Fantastic Four #10

"The Return of Doctor Doom!"

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Dick Ayers
Letterer: Art Simek
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: January 1963< br /> Cover price: 12 cents
Current value: about $1275

Sure, every villain comes back from the dead, but do any of them do it with as much panache as Doctor Doom?

With Johnny's assistance, Reed is attempting to take a picture of Sue while she is invisible with his "electronic X-ray camera using radio-active film'. They see the FF flare signal and spring into action, but a jammed lock prevents them getting at the Fantasticar. They give up and go on foot, but are besieged by fans. Finally, the bumbling trio reaches Alicia's apartment. It turns out that there is no emergency, Ben just wanted to show off Alicia's new talent. Why couldn't he have just used the phone?

Alicia's new talent is sculpture, and it's quite impressive. In time, Alicia would become a critically acclaimed artist, but for now she's just carved some small depictions of FF's villains: Mole Man, that loser Miracle Man, the Skrulls, Doctor Doom, and the Sub-Mariner. Sue wonders aloud why Prince Namor was included, since SM wasn't that bad, really. Reed takes this moment to bring up something that has been troubling him, namely why his fiancée is swooning over a super-villain. Choice words should be exchanged (Get mad, Reed! Get mad!), but everyone is so angsty and confused so nothing gets resolved.

Cut to Madison Avenue and the offices of Marvel Comics. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have written and drawn themselves into the story. This wouldn't be the last time Marvel creators appeared in their own comics, and the conceit went over the top when John Byrne had the Watcher fetch him to chronicle the trial of Reed Richards in Fantastic Four #263. This is the logical extension of Johnny reading old Sub-Mariner comics and then finding Namor back in Fantastic Four #4. The Marvel comics chronicle real world events, so why wouldn't Marvel creators appear in that world? Captain America, who in his civilian identity was a commercial artist, actually drew his own adventures for a while. This isn't limited to Marvel; I believe it was established in an old Superman comic that DC creators were chronicling the events of an alternate universe, revealed to them in dreams. Incidentally, Stan and Jack's faces never appear, disguised by shadows or strategically placed hands. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the adulation of their fans on the street like the FF was faced with a couple pages earlier.

Stan and Jack are discussing story ideas. Jack had produced a rather silly looking drawing of a guy with a big mustache. "How about someone like this for our villain, Stan? We can call him False-Face!" But Stan solemnly replies: "Not bad, Jack, but I think he sounds a little too commonplace! Our fans have grown to expect real exciting super villains from us!" Much ink has been spilled discussing the nature of the Lee/Kirby collaboration, and both men have their advocates. While Kirby's contribution is essential and undeniable, I have never held with those who held that Lee was some sort of huckster coasting on Kirby's talent and that anything good in the Marvel universe sprang from Kirby's brain. Yet I have always found myself as irritated as the fiercest Kirby partisan by this panel. Perhaps I am reading far too much into this and it was probably intended to be perfectly innocent, but I think this panel is astonishingly patronizing to Kirby and his talent and is a product of Lee's gigantic ego.

Enough about the panel, what happens next is what's important. Doctor Doom walks into the room. As if it wasn't strange enough, his mask apparently was chafing him and he takes it off in front of Lee and Kirby! In later years, Doom would claim that few people have ever seen his gruesome visage, but here he's showing it off to random comic book creators.

"Back from the Dead!"

Doctor Doom threatens Lee and Kirby with gruesome death if they don't call Mister Fantastic and lure him to their offices to discuss new story plots. Despite the fact that he was just there yesterday, Reed finds this important enough to put on a suit and rush over immediately into an obvious trap. This story requires is tough to swallow so far, but don't worry, it gets better. Reed walks right into a face full of sleeping gas and departs with his prisoner, kindly leaving behind an address where the FF can reach him.

Just like Lee, Kirby, and Richards, I bet you're wondering how Doom is still alive. Doom tells Reed his story. When we last saw him in Fantastic Four #6, Doom was speeding off into deep space on a meteor. There he was picked up by a ship of Ovoids, technologically advanced aliens with incredible mental powers. The Ovoids were also very trusting, and allowed Doom to live among them and returned him safely to Earth.

The most powerful mental power of the Ovoids was the power to switch their consciousness into other bodies, a power which Doom learned and promptly uses to switch bodies with Reed. At that point, the rest of the FF burst in, just as Doom planned.

"The End of Mr. Fantastic?"

The FF quickly subdue Reed while he unsuccessfully tries to convince them he's really Mister Fantastic. Then the FF taunt him with the exotic ways they will keep him confined forever. Doom suggests they dump him in an unbreakable plexiglass dome that he just happens to have at the ready. Doom tells them Reed has enough air to sustain him until they find a more permanent cell for him, but after the other team members leave Doom torments Reed with the fact that he has only one hour of air remaining.

"No Place to Turn!"

The FF's headquarters is overrun with tiny animals! Coincidentally enough, a bunch of animals were recently stolen from the zoo. The FF demands an explaination from pseudo-Reed. Doom produces his "reducing ray" which he used on the stolen animals and claims that he will increase their powers and even allow Ben to become human again. All this for only $19.95! But of course, Doom has nefarious plans for the ray, which will reduce the FF to nothingness.

Meanwhile, the real Reed escapes from his unbreakable plexiglass cage by deviously smashing it. Instead of getting beat up by his teammates again, Reed cleverly turns to Alicia. Alicia instantly realizes that Doom is really Reed. Someone should remind Stan Lee that losing your eyesight doesn't make you telepathic. Unfortunately for Reed, Sue is visiting Alicia and manages to defeat Doctor Doom in an elegantly simple manner - she knocks him over the head with a vase. Unfortunately for the FF, Doom wouldn't always be this easy to defeat.

"The Real Doctor Doom!"

Before Alicia can convince Sue that Doom isn't really Doom, Johnny and Ben burst in. Reed tries to reason with Ben, and somehow he gets through to him and prevents Ben from pulverizing them. A confused FF bring Reed back to the Baxter Building as their prisoner.

Sensing the jig is up, Doom shackles Reed and insists that the FF employ the ray immediately. A suspicious Ben and Johnny quickly cook up a plan. Apparently the Human Torch can create a "heat mirage" and reflects an image of a lit stick of dynamite into the room. Reed jumps for it and attempts to pull the fuse while Doom slithers into a vent, but Ben grabs Doom before he can escape.

The shock of his undoing loosens Doom's mental control and he and Reed return to their rightful bodies. Unfortunately, Doom is back in his armor again and starts shooting at the FF. This doesn't last long, as Doom's blast hits the reducing ray's control panel, turning the machine on. File under just desserts: the ray shrinks Doom into oblivion, the fate he had planned for the FF.

Of course, Doom would get out of this one and return from the supposed dead. He would use the Ovoid mind trick again years later, this time to escape death in Fantastic Four # 260. The world thinks that he is dead, but we later find out that he used the mind trick to switch places with a poor guy who was out buying groceries.

For an affordable reprint of this story, I recommend the Marvel Masterworks series, which reprints FF # 1-10 in color in one volume for $12.95. (ISBN 0760737959)

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