The third issue of The Fantastic Four introduces us to a few things that will come to define the team in the future. We are introduced to the Fantasti-car, a flying car that can separate into four sections and is docked at the top of a towering building in the city. While it is not named in the issue, this tower will be what is later known as the Baxter Building, and Reed and the team own it. Reed, the genius that he is, is able to build a dock on the roof that will hide the car so that no one knows who lives there. Also, Sue Storm designs the first costumes for the team. While Sue and Reed’s uniforms make perfect sense for them, Ben can’t stand most of his and The Thing goes on to fight mostly in the blue bottoms of the uniform. Johnny is shown in his costume but of course, it is not explained in this issue how this costume does not burn up when he flames on.
Also, we see the bickering between The Human Torch and The Thing increase. The antagonism gets so bad that by the end of the issue, Johnny Storm quits the team. This is the first time in the 616 universe anyone quits a superhero team but it will most certainly not be the last.
The issue itself deals with a rather forgettable villain by the name of Mister Miracle. He seems to be able to do all kinds of miraculous feats including taking a punch on the jaw from The Thing and making a movie monster come to life. Reed Richards figures out that Mister Miracle is simply an excellent hypnotist who can make a crowd think he is doing the things it looks like he is doing. Forgetting the fact that this is not at all how hypnotism works, we do get some scenes where the team gets to show off their powers. There is also another flashback to the origins of the team. This is the third issue and the third time we see the origin of the team. Lee and Kirby did an excellent job of making sure that no one could forget how this team started. We also get some hints of conflict to come. Ben is jealous of Reed for the fact that Sue is in love with Reed. Ben and Reed both blame Reed for the accident that gave them all powers. Reed tries to look on the bright side that at least they can help humanity but Ben would trade it all away to be normal again.
Once again, this issue is different from other comics on the stand at the time because the team fights among themselves. Ben sees his powers as a curse rather than a blessing. And with Johnny walking away from the team, Reed realizes Johnny would be a huge threat if he turned against the Fantastic Four. Other comics at the time were not posing the question of what would happen if one of their own turned against them. This is a uniquely Marvel trait and it works on so many levels that it becomes a staple in comics from then on. At one point or another, every member of the Fantastic Four will walk away from the team. They do come back but with this issue, the reading population would be left to wonder if Johnny was really serious and if he might even become a villain. It was groundbreaking in the fact that a hero could become evil and groundbreaking that Reed recognizes this as a fact.
While the most important things in this issue are more to do with the visual aesthetic, the costumes, the building, the radio transmitter the team uses to communicate, and the fantasti-car, the dynamic of the team arguing with one another is what propelled the universe forward. The story was not afraid to have conflict not only with the villain but with the team members. I can’t overstate how important this is to Marvel 616 comics. It’s what defines them. It’s so effective that in Marvel movies and movies like The Incredibles they don’t work if the team doesn’t argue with each other at some point in the movie. Next on the reading list is Fantastic Four #4
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