Fantastic Four #12: The Birth of Western Culture’s Greatest Creative Achievement
Journey Into Marvel – Part 75
Extremites, we take for granted, in this post Tolkien/Lewis world, the intricacy of a comprehensive fictional world.
You may have noticed that I keep using the term: “Earth – 616.” This is the name the fandom has given to the collective world that all Marvel characters exist in. As time has gone on, there are other continuities that have been created, but 616 is the main one, and the one that Journey Into Marvel concerns itself with. I believe that Earth- 616 is one of humanity’s greatest expressions of collective creativity, far more vast and comprehensive then Narnia, and with even more complexity than Middle-Earth. It all began with today’s issue.
The Fantastic Four and the Incredible Hulk are Marvel’s two oldest continuous properties. Both of them were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, but when it comes to creativity and continuity, the Fantastic Four has , over the early months, become more coherent. In today’s issue the Hulk, Rick, and Thunderbolt Ross appear in the same panels as the Fantastic Four. Thing even has a muscle on muscle fight with Hulk. This is the first official crossover in the Marvel universe.
Even though this is one of the most significant issues in Marvel, and indeed comic book history, the story is at the quality of the Early Silver Age Marvel; meaning that it is mediocre at best. Thunderbolt Ross has roped the Fantastic Four into his mad quest to find and defeat the Hulk. In their new Fantatiscar, the fabulous quartet journey to New Mexico where they reap havoc on all the army’s new inventions; the work of intrepid Dr. Bruce Banner. During one such experiment Ben Grimm finds himself thrown from a rocket car and at the same time Rick Jones is captured by a communist spy known as the Wrecker. All of this chaos and sabotage is attributed to the Hulk. The Fantastic Four adventure into the desert to flush out the big green monster and flush out they do. A few short panels show what happens when Big Green goes up against the Four and beats each one. Only the Wrecker’s accidental intervention stops the battle and also clears the Hulk. Rick is rescued. There’s an odd bonding moment between Rick Jones and Human Torch and everything is right with the world.
The story is nothing, but story is the not the point of this issue. The final panel shows Hulk cursing at the departing Fantasticar. He says that he and the Fantastic Four will meet again and the caption confirms that the Hulk and the Fantastcs will meet again. This is huge. This means that the Hulk exists in the same United States as the Fantastic Four and in the future they might cross paths again. Furthermore, it is the same world as Namor, and in turn all the characters of the Golden Age, meaning the missing and presumed dead Captain America, and Dr. Doom. In the fan mind they might ask, does that mean Thor could also exist in this world too? Or Ant-Man? In the following month they’d get confirmation that Spider-Man is from the same New York as the team, meaning that he too could cross paths with Hulk. This would blows the mind of a fan in ’63.
Looking back over the vast, 50 or so years of creative writing that has filled the Marvel Universe it’s astounding that such a coherence was even thought a possibility. Allright, at times it gets dodgy, and there is some debate in establishing if Earth-616 even exists anymore, but nevertheless this world of collective creativity is an achievement.
Sidebar: The confusing many different Earths of DC don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as Earth-616. The connection between their different modes of story telling is tenuous at best.
Until next time, Extremites, I remain: Julian Munds
Story I Read: “The Incredible Hulk” (Fantastic Four #12 Mar. 1963)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Pros: History in the making, the scenes showing Thunderbolt and the Fantastic Four interacting are great, Thing being mistaken as the Hulk is some good meta-humour. The Wrecker is literal card carrying Communist.
Cons: There is not much story here and very little time is actually given to the crossover. Most of the issue is set up. The Wrecker is just a filler character and no wonder he is a Communist.
Next Review: “Trapped by the Carbon Copy Man!” (Journey Into Mystery #90 Mar. 1963)
Last Review: “The Master of Flame vs. The Monarch of the Sea!!” (Strange Tales #107 Apr. 1963)
Posted on April 30, 2015, in Comics, Hulk, Marvel, The Fantastic Four and tagged Art, Comics, Earth-616, Fantastic Four, Hulk, Jack Kirby, Marvel, Marvel Comic, Marvel Comics, Marvel Universe, Stan Lee. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.