1972: Act 4: the unthinkable (Watergate)
This is where everything falls apart. In America:
- June 17th 1972: the Watergate scandal breaks
- January 11th 1973: the formal end to the Vietnam war: every side loses.
In the FF:
- It begin with a new writer and new start. In FF126 (dated September
1972, on sale in June) the family looks back: what went wrong?
- Reed loses Sue: he has lost all moral authority.
- Sue's dreams are broken
- Johnny loses Crystal
- Ben is
at his weakest, both emotionally and physically.
- And after this it
just gets worse.
126Issue 126: the new beginning
This issue sums up the main developments so far:
- Reed's breakdown
- The failing team
- The context, that Reed Richards, despite his human flaws, is
perhaps "the finest man who ever lived." This is easy to forget,
when this web site catalogs his mistakes and failings, but
should hopefully be clear when we read the comics themselves.
- Sue's dilemma. She loves Reed, and will defend him fiercely,
but she can see that the family cannot go on like this.
- Ben's search for where he fits. Now that Reed has physically
gone for a while, Ben starts his road to personal discovery this
The central decision in Johnny's
28 year story
This issue sees arguably the most important event in all the 27
years: if the story ever continues, and grows from greatness to
greatness, it will have to be led by Johnny Storm. Future
generations will only know him as the leader, and looking back
this is the key issue: when he finally chooses between his
childhood past and his future as an adult. He finally grows up,
becomes a man, leaves home, and chooses Crystal. But he's too
late. We will have to wait many years before our Romeo and Juliet
can finally be together.
The zeitgeist and racism
The FF's troubles reflect America's troubles. The FF evolved and
change their views just as America did. In looking back to the
past, Ben is shocked at his previously racist attitude (thanks to
University for drawing attention to this):
Ben represents casual blue collar racism. Though he later
identifies with his street gang roots, at this point he has pulled
himself out of that and has little sympathy for those who stayed
behind. This de facto racism ended when he was forced to see what
it is like to have a different skin. This reflects the gradual
decline in racism in America as the average white person sees more
black celebrities and so can more easily see the world from their
point of view.
Compare Ben's class based prejudice with Reed's more insidious
(because it is unintentional) ability based prejudice. Consciously
Reed loves all people equally, but unconsciously he treats those
around him as intellectual inferiors. This unconscious belittling
is tearing the team apart, and reducing the effectiveness of the
four, even as individuals.
The Mole Man in context
For how the Mole Man's ten appearances reflect racism and the underground in America, see the notes to issue 1.
Reed is emotionally sick
"Reed picturing the most upsetting image he could think of
to test his new helmet? What kind of sick mind would he have to
do that?" (ff1by1.com)
This indicates the negativity at his heart. At this point in the
big story, Reed's mind is indeed sick. Depression is a sickness,
where you can only see the negative and cannot see the bigger
picture. But Reed buries his sickness deep.
A warning to Reed
The Mole Man story comes at this point as a warning to Reed: however
bad Reed and Sue's relationship is going, it is still far better than
the Mole Man's tragic state. Reed has always been like the Mole Man, a
genius who has trouble fitting in. But here the Mole Man is a warning of
the depths a lonely person can fall to: the Mole Man clutches at any
chance of love, however pathetic and dangerous it may be. Perhaps Sue
does not do what Reed wants, but Reed should count his blessings: Sue is
Other points to note
Stan Lee is gone:
This issue is a historic new start because it's the first
without either Stan Lee or Jack Kirby. Although Stan is still
editor his direct involvement is dwindling. Soon the term
"Stan Lee Presents" will appear on all Marvel Comics, to hide
the fact that by that time he's left the day to day running
and is busy in Hollywood trying (and largely failing) to drum
up deals. Hollywood, and particular computer generated
imagery, will not be ready for Marvel until 2003. This
issue is a new start of sorts, so it recaps the origin story
and the state of the bigger story to this point, and the
emphasis shifts to Johnny.
Each issue is just a few days (on average)
We are nearing the end of the big five act story, but Marvel Time obscures the fact.
Marvel Time stretches out these last four years into 18 years,
then the Franklinverse adds a parallel dimension intermission
that is currently 25 years and counting (1988-2013). This
makes it easy to miss the crucial timing: from the point of
view of the characters, this part of act 4 is laying the
groundwork for the next
generation, where Johnny leads an expanded team.
- Power records:
As a new start, this issue was chosen to represent the
Fantastic Four in a series of audio records created in 1977. The
records are an overview of the most popular comic properties
America when they came out in 1977. Note the choice of titles: the comics
industry assumed that superheroes are on the way out, and is
looking to movies, TV shows, and sword and sorcery. Note also
that the records, like the Hannah Barbera cartoons of 1967, they
choose to take a superficial view for new readers, but that's
OK. The beauty of The Great American Novel is that it works on
127Issue 127: the family at war with itself
In this issue, everyone is in conflict with everyone else.
- Sue is trying to save
the family: she brings Reed to stay at Agatha's with Franklin.
- Reed, for the first time ever, is
seen interacting in a loving way as a father... but on the way
back the harmony quickly disappears. Sue and Reed end up
arguing. They have to remind each other that they love each
- Johnny feels trapped
by the others. Johnny's dilemma is that he is needed by the
team. But the irony is that with Crystal he would have access to
Lockjaw for teleporting: he could always be on call!
- Ben feels so alienated
that he doesn't tell the others when he leaves and doesn't
expect them to help him.
The whole issue is about cooperation versus conflict. This issue returns to the question from issue 1: is the Mole Man good
or bad? This represents the two different attitudes to life. Do we see
the other guy's point of view or not?
Reed refers to the Mole Man as "that fiend", whereas Ben empathizes
with him. This highlights their opposite personalities, the conflict
that makes the story so rich. Reed has a narrow focus, Ben relies on gut
feeling. Reed sees the immediate threat, but Ben sees the potential.
(This tension over the Mole Man reaches its climax in act 5, in FF296.)
The Great American Novel: symbolism
Four times in the 28 year story the team plunge down a hole,
metaphorically and literally. The rabbit hole has long been the symbol
of discovering hidden worlds.
This one of four times (in the 28 year story) that the Fantastic Four
plunge downwards. Each time marks a key moment for their psychological
- FF1: they begin their first mission
- FF127: the family is at war with itself, heading downhill fast
- FF251: Reed's suicide attempt (see notes to that issue)
- FF313: Ben is about to discover the answers that Reed could not:
that the technology he always looked for was (alien civilizations and
teleportation) were under his feet all the time but the scientist could
not see it.
