed and the rest of the Fantastic Four lose track of one of the Skrulls. They leave four Skrulls tied up when they go to the Skrull mother ship, and return to recapture three of them. Reed explains, "The fourth one is on his way to another galaxy now with the rest of his invasion fleet." But how? Reed's entire plan rests on fooling the Skrull commander, and the one escaped Skrull could ruin that.

Quotes : 
Ben (as he transforms once more into the Thing): Oh, no!! Not again! Don't let it happen again-- Don't-- Don't-- I should have known! It couldn't be-- It was just a joke!! Yeah-- A real funny joke!
Continuity : 
The Skrulls, an alien race of shape changers, are introduced. Their green skin and shape-changing ability are reminiscent of DC's Martian Manhunter.

When the Fantastic Four return to Earth in the stolen Skrull space ship, the Thing freaks out over passing through the "radiation belt" again. This has the effect of changing him back into human form.

It should be pointed out that the ship must have passed through the radiation belt on the way to the Skrull mother ship, and there was no effect. Also, shouldn't the Skrulls, with technology beyond that of Earth, have better shielding? This leads me to suspect that the Thing's transformation back to human form was a psychological effect, not genetic.

First mention of The Daily Bugle:

Marvel Comics DisContinuity, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

In what might be one of the weirdest endings I've seen in comics, Reed convinces the three Skrulls trapped on Earth to be hypnotized and transformed forever into cows, grazing in a pasture.

The Fantastic Four keep a Skrull space ship disguised to look like a water tower. This gives Reed an alien spacecraft to learn from and reverse engineer.


Marvel Comics DisContinuity, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Special cells are constructed at a Federal Prison to hold the Fantastic Four. The prison fails to hold them for long.

Skrulls ships look a little like the heads of Skrulls.

Marvel Comics DisContinuity, Fantastic Four, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Retcon :
When Reed recaps the Fantastic Four's origin from last issue, the flight into space becomes a "flight to Mars."

Links : 
Reed gives a brief recap of the first issue origin.

Location : 
Oil rig, somewhere in the ocean, many miles away from Central City.
Central City
Midwest
Isolated hunting lodge
Federal prsion
secret apartment hideout (one of many) in Central City
Skrull mother ship in Earth orbit 

Bottom line : 
Other Marvel Comics out the same month as Fantastic Four #002. Note that Tales to Astonish #027 featuring the first Ant-Man story is out. But this is Ant-Man without the suit, not yet a superhero.

We'll come back to that soon!
The introduction of the Skrulls makes this issue special, but the rest is hard to swallow. The Skrull plan to frame the Fantastic Four for crimes so that the humans of Earth will hunt them down is silly: If the Skrulls lack the ability to stop the FF, what makes them think that the humans the Skrulls intend to conquer can?  Also, as mentioned above, Johnny's plan to infiltrate the Skrull terrorist cell is silly, and worse, it works! Finally, Reed's plan to fool the Skrull commander with comic books and then hypnotize the three remaining Skrulls into thinking that they are cows is just loopy. 

Still, Ben's temporary reversion to human and transformation back into the Thing is genuinely moving in its pathos, and Johnny shows real compassion and friendship for Ben. The idea of the FF as a dysfunctional but caring family is starting to take hold in this issue.

Previous:
Marvel Comics Silver Age DisContinuity 001: Fantastic Four #1

Additional comments and insights are more than welcome.

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