The Great American
Novel Act 1:
the danger Act 2: rising action Act 3: the ball Act 4: crisis Act 5: triumph the Franklinverse part 2, act 1:
the new danger


Jan 2020

What? An update? Yes, I added a few more tributes to issue 1

Nov 2017

About that book

I began this site in 1997. I was a big fan of "Lee and Kirby", but I could not understand why the comics stopped moving forwards after Kirby left. So the early pages on this site are a plea for Marvel to adopt real time, and get moving again!

In the 2000s (roughly 2001-2015) I created the bulk of the site, trying to show why the story should move forwards: why the story is so good.

But as time went on, as I studied it in more depth I was forced to an inevitable conclusion: all the good stuff comes from Jack Kirby. His stuff gets better the more times you read it. But the other writers? At best they merely pay homage to Kirby. And at worst they write cynical cash grabs. I won't name names.

At this point I had 40 years of experience analysing the Fantastic Four. I decided to use that experience to do what nobody else had ever done: examine issue 1, the book that started it all, in forensic detail. I would find out, once and for all, how Stan and Jack created the Marvel Universe. Eventually I decided to once and for all work out exactly how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created those amazing early issues. The evidence was damning.

I used an alias, just so people didn't get confused with the rest of this site where I say nice things about Lee. That's how I thought back then. The Marvel Universe no longer interests me in the slightest. Kirby wrote enough top class material to keeop me busy for the rest of my life. So I probably won't be editing this site again, unless it's to write a book about my new favourite writer.

Thanks for visiting!

- Chris


Aug 2017
Did Stan Lee tell Kirby to "have the FF fight God"?
July 2017
NSFW dialog! 
And some more cover tributes.
June 2017
Kirby's original for annual 5
Why Ben was angry: the love triangle. Also, Sue's failed marriage, Johnny in the circus, etc.

The Challengers of the Unknown are the Fantastic Four
Revised the home page: the two different Fantastic Fours (Marvel version and Kirby version)
Kirby's original story to FF 31

May 2017 Improved and greatly simplified the Kirbyverse page
Five more homage covers (and another Kirby precursor)
April 2017
The creation of the Marvel Universe
August 2016
Why violence is never the answer
FF 8: the most important Marvel Comic ever?
Who created the Fantastic Four?
FF 15: Jack's original story before Stan changed it
Who created Dr Strange?
Re-wrote the start to the Stan and Jack page
July  2016 Kirby and Star Wars
Why Kirby puts lines on view screens
Was an old Frankenstein comic the inspiration for a classic Galactus cover?
The heroes in a monster's hands: covers
FF234's cover is a homage to Deadman
Jack Kirby's alienation: the silent monster looks suspiciously like the King
Captain Victory
The Doom Homunculus theory
The Master Plan of Dr Doom: Kirbys original version
The case against Jack Kirby
Did Stan Lee improve Jack's work (e.g. the Black Panther)?
June 2016
How Attilan sank through the Earth and came out of the other side.
And while on the topic of the negative zone barrier: yes, it is a negative zone
May 2016
In FF 264: Secret Wars, where Reed flees his duty.
The Kirbyverse: all of Jack Kirby's major works form a single story
Added the 1954 Spider-man costume to the question "who created Spider-man?" (The same year Kirby came up with the Silver Spider and considered calling it Spider-Man)
Skrull milk: now with TEN reasons why Reed must be a Skrull. Plus other pages have minor edits.
Skrull milk: now with eight reasons why Reed is a Skrull. why Skrulls might exist in the real world, and numerous objections answered.
Greatly improved (I think) the home page by giving it simplicity and focus.
This involved revising several other pages:
The about page is much simpler
The Great American Novel page is clearer and (I think) makes a stronger case
The Sue/Monsters page is stronger, and is now the best in depth introduction.
April 2016
Skrull milk: the ultimate fan theory
The end of act 4: most of this page is re-written, especially he earlier and shorter issue descriptions. Now a lot stronger: about death and resurrection, blame and redemption, etc.
The origin of Skip Collins, and of Ego the Living Planet
Kristoff versus Doom: six ways to look at it
FF 237: who is Kristoff? You will never guess. Or maybe you will.
Improved summary to FF 232-250, and improved notes to 248-50. When we realise that Reed is probably a good Skrull, everything falls into place.
Improved summary to FF 251-273, and improved start to 251
More about FF 249 and George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman
March 2016
FF 2: maybe the Skrulls always win
FF 91: the most audacious fan theory of all
FF 358: all the gimmick covers
FF 396: Don't mock the cartoons!
February 2016
Stan Lee's "Secrets Behind the Comics", Captain America, and how the Marvel Method was already used in the 1940s.
The plot of the Great American Novel, clarified.
Made the page titles more descriptive (I mean the bit that shows up in the browser tab and in searches). Changed a few subtitles etc. More emphasis on how The Great American Novel is about elites (Reed), workers (Ben), youth (Johnny) and Women (Sue).
Used some of the rough notes to update the main pages:
Split the longest page into two parts: Act 2, issues 15-24 is now a separate page.
When "evening" becomes 12:42pm.
Act 3 is all about the portal
Why the Franklinverse stories fail
An easy way to chart the decline of the FF
The powers came from the sub-space portal
The 100 issue cycle
Ralph and Sue Ben's mighty breath
When Sue rides on Reed
Added Diablo, Ral Dorn and Aron to the rough notes section (under FF 306 and later). That needs to be a major essay on its own, and I just don't have time to tidy it up.
At last! A search box! (and fixed the picture of the team). You may need to hit "refresh" to see the changes.
More about at the Clone team, and their adventures in FF 334: why did Reed need new retina scans?
The biggest picture in the 28 year history: it covers three pages!
FF326: how the Wizard finally defeated the FF
More tributes to FF1, including by Dick Ayers, early FF inker. I no longer count the exact number, as it depends on your definition of "tribute" or "cover. But I have well over 200 here.
Christian Dior in the early Fantastic Four: the fashions were up to the minute
The cover to FF319
January 2016
More evidence for the location of the Baxter building
Fans of other comics look away now!
Other Marvel characters either do not exist, or are weaker than they appear in their own books.
FF annual 21: review completely re-written. Plus a guide to all 21 annuals
FF annual 22: the first clone team adventure
How did Reed rebuild the negative zone portal back so quickly, when it was destroyed?
Stan and Jack: who did what? Evidence from issue 3.
Sue remembers meeting Namor the first time in 1945
Buildings rise into space: symbol of both power and disaster
Franklin's power
Sue's role in one image
More about how the negative zone portal works
The seven battles with Galactus
Johnny was probably born in February 1946
The real Baxter building: the Western Electric Building
The hospital in FF issue 6
The Fantastic Four story in four words: Susan beats the monsters.
June 2015 The emotional end to Stan Lee's run.
Yet more changes to the the clone team section. I know how controversial that is!
Plus more fun with left feet.
More evidence that we follow the clone team after FF 333.
The end of the Wizard's story parallels FF 51.
Where did the indestructible go?
Why did Kirby leave for California?
Kirby's plans for the silver surfer (a brief note in "other points to note")
Annual 3 trivia
Kirby's mother
Kirby's notes on the pencils to issue 40, what he was paid for them and what they're worth now.
More about Doom and his scar.
Doom's scar and why his hatred of Reed is perfectly understandable
How Jack Kirby wrote women, before the Fantastic Four.
In praise of Stan Lee's writing.
NEW PAGE: comparing Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as writers
Still tweaking the Stan and Jack page. I really don't want it to come across as Stan bashing. So I toned down the start of the Captain America section, swapped around the story conferences and Marvel Method sections, that kind of thing.
Dang, issue 40 is so powerful, when you see it in the context of Ben's life.
Updated the overview to 176-200: America's decline
Was that really the Molecule Man in FF 187?
What movies was the Impossible Man watching in FF185 and FF186?
Various additions to the Lee and Kirby page:
Did Stan Lee Create Captain America? Yet he is often credited for the character. Makes you think...
When did Kirby begin writing the FF?
The synopsis to issue 8: what does it tell us?
I also tidied up the section on the synopsis to issue 1
(I also moved the "how FF1 was created" item to the bottom of the origin page, where it really belongs)
More images to add:
Ad showing sales numbers in the early 1960s.
A bit of fun: Ronald Reagan meets Sue Storm
Sue as detective
The FF in 1976: bicentennial calendar pic
Another pic to illustrate that whoever wrote the "questions and answers" in annual 11 did not know the comics.
Paulo Rivera's art is perfect. I cannot praise it highly enough.
So I added some more.
May 2015
When did the Marvel Method begin?
Added various edits, mainly images: the Sphinx from Nova 25 (in the notes to FF 206)
another example of the statue of Liberty
religion in the FF
Added Reed's comment about the cosmic rays and his intelligence to his own page.
A close look at how Kirby drew Crystal's hair band
An example of Kirby's notes
About the missing Watcher sequence
More information about the original version of Agatha Harkness
Added a comment about piano playing to the section on racism and FF 53
More Kirby Prester John
Ant Man mocking the FF cartoon in FF 396
Added a pic of the Creature From The Black Lagoon
For some reason the notes to FF199 were missing a main image. They have one now.
The Great Reboot: the event that began the Franklinverse (Inferno) is returning.
A Kirby Collage in Color
Another example of Reed having two right hands
Revised the notes to issue 53: racial equality, and why T'Challa must follow Galactus
Added John Romita's recollections to the story conferences section (on how Jack Kirby ignored Stan's ideas as far as possible)
Why did Johnny unconsciously know that he had to begin university in issue 50?
Major re-write to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby page. Main changes: on story conferences and two short audio clips of Kirby
Minor change: added Infinity Gauntlet to the deaths checklist. AFAIK half the universe and a large number of people died.
Sue's story, part 2 now complete: Sue is pregnant!  (OK, I say it's complete, but expect typo corrections and various re-writes over the years.)
Can't believe I'm adding so much content this week. But I'm studying a lot of programming and need frequent breaks.
Unused Kirby art - Sue meets her father!
Unused Kirby art - the original cover to FF20, the Molecule Man (I agree that the final one is better)
Even more more Crystal's hair
More about hair
Kirby's last splash page and Funky Flashman's first splash, compared
The message of "Hero" (FF 285) - is it what we think?
Sue's story, part 2, now up to 1966 and Galactus!
Did Gerry Conway plot Stan's last two issues?
A quick guide to Ben's smoking habits.
Ben's teeth: now with pictures
My regular work this week has been easier than expected, hence the extra time on this site.
More about Reed's discoveries in FF29 and 32.
By reading Sue's story I'm seeing things I never noticed before. Like, FF25 is when Sue fell in love with Reed! I mean in her heart and not just her mind. Click for details.
Finished the first page of Sue in her own words, up to and including the death of her father.
Added nuclear photos and a five act summary image to the Negative Zone page (and tidied it a little)
Sue in her own words - a major new section, still work in progress (up to issue 24). Sue is invisible to most people, and I aim to change that.
Revised section on ages. The same numbers as before, but now in one place and should be easier to follow.
When Ben regained his teeth
Mary Margaret McBride - the real TV host called "McSnide" in issue 16
tidied up the home page (mainly the top and bottom - F5 to refresh the page)
Marvel now openly talks about a reboot. I've been saying this for years, and Secret Wars is just the start.
More about the love issue
Whew! I finally added all those little notes I've been sitting on for months.
The fall of Reed and the fall of Rome
Galactus and the end of the world
The FF is America's Lord of the Rings
Another cover tribute (thanks, Glen!)  Also, I tidied up the lower half of the tributes page.
Fixed the Negative Zone page (it's never good to upload pages when you're tired at 3 in the morning)
The origin of Madrox
How to survive a visit from Galactus
The comics Reed read as a child
What does Agatha really want with Franklin?
What did Johnny know, or suspect, about his father? (At the end of the issue 291 review)
And finally, Who is Aron?
April 2015 It's finally here: the the plot! It's all about the negative zone.
Other, smaller changes:
FF306 is the mental health issue.
Why issue 1 says "Together for the first time"
Issue 2: Ben's character development
Added an embarrassing note from the issue 11 letters age
Added Bob Mackie and Sid Ceasar to FF 195
Ionic lasers, and Keith Pollard's beautiful art in FF198
FF annual 16 review (not finished)
Made the index page much clearer: it's all about Sue
(Moved some of the old Index page to the Mr Fantastic page)
Added Reed Richards and the Atomic Bomb
Added a section on the fourth Skrull and the true identity of the Miracle Man
Better explained the link between Maximus and Galactus, and why the Watcher was justified in protecting Earth.
Added the "undersea maps" panel to the discussion about Namor and Sue
I didn't notice before: The time bubble (the Great Reboot) was foretold in the last year of the Great American Novel.
Tidied up the page on Great art
Jan-Feb 2015 More character timelines, the top ten controversies, upgraded FF217-218, etc.
Aug-Dec 2014 More work on Issues 199-200, FF206, FF323-333, etc.
April 2014 Added a time line for writers and artists, and Reed Richards' life. Updated various other parts.
July-Aug 2013 Updated the "about" page, Valeria, the cosmic, Stan and Jack and 1 minute guides.
May 2013 Initial reviews for every issue
2005-2013 Lots of other stuff, including The Great Reboot.
2005: Marvel Time, super-science, and Lockjaw
Great art (work in progress): Steve Ditko and John Byrne: who's the best?
Also, another tribute cover: 196 so far!
Also, I began this "what's new" list: from now on, whenever I change anything more than a typo, I'll mention it here.

