The Fantastic Four’s Jar Jar Binks Moment: Why It Was a Blessing In Disguise

Journey Into Marvel – Part 70

No name? 'Paul Lynde from Outer Space'

No name? ‘Paul Lynde from Outer Space’

Extremites, what do you think when you hear ‘Jar Jar Binks?’

‘Racist stereotype?’

‘Child exploitation character?’

Perhaps, ‘terrible CGI?’

Whatever you think of that character — which Lucas infected his return to Star Wars with — we it was a low point in fandom.

Every fan institution has one. Marvel its fare share of Jar Jar moments. According to modern Marvelites Fantastic Four #11 is one of the worst. I hold a different opinion.

Fantastic #11 is a double bill. Double bills were very common in the early days of the series. As FF evolved to become more of a serial, with continuous plots and ideas, these formats disappeared. This issue is an experiment. It expands upon the meta-humour, which we saw glimpses in the last issue.

We begin in a hobo shanty town where out of nowhere a green alien materializes. He’s got a oblong green head, a Paul Lynde like smile, and resembles Patrick Stewart crossed with Gumby. This is the Traveler from the planet Popup, who has traveled through time and dimension to take a vacation on Earth. Popuppians can change into whatever they want by just thinking. This skill makes him into a holy terror without knowing it. He robs a bank thinking that the booty is a gift. He plays pranks on people thinking that they are in on the joke. The Traveler is even far too powerful for the pitiful attempts by the Fantastic Four to quell the trickery.

The Traveler creates this chaos to get noticed by people. Reed recommends that the whole world just pull a Simpsons Treehouse of Horror ploy on the Poppuppian and ‘Just Don’t Look.’ The world ignores him and the Traveler shoots away.

I adore this story. However, my opinion is very much the minority.

When this issue debuted back in 1963, it received universal backlash. Readers described as being ‘annoyingly juvenile’ and hence ‘not worthy of a Fantastic Four issue.’

Whatever contemporary fans think; The Traveler, and his campiness, is right at home in Fantastic Four. He’s one of the greatest antagonists they have had so far. Watching him hoodwink Thing or trap the Human Torch is pretty great. Stan Lee’s dialogue for the character shows just how witty he can be.

This is one of the best Fantastic Four stories of the early years because it shows that these stories don’t always have to be about mega villains or epic calamities. In a universe as vast ours their must be life that would regard us humans as nothing more then playthings to jerk around with on vacation. As a Canadian I blush to disclose I have done this with Americans on my jaunts down to Florida. I laugh at their accents and mock their fatty cooking. It’s the sinister nature of tourism.

Poppuppian enjoying the local cuisine, which is Corn on the cob.

Poppuppian enjoying the local cuisine, which is Corn on the cob.

Not only is this a good story; it’s inventive. This is the first Fantastic Four story that isn’t about some evil plot to destroy democracy. It’s a simple story that shows just how out of depth and humble the Fantastic Four should be.

Nevertheless, the Traveler — or any Popuppian — was not mentioned again… until the 70s when they were parodied as one of Marvels worst mistakes.

This one is a good one.

Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds.

Story I Read:The Impossible Man” (Fantastic Four #11 Feb. 1963)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: Good sense of humour. An original antagonist. The humbling of the Four. The Traveler is so developed with inflection and expression that I could almost hear his voice.

Cons: With all the many possibilities of a character like this Jack Kirby’s art is bland and uneven at times.

Next Review:A Visit With The Fantastic Four” (Fantastic Four #11 Feb. 1963)

Last Review:The Thunder God and the Thug!” (Journey Into Mystery #89 Feb. 1963)

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 April 4, 2015, in Comics, Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I like the Impossible Man. I think he is great in small doses. It’s fun to have him show up every now and again. I just don’t think he works well when he starts showing up in a series regularly.

    Of course, I also think Jar Jar Binks is funny, so what the hell do I know? 🙂

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