The Fantastic Four in Egypt: Why the Fantastic Four are Truly Inept

Journey Into Marvel

By: Julian Munds

images-2The Fantastic Four, in this period of Marvel, are said to be the strongest and best superheroes in the world. As Earth- 616 (main Marvel continuity) continued, their powers started to dwindle as far more skilled characters like Thor, Hulk or even Spider-Man entered the scene.

I have said before Torch was overtaken by Spider-Man, Fantastic lost his mantle to Cyclops, and Thing sits a the feat of mighty Beast. On paper their power is astounding. When Torch achieves supernova heat, there’s not much that can withstand the shear holocaust of that force. However, when we see them pitted against a list of stronger and stronger antagonists, the Four never quite reach the apex that their reputation owes. Never was this made more clear then when they hopped in a time machine and found themselves in Ancient Egypt.

Uncle Ben famously relates Peter Parker the mantra that would haunt him and all superheroes that followed: “With great power comes great responsibility.” He should did no say: “With great power comes great intelligence.” That is telling.

Rama-Tut defeats the Fantastic Four.

Rama-Tut defeats the Fantastic Four.t Spider-Man and all superheroes forever: “with great power, comes great responsibility.Here’s my variation on that oh so important statement: with great power comes a need for great intelligence. 

Intelligence and, perhaps more importantly, ingenuity is required to wield a super-skill. It is all well and good if you have the power to manipulate heat, as Torch does, but if you do not have a strategic mind then that skill becomes a weapon of mass destruction.

And what happens if that power suddenly is taken away?

How would a character conduct themselves then?

A hieroglyph that shows the special herb.

A hieroglyph that shows the special herb.

In this issue, the Four find themselves in the midst of this quandary. After going back in time, through hijacking Dr. Doom’s time machine; which caused such problems for the Four in Fantastic Four #5, the Four find themselves in Ancient Egypt. They journeyed back through the shadows of time in an effort to find an illustrious radioactive herb that may restore sight to Alicia: Thing’s beau.

When they reach the sand dunes of that mythical desert kingdom, they find themselves gods among men, ably dispatching the Bronze Age soldiers which accost their arrival. However, after some typical Fantastic fireworks, they suddenly find themselves bereft of any power whatsoever. The now ‘Normal Four’ are prisoners of the 31st century time traveler known as Rama-Tut. He traveled in his time machine disguised as a Sphynx and brought with him a ray gun that can sap the power of the Four, essentially making them human. This predictably defeats them physically and mentally.

Without their powers, the quartet doesn’t seem to be able to function as humans and soon find themselves slaves to this futurist pharaoh. This is a really unfavourable comment on the true ineptitude of our Fantastic heroes. I have said before that the Four have always had a difficult time negotiating their internal strife with the overarching goal of the mission at hand.

When their powers are taken away they just become a squabbling team of blue jump suit wearing white people.

Now powerless, the Fantastic Four have to figure out how to use their brains to track down this Egyptian anachronism. Let me tell you they basically run around like chickens with their heads cut off. No direction, constantly squabbling, falling in and out of things. It is utter chaos.

So, what does this show?

This shows that the Four really are strategical nightmares. They are the sort that just to throw a lot of crazy moves at a villain until something works.

Mind you, Rama-Tut is a haphazard character. There is one reference to the possibility that he may be a descendent of Dr. Doom, though this is never expanded upon beyond passing comment.

In short, this is a very scrambled rehashing of the same theme that the far lesser Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #44 tried to convey. The Fish out of water, or time, cliche. Despite its tackiness the story addresses a fatal flaw in the Fantastic Four. Without their powers they are useless.

They do somehow make it back to the present (1963) but this is largely out of luck.

Could this be the reason the Four were not included in the first Avengers issue?

Could they be too much of a liability?

I think this is worth investigating and is something I’ll hold on to as I go forward.

Story I Read: “Prisoners of the Pharaoh!” (Fantastic Four #19 Oct. 1963)

Rating:  2 out of 5

Pros: The Altruism in helping Alicia. The more detailed explanation of time travel and ancient Egypt

Cons: Thing changes form because of heat from the sun- this is never explained nor expanded upon. Rama-Tut is hastily written and makes little explanation for why he must destroy the Four. Human Torch makes fun of Alicia for her blindness.

Previous Review: “The Crimson Dynamo” (Tales of Suspense #46 Oct. 1963)

Upcoming Review: “The Porcupine!” (Tales to Astonish #48 Oct. 1963)

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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 December 13, 2013, in Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. Oh, my god! I was just bitching about this! Weird @_@ Have you ever wondered, also, why any human would live in New York. One would have FF, Mole Man’s minions, Spidey, Avengers- It would be a f$%^ed place to live 😉

  2. There was a sequel of sorts to this story in the 1980s when the West Coast Avengers ended up in it all, although I can’t remember for the life of me what was actually going on.

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