Fantastic February: Beware the space baby

Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. Issue #24 provides some serious 1960s psychedelic weirdness. (Note: I’ll be doing a bunch of these FF posts throughout February to make up for weeks I’ve missed. If all goes according to plan, that’ll put the blog on track to reach Galactus at the one-year mark!)

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The “action” begins as the FF shows off their powers in front of a bunch of photographers from Life Magazine. (Too bad it wasn’t Now Magazine, because then Peter Parker could have been taking the pics.) Nobody wants photos of Reed, Johnny or Ben, focusing all their attention on Sue – you know, because she’s a hottie. The reporters learn of a disturbance in Times Square, so they take off. The FF follow in the Fantasticar, and then it’s on.

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The next few pages are an onslaught of crazy: The Fantasticar is trapped inside a giant milk bottle, the streets are reshaped into some sort of maze, a giant spinning top threatens all the pedestrians, and an army of giant robots appear. They vanish, as an alien appears. It’s the one behind all this, using its powers to do stuff like transform lampposts into flowers and make soda fountains appear out of midair. The photographers try to take its picture, and it reacts by telekinetically throwing them through the air. It then causes meteors to rain down on New York, which the FF promptly destroy before they can do serious harm.

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Reed deduces that alien is an infant, based on its behavior. He tells the public that the best thing to do is stay out of the creature’s way and not antagonize it. Elsewhere, a gangster named Big Joe learns of this and hatches a plan. When the creature reappears, Big Joe and his goons use candy and ice cream to tempt it to join them.

Back at the Baxter Building, Reed theorizes about all the awful things the alien could do if it continues to run around unchecked with its seemingly godlike powers. He coins the creature “Infant Terrible.” (“It means a child who does dreadful things,” Reed says.) Reed wants to work on a solution in his lab, but Johnny and Ben want to hit the streets and look for the alien, so the team splits up.

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Big Joe has trained the Infant Terrible to steal money for him, transporting an armored bank van to his location outside the city. Only it doesn’t stop there, transforming the bags of money into pigs, birds and dinosaur eggs, for its own amusement. Ben, Johnny and Sue show up, and the gangsters don’t stand a chance. The alien panics and creates a giant rock monster to fight our heroes.

Back at HQ, Reed reveals that his device he’s been building is a transmitter. He sends a message into outer space, gets a response, and WOW the alien ships are a total rip from War of the Worlds. I expected better of Kirby.

The alien traps the other three heroes in a fireproof, unbreakable bubble. It then returns to New York and unleashes hell, trashing a helicopter and causing all kinds of damage. Alicia shows up among the crowd. She’s nearly trampled in everyone’s panic and almost run over by a car, but Ben, Sue, and Johnny escape and make it back to the city just in time to save her.

The alien ship arrives, and Reed gets it attention. The Infant Terrible looks up at the sun, and is about to use its powers to crash the Earth into it, when someone else intervenes. Yes, it’s the aliens parents, reuniting with their kid and keeping its powers in check. The aliens leave, as Reed gives a big speech about how the aliens are so advanced that they must be peaceful, because ignorance and evil go hand in hand. (Hey, if it’s a giant baby with cosmic powers, what do you suppose the cosmic diapers are like?)

Unstable molecule: Once again, Reed saves the day with his brains and not his powers.

Fade out: Sue uses her invisibility to show off for reporters, and then uses her force fields to stop the gangsters from escaping.

Clobberin’ time: Ben gets a workout in this issue, fighting all the robots, and then several pages of fighting the rock monster.

Flame on: Johnny traps the gangsters in rings of fire, and then uses his flame to burn a bunch of rubber tires together as a trap for another gangster. One can only imagine the stink that caused.

Trivia Time: The Infant Terrible fell into obscurity after this, appearing very rarely in later comics. Its race is the Elanians.

The “all-powerful alien is really a child” thing is popular sci-fi trope, seen in Star Trek’s The Squire of Gothos, Joe Dante’s Explorers and many others.

Fantastic or frightful: Basically an excuse to get the FF into and out of one crazy scrape after another, this issue is a riot as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

 Next time: Rematch of the century!

Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.

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About Mac McEntire

Author of CINE HIGH. amazon.com/dp/B00859NDJ8
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