In case you weren’t aware, today is what would have been the hundredth birthday of the King of comics, Jack Kirby. Possibly because Jack Kirby died before the opportunity to become a living mascot for Marvel like Stan Lee, the average person doesn’t seem to hold him in very high esteem, or may not even know who he is. But true comics fans know that very few creators loom quite as large in the medium as good old Jack Kirby. So, in honor of the King’s birthday, I wanted to go ahead and talk about a delightfully insane story from one of his greatest creations, the classic Fantastic Four. I’ve talked about the Fantastic Four a bit here on the site, but this is the first time that I’ve dipped back into the original Lee/Kirby run. Which is a shame, because just about every single one of those comics are gold. They’re some of the best superhero stories of all time, and while some of the thoughts and opinions in the issues can be very of their time, it’s still a truly remarkable experience to work your way through that original run and see the Marvel Universe as we know it being created whole cloth. So, I knew I wanted to discuss a Fantastic Four story, and of course, I had to include Doctor Doom. It’s been far too long since I’ve talked about the greatest supervillain of all time here on the site, and it’s only fitting that I include him in this tribute. Plus, it’s an issue where Jack Kirby himself, not as God this time, actually appears. Which is just too odd to pass up.
The issue begins with Mr. Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, and the Human Torch just hanging around the Baxter building, running a series of tests that Reed hopes will help give them information on how the Invisible Woman’s powers work. I’m not really sure to what end this experiment was being run, but it doesn’t really matter, because as soon as it’s introduced it’s dropped when they see a message from the Thing that he needs their help. We’re then treated to a very strange scene where the Fantastic Four find themselves locked in their lab, and have to use all of their powers to open a door. It’s very strange. But things get even weirder when they finally manage to defeat their mighty door, and get down to the streets, where they’re promptly mobbed by fans. A wave of groupies try to rip the clothes off Mr. Fantastic, and a weird pervert comes and tries to get Invisible Woman to smile for him, until she turns invisible and flees from him. Eventually the three heroes are able to get away from their adoring public and they track down the Thing, who is just hanging out with his girlfriend Alicia. Nothing pressing. They were just hanging out, looking at Alicia’s sculptures of the Fantastic Four’s various villains, and they wanted to see their friends. Seems like a misuse of Fantastic Four resources, but whatever. But while the Fantastic Four are hanging around Alicia’s apartment, something odd happens.
Yeah, there’s a lot of unpack there. We cut away from the Fantastic Four to the offices of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who are complaining that they need to come up with a new villain for the Fantastic Four to fight in this story. But then, as they’re complaining, Doctor Doom himself walks into the office, and they promptly freak the hell out. Now, back in the day it was established that Marvel Comics existed in the Marvel Universe, and they sold comic books about the real life people that existed in their world. So I guess this is what’s happening, Because Doom has come here with a purpose. He knows that Lee and Kirby work with the Fantastic Four on a regular basis to get their approval on the comics they release, and Doom wants Lee and Kirby to call Mr. Fantastic to the office so he can defeat them. They do seem rather put off by this, but when Doom starts blasting holes in their office they capitulate, and give Mr. Fantastic a call.
Reed is a little confused why the two comics professionals need to see him, since they already had their monthly meeting, but he rolls with it and heads over to the office to see what they need. And as soon as Reed gets there, still not sure what’s going on, Doctor Doom just blasts him with “sleeping gas,” that had quotations marks around it for some reason, and knocks Reed out. He then insults Lee and Kirby for being such push-overs, and teleports out of their office, with the captive Reed. They end up at Doom’s hideout, where Reed regains consciousness and is super pissed. He’s also pretty baffled, because the last time he saw Doom he was stuck on a meteor, flying into space. But Doom brushes this off by explaining that he was picked up by a peaceful race of aliens with powerful psychic powers who taught him the secrets of switching minds with people before returning him to Earth. And it’s that mind-switching thing that’s going to come into play in this story, because I’ve somehow found a second story where Doctor Doom pulls a Freaky Friday on a hero. This time Mr. Fantastic.
Well that certainly worked more smoothly than when he stole Daredevil’s mind. And Mr. Fantastic is not pleased. He swears that he’s going to do something to defeat Doom, but he’s not used to Doom’s body, and apparently Doom inherently knows how to use Mr. Fantastic’s powers, because he quickly wraps up Reed, keeping him harmless. Which is when the rest of the Fantastic Four come bursting into the room, having been told the location of Doom’s hideout by Lee and Kirby. They of course see Reed battling Doctor Doom, and don’t for a second think that any mind-swap shenanigans have occurred, and side with “Mr. Fantastic.” Reed tries really hard to explain to his family what’s actually going on, telling them that Doom switched bodies with him, but they just blow that off as ridiculous and beat him up.
They then have a really weird brainstorming session where they try to decide what to do with “Doom,” that’s mainly different ideas where they trap him inside things for him to presumably asphyxiate. But as they’re coming up with ideas “Reed” suddenly announces he has a brilliant plan. Because it just so happens that there’s a giant plexiglass tube in the basement of this hideout, that “Reed” obviously knows about, and he suggests they just stick “Doom” in it until they come up with a better idea. And the rest of the Fantastic Four are super down with that plan. So they stick “Doom” inside of the tube, and leave, after being promised that there’s plenty of air inside. But as soon as they’re gone, “Reed” come over to gloat, informing the real Reed that the tube actually only has an hour left of air, and that he’s going to die alone in the tube. But that’s okay, because “Reed” has dumber fish to fry.
