Title: Inside Out
Release Date: October 2002
Actual Number in Series: Volume 3 #60 or #489 overall
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciller: Mike Wieringo
Inker: Karl Kesel
Fantastic Four: Sue Richards, Reed Richards, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm
Bad Guys: Leviaverse Insects
Cameos: None

Special Note: The cover price for this book was actually 9 cents. It was done as a promotion to draw in new readers to the Fantastic Four. It worked on me.

So what happens?
In this standalone story, we follow the Fantastic Four though a week of their lives, as seen by Mr. Shertzer, a public relations consultant hired by Reed Richards to help with the image of the FF. The story begins with a quick retelling of the origin of the Fantastic Four: young scientist Reed Richards developed and built an experimental starship. For the test flight, Reed, his fiancée Sue Storm, her brother Johnny and famous test pilot Ben Grimm launched into space, where disaster struck. Reed underestimated the amount of shielding needed, and the entire crew was bathed in cosmic radiation in the Van Allen Belt. The mission was aborted, and the ship crashed into the woods of California, where the crew found themselves changed forever. This series of events is shown to a boardroom full of people at a PR firm, where the presenter explains that the FF are now their clients, and they need the inside scoop. Young Mr. Shertzer is then elected to follow the FF family though a normal week.


Cut to a nice Sunday drive, superhero style. Shertzer sits palefaced and bug-eyed in the back seat of Reed's interdimensional transport, while Johnny and Ben argue like young children. Reed had dropped a self-sustaining probe off in the Leviaverse and it has come under attack by millions of strange human sized insects. Shertzer elects to stay in the transport. They fight off wave after wave of insects, Reed installs a repellent beam and they leave the probe to do its work, all in a matter of minutes. As they climb back in the transport, and discuss what kind of ice cream to get on the way home, poor Shertzer sits incredulous in the back seat. This is much more than he expected. Arriving back in a flash of light at the Baxter Building, Reed explains Shertzer’s presence to the team, and leads him off to discuss business. Sue wonders at Reed's new fascination with popularity, as licensing of Reeds many fantastic inventions keeps the FF well financed. Johnny complains he has no ice cream.


Poor Shertzer is stuck following Johnny and Sue doing maintenance on the outside of the Baxter Building. 40 stories up. Standing on an invisible force field. This is not Shertzer's cup of tea. Pale and green, he says "I dropped a quarter... I think it killed a man." It's all just another day for Johnny and Sue.


Shertzer files an update to the head office. The FF fly into action to save a group of researchers that accidentally created a liquid that negates gravity. Falling up through a skylight is a good way to ruin your day. Shertzer longs for the day when he will be away from a guy that’s constantly on fire. The sound of Reed stretching is also apparently unnerving. "That noise made when you drag your hand on a balloon? A LOT like that." Fearing his life will surely end, he demands a double promotion if he returns to the office. Reed goes on to lecture the scientists on why playing with "null-gravitons" is dangerous. While he is occupied, Sue discovers that Reed wasn't invited to "Cause Cerebral", an annual think tank conference, second only to the Nobels. Shertzer asks if that’s why he was hired. Taking it as an accusation of egotism, they jump to Reed's defense. Shertzer finishes his report, showing that the FF is a family first, superheroes second. Puzzling over why they do the things they do, he continues his week.


Shopping with Sue, Shertzer asks Ben what it is like to see himself merchandized. Ben, with grandfather clock under one arm, is about to answer when notices a rap group performing freestyle on the street corner. Railing against "talentless bozos who can't play instruments", Ben is surprised to learn that they are rapping about him. Treated to a free CD and a mad rhyme about "Clobberin' Time", Ben shrugs off his fame, saying that it beats the usual reaction he gets to his freakish appearance. But rap is still "yakkin to a beat."


Sitting alone in an armchair, reading a book, Ben hums the rap tune he heard yesterday with a smile on his face.


Wandering the halls of the FF museum, Reed and Sue take their son Franklin (who is blowing bubbles that happen to be square) for a tour, signing autographs for school children. Sue tries to casually broach the subject of Shertzer and the PR firm. Reed begins to say he likes the public to know who they are, but the throngs of kids separate them. Sue, autograph in hand, wonders at the spell of vanity Reed seems to be having.


Shertzer sits in a meeting, showing the new promotional FF comic book that will revitalize the franchise. Smiling, Shertzer explains that the FF aren't just superheroes. They are explorers, astronauts, and trailblazers. If trouble finds them, they deal with it, but that’s not their goal. They are a family. "Make the book about the people, not the costumes", says Shertzer. The meeting wraps and Shertzer still wonders why Reed hired him.

A note showing Reed turned down his invitation to "Cause Cerebral" sits on a desk. Reed Richards holds his baby girl Valeria, and makes a confession in the form of a bedtime story to the girl who is too young to understand. He explains that once upon a time, he made a mistake by being arrogant, and it cost his family their humanity. His guilt was unbearable, and the only way he could see to make it better was to make the world see the people they really were inside: brave, dedicated and loving. He made them celebrities to keep the world from fearing them, gave them outlandish names and a headquarters in the middle of New York, all in the name of keeping them from suffering for his mistake. Making his friends famous may help him forgive himself someday. Valeria is tucked in bed and Reed leaves. Johnny and Ben, wearing Indian head-dresses and blurting about accidentally messing with a time machine meet him in the hall. Richards smiles and Sue asks "There is always something new isn't there?" Reed replies "I certainly hope so".

Cool Moments!

The whole idea of the book was cool. A touching family story, using Shertzer as the simple common man who is thrown into a world of the fantastic, makes an excellent starting point for someone just joining the book. I think it was a masterful promotion effort by Marvel, who created a complete and touching story to make you care about the lives of four people, a family, who are incredible heroes.

Cool Quotes!

The Thing, in ducky pajamas, fighting anti-gravity at 3am -"Ya know what would be good right now? A big steaming cup of gravity!"

Reed Richards, listening to Ben and Johnny fight like children - "Don't make me turn this interdimensional transport around!"

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