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

1963: Act 2: Reed triumphant (the Kennedy era)

timechart issue 1 issues 2-5 issues 6-24 issues 25-43 issues 45-60 issues 61-80 issues 81-102 issues 103-125 126-132 133-149 150-175 176-200 201-218 219-231 232-250 251-273 274-295 296-303 304-321 322-333 334-355 355-569 570 to present

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Act two is about the rise of Reed Richards. The team appears to grow from strength to strength under the leadership of a Great Man. This is the era of John F. Kennedy

The five act structure and key issues
Act 2 of the classic five act structure is "rising action:" where dangers multiply and the heroes experience their first defeats. In Act 1 of the Fantastic Four, threats were weeks or months apart (the stories took place in real time on average, early issues were bi-monthly, and there was an unknown delay between the origin and the Mole Man adventure). In Act 2, dangers arise at an ever increasing pace until the team is thoroughly defeated (and de-powered) by their doppelgangers, the Frightful Four. The key points in the first half of Act 2 are Reed's greatest humiliation (issue 9, bankruptcy) and his greatest triumph (issue 13, the successful moon shot after his failure in issue 1).

Reed's rise to dominance
In Act 2 Sue and the others begin to be dominated by Reed. In Act 1 the team were equals: when Reed had tried to dominate Ben or Johnny they fought back (and even left the team), and Sue acted independently. But in Act 2 Reed undermines the others' confidence, infantalizing them, and he begins to micromanage everything. To drive home the message, Doom appears more often in this Act than in any other (six different attacks in 40 issues, plus he dominates the last issue of Act 1 and the first story of Act 3). Doom is the extreme version of Reed, and in this Act we see them in competition. Yet like Hamlet or Othello, Reed is still a hero despite his tragic flaw.

Issues 6-13: a warning
On the surface, FF6-13 are about Reed's triumph. But they are also a warning: that Reed is chasing the wrong kind of power. The 28 year story is one of Reed learning the hard way that real power does not come from using force. Real power comes from empathy with others.
The wrong kind of empathy: Alliances based on fear are weak. True alliances are based on each side wanting the best for the other.
Scale is an illusion:  A theme summed up at the end, in annual 23)
The weakest are the strongest: We are introduced to Alicia, the one who will defeat Galactus
The fragility of power: All of Reed's status can be lost in an instant
A warning about relying on force: Symbolically, using force makes us small
Real power: Reed is about to achieve glory, but first we get a glimpse of what real power is, and why Reed cannot see it.
Military acceptance: The team are finally accepted by the military. After issue 11, this is an implied commentary on America's values
Triumph and glory: Once again accepted by the military-industrial complex, Reed has his second chance: his greatest triumph.

Issue 9: Reed is humiliated. "Don't push me - I'm warning you"

Fantastic Four 9

After the triumph of issue 7, Reed takes too many risks and loses everything - almost including Sue. Reed's self worth relies on being Mr Fantastic, and if he can't even pay the bills then he is anything but. Here he tortures himself with blame, and comes close to breaking when Ben - the man he thought he had defeated - starts sounding smarter than him.

Reed graph

About the chart:
For simplicity the chart of Reed's life combines the early highs and lows as a single jagged line. There are in fact two major ups and downs: the first is issues 1-3: reaching space (a triumph), followed by the crash and then being public enemies, then being vindicated and having a triumphant headquarter skyscraper. That mirrors this second roller coaster period in issues 6-13, where triumph (defeating all enemies and saving planet X) is followed by bankruptcy and humiliation, and then Reed returns and reaches the moon. Being probably autistic (As will be discussed in later issues), Reed hates the uncertainty, so probably decides to make better use of alien technology, following Doom's lead (with Doom's space plane and grabber).

Sue saves the day again
Reed's mistakes drive them into the streets, whereas Sue's willingness to see the best (this time with Namor, causing him to love her) saves their finances. Contrast Reed's willingness to risk their home with Sue's maternal priorities, Namor's quest for his home, and Doom's obsession with his home: his castle, his heritage, his country, and perhaps even his name (see notes to FF5).

Alien tech
This is probably the point where Reed came to rely more heavily on alien technology, so he would never be without an instant patent ever again: Reed hates being humiliated. From this point, Reed began to patent everything he could, including alien technology, as this much later comic confirms. Is this ethical? You decide.

More about Reed's policy change
Until this point (and really until the end of act 4) Reed was an extremely proud man. His name "Mr Fantastic" says it all. He had achieved so much and no doubt believed he could do anything. But in FF9 we see him for the first time humiliated. He invested, his investment failed, he was mentally cornered. He said something like "you can only push a man so far" In the next issue he sees how Doom has leaped ahead technologically by making full use of alien tech (from the Ovoids). In the issue after (FF11) we see that he studies the planet X saucer. The issue after shows him getting friendly with the military and seeing their greatest secrets. Then the issue after is when he finally makes it to the moon, using the meteor. It seems to me fairly clear cut: before that (e.g. issue 3 and the roof elevator) he was far more proud of stuff he did on his own, but in issue 9 he seems to decide that he cannot afford that attitude: he has to focus more on stuff made by other people.

The themes again:

The Zeitgeist
Note the historical context:

This is one of Stan Lee's favorite stories: when asked what makes the team special he often refers to how he likes the bankruptcy, because it's so down to earth.

Note that the original team was always fragile: being superheroes was never a given. In contrast, from the Franklinverse onwards, the team is always wealthy: when Mark Waid wrote a story about the team becoming bankrupt, they still had their fabulously expensive headquarters and equipment (by that point even more luxurious and remote from the average reader).

Who's who
The Hollywood scenes feature some of the biggest names of the time: the obvious ones are John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Alfred Hitchcock. The others are probably:

Hollywood stars

As for the actress on page 10, the consensus is probably Brigitte Bardot. This is clearer in the original than in the reprints: we see heavier eye makeup, the hair color, etc. A second possibility is Ann Margret, but the moody look and bigger hair on top suggests Bardot. (A note to younger readers, if you haven't seen Ann Margret dancing with Elvis Presley you haven't lived.)

