24. Infant Terrible

Fantastic Four Issue Twenty-Four 24

Issue Twenty-Four, March 1964

“This clinches it! We’re not up against some simple menace… this may be the most difficult fight we’ll ever face!”

The Fantastic Four are appearing at a press conference. Returning from it, they find their path hampered by many puzzling obstacles. Eventually they encounter a creature whose powers emanate from two antennae. It eludes the FF but happens upon a group of men who start to control it by giving it candy. The FF track the creature down, defeat the men coercing it, and the obstacles that it itself throws at them, buying Reed enough time to contact a passing spacecraft. He summons it just as the creature becomes more and more enraged and two much taller versions of the creature debark — the parents of the alien in question. They calm it and then take it away.

The hyperbolic first page declares this to be a story that “breaks all the rules” and describes it as an “incredible super-adventure”, in the sort of excitedly transparent marketing spiel that only Stan Lee can deliver (and we love him all the more for it).

It may seem a little over-the-top, but that’s probably only because the creators know that this issue is a hard sell. The title of the story basically gives away the plot, which is that a pre-adolescent alien with incredible powers arrives in New York City and starts playing with the citizens as if they were his own toys. The resolution is fairly straightforward, even mundane from one aspect — Reed simply calls the child’s parents.

Fantastic Four Issue Twenty-Four 24

It’s rather broad, humoristically speaking, but I laughed.

But for all that, this tale is told with deftness, and even charm, so the lavish introduction is completely warranted in petitioning the reader to give this tale their full attention. The set-up is rather facile, but there are oddly compelling touches in the exploitation of the Infant Terrible by some bank robbers who become as childishly and dangerously frustrated with “I.T.” as he does with them when he helps them knock over an armoured car, only to turn the money into mud and a flock of birds, or diamonds into eggs.Fantastic Four Issue Twenty-Four 24 The child’s rampage also carries some inspired moments, as he blindly lashes out in all directions and is finally stopped just before he reaches out to try to bring the Sun just a little bit closer to our planet, ending humanity’s reign forever.

All in all, a sub-par concept, but handled with above-par skill.


Note: The splash page of this issue was given a cameo in the 1994 Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross mini-series MARVELS (issue 2). In this issue of FF, Reed, Johnny & Ben are posing for LIFE magazine, and in a montage panel in MARVELS, the cover of that magazine is shown.

Fantastic Four Issue Twenty-Four 24

Kirby, left & Ross, right.

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