Thursday, July 28, 2011
Fantastic Four classics: Three Worlds At War!
Sponsored by Integr8d Soul Productions, featuring DNA: The Mountain, drawn with crisp, clear story telling by Lue Lyron and the Marc Kane, with scenes and ideas you won't find anywhere else in entertainment!! The comic for those who don't read comics! Black and White, $3 plus shipping each.
Available from C Lue Disharoon
542 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
It’s about time to try writing about a series of FF stories that was everything 70’s Marvel, positive and negative. It’s an example of how to write an action-packed epic guaranteed to confuse much of your readership, and it has several things happening that would not make it a viable movie script, but several things that would appeal to a youthful imagination. C'mon! It's got dinosaurs, blue people, invasions from other dimensions, invasions OF other dimensions, and strange doubles living different lives, centered by the Fantastic Four--- complete with a giant teleporting dog.
There are two negative 1970's things that do not set back this storyline, however---if you'll overlook my summary hyperbole. For one, the story line doesn't get interrupted by a fill-in (especially a reprint), and the other is, the team of Roy Thomas and Rich Buckler are able to stay with it all four issues and give it their artistic flair. They are both successors to the wildly popular and mostly well-done 1960s Marvel Comics Group, building directly on the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
One thing 70's we DO have here is the extended story, which we saw even more during this era wherein the comics begin to cut back to 18, even 17 pages of story and art. There's a little bit of grim, melancholy self-analysis you find in Marvel Comics of the Me Decade, too. At least the Reed/ Sue separation story, which never seemed to go anywhere, is done!
This chart appeared early in part three of this four parter, both explaining the thrust of the action and confessing the confusing nature of the three worlds provoked to war. The Fifth Dimension, featured in #158, and Earth-A, and the FF's Earth, are all versions of Earth appearing in previous stories, and the antagonist is from a fourth world, a barbarian warlord named Arkon with four styles of lightning bolts, with different powers not all illustrated here, which he keeps in his quiver. He's unloading these furiously in the opening story, upon the Thing, in an epic street battle...but as his girlfriend Alicia Masters begins to wonder, is this the Thing? He doesn't sound like Ben Grimm...or a super hero, really, for that matter. Arkon uses a bolt to teleport himself and "The Thing" away, so Alicia goes for help.
When she arrives (courtesy of a cab driver who first appeared in FF #1---thanks, Bob!) at the heroes' headquarters atop the Baxter Building, Reed's busy signing over his shares of Fantastic Four, Inc. to a company. Ben Grimm---the Thing---is there already with no clue what she means! Here's where the giant dog, Lockjaw, comes in: he's an Inhuman who can shift into different locations with a thought. He gives Lockjaw the scent of the ersatz Thing's shirt scrap brought by Alicia to go hunting. After Lockjaw gets a bit distracted, Ben eventually finds himself at the door of Counter Earth's Reed Richards---who here has the power of the Thing! (See FF #118.) He gets into a battle with what turns out to be robots, protecting the Ben and Sue Grimm of that world, who've come to visit Reed. The Thing-Reed shuns the public to work on his inventions, while a now-human Ben Grimm has married Sue Storm. (Johnny Storm of this world is believed to have been killed in Viet Nam; this is 1975).
This Reed has also signed over his work to a company which is using his robots to invade the Fifth Dimension. The Human Torch uses a portal on Long Island (see Strange Tales #103) goes to the Fifth Dimension to help, and agrees to lead them in a retaliatory invasion. When you add in dinosaurs and time-lost warriors brought by the time machine invented by Dr. Doom, you have a dangerous three-way invasion. That destructive energy, in Arkon's plans, will power his world.
Bob broke it down like this when he wrote about it on IMWAN:
Basically, the plot breaks down like this:
1. True Earth. Arkon's agent, DeVoor, representing Arkon's I.T. company, buys controlling interest in Fantastic Four, Inc. As a result, he acquires Reed's time machine and uses it to send dinosaurs, vikings and such against Alternate-Earth. Meanwhile, True Earth is being sent into a new ice age due to technology that Arkon took from Phineas in the 5th Dimension. Thus, True Earth thinks it's under attack by the 5th Dimension and is retaliating while also unaware that "True Earth Reed's" time machine is being used to attack Alternate Earth.
