126. The Way It Began

Issue One Hundred and Twenty-Six, Sept. 1962

Issue One Hundred and Twenty-Six, Sept. 1962

“It all seems like a million years ago — but I can still remember that wild ride upstate to the secret base up in the foothills–“

Ben visits Reed in his lab, only to see Doctor Doom standing over the apparently lifeless body of Sue Storm. He rushes to attack but finds that it was only an image that Reed was projecting with his new Thought Projector Helmet. Attracted by Ben’s screams, Johnny and Sue also arrive and a confused argument ensues, the upshot of which is that everyone gets upset and they all storm off, leaving Ben alone with his thoughts and the Thought Projector Helmet. He puts it one and reminisces about how they all received their powers (issue one), and their first meeting with the Mole Man, followed by their latest (issues 88 & 89). Then he leaves to try to find him.

If this issue were a TV show, then it would be the lazy clip show where characters sit around and reminisce about all the things that have happened to them.

In a time where back issues were rare and reprints were virtually unknown, there is a valid case for recounting the Fantastic Four’s origin in depth, for the benefit of people who didn’t catch it the first time around. However, there is a real missed opportunity here because this notion is carried off without any imagination at all. Roy Thomas has only written one issue so far, but they showed immense promise in mode of telling, theme, and also character motivation. But his framing mechanism is rather contrived, quite apart from being very disturbing — Reed picturing the most upsetting image he could think of to test his new helmet? What kind of sick mind would he have to do that? Ben and Johnny fall much too easily into wanton destruction after their banal banter, it’s all far too clichéd by this point.126wrongThe same can be said of John Buscema, who is obviously an extremely talented artist, yet he limits himself to redrawing the original issue panel-for-panel and pose-for-pose, exactly as Jack Kirby had done over ten years ago by this point.

It brings to mind a quote that is attributed to Samuel Johnson: “Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.”


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