"To do" list

The whole purpose of this site is to show that FF 1 to FF 333 is a single novel. Every page must be focused on:
The negative zone
Reed's short term crisis fixing
Sue's long term connecting everyone
Summary of issues at the top of each page, how each issue leads to the next
Summaries of basic stories, as on other sites
 Cover photos
More real world photos: every issue relates to the real world
More character timelines (see Reed, Ben, Doom, etc.)
More about how much fun these stories are
More about why the comics are inspiring

Rough notes for later

FF 19: Rama Tut and Doom

I think the simplest explanation of Doom's original and main power is limited mind control. The simplest way to explain all his early inventions is that he made people THINK they saw what they saw. This is why, when he lost interest, the miracles stopped working. He also combined them with 1960-level electronics (e.g. the remote controlled tape player inside the violin): that was always his expertise, using technology to improve mind tricks. He was the Derren Brown of his day. This is why he felt so superior to others, and why he delighted in the mind versus mind battle in annual 2. He could always out think others... until he got to Reed Richards. I don't want to over emphasise Reed's autism, but I think it was key to how he could out think Doom: an autistic person does not respond to normal cues, and is more likely to spot things others do not. Plus Richards' greatest skill was seeing how others do their tricks: hence all his time studying alien technology. And obviously he is extremely smart as well.

Doom's expertise in mind control explains why the Ovoids sought him out (there is no way they RANDOMLY found him in the tiny window before his mask oxygen ran out). They recognised a highly receptive mind, an existing expert at mind control and robotics, and that is why they could teach him mind transference. This was the huge boost he needed, changing his ambition from "prove myself the smartest man" to "I have no limits at all"

Anyhow, the way I see time travel, it is not physically moving bodies (that causes real problems with physics) but is instead the transfer of consciousness between very similar bodies. Time creates so many divergent realities that there is no shortage of similar bodies. Doom's expertise with minds means that Kang did not have to find a duplicate Kang: the young Doom was perfectly suitable. As to how two minds can share one body, Doom showed that was possible when he survived annihilation in Byrne's run, and in my opinion ALL consciousness is shared. The image of Doom floating in space (before the Ovoid encounter and the later Kang encounter) is a powerful one: the easiest way to prove that minds are shared is to imagine a human floating in space with no contact with any planet or other human. The concept is absurd! Every part of our body exists in the form it does because we are connected to planet Earth. Every idea in our head (i.e. our consciousness) is as it is because we are connected to other people. If we did ever find a human floating in space this would be absolute proof that other humans (and entire human ecosystems) exist, because a human cannot exist in isolation. Indeed, take away the planet and the space suit (created by other humans) and a human cannot exist for more than a few seconds. Human minds and bodies are all shared. The clever mentalist takes advantage of this to guide other humans to his superior will.

