Friday, November 06, 2009

Fantastic Four Fridays: Mr Miracle

One of the biggest strengths of the Marvel Silver Age was the willingness of Stan and his artists to adapt and change their characters. However, almost every strength comes with a weakness, and in Marvel's case, it was that their series almost all seemed to tread water for a few issues before finding their footing, to mix a few metaphors.

So it is with this issue. Obviously, Stan had gotten enough feedback to know that he had to give his characters more recognizable uniforms, and so:

And yet, the story itself is just okay. To begin with, the villain is introduced by a very cliched method; he's performing an act in front of an entranced crowd at a packed nightclub, which includes Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny. Granted, Stan and Jack pull it off with some panache:

But I could point you to a half dozen or more stories that include the same wheeze. Given that the Miracle Man (as he bills himself) is a wild success, we get into almost the same situation as I talked about earlier this week: Couldn't he make more money performing his act than being a crook? But no:

We get the first cutaway of the FF headquarters:

My blog-buddy Mark Engblom used to refer to these diagrams as "random coolness" and I cannot agree more. Almost all the teams had something like this; the first ones I can remember are the Batcave schematics in the 1940s.
We learn why the Miracle Man was not willing to settle for just being a well-paid entertainer:

It's the difference between having your "crib" featured on MTV and being the ruler of all you survey.
Reed almost stops the villain, but he gets beaned by a brick hurled by the Miracle Man, who's not above stooping to such cheap methods. Reed comes off as a Batman clone here:

Although why Mr Fantastic is interacting with a police commissioner about a guy who's threatening to take over the whole blamed planet is not explained.

They have another battle with the Miracle Man, who manages to get away, but is being shadowed by the Invisible Girl. Inevitably, the FF have another one of their regular internal squabbles:

Everybody had the hots for Sue Storm in the 1960s; there's even a Spiderman story with that as a subplot. The Miracle Man discovers she's with him and forces her to summon the rest of the FF. Interestingly, despite the constant bickering between Reed and Ben, note this scene:

Very positive characterization for the Thing. Thumbs way up on that; extra good characterization is rare enough in the Silver Age that it deserves mention. Johnny blinds the Miracle Man temporarily, and his powers are abated. Reed explains:

But Ben is furious that Johnny gets the credit for eliminating the menace of the Miracle Man, and in the ensuing brouhaha, Johnny quits the FF:

What can we do if he decides to turn against us? My first suggestion would be to have a firehose and a pail of sand ready, since that's what most crooks do when faced with the Human Torch.
Comments: Good story, mediocre villain. But the FF was about to really hit its stride in the next few issues. Be here next Friday for the incredible return of the Sub-Mariner!

Incidentally, I should mention that Aaron over at Silver Age Gold is doing a similar series to this, going through the entire SA Thor series. Worth the read!

If you'd like to read these stories, I recommend:

Incidentally, thanks very much to whoever made the first purchases from my Amazon store; it was quite a thrill!