“The End of the Fantastic Four!”
Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: Art Simek
Wait! What?! What’s this I’m reading on the cover? The END of the Fantastic Four?? But…but…! It’s just the 9th issue! And I was enjoying these stories so much! And now you’re telling me there will be no more? Oh no!! What bad luck!
You know, this sort of thing always happens to me. Back in the 1990’s, I enjoyed a TV show called Moon Over Miami, but it only lasted thirteen episodes. And then I liked a show called Key West, but it suffered the same fate. I started to feel that I must bring some strange curse to the land of entertainment. If I happen to like something, it’s the kiss of death, it’s sure to be cancelled, scrapped. Is that what’s happening with The Fantastic Four comic mag? The END of the Fantastic Four, after only nine issues? Surely you jest!
Well, of course I jest. I know the FF will continue. But this is one big melodramatic ploy to get you to buy the magazine. Did Stan and company really need to resort to such National Enquirer tactics after only nine issues? I don’t think so. But they did, and it makes for a good story.
Rewind. Revise. I’ll come right out and say it: a great story! I enjoyed this one a lot. We have drama, deception, resolution. We have fairy tale-like use of what I call “one two three storytelling” and who can resist all the Sumor? I’m calling it “Sumor”–the Sue and Namor romantic storyline. I know back in the day, people didn’t morph names to describe their favorite “ships,” but it’s not back in the day, and I am a aficionado of Fan Fiction, so…Sumor it is!
But before we get to the Sumor, we must ask…what has brought the Fantastic Four to such a lowly state that “they can’t pay their bills and they have no place to turn”? Why do we see them on the cover, evicted, downtrodden, carrying bags, heads bowed, shielding themselves from the angry fist-shaking mob? “Heroes one minute–BUMS the next!!”
Wow! So much for fan loyalty, right? But that will all be turned around by page 23. The sooner we start, the sooner we’ll get to our happy ending. So let’s do this!
HARD TIMES & DECEPTION
Well, it appears that our heroes have indeed fallen on hard times. Reed has lost all their money in the stock market. Bankrupt and destitute, the FF are selling their possessions, planning to disband, when suddenly…they get an offer for $1M to star in a movie!
So they hitchhike to Hollywood, where they find that Namor is the head of studio. “All the wealth of the sea is mine,” he explains, and besides, his ancestors have passed down tales of where all the hidden treasure is buried.
Of course Namor has no real interest in making movies. He’s just out to destroy the FF! So first, he takes Reed to “Hidden Island” in the Mediterranean for “filming” a fight scene with a “mechanical Cyclops.” Turns out the Cyclops is real, and Reed fights and defeats it.
Next, Namor takes Johnny to the African jungle to “pretend fight” the natives. But these natives are real and have a potion that makes them immune to fire. Johnny figures it out, escapes, and sets off a volcano to destroy the potion.
Finally, Namor meets with Thing on the beach, saying they’re going to film a big fight scene. But it is a real fight, between Namor and Thing! Namor has super strength in the water, so it’s a fair fight, but when a bolt of lightning turns Thing back to “husky, handsome” Ben Grimm, Namor easily knocks him out.
Believing he has disposed of 3/4 of the 4/4, he now goes after the last quarter, Sue, approaching her with an offer of marriage. When Namor brags that he has triumphed over her friends, she recoils and rejects him, but he uses his powers to capture her.
As Namor exclaims, “Your struggles are useless! I LIKE a woman with spirit!” the other three burst in, apparently not triumphed over. The three are fighting mad, but Sue throws cold water on the shenanigans, reminding the boys that “3 against 1” isn’t fair.
She then defuses the situation further by reminding Namor that they lived up to their part of the contract, now he must live up to his. He pouts, but agrees. He is, after all, incredibly noble–especially for a villain.
So poor Namor, spurned and dejected, returns to the sea, “silently, majestically.” The movie is made, the FF are paid their one million dollars, and are back on top again!
The last panel tells us that “weeks later, all America acclaims a new motion picture hit.” In the background we see the shadow of the crowd, apparently swarming to see the new motion picture hit. Could these be the same people who were shaking their fists on the cover? Fair weather fans? Kick ’em when they’re down, but suck up to see their movie once they become “stars”? I’m very disappointed in the general population. But then I guess I’ve always been somewhat disappointed in the general population; I’ve always felt at odds with the mainstream, never really understanding what makes them tick. After all, if the general population had been a little more in tune with my way of thinking twenty years ago, maybe we’d have more than thirteen episodes of Moon Over Miami!
I’ll never forgive the general population for that one.
But the general population is actually the least interesting thing going on here. Let’s get to the Sumor! In this story we get further developments in the “on again, off again” …I was going to call it a “romance,” but it’s not really a romance, is it? It’s more of an attraction, a crush. Puppy love. But this is a pretty serious case of puppy love, because Namor goes so far as to buy an entire movie studio just so he can knock off the three male members of the FF and get his hands on Sue. He lets us know that money is no object, but to go through all this trouble and commotion for a girl…well, I’d say he’s seriously smitten.
Either that, or he’s simply intrigued by the challenge. As a king, I guess he’s not used to being denied his every whim. So this may not be as much about Sue as it is about a spoiled monarch pouting until he brings every aspect of his world under his complete control. In the confrontation in the studio office, when Sue rejects Namor, he declares, “All right! If it’s a contest you want, I’ll defeat YOU as I’ve defeated the others!” I ask you: are those words of love?