In short, I think Kang travels by projecting his mind into similar minds/bodies. So all the multiple Kangs, Immortuses, etc., are not a problem, they are the solution to the problem. This also explains why he chose ancient Egypt first: their obsession with life after death, and the extremely strong class system (which links people together in a system of obedience) made this the natural first stop for any mentalist who wanted to conquer time.

This also explains why Nathaniel Richards is apparently such a liar and hard to pin down: as the man who first conceived the idea of dimensional travel (inspired by what he learned from alien faster than light engines) he was in fact a super mentalist, a genius at misdirection and suggestion. The more he can confuse the people around him, the easier his miracles become.

This also connects to a concept that has long fascinated me: if we forget about faster than light travel, and assume that all planets are completely isolated, a mathematician in our world and a mathematician on the other side of the universe will have exactly the same maths. If the physics constants are the same then they will also come to the same solutions and evolve in similar ways. Two sufficiently advanced scientists will share the same thoughts and know each other intimately, even though they never meet. Advanced beings share the same universal brain, even if they never step outside of their houses. The idea that identity can only exist in physical bodies is the kind of lower-brain simplistic thinking that allows higher brains to control those lower brains: the higher brains understand how the universe really connects, and can use it to their advantage. Meanwhile the lower brains see everything as a scary mystery when ignorant bodies bump into and fight other ignorant bodies.

Objections to this theory:

If Kang shared Doom's body, why were they separate in FF annual 2?

In Annual 2, Doom finds Kang in very similar circumstances (and in a similar place) to where Doom met the Ovoids. Since the Ovoids specialise in creating robot bodies for mind swapping, it would be trivial for Kang to use one of their robot bodies.

Note that Rama/Kang is very confused in that annual: drifting aimlessly, and getting his dates wrong (saying he came from the 25th century, that ancient Egypt was only 1000 years in the past, etc.). This is not what we would expect from physical time travel and exactly what we would expect from a robot if mind swapping was very difficult.

What of the battle in the Avengers, etc?

Kang in FF323 says that his legend inspired numerous inferior imitators, and it is one of these inferior imitators who battled the Avengers in Avengers 300.

But didn't the Sphinx travel from the future?

It depends what you mean by "use" and "travel" - FF 256 is the key. The design of the Sphinx is well known (just stones placed on top of each other), and it would not survive any movement. Also, Tut's plan, to rely on superstition, would not work unless the Sphinx was already well known. He could not introduce a new superstition, as that would be exactly like an army trying to impose a foreign religion: it would be opposed.

Then what about the apparent movement and explosion around the Sphinx in the desert? Read the dialog carefully: nowhere does it say the Sphinx first appears. For what is happening, see FF 256: by creating an exact replica of a form in subspace, its inhabitant can be violently thrown into another dimension. The exploding sand when Tut (or his mind) arrives is like the thunderclap in FF256.

tl;dr Kang sent his mind back to the young Doom, and the 30th century Sphinx served the same purpose as the Negative Zone Baxter Building in FF 256.


how exactly was Dragon Man made?
1. function follows form
Gilbert says he made him, but does not say how
Diablo comes far to seek him out:
dragon man especially susceptible to potions
just seeing his shape is all Diablo needs
Gilbert says he has "modelled" it to study super powers, yet says nothing could make it live
so it's all in the form, not the details
2. Gilbert is fascinated by the meteor: some link to outer space
potions seem to work through the meteor
Dragon Man responds to mental control: annual 16 - his brain wave pulses are especially strong
Diablo says he has had time to study his potions, yet just 5 months since defeat
- must be a single breakthrough: the meteor?
FF20: similar meteor containing life: the breakthrough
at around the time the Molecule Man appears
- compare the Obelisk in 2001
FF13 similar meteor: "limitless power"
by channelling its radiation through an iron bar
limitless => dimensional rift (see also superscience)
FF55(?) + annual 16:
dragons and Lockjaw eat those iron bars, or something like it,
FF77-ish: Surfer sees a meteor explosion
- thinks it can power Galactus, his need for life energy

3. conclusion: it is Morphic Resonance with dragon from other dimension (link morphic resonance to sympathetic magic in the Diablo notes to FF 306)
annual 16: Dragon man's unique "brain wave pulses" are easy to trace from miles away
end: same goes for other dragons
like the idea of dragons in the real world:
such an amazing concept that the idea naturally spreads
where are dragons?
Inferno and F277(?) : limbo is full of dragons
remember how people travel in time, by finding something already similar
so time travelling dragons would work by finding something similar in the target area

Dragons move through time to seek out important people
this one sought out Sue
so FF321 becomes very important:
She-Hulk did not persuade Dragon man because she was sexy,
but because she will break the fourth wall
- he knows she is important and got confused
more morphic resonance
we know that Franklin loves dinosaurs (FF334-6): we first see dragon man's shadow: behind a (?)dinosaur model


mention spider-girl in text, so she shows up in searches

FF 51

For this one story, "This Man, This Monster" refers to Ben. But standing back and viewing the bigger picture, it refers to Reed, as he opened the portal tot he Negative Zone. By selflessly trying to save the world, he shows his humanity. By opening the gate to hell, he almost destroys it, showing his human weakness. Reed did something monstrous: Ben never did.

In Back Issue Magazine issue 7, twenty FF creators (including Stan Lee) were asked for their all time favorite FF story. Their answers:

FF 51 is the heart of the story. This makes the story easy to remember: FF 51 is

  1. the opening of the portal,
  2. "this man, this monster",
  3. the mad scientist motif
  4. turning enemies into friends

Reed's humanity - his desire to conquer and protect - makes him the true monster, because he unwittingly unleashes forces he cannot control. His near-death foreshadows the climax in 289-90. In this story the sacrifice is by an unknown scientist who resents Reed, but Sue is also there, also not wanting Reed to do hat he does.

This foreshadows the end:

FF 91?

Looking Back over his FF career, Sinnott said " My favorite to draw, however, was the Mole Man. I just love his face and baggy clothes and cape!!" (see "Back Issue" #74).

FF 116

The tenth anniversary issue (November 1961 - November 1971) is also the first regular monthly issue to be extra sized.

FF 138 (Miracle Man)

"Conway explains, 'That was part of my campaign at that point at Marvel to bring back obscure villains. They hadn't been overused, so it was an opportunity for me to have fun with them.'" (source: Back Issue, #74)

FF 141-42

"Those two Annihilus issues were the only two issues of Fantastic Four that I actually scripted in advance," remembers Conway. "They were kind of rare. I wrote them as full scripts and even did sort-of-like little thumbnail layouts for the first issue—just for the heck of it." (source: Back Issue, #74)

FF 147, divorce papers

"to put this into historical context, too, the early '70s was a period of tremendous upheaval in male/female relationships. The divorce rate was skyrocketing, [and] women were really pushing to be taken seriously as equals in their relationships with men. It was the cultural flowering of Women's Liberation. It was when Women's Liberation was really gaining steam as the next step in Civil Rights, the next big cause on a domestic level in the country. So that was part of the zeitgeist, and part of what we were all thinking about. "When you come right down to it," Conway continues, "what that story was a metaphor for was, here is a man who basically put his own vision of what is right for the world over his own personal family's good. Now, he may have felt like he had no choice, but ultimately, what he was doing was the classical male thing of taking a unilateral male step—without really consulting with the wife. Just deciding, 'That's what I had to do!' Obviously, he felt horrible about it; felt that he had no choice, but not really expecting his wife to so fundamentally oppose him that it would break their marriage. "I think if Stan had written that story, if he had had to the same things—which I doubt he ever would—but if he had, he would've had Sue become understanding; Sue would've capitulated. Stan's version of Sue would have been angry with Reed but probably more sorrowful and would've focused her nurturing attention on the damaged child, and maybe even reassured Reed that, 'Oh, what you did, you did because you had to.' "That's not the Sue I wanted to write! She was basically a woman who was going to say, 'That's it, you son of a bitch! You have done the one thing that you cannot ever do to a mother and that's screw with her kid!' That's what I wanted to address." (Gerry Conway, Back Issue, #74)

FF 150

Gerry Conway is a strong supporter of the illusion of change, and thinks Stan made a great mistake by marrying Sue and Reed. See back Issue 74 for details. I could not disagree more. The issues after Reed and Sue married were the best ever. And Conway admits that his attempt to "fix" it failed. The illusion of change guarantees only one thing: the illusion of a story. It feels safe for a while, but without a real story, most readers grow tired of the repetition and leave. Which is the opposite of the miracle that Stan Lee created, where people grow up and stay reading.


