Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #9 is one of the most famous in the series’ history, because of how silly it is.
The splash page features Namor, all alone in his undersea lair, watching the news on TV (why not?), where he learns that the Fantastic Four are broke. It’s at this point that the reader says, “Did I miss an issue?” No, that’s just how this one begins.
From there, we go to FF headquarters, which is filled with bill collectors demanding the thousands of dollars the FF owes. More of them show up in the building’s hanger, threatening to dismantle the FF’s pogo plane, and Reed admits he’s had to sell it, along with all of his other inventions. He says he spent all the team’s savings on the stock market, only to have the market crash. Prescience!
Ben visits Alicia, who has sculpted a white knight puppet for him, saying he’s her white knight. This calms him down, and he rejoins his teammates, where Reed says a big-time Hollywood studio has offered the team starring roles in a movie, ending their money woes by paying $1 million cash (cue Dr. Evil reference here). The only problem is getting from New York to L.A., leading to the famous panel of our heroes on the side of the road, hitchhiking.
Sadly, we never get to see what poor soul gives them a drive, because by the next page, the FF are at the studio. A bunch of background characters are clearly based on famous celebrities of the time, but I’m afraid I don’t recognize all of them. I spotted Hitchcock’s iconic profile, as well as Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, but who’s this “Jack” character that chats with the Thing? Jack Benny? Jack Kirby? The FF are taken to the producer’s gigantic office, only to learn the studio head is… Namor, the Sub-Mariner! Plot twist!
Namor explains that he used treasures taken from the bottom of the sea to purchase the entire studio, and the he plans to make a movie starring his “former” foes. Reed buys a new suit, and Johnny buys a fancy sports car. I guess going broke a few pages earlier didn’t teach them any lessons about money management. Ben roughs up some bullies at the beach, and Namor once again goes after Sue, treating her to a romantic dinner. She’s not falling for it, though, and questions his motives. He says all we be made clear soon.
On the first day of filming, Namor, who is apparently also directing, is out on a boat with Reed. He tells Reed to go to a nearby island and fight a Cyclops robot, while the crew films from the boat. Reed goes along with this, not knowing that Namor set him up, and that it’s a real Cyclops, who kills any humans who come near his island. I love that this sort of stuff just randomly exists in the Marvel Universe. Reed defeats the Cyclops, but Namor believes Reed is dead. Moving on, Namor tries a similar trick on Johnny, trapping him on an island where the bloodthirsty, non-politically correct natives use a magic potion to make themselves fireproof (!). Johnny escapes from them and uses his flame to make a nearby volcano erupt. The natives escape, but the lava flow destroys their magic potion, or so Johnny says (how does he know that)?
Elsewhere, on another beach, Namor drops all pretense of making a movie and just starts beating on Ben. Ben fights back, and they go at it for a few panels. A bolt of lightning comes out of nowhere (I swear I’m not kidding) and turns Ben back into a human for a few seconds, allowing Namor to get the drop on him.
Thinking he’s won, Namor returns to Sue and proposes. I guess he thinks she’ll be so impressed that he just killed the three most important people in her life that she’ll fall right into his arms. She doesn’t, and instead turns invisible and tries to make her escape. She almost gets away, but Namor, who we’re told can mimic the abilities of any sealife, uses the “radar vision” of “cave fish” to see Sue. The other three burst in and are about to fight Namor, but Sue stops them with the “we had a contract” excuse. They were in his movie, so now he has to pay them. I guess the contract didn’t have a “Yeah, but he tried to kill us” clause.
Namor pays up and returns to the sea, leaving his new lucrative Hollywood life behind. What’s better, the movie is released and is a huge hit, with the FF raking the cash and returning to their high-class lifestyle. That was convenient.
Unstable Molecule: Reed busts out a lot of cool moves during the random Cyclops fight, such as turning his body into a giant slingshot and then a giant tripwire.
Fade Out: Despite having nowhere near the power levels of Namor, Sue puts up a good fight, and almost makes her escape. She also saves the day, not through violence but through contract negotiation.
Clobberin’ Time: Ben was well on his way to defeating Namor in hand-to-hand combat until he gets Deus Ex Machina-ed by a bolt of lightning.
Flame On: Johnny’s fight against the random fireproof natives has him using his wits, such as creating fire duplicates of himself to confuse them.
Trivia Time: This would not be Namor’s last time as an executive. The Namor mini-series of the 80s also recast him as a corporate executive.
The Marvel Wiki refers to the Cyclops of this issue as “The Mythical Cyclops” to avoid confusing it with the X-Men character of the same name. To date, this is the first and last appearance of the Mythical Cyclops.
Fantastic or Frightful: There’s a panel early on where Reed is looking at a bunch of comics, grousing about how comic book characters never need to worry about paying their bills. Little moments like these are part of why we love all Stan Lee’s writing, his ability to make everyday life part of outrageous superhero adventure. This issue is famous for being silly, and rightfully so, but it’s also hugely entertaining.
Next week: Let’s everybody mind-swap!
Like to read? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.