Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The only Fantastic Four you can afford.

I have to admit, I find it unusual that the fandom has risen up as one to take arms against whichever studio it is which owns the film rights to the Fantastic Four (RKO? Selznick International? The Foster Photoplay Company?) in order to call for the transferal of the rights over to Disney's Marvel Studios. I suppose this is because I recall that the majority of those same fans couldn't have given a World's Greatest Comic Shit about the Kirby clan gaining a share in those rights or enjoying the profits of their limitless merchandising, and many of them called for our corporate overloads to prune the King's line with fire. Still, in times like these, I like to rely on the wisdom of my family's motto, the shibboleth inscribed on the load-bearing brow of our lineage: "Nerd culture is the fucking worst."

Nonetheless, I like to be of some help, so how about this: If Marvel Studios can't claim the film rights to the adventures of Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Woman, the Thing and the Human Torch, how about Big Brain, Ultra-Woman, Dragonfly and The Mandroid?

This is the Fantastic Four as depicted in What If? vol.1 No.6 (December 1977, "What If The Fantastic Four Had Different Super-Powers?"), a hiccup in the general premise of the What If title being an examination of the Marvel Universe but for want of a nail.

Nothing in particular causes the FF to gain different powers. In fact, everything up to the point of reveal is identical to the origin on record: The foursome steal the rocketship which Reed designed from its short-sighted owners, take it on a joyride in space, get bombarded with cosmic rays and crashland on Earth changed.

Looks good, ship it.
It's pretty much accepted that the FF's powers are loosely based on the traditional "four elements" - Air-like invisibility, water-like fluidity, and then something about rocks and fire, who can figure that out - but their new powers are based on the idea that the original FF's powers represent internal characteristics. Originally, it was Ben Grimm being a stalwart rock, Sue being too timid to believe (since she stowed away on a fucking rocketship), Johnny being a "hothead" and Reed willing to - ahem - "go to any lengths." The new versions represent Ben's love of flight, Johnny's love of cars, Reed's love of his brain and Sue not having a personality so she just gets Reed's old powers. OH YOU GUYS.

The new FF turn out to be:

Mandroid - Johnny Storm becomes a metallic superman capable of super-strength feats and something called an "empathic ability to turn on any kind of machine." Sounds hot, let's get it on film.

Dragonfly - Ben Grimm's incredibly sucky new identity, wherein he gets dragon-like wings and also the power he's always wanted the most - the ability to plow Sue Storm.

Ultra-Woman - Sue Storm called "not it" slowest when the group said "Okay,someone has to have a totally shitty superhero name," so she gets dubbed Ultra-Woman, possessing the powers Reed Richards already had because no one could think of anything better, which is weak.

And lastly, Big Brain, which is the telepathic and disembodied brain of Reed Richards, capable of floating around the Baxter Building in fluid-filled tubes like an important piece of mail.

Excepting their new powers and identities, pretty much everything else remains the same for the FF, including their roster of foes. Doctor Doom shows up halfway through the story, interrupting his efforts to summon "a demon from the nether regions." If he stops now, he'll have to console himself with conjuring a leprechaun from the swimsuit area!

Still, Doom can't help fucking with Reed Richards, in this case offering him a synthetic body in which to house his powerful mind. He actually comes through on that promise sort of, but not before putting the alternate FF through some bullshit stunts and traps like you hafta do in these one-shot Fantastic Four adventures.

What happens at the end is that Doom's castle explodes and Doom dies, but Big Brain is able to transfer his intellect into Doom's dead body, so that's a win all around, presuming Sue's okay with that goddamn face. Still, whatever its shortcomings, I understand it's gotta be better than the most recent Fantastic Four reboot, and probably better than the next three which ought to be coming out in the next six years,

It's super-bogus that nothing resembling this scene happens in the book.

1 comment:

john said...

actualy I couldn't care less who owns the rights to the fantastic four... I just wish that last movie had never been made.

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