Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Words & Pictures: John Byrne | Letters: Jim Novak | Colors: Glynis Wein
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Reed, Sue, and Franklin Richards, Johnny Storm, and Ben and Alicia Grimm go about their daily lives in the town of Liddleville, where Reed is a university professor and Ben owns a tavern. But Ben, Sue, and Johnny are plagued by similar nightmares in which the group is bombarded by cosmic rays aboard a rocket ship and endowed with superhuman abilities.

Eventually, Reed realizes the dreams are true and that he and his friends are the Fantastic Four. He convinces the others of the truth and they confront Ben’s “father-in-law”, Phillip Masters, a.k.a. their old enemy the Puppet Master. He admits that this was all his idea as a way to give his daughter, Alicia, a happy life. But, unable to carry out the plan alone, he enlisted the aid of Doctor Doom.

Doom gloats over the FF, revealing that they actually reside in unpowered miniature clone bodies in a scale model of a town, and that he occasionally visited them as well in the guise of Victor Vaughn, Reed’s boss at the college. Doom departs, leaving the FF to live forever as prisoners of Liddleville, but Reed concocts a plan to return them to normal. He empowers their cloned bodies, which allows them to exit Liddleville and rig up a trap. Sue lures Doom back to the model town, where his attacks serve as a catalyst to restore the Fantastic Four, Alicia, and Franklin to normal.

Doom is rendered apparently comatose, and Puppet Master is nowhere to be found. The FF depart, taking Doom with them, unaware he has transferred back into the robot body of Victor Vaughn in Liddleville. But before he can return to normal, Puppet Master smashes his “transferral ring” and sics a townful of reprogrammed robot citizens on him.

Sub-Plots & Continuity Notes: Reed notes that he's been trying to restore the Thing back to normal Ben Grimm for years.

Puppet Master explains that he used his radioactive clay, with which he builds puppets in order to mind control people, to get Doom to help him in his scheme. But somehow, Doom has his own personality as well. (Or maybe I just don't understand how his puppets work; I've read precious few Puppet Master comics.)

The action in this tale takes place inside Doctor Doom’s castle in the Adirondack Mountains, first seen in FANTASTIC FOUR #5. This castle served as Doom’s primary base of operations at this point in time, as he was deposed as the ruler of Latveria dating back to FF #200.

Reed mentions that he and Ben attended college together. (Doom also went to school with them. If Marvel Studios ever gets those FF rights back, I'd love to see an ANIMAL HOUSE style “screwball comedy” take on those years. Seriously, that's not a joke.)

Sue finds Doom playing the piano in a room of the castle. She recalls that she saw him play once before, in Latveria, and reflects on how beautiful and melancholy it sounds. She also catches a glimpse of Doom’s disfigured face.

In Liddleville, “Vincent Vaughn” is drawn to resemble the standard image of Doctor Doom before his face was horribly scarred.

I've long found this interesting: This issue is cover-dated November, 1981. IRON MAN #149 – 150 were from August and September of 1981. X-MEN issues 145, 146, and 147 were May, June, and July 1981. Also from May through July of 1981 were DAZZLER #3 – 5. Doctor Doom is the primary villain all of these comics. ’81 was truly the year of Doom.

Is It Clobberin' Time? When the FF make their way out of Liddleville, the Thing exercises his right to clobber some of Doom’s robot guardians.

The Quotable Doom: “Thus do I demonstrate my contempt for Reed Richards and his unending stupidity!”

My Thoughts: Byrne definitely turns things around here. After the boring Ego story and the good-but-not-for-me tale of Skip Williams, we find him returning, for the first time since his debut issue, to the well of classic FF villains. And we get two of them, in the Puppet Master and Doctor Doom.

I have little to say about Puppet Master. As noted above, I've read very few comics in which he appeared. All I know is that he's Alicia’s dad, he's kind of a misunderstood misanthrope rather than an outright villain, and he's exceptionally creepy looking. (What's with the eyelashes?)

Doom, on the other hand – Well, I've read plenty of comics featuring Doctor Doom. I've seen him challenge the FF, Spider-Man, the Avengers, Iron Man, the X-Men, Thanos, and more. I've read the character as written by Stan Lee, David Michelinie, Marv Wolfman, Jim Starlin, Chris Claremont, Steve Englehart, and others. Aside from perhaps his co-creator Lee, I don't think anybody has a better handle on Doom than John Byrne.

