Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back-Issue Spotlight: Fantastic Four#267(vol.1)

So it is isn't it?;)

What's up people?

Today for the weekly edition of Back-Issue Spotlight,  I picked one that features what has got to be the one of the worst days in the life Reed Richards ever. The day he lost what would've been his second child after his son Franklin.

That's right, I'm talking about Fantastic Four#267(Vol. 1) June 1984  "A small loss" by John Byrne.

The premise of this issue is basically that Reed's wife Sue(The Invisible Woman) is both pregnant and dangerously sick with radiation poisoning/sickness. This is due to the nature of how she and the rest of the team got their powers due to Gamma Rays. And this isn't the first time this has happened. Nope. Back in Fantastic Four Annual#6(Nov 1968) Sue was sick then too while pregnant with their first child, Franklin. And it took having to go into the Negative Zone and stealing Annihilus' Cosmic Rod to cure Sue.

Well that doesn't happen this time, and despite the aid of such notable doctors as Bruce Banner(The Hulk), Michael Morbius(The living vampire), and Walter Lanskowski(Sasquatch) there's still nothing they can do.

So, the only other recourse is to go out and find the one expert in the field of radiation that can save Sue and her baby. But it's a dozy; it's Dr. Octopus!

At first, Reed's like "Ah hell no!"
But seeing as how there's no better alternative, and with time rapidly running down, Reed has no choice but to go and ask the not so good doctor for his help.

Reed goes to a Psychiatric facility in South Brooklyn where Doc Ock's staying to be treated for his criminal behavior due to the accident that created him.

Reed disparately appeals to the scientist and doctor side of him, and actually manages to convince Doc Ock to help him.
Everything's nice and fine until Doc Ock just happens to see a Daily Bugle billboard sign declaring Spider-Man a menace. That's all it takes to slowly but surely trigger the evil side of Doc Ock to resurface, as first his tentacles bust out of a maximum security prison, seeking Octavius out. The tentacles then go on to attack Reed, before joining back up with Doc Ock for a full-on attack on Richards.

After a brief battle, Reed once again manages to get through to Doc Ock again, and they both head back to the hospital to save Sue and their baby.

Unfortunately as in life, Reed's too late. Sue survived, but the the baby's dead......
And thus the reader, just like Reed Richards, gets punched in the gut by such an emotional and devastating blow.

 This was a bold story from Byrne at the time, and not something usually discussed or brought up in the world of comics. Say what you will about Byrne, and who hasn't, but when the man was on, he was really, really on!

It wouldn't be years later until both Reed and Sue got a second chance to have another child in Valeria, but there was a What If? dedicated to this particular issue.

Yep, What If?#30(Oct 1991) explored two realities where the child lived; In one world she brought about world peace, and in the other....not so much. In fact the Valeria child here was an evil monster that killed off the FF and even Dr. Doom, before Franklin was able to seal her off in another dimension.

One question I do have though, is if Reed knew about the complications Sue had with their first child due to the Cosmic Rays they absorbed, how come as smart as he is, he didn't come up with a solution for her just in case it happened again? I guess for the sake of the story we have to suspend belief a bit, and just go with it. But again, since Reed's so damn smart, you'd think he would've better prepared for this situation again.

Either way, this is still a very moving and solid piece of writing on John Byrne's part, and what helps make his run in FF so damn good.


karl said...

Ill let you into a tidbit about htis came out the same day I left school way back then and it absolutely floored me, it really did.
I was quite shocked years ago reading in Comic Reader that Byrne intended all along that Sue would lose her baby; that there was never any intention for their daughter to be born. I thought that was quite sick of him to plan something like that, and always assumed it was Marvel's 'higher-ups' that had demanded a last-minute re-write.
Superb tale a massive FF fan of longstanding [I go wayyyyy back to issue 94], that final panel wiht the black border stayed with me a lot longer than most final pages.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

man this issue doesn't look familiar too me at all and i was pretty sure i would have at the very least recognized all the covers from the mid 80s FF. anyways, good story thanks for sharing i used to have a Web of Spiderman issue (#40) where Doc's robotic octopus arms make a jail break but i don't know if that was related this this FF's story line.

Dale Bagwell said...

@Karl: Now that is interesting. Didn't know that. Sure one could look at it as sick or just plain messed up, and it is. But it's also a piece of real reality that has found it's way into the comfortable, and relatively safe confines of the comic world. Sure the words "Safe" and "Comfortable" don't sound like they belong, but think of it like this; no one really dies or grows old anymore in comics. If anything, you're guaranteed to have your entire world and universe rebooted in an endless cycle. Really, what's worse; being allowed to die or have your story told and wrapped up, or to be forced to endure an almost eternity where you progress a bit only to be returned to your default setting.

Anyhoo, very brave move on Bryne's part, as it was on the part of Jim Shooter and the editor to let such a story take place.

Thanks for stopping by Karl.

@Shlomo: Probably not directly, but the theme or story plot of Doc Ock's tentacles running amok to find its master is definitely a familiar one.

Tiger OA1 said...

Great issue and I did enjoy What If alot. I remember one where the Submariner was a member of the Fantastic Four. Life wasn't so good for Reed.

Then there was Storm the Thunder god. It was so good I kinda wanted that to be true. Well brah, it is something to these back issues. Nice job

Dale Bagwell said...

Oh man, the What If's are one of my favorite Marvel gimmick anthologies. Even if some of the sucked(and they did) I still loved, and do love the concept. Marvel's supposed to be bring it back, but focusing on the blah A vs X storyline, with the Phoenix Force choosing 5 Avengers instead of X-Men.

Tiger OA1 said...

Don't know if I'm going to be on board with the new what if, but like you said, some of em were outstanding most of em were garbage. And comics are comics and we can't live without em. Excelsior.

Shlomo Ben Hungstien said...

Dale, check your email.

Randomnerd said...

I remember this one. Very very clearly. It wasn't the first time I had cried reading a comic, but it was one of the hardest. I don't remember thinking much about whether it was planned or much, or analyzing it at all. I was just brokenhearted. It seemed like Sue and Reed, who to me represented this solid brick wall in comics at the time, had just had this giant hole knocked through them. And I hurt for them, and with them.
I was probably a little too wrapped up in the comics at this point.
And I still am, which is why I now read blogs about them, as well as reading the comics themselves.
And I really wouldn't have it any other way.
(I would give my left molar to have Byrne back on FF, though)

Dan said...

This run was my first ever collected title and issues like these showed you can have awesome creativity and personal moments too. I mean who thought Doc Ock could take on any member of the four, let alone delay them?

What If and DCs Elseworlds are both sad absences from comic shelves. When do fans take over the big two again?

Monday Memes: Hulkamania Edition

Here's some memes that really are Monday Memes , BROTHER! Finally got to watch Rob Zombie's horror flick ...