A note about reprints
To my eye the original comics are much better than the glossy reprints. Compare the coloring: the original has more color, more detail, and is more realistic. Look for example at the hair color (or lack of it) on Bing Crosby's hat, or the more natural uniform colors. The original was colored by people who saw these stars every week on the big screen, and wore coats like the Thing's. The modern version is re-colored by someone from a different time and culture. Note also that the natural roughness of the printing is part of the picture: the walls and floor have a natural graininess, the coat creases naturally fade into the dark color. These were drawn with that kind of printing in mind, and the modern version with its intense plain colors looks sterile and artificial to me. More credit then to the people who made the "44 years" DVD for going back to the original comics.

TV zeitgeist

While Hollywood is still big, the early 1960s were the rise of TV: almost every issue has somebody watching the TV. Even Namor and Kurrgo watch TV!

Ben's psychology: why does he change?

The nature of the team's powers is discussed here. Ben's changes in particular are heavily influenced by how he feels. E.g.:

All of this is consistent with FF8 and FF245: Ben can change if he feels in control of his life, and feels it's OK to change. But he almost never feels in control.

Why the others change
In the first issue, all of the team changed in response to emotion.

Ben's anger
The Fantastic Four and the Hulk are the same in this respect: changing is a result of emotion. Bruce Banner changed to the Hulk when he was angry. Ben was the same: but he was always angry. Except with Ben the anger is bottled up, repressed, supporting the more visible layer: his depression. For more about Ben's psychological state see the notes to annual 1.

FF Finances: a short history

Special thanks to Kleefeld's old "FF Plaza" site for some details:

Issue 10: Reed and Doom: the comparisons begin

Fantastic Four 10

This is where we are first invited to make the direct comparison between Reed and Doom. Throughout the 28 year story, Doom will serve as a reminder of what Reed could become if he's not careful. For an overview of Doom's twenty appearances see his own page.

Dr Doom

Relationship changes and the timing of this issue
Why did Ben notice and Sue didn't? Because at this point Ben is obsessed with Reed: in three issues' time Reed will finally win. So Ben is in mental turmoil about him. Meanwhile, at this point Sue is thinking more of Namor after the previous issue. So this issue could not have taken place at any other time.

Note the realism in this story:

The themes continue to develop:

Doom's armor: this is the key moment
Doom's technology is a story all of its own. I love how we can trace the story from issue to issue: every issue matters, no page is wasted. This issue is a prime example. Doom's technology has two main strands: robotics and armor. These reflect Doom's ego: his need to control (robots) and his self hatred (the armor: see analysis in the notes to FF 199). Contrast this with Reed's two great technologies: unstable molecules and (later) the sub-space portal. Doom is about control and opposition: Reed is about freedom and discovery.

This issue is the key stage in the development of Doom's armor. Until this point the armor was largely for show. It barely protects him: in this story Sue is able to knock him out with a blow to the head. But just prior to the story Doom gained access to Ovoid technology, in particular the shrinking ray. At the start of the story he still needs to carry a separate conventional gun, but has experimented with miniaturizing a ray gun to fit in his glove. The glove gun is clearly a prototype: the most it can do is destroy an ash tray! Obviously a miniaturized weapon tends to be very weak. But Doom would be working on ways to increase their power. Following this issue, Doom spends some time in a micro world of advanced technology. Clearly he uses that technology (or insights gained from it) to improve his miniaturized weapons. The next time we see him his armor is full of miniaturized technology. 

Great story telling
The secret to these stories' success was given at the end of the previous issue: "incredible exploits and down to earth realism." We constantly switch from the incredible to the down to earth. That is the simple formula for great comics: it's not a difficult idea, but only Kirby ever pulled it off. Take this little gem for example: the team have just defeated Doctor Doom (as they think) then must walk down regular stairs and out of a regular door, and find that the local kids are messing with their car. Superb!
the car


Other points to note:

Issue 11: prejudice and sexism: rejecting the gods who walk among us

Fantastic Four 11

The invisible gods
This classic issue has two stories of power. Power that is so great that other people cannot comprehend it. They cannot see how it works, or its potential: gods walk among us and they are metaphorically crucified. The first story is about a being who could solve all our problems: he just wants to use his power! He just wants to be our friend! And so we hate and fear him and drive him away. The second story is about the most powerful and intelligent member of the FF: Sue Storm, and how she is treated as some kind of weak burden, some sort of child to be the subject of condescension and protection because we are so kind. Both issues are an indictment of humanity.

This is the story where Reed defends Sue in a way that weakens her, just as he is gradually weakening Ben.

it's also the story where the Impossible man reflects another side of Reed's character - he only wants to do good, yet can unwittingly hurt others due to his inability to understand others' feelings.

But this story is really about Sue. Note the irony: the strongest character is treated as the weakest one. in the first story Sue is the only one who correctly understands the situation (Imply is like a child). Her compassion saves the entire world (as we shall see in FF 174) Reed uses the wrong approach, ignoring Impy: if he had listened to Sue he could have gained the greatest ally they ever had, but instead drives the being away. Compared with Sue, the other characters are incompetents, their significance (compared to Sue saving the world) is as mere footnotes to history. Yet they have such blindness, such irony! Because in the second story they act as apologists, as if this weak female needs defending! Their greatest ever mistake is to mistake Sue's humility for weakness. Sue's humility is her greatest strength, it lets her make alliances with the Atlanteans, the Inhumans, the Poppupians; the only one with greater humility is Alicia, who saves the world from Galactus (by converting the surfer in FF49, so Galactus no longer cares to fight). These humble females can do more than all the arrogant men put together.

Here are the themes again, for one last time:

That's enough with listing every theme every issue: the point should be clear now: the emphasis on realism (between the incredible exploits) means individual conflicts naturally grow into epic themes.

The Impossible Man: tragic, inspiring, deep

Stan Lee hated the Impossible man. The (mostly young at the time) readers didn't like him at all, so Stan banned his use in any comic. Years later it took a lot of persuasion for Stan to let him have Impy used in FF 174. But the Impossible Man is one of my favorite characters. I love the guy.

The normal reaction to Impy is summed up summed up in this comment:

"To be honest, I have never cared much for him and consider him to be a joke. Then again, I guess some humor is needed at times, even in a Super-Hero comic."

My response:

"But that's the thing. I have never seen him as a comedy character. I take him seriously. I don't like most of his appearances for that reason, but I love him as a character. I think he must be very hard to write: very much like Lockjaw. I hate almost all of Lockjaw's recent appearances yet he's my all time favorite character for the same reason.