Some writers present him as a bully or an arrogant dick or a poseur who puts on airs of nobility while behaving as little more than a common thug. But Byrne gets Doom right: he is noble. He's classy. He's a tyrant, but in his own way he cares for his subjects. He believes himself above everyone, but it's out of pride, not pettiness. He's a tragic character and while he does evil things, it's hard to declare him an evil person.

Byrne’s Doom is the definitive Doom, as far as I'm concerned. And while I've noted that a lot of this run didn't connect with me when I first read it, his handling of Doom is the spot where I was pretty much always on board. The Doom stories are the highlights of Byrne’s run, and this is easily my favorite of the few issues we've covered so far.

A few quick, final observations on this one: First, I love that Liddleville is a picturesque little town out of the fifties, right down to the hairstyles and cars. Makes me wish Byrne could've somehow done the whole run in that time period. Though they were created in 1961, I really think the FF belong in the fifties.

Also, Byrne turns in a magnificent reveal of Doctor Doom, an amazing two-page spread as he looms over his foes in the Liddleville model. The very next page gives us a great shot for the full model town as Doom stands beside it. These are probably my three favorite pages of the run so far.

Lastly, I love that title; its double meaning is a complete spoiler, but only after the reader learns the truth about Liddleville. I can't get over how creative that is.

Note: This issue also contains a "new" backup story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (actually just Lee scripting over Kirby storyboards from the old FF cartoon series). I elected not to cover it here as it has nothing to do with Byrne's ongoing run.


  1. I still don't have much to say about this FF run. I am still waiting for my comics to arrive.
    When they finally do, I'll be reading along in tandem. ( as soon as i caught up )

    Having said that:
    Vincent Vaughn looking like Doom, does that include the weird eyebrows ?
    I know unmasked Doom best from the original 1984 Secrets Wars, where I saw him unmasked for the first time, drawn by Mike Zeck.

    And that quote from Doom, sounds a bit undoom like.
    He doesn't seem the type to use the word stupidity.
    Idocy or weak minded maybe.

    As for me, I am still knocking out reviews. I have had this mad idea to work out so far in advance, to the tune of 30 or so reviews. So i have a enormous buffer to fall back on.
    Which is why I am not that much around currently.

    1. As far as I know, those eyebrows are part of the standard unmasked Doom look. Mike Zeck does them too in SECRET WARS, but not as exaggerated as Byrne. Check out the cover of #12, especially.

      I think Doom would use "stupidity" to describe Richards. He probably believes "stupidity", as a word beneath his stature to use, applies perfectly to the rival he also sees as so far beneath him.

      Glad to hear you're working on a backlog. That's what I try to do around here. I've currently read up through FF #260, which means I've got Monday-Wednesday posts lined up through mid-April at the moment.

    2. Yeah,Doom has huge eyebrows, but they aren't this crazy.

      Well, o be honest my knowledge of Doom is fairly limited,to Secret Wars and his various appearances in other crossovers from the 90's. The Infinity series mostly, so my Doom knowledge isn't really up to scratch.

      I already have a decent backlog, just not as big as I want it to be.
      But I have uploaded 2 new reviews of my current back log. ( Gold Digger 2 and Stormbringer 3 ) So things are slowly clicking in to place.

      I also went a bit loopy on your review of DW G1 10.
      It's another bloody essay.

  2. That white space next to Stan Lee on the cover was supposed to be Jack Kirby, until someone at Marvel decided to remove him after Kirby was making rumblings about a lawsuit. That's the story I've always heard, at least.

  3. Kirby asked for his image to be used because he was in a legal battle with marvel and did not want his name or image used for marvel's benefit.

  4. Edit: Kirby asked for his image Not to be used.

    1. Thanks, Nikos. I had always heard the story as G. notes above, with Jim Shooter removing Kirby of his own volition. I appreciate your link to that Comic Book Legends article explaining the truth. I've read all of them, but with so many out there, some slip your mind.

  5. Eh, Professor Xavier had similar eyebrows, Snowkatt.
    The Puppet Master is actually Alicia's stepfather. He killed her father, which led to the radiation accident that rendered Alicia permanently blind and terminally poisoned her mother (He never mentioned his responsibility when he married her).
    His dolls (made of material from the Wundagore Mountains) have to be as close a resemblance as possible to his victims (he was able to control Professor Xavier via a puppet that matched his skull structure but lacked a face). Don't know how he would be able to control Doom unless he knew what he looked like. I would figure that Doom suspected Masters of doing something like this in the future, so made technology (in and out of his armor) that not only detected the...brainwash energy emitted from his clay but protected himself from it.
    I like how Byrne has Doom's obsession of beating Reed engineer his downfall. In this case, building that energy machine, but making it genuine so Reed can drool over it (the better to disappoint him) without smelling a rat.
    This also confirms something noted way back in Alicia's 1st appearance: that her love for Ben has NOTHING to do with being blind about his rocky appearance. In fact, she likes Ben in his Thing form...
    I actually had the episode on VHS of this 1978 adaptation of FF#5. Rather faithful (expect for omitting Ben's temporary insanity about staying in time because of being accepted by pirates, and HERBIE). Ever see the Magneto episode? That's...a different matter, especially since it was broadcast the same year as X-MEN#112-113.