Note the references to both pollution and the middle east.
- World history and mass psychology
Taking the long view of history, the 1970s was the peak of human
achievement: the white hot technological and economic development that
characterized the whole twentieth century, coupled with the greatest
equality in the history of the western world (see the notes to FF200,
and Thomas Picketty's work on economic history). For the individual
there had never been a better time. The 1970s, which in hindsight was a
good time for the baby boomers who benefited from good wages, social
reforms, great pensions, etc. felt like a period of "national malaise."
Because the irony of history is that when times get better it always
feels worse: we no longer
have to worry about immediate survival, so our thoughts turn inward or
to longer term worries. This is reflected in the Great American Novel.
For once the Fantastic Four have no pressing external dangers at all, so
Ben Grim goes out and finds one. And here we see the Torch has time to
about the middle east and his love life, whereas in the 1960s he was
happy to date any girlfriend and simply survive the ever present
The text says "E.R.Burroughs to the contrary, time passes as
precisely the same rate above the ground as beneath it." In
Burrough's books set at the Earth's core, time passes at
different speeds (it is explained as due to there being no day
and night, so the human body has no internal clock). The idea of
the Earth's Core was popular in the early 1970s and led to a
1976 movie based on Burrough's book.
Ben asks "say kids, what time is it? It's clobberin' time!" -
the "say kids" part came from a popular radio show when Ben was
younger. "Say, kids, what time is it?
Buffalo Bob would ask his Peanut Gallery of children ages 3 to
8, gathered in an NBC studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza every
afternoon, five days a week, in the late 1940s and 1950s."
What I love most about the FF is that it compresses all the most
amazing real world ideas: at least four major mythologies are
referenced in your issue:
- Plato's Atlantis
this Atlantis, an advanced civilization sunk
in a cataclysm, is close to Plato's original version.
Namor's mer-people are said to be no relation, and are called
Atlanteans simply because they live under the Atlantic. But
mer-people have their own legends outside of comics.
- The earth's core
Sinking to the earth's core links us to yet one more legend:
that is, or advanced beings living at the Earth's core. The
massive heat and pressure mean that extremely advanced science
(the kind described by Kala) would be needed.
- Pixies and leprechauns
The earth's core should not be confused with the more
conventional tunnels near the surface, used by the Mole Man.
Small underground people (the Mole Man's moloids) are yet
another legend referred to in this issue.
Franklin Tweaks Reed's nose
Franklin is tweaking his nose, and apparently causing discomfort.
Sue comments on the tweak. Why is this shown, when Reed's stretchy
face should surely have felt no pain? Because tweaking
the nose has rich symbolism:
"Though difficult to imagine
today, there was a time when grabbing someone’s nose and giving
it a twist was an insult so egregious it was likely to end in
one of the parties’ death. [Like challenging to a duel.] Present
day psychologically-inclined historians even speculate that the
nose was a stand-in for—how should we put this
delicately?—another item of protuberant male anatomy synonymous
with masculinity. So to insult the nose was to insult the man
deeply to the core."
Franklin unconsciously controls the Marvel Universe (an extreme
example of how a baby unconsciously controls a family), Reed is
not paying him enough attention and so is bringing on his own
Criticisms (sources: here,
Other points to note
- Compressed story telling
"It is good luck that Ben goes on this journey just as Moley is
about to light fire to the world. Coincidence? Maybe."
These stories are a summary of what really happened. Ben is
smarter than people think, and was alone with Reed's equipment:
he was probably aware that something was wrong, and the Alicia
angle was just part of his decision.
- The real conflict
"This is a double letdown — the lack of powerful villains
and a powerful hero. There is therefore no depth of conflict and
thus the entire issue lacks teeth."
Nothing could be further from the truth! The conflict is
psychological. It is the heroes versus themselves as
individuals, and against the group. None of them want to be
there, and each one is kept there by their own weaknesses. It is
powerful psychological drama: as the final frame of issue 127/
start of 128 tells us, this is about "death in a dark and lonely
place". The Mole Man is another example of this inability to
come to terms with himself or the people around him. The
conflict between the team and the Mole Man is merely a minor
subplot, an example of how the books can work as a simple comic
(good guys versus monsters) while at the same time operating on
much deeper levels.
"I’m not sure exactly why the Baxter Building’s landlord,
Collins, keeps popping up, but if it’s for comic effect, it is
woefully misjudged. Three out of the four members of the FF have
physically intimidated him, and they always seem like bullies
when they do so. In this issue, Johnny Storm sets fire to a
legal court order. Not exactly a great example for the kiddies."
Collins is there to illustrate the team's weakness. When even
Collins irritates them you know they are in trouble! They pay
his bills: they should be the master! For them to find him
troublesome, and worse, to resort to physical violence and
destruction, illustrates the depths of their mental crisis. Note
that Collins only pops up at the team's lowest times: here, when
they disband circa FF190, and when Reed destroys his own
home (See the commentary to FF279.)
How does the aura change how a person is seen? The
explanation was implied at the end of issue 126: the Mole Man
specializes in radiation fields that affect how people see. Note
that these fields are far more advanced than anything created by
human science: they use Deviant technology, as will be revealed
later in the 1970s when Jack Kirby returns to Marvel and
introduces the Celestials, who give the cosmic background tot he
whole drama. See the pages on the
origin, on superhero
technology, and on cosmic powers
- Shakespearean touches
"the very annoyingly improbable twist of having Ben appear
differently to his team by changing the electrical charge of his
Somebody has not been reading enough Shakespeare. Mistake
identity is a common theme in Shakespeare, often through
transparently silly reasons (most famously in a Midsummer
Night's Dream, but also elsewhere). This is the first Roy Thomas
arc, and Thomas, the ex school teacher, loved his Shakespeare.
(In FF132 for example there is a direct quote and at least one
allusion: he often quotes the bard and other poets and writers
in his other titles.) Thomas, like Shakespeare, uses mistake
identity to highlight issues of real identity. The theme of this
arc is the family falling apart, as stated plainly on the cover
of the arc climax, FF128. They are fighting themselves,
searching for their identities. Is Johnny just a hot headed kid
or is he a man? Is Sue a devoted wife or can she take charge of
her life? Is Reed Mr Perfect or a man who makes mistakes and
needs the others? Ben is the focus of this story because his
identity crisis is the best known: as the title of the classic
FF51, "This Man, This Monster".