Medusa for once saves them. Significance?

FF 157

The 100 issue rule - Doom did the same thing in 57 and 257 (more or less) - I did mention this, didn't I?

FFA 11

Confirms they fought in WWII. Puts an exact date to when they signed up? (See comment when in France)


Link this to Reed's technology page: "it's a long time since I engaged in pure research, son"

FF 206

In the title on the splash page, the word "death" is a different color on the black and white pencils. It looks like it was taped over a different word... or is something else going on here? (for the pencils, see Back Issue 74).

FF 210: "I am the knowledge": the story of Galactus, his personal journey, seen through his heralds

_______________________________ Overview

The story of Galactus is the story of ultimate truth: how the universe exists because of opposition, and the eternal search for harmony. It is personified by the journey from the Big Bang (the original opposition, where Galactus entered this universe) to a state of ultimate unity with all, personified by the living computers of Xandar (Xanadu).

________________________________ The psychological journey

We can see the journey by examining Galactus' seven battles in terms of psychology.

Battle 1 (FF48-51), Galactus is ignorant of those below him. But then he loses his only friend and loses heart. he begins to understand that there is more to life than conquest.

Battle 2 (FF76-77), this is the drugs story, where the team and the surfer explore their inner psychology in a world of pills. Upon emerging, the Surfer touches the mind of Sue Storm (renewing the connection between Franklin and Galactus?), then believes that a dramatic lightshow of energy is the answer: it's drugs and sex and rock and roll. (He very quickly finds a cosmic event that releases what is superficially the energy Galactus needs.) He thinks this will satisfy Galactus, but it does not. Like all drug induced highs it is turns out to be temporary. It may even contribute to Galactus's childlike state at his next appearance.

Battles 1 and 2 are the 1960s.

Battle 3 (FF121-123) ends by sending Galactus not into a drug filled state, but into a state of total negativity (the Negative Zone). This is the low after the artificial high.

Battle 4 (FF175) ends with Galactus learning the emptiness of ultimate power (the power the Poppuppians have, to be anything they want): as a result he evolvs to become one with the universe.

Battles 3 and 4 are the 1970s.

Battle 5 (FF210-213), after coming back from nirvana, is when Galactus is now "the knowledge": he has an elevated understanding. He easily dispatches the Sphinx, symbol of ancient riddles, even though the Sphinx has all the knowledge of Xandar. The sphinx has all knowledge, but Galactus has wisdom., In that wisdom he chooses not to destroy Earth: Earth is now his friend. (He still has the power to destroy Earth, but uses the most transparent of excuses not to: this is the excuse from his first visit, but this time even the excuse, the nullifier, is literally a hollow sham )

Battle 6 (FF242-243) is hen Galactus must finally battle himself. Like a mystic who fasts, he is reluctant to live by causing suffering to others, and his physical body is weak. Then Dr Strange (who was retrained by mystics in Tibet) makes him face his own sins. Thus the body fails and Galactus learns the final lesson that he can only live through friends. (Incidentally, note the contrast at every stage with Dr Doom, who was also trained in Tibet, but resists this message until the very end. This links with the Inhumans of Tibet, and the Tibetan Yetis and their ned to assimilate, but let's discuss just one thing at a time!)

Battles 5 and 6 are the 1980s.

The final battle (FF257) is an existential one, It takes place far from Earth and Eart's calendars. It is where Reed is a friend, and Galactus considers his reason for existing, discussing the great questions with his companion, Death. This inner battle ends with embracing the concept of justice; destroying the Skrull Throne World (the symbol of mindless conflict for its own sake). This sets in motion the forces of galactic harmony (see annuals 18 and 19). It will not of course end all conflict, but it will solve PRESENT conflicts and let us all move forward as we wish to. This is the message of the Great American Novel: harmony wins. Friendship solves all your problems.

Battle 7 is eternal.


________________________________ The heralds: metaphors for the Internet

Galactus;' heralds are metaphors for the Internet. They were created before the Internet existed, but the metaphor holds, because the Internet is itself a reflection of bigger themes. Connectivity and information are eternal goals; opposition (viruses etc) and the power of friendship (social media) are eternal realities.

Galactus: the knowledge (pic: FF210 or 213 where he calls himself the knowledge)

Galactus is a universal force (see FF276). He represents conflict. At the start we see him as the simple violence of nature. But by the end we see him as a thoughtful symbol of absolute ideas. a universal thought that iss een differently by each culture, a friend of Reed Richards.

Galactus is like the Internet. the Internet began, funded by the US military, as a simple way to communicate in war time. It ended up as a universal social media.

Surfing the net

The silver surfer has been adopted as a symbol of the Internet: "silver surfers" are grey haired users of the Net. At the start he represents the new user: a naive soul who sees the universe as a place where he can go anywhere and take what he wants. After meeting the Fantastic Four he is like a user who has discovered something bad on the Net - he does not surf the skyways any more, but tries to understand what it is all about.

The Local Area Network

When the net becomes a confusing place the answer is a Local Area Network, or LAN: restrict the \net to a trusted group. Galactus looked around and found such a group; the Nova corps of Xandar, the people who police the universe. Galactus chose the ideal LAN: Gabriel Lan (yes, that's his name: full details are in the pages of Thor). He was captain of the ship "the Way Opener", a man obsessed with discovery. "Gabriel" is of course the Biblical messenger, reminding us of the history changing nature of the Internet and its messages). Lan was renamed "air walker" - or in Internet terms we would call him "the cloud". A LAN can access the cloud, without itself physically being in the cloud.

Lan became Galactus' best ever friend. but the nature of knowledge is that it cannot stand still. it grows and expands until it casts off its physical restrictions and becomes one with everything. That happened to Lan, when he met the Ovoids. The Ovoids are the experts at separating consciousness form physical bodies (the name means "egg", symbol of rebirth). But they are not perfect: when Lan escaped his body he lost his memory.

(Note that the Ovoids opposed Galactus. The wise man knows that forces of death must be opposed, even though they will never be defeated: in the same way, if we want ot stand up we must oppose the force of gravity, eve though gravity will always exist and is essential to our bodies)

Galactus created a robotic body for Lan: a symbol of how people surfing the Net are represented by avatars. But losing his memory meant he made mistakes: a symbol of how people forget that the Internet still needs common sense business and social interactions. Lan was protected by a cloak, he symbol of anonymity, and source of his power. When the surfer (an Internet expert) saw through the cloak he realised that Lan was just a machine. Lan could not believe that anybody would penetrate his cloak, and at that point he lost.


Lan was protected by his friend (and second in command) Pyreus Kril, who acted as a firewall:when he saw his friend was in danger he rushed to his aid to protect him. This friend was Fire Lord, the replacement herald. "Pyreus" meant "fire" and "Kril" is a perfect symbol for the expanding Internet: packets of data are like krill in the sea, individually small; and harmless, but toether they support the entire ecosystem: even gigantic whales rely on krill. Fire Lord (firewall) represents a cautious, protective, suspicious era of the Internet.

