Re-reading the Fantastic Four comics from the start. In issue #34, our heroes take on a new villain, but it’s a two-page throwaway joke that makes this one famous.
At the Baxter Building, a mysterious box has arrived for the Thing from the Yancy Street Gang, and there’s a lot of anticipation about what mischief might be inside of it. Our heroes open the box, and… it’s a Beatle wig. Johnny thinks this is hilarious, and he and Ben tussle for a few panels before being broken up by Reed, in this usual “the characters need an excuse to show off their powers for a few pages at the start of the issue” thing. Once everyone’s settled down, Ben tries on the wig, and declares, “I’m a livin’ doll!”
Why is this a big deal? This issue was published at the height of Beatlemania in the ‘60s, and Beatle wigs were a fad within the fad. Folks bought the wigs like crazy, while others still wondered what was up with those mop-tops. The drawing of the Thing wearing the Beatle wig is one of the most reprinted images in FF history (and why shouldn’t it be? It’s hilarious).
Getting to the story proper, we meet Gideon, the world’s wealthiest man, inside his lavish office. There’s a funny bit where one billion dollars cash are being sent back to the mint, because Gideon prefers “only new bills.” Gideon announces his desire to conquer the world simply by buying everything that can be bought. I love that this isn’t a secret plan, but instead he just goes around telling everyone. Three rival businessmen give Gideon a challenge – one week to destroy the Fantastic Four.
Back at headquarters, Gideon’s plan is already under way as Reed discovers workmen dismantling all of the FF’s vehicles. This was ordered by Ben, who was tipped off that Reed has been replaced by a shape-changing Skrull. Ben won’t listen to reason, and the two of them fight.
Meanwhile, Sue stops her suburban house… wait, where did this house come from? She doesn’t live at the Baxter Building with her teammates? Inside, she finds a message telling her that Johnny has been replaced by one of Dr. Doom’s lookalike robots. Johnny conveniently shows up, and Sue confronts him. Johnny stupidly assumes that Sue is being controlled by the Puppet Master, and they fight.
Back at Gideon’s home, he gloats at how well his plan is going. His wife shows up and he snaps at her for interrupting his business. His son Thomas is there as well. Thomas has just bought a Fantastic Four comic book, and has declared that the FF are his favorite heroes. Outside, Sue and Johnny reunite with Reed and Ben out on the New York streets, and all four of them continue to fight. Gideon gloats some more while watching this from a distance. Thomas senses something is wrong, and he rushes out into the city, in the hopes of reaching the Baxter Building and telling the FF what’s really going on.
Remember those workmen? They’re on Gideon’s payroll, and they’re busy setting up a variation of Dr. Doom’s time machine inside the Baxter Building, as a trap for our heroes. Unfortunately, that’s when little Thomas blunders into the building. (So anyone can just go walking into the Baxter Building now? Is there no security? No locks? No alarms? No “Do not enter” sign?) He gets caught in the time machine. Ben tries to save the kid, and both of them vanish, lost in time.
Johnny chases off the workmen as Gideon arrives. Gideon freaks out, thinking he’ll never see his son again, and Reed lays it on thick with the moral speechifying. It’s all for naught, as Ben and Thomas reappear, having been returned to the present thanks to the machine’s “accidental recoil.” (That’s why Gideon is no Dr. Doom. Doom’s time machine actually worked.) Gideon sees the error of his way, agreeing to devote his entire fortune to charity. There’s even a callback to the issue’s start as Ben thinks, “I wonder how that cornball would look in my Beatle wig?”
Unstable molecule: During the fight, Reed escapes by turning his legs into wheels, which are really just big loops. I have no idea how this is supposed to work.
Fade out: Sue holds her own in the fight against her teammates, and later uses her invisible force fields to deflect one of the workmen’s bullets as he shoots at Reed.
Clobberin’ time: Ben survives a fall from a great height by bouncing, parkour-style, between two skyscrapers. Looks like fun.
Flame on: Johnny manages to spot Sue while she’s invisible by looking for her footprints as she runs across her grass front lawn. Good thinking.
Trivia time: Gideon would show up a few more times, but never become a major character. His son Thomas had a much longer history with Marvel, as he will later transform into the hippy-ish rainbow-themed space hero Glorian.
Fantastic or frightful: Gideon is an uninteresting villain, and the Fantastic Four make themselves look incredibly stupid by falling so easily into his trap. The Beatle wig, though, makes up for it.
Next week: The real Monsters University.
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