More about identity symbolism
Note that Reed also changes his appearance in the next issue: he
succeeds by becoming a humble follower. This symbolizes how he
will finally escape his nightmare by gradually stepping down as
ruler and following Sue. (In the next issue sue is crushed so
she can barely breathe by forcing herself in a crack in the
rocks in order to save the others: long term symbolism is
The theme of blindness
As with Collins' appearances, the trope of trying to cure
Alicia only comes up at certain specific moments. It happened
first when Ben first admitted defeat to Reed, in FF15-18. It
happens again now when Ben is searching for a reason to go on.
it happens one last time the issue after Reed zaps Franklin:
Ben and the others quite the team and Ben is again trying to
give his life meaning. The great irony is that in reality Ben
is the one who cannot see, and Alicia is the one who always
sees most clearly. The theme of blindness is everywhere in
this arc: from Ben not seeing the real villain at the start,
through Johnny not seeing Ben, to the Mole Man not seeing the
truth about Kala, Kala not seeing the truth about Tyrannus,
and so on.
Singing to the beast:
Kala controls her savage beast by singing. This may be a play on
the words music hath charms to soothe the savage breast" (a line
from a poem by William Congreve), which is often mis-quoted as
"soothe the savage beast" Or it could be Orpheus singing
Cerberus to sleep, so he could rescue Eurydice (Greek
mythology). It may also be a reference to a famous monster
movie: "I recall a popular Japanese monster movie (Mothra
from 1961) whereby the only thing that would calm the giant
flying moth was the singing of two sisters. These sisters were
about one foot tall and lived in a shoe box. This movie was
played constantly on American TV in the 60s. Highly
recommended" - Ish
Ben tried to fix Alicia's eyesight three times: in the Rama Tut
story (FF17), here, and with the specialist who turned out to be
a fake hired by Doom (FF142). The fact that Reed cannot fix it,
and doesn't know anybody who can, is further evidence that his
skills are realistic: he cannot in fact whip up any scientific
Marvel to order, he
depends on re purposing alien technology, usually
computers, star ships, etc. Also in this issue Kala says that
Ben is more formidable than Iron Man. This is further evidence
that the other super heroes are not as powerful as they may
appear in their own magazines: realism demands that we cannot
have a large number of highly powerful beings, or else the world
would not be as we see it.
Johnny avoids a group who want him to help an anti-pollution
rally. Why? Because he's upset about losing Crystal... she left
because of pollution. Oh the irony!
When Ben is at his lowest it's Johnny, his friend, who attacks
him. This foreshadows Ben's lowest emotional point in FF297.
- Size 27s
And finally... we learn Ben's shoe size. Ben might be joking, but size
27 looks about right. As somebody with large feet (US size 16) I
appreciate these details. :)
128Issue 128: a dark and lonely place
The title "death in a dark and lonely place" is from the poem "Farewell" by James Russell Lowell
I think thou must be dead
It perfectly captures the tragedy of this issue,the final step before the break up.
In some dark and lonely place,
With candles at thy head,
And a pall above thee spread
To hide thy dead, cold face
The story, like all great tragedies, is about being
misunderstood. Reed does not understand
Sue, but that is hardly new. What is new, and makes FF128
historically significant, are two developments:
Each of these misunderstandings lead to people being mis-diagnosed
and suffering for decades. Even comic readers routinely assume that
Ben is not in the top strength level, that Sue (until this issue)
was a doormat, that Reed is a jerk, and that the Mole Man is just
evil. Nothing could be further from the truth. These three
dimensional characters are what made the Fantastic Four "The World's
Greatest Comic Magazine."
- Ben is sick. (So is Reed, though not physically.) This later
leads Ben to being defeated by Thundra, which in turn leads
comic readers and writers to believe the Thing is not as strong
as other strong characters.
- This issue reveals what was only hinted at before: the deep tragedy of the Mole Man:
he's not evil, just miserable and misunderstood.
Reed's last chance
The Mole Man tries to help Reed at the end: he is not a natural enemy.
He is just unable to solve his own problems, as symbolized by being
unable to solve his own blindness.
The Mole Man is not evil, just confused. The evil he did was out of
lonely desperation. He is a figure to be pitied, not feared. So what
does Reed do? He treats him with violence then runs away. This was
Reed's big chance to save the marriage, and he blew it.
On the way down the passage Sue says that she still loves him (a
metaphor for sex in a dying marriage?). They then see a dysfunctional
romance, even worse than their own. And at the end they have an
emotionally weak Mole man who could have done anything to help them, if
only they would be his friends. This was Reed's big chance. All he had
to do was shut up and listen. With Sue beside him, listening could have
led to insights. Reed could see how Sue's approach, listening and
feeling, was a good one. Sue could see how Reed, like the Mole Man, does
not intend to do harm, but can't cope well emotionally. The solitude
and silence of the caves would be a good place to get away from the
outside world and just calm down, They could have spoken about Tyrannus
and Kala and how romance can go wrong. This was a perfect opportunity
Reed had every incentive to listen. Reed loves science, and here the
Mole Man has he best science in the world, just waiting for Reed to use.
All Reed had to do was shut up and listen - surely as a scientist he
could do that? And f he listened, Sue would grow in sympathy, he would
see his vulnerable side. All she ever wanted him to do was listen, to
stop being so arrogant. But instead Reed acts like Tyrannus, in that he
will not admit that anybody can be his equal. So Reed's marriage is
about to blow up just like Tyrannus' ship: the marriage, like the ship,
had booby traps that only their creator could dismantle.
Like the Mole Man, Reed is unable to fix his own blindness. For more about the Mole Man, see his own page. For how Reed is eventually forced to be humble, see the end to act 4. Reed's destiny is to eventually return underground: this should have been his focus from issue 1, but instead he wasted 28 years trying to be number one.
The tunnel metaphor
Why does Ben give up so easily? Because as Ben said, deep down he
knew all along this would not
work. This story is about the team looking for a way out of their
despair. Being trapped underground in winding dark tunnels, fighting
each other, is a perfect metaphor for the team's condition at this
time: they are trapped inside themselves. Whereas in their golden
age they went outward into space and easily defeated the Mole Man
and his monsters in one third of an issue, here they struggle in the
dark. Note how self centered everyone is. Each is absorbed by their
own problems. The issue begins by the narrator talking directly to
Ben about looking at himself. This issue is all about the
individuals looking inward and not outward at others. The Mole
Man and Kala are further examples of self obsession. The Mole Man's
blindness to what should be obvious reflects Reed's emotional
blindness. For more about tunnel symbolism see the notes to FF314.