The social network

Now that the Internet was mature, Galactus follows his friend Lan and became a disembodied force. (many others did at the same time, around FF 200: Dr Doom, the Red Ghost, Quasimodo, etc., and it all led to Xandar. Thus they learned that the real power of the Internet is the same power that has driven life since the dawn of time: social relationships. Galactus came back and was a friend to Reed Richards. Even Dr Doom learned that he needed Latveria as much as they needed him.

With a mature social network protected by firewalls, the Internet arrives at its final state: it is merely a tool, no different from a stick or a shovel or a motor car. At this point Galactus no longer needed heralds who would lead him: heralds who represented unbounded forces like water, air and fire. Now he needed a herald to follow him, a herald who was grounded (like the Earth, the fourth element), a herald too stupid to cause real trouble. So he chose Tyros (the name means "recruit" or ""someone new to a field or activity", a synonym for ignorance). Galactus showed him that he was just a worm and Galactus was always in control (see FF 210).

Though it might seem that Tyros was a dangerous wild cannon, a close look shows that everything he did suited Galactus' longer term purposes. E.g. Tyros. removed the Baxter Building so Reed would be forced to change; then in dying he removed Dr Doom from the physical realm. Both were examples of social engineering: forcing wider change by changing our relationship with out home. This is the final state of the Internet:a tool for social forces.


________________________________ In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a Stately Pleasure Dome decree

The story of Galactus and his heralds is best represented by Coleridge's poem Kubal Khan.

Xandar is Xanadu: a view of heaven, where the mind can enjoy anything it can imagine.

Land and Fire Lord both come from Xandar, and Galactus appears there when he left his body behind.

Death, the "mother and wife" of Galactus (see FF 257) is the woman in the poem: nobody can resist her dangerous call.

Galactus started out like Genghis Khan, the merciless destroyer that no city on Earth could stop, the one who saw all others as inferior and merely there as fuel. But Galactus ended up like Genghis' successor Kubla Khan, a more thoughtful living god, a man who looked around his vast power and said "what does it all mean?"

The earthly counterpart to Xanadu is Attilan, the advanced city in Tibet, with its sacred underground river and endless "caverns measureless to man" (see FF 158-9, and the drug induced dream in FF249; Coleridge claimed to have seen the poem in a drug fueled dream)


Blastaar befriends the naive new Randolph, and they got to the Baxter building, the reverse of how the Sandman befriended Blastaar when he first arrived and they left it.

This is his final return, to prepare his armada for invading Earth (FF 290).  (in his next and final appearance, the grand climax, he does not leave the Negative Zone)

FF annual 16

Put the Aron stuff here, as so much relies on this issue

"form follows function, function follows form" (Ral says this when feeding: USE THAT IMAGE: IT IS THE KEY)


other points:

resonance between Ral and Aron

resonance between Ral and his father, and Thomas and his father (Gregory Gideon)


Where the dragons went at the end
near end: dragons sent to Earth, time and place unknown. USE PICS, with DIABLO and INFERNO dragon pics for parallels.
annual 16 shows them defeated, but only a two panel summary. Such an enormous event, this has to be just symbolic imagery.
How to find where they went:
solve the biggest questions of time travel:
1. how does time travel work?
2. why not used constantly?
answer: extremely difficult, based on probabilities: relies on existing similarities. like all super-science: like any exact science; like conjuring; looks like "it can do anything"; in fact extremely difficult, every detail matters; goal is to make enemy THINK you can do anything

Time travel = mind jumping with similar body or mind. Hence only words under extremely unusual circumstances. Hence Kang's justified pride at having gradually increased his time travelling abilities.

This solves the Aron problem: a Watcher who cannot be a Watcher - lacks experience, lacks power, wrong body shape, etc (compare FF annual 21)

Time travel and swapping bodies: skrulls help

PREVIOUS ANNUAL + 288: cannot be in same place at once. annual 15 appears to show just that, but there is a very simple explanation: when the FF needed bodies, there were plenty of easily hypnotized shape shifting Skrulls around
Statistically, anything alien will involve Skrulls, just as anything on Earth probably involves humans
Occam's razor explains most shape shifting as skrulls: Skrull sleeper agents could be anywhere; a concept used in the Franklinverse: Lyja, Secret Invasion, etc.
Yes, a skrull was in the room, but as the table, not Alicia!
Skrulls: shape shift: explains furniture -> dragons
form follows function:
android becomes REAL dragon

The first return of Dragon Man (FF300)
since time travel works by sending information,
Dragon man's body was probably still shambling around.
The Puppet Master gave it purpose allowing Dragon man's mind to reappear
- but Ral could not find a way into this reality until he found Aron

The first full dragon incursion (FF306)
facilitated by Diablo. See notes to FF306: Diablo always tries to detect and pick up nearby power, ESPECIALLY something dragon-like (e.g. Dragon man, or in FF306, Lockjaw)
his sudden use of many dragons indicates that his radar has picked up that many dragons are trying to enter this reality.
the castle (FF307): the same as in FF136(?); indicating Diablo is drawing on Thomas's power (his past) 
the vines: classic Ditko-esque dimensional features, indicating a link to the dragon's space between dimensions

The second, larger dragon incursion (Inferno)
the dragon group did not have anybody to direct them, so seem to have spread over the whole act 5 time period
FF319 explains shared minds creating new bodies: the reference to Rick Jones creating heroes, how a splinter of a cube can burst through a reality (the hared mind thing); the presence of the shaper, Thomas's mentor
then FF320 is about changing and identity, and introduced the idea of clones
meanwhile, annual 21 introduces Aron, with all his similarities to Ral
This is the foothold Ral needs in this reality, to travel here with Dragon Man
so... FF321 he appears (his appearance is a mix of Watcher and high tech Ral)
and FF 321 the full dragon incursion begins

But the FF followed them?
Ral/Aron needs to pepare bodies for the FF, hence he creates clones
(the two frame summary is annual 16 somehow deals with a threat that ravages worlds -it is too short to be anything other than symbolic)
but it goes wrong:

So: when Johnny saves Inferno  (he has fully matured ready to take over) Franklin immediately reboots.

But it was caused by Aron and the Wizard, not Franklin?
All dimensional change relies on probabilities, or in other words, the path of least resistance. Ral/Aron is the obvious resource for Franklin's need to control.
Hence Aron starts talking of the team as Franklin would: as toys to play with. But bringing Reed back needs an intelligent plan.
The Wizard is here, and is too vain to realise when he is being controlled, so he naturally takes on the role.

Note that the first Franklinverse stories are all about being controlled:
first about minor villains being controlled (as the Wizard was)


Ready for a "byte" of numerology? And a discussion of dichotomies, of being in two states (two times) if they cannot logically connect (because time is just too fundamental a concept, if it even exists)?

The Fantastic FOUR suggests the number Four, which is of course two raised to the power of itself. The big story is about the sub space portal (negative zone) and the need for time to pass (continuity matters!), so it is really all about different dimensions, in particular time. If we consider only the binary issues (1,2,4,8, etc.) we see the theoretical basis for how time travel can work. For why this matters, see the discussion of Rama Tut, the first time traveller, and how he developed the technology.

FF 1: taking on new identities.

FF 2: secretly pretending to be someone else

FF 4: on amnesia and identity when is a person the real person?

FF 8: the puppet master. Mind control is the key concept: you do not have to actually BE somewhere to be there, you just need to be able to control what happens.

FF 16: the micro world: here we have the first hint that reducing size is the key to swapping dimensions. We also see the first cybernetic helmet (on Henry Pym, not Reed). Both are essential to developing the sub space portal, but from a theoretical point of view are the most important elements: we must reduce bodily information to the smallest possible state in order to have the greatest chance of transferring it.

FF 32: the Skrull transporter ray: they first see how faster than light travel works, in a story about how people can be the same person yet not the same person.

