Friday 9 December 2011

Fantastic Four #7. Kurrgo and Planet X.

Fantastic Four #7, Kurrgo, Planet X, flying saucer, wanted, dead or alive, baying mob, worlds greatest comic magazine
Fasten up your seat belts, check your oxygen tank and hit that booster because it's time to dip once more into the 1972 Fleetway Marvel Annual, for the Fantastic Four's big day out in Space.

Confronted with the inevitable destruction of his world at the hands of a stray asteroid, Planet X's ruler, the beach-ball headed Kurrgo sends his own personal robot to Earth to turn mankind against the Fantastic Four so they'll consent to flee to Planet X where Kurrgo hopes Mr Fantastic'll be able to concoct a plan to save his world.

When they get there, Reed Richards, being Reed Richards, takes just hours to invent a potion to shrink the entire population of Planet X, so it can climb aboard the planet's only spare space ship and flee.

As they flee, Kurrgo - refusing to leave behind the potion that'll make him full-size again and thus leave him dwarfing his fellow X-ians - is left behind to die, a victim of his own megalomania.

Fantastic Four #7, the giant robot of Kurrgo looms over the Fantastic Four on the roof of the Baxter Building, new york
One of the things that always strikes me about Marvel stories from this era is just how long they seem. For years I labelled under the misapprehension that this and the annual's other tales were much longer than later outings, but a quick check tells me it's only 22 pages long. So much does it cram in.

I complained in a recent post that Jack Kirby seemed to be basing his later Fantastic Four tales on whatever he'd seen most recently on TV - but clearly there was nothing new about that because, with its giant robot and its abducting of our heroes to a doomed world, it's pretty obvious this tale's inspired by the 1950s movies The Day the Earth Stood Still and This Island Earth. And it's great, filled with splash pages and divided into chapters, just to really add to that feeling of a 12 cent epic.

Fantastic Four #7, a free ride on the anti gravity ray of planet X
Kirby's depiction of Planet X - and its destruction - are great too. But I also love the earlier scenes on Earth, covering the FF's discomfort at having to attend an official dinner in their honour, and the squabbling and bickering that precede it. It's easy to see in these scenes the reason for Marvel's 1960s' success. Can you really imagine Batman, Superman and the Flash of this era fighting amongst themselves about having to attend a dinner engagement? Marvel's heroes simply had a life and a character that DC's more socially adept stars couldn't match.

Of course, in the end, it's a very silly tale. The idea that a super-advanced civilisation needs the scientific know-how of an Earth-man to solve their problem - and the idea that Reed Richards can knock up a shrinking potion in a few hours - is ludicrous. But then silliness is half the fun of a Silver Age comic book. And, if you don't want fun, why are you reading about people in spandex?


Kid said...

This has always been one of my fave FF tales, from when I first read it in Wham!, then Marvel Collectors' Item Classics, Then Marvel Annual 1973 (in '72) and then in The Mighty World of Marvel. In its first printing, in the last panel, Reed says 'there was no reducing gas' instead of 'enlarging gas' - a mistake which was rectified in subsequent printings. However, in the recent softcover FF Masterworks Vol 1, the mistake was deliberately left uncorrected.

Incidentally, in FF #11, Kurrgo's ship is mis-identified as a Skrull ship (from FF #2).

Steve W. said...

One thing that strikes me is that the robot's design seems to change in every panel it appears in.

bliss_infinte said...

You definitely got your money's worth with Lee's, Kirby's and Ditko's comics of the early 60's especially '66 and '67. They crammed so much into those 22 pages it might take one or two sittings to finish a book and all for 12 cents. Now you can spend, what, about $4 for a comic and finish it in about 5 minutes.

Southfolkman said...

If only to show that it takes all sorts, I never rated this tale too highly. For me, it relied too heavily on the pre-Marvel Age fantasy stuff knocked out by Lee, Ditko & Kirby. There are great moments in the early part of the tale of course, but once the main story gets going it feels like 'Planet X' (surely a dubious moniker, even back then?) could have been sorted by just about any super-intelligent space-travelling scientist of the day. And there were a few knocking about in those Atlas yarns.

Admittedly that's a pretty churlish view, given the revolution that Marvel brought about. But there, Now I've said it.


Pat said...

I'm with Southfolkman; this one seems like Atlas monster-mania with the FF pasted in. Note that Kurrgo's name follows the usual Atlas monster pattern with the one repeated letter.