Criticisms (source: here
This issue is about the family at its most dysfunctional. Many
readers to not notice this (despite it being shouted on the cover:
"a family divided! At each other's throats!") So they see the
strange behavior as mistakes by the writer:
The poem in full
- The real danger
"[they end up] again leaving Mole Man at large. They never
think that this is a problem, but it always is."
I disagree. The real problem is attacking him without ever
understanding how the real cause of the problem. See his own page for details. This is
the first time they really understand the world from his point
- The Mole Man's tragedy
"The meant-to-be poignant final panel [...] falls flat. Hard
to gin up sympathy for the guy after his cackling over plans
for global genocide last ish."
This makes it more powerful: cackling was not his nature, he was
trying to please Kala. He would have known the danger he was
putting himself in, inviting repercussions from above. But he
was so lonely, so desperate. The reviewer acknowledges that this
was not in character for the Mole Man: this story was "following
his pacifism in Captain America #136"
- Ben's tragedy
Why not make a bigger deal of the attempt to cure Alicia?
"Had Roy zeroed in on the Thing instead, heart-sick over
thinking he'd failed Alicia, they'd be Kleenex all around."
That would have been superficial. Ben's deep tragedy is that he
tries everything but knows it probably won't work. It would be
less believable for Ben to say "oh, I really thought that would
work" His lack of reaction is more in keeping with his
underlying depression. This also shows how the story works on
multiple levels: long time readers will know about the
depression, and first time readers are not expected to know
something that happened two issues ago.
- Johnny's motivation
"Johnny's, ah, burning desire to melt "that big baboon down
to ashes" has no real motivation, save as a plot device."
It reflects Johnny's bottled up anger, his stress levels
building over the previous year.
- Reed's mental state
"Why [Reed] didn’t just yell, 'Johnny, trust me, it’s Ben!,'
I don’t know."
Reed is almost certainly autistic (see discussion by FF182): it
actually does take him along time to explain things. At this
stage he is probably not sure that it is Ben, he just knows some
thing is odd. Also, he is trying to prove his worth, and trying
to lead: it's the theme of this issue, that the family is
divided and dysfunctional, with every member under great stress.
"the writer has misinterpreted [...] that the Human Torch is
hypnotizing moloids, when he is actually distracting them from
No, he would have to hypnotize them to prevent them sounding the
alarm. To ignore that possibility would be unrealistic. Johnny's
wide range of skills with fire were demonstrated long ago, and
the fact that the Moloids blindly follow the Mole Man indicates
their susceptibility to following orders.
"Where did Kala disappear to after the energy rings
She is called queen of the netherworld for good reason: she
knows this region far better than the FF do. Like the monarch of
any large empire, she will not let herself be in a position
where she cannot escape.
- Super science
"it’s not explained why Ben is suddenly visible to the rest of
The reason can be inferred from the previous issue where the
effect was explained. The electrified webbing that held Ben had
affecting his "aura". The effect was almost certainly temporary,
as it did not plant anything on Ben to maintain the effect.
Johnny's intense bombardment would have disoriented it: he said
he tried everything short of a nova blast, and we know (e.g. in
FF 17) that his flame can do more than simply heat up. Finally,
as an aura designed to affect feelings, it would have less
effect when people calmed down. All three effects explain why
the illusion would fade with time.
"the writer has misinterpreted what is happening in the panels
and thinks that Sue is in a stasis bubble, when she isn’t"
I can't find this reference, but the energy field could be
called a stasis bubble, in that it keeps a person more
stationary than they would be, and prevents them using their
- Compressed storytelling
"Sue and Ben rescue another character, Reverend Mandiz, but he
completely disappears after appearing in only three pages. The
scripter tried to cover up this fact by having Sue talk to him
off-panel on the final page, but she mistakenly calls him
Getting his name wrong fits the self obsessed theme. As for what
happens to him, a close look at the Fantasticar as it leaves
shows three people in the back seat, so he must be there.
- Reed's reputation
"Neither does anyone bat an eyelid after Mole Man indirectly
kills Tyrannus, Reed even claims to have intuited that he
would be killed if allowed to escape."
Nobody bats an eyelid because Reed has spent the previous 127
issues demonstrating his intelligence. if he draws a conclusion
like that he probably has a good reason.
- Reed the chemist
"Can't you just see Mr. Fantastic, rushing out the door en
route to Subterranea, thinking 'Hmmm, have I got everything?
Should I take an extra Mole-a-Tronometer just in case? Nah,
I'll just take some of Sue's make-up in case I have to
disguise myself.' "
Actually, yes. Except that as a chemist, Reed would not have to
use Sue's cosmetics. Reed is a scientist heading into the
unknown, but with the likelihood he would meet thousands of low
intelligence moloids. Disguising himself as one is the ideal
- Reed's face reflects his mood
"When did Stretcho become the Man of a Thousand Faces?"
In issue one: see the page on Reed
Richards for how his face changes with his confidence.
Also, given his ability to stretch in other ways why would it
not extend to his face? The ability was used most famously in
(courtesy of Project Gutenberg)
"Marian" could be either Sue or Kala.
(by James Russell Lowell, 1842)
Farewell! as the bee round the blossom
Doth murmur drowsily,
So murmureth round my bosom
The memory of thee;
Lingering, it seems to go,
When the wind more full doth flow,
Waving the flower to and fro,
But still returneth, Marian!
My hope no longer burneth,
Which did so fiercely burn,
My joy to sorrow turneth,
Although loath, loath to turn—
I would forget—
And yet—and yet
My heart to thee still yearneth, Marian!
Fair as a single star thou shinest,
And white as lilies are
The slender hands wherewith thou twinest
Thy heavy auburn hair;
Thou art to me
Of all that is divinest:
Thou art so fair and tall,
Thy looks so queenly are,
Thy very shadow on the wall,
Thy step upon the stair,
The thought that thou art nigh,
The chance look of thine eye
Are more to me than all, Marian,
And will be till I die!
As the last quiver of a bell
Doth fade into the air,
With a subsiding swell
That dies we know not where,
So my hope melted and was gone:
I raised mine eyes to bless the star
That shared its light with me so far
Below its silver throne,
And gloom and chilling vacancy
Were all was left to me,
In the dark, bleak night I was alone!