FF 64: the Sentry: they first see non-human who has conquered forward time travel by simply existing for a very long time.

FF 128: here we first meet two people who conquered forward time travel, the slow way: Kala (she aged when reaching the surface world in her original Iron Man story) and Tyrannus (who found the fountain of youth in his original Hulk story). They also represent two advanced sets of technology: Deviant and Atlantean (not to be confused with Namor's Atlantis)

FF 256: we finally see how creating the exact same idea in parallel dimensions means you effectively exist in that other dimension. This is the final and great key o understanding time travel.

other points

Why did he want Sue to live outside of Baxter Building? However dangerous the Baxter Building was, outside was far worse (as events proved). But Reed presumably encouraged this, because he planned to have the building destroyed (see notes to FF 279, etc)


Was Reed expecting this? Reed knows what it is without being told many details.

Seems very eager to get very close: return of Annihilus links to his previous suicide attempt

Was Sue expecting this? Never this angry. Never this impetuous (racing the ship after him). Never so sure he was dead. Never so cold - no tears.

The title page suggests that deception is involved. It quotes the Roman poet Terence, "what if the sky were to fall?" The context is a play about deception in love affair. One character says, in effect, "what if somebody finds out?" and the reply is roughly "and what f the sky fell down? It won't happen I'll get away with it." The actual translation:
What the plague, do you suppose I want this pretence to be kept up for an age ? 'Tis but for a single day, only till I have secured the money: you be quiet; I ask no more.
Is that sufficient? If his father should come to know of it, pray, what then?
What if I have recourse to those who say, " What now if the sky were to fall?"1
And it reminds us of the similar "sky falling" quote when Reed allowed his house to be destroyed.

Symbolism of Blastaar (Reed solves problems in the crudest way) and Annihilus (Reed risks death, sees death anywhere).

Why is Johnny so stupid, falling for the Brer Rabbit trick? Symbolic: his final immature act before growing up.

  1. just caught in an explosion: major concussion to the head (p.17)
  2. mental trauma in 285, reminded by seeing the Beyonder again in 289
  3. thinking of Alicia: in his "protect helpless female" role - romance was always his mental weak area (see 286 where he goes to her, and 287 where he reluctantly leaves, and 281 where he just wants to get back again). Wanted to get the adventure over quickly so he could get back to Alicia
  4. Blastaar was last seen tossed through such a portal (FF216) and that got rid of him for a long time (though Blastaar also tried to trick Reed's friend,and that time Johnny spotted it
  5. Mirrors Sue's foolishness in not spotting that Doom was the Miracle Man previously, and Reed's foolishness this issue.
How does the portal scan and calculate when a ship just races through?
FF251 made permanent entrance -  computers must scan and change automatically - wider hole, but sufficient energy lets it continue. Alien computers have to be very robust!

Is Annihilus trying to get to Earth? No, he gives no indication of this. His top priority os to rebuild his power and get revenge on Blastaar (who now has a portion of the cosmic control rod's power and is invulnerable to its blasts). When Annihilus was last seen in FF 251-256 he was dying because Blastaar stole the rod. In FF 289 he is humiliated by Blastaar, so Blastaar is most likely to be his priority.

Annihilus never wanted to destroy the Earth before, except as a side effect of destroying the universe, as in FF 251. In FF140 he arrived on Earth but was in no hurry,a nd even returned to the negative zone. Annihilus was not the threat.

Was the antimatter blast designed to stop Annihilus? No: in FF109 Reed is asked if a blast strong enough to stop Annihilus? He replied "no, nothing is"

No, the threat is Blastaar's fleet: a major threat, yes, but not cosmic-control-rod level. the bigger threat was the hole itslef getting bigger and bigger, and that would take time. Reed's sacrifice was not needed: they needed his brain more than his mad short term thinking.

How did Annihilus survive? In FF109: Janus disappeared into the exploding atmosphere, with Annihilus watching. He: must have built some way of surviving it into his life support suit (e.g. a portion of his cosmic control rod power may have imbued his suit for that exact purpose, or his followers, seen in 109, could be trained to always be close by to rescue him)

Could the Silver Surfer have helped them? Yes. In FF324 we are reminded that the surfer can detect changes in the solar system, even from elsewhere in this (or another?) galaxy. This is to be expected, based on FF 55: he says he can track a grain of dust in the infinite vastness of space, and can always find a person he seeks. So, once connected with Earth heis probably always attuned to it. So if the neg zone ripped open, he perhaps could have helped, even if he was far away at the time. And he is just an example of the Susan principle: the FF is never alone they always have friends.


Was Reed's plan rational? No.Annihilus just survived matter-antimatter. So he will just come back, but next time Reed will not be there to help.

What is Sue's message? Think of another way. Is there another way? yes:

  1. Yes, Reed's explosion might destroy the computers and seal the portal, but cosmic power can easily protect it - much greater than even a human mass worth of matter-antimatter
  2. Was Annihilus even heading to the portal? More likely to be heading to destroy Blastaar's people
  3. Is Earth really helpless? No: SHIELD was focused on the portal, and can teleport. Not just humans on Earth Atlanteans too. And Inhumans on the moon would be interested if Annihilus was to go all the way.
  4. Franklin could defeat Annihilus if dampers removed - should get through to him

Could Sue have predicted Licorice Calhoun? Yes, though not by name. Significance of phoenix returning in previous story, then meeting Beyonder, then talking of her son: reminding us that there are plenty of beings who could defeat Annihilus if they can be found and persuaded (or in the case of Franklin, be there for him so his dampers can be removed). Ripples of good behaviour spread out, just as do the ripples of Calhoun's dream state. If it was not Calhoun saving them, it would have been someone else later. No, Sue does not have perfect knowledge, but she knows how probabilities work. Unlike Reed, who wants perfect knowledge and does not understand probabilities - taking a risk that killed him.


End of act 4 mirrors act 1
  1. FF1: Mole Man - FF 296
  2. FF2: enemies hiding; impersonating the FF - FF 294-5
  3. FF3 - it was all an illusion - FF 291-3
  4. FF4 - monsters invade - FF 289-90
  5. FF5 - Dr Doom - FF 287-88

Reed's change of heart has stages:
First, the despair as every othe roption fails over the years

Then FF295, realising that sometimes he cause the problem.
Then FF296, realising that Sue can end his guilt.

The stages in his progress are reflected in his three friends who turned bad:
Ff108-9: Corwin Janus - Sue was not there, so there is no attempt to reason with him
FF215: Randolph James - Sue is there, so Reed is more friendly, but still opposes him ("let me change you")
FF295: Harvey Jessup - Sue disagrees with Reed's all-or-nothing approach and persuades him to think it through: this time they persuade their friend through reason
Note the "J" names: Janus, James and Jessup. Not sure what that signifies...


Symbolic cover: represents the last 33 issues, about dreaming. Acts 1-4 were about danger: it was a monster comic. In act 5 it's a superhero comic: now they win easily. The team (all except Johnny) become comfortable at last. For a novel this is like being asleep. The sleeping/easy victory theme comes up throughout the next 33 issues, culminating in the clones at the end. But why choose Ben as the one who's asleep on the cover?
1. We follow his story (Reed and Sue becoming comfortable happens off screen)
2. Ben is the most introspective, and has the most common sense. If he loses awareness, Reed and Sue will have done it first. When Franklin reboots everything in 326, Ben is the first to notice it feels like being asleep (FF 327, page 2). That is true symbolically already: Sure, Ben falls asleep, but Reed is already asleep at the wheel of parenting. (Sue is not asleep, but she acts intuitively, not introspectively. Plus, her denial of her past means she is already susceptible to see things as she wants to, not as they are: see FF 291. See also her selective memory when criticising Crystal.

Why does Franklin not want them comfortable?  When they are comfortable then nothing holds back Johnny. This comes true in FF 322, when Johnny reaches his potential. The one thing Franklin fears most is the unknown!