I think they are both examples of why comic readers should not write comics. It's too easy to see Impy as "bat mite" or some other irritating waste of space, and it's too easy to see Lockjaw as the kind of dog you see in a 1970s Hanna Barbera cartoon, just there because kids like dogs. No no no no no! To me (and I admit I am weird) they are like laughing philosophers: they can see the utter absurdity in the world and their only reaction is to laugh or to go in some completely different direction.

Hopefully the first and best Impy story will illustrate:

In FF11 it is the humans who are absurd from Impy's point of view.

Pages 1-6: To him, WE are the comedy characters. From his point of view he was acting perfectly reasonably and being helpful. Far from being a comedy character he came from a world of the greatest dangers, and came to this world to be fair and decent to others, a good will mission of hope and friendship.

Pages 7-9: he has a completely different morality: he has never known a danger he could not avoid, so it never occurs to him that having fun might be morally bad. That's a serious point.

Pages 10-11: he is actually lonely - he's like a kid who wants friends and will do anything for that. Then he's naughty just to get attention. Sue, as usual, got it exactly right, he's just like a little child. Except that without adults to care for him he can't grow up. He's a tragic character. The loneliest being in the galaxy. We later learn that his whole planet was just parts of himself - or he was a part of them - he has no concept of "others" or what their feelings may be. I have often speculated that Reed Richards is autistic, but Impy is far, far worse - he is just unable to relate to others except like a two year old. Yet, like the ultimate autistic savant, he has tremendous abilities that other people don't know how to make use of.

The loneliness of a clown

People say Galactus is the loneliest being of all, but at least Galactus has maturity. Galactus is like a lonely adult he has coping strategies,he can play a role in order to make friends of some kind, with his heralds, with the Watcher, with Death. But Impy is like a lonely child who lacks the skills to cope, and that, to me, is worse.

In the Galactus story in 172-175 we see Imply sacrifice everything for the hope of friendship. he gives up how whole world because years ago one person (Sue) once treated him like he mattered. He smiles inanely all the time and tries to be "fun" because he just wants to be loved.

The "Galactus gets indigestion" story is so out of this world that some people hate it, and Reed and co could only stand in silence unable to process the idea. But again such tragedy - Impy's life is so literally empty - he has no purpose, no ability to relate to others except in a way that irritates them, he can do almost anything yet he can do nothing. In 176 and later he just ends up watching TV all the time and annoying people. He's like a kind growing up delinquent. He's not bad, he's just different. He could be the greatest friend humanity ever had but we can't handle him. All he wants is a friend. Like a child he thinks anybody who treats him with politeness must be the deepest friend, and so he wears out his welcome so quickly.

I suppose it's the autism thing taken to the extreme. I was diagnosed with autism (mildly) and I've always felt like an outsider, supremely confident in my abilities yet frustrated that I can't seem to get my life together in the awesome way I think I should. The Impossible Man speaks to me on a very deep level. His name says it all. His physical abilities should make him "The Possible Man" - everything is possible. But his life as a man, as a conscious, thoughtful, emotional being is impossible. He can do absolutely anything, but his life can never work. he can change everything about himself, apart from himself. He is trapped in the most desperately sad way possible. His physical abilities mean his mental abilities have atrophied. He can do everything and because of that he can do nothing.

The Impossible Man is the sad clown. He smiles and jokes all the time because he wants to be popular. Whatever the problem, a joke or fooling around is the answer because he can't cope with anything else. He is like a two year old as a clown, always doing what he things are hilarious things, falling over, breaking things, making  a noise, and he cannot see why other people do not laugh. So he will laugh some more! He doesn't have the maturity to cope in any other way. he can't see that what he does is not funny, and might even be dangerous. To him he is hilarious. And because he thins so then other people must think so to, because other people are basically him, or at least that's how it was on Poppup. If a two year old (or certainly a one year old) cannot see you he thinks you cannot see him. he finds something funny then surely everybody must find it funny.

The Impossible Man evolved in a world of immediate threats and immediate solutions. There is no depth in his brain. There is no time for analysis on Poppup. In theory he could rewire his brain by copying others, but nobody takes the time to help him. He finds life genuinely confusing. He longs for somebody to help him understand, but everyone just finds him irritating. On his visits to Earth he becomes aware that there is more to existence than stimulus-response, stimulus-response. He becomes aware of lacking something. Perhaps he felt that way on Poppup: for his brain to survive endless attacks he must have a random element that embraces the unknown,. he must be curious, but he cannot handle complexity. He hungers but cannot be satisfied. A human who cared for him would be the answer, but he alienates every human he meets. He tries to embrace people but pushes them away. That must be frustrating, distressing. but he handles frustration and stress the only way he knows how, by grinning and being manic, trying some new random thing. it works on Poppup against the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy, why can't it solve this new kind of problem? But all he can do is make his frustration worse. He has tantrums but no mother to help him.

Impy and the humans

I called him a philosopher before, but that does not imply high intelligence. "Philosopher" just means lover of knowledge ("philo - sophos" lover of knowledge). Impy wants to explore, to see new things all the time. he evolved for ever changing dangers, so his mind is always looking for what is new. So he came to Earth.

Now he has a terrifying new experience: people who out-think him. This is a danger he cannot immediately handle. But as a Poppuppian he must be able to handle every danger! In a split second! The existence of danger he cannot handle must be terrifying! But his mind cannot handle this kind of danger, of smarter people. For the first time he is weak and a Poppuppian can never be weak! Weakness is death!

Now his curiosity is focused on fixing this new danger. The danger is his own intellectual weakness. This is different from the dangers he is used to. His mind races to fill that intellectual emptiness inside, so he can be safe. Every second counts where he comes from! Art first he does what he does best - goes wild and crazy. But changing shape and learning new things does not work this time. He can do anything, he is acutely aware of his surroundings, yet he cannot understand and he cannot fix this problem: all he can do is be afraid of it, and grin manically, and try something even more random! Like a chimpanzee he grins because he is scared. He swings and screams and throws toys around because he wants to show how strong he is, so nobody will hurt him. He acts nonchalant so the beings around him will not suspect. He has learned that they like it when he does less.

In later appearances Impy likes copying famous people. If he looks like them maybe he will think like them too? But it doesn't work. And this just reinforces his need to be fun. Other people are a threat to him in a way he cannot handle, so "being fun will make them like me, right?"

Impy is a philosopher who sees but cannot understand. Worse, his great abilities make him an outcast. The greatest tragedy is the philosopher who is not smart enough to fit in.

