Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Three views of the Thing and a thought about Alicia Masters

First this scene, from Fantastic Four #60 (Stan Lee, Jack Kirby), the ending issue of the FF’s epic, multi-part battle with Dr. Doom, amped up by the power of the Silver Surfer.I like this scene. Up to this point, Ben’s weaknesses have been his temper and his bitterness about being a monster. The Thing defining his worth in terms of his strength gives Ben more depth and gives Stan (this seems more like his kind of idea than Jack’s, though I could be wrong) more character elements to play with. Sure enough, Ben’s hit by the same insecurity a few issues later when the FF battle Ronan the Accuser.

I also like this sequence from #66, after Alicia has gone from her apartment with a member of the Enclave, a scientific cabal working on creating a superhuman (later known as Adam Warlock) without leaving word of where she’s gone. Ben’s freaking out over her disappearance. It also plays on his fears she couldn’t really love him — indeed, that nobody could really love him or see him as anything but a monster.Ben’s boost of confidence wouldn’t last, of course, any more than the last time he stopped thinking of himself as a freak. Too easy to milk drama from him feeling self pity. It’s still a good scene.

This scene from earlier in that issue? Not so much.“I only tapped him”? From someone who can go toe to toe with the Hulk that’s cold comfort. Especially when Reed didn’t do anything to deserve it. Sure, the Fantastic Four have always been flawed heroes— but knocking Reed cold like that goes way beyond flawed.

In the same issue, there’s something that puzzles me about Alicia. Stan wrote her as a disability stereotype, the blind person who sees more than anyone else. She senses the nobility in Ben’s heart, the latent humanity in the Silver Surfer, plus having good enough hearing to track Sue by her heartbeat. Given the Enclave’s end game is evil, you might think she’d sense the rot in their hearts. Instead she’s completely trusting, willing to help their work by sculpting the face of their creation (because of the energy he gives off, nobody can look at Him and see what he looks like).

Then I remembered that Stan ordered Jack to rewrite the ending, flipping the original concept. Jack’s idea was to mock Steve Ditko’s objectivism: the Enclave were good scientists who create an Ayn Randian superior man only to discover he despises ordinary humans. The do-over made the Enclave evil and Him a genuinely superior, noble being. Perhaps when Jack drew the first issue, he was still thinking of the scientists as good guys? Then there’d be no reason Alicia’s blind-person spider-sense would go off.

As far as I know, it’s possible.

#SFWApro. All art by Kirby.


  1. Le Messor

    (I’ve just recently re-read the Enclave issues in a Warlock omnibus, for what it’s worth.)

    I used to read about how the Fantastic Four were famous / popular for being the first heroes to go from ‘a bunch of cyphers who think / act alike and always get along’ to ‘real people who squabble’. From when I first read those stories, I thought they went way too far in the other direction; downright abusive at times (like the example you show).
    I remember Ben once saying ‘a villain was horrible to them, but that’s different’, but I really couldn’t tell the difference.

    What got to me about Alicia was, she sculpts people by feel, right? But she’s sculpted people like Dr Doom (okay, that one’s maybe possible) and Annihilus.
    I’d buy if she was doing it by description, but that’s never what we’re told.

  2. I have a vague memory of her sculpting Doom but based on a model of his pre-scars face. Don’t remember Annihilus.
    I’m not as bugged by the squabbling as you are — I know you’ve mentioned that before — but it does get over the top sometimes. Particularly Ben’s being the cynical loudmouth; when T’Challa is telling his origin Ben keeps interrupting to say how “evil white hunters killed my father” is a cliche.

      1. Le Messor

        I know you know the villain. 😀
        I don’t know that we see the sculpting happen, but I’m pretty sure he’s one of many sculpted villains in the background at her studio. (I think it was much later than the issues in question; maybe 80-90s.)

          1. Le Messor

            Again, she must be getting this from descriptions.
            While I can just about imagine her getting Spidey to let her sculpt him, how else would she know his costume has a webbing pattern? It was never done in relief back then.
            (I think the live-action versions are now, though.)

    1. Le Messor

      Translating costumes to live action can be hard; but they do seem to keep finding the same solutions over and over again.

      The worst for me is some of the Flash movie costumes – they look clunky and heavy, unsuited to a speed runner.

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