More symbolism: the Wizard drives that cab when Ben falls asleep, then he takes Franklin. This symbolising how he ends the team (see notes to 326), and hints that his discovery of Aron (who does the final deed) may be related to his (the Wizard's) interest in Franklin.

FF306: Diablo

Why this matters
Diablo is important for understanding Ral Dorn, Aron the Watcher, and dragons, and how they form a  continuous story as a backdrop for the Fantastic Four. Note the symbolism of dragons for the Great American Novel.  Plus Diablo's symbolism: shows how monsters are created from innocent people
Our first clue: how does Diablo teleport? He did not have this ability before: trapped in castle for centuries
The secret: diablo always piggy-backs on others' power,

Also note the progression in his skill:

So Diablo is probably making use of others' power in FF306. At least indirectly, just as he used the talismen without them actually fighting. So who's power is he piggy-backing off today?  TWICE in same issue we see 6 similar teleporting beings to Diablo's crew


Ben closes off the main lab. He jokes about the neg zone, but it's just a joke - he does not actually say the portal still exists. (It was shut down permanently in 289-290, and is now no longer needed: Mole Man and Fortisquean travel is safer. In annual 21 - the final annual - Ben considers making Reed's mistake, going backwards  and opening it again. But fate steps in and he does not. The negative zone is history.


When Kang talks about he time bubble (what I call the great reboot) he places it between 2005 and 2020, and says it is caused by the dreaming Celestial beneath California. I think this is a very good way to describe Jack Kirby. Kirby is a celestial (a star and a creator of worlds), and also created the celestials, he lived in California, which is also the home of Hollywood, and the Marvel Universe is his dream. In interviews he often compares his work to movies. Between 2005 and 2020 Marvel Movies finally came of age, and rebooted Marvel into a cinematic version of its old self. On the basis of that I predict that superhero movies will fall out of fashion in either 2020 or 2025 (using the revised chronology used in later stories). :)

FF 324: Dr Who

Cover to "The Three Doctors" by Terrence Dicks, cover painted by Chris Achillious: clearly based on the cover to FF 49 (see the hands).


Mantis represents long term continuity: tying together the Marvel Universe and other comics. Englehart planned to continue her story, but realised it was all over. Her soul leaving her body represents Marvel;s soul leaving (and the real FF about to disappear).  END TO THE COSMIC STORY
301-321: ties up loose ends, older generation becomes comfortable
322-325: the merging
326-333: dreams begin

FF 326

Reed's comment about how his time with the Silver Surfer taught him to start thinking about magic. That fits so beautifully into his life story. As we have discussed before, magic is the great underlying theme of the MU. And in my opinion, the Surfer is a mirror for Reed - he did very bad things but for noble reasons, and now must come to terms with it. And the dominant theme of the entire story, from beginning to to end, is the Negative Zone. So for Reed at the very end to go on a personal journey with the Surfer, exploring (in effect) the neg zone again (i.e. the space between dimensions), but this time in the POSITIVE universe, with humility, leading to finally understanding magic, and curing Ben intuitively without planning it - it is all so beautiful, such a seamless story. Such unity of purpose.


In the first few pages of issue #326 (May 1989), Reed Richards attempts to return to the FF’s Four Freedoms Plaza base, Sue tries to talk him out of it, and then the security system attacks him for a few pages until he receives a not-so-warm welcome from the team. (One could view this as Englehart’s metaphor for his perceived treatment by Marvel.) - Back Issue 74

other points:
The timescale stretches, but still doe not slide (until FF334): Sue confirms that her goal was to beat the commies into space.


Why Aron creates the clones: to find away to survive the Great Reboot

FFA21: Aron (then larger and heavier) wants to assist in  Evolutionary War. (Uatu forbids it.)
High Evolutonary wants to obtain (and stop?) all causes of mutation:
?? He knows the mutants will destroy everything
?? Franklin is the first and greatest example of this?
FF321: Aron; "my plan is the result of endless study"
FF322: Aron sees Ben defeat Graviton: yet Graviton could have saved the world from Inferno.
his monolog suggests this is the first time he has tried to use power
"what does this mean for my plan"?
-> eventually leads him to watch their dreams not their reality
in case his interference causes disaster
=> not a Watcher
If he was really raised a Watcher he would know this already
So the "endless study" must be Ral Dorn's, before he sets off to change history?
FF323; Aron monologs about being a genuine Watcher yet confused
- exactly what the watching ghost (Necrodamus: Ral's father?) would need to hear
to throw him off the scent
we then cut to Kang talking of the Great Reboot:
the time bubble cannot be entered except through "normal evolution"
=> The High Evolutionary was right!!!!!
*** Add the Evolutionary War to The Great Reboot!!!***


Objections to the clones: check you have these.

Why is Ben so insolent? Reed changed him into the Thing in just a few seconds and is so powerful he could do anything, so Ben must bottle up his rage at Reed. Plus he's still confused and childlike - only just created.
Is Reed evil? His newborn status merely emphasises Reed's natural arrogance, without the humility and compassion that can only come from failure. For Reed's natural arrogance, especially in early days,- see:
- Nathaniel's example
- see the end to FF7
- see FF 51 "how did you know?"
- etc.

Objection: but the clone team do not save anybody? Neither did the original team, at first: in FF 1 they were the menace. Later they went after the Mole Man, but nobody asked them to.

Objection: when they return, Ben asks Johnny about his dream (He asks what "woke ya up and got us outta all that") Answer: what we see in the comics is what the FF report. It is vital to them that we believe they are not the clones. But Johnny can't remember - just as the clone Johnny would not. It is of course left as ambiguous, as the real Johnny might not want to open the can of worms about their relationships.

Objection: Why does Aron see the magician incident as excellent? Because the team are learning, like children. These are their first steps to morality.  As they learn, so will Aron, learning why they think as they do,

Objection: FF327 end: Aron says he would love to destroy the FF.  Answer: he appears to contradict himself next issue: he will not help kill them, only wants their DNA. Conclusion: he is hiding his true goal.

Objection: why would Aron focus on studying the FF if his real goal is to understand the time bubble / Great Reboot? Ral (and the Watcher) already knows them. Plus, they are the first team: and superheroes matter to the ultimate powers, the Beyonders (see FF 319). Plus, the FF are experts at cosmic stuff and friends to Galactus. Plus, any gravitational (etc) disturbances would center on the FF because of Franklin.

Objection: they always do bad? No. In FF330 they are trying to be good, but with simplistic reasoning. The magician is lying, and they hate lies. The people pay for miracles, so they should pay for the FF. They are simplistic because they were only "born" recently so their thinking is like children.

Objection: the change in 334 is too big? See FF333: clone Johnny is genuinely disturbed: a big dose of humility. How would YOU feel? Then clone Reed is in denial: "WE ARE THE ORIGINALS BECAUSE WE HAVE NOT CHANGED". they call the original team "Johnnies come lately". They have a strong need to believe that THEY are the originals and the OTHERS are the imposters. That is just normal psychology: everybody wants to feel that they matter, Plus FF334 is after weeks of studying the newspapers, trying to come to terms with the new reality. They have matured. Plus, and this is a big one, the clone FF are the team the remaining Marvel readers want. Readers are predisposed to see the unchanging team as the right and good team, and reject the team that changes.

Objection: In the opening to FF330, Aron thinks Sue is useless. Yet if Aron is Ral he would know that Sue saved him. Response: this supports the Ral view: all he knows is the capable Sue, and he had a very short time to get to know her. So he is very angry and frustrated that this Sue does not behave how he expects. This is a good argument for Aron not being a Watcher. A Watcher would have a much better idea of how people behave, as that is his job. (Aron mentions that Watchers are long lived, so even a young Watcher would have plenty of watching experience.) But the Dragon Riders are far more simplistic and action oriented.

Objection: The omniscient editor's notes seem to suggest that the early Sue was not useful to the team. This would undermine the whole Great American Novel hypothesis, and hence the clone theory as well. But that is not that the caption says: it simply says that the team matured. Aron, who represents fans who want action figures, would naturally prefer the more violent Sue of Byrne's run. Her becoming more violent was part of her maturing. Not necessarily a good part, but perhaps a necessary one. But what would Aron understand about that kind of maturity?