People often tell me I'm super intelligent (not here - you know me too well and have seen my garbled attempts to create anything!) I have spent my life studying economics and philosophy at the most abstract and have some very radical ideas on a number of topics. Like the impossible man I can see that anything is possible, I can see spectacular potential everywhere I look, I see this world as a paradise of infinite wonders ready for the plucking. Yet I am not actually super intelligent, my mind works in a different way. Sure, I can see things other people cannot, but I also cannot see what they can see. I find social situations very difficult, I find communication very difficult, I find it hard to keep anything but the simplest job, and so on. There is saying that sums up autism: "wrong planet." The main autism message board is called "wrong planet." We feel that we are trapped on the wrong planet.

That is the Impossible Man in a nutshell. His own planet is lonely and pointless - just a billion extensions of himself trying to find something to do that has any meaning, but with no challenges how can anything have meaning? So he comes top this world as a good will gesture, he wants everything to be nice and fun, he wants to play with friends, but he basically has the mind of a two year old (to us) and two year old are such hard work. So sooner or later he wanders off, alone again, Still smiling in naive hope because he doesn't now what else to do. They call two year olds "the terrible twos" because it's an age of tantrums, where they are old enough to cause all kinds of trouble but not old enough to cope and control themselves. They have no idea of boundaries,and find it very difficult to imagine how others think. Impy is like that. In real life I think he would drive me crazy like he drives everybody else crazy, and I don't think I would have the slightest hope of communicating with him, but he's amazing and tragic and inspiring and innocent I love the guy.

BTW this probably sounds tremendously self pitying of me. yes, I was pretty miserable for several decades but I now have the most wonderful girlfriend in the world and we adore each other. That's what Impy needs, somebody who loves him despite everything. Not just an "impossible woman" who he created an extension of himself (how narcissistic and empty is that!) He just needs somebody to love him unconditionally and he will do anything in return.

I think a lot of desperately lonely people can relate."

Other points to note

Sue Storm in issues 7-11

Until this point, Sue is independent and resourceful, but as Reed assumes more power he subtle undermines her, particularly in issue 11. Sue's role in issue 6 was already discussed (she softens Namor's heart), so let us begin with issue 7.

Fantastic Four        7-11

With Reed now dominant (his greatest confidence arrives with issue 13), Sue's independence is in decline, particularly after Reed's sexism in issue 11. In future issues Sue will try things Reed's way. She will become slightly infantalized like the others, taking on a subservient role and waiting for Reed to micromanage. She gives him his chance. But by Act 4 we will see that Reed's approach just does not work in the long term, and Sue will once again assert her independence.

Issue 12: Ben's last chance to feel strong: before Reed's FF is re-accepted by the military-industrial complex

Fantastic Four 12

Ben and power
Here Ben is at his finest, battling the Hulk for the first of many times. Ben still defies Reed sometimes, e.g. by smashing an uncooperative elevator. It seems clear in this issue that later Marvel editors are correct: Ben and the Hulk have equal strength except for the Hulk's slightly greater size. But Reed treats Ben and the others like children, e.g. Reed leaves the other three outside while he discusses business, and treats Ben like an idiot when Ben enters too early. Reed often plays the "you are a fool" card Reed's narrow intelligence is the only area where he is Ben's superior. Lacking confidence, Ben will not defeat old green skin (or gray skin) until he regains his confidence at the end of Act 5. (At that time Ben has a power boost, but that only affects his minimum power: his maximum power was always Hulk-level).

This issue is saturated by Cold War zeitgeist: the team help the troops, uncover a communist plot, and are rewarded with a military honor guard!

Anti-communist paranoia
As the excellent "wait-what" podcast pointed out, this is an odd, directionless story. There is no strong villain, no strong fight, but lots of time spent preparing and lost in tunnels. Why?

This unintentionally reflects zeitgeist, the spirit of the age: any story about commie spies is going to be unsatisfying because the concept of commie spies was unsatisfying. it made no sense. America was so suspicious of communists that such an advanced spy network was impossible. So the story, where they do not have a clear idea of who the Hulk is or what he can do, reflects how America felt abut Russia: what doe it want? What might it do? But the moment you see it, it might destroy you, as the Hulk did with the spy camera!

Sue: the most powerful member
This issue is the perfect answer to the previous issue's interest in whether Sue pulls her weight. How could Sue possibly defeat the Hulk? She modestly suggested that she could be of no help. Then it was Sue who noticed that Dr. Banner and Rock were convinced it was not the Hulk, which led the others to consider that possibly the Hulk might be innocent. Then it was Sue who spotted the Ray that alerted them to the existence of the Wrecker. And it was Sue who stopped the Wrecker's controller, Karl Kort.

One footnote to this: Sue appears to go invisible at fear of a picture of the Hulk. Clearly that is absurd, as she fought the Mole Man's hordes and Dr Doom with no problem. She hesitates to answer ("the-- the sight of that monster"). It sounds like this was the first excuse she could come up with. What is really going on here? What could she be thinking that would cause her to be distracted (and thus become invisible) but she could not tell Reed? The meeting was dull, the lights were down, so she was probably day-dreaming. What was she thinking of? Look at the context:

Whatever the topic, Sue could not tell Reed, so had to think of a quick excuse. "I was scared!" Yes, he'll' buy that. Or maybe she was testing Reed - "does he really think I'm such a coward?" And he believed it.

Hair loss
The 1950s were run by men with receding hair lines. but the 1960s belonged to young men with long hair! This is reflected in the comics. All the early opponents had receding hair or no hair at all, except Namor and the Hulk, who were the epitome of health. (The Miracle Man appeared to have good hair, but he was old, and the master of illusion, so I highly doubt it. The angry police commissioner in the same issue was definitely balding.) We are not strictly told that Doom is bald, but a fiery explosion ripped past his face, which would normally burn off his hair: he certainly looks like he has either very thin hair or perhaps just scar tissue.


The first villain with plenty of hair was the Mad Thinker, who represented computers and the future. By the end of the 1960s a full head of hair was the norm.

The move from balding to full hair reflects Stan Lee's life. Were the early bald villains a sign of his own distress at his hair loss? Of course, the designs were by Jack Kirby, who always had great hair. Which makes you think. Kirby drew heroes with good hair and villains as balding authority figures (or in the case of Impy, figures of fun). What was Kirby unconsciously trying to say? But never fear: by the late 1960s Stan was looking youthful again.