When you’re reading this issue you turn the page from Doctor Doom in Reed Richards’ body informing the real Reed Richards that he’s about to suffocate to death, straight to the rest of the Fantastic Four flummoxed by the sudden appearance of a bunch of miniature animals that seem related to the front page story of “ZOO ANIMALS MISSING.” And let me tell you, it’s a hell of a tone shift, but it’s a delight. Our heroes struggle to capture these tiny animals, when “Reed” shows up to explain what he’s been doing. He apparently kidnapped all of these animals, in the past twenty minutes or so, and used them as guinea pigs to test off his new shrink ray. Sure, that sounds like responsible science. But, the reason that he’s testing out a shrink ray may be the most insane thing I’ve ever heard.
Now, this is all bullshit, because it’s actually just part of Doctor Doom’s evil plan, but he manages to convince Johnny, Sue, and Ben of this, and it’s hilarious. He tells them that he’s been working on a theory that the reason the dinosaurs went extinct was because their bodies grew too big for their brains. He thinks that if the dinosaurs had grown brains at the same rate as their bodies they would be the dominant species on Earth. And therefore, somehow, if he uses a shrink ray to shrink their bodies down, and then regrow them back to normal, their brains will be optimized and their powers will be increased. This is straight up gibberish, but apparently Sue, Johnny, and Ben are idiots, because they buy this argument immediately, and start lining up to get shrunk, never realizing that “Reed’s” actual plan is to just shrink them into oblivion.
But while all of this is going on, the real Reed Richards is hard at work trying to figure out how to get out of this plexiglass prison he’s trapped in. He fist tries to just smash his way out of the cell, using Doctor Doom’s helmet as a club, but he only manages to crack the glass, not break it. He then realizes that the air canisters that supply the cell with what little oxygen it has are just sitting in the cell, so Reed comes up with a plan where he sticks one of the canisters in the crack, and then smashes the other one against it, causing an explosion. This works, and Reed is able to escape from his prison. But he’s still not sure how to tackle Doom, so for some reason he decides he should go to Alicia Masters’ apartment and convince her first. He actually does manage to get to the apartment, but as he’s talking to Alicia the Invisible Woman shows up and just knocks him out, still not understanding that he’s actually Reed.
Ben and Johnny then arrive, and are ready to beat the hell out of Doom, until he starts talking to them again about the fact that he’s not actually Doom. And this time, it works. Ben doesn’t know why, but he trusts “Doom,” and decides to bring him back to the Baxter Building to get everything sorted out. So they drag “Doom” back to their headquarters, and “Reed” is not happy when he sees this. He tries again to explain that this is all just a trick that Doom is playing, and that they should kill him and get it over with. But Johnny has come around on the idea that some mind-switchery is afoot, and devises a ridiculous plan to figure out what’s going on. He somehow uses his powers to create a heat-mirage of a stick of dynamite in the middle of the room, and then watches as “Doom” throws himself on the dynamite to save everyone, and “Reed” flees into a vent to save himself. This proves that something is up, and the Fantastic Four start yelling at “Reed” to reveal himself. And in the chaos Doom’s mental prowess slips, and the mind-switching fails, putting everyone back in their right bodies. Doom then freaks out, and starts attacking the Fantastic Four wildly. However, in doing so he sets off the shrink ray, which blasts him, causing him to start to shrink. He begs the Fantastic Four for help, but they’re unable to stop the process, so they watch helplessly as Doctor Doom gradually shrinks into nothing before them. The End!
This issue is a whole lot of fun. I am always going to be in favor of a crazy issue featuring Doctor Doom being the absolute best, so of course I was going to like this issue. Because this is some top-notch Doctor Doom right here. He’s just so blatantly evil, and his hatred for Reed Richards shows no bounds in this story, and I love him. I also find it hilarious that Doctor Doom has tried this whole “switch minds with a superhero” thing multiple times. I really hope that there’s more stories like this out there, and if there are I will find them. There’s certainly some weird aspects to this story, like the extended sequence of that Fantastic Four being unable to open a door, Mr. Fantastic berating Sue for daring to think that Namor is attractive, and a majority of the team seeing no flaw in the logic that their powers will get stronger if they’re shrunk then grown rapidly, but I still really like it. These old Fantastic Four stories are just a blast, these fun little self-contained science-fiction stories where they jet around, exploring the universe while dealing with the occasional supervillain. And then there’s the fact that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby show up in this comic, and aid Doctor Doom in his plan. It’s such a gloriously weird idea, and I love anytime that the actual creators show up in the comics, because more often than not they would just come off as utterly baffling to people unfamiliar with the creative teams. But, since I already discussed the issue where Jack Kirby is revealed to be the actual God of the Marvel Universe, I figured this would be a fitting tribute to the King on his birthday. So, in celebration of Jack Kirby, go read some comics, or if you have the inclination, create some.
Fantastic Four #10 was written by Stan Lee, penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Dick Ayers, 1963.
Categories: Marvel Madness