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Fantastic Four #5

"Prisoners of Doctor Doom!"

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: Art Simek
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Cover date: July 1962
Cover price: 12 cents
Current value: about $4600

On the splash page we are introduced to Doctor Doom, a master of both science and sorcery, since he has a book called "Science and Sorcery". Also one on demons and a mean looking vulture. We know he has sinister plans for our foursome because he has chess pieces in the shapes of each member of the FF. Also, his name is Doctor Doom.

Back at FF HQ, Johnny is reading a copy of (Product Placement Alert) Marvel's new comic book, The Incredible Hulk. But the mag ends up incinerated when Johnny taunts Ben with the similarities between the Thing and the Hulk. Yet another inter-group fight ensues, but is interrupted when a helicopter drops a huge net on the building and knocks out the power somehow. From the helicopter comes the voice of Doctor Doom, one which Reed immediately recognizes. Not much of a mental leap, though. If your name is Victor von Doom, and you want to battle your old college classmate as "Doctor Doom", you can't expect much in the way of a secret identity.

Reed thought Doom was dead (just like he thought the Sub-Mariner was dead, eh?), and quickly fills in the rest of the FF in his background. Von Doom was "fascinated by sorcery and black magic" and though gifted in conventional science, employed that science in unauthorized experiments to "contact the nether world". An experiment goes awry and blows up his dorm and disfigures his face. After getting expelled, he headed for Tibet looking for "forbidden secrets", which is the last Reed heard of him.

Now Doom is back, and he demands Sue as a hostage. Curiosity is their motivation as much as anything else, a desire to find out what Doom is really up to. Doom was no slouch in his college days, and now he has as many cool gadgets as the FF. Something serious must be going down. So Sue assents and becomes Doom's hostage.

"Back to the Past!"

The FF climb aboard what looks like a birdcage hanging from Doom's helicopter, and takes them back to his castle stronghold. In Doom's throne room, he's casually stroking a tiger on his left while Sue is tied up on his right. Doom demands they undertake a mission for him, to go back in time to steal the legendary treasure of Blackbeard. Yes, it sounds hokey, doesn't it? But it's a testament to the drama created by Lee and Kirby that they actually manage to pull this off.

But how will they go back in time you ask? Why, Doom has invented a handy time machine. Since this probably is the only gadget Reed hasn't gotten around to inventing yet, the FF seem eager for the opportunity to travel through time, but are still cognizant of the danger presented by Doom. So they agree and - wait, why is this yellow patch of floor glowing all of a sudden? Oh, we've been standing on the time machine the whole time.

In the days of yore, the FF have to act fast because they're faced with a 48 hour deadline. That and they stick out like sore thumbs. Conveniently enough, they've been transported near a couple of pirates squabbling over a big bundle of clothes and boots. The Thing beats his chest and solves the argument by scaring the pirates away. "Flee!! 'Tis a demon!"

I guess the bundle had a disguise kit in it too, because Johnny outfits Ben with a wig, beard, and eye patch. Arrrr, 'tis Ben Grimm of the high seas. Surprisingly, for once Ben isn't angry, instead taking to his role like a Sub-Mariner takes to the ocean. He's crying "ahoy, matey" and eying the comely wenches in the tavern. The barmaids ply the trio with grog until they pass out. Either they're drunk or they're drugged, either way it's all part of a plot by some rascally pirates looking for fresh crewmen.

"On the Trail of Blackbeard!"

Reed, Ben, and Johnny are all curled up asleep in their pirate gear locked in the hold of a ship. Awww, how cute. After they awake, Ben bursts out of the hold while Reed and Johnny look on with sympathy for the pirate crew Ben is beating to a pulp. Then they too are drawn into the battle until the pirates quickly surrender. "It is death to defy the miraculous ones!"

Suddenly, a shot across the bow. They've been attacked, and the FF spring into pirate action. Ben takes charge of the crew and they prepare for…


With the FF's powers, and Ben wielding a broken mast as a club, they make short work of the attacking pirate crew. His men hail Ben as the "mighty bearded one", or Blackbeard. Ah, a time paradox. Ben has become Blackbeard himself! So the treasure they just captured must be what Doom wants. But Reed is on to him. After all, a guy who invented a friggin' time machine no doubt has the power to get any kind of wealth he could possibly need, so something in the treasure must be incredibly powerful and dangerous. So Reed replaces the treasure in the chest with plain old chains. Then Ben announces that he's going to stay. An outcast and freak in the present, in the past he's found a home as a pirate captain, where he's accepted and acclaimed. The crew restrains Reed and Johnny to prevent them from taking Ben back (to the future!). But suddenly (Holy deus ex machina, Batman!) a twister hits. After the chaos and the almost drowning, the FF are washed ashore, along with (handily enough) the treasure chest full of chains.

"The Vengeance of Doctor Doom!"

That glowing yellow rectangle means Doom has activated the time machine to take the FF back to the present. It also means it time for some villain exposition. Doom rubs his hands together with glee and announces that the macguffin, I mean treasure includes the gems of Merlin, with the power to make their owner invincible. Imagine his disappointment when he opens the chest to find mere worthless chains.

Ben takes the opportunity to attack, but the Doom he smashes is merely a robot duplicate, the first of many Doombots they'd smash over the years. Doom seals the chamber and starts sucking all the oxygen out, but Sue manages to smash the right machine and frees them from the room. They leave the castle and prepare to battle Doom, but Doom escapes using a rocket pack and is too fast for them to catch up.

Doom, of course, would become the FF's greatest nemesis, appearing in countless issues of the FF and other comics. The time machine and the Doombots would figure in many of those stories. Doom is, of course, the mirror image of Reed Richards, what Reed would have become had he been driven by arrogance and pride. Doom would become one of the most compelling villains in comics, driven by those complex motives instead of a mere lust for power, and would never lose his ability to scare heroes and other villains because of his genius and ruthlessness.

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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