Alone in the blessed Earth, Marian,
For what were all to me—
Its love, and light, and mirth, Marian,
If I were not with thee?
My heart will not forget thee
More than the moaning brine
Forgets the moon when she is set;
The gush when first I met thee
That thrilled my brain like wine,
Doth thrill as madly yet;
My heart cannot forget thee,
Though it may droop and pine,
Too deeply it had set thee
In every love of mine;
No new moon ever cometh,
No flower ever bloometh,
No twilight ever gloometh
But I'm more only thine.
Oh look not on me, Marian,
Thine eyes are wild and deep,
And they have won me, Marian,
From peacefulness and sleep;
The sunlight doth not sun me,
The meek moonshine doth shun me,
All sweetest voices stun me—
There is no rest
Within my breast
And I can only weep, Marian!
As a landbird far at sea
Doth wander through the sleet
And drooping downward wearily
Finds no rest for her feet,
So wandereth my memory
O'er the years when we did meet:
I used to say that everything
Partook a share of thee,
That not a little bird could sing,
Or green leaf flutter on a tree,
That nothing could be beautiful
Save part of thee were there,
That from thy soul so clear and full
All bright and blessèd things did cull
The charm to make them fair;
And now I know
That it was so,
Thy spirit through the earth doth flow
And face me wheresoe'er I go—
What right hath perfectness to give
Such weary weight of woe
Unto the soul which cannot live
On anything more low?
Oh leave me, leave me, Marian,
There's no fair thing I see
But doth deceive me, Marian,
Into sad dreams of thee!
A cold snake gnaws my heart
And crushes round my brain,
And I should glory but to part
So bitterly again,
Feeling the slow tears start
And fall in fiery rain:
There's a wide ring round the moon,
The ghost-like clouds glide by,
And I hear the sad winds croon
A dirge to the lowering sky;
There's nothing soft or mild
In the pale moon's sickly light,
But all looks strange and wild
Through the dim, foreboding night:
I think thou must be dead
In some dark and lonely place,
With candles at thy head,
And a pall above thee spread
To hide thy dead, cold face;
But I can see thee underneath
So pale, and still, and fair,
Thine eyes closed smoothly and a wreath
Of flowers in thy hair;
I never saw thy face so clear
When thou wast with the living,
As now beneath the pall, so drear,
And stiff, and unforgiving;
I cannot flee thee, Marian,
I cannot turn away,
Mine eyes must see thee, Marian,
Through salt tears night and day.
Those last few lines could have been written for the Mole Man's tears at the end.
129Issue 129: the family breaks up
So much could be said about this pivotal issue, the point where
the family breaks up. But to avoid stating the obvious, this may
be a good opportunity to talk about just one aspect of the
separation: Ben's loneliness. When the team breaks up, Ben is
losing more than just friends. This is the only place where people
treated him as normal. Ben suffers the most from the team breaking
up (treating the approaching divorce as a separate issue), and yet
he's the only innocent party.
This is where the male dynamic finally ends. The axis reverses:
we have three weak men and three strong women. The men can no
longer cope. Johnny leaves, Ben is lonely and sick of the team,
and Reed fails as a husband and leader. In contrast the three
failing men we have Sue finally taking action after years of
letting Reed rule, Thundra dominates her team, and Medusa joins
the team and saves Ben in the process.
For why Ben loses to Thundra, see "how
strong is the Thing?"
Smith uses FF129 as a springboard for a superb discussion of
Ben's loneliness. Most of this section is based on his work.
In Marvel post 1991 there are so many superheroes, with their own
subculture and support networks. So they they never have to feel
alone. But in the The Original
Marvel Universe it was different. Most heroes were lone
outsiders, just them against the world. In the real world, with so
many heroes, there would be civil war against the normal folks. J.
Jonah Jameson was right to see the large number of superheroes as a
threat. [Personally I assume that only FF stories are "real" :
although other heroes exist, I interpret them to be weaker and fewer
than their own books would suggest. But let's get back to the topic
of Ben Grimm in the original Fantastic Four.] "Where modesty ends and shame begins is
a difficult question to answer where Ben Grimm is concerned."
He likes to hide in a coat and hat, not because he's ashamed, but
because he wants privacy.
Colin Smith comments on three
panels from FF129
"In this brief three-panel
sequence... his sense of his own powerlessness in this situation
is emphasized by Mr Buscema's decision to portray him from an
askew high-angle. By being placed in such a way as the reader is
looking down on Grimm, The Thing's own sense of isolation and
helplessness is emphasized, for he looks strangely tiny and
toy-like. Similarly, the choice to have the line of the bottom of
the wall behind him extending up at an angle of approximately 45%
makes his world seem seriously out of kilter, as if he's just
about to tumble from the panel if that right leg of his wasn't
braced as it is, if the black inks of his right-facing shadow
weren't holding him into the frame. Leaving the Baxter Building is
obviously a matter of abandoning security and predictability for a
far less pleasant and reasonable world."
"descending through the
thirty-five stories of the Baxter Building would surely be a
tedious, lonely and dispiriting experience. From the
air-conditioned privacy of the Fantastic Four's technological
castle of a home down to street level feels like a fall from
heaven to at the very least purgatory. "
"There's the saddest irony
present in the fact that Ben's desire to stay incognito has so
obviously failed and yet he retains his disguise. [in this third
picture he is] entirely encircled by a lack of compassion."
Comments from Smith's
Even if the vast majority respect Ben, the proportion who do not is
still a lot of people. being pointed at every time you go outside
must hurt. It's like being very obese, or disfigured: some people
will always point.
Celebrities are not immune from insecurity and self hatred. "Darren"
writes,"Look at Marlon Brando, who
was one of the greatest actors who ever lived, and died
practically a recluse, so uncomfortable with his own physical
appearance he had Coppola film his scenes in Apocalypse Now in
shadow (which made for a dramatic effect)." Colin
replies,"Sting once said that fame
and fortune doesn’t make you any happier in the long-term, it just
means that you don’t get unhappy about the bills." [But
in Ben's case he doesn't even have that advantage: his fame means he
or his loved ones could be killed any day, and their unstable life
means are always close to bankruptcy.] Another downer is the
number of superheroes: at least in 1961 Ben could stand out as the
strongest person on Earth, Now he's just one more strong guy. He has
become replaceable, and that affects his self esteem (see FF171).
