Meta-Marvel is Born: What Happens When The Fantastic Four Drop the Fourth Wall

Journey Into Marvel – Part 71

Was Willi Lumpkin drawn like Stan Lee or Did Stan Lee age into Willie Lumpkin?

Was Willi Lumpkin drawn like Stan Lee or Did Stan Lee age into Willie Lumpkin?

Extremites, ‘meta’ is an overused word. You’ve probably heard it used in front of everything from ‘humour’ to ‘phone call.’ No one knows what it means and let alone the proper time to use it.

Today, I’m using the word properly in reference to the Fantastic Four. Today’s story is the second half of Issue #11. It’s not a proper Fantastic Four story per se, more of an appendix to the earlier story.

Marvel in this period was being inundated with all sorts of varying fan questions and opinions about the Four. So much so, that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby felt a need to devote a whole story to some of these questions.

Willie Lumpkin, which is future Stan Lee cameo fodder, brings in a titanic amount of fan mail. Reed, Sue, and Ben look directly at the reader and begin answering questions. Stan has Torch leave the situation to go build hot rods. This choice is passed off by Ben’s comment that ‘teenagers always have to keep on the go.’

War stories with Reed and Ben

War stories with Reed and Ben

We learn that Ben and Reed met at State U where they were both popular for different reasons: Ben for playing football and Reed for being a brilliant millionaire’s son. We also learn about Ben and Reed’s service in WWII, which in the future would become a major theme.

The most powerful moment of this story is when Reed defends Sue Storm to the fans. The majority of negative fan backlash was directed at the Invisible Woman. A female character is persecuted. This is often the case in fandom and I wish it wasn’t.

What’s amazing about Reed’s reply is how forward thinking it is. He looks at the fans, anger brimming in his eyes, and tells them that ‘Sue Storm is integral to the team.’ Without her level headedness the team would have never stayed together. Reed goes on to point out all the moments she has been integral to the plot, like when she saved the team from Dr. Doom in his first appearance. We take this for granted, but having a male character in 1963 staring down the fans and saying that women read comics too is a huge moment.

Although there is very little story here it’s a big moment for Marvel. This story is when they showed that they were dedicated to making more approachable characters. Characters that lived and breathed with their fans. This development is important because it later shapes Spider-Man, X-Men and even Iron Man. Without this little story there’d be no Deadpool.

Think about that.

Meta is conscious that these characters exist in temporal fiction. Without this realization there’d be no Marvel. Attention must be paid.

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

Story I Read:A Visit With The Fantastic Four” (Fantastic Four #11 Feb. 1963)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pros: Wildly inventive, very ahead of its time, important moment creatively.

Cons: There’s no story. State U? Why doesn’t the Human Torch participate?

Next Review:The Day That Ant-Man Failed!” (Tales to Astonish #40 Feb. 1963)

Last Review:The Impossible Man” (Fantastic Four #11 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 7, 2015, in Comics, Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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