Inside the Establishment of the Fantastic Four Model

Journey Into Marvel

Story I Read: “The Menace of the Miracle Man” (Fantastic Four #3 Mar. 1962)

fantasticfour3Those of you who have read many of my reviews, will, by now, be familiar with the common themes I think infect every panel of the Four’s stories. They are as follows: Torch will do something totally irrational and self serving, Thing will whine about his looks, Fantastic will be cold and unpleasant, and Sue will placate all the males. However I noticed, in the opening days, the Fantastic Four is a very different team. The Four are cohesive, intelligent and a family unit. Unlike their later incarnations, they never attack a villain alone but use the combined power of the collective quartet to defeat their foe.

Where did those earlier traits begin?

I can emphatically say they began, here, in this issue.

This issue can be considered the first issue of the Marvel Universe to feature a costumed villain. The Miracle Man seems a cliche magic act, Bela Lugosi cape and everything, but he possesses a great power beyond illusion. Apparently, he can mould the atoms of the air to his will. Showing his great power in front of a paying audience, as a performer does, the Miracle Man challenges the Fantastic Four to a duel of abilities. One by one he demonstrates how his powers are greater then any superhero team. Naturally, this bothers the Four immensely, and their frustration shows when they are called out to be embarrassed in front of a paying crowd. Up until now, the Four had not been faced with a crisis of celebrity. They have had to deal with the pressures of international fame, but never had they been publicly challenged to prove their worth. This would become a common trope in later issues. The Four are all proven wanting for the Miracle Man seems to be the greater strength. Thing seems to be the one character that is most affected by this as he threatens to smash the Miracle Man into oblivion. Not a very heroic reaction, I would say.

The first character that acts in a heroic fashion in the issue is the Human Torch. Having noticed that the Miracle Man has reanimated a movie monster wax statue, he

The Miracle Man!

The Miracle Man!

heads out to face the walking statue alone.  Suddenly, Torch is that vain glorious young go getter that is featured in later issues. Why the sudden change?

Johnny Storm was so likeable only one issue ago, suddenly he forsakes his team to take down a threat alone?

Torch explains the reason for this sudden action is he feels disrespected by the team.

Again, this makes little to no sense. In Fantastic Four #2, John saved the day, as he did in the premiere issue. It seems to me that the early Four bend over backwards for the little flamer. Even Ben Grimm is has been kind to the character thus far.

Sure, they spar on occasion, but it is a brotherly sparring.

All the sudden Torch has become unpleasant and their is no rhyme or reason for the change.

The bulk of the issue is spent on the search and subsequent battle with the reanimated monster. The team, after Torch’s empty attempts at finding the creature fail miserably,  use the non-dividable version of the Fantasticar and go on a vendetta to find the thing. Over the course of the search the team divides and goes on individual searches. Each character faces the monster and each one fails. This tactic becomes the normal Fantastic Four strategy and the result is always one that shows that the sum of the parts is better then the individuals.

The Fantastic Four never works without all of its members.

Great message.

Until, of course, Torch discovers that the monster is made out of wax and can melt him. Johnny somehow didn’t find this out in the first or the second encounter. Truly, an odd bit of coincidental writing.

After the team faces the Miracle Man they discover that he did not possess any of these powers. The Miracle Man is actually a gifted hypnotist who has been fooling the world into thinking that he is omnipotent. The Miracle Man can hypnotize the whole world? The issue never explains this.

Was just the Fantastic Four hypnotized or was this mass hysteria?

Furthermore, why cant the Miracle Man actually possess these powers?

Perhaps, this was Stan Lee’s way of maintaining equilibrium with the world. At this point the Four needed to remain the most powerful creatures on Earth or they would not truly be worthy of their mantle. Remember this is exceptionally early in Marvel and Earth-616 was nowhere near any Marvel creative’s mind yet. Still, it seems very much like they are trying to fool the readership.

Stan Lee, on many occasions, has said how he doesn’t like stories or character constructions that fool the audience. Just look up his opinions on the problems with Superman vs. Thor. Stan thinks Superman’s flight capabilities and the lack of scientific explanation is an example lazy writing. Writing that doesn’t respect the audience.

But Miracle Man being able to hypnotize the world without any explanation doesn’t fool them? Hmm.

Stan Lee truly is a man of mystery.

Pros: The Battle Sequences. Thing’s sense of humor. The Miracle Man’s challenge. the Diagram of the Penthouse

Cons: Empty explanation for the Miracle Man’s perceived power. The extremely convenient ending.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5.

Previous Review:  “The Man in the Ant Hill” (Tales to Astonish #27 Jan. 1962)

Upcoming Review:The Hulk“(The Incredible Hulk #1 May 1962)

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About Julian Munds

I possess a degree in Theatre and Drama from the University of Toronto. I own my own theatre company called Snobbish Theatre. We focus our work on new versions of classics.

Posted on November 29, 2013, in Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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