Well folks, we’ve made it into year another decade. Welcome to the first post of 2020 here on Puzzled Pagan Presents! And, what better way to start things off than by taking another trip into the weird world of Marvel comics, specifically a story revolving around New Year’s Eve. Which, makes sense, right? For the most part the Marvel Universe heavily revolves around New York City, which just so happens to be home to one of the most famous New Year’s celebrations in the world. But, strangely, there aren’t really that many New Year’s Eve-centric Marvel stories, at least that I can find. I’ve previously talked about an insane story where Doctor Strange is tasked with fighting a duel to the death with Nightmare, featuring the Juggernaut and Tom Wolfe, on a prior New Year’s Day, but while looking around for more stories I managed to scrounge this one up today. And, as has been well-established here in my Marvel Madness posts, if I’m looking for weird Marvel stories, and find one that features Benjamin J Grimm, I’m probably going to talk about it. Because who doesn’t love the Thing? He’s the absolute best! And, our story today gives us the chance to talk about one of the Thing’s most confounding and strange recurring foes, Thundra. So, if you’re looking for a story that feature holidays, blood feuds, and the Ever-Lovin’ Blue-Eyed Thing, I have you covered.
The story begins in Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve, where the people of New York have gathered to celebrate and have a good time. And, everyone seems to be fulfilling that last task, except for the Fantastic Four. See, this story takes place after a rash of particularly bad luck for Marvel’s First Family. Sue Richards, the Invisible Woman, has recently left both the team, and Reed. They had a large squabble about Reed not respecting her, and she took young Franklin and left him. Johnny Storm is also facing some heart-break, after learning that his on-again-off-again romance, Crystal, has decided to keep things permanently “off,” and instead start a relationship with Quicksilver. So, we have two members of the team nursing broken hearts, and a gap in the roster, which has resulted in Medusa of the Inhumans deciding to team up with them for the time being. Which makes the only person not having a terrible time Ben himself. Unfortunately, Ben is not always the most chipper guy, and standing around with all of these people has gotten him glum, self-conscious about his monstrous visage, despite assurances from Alicia Masters that he’s the only one over-thinking it all. So, not exactly the peppiest gang.
Alicia does her best to raise Ben’s spirits, playing a little game where she requests he describe everything around them for her, trying to get a feeling of the atmosphere and how people are feeling. But, Ben still has to slip in his grumpy humor, which starts to frustrate poor Alicia. And, she’s not the only one, because Medusa has been trying to cheer Reed up, which is probably a difficult task, what with them being long-standing foes up until fairly recently. So, instead of taking a soft tactic, she basically just tells Reed that he’s acting like a baby, and should just grow up and try to process things and move on without dwelling on it. So, Reed gives it his best shot, and tries to act jolly with Johnny, which just fails pretty much immediately, because no amount of false happiness can stomp on the sullen powers of Johnny Storm.
And, insanely enough, the sight of Reed and Johnny’s misery actually kind of cheers Ben up. Not because he’s glad to see his best friends in the world being sad, but because it makes him appreciate the fact that he has Alicia, and makes him decide he should cheer himself up, and make the most of his time with the woman he loves. And, this realization of happiness comes right as the clock is about to strike twelve. So, the crowds begin cheering, ready for their grand party to be kicked up a notch, when something unexpected happens. Because, right in front of everyone, the massive clock-tower they’re watching is suddenly assaulted by a woman, climbing up onto the face of the clock, and attempting to pry the hands off, keeping the Ball from dropping. And it just so happens that we know this woman.
That’s right everyone, it’s Thundra! Now, at this point in the series Thundra was an extremely new character, having just shown up as a mysterious new member of the Frightful Four, a largely ineffectual supervillain team that fights the Fantastic Four, which Medusa had previously been a part of. But, even today I would say that Thundra isn’t that well-known a character, so I’ll go ahead and give you the lowdown on her whole deal. Thundra is a visitor from an alternate future, a world where women have become the dominate sex, ruling over weak men. It’s essentially an Amazonian society, where the mightiest of women travel around, seeking out challengers. And, Thundra was apparently such a mighty warrior that she began seeking out stranger and strangers foes. Which, eventually sent her back in time to encounter the Thing. She allied herself with the Frightful Four as a means to an end, because all she really wants is a worthy sparring partner, which she thinks is Ben.
And, because Ben refused to give her the fight she wanted in an earlier issue, she has returned and decided to make quite a scene to get his attention. She begins screaming out at the crowd, challenging Ben to a fight, while somehow also getting a scrolling electric sign to start putting her terms, specifically that they meet at Shea Stadium at dawn, three days from this moment. But, Ben doesn’t really want to wait that long, since she’s causing a serious scene and ruining these people’s evening. So, he whips off his coat and hat and makes his presence known, but Reed and Medusa stop him from fighting the mighty woman, fearing the damage that would be caused. But, Johnny doesn’t have any of that restraint. So, before anyone can stop him, he Flame’s On, and goes to attack Thundra.
Thundra isn’t too impressed with the Human Torch, even after his incredible heat is able to melt the arm of the clock, which she had been brandishing as a weapon towards him. But, Thundra’s whole thing is an obsession with physical strength, she doesn’t have much interest at all in men on fire. So, she wrenches off the other arm of the clock, wraps it around the chain she uses as a weapon, and begin whirling it around and around as fast as she can, creating a gust of wind that manages to dampen his flames enough to cause him to flail in the air. She then start hucking snow at him, which combined with the wind manages to snuff Johnny’s flame, causing him to fall down to the ground, being snagged out of the air by Reed.