(Stan photos are mainly from the excellent collection at the "MAST" blog,

Other points to note

Issue 13: "we choose to go to the moon":
Reed's greatest triumph; finally meeting a higher being

Fantastic Four 13

The importance of this issue cannot be overstated. This is the cornerstone of all the cosmic stories:

The Zeitgeist

The issue was written around the time of Kennedy’s famous “we choose the moon” speech. The Fantastic Four reflects that powerful meme: the nation is thinking of the moon, so that's where the Fantastic Four must be that month. The Red Ghost and Super-Apes are of course a blatant example of the zeitgeist of the time: early space flights were tested with animals like dogs and chimpanzees. Anti-communist scare stories implied that commies were bogeymen who could go anywhere, like ghosts. Sue compares the apes to the innocent Russian citizens, forced to serve their masters. Note that the story deliberately wants sympathy for the Russians - human henchmen would have gained no sympathy. The story ends with Reed moralizing about freedom (ironically while he dominates the others, but at least he's better than his enemies.)

The use of apes reflects the cultural zeitgeist:

The Watcher also reflects another zeitgeist: America's dilemma. The American founding fathers were isolationist, preferring to watch the old world from a distance (just as the Watcher observes from the moon) and not get involved. But when wars come to the western word (like communism coming to Cuba: in this case, communism coming to the moon), what should they do? Passively watch or interfere and risk making it worse?

Political commentary

“They are like the communist masses, innocently enslaved by their evil leaders.” "Wow! That was a significant moment in this story. Once again going back to 1960’s international politics, I remember an overwhelming agreement that ALL Commies are BAD. In grade school, as our thoughts would sometimes wander to the poor little Russian children in their cold, barren schoolrooms, reading their propagandist textbooks, we were encouraged to feel sorry for these children as victims of their own society. Once they got past a certain age, though (we were taught), the menace of Communism would take root in their souls, and no salvation would be possible. So I thought it was pretty big of Stan to separate for his young readers the reality of the communist people from the ideology of the communist party." - Crissy
Sue saves them yet again
Although this issue is Reed's triumph, once again we see how Sue's peaceful methods are superior. Her empathy for the apes saves herself, allowing her to save the others, and the now sympathetic apes later caused the Red Ghost's defeat. This was the Watcher's great test for mankind, so it is not too much to say that whereas Reed was focused on his own glory, Sue saved the world. Note that the boys' methods (rush in first, think later) would have led to their deaths. And again note Sue's bravery - either the apes or the ray gun might have killed her.

For the realism of a moon shot in 1963, see the discussion of the FF's origin. In short, this was a one-off, only possible because of a one-off rocket fuel discovery and astronauts with unique abilities. It was not the "giant leap for mankind" of 1969. This was like the occasional lucky visit to America before Columbus. Some critics argue why Reed didn't just use the captured Skrull craft or Planet X's UFO. Because Reed says the whole point is to test a fuel that NASA might be able to use.  Also, Reed appears to have already cannibalized the Skrull craft for the "Fantasti-car." As for the UFO, it appears to have been out of action until years later when Ben was kidnapped by the Skrulls (though it does appear in issue 11). There could be many reasons for this: it was already cannibalized for parts, or adjusting it was too dangerous, or it had some kind of security device and was only primed for a one way trip, etc.

A story of perspective
This issue is criticized on FFPlaza as having a weak fourth part. This is true if we expect comics to be just costumed battles. But as a morality tale this is superb: we see that though en enemy may appear fearsome, like the apes they are just ordinary people, with their own lack of freedom, and all they want is the same things we do, like food. The story ends with a reminder that no matter how powerful we are, somebody will be more powerful than us. The story is an appeal to be simple and human, and is simple contrasts are made clearer by setting it on the moon.

The Tunguska event

Reed refers to the meteorite that exploded above Siberia: the famous Tunguska event.


"The Tunguska event was a large explosion, caused by an asteroid or comet, which occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at about 07:14 (00:14 UT) on June 30 1908. It is classified as an impact event even though the object is believed to have burst in the air rather than hit the surface. It is the largest impact event on or near Earth in recorded history." (Wikipedia)


Trees were flattened for miles around.


Where does the explosive energy come from? "Meteoroids enter Earth's atmosphere from outer space every day, traveling at a speed of at least 11 kilometers per second (6.8 mi/s). The heat generated by compression of air in front of the body (ram pressure) as it travels through the atmosphere is immense and most asteroids burn up or explode before they reach the ground." (Wikipedia)

The simplest explanation for Reed's discovery is that this enormous pressure could become trapped within the asteroid itself: so releasing it a little bit at a time would be like releasing a nuclear bomb a bit at a time, which would be enough to assist a space craft. This probably explains the ship design: a spherical payload for maximum protection in case of explosion, and a thin neck for maximum distance from the dangerous fuel.
ship design

How can the heat energy be contained within an asteroid? Through extreme compression when the asteroid was created.

“Hypervelocity impacts on meteorite parent bodies cause short pulses of very high pressures and locally high temperatures that melt and transform meteoritic materials into the same high-pressure phases that make up the deep Earth,” [...] By looking within shocked meteorites, scientists have been able to observe and categorize a few different deep-Earth minerals. But something from within Earth is obviously preferable. Earlier this year, for instance, scientists found the first naturally occurring sample of ringwoodite, which was trapped inside a diamond that had been expelled in Brazil. Ringwoodite is a mineral that is prevalent in the “transition zone” between the upper and lower mantles. Within that sample, scientists found trapped water, a finding that suggests there is a subterranean ocean that may hold more water than all of Earth’s oceans combined." (source)

The Fantastic Four is a great entry point into real world science.

Other points to note

Issue 14: Reed returns in glory

Fantastic Four 14

Here Reed is living the dream. Note how at his moment of triumph Reed undermines Ben. The one intellectual area where Reed must admit Ben is better is in piloting (e.g. in issue 11). So What does Reed do? He designs a ship that does not need Ben. He seems to want Ben to be worthless. It is as though Reed, like Doom, likes to see Ben as just brainless muscle.