"JRC22" continues Colin's thread by pointing out that many have
questioned whether Ben can consummate a marriage. Possibly he can,
but fears accidentally hurting the other person. Both would add to
his feeling of alienation, especially as he was original the
archetypal alpha male, the school jock, baseball star, war hero and
fighter pilot. That has to hurt. "History man" comments that a lot
depends on the artist: possibly Ben's skin looks much worse in real
life. Finally, "Anonymous" comments on the frustration of never
being able to return to his old life. [And I would add the
frustration and guilt that maybe it's his own fault that he can't
change, and his best friend keeps offering hope and then it never
works - he can never have closure.]
Ben's struggle for self acceptance
This is a good time to talk about Ben and queer culture. Ben is
not gay (as far as we know) but he is an example of Queer Theory.
offers a prime example of what 'queer theory' is all about. Much
more so than Young Avengers. And it's all in the story of Ben
Grimm. Queer theory is not so much about homosexual
characters or even homosexuality per se, but about 'queerness,'
i.e., what it means to be 'gay' or 'queer' or 'not straight' in
modern society. And Ben Grimm's decades-long struggle to accept
being 'The Thing' is a perfect metaphor for a man coming
to truly accept that he's gay. Think about 'Ben Grimm' (his
human aspect) representing 'straight' and 'The Thing' (his
transformed self) as representing 'gay' or 'queer.'
"Every time the Thing changes
back into human form, he's rejecting his queerness and trying to
be 'normal.' For a long time, his most ardent wish is to be
'normal,' have a 'normal' life, and a 'normal' love. But he
always becomes the Thing again, because it's his "natural" state
now. Many gay men go through this same process in their lives,
rejecting homosexuality and trying to be straight, to date
women, to be 'normal,' and they can be traumatized by repeatedly
"falling back" into homosexuality. This is clear in accounts of
men trying to get 'cured' of being gay. The 'cures' never work,
just like Reed's cures for Ben. Finally, (circa F.F. #320 or
so), Ben comes to terms with being the Thing, sees the positive
side of it, and becomes happy and well-adjusted. This parallels
the gay man accepting his homosexuality and finally being at
peace with himself. But society can still condemn him, just as
the Thing continues to be seen as an 'ugly monster.'
"I never thought of this
before, but Ben Grimm can totally be read this way! The perfect
metaphor for coming to an acceptance of one's homosexuality --
or any other 'difference' really, but the article is talking
specifically about queer theory. And it's so much better / more
positive than any metaphor the X-Men have to offer, and that's
the one everybody seems to talk about. What do the X-Men have to
say on the matter? You can be cool and kinky and be insular and
do your cool things within your little group, but the world at
large will always hate and fear you no matter what. But keep
plugging away anyway, keep fighting. Forever. Gee, thanks a lot.
Whereas Ben Grimm shows the internal struggle for
self-acceptance that is ultimately achieved, despite all
obstacles internal and external. Man, Fantastic Four is the World's Greatest
Medusa joins the team
Medusa's significance: patriarchy
Reed's inability to treat others as equals will eventually drive
his team away (see commentary to F141). Then why was Medusa happy
to join him? Because she comes from a strict monarchy, and was
always the one to support the leader no matter what (unlike
Crystal who needed to be treated as an equal). Medusa does not
expect Reed to treat her as an equal, so she cannot stop Reed's
further decline. Note that Medusa is a male chauvinist's ideal
woman: obsessed with her hair, wearing revealing outfits (for the
time, given the comics code), a former temptress (when with the
Frightful Four), named after a woman who could turn you to stone
if you dared look at her, and a woman who accepts patriarchy as
the natural order of things. There is far more to Medusa than that
of course, but her surface features tick all the chauvinist boxes.
Medusa and She-Hulk
Note that the next time Reed chooses an alternate member (other
than Luke Cage, who was hired just for a few days), it is when
Reed has lost all confidence: he chooses a woman, one who is
literally stronger than he is, one who can literally look down on
An interesting discussion from "Two
Girls, A Guy, and Some Comics"
"Doug: Looking at these
stories as self-contained, it’s interesting to see the dynamic
on the team with Medusa. Conway does a nice job of separating
her personality from the way Stan had handled Crystal years
earlier. Although sisters, Stan, Roy, and now Gerry Conway
have worked together over time to make them completely
different people. The absence of any love interest between
Medusa and her teammates also creates a dynamic new to the
team, and that is NO dynamic. Medusa’s just kind of there –
she’s an agitant, a nay-sayer, sort of a square peg in a round
hole. Yet it works – her presence on the team only heightens
the angst felt by all at Sue’s absence.
"Karen: Was it just me, or in
the later issues, did it seem like perhaps Medusa was
developing an interest in Reed? Do you think that Gerry and
Roy were considering having the two of them become a couple?
Perhaps they were just seeing what the fan reaction was before
really moving in that direction. How would that have altered
the dynamics of the book – Reed off with Medusa, and Sue with
"Sharon: Yes, during this
time, Medusa was frequently drawn as hanging onto, or hovering
over, Reed. Too bad nothing developed—I think it would have
been interesting to see her with Reed, or even Ben or
Johnny--but I guess a major part of her character is her
unyielding, inviolate devotion to Black Bolt. Back when she
was a member of the Frightful Four (and it’s been retconned
that she was amnesiac during that time), she did express a
fondness for the “handsome” Reed as she caressed his face with
her hair! And Johnny seemed interested in her back in the
Frightful Four days; both he and Reed acknowledged that she
was an “extremely attractive female.”
"Sharon: My reading of Medusa
is that she represses her sexuality (reserves it for Black
Bolt) but when she’s not in control – as when she’s been
mind-controlled (by Maximus) or amnesiac – the defenses come
down and she’s hot to trot. I see Medusa and Crystal as the
two archetypes of female sexuality: virgin and whore (I don’t
mean literally). But one is chaste, while the other is open to
her sexual/romantic impulses. Also, talk about ironic imagery:
Medusa, the reserved one, has all that resplendent hair (an
the exaggerated female characteristic); while Crystal, the
wild child, is normally shown with fettered hair--the famous
headband, or the snoods she wears on occasion.
"Karen: I never really knew
what to make of Medusa’s relationship with Black Bolt. In
fact, I think it was several years before I even knew they
were a couple! At least now it’s much more obvious."
