Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FF 174 - Roy Thomas Wednesday

Fantastic Four #174 (September 1976)
Roy Thomas-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

Karen: Let's dive into part 2 of our look at this galactic slugfest, presented by Thomas and Buscema. The High Evolutionary -or H.E., as I like to call him - has decided that the only way to stop Galactus from devouring Counter-Earth is to battle him. Sue Richards tries to convince him that he must send her to one of the two planets where her family are being held prisoner, but H.E. is not interested in that, only in finding a way to stop Galactus. Sue decides to take matters into her own and hands. She becomes invisible and operates H.E.'s teleporter. Unfortunately, she winds up on the third world they were looking at, the one seemingly devoid of any life -and also, oxygen! She realizes she has but a short time before the air in her force field is gone.

Doug: Yeah, that Sue -- what a helpless, worthless, screw-up! Seriously though, like you said last time, this was a staple of Stan's writing and Roy was certainly continuing to carry the ball. I don't have a great deal of background, because unlike you I was not a regular Warlock reader. So I really didn't know what to make of this dude with the metallic suit yet a face of red! And another thing -- I know I wasn't around for last time when you started this series, but I must confess that as a 10-year old I was sure disappointed when John Buscema replaced George Perez on the art chores for this story. My, how times change! I think I've figured it out...

Karen: Next we return to the wonderful world of Mekka, where robots rule. Ben and Reed are captives of Torgo. He has immobilized them using a "special magnet" which attracts their outer flesh. Got it? Outer Flesh? Remember that, it's important. Torgo gives the pair the lowdown on his world's history: how he and his fellow Mekkans were created centuries ago by humans, but their human masters were wiped out by a virus. Torgo tells the two he cannot let them go, as he fears they will reveal Mekka's location to Galactus. However, he has plans for them: he will convert them into robots! This is apparently an honor in Torgo's eyes.

Doug: I really liked the origin of Torgo's world -- sort of had a Conquest of the Planet of the Apes feel to it. Very well done -- nothing that would prove long-lasting, but a nice element to add to the story.

Karen: After they are left alone -why oh why would you leave any of the Fantastic Four alone? - Reed tells Ben he should be able to get free, as the magnet only attracts their outer skin - and Ben is currently wearing an exo-skeleton (having lost his cosmic- ray induced form a few issues prior). Ben wriggles free and the two escape. But Reed has some troubling news: he seems to be losing his stretching powers -already he cannot stretch his right arm.

Doug: Cool wrinkle. I always liked the exoskeleton, short-lived as it was. As for Reed, this was a part of the story that would go on for the next two years. It really provided for some nice (and retread, too) storylines.

Karen: As the twosome make their escape they head for a tower which supplies all power to the Mekkans. Reed is just able to pull the lever and shut it down as Ben has Torgo on the ropes. The mechanical men all drop like puppets with their strings cut. Reed and Ben could easily leave Mekka now, but it just doesn't sit right with them. As Ben says, "Look at 'em Reed. Sure, they're robots -but they're more than that too! They've got as much right to their lives as Counter Earth ...or our Earth." The two heroes agree to restore the power. With this act, Torgo is convinced that the Earthmen will keep their word and not betray his people to Galactus. He allows them to leave, only - they don't have a ride home! Since the High Evolutionary is not at the controls, there's no one to bring them back across space.

Doug: Big whoops on the offworld transportation thing. How would that be in the "helpless feeling" dept?

Karen: Speaking of space, our other dynamic duo finds themselves imprisoned in a low tech dungeon -- although you have to give the natives credit for chaining the Torch neck-deep in a wooden barrel full of water. Gorr the gorilla makes a wager with the ruler: let him battle their champion; if he wins, he and the Torch go free. If not...well, you can figure it out.

Karen: Gorr is outfitted in a suit of armor and must joust against the dread Dark Knight of Astralon. The Dark Knight turns out to be a pushover, as Gorr easily unseats him. However, the king decides Gorr must also defeat the Dragon (captured last issue). As Gorr begins to protest, the beast breaks free. The king screams at his men, "Kill him you fools, your lasers!" Yup, those medieval types were not so primitive; in fact, they are actually Skrulls! This world was their version of Disneyland, providing them with entertainment. They kill the dragon, and come clean to Johnny and Gorr. The real kicker? The dragon was the last indigenous, and intelligent, life form on the planet. The Skrulls had hunted them for pleasure. But with no more dragons remaining, they decide there is no point in staying, and blast off. Even usually-dense Johnny feels badly: "Sure! It's just like us, to think that a world's main race has to look human!" But he feels even worse a few moments later, when he and his ape friend realize no one is beaming them off the planet!

Doug: Johnny remarks that he was useless in the scene, and that he was. Gorr was a character that was quite reminiscent of the Beast -- if he'd been written as Stan had written him in the very early years of X-Men. While not a lasting character, Gorr did add texture to this story.

Karen: Our story closes back on Counter Earth, as Galactus has begun his preparations to destroy and consume the planet. As the human inhabitants gaze on in fear, the High Evolutionary, grown as large as Big G himself, strides across the sky, ready to do battle to save his world!

Doug: Methinks some cosmic fisticuffs be in the offing!


Rip Jagger said...

I really rather liked the Thing-suit era. Roy Thomas is usually the guy who gave folks more power to stimulate interest, while Stan Lee often too powers away. Lee's technique is more often successful I think, and here Roy takes a page from his mentor to great effect.

Rip Off

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Karen said...

I've always felt that Roy's stories tend to be more plot-driven rather than character-driven -which might explain why he seemed to excel at team books. Of course this is not to say he couldn't write more personal stories; you have only to look at his slow and careful character development with the Vision to see that.


Fred W. Hill said...

I had a subscription to the FF back when this story come out, but it wasn't until reading your overview of it that I was suddenly struck by the similarities between this and Gerber's Badoon/Guardians of the Galaxy story in the Defenders, with the teams split up on different worlds while trying to save another planet. I'm sure there have been plenty of variations of that basic story structure. Still, lots of fun in both stories. BTW, Roy screwed up a bit ... Galactus doesn't require a planet to actually have life, intelligent or otherwise, to sustain him; he just needs planets with sufficient energy that could potentially support life. The world of the extinct dragons should have satisfied him very well, with or without the dragons.
At least that's my take on the way Galactus' needs were described in FF #49.

John said...

Some blogger posts on other websites say that Roy Thomas did a good job at writing Sue. Well, maybe those fans are just comparing Roy's depiction of Sue to that of Stan Lee? While it is true that Sue Storm in the Bronze Age was not the same as she was in the Silver Age, the Bronze Age still often showed Sue as the weakest/least useful member of the team.

John said...

Doug - I forgot to add that I simply loved your comment about Sue being a helpless, worthless screw-up!

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