As Reed's life journey goes ever upwards, Ben's is its mirror, sliding farther and farther down to despair


Ben's life

Pressure: Reed's 28 year story
This is the first story that follows without a gap from the one before. And this is simply called "part 1" - it is followed by annual 1, also against the Sub-Mariner, who in the meantime discovers his people. As the second and third act progress this relentless pace will become more common, showing the increasing pressure on Reed. Reed wants to do everything himself, and the story is designed to push him until he has to face the reality that he cannot. This start of increasing pressure is symbolized by the pressure of the ocean, in this and the following story in annual 1. This pressure will be a constant presence in Reed's life until he finally puts his family first in act 5, in the story entitled "pressure drop".

The American Dream
In the first year the team were outcasts. now they are American success stories. This is the triumph of the American Dream. They achieved this through chaotic individualism. Their enemies of course want to be monarchs, to control everything: this is the old, failed way of thinking.

The mystery of the Puppet Master

There are several mysteries about the return of the Puppet Master. In short, he was supposed to be dead, his face changed, his powers became closely connected to his clay, and he was just weak and weird. Here are the details, and what it all points to:

First, the original story was powerful because he died at the end, or at least was very seriously injured
FF8 last page

Yet the then came back. But when he came back he had spent some time in a sanatorium. He believes he was never sick, but that is a common belief for people with a mental illness. If he was not mentally ill why didn't he avoid the authorities and hide somewhere else?
And after that he did not seem as intelligent as before - he was never a serious threat on his own. Plus, he was not convicted for his crimes. Plus his face was hidden at first. This will all make sense in a moment.

The second mystery is that his powers changed. When he originally appeared, he could not control minds. He could only move bodies: he had to go to extraordinary lengths to use this power, creating scale models of the every building, and manipulating fingers individually. And when Sue tried to escape he had to physically push her, he could not simply say "stop".


Yet when he returned he could control minds:
mind control

The third mystery is from the Human Torch's own title: in Strange Tales 133, the Puppet Master said he had major plastic surgery (which made him look like Uncle Fester of the Addams Family), and he could turn people into living mannequins. It's just a really weird story.
Uncle Fester
This supposedly takes place months later, and after two more appearances of the Puppet Master (Strange Tales 116 and 126). Though we saw in the notes to FF3 that the Strange Tales stories are not necessarily contemporary with FF stories. Some (or all) took place earlier than the publishing date, and for all we know some may have been reported in a different order. At the very least, the Puppet Master clearly does have serious mental issues. So we can draw some conclusions:
  1. He died?
    Yes, the Puppet Master was effectively dead, or at least very seriously injured
  2. The clay had AI
    See the notes to FF8: the clay was probably highly advanced technology left behind by the robot from planet X.Like the robot, it would have needed some kind of artificial intelligence to do its job autonomously. By interacting with the clay the Puppet Master would have created some kind of bond. (This is highly advanced technology so would naturally work through the mind.)
  3. The clay saved him?
    So presumably the clay saved him: dragging his brain damaged body to the sanitarium. animating him long enough for him to gradually recover. Or perhaps the clay always controlled him from that point.
  4. The fall disfigured his face?
    The fall may have smashed up his face, and the Uncle Fester appearance may have pre-dated the FF14 return.
  5. The mental link
    Since then the Puppet Master has had a mental link to the clay
  6. The permanent brain damage
    Since then the Puppet Master was incapable of detailed models, yet could rapidly fashion accurate clay models, almost as if the clay knew what he wanted to make and helped him. He is also incapable of highly developed thought, except the occasional robot - another side effect of using highly advanced organic technology.
In short, the puppet master became the puppet.

Other points to note

Fantastic Four Annual 1: Reed almost causes World War III

Fantastic Four      annual 1

The first annual is about equality: it contrasts Reed's methods and Sue's methods. Reed sees no choice but violence, but Sue has a better way.

Like Hamlet, Reed normally analyzes everything carefully, but sometimes acts too quickly. Here Reed almost causes World War Three by not listening to the bearded man's complaints (he is Namor in disguise). Sue's method, to take the other person's views seriously, would have prevented the war. It is true that Reed's war invention finally works, but it does not end the war, it just lengthens it or another battle, another day. Only Sue can end the conflict between the two species, human and merman, because only Sue understands that the issue is much bigger than Reed's narrow focus. It is not about conquest, it is about pride. Sue understands that. Reed does not. Where the big picture is concerned, Sue is usually smarter than Reed.

Meanwhile Reed continues to subtly humiliate Ben: The Torch starts a fight and Ben is supposed to just take the abuse. (Johnny grew out of that immature stage by Act 3, and it is a sign of the end of continuity that Johnny reverts to being a juvenile in the Franklinverse.) Ben is then treated like a naughty child for ruining some clothes. In reality Sue is partly at fault for not protecting them: the Baxter building would always be a dangerous place, and events like this lead Reed to gradually improve internal security.

Homo Mermanus

The great power of comics is their unlimited imagination. Not limited by words or pictures or budget. Some of their crazy ideas turn out later to be plausible, or at least exaggerated versions of the truth. Perhaps this story could also contain a grain of truth: according to Elaine Morgan's aquatic ape hypothesis, some of our ancestors did return to live in the water, just as Namor said. The only mammals without thick fur are those whose ancestors spent time in the water, and human babies still have the instinct to hold their breath when submerged.
image by 'MasterFinally' on Wikimedia
(image by 'MasterFinally' on Wikimedia)

Whether some aquatic apes stayed there and developed gills is still pure speculation. :)

Stupid powers? Or missing the point?

Julian Darius singles out FF annual 1 as "stupid" because of a scene where Reed is stretched out like spaghetti, then squashed into a cone shape by Namor. This illustrates a fundamental question: are super powers the point of super heroes? Many people would say yes. Others, including me, say no. Super powers are merely a McGuffin, an excuse to allow a more interesting story. To illustrate, let's examine Darius' claim in detail:

'Earlier in the same issue, in a story in which Namor the Sub-Mariner battles the team, a panel showing Namor punching the shape-changing Mr. Fantastic, sending his upper body flying like taffy, is followed by a panel showing Namor with a tube of maybe two feet across and maybe four feet deep. A caption tells us that “seizing the pliable form of Reed Richards, Namor fashions a crude candle-snuffer out of his stunned body!” How the hell did this happen? You’d think this would be a complex maneuver — to roll back the 60-foot-long form of a man and mold it into a perfect tube. But in Silver Age Marvel, it happens between panels. This is the equivalent in film of a fight scene in which someone pushes someone else off a ledge, then is seen holding that person’s body and using it as a battering ram — with a voice over that says “but he catches the stunned form of his opponent, then uses him as a battering ram.” It’s not only awkward. It’s stupid. And bad.'

candle snuffer

First let's dismiss the "between panels" complaint. For some people, the super powers are the heart of the story. Therefore to skip over a super feat is unforgivable. But in the Fantastic Four, super powers are merely a way to tell a bigger story. This is the story of enormous egos: Namor rules more than half the Earth's surface, and is known for his ego. As for Mr Fantastic, the clue to his ego is in the name, "Mr Fantastic." The significance of this sequence is not in the mechanism of the act, but that one man humiliated the other.