This is especially interesting in light of the theory (see
notes to FF128) that Crystal's role was to be the one being every
few centuries who was to prevent the Inhumans' gene pool from
growing stagnant, e.g. by seeking out the greatest alpha male
outside the ranks. She could see Johnny's potential whereas others
could not - remember when Hickman had Franklin say that Johnny is
his favorite hero.
Other points to note:
- Peter's self respect
The last time we saw Peter Petruski he was terrified. The event seems to
have broken his spirit: so we see that when things go wrong he now
panics. Over his next few appearances we will see him apologising and
trying to win the Wizard's favor by praising him, but this period is
when he loses all self respect. See his own page for more about the character.
130Issue 130: Sue finally leaves
This is such a momentous event that it needs no commentary. Except
to point out that this did not come out of nowhere. It was not just
a reflection of the rise of feminism in the early 1970s (though it
was that as well): it's a fundamental part of the great 28 year
novel. The tensions have been building since the very start, and the
effects of this issue will be felt right up to act 5.
As Crissy mentioned, this issue has not one, not two, but three historic milestones:
- Sue leaves
- The first visible sign of Franklin's power
- The first visible sign of Reed's loss of stretching, as pinpointed in the overview in issue 190:
Reed's inability to Stretch: the FF141 theory debunked
We have already seen Reed's body weakening as his confidence weakens,
most notably at the start of FF124. But here for the first time we see
it affect his ability to stretch. At the end of the battle he cannot
stretch far enough to reach the ship. This might not seem like a big
deal, but in FF1 he grabbed a missile out of the sky! We might say FF130
was just bad luck, except it was singled out as important in the FF190
It is sometimes wrongly assumed that Annihilus caused the loss of stretching FF141. He
zapped Reed and then said to Medusa: "Richards is not harmed, merely
stunned. For a time, however, he will find it impossible to use his
unique powers... and in a short while, that loss will last forever!"
This was probably not the cause of the long term problem, because it
applied to all of them, not just Reed. They clearly said that they all
had their power drained, not just Reed. In the same panel
Medusa then said it was useless to fight Annihilus, then Ben finds it
impossible to even knock Annihilus over. Johnny finds his flame is
useless, and Reed (by then awake) says all their life-forces are being
drained. Later in the tower Johnny and Reed repeat it: they are all
drained. So FF141 is not the source of the stretching problem. Annihilus
said Reed would lose his power forever "in a short while", not
forty issues later. Annihilus appeared to refer to his draining power
Franklin. He said he wanted them in good health to witness the event,
indicating that they would then be of no danger at all. Reed never made a
connection between his eventual loss of strength and
Annihilus. Instead he put it down to aging. (Heed lacked the self
awareness to realize it was psychological, even though the only other
time he lost power, when in Latveria, it was all in the mind. There was
also the time they all lost power due to the Q-bomb, but as a physical
problem it had a simple physical solution: the Skrull stimulator gun.
But the long term loss of stretching was different. It could not be
solved until he regained his confidence.
This gradual loss of ability is confirmed in FF157, and then becomes a major theme until Reed's power is returned in FF 197.
Other points to note
- The end of the FF
This issue was described (in FF129) as the end of the FF, "no lie". For why this is true see the discussion by FF133.
- Thundra's depth
"The character of Thundra also shows more than just one
dimension in this issue as her own code of honor becomes
incompatible with what The Wizard is asking her to do to the FF.
It is a show of strength to have her walk out — she refuses to
harm or even threaten children, and views combat against males
as dishonorable, for they are the weaker sex as far as she is
- Petra Goldberg
Symbolic of the theme of women's liberation, this is the first
issue where the colorist is credited: Petra Goldberg. In FF133 we will have the first female artist.
- Jim Steranko
This is also the first issue with a Jim Steranko cover
- Thundra's previous stories
"It should be noted the Femizons are not a Marvel copyright, but a joint
copyright owned by Stan Lee and Romita. The Femizons first appeared in
Savage Tales #1 and #3 in 1971." (source)
Note the significance of the story: Sue finally leaves in the issue that references "The Fury of the Femizons".
131Issue 131: first Sue, now Crystal
The story of what happened here, how it happened, and what it led
to, is too big for one review. For the full details see
Other points to note:
In previous issues we saw how the team are so self obsessed
they cannot see another person's point of view. Here we see one
more price they pay. Note that Crystal, in contrast, is an
elemental who feels emotions acutely. She not only understands
Quicksilver's alienation, she understands the plight of the
alpha primitives, a group that were previously considered
unimportant minor characters.
- Technology and realism
It is no coincidence that Crystal gives up any hope of
Johnny's love at the same time as she sees the FF fall apart.
The Inhumans have highly advanced technology, so Crystal would
have been aware of the major events in the lives of the FF.
Family is everything to Crystal. She has seen Johnny fail her,
time after time. She can't leave the Great Refuge for long due t
health concerns, but Johnny won't seriously consider leaving his
home to be with her. Now when she sees the weakness in Johnny's
family she must feel there is no hope.
This issue has a number of firsts: "the first since the
Lee/Kirby run in which we have not seen Sue Richards [and] We
have never seen either Quicksilver or a mutant-hunting Sentinel
before in this title." (FF1by1.com)
- Ancient Greeks and hospitality
Omega (a Greek letter), names like Maximus and Medusa, and the
architecture (and name) of Attilan all remind us of ancient Greece. Like
Athens, Attilan is an advanced city state yet is based on monarchy and
slavery. However, they demonstrate much stronger family values and
Crystal's kindness to Quicksilver is a classic ancient trait: the
obligation to help a visiting stranger in distress was absolute in the
ancient world, but is largely lost in the modern world.
132Issue 132: he loses her
This issue is about being enslaved. The alpha primitives are enslaved.
Johnny, the alpha male, is enslaved by his duty to his family. It made
him neglect Crystal, and now he is trapped. And he knows it's his fault.
Yet even here thare are hidden undercurrents that are not obvious on
first reason: there is more than one kind of underworld in this story.
As usual the Great American Novel works on multiple levels.
How racism begins
This is not just a love story. It deals with powerful themes: it
is no coincidence that the main story is about race. Race is of
course just an extension of family. Johnny stayed with his family
and did not follow Crystal because to Johnny his family was more
important than hers. Loyalty is admirable but where does it stop?
Does this mean that races should never intermarry?