Objection: Aron seems too immature to be Ral. Response: who says Ral is mature? He is very mature in the narrow field he was trained for, but could be very immature in others. It is very realistic for someone to be strong in one area but weak in another. it is not realistic for someone to be perfect in every area.

Objection: Aron might appears to be hallow, just wanting action figures. How is this consistent with hi trying to save the universe fro the time bubble? Answer: this is called modelling. By observing models we predict future real world events without having to wait for the real thing to actually happen.

FF329, other points:

Aron states several times that he is in Canada. The great American Novel ends when it is no longer driven by what happens in America. It may also reflect that the first person to openly embrace a soft reboot was John Byrne, a Canadian.

Plato's Cave: FF329, when they first enter the Mole man's cave, they talk of philosophy and wondering what is real: this reminds us that comics reflect Plato's Cave, the allegory that makes us question what is real. The events in the comics are real to them, but are merely shadows of a bigger reality (Aron's wishes), which is itself part of a bigger one (Franklin's universe), which is itself part of a bigger one (our world where the comics are published) which is itself part of the world of possible ideas.


The dream issue begins with Psychoman. Yet the team are following the order of the original comics.Why? Because issue 3 was about illusion. They cannot find the Miracle Man.. The only active enemy who deals with illusion is Psychoman, so naturally they find him, until they can find a suitable magician.

FF 332

"that trick never works" - a line added by Englehart to Byrne's dialog for FF 245. A comment on Byrne's attempt to have the illusion of change. It's a reference to the carton Rocky And Bullwinkle, where the attempt to use tricks to solve problems does not work, as in this case.

FF 333

The symbolism of Sinnott: stops inking the book with 322, when the Franklinverse chaos begins. But still does covers with Ron Frenz, who tried to make his work a tribute to Kirby, until the very last continuity issue, 333. A fitting end to the epic.


Acts of Vengeance was "orchestrated by John Byrne", (then writing the Avengers and West Coast Avengers, the core titles): see "Back Issue" 74. So the man who created some of the best FF stories also helped create some of the worst.

Ben says he puts on ab act for Reed. This is important. What we see (the "bah" and the childish petulance) is NOT how he feels inside. As an act it can change as needed, e.g. from "Bah" Ben to "Baloney" Ben.

In FF334-336, the Clone team re-live annual 3, where Doom uses his device to make everybody want to destroy the FF


Last page: maybe the congressman is right? When judged ONLY by the evidence in the FF comic,  the most likely explanation is that yes, Reed did it. Ever since FF 334 Reed has acted just like the clone. Odd that.


Reed's defence? Arrogance. He would have made it perfect. He then blames a conveniently weak Doombot and sub-par Adaptoid in a warehouse. Something clone Reed could easy arrange.

Hydroman appears: in the real world he's imprisoned in the Vault (FF333), but ti the clone's world he can be anywhere they want him to be.

Stan and Jack page

TJKC: Do you remember when the Marvel Method started?

STAN: No, not really. I think it was even before the Fantastic Four. It might have been when Jack and I were doing monster stories. I’d give him an idea for a monster story, he would draw it, and I’d do the dialogue. Or it might even have been before that time. Memory-wise, I’m not much of a super-hero.

(Kirby Collector 33)

The only reason I made more money is I was also getting a salary, because I was the editor and the art director. So that’s why my income was more than his. But there was a time when I said to Jack, “Jack, I would love for you to take a job here with me. You be the art director, I’ll just be the editor. You be my partner, we’ll be totally 50/50 on everything.” He could’ve been exactly the same, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to stay a freelancer.

TJKC: This was during what time period?

STAN: Oh, I don’t know, I couldn’t give you the date, but I remember it very clearly. I even discussed it with people at the Bullpen. To this day, I don’t know why he wouldn’t take it. But anyway, that’s how it was.

(ibid, interview in 2001)

My comments: I don't know of any earlier references to this claim - and Stan has a notoriously bad memory that always put him in the best possible light. But if true, and Kirby turned it down, it could simply be that Kirby did not want to be an office manager, or he did not want to hand over ownership of ideas he new would be worth millions one day, or he just could not stand working with Stan: he considered Stan to be immature; Stan was very good at talking, and Jack was not, so it would be horrible for Jack to work with him.

More, from

Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon (between 1952 and 1955 Keyes was a prolific contributor to Stan Lee’s fantasy/horror line):

MURRAY: Stan Lee is today considered one of the great comic book writers. Was he writing many comics in those days?

KEYES: Not to my knowledge. He edited, I guess. He was a businessman, as far as I was concerned. And a shy businessman is almost an oxymoron. I’ve never thought of Stan as a writer at all. So that surprises me. Of course, he might have been turning in comics for a few extra bucks, doing it under pen names so that Martin Goodman wouldn’t know about it. I never thought of Stan as a writer. He says that he created Spider-Man. I never thought of him as a creative person. It could be that one of the writers created it and sent in a synopsis. And it got picked up. But of course he’s become a multi-millionaire for that stuff.

More, from

[Funky Flashman was not just Kirby's opinion, and not just in the 1970s: it was others' opinions back in the 1960s): "Funky had forerunners in the 1960s. Joe Simon depicted him as Sam Me in a 1966 issue of Sick Magazine 25, and Stan Bragg appeared in Angel and the Ape #2 (1968), plotted by Sergio Aragones, co-written and penciled by Bob Oksner and inked by Wally Wood, A. 26

More, same source:

1986, to Kirby: Why did you leave the F.F. and Marvel that first time?

KIRBY: Because I could see things changing and I could see that Stan Lee was going in directions that I couldn’t. I came in one night and there was Stan Lee talking into a recording machine, sitting in the dark there. It was strange to me and I felt that we were going in different directions… I realized I was creating something I didn't want to create. Did you ever read What Makes Sammy Run by Budd Schulberg?


KIRBY: Read What Makes Sammy Run. Sammy, in that book, is the kind of a character you wouldn’t want to be responsible for developing. I felt that I was developing a Sammy– which I was, in Stan Lee. I felt it was my time to go. [Wikipedia says "It is a rags to riches story chronicling the rise and fall of Sammy Glick, a Jewish boy born in New York's Lower East Side who, very early in his life, makes up his mind to escape the ghetto and climb the ladder of success by deception and betrayal." THe Kirby Museum article quotes a passage where Sammy becomes famous by stealing others' ideas]

PITTS: You’re very cryptic, Mr. Kirby.

More, same source:

"Fantastic Four #6 is an interesting study: in a Kirby Collector article, [Mike Breen, 'That is strong talk… whoever you are,' The Jack Kirby Collector #61] Mike Breen shows that Kirby dialogued it himself, and suggests Lee was an absentee editor that month. Dick Ayers, the inker on the issue, once described his reaction to learning his 'Kirby/Ayers' signature was being whited out in production. 44 In this case it was replaced with Lee’s “Stan Lee + J. Kirby” at the beginning of all five chapters, despite the lack of evidence that Lee even laid eyes on the book."


291:9 shows Alicia working on a model of a human

Real time 1960s

footnote: FF329, reliving FF1, Johnny says he's only sixteen - but thisis the confused, dream-like state where early and late stories mix. e.g. they say Reed and Sue may or may not be married,  So this age only refers to the general period of those early issues

monsters page

Act 3 is about the portal. Look at the motivation for every adventure:

Which covers make the team look weak compared with monster threat?

Byrne: to 283 (less often after 263)
DeFalco (346)
349, 364, 379, 396, 401, 413. Those are the rarer exceptions. The rest show no tension.
maybe 393 except we know he is never a big threat.

panel swipes that might be significant
same equipment
- shows Wakanda ALSO develops its technology gradually

Namor when he fights for Sue: reminds us of WWII

So much to do, so little time!

The Great American Novel