2. Alternate Earth. Alternate Earth is under attack by dinosaurs and vikings that came from "True Earth Reed's" time machine. They thus believe that True Earth is attacking them. Meanwhile, Arkon - acting through an I.T. company with DeVoor as his representative - has gotten ahold of Reed-Thing's "andrones" and is using them to attack the Fifth Dimension.
3. The Fifth Dimension. They think that they are under attack by Alternate Earth, because Reed-Thing's andrones have attacked them. Meanwhile, Phineas' technology is being used to attack True Earth.
I think the moment, when the captured, alternative Reed Richards and the Things team up to face the U.S. Military (led by Gen. Thunderbolt Ross from the Hulk comics), is my favorite of this arc.
The conclusion brings me to a phenomenon of the 70's that includes Rocket Racer (bad guy on super-skateboard) and Hypno Hustler (a Bootsy Collins-style disco villain): the appearance of Gaard, modeled after a hockey goalie. The solution to the three worlds battle even resembles a cross between a hockey game and a superhero slugfest! I can't help but feel there were some very happy Canadian kids.
Gaard has a secret I won't reveal here that adds to the irony, possibly the dramatic context. Unlike the cover, only two beings can occupy the place in space/time where this encounter occurs, so we don't get a team of heroes working together for the "goal" like a hockey team, but we do get a variation of FF and Thing-Reed teamwork to beat Arkon's Gaard. The letters pages later suggested Roy Thomas wanted Gaard to be a little tongue-in-cheek---that's a little weird for the conclusion of a fairly dramatic adventure arc.
But, is it fun? Oh, a LOT of people did think so. I think when you are younger you use a lot of derivative concepts to create your pretend adventures, and for its wonderful absurdity, the Three Worlds at War arc captures that spirit. Personally,as a child I always found the idea of alternative selves unsettling, as they raised many questions not easily answered in Sunday School. I didn't grow up in a house of science fiction lovers (or even readers, in particular) so these things had the maximum shock effect on me. In today's secularized society, can you even imagine that? I tended to conduct my thought experiments in secrecy, occasionally posing strange questions for my Mom, but generally realizing, in that pre-Internet Stone Age, I was on my own. Meeting an alternative self is still intriguing; it's scary and wonderful at the same time to ponder how our lives may have gone differently based on other choices.
Arguably, the art, compared to DC, may be crowded or ugly or confusing, and I can see where coming into the middle of any of this might've turned off a reader from Marvel Comics for life, and I know one reader who felt exactly that way. I was disappointed by the lack of active role for Sue, but even that harkens back to some of the earlier plots---and the early days are the inspiration here.
This was an epoch where Thomas wanted to take the Fantastic Four back to basics in a way, including restoring Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben as the quartet, and that calls for inventiveness and fun---don't think everything was so sophisticated in those 60's comics!
Joseph's shared a terrific sub-plot for our Defenders story; after we work together a bit I'll bring it back here,along with fun articles on the filming of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Planet of the Apes, Conan the Barbarian, and more classic comics. Meanwhile, I'll be busy with our own Integr8d Soul comics!!!
First: DNA Comics #1 is ONLINE!!!
Meanwhile, our remaining t-shirts are available at Convention Special Price, for $12 each or 2 for $20, plus $3.00 for shipping & handling.
Listen, I'm still figuring out integr8dsoul.com, but meanwhile, you can do what Jason did. (He also got a special bonus copy!) In Jason's case, he sent us $9 at
C. Lue Disharoon
542 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
which was really cool as it covers shipping and handling, at $1.25 each! The issue itself, DNA #1, retails for $3.25.
You can send $30 and get any three t-shirts and the comic, too---or $25 for the two styles of shirts and a comic.
Be on the look out for Not Another Comic Book! Preview this July!!