As for the other criticism, the "complex maneuver" - the pictures suggest otherwise. When hit, Reed flattens out and resembles a stretched spring. He knew he was going to be hit, he knew he would likely be disoriented, so he no doubt tightened his form like a flattened spring, so he would immediately snap back, like a spring. Namor then saw the coiled form and immediately thought of a candle snuffer. Even if he had to deal with a floppy form (which seems unlikely) here is a guy who routinely handles giant eels, so he's in his element. But the point is that how he did it does not matter. This is not a story about the mechanics of super powers, it's a story about one man humiliating another, and super powers let us illustrate the concept more efficiently.

This little sequence matters because it's a theme repeated in almost every issue. If we focus on the powers we miss the point. They are just a way to emphasize the story. This is not a story about super powers, it's a story about people.

Reed as inventor

Although the story is really about people, the other stuff has to make sense. In the FF, even the science makes sense if we look closely.

Science in the FF is all based on the idea that more advanced races exist out there somewhere. This is not a crazy idea: a lot of scientists believe it. The FF just asks, "what if we met them?" Whenever we see Reed produce a new invention, look back a few issues: you will usually find its source: it was left behind by aliens (or some other advanced race). To illustrate, let's look at Reed's great invention in FF annual 1: a ray that "evaporates" water from helmets.
evaporating the water

The key here is what Ben says: it's "like a scene from some old Frankenstein movie!" Frankenstein was a scientist who put together existing parts to make something new. Victor Frankenstein did not need to know how every organ worked, he only needed to know how to attach them together. That is what Reed does. That is why Reed can invent something in hours that should take generations. Reed invents nothing from scratch: he studies existing technology, and finds amazing ways to use it. Just as we saw in issue 7. Reed is MacGyver.

To see the origin of the evaporating ray we need to remember that FF annual 1 is effectively part 2 of the story that began in issue 14 (which labeled itself as "part 1"), which itself was a continuation of the story in issue 13. Annual 1 reminds us that Reed always studies alien technology, any chance he gets. In issue 13 Reed had the chance to explore masses of alien technology, and he chose the most useful device: a ray that could precisely target certain molecules and prevent them from working.

It takes extremely advanced technology to target only certain molecules. Reed may have been reminded of this when he saw the Atlantean missile, how it could deliver them to a very precise location and then "evaporate" the molecules involved. This was the kind of precise molecular targeting that he had found in the paralysis ray. So when he saw that the Atlantean helmets are full of water he knew how to stop them.

Reed as inventor
Reed's device is probably the same device he had on the moon, with a larger apparatus around it (see below). He then set it to target Atlantean helmets, and in particular the sea water in them. This may seem amazing, but most of the work is built into the original device. Reed simply thought of a new use for it.

Evaporating? And about Namor's mother.
Note that the water had nowhere to go: the helmets were watertight. So although Namor called it "evaporating" he could not mean evaporating in the usual sense. Reed probably just removed the water's useful properties. Possibly the device made the water appear to be immaterial, just as the Red Ghost appeared immaterial. This theory is supported by the way the Atlanteans panicked. We know from Namor's mother that pure Atlanteans can survive a short time out of water. We also know they are a proud race, and these are trained soldiers. They would not panic simply because their helmets leaked. But if the water suddenly stopped behaving like water? For a water breathing race that would be terrifying.

Alien Smart Phones
The existence of a device that can target any other entity and deactivate its chemical properties might seem wildly advanced, but it is essentially our existing "smart phone" technology, just advanced by a few thousand years. Smart phones are incredible because they can contact any other phone and exchange data for applications that can do anything. In the future we will have "the Internet of Things" where every object is integrated into the system, with its own unique ID. A future smart phone will be able to contact anything.

What we call super powers are essentially advanced technology, so small that it become part of our DNA. To advanced alien technology there will be no difference between DNA and computers, they are all the same. In short, every piece of chemistry (including water and DNA) has its own unique signature, and the future smart phone can send this data back and forth.

The device that Reed found on the moon seems to render a particular molecule inert, preventing it from performing necessary chemical reactions. Reed could scan something, just as a mobile phone might scan a bar code, and then send a legal message to stop doing whatever it is doing. Can you do that to any random device? Maybe. Today we can send a take-down message to a YouTube video that we claim broke the law. Then it's automatically removed: disable it now, argue later.

Reed's big machine
The larger device that Reed built in a hurry, with all its protruding parts, looks like a cell phone tower. Note how it fell over: Reed was so keen to add more metal to it that he didn't pay attention to balance. Providing extra metal (and a higher voltage) will amplify a cell phone signal. This seems to be what Reed was doing: Reed didn't have much time, so had to grab whatever large metal objects he could that might boost the signal to reach around the world.
the invention

Reed's machine would have been very useful, but he never got to use it again. Why? Consider the YouTube take down analogy: if you live in a world where anybody can take down any video then pretty soon you need rules. You need to be able to say "this IP address is a troll, ignore him."  After the war Namor's scientists could broadcast a message (to the future equivalent of DNS servers) that tells all devices to ignore Reed's machine. Then whammo, it stops working. But by the time Namor calmed down and worked that out he no longer wanted to invade. The last panel shows the real reason why Namor didn't invade again. Reed defeated Namor in the same way Reed defeated Ben: by sapping his confidence.

Ben's metanoia

This issue is notable for the worst example of childish behavior from Ben (at the start). What we are seeing is the peak moment in Ben's process of metanoia, or changing of the mind on a deep, painful psychological level. Metanoia is a kind of nervous breakdown, except the person is till able to function at some level. But the underlying depression and pain are the same.

What is metanoia?