If races never intermarry then we have separate but equal
development. That is what "apartheid" means: developing apart. It
is means to allow each side to be equal, but it never works that
way. Any economic differences become magnified until one side
effectively controls the other. Why they become magnified is a
technical matter of economics, but basically richer people have
That is how Inhuman slavery started. The alpha primitives are not in
chains. They are not controlled by guns and whips. They simply
developed separately, and ended up all working for the Inhumans on
low and lower pay until now they just work for food and protection.
All of this has obvious parallels with modern economic slavery, but
that is not the main feature of this story. The main feature is
that, while Johnny felt he could not leave his own people,
Quicksilver was more ready. He was never very popular among his own
kind, so he as ready to commit to the Inhumans instead. So
Quicksilver won the prize and Johnny lost.
An unforgettable story
For me this is the most moving comic ever. Possibly the most
moving chapter I've ever read, in any book, and I've read a few.
It's because I'm so invested in the long term story.
Part of this issue's impact is because I live in Britain (but I
try to use American spellings because most of my web site readers
are American). Our comics were printed on a larger size, usually
in black and white. When this story was reprinted the comics had
high quality glossy
covers. (Yes, I spell color without a "u" because most readers of
this site are American). This one would have been just after the
weekly FF magazine merged with Spider-man weekly, and that last glossy
page is burned into my memory. I remember turning those large black and
white pages, as my horror increased at what was happening. I had
followed Johnny and Crystal from the start. I remember Dorrie
Evans. I remember when Johnny and Crystal first met. Like all
right thinking readers of the silver age I adored Crystal, with her
exotic origin, brains, feisty personality and cat-like two colored hair.
I suppose a lot of young male fans had a crush on her. Surely
she couldn't leave Johnny Storm? How could Juliet leave Romeo?
What was happening? All those years, the greatest stories in the history
of superheroes, and it all came to this? I turned the final page and
this image was
the back cover, in large size glossy color. It stared out at me,
large and intense.
The magazine just lay there and I stared at it.
It was so
It still is.
This really is "the world's greatest comic
Smith calls this "the most
touching and believable romantic rejection in all of Marvel's
might think that any young superheroic lad would respond badly
to losing his lover to the odious Pietro Maximoff, but Johnny
Storm's brave and privately tearful response to being dumped is
a world away from the usual tantrums associated with the
character. I can recall being 11 years old and rather tearful
myself faced with Crystal's inexplicable choice. Surely men and
women couldn't possibly be this irrational where their love
lives were concerned? Was all of this fuss about relationships
really going to be as confusing and as heart-breaking as this?
Well, of course it was
The main story is Omega, the embodiment of guilt for misusing other
people. Crystal must feel some guilt for abandoning Johnny, just as
Johnny must feel guilt for not giving her the attention she deserved. It
is no coincidence that Omega will return at the wedding in FF150. At
that time he really be be Ultron, a robot rebuilt by Maximus: In FF150
we are told that Maximus is given freedom because of Black Bolt's
feeling of guilt. We are not told why he feels responsible for his
brother's madness: did he cause it? Or is this guilt the good kind, the
kind that makes one feel a duty to his fellow man? The Inhumans are
advanced in their feeling of duty to their kind, yet they are inhuman
because, unlike the American ideal, they will not extend that feeling of
duty to people of a different social class.
Note the final frame reference to the Godfather - a story of guilt,
family duty and ancient honor systems gone wrong. The Godfather was
released in 1972, just as this issue was being written. There are many
Johnny put duty to his family before his heart (and so always neglected Crystal) and now and pays a terrible price.
The Inhumans' culture, like Johnny's, is driven by family history and duty.
- Ancient traditions
Inhuman society is much older than human, and is obsessed with family
names (their society is a monarchy obsessed with genetics). It's an
exaggerated version of old world versus American.
The Inhumans have injustice at the heart of their culture - this issue was about slavery. But of course each side believes that their desires are just.
There is a constant power struggle between two men with claim to the throne: Maximus and Black Bolt.
Things are never as they seem. Maximus is a master of illusion, and
Black Bolt simply never speaks, so we simply don't know his thoughts.
The Godfather movie begins on the eve of the marriage of Don Corlone's
daughter. This story ends with a marriage between two powerful groups:
Inhumans and Mutants.
Quicksilver began his career in "the brotherhood of evil mutants", a kind of MAFIA for mutants.
- But is there a godfather?
But is there an actual godfather pulling the strings? At the time
all this seemed like just a tragedy, some terribly bad decisions. But in
the Great American Novel there are layers upon layers. perhaps the
godfather here was the cruel hand of fate. Or perhaps this godfather was
In the Inhumans family we don't have to look far for the godfather
figure: Maximus. He portrays himself as either a harmless fool or an
absurd mad scientist, but with Maximus appearances can never be
This godfather is in a constant
battle for power, when when he appears to be doping nothing. The fact
that he repeatedly achieves power, and seems immune to prosecution,
suggests that either he is the rightful ruler
of the family, or he is a most skillful manipulator with tentacles
Maximus would benefit greatly from an alliance between Inhuman mafia and mutant mafia?
Was Maximus manipulating Crystal and Pietro? It seems very likely. And in later years (in X-Factor 2) he
We tend to see things from the Fantastic Four's point of view but Johnny
may simply have been collateral damage in a much bigger war. One
message of the Great American Novel is to see other points of view (e.g.
Reed needs to see Sue's point of view; Reed needs to learn from Doom).
What we think is not always what's going on. We need to see the bigger
Other points to note
The origin of their powers
In FF132 Johnny suggests that his powers were guided by his love of the
original Human Torch. Reed asks what that implies bout his own reading
habits. If truer, it implies that he read and remembered The Thin Man, a
scientist and explorer who met a people who may have been a distorted
recollection of The Inhumans.
"Bruce Dickson was a scientist and adventurer who sought to conquer Mount
Kalpurthia in Tibet. [...after becoming lost in a blizzard ]. The
astonished scientist was told that he was in Kalahia, a scientific haven
far more advanced than the rest of the world, where they had mastered
the sixth dimension and were working on the seventh. They also informed
him that since he had not been 'perfect' when he arrived, they had
'operated on you with electronic rays,' so he too could now stretch and
distort his body. Bruce swiftly mastered the Kalahians' advanced
science, as well as forming a relationship with Olalla, the daughter of
the Chief of Elders. However he felt that he should use his knew powers
and knowledge to help the rest of mankind, fighting the evil that
threatened it." (source: a review of review of Mystic Comics #4)
This pretty much describes Mr Fantastic, his fascination with dimensions, and the Beyonders (or their agents the Inhumans)