9. The End of the Fantastic Four

Issue Nine, Dec 1962

“It’s all my fault, Sue! If only I hadn’t bought those stocks with all out money! Then when the stock market went down, we lost it all!”

Namor is watching a television report about the Fantastic Four’s recent bankruptcy. Reed has lost all their finances in a stock market dip and the FF have to sell their equipment for scrap and move out of their headquarters. They receive an apparently fortuitous letter from a “S. M. Studios” in Hollywood and hitchhike (yes, hitchhike) out West where they find that it is the Sub-Mariner who has invited them out to the studio he founded and where “out of boredom” he has to film a movie about his arch-foes. The FF start to take part in the filming, but start to become suspicious at the lack of film equipment and the nearly deadly stunts they are required to take part in. Confronting Namor, who has in the meantime taken the opportunity to woo Sue Storm to the greatest of his ability, the boys are stopped ffrom pummeling him when Sue cites the contract that they all signed at the start of the caper. Namor walks off into the sea, the movie is a smash-hit, and the FF’s financial fortunes are restored.

This issue starts with a flawed premise and every plot development only serves to add another misjudged level to a very wobbly structure.

It is now finally revealed where the Fantastic Four have received their apparent wealth from — Reed has sold the patents to his inventions. That would have been enough, but he’s apparently taken on some risky stock options with the proceeds, and lost them in a recent crash. With no means of earning, the FF consider selling off their possessions and disbanding. “If only we could be like some of the super heroes in some of these comic magazines, Sue,” Reed laments. “They never seem to worry about money!” This self-referentialism fails when you think that it’s probably only the success of Peter Parker’s plight in Spider-Man that led Stan Lee to try out that trope in this title.

Although not one of Reed’s collection, this still is a “comic magazine” nonetheless, so what happens next is that the FF are contacted by a movie company to make a movie of their lives. The head of the studio? Prince Namor — who has no trouble finding cash, there being literally tons of forgotten treasure under the waves. Needless to say, he tries to kill the male members of the FF and marry the female one (again!), but is thwarted in his attempts. He keeps his word that the movie will get made, and it apparently is, and is an apparent hit, and apparently gives the FF the right amount of cash at the right time to apparently avoid bankruptcy. Hurrah!

It’s a plot that belongs more in a Scrooge McDuck story, and that’s not to insult it — that’s just to say that it doesn’t belong here. It’s a quick “raise a problem, use the established cast of characters to solve it, and establish the status quo at the close” type of story, which doesn’t really develop the characters at all.

Another “touching” moment

The only character development that does happen is quite sweet. The Thing, having stormed out on the rest of the FF once more, visits Alicia Masters, the blind girl from last issue. There she tells him of his own nobility and calls him a white knight. Inspired by this, The Thing returns and jubilantly makes amends with his teammates. It’s the first time he’s left and returned without them having to go after him, and he does it in a good spirit.

This nice moment of positive female interaction is unfortunately negated by Sue’s contrived attraction to Namor, peculiarly surfacing as he hands out wads of cash to the FF. “He’s so masterful — so confident!” she sighs, clutching a brick-sized lump of bank notes to her bosom.

The individual reader will have to attest to the believablity of Sue’s actions, based on their own experience with women. The caption writer declines comment.

It started poorly, but ended badly. Namor could have been interchanged with virtually any other villain, or a new one entirely, and it would have made no odds. Nothing was solved in a meaningful way, and although the FF will occasionally skirt cash-flow issues in the future, this theme doesn’t continue immediately.


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