Metanoia (from the Greek "changing one's mind") describes a process of fundamental change in the human personality. William James used the term metanoia to refer to a fundamental and stable change in an individual's life-orientation. Carl Jung developed the usage to indicate a spontaneous attempt of the psyche to heal itself of unbearable conflict by melting down and then being reborn in a more adaptive form - a form of self healing often associated with the mid-life crisis and psychotic breakdown, which can be viewed as a potentially productive process. Jung considered that psychotic episodes in particular could be understood as an existential crisis which might be an attempt at self-reparation: in such instances metanoia could represent a shift in the balance of the personality away from the persona towards the shadow and the self. Psychologist David Cooper considered that 'metanoia means change from the depths of oneself upwards into the superficies of one's social appearance' – a process that in the second of its three stages 'generates the 'signs' of depression and mourning'. The therapeutic community movement used the concept to support people whilst they broke down and went through spontaneous healing, rather than thwarting such efforts at self-repair by strengthening a person's existing character defenses and thereby maintaining the underlying conflict. In Transactional analysis, metanoia is used to describe the experience of abandoning an old scripted self or false self for a more open one: a process which may be marked by a mixture of intensity, despair, self-surrender, and an encounter with the inner void. (Adapted from Wikipedia.)

Symbolism: Ben's rocky skin
Rocky orange monsters reflect bedrock (see the commentary to issue 1 and all the monster comics of that month.) Ben's skin can be seen as a symbol of bedrock, whereas Reed is a symbol of change. Ben's old fashioned traditionalism is like the average older American facing the changes of the 1960s. All the old certainties were under attack: religion, the righteousness of war, old ways of life, etc. Reed Richards represents the rise of science and flexible thinking. Johnny represents the cockiness of youth, now challenging the older generation as never before. Many older people felt under attack, they lost their old status in society, and often lost their jobs to younger less experienced people. These changes were painful.

Symbolism: how Ben's rocky skin changed
Ben's metanoia covers acts 1 and 2. His changing inner self is reflected by his changing outer self: at first he was an almost shapeless pile of Earth...
Ben, shapeless

..and gradually as he worked through his problems his skin took a more definite form. His appearance settled in hard plates, his armor against the outside world; while he had the general look of a harmless "orange teddy bear" as some Marvel writers later called him,

The stages of Ben's metanoia

Ben's metanoia can be divided into seven stages, as he works through his issues. Annual 1 is the low point of Ben's behavior, the end of phase four.

Phase 1: anger.
In issues 1-3 Ben was mad as hell at what happened to him: how he had everything (looks, brains, muscle, sexy job as a test pilot, and a good chance of winning Sue away from Mr Test Tube), then Reed took it all away from him. His looks were gone, and next to Reed’s achievements his own university degrees counted for nothing. All he had was a pile of muscle, like some ugly thug, no wonder he was angry!

Phase 2: trying harder.
Ben tried to make the best of it. In issues 4 and 5 we can see a competition between the three men to be the most amazing: a lot of showing off. Ben carrying the bomb on his back, Johnny creating a whirlwind, and at the end of issue 5 we can see the wasteful way they each try to show off, how to perform a simple job like leaving the castle.

Phase 3: losing.
From issues 6 to 12 Reed’s scientific know-how leaves the others in the dust. Out in space (issues 6 and 7) he’s in his element, and in 11 and 12 he makes the most of his official role as leader, which before this was more a “first among equal” thing. True, issue 9 starts with a major setback to Reed’s ego, but it all ends with being movie stars, and who’s going to look best then? The handsome guy or the monster? Ben is losing the battle, and as a fighter, losing is not something he is used to.

Phase 4: lost.
Issues 13 and 14 are when Reed finally reaches the moon and returns in glory. For all this time Ben has Ben increasingly frustrated, Reed treats him like a little child, and there is nothing he can do about it. Ben is no psychologist, He is way over his head. He’s angry, frustrated, confused, can’t see any future except to stay in the team and be treated like a little child. Johnny doesn’t have the emotional maturity to see what’s happening. He’s just a kid who’s been raised by his sister so he has no idea how an adult man is supposed to behave: he sees Ben is easily upset, so he pushes all Ben’s buttons and has a laugh.

Which brings us to annual 1. Annual 1 immediately follows issue 14. This is Ben at his worst, having a tantrum. Other images indicate the real reason: he feels so helpless, in the shadow of Reed. Such as when Atlantis demonstrates technology far in advance of anything humans could make, and Ben bitterly says that Reed could probably copy it. See the look of bitterness and hopelessness on Ben's face:
ben's despair
Also note how Reed completely misses the emotional significance of the question. (Sue, who normally picks up on these things, is too focused to notice: she is entranced by Reed's genius at this point, a fact that will soon lead her to choose Reed over Namor. Note that Sue is holding her hair as it dries. Hair represents confidence, as discussed in the notes to issues 41 and 277. Being too focused to notice is of course ironic, as this is Reed's major weakness, something Sue is normally able to counterbalance.)

Stage 5: resignation
Starting with issue 15 we have Ben’s famous self deprecating humor. He starts to wisecrack. He knows he’s lost, he knows he’s treated like a child, so he plays up to it. We start the feud with the Yancy Street Gang. Ben is no fool, he could just ignore them and they’d lose interest, but he plays up to it. Issues 15-18 are the saddest. A lot of the time Ben literally sits huddled in the corner.

Stage 6: the new status quo.
From issue 19 Ben is no longer childish. He acts as a wisecracking adult. So he is no longer such an irresistible temptation to Johnny, who is himself growing older. After a few more issues the horseplay gradually subsides. On the surface everybody is happy, but from time to time we catch a glimpse of Ben’s inner world, and it’s not a happy one.

Stage 7: success at last
In act 5 Ben finally regains his position as alpha male, and his skin adopts a proud, thrusting outwards appearance. Had continuity continued, it is likely that Ben would have ended in a final stage, peace. Retired at home with Alicia he would probably regain the ability to change to Ben and to a monster again whenever he wanted.

Other points to note

Story 2: Spider-Man

The first we see of Spider-Man he is balancing on a tightrope, ready to break into the Baxter Building. Does this remind anybody else of The Acrobat? Another guy who tried to join the Human Torch as a friend? Of course, we are told that Spider-Man is Peter Parker, but his real identity is hidden and would hardy be published in a comic! For more about Spider-Man, and how much of his story we really know, see the notes to FF 218.

Next: Ben's decline

The Great American Novel