    1. Well Xaviers eyebrows were kinda crazy in X-men 100.

      Sadly I can't really join in on the Ff discussion yet im waiting for this to arrive.

    2. Thanks for the rundown on Puppet Master, Angmc43... I actually knew he was Alicia's stepfather, but somehow I just typed "father" up above.

      Is that Magneto FANTASTIC FOUR episode the one where he robs a bank and drives away in his car? I think I saw it once as a kid and even then I thought it was dumb.

  6. This is the first great issue of Byrne's FF run, for sure. I guess the collection you're reading this on (MU?) doesn't include the backup feature? The pretty in-poor taste re-working of Kirby's breakdowns used for the 70's Fantastic Four Doom episode. As far as the lawsuit stuff, it had more to do with Kirby publicly being upset about the non-return of his artwork, and he started going to the comics press talking about how he wrote all the comics (he meant plotted), and how he created Spider-Man (which he did not).

    Puppet Master is what happens when you color a racist caricature white. He looks a lot like a yellow peril villain from the 40's otherwise.

    Not sure if I agree with your character interpretation of Doom, though. This is a guy so petty that he goes into a tiny robot to mock his rival.

    1. I'm reading these issues out of the FANTASTIC FOUR BY JOHN BYRNE OMNIBUS, though I'm snagging the screencaps from Marvel Unlimited. The book does reprint the backup story; I just opted not to cover it since it isn't by Byrne.

      "Not sure if I agree with your character interpretation of Doom, though. This is a guy so petty that he goes into a tiny robot to mock his rival."

      I tend to see Richards as Doom's "blind spot". This is the guy with whom he will be petty, even though it goes against his usual code of behavior. I mainly just don't buy that he's a thug-in-aristocrat's clothing as other writers occasionally like to present him.

    2. I'm in agreement with you about Dr. Doom.
      The reason he's an interesting character is because he truly believes he is right.
      He actually does care about his country, in his own way. He shouldn't be portrayed as a thug who goes out of his way just to be malevolent.
      If the writer just portrays Doom as a raving villain, it destroys all the things that makes Dr. Doom interesting as a character.
      You can just slot any other random super-villain in place for the plot.
      That's why there have been so many lousy Dr. Doom stories over the years. Most writers either don't understand or ignore the nuance, and write him as any other evil-doer.

      Puppet Master is meant to look like a living human version of a puppet. It's a weird design for a guy who is meant to be, otherwise, totally human. It does have a certain creepy appeal though.

  7. Maybe the reason why Puppet Master's plan fell through is that Doom can't be mindcontrolled, as made clear later in "Emperor Doom“ when Doom goes to the zone of effect of the Purple Man to show him just that.

    1. I've actually never read "Emperor Doom", though I know David Michelinie wrote it and I like his portrayal of Doom. It's in the AVENGERS EPIC COLLECTION: JUDGMENT DAY book, so I'll get to it eventually.

    2. Well doom siphoned Galactus powers and nearly took down the Beyonder.

      He survived while being dissected alive, compared to that,the purple man is a push over. Doom is not to be trifled with.
      and Richards is the only one that can push his buttons ( see Ff vs X-men and unthinkable )

  8. It probably goes without saying (and the cover does it say), but I still feel obliged to formally point out that this issue is meant to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Fantastic Four, sharing a cover date exactly 20 years later from FF #1, which is, I'm sure, why Byrne returned to the classic villains well and used two of the FF's more seminal ones in doing so (and it also accounts for the otherwise-random extra pages).

    1. Hmm, good point -- I really should've noted that rather than letting the cover speak for itself.

      It's so weird to me to think back on this era (though I really think back to the Marvel 25th Anniversary thing when they made a big deal across the line) and recall thinking then that 25 years felt like ancient history. Nowadays 25 years ago was 1991. I was twelve. In 1986, someone the age I am now could have remembered reading FANTASTIC FOUR #1 off the racks (just as I remember reading X-MEN #1 the same way).

      It boggles my mind!