And this really gets Ben steamed. He decides to go attack Thundra, damn the consequences, when she suddenly takes flight. See, one of her teammates on the Frightful Foe is the Wizard, who specializes in zero-gravity technology. So, he’s given Thundra a special flight disk to ride on, which she uses to zip away from Ben’s grasp. And, what’s more, she grabs Alicia from the crowd, just to ensure that Ben will be ready to fight her. Thundra then taunts the Thing, calling down to him and baiting him so that he’ll be plenty angry for their little bout, while also getting the entire crowd incredibly excited to see these two superpowered being beat the holy hell out of each other.
Reed manages to talk Ben down, keeping him from chasing Thundra down right that moment and potentially causing things to escalate. He convinces Ben that they need to get home to the Baxter Building as quickly as possible so that they can plan, while also begin tracking Thundra down. And, while the Fantastic Four get plotting, we see the rest of the city become obsessed with the upcoming fight. It becomes major news, and even begins reaching the rest of the superhuman community. The Avengers read about it in their Mansion, generally thinking that it sounds insane. Spider-Man counts himself lucky that he wasn’t chosen as a champion, because he doesn’t think he’d be able to best Thundra. And the Hulk just generally thinks that this much fuss over a simple fight is ridiculous.
And, while all of that’s going on, Thundra is getting ready for the fight. She and the Frightful Four are hanging out in an empty water-tower that they’ve converted into some sort of gymnasium/prison cell for Alicia, so that Thundra can train herself. And, she also has to deal with the japes of her idiot teammates. The Wizard is just sulking around, hating this sort of physical menace, the Trapster is just taking up space, and the Sandman is busy trying to be a misogynistic as possible, seemingly just to get a rise out of Thundra. But, the Wizard keeps Thundra from beating Sandman up, and tries to convince her that while she certainly is impressive, the Thing won’t be a pushover. And, to hammer that in, we see that the Thing is getting ready for their fight by personally plowing all of the snow off of Shea Stadium’s field. And, as a crowd of people arrive to watch the match, Ben Grimm gets ready to fight for the woman he loves.
And, as the crowd begins working themselves into a frenzy, Thundra makes her appearance. She flies in on the little disc from the Wizard, and lands right in the field. And, when she’s there, we see a special referee hired by the mayor walk up to her, ready to give her the rules of the fight. But, Thundra doesn’t want to take any orders from some puny man, and ends up throwing the little referee out of the way, getting straight to the down and dirty fight with the Thing. The two begin beating the crap out of each other, all while Thundra taunts Ben by explaining that she already knows that she’s much stronger than him. And, to hammer that fact it, she manages to get a hold of Ben, and throws him straight out of the stadium. She then hops onto her disc and gives chase, really pissing off the stadium full of people who came for the show.
Ben ends up getting thrown clear to Flushing Meadow Park, landing in the remnants of the 1964 World’s Fair, specifically the Unisphere, and a herd of buffalo which apparently are roaming the grounds. And, as Ben gets his bearings, he watches as Thundra begins flying towards him on her disc. The two meet each other on the Unisphere, and begin fighting once again, with Thundra whipping Ben with her chain. She then begins pummeling the poor hero, who really is rather outmatched by this powerful warrior. At which point Thundra prepares for a death blow. She knocks Ben out, and gets ready to beat him to death, when Reed show up with one last idea. He has invented a special ray gun he’s been tinkering with which can temporarily turn the Thing back into a normal man. It only lasts a few minutes, but Reed’s able to blast Ben with the ray, temporarily causing Thundra to be disgusted with the vision of a normal man. And, because she refuses to dirty her fists with the blood of weak men, she decides not to finish the job on Ben. So, she flies away in frustration, while a weakened Ben turns back into the Thing, just in time for the rest of the family to arrive and save him, with Alicia in tow. At which point they drag the beaten Ben back to the Baxter Building, ready to be thankful for what they have.
So, I’ll be honest, not exactly the most relevant story I could talk about. But you try finding a story that actually contains a lot of New Year’s stuff! It’s impossible! So, I’ll take what I can get, and what I could get was the knowledge that the people of New York are utterly incapable to escaping the insanity of superheroes at any point in time. These are people whose lives are probably inconvenienced by superhuman shenanigans at all times, and when they head to Time’s Square to see that stupid Ball drop they figure they’ll get one moment of piece. But, instead they get to witness an Amazon from the future come and try to start a petty boxing match with a rock monster. And that’s just kind of par for the course. Thundra is a goofy character, and one that maybe hasn’t aged particularly well, kind of coming off as a stereotypical “man-hating” woman which was probably a caricature of the rising feminist movement at the time. But, at the same time, a badass woman who desperately wants to fight people so bad that she traveled back in time to find someone who is worthy of her time is pretty awesome. And, I like seeing the Thing dealing with her. Especially in the face of potential harm coming to Alicia, the one person in the entire world that makes him feel like a normal man. So, he’ll battle a woman who specifically tracks him down because he’s not a normal man, all to maintain that source of humanity. So, now that we’re in a New Year, ready to make some changes in our lives, how about we take a page from Ben Grimm’s book, and find people who make us feel like the people we want to be, and hold them close.
Fantastic Four #133 “Thundra at Dawn!” was written by Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, penciled by Ramona Fradon, inked by Joe Sinnott, colored by Stan Goldberg, lettered by John Costanza, and edited by Roy Thomas, 1973.
Categories: Marvel Madness