As for Sue however, well frankly, if you ask me, she’s just bored with Reed. I’ve touched on this before. Never mind that her boyfriend is a good-looking super-smart superhero who, in addition to having saved the world numerous times, also regularly visits sick little kids in the hospital. He simply doesn’t show her the same attention that Namor does. Reed is all science and practicality. Namor is all romance. With Reed, Sue can be a super-heroine, but Namor makes her feel like royalty. And what girl doesn’t want to feel like royalty? Today, given the choice, many women would probably choose Super-Heroine over Esteemed Queen, but in the 1960’s, Sue was making the popular choice.
I hope Reed will wake up and pay attention to his girlfriend, because if he doesn’t, he may lose her. Sue marvels that, as the head of a movie studio, Namor is “so masterful–so confident!” that she nearly succumbs to his charms. He wines and dines her at a snazzy Hollywood nightclub, and perhaps she has been softened up just enough…but when he informs her that he has “triumphed over them all!” she is aghast. Aghast, I tell you!
After calling Namor a fool in response to his offer of marriage, though, she goes on to say, “Perhaps, if you hadn’t deceived us—if you had been honest with us, I might have answered you differently!” Really now, Sue? Would you have answered differently? Were you that close to ditching the fabulous Mr. Fantastic for the Monarch of the Sea? I wonder if she means this, or is she just trying to get Reed’s attention?
As Namor chases Sue around the office, he tells her, “I KNOW how you feel about me! You can’t fool your heart!” Is she fooling her heart…or is HE, in fact, the fool? This Sumor stuff gets more delicious every time! I can’t wait for the next installment!
Now, in other news, I do have to ask one very pointed question: aren’t they all being perhaps a bit too trusting? Shouldn’t they have smelled a rat the moment they saw Namor in the studio office?
They’re surprised all right, but that surprise doesn’t evolve into suspicion, as it should, given their history with the Sub-Mariner.
Well, to be fair, Thing does remark, “this whole thing still smells fishy to me,” but he quickly forgets the fishy smell because he likes the “feel of these greenbacks in my mitt.”
Later, in the jungle, Johnny notes that it’s “kooky” to film with no script, but decides he shouldn’t worry about it.
They all put their instincts on hold, for the promise of cold, hard cash, and perhaps also in response to the lure of Hollywood. Not only do they need Namor’s offer to be on the up-and-up, but they also desperately want it to be legitimate. I guess I can forgive them for this. They are, after all, at the end of their proverbial rope. One minute they’re destitute, evicted, selling their possessions and thinking about dissolving their partnership, and the next, not only have all their financial woes dissolved, but they’re buying pink convertibles and hanging out with the beautiful people on Muscle Beach.
Of course, Thing’s plan for hanging out with the beautiful people leaves much to be desired. He really has no idea how to behave in civilized society, does he? Is Stan making fun of Thing…or perhaps also offering a social commentary on the west coast lifestyle?
Well, making fun, or just plain fun, we have a few shots of Hollywood celebrities.
I’m sure these are depictions of Hollywood stars, but the only only I recognized is Bing Crosby, smoking the pipe. Is the fat balding guy W.C. Fields? Or maybe Alfred Hitchcock? If anyone has any ideas, please let me know!
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?
I have one more thing to say about Namor, then I should wrap this up. In the beginning of the story we see him in his underwater bachelor pad, dreaming up this scheme to “get” the FF, and then we see him as the head of the movie studio. In between, the FF have received his offer of one milllllion dollars to appear in a movie. Namor has made this generous offer, but he does not provide any means of transportation! Because they are destitute, the FF are reduced to hitchhiking.
If you ask me, Namor was taking a big chance. The FF might have said, “Geez! This is a great offer! But we don’t have any way to get there, so we’re just going to have to let this one go.” Or, in the time it takes to hitchhike, they might think it over, become suspicious, and decide not to do it.
Actually, the most likely scenario on this cross-country hitchhiking adventure is that due to lack of money and poor conditions, the FF get so aggravated with each other that they fight, disband, and all go off in different directions. Disagreements have caused temporary splits before. This is Namor’s biggest gamble, a gamble he doesn’t have to take. If he has enough money to purchase an entire movie studio, you’d think he would have a little pocket change left over for four stinkin’ plane tickets!
No, Namor’s best bet would have been to mail their plane tickets, so they could get this show on the road! There’s nothing to be gained by having the FF hitchhike cross country, except the humorous and ridiculous site of four superheroes with their thumbs out.
But then I’m asking the story to make too much sense, aren’t I? Too much sense could be a dangerous thing in the world of comics. “Too much sense” could end up being the equivalent of “not enough fun.” With that in mind, I’m glad there were parts of this story that didn’t make a whole lot of sense, because instead, we get a whole lot of fun, even more fun than usual.
When it comes right down to it, I think the only thing that really needs to make sense, the only thing that really matters, is that though the Fantastic Four may bicker and squabble, like any family, in the end, they will always stick together and do what needs to be done, to overcome the odds and stay together. That’s what I love about the FF, and that’s exactly what I get when they go Hollywood and tangle once again with the formidable Sub-Mariner.
In writing this story, Stan may have been overly mesmerized by the bright lights of Hollywood, because in our next story, he takes the idea of a cameo appearance to a whole new level!
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