Saturday 27 March 2010

Of Miracle Men and Invisible Girls. Fantastic Four #139

Fantastic Four #139, John Buscema, the Miracle ManBy the time I was eight, I'd realised a marker pen was a wonderful thing. For one thing, you could sit there smelling it - although you had to give up after a while, as you started to get dizzy - and, for the other, you could use it to join the dots on the Invisible Girl.

For those unaware of the significance of the Invisible Girl's dots, way back in the weekly Mighty World of Marvel reprints of the early 1970s, jolly Jack Kirby used to get round the problem of how to let us see an invisible character by drawing her with dotted instead of full lines. "Well," I reasoned, if being dotted meant her foes couldn't see her, then joining those dots meant she'd no longer be invisible and the enemies of the Fantastic Four could find her and kill her.

Now, this may seem a mean thing to do but, even at that tender age, I'd decided Sue Storm was a bit of a useless article. All she ever seemed to do, for issue after issue, in those tales was get kidnapped and have to be rescued.

On top of that, there was the whole Reed vs Sub-Mariner thing with her. Catch yourself on, love, you're supposed to be a good guy. Stop lusting after someone who wants to destroy the human race - especially one who's half fish - and find yourself a proper boyfriend.

Fantastic Four #139
So, you can imagine my delight when I got the Fantastic Four #139 home from Sheffield's Sheaf Market and discovered Sue Storm was no longer a member of the world's greatest super-team.

Instead, she'd been replaced by Medusa.

Now, as an adult, I can see that Medusa's power - being able to trip people up with her hair - wasn't any better than Sue's power of invisibility and, given that she was in the habit of wearing a halter-neck top, despite being a well-endowed woman with a lot of running about to do, clearly wasn't of a very practical bent either but I didn't care. When it came down to it, useless power aside, there was always something more kick-ass about her than Sue.

Fantastic Four #139, The Miracle Man
She wasn't the only one because this issue featured someone else gone kick-ass; the Miracle Man.

I knew of the Miracle Man from those reprints and knew his miracles were no more than hypnosis.

From that we were supposed to view him as a fraud - although hypnosis seemed as valid a super-power as any to me.

Still, a fraud he was declared to be and a fraud was how we were meant to see him. But here, somehow, by means never really explained, hanging around with Wyatt Wingfoot's tribe had made him all-powerful.

Needless to say, being all-powerful didn't stop him quickly getting his come-uppance again, this time at that hands of those self-same Indians who were now giant ghosts.

Fantastic Four #139, the Thing vs the Miracle ManThe other great thrill for me was the tale was drawn by John Buscema. If someone forced me to name my favourite comic book artist of all time, I'd have to go for Buscema. He might not have been an innovator like Kirby or Adams, or have put in the care and attention of a Barry Smith - and he might have had an alarming tendency to not be able to remember anything at all about any of the comics he'd drawn - but his work was just so easy on the eye that, heretical as it might be, I do enjoy actually enjoy reading his FF and Thor tales more than the Kirby ones.

Anything else about this tale stand out for me?

Not half.

The Human Torch.

His costume was red.

It might not seem important now but, for a kid, that was more than enough to seal the deal.


Stardust Kid said...

Nice to see a fellow 'Sheaf Market' comic collector from the 70's putting up some great stuff on this blog. The Sheaf Market is now sadly no more but the memory lives on.

John Buscema's run on the Fantastic Four and the Avengers are my favourite by any artist, with maybe the exception of Gil Kane on the Amazing Spiderman.

Love the blog, keep up the good work.

Steve said...

Hi, Stardust Kid, thanks for dropping by. I have to admit my memories of Sheaf Market are oddly vague these days. I seem to remember there being a cafeteria raised above the rest of it, on stilts, and that birds would occasionally get in but that could be just my imagination running away with me.

david_b said...

The prior issue (138) was arguably my FIRST comic (of which I still have..), and it's cover/story HOOKED me forever..

It was the start of the Miracle Man saga and although he didn't rate as a significant villain (other than the trip down memory lane..), the dialog and Buscema art struck me immediately. It was a 'COOL' comic, affirming it's cover gloat as 'Greatest Comic Magazine..

Loved the approach and its somber tone (leaving Reed behind.. walking alone back to his lab is emotionally haunting..).

This was the best of John Buscema's art on FF and it was a sad day to see him replaced by Rich Buckler. A nice selection for follow-on artist, but you still miss ol' John how he drew faces and action scenes.

The whole divorce issue weighed on me, since my parents had just gotten divorced. I'm so glad it played out over a dozen issues; any less would have lessoned the impact severely, making it a pointless subplot.

All in all, along with Gwen Stacy passing on, the Avengers-Defenders summer clash, and the Captain America/Secret Empire storyline, I was SO BLESSED to have come into Marvel at such a GLORIOUS period of change..!

Steve said...

Hi, David, thanks for commenting.

The FF issues in question don't have the same emotional ties for me as they do for you, as there was nothing much out of the usual happening in my life at the time that I first read them but I have always had a soft spot for the Miracle Man. Like Diablo, he's a villain who doesn't seem to get much love from others but who I've always found kind of groovy.

Big John Buscema was indeed great on the strip. I especially loved the way he drew the Thing with much smaller rocks than Jack Kirby had. Kirby was great but John's version of Benjamin appealed to me even more.

david_b said...

Steve, thanks much for the timely response.

You're indeed right on John drawing Ben Grimm.. Other than Jim Starlin (who did that spectacular job on Ben in Marvel Feature #11.., another hands-down excellent tale with the Hulk..), and except for a few earler issues where he made Ben look a tad 'skinny', he was gave the best facial reactions and muscle/rock-drawing this side of Kirby.

Again, Buckler was good as a successor, but the Buscema/Sinnott team was the outright best.

Oh, forgot to mention, but Medusa was always hot in that purple number..! Sue was a comfortable fit, but Medusa ROCKED..! She even looked swell in the ski suit in ish 145. With her in those clothes and Johnny in red, it was a refreshing short-lived style departure.

John said...

You are right when you say that Medusa was always more of a kick-ass woman than Susan Storm. Some fans think that Medusa should have replaced the Invisible Girl permanently!

John said...

I simply love your review, especially your story about drawing lines to connect the dots on the Invisible Girl, so the villans could then see her and kill her. I hope you do more Fantastic Four reviews, especially ones involving Susan Storm.

Steve W. said...

Hi, John. Thanks for the praise. :)