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Fantastic Four #9

"The End of the Fantastic Four!"

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

Cover date: December 1962< br /> Cover price: 12 cents
Current value: about $1275

Even as far back as 1962, you could get cable under the ocean. The Sub-Mariner is lounging in his undersea villa watching television and views a news report about the impending bankruptcy and breakup of the Fantastic Four. Prince Namor senses an opportunity.

At the Baxter Building, Reed is fending off a horde of angry bill collectors. The FF paid for all their gadgets because Reed made a fortune with his inventions. Though he may be the smartest man on Earth, he's not so good with the stock market, and lost everything investing. Reed refuses to let the team make money as circus freaks, and a life of crime is out of the question, so bankruptcy is the only way out. The dismantling of the thus far unused Pogo Plane is a sight that Ben, a pilot, takes personally, and after a rebuff by Reed, who is sick of Ben's griping, Ben storms out in his regularly scheduled huff. Ben stops by Alicia's place for a cup of tea or coffee, with a side of griping.

The FF receives a telegram from "S.M. Studios" offering them one million dollars to star in a film. Ben returns and the FF make up and agree to make the movie. Hey, it's better than being circus freaks. So they set out for Hollywood, but since they've sold all their equipment and they are flat broke, they have to hitchhike! Oh, the shame.

"Sub-Mariner Gives the Orders!"

A few days of hitchhiking later, the FF arrive at S.M. Studios. Though the FF are world famous by now, they are still thrilled to be in Tinsel Town among the stars. Jack Kirby, usually not the best artist for faces, has drawn some convincing likenesses of Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Benny, and Bob Hope, among others. The FF are ushered into the gigantic main office, where the owner of the studio awaits. He turns around, and it's the Sub-Mariner! Okay, it's not like they made any attempt to prevent you from seeing this coming, but I still got a little chill from the revelation.

The offer was genuine, insists Namor, because he has the wealth of the sea at his disposal, the riches from centuries of sunken vessels. He gives them their first payment, in cash. Ben thinks it all "smells fishy" (ha ha) but beggars can't be choosers and the FF accept the deal. And Sue is back to swooning over Namor again.

Filming doesn't start until Monday and the FF amuse themselves with their first paycheck. Reed buys a new suit, Johnny blows his cash on a sports car, Ben tosses around some goons on the beach, and Sue dines at a glamorous nightclub with Namor. I hope Reed is doing coke off the nude body of a model or banging a prostitute or something appropriately Hollywood while his fiancée is swooning over a friggin' super-villain, but they won't show you any of that because of that restrictive Comics Code.

Come Monday, Mister Fantastic and the Sub-Mariner are on a schooner in the Mediterranean off the coast of Hidden Isle. The plan is to film Reed battling a mechanical Cyclops on the island. But, of course, it's a trap and the Cyclops is real.

"The Fury of Mr. Fantastic"

The Cyclops was ordered to keep Reed prisoner by Namor, but the monster announces that he has no need for prisoners just before he flattens Reed with a boulder. But Reed slithers out from under the rock, cartoon character style. He makes short work of the Cyclops by tripping him into a pit, and sets off back to Hollywood because he has a bone to pick with Namor.

Meanwhile, Namor and the Human Torch are in a helicopter above the African jungle. Johnny is supposed to fight the natives who take him prisoner, but Namor doesn't tell him that these particular natives are immune to fire.

"The Flame of Battle!"

Johnny is puzzled that the natives are unimpressed when he flames on. He flies away so he doesn't end up speared, but the natives simply follow him until he runs out of juice. They stick him in a bamboo cage and taunt him with their immunity to fire. Once he's all rested up, Johnny breaks out of the cage and creates a horde of flaming replicas of himself to distract the natives. Not one to be tricked the same way twice, he activates a nearby volcano with a fireball. The lava engulfs the village and destroys the magic potions which gave the natives their immunity. More concerned with fleeing for their lives than capturing the Torch, the villagers leave Johnny free to return to America.

Now it's Ben's turn. Namor takes him to a Hollywood beach. No exotic monsters or intricate plots here. Namor simply starts beating the crap out of him. In the water, Namor can give Ben a run for his money.

"Vengeance is Ours!"

Ben is no dummy. He figures out what's going on, and uses the same plan Hercules used to slay Antaeus. Hercules separated Antaeus from the ground which renewed his strength, and Ben drags Namor up the beach, away from the water.

Inexplicably, Ben is stuck by lightning. He does not fall, prompting Namor to utter perhaps the stupidest line in the history of comics: "By the trident of Davy Jones! What does it take to knock you out?" Somehow, the lightning has caused the Thing to revert to Ben Grimm, and Namor takes advantage of the situation to knock Ben out.

Back at the office, Namor announces his triumph over the rest of the FF to sue, and proposes to her again. Despite her obvious attraction to Namor, Sue won't be won over by someone who beats the crap out of her teammates and vows to defy him. Sue proves resourceful, but is not prepared for Namor's "radar sense of the cave fish from the lowest depths of the sea" which allows him to detect her invisible form. Evil Aquaman tackles Sue and declares that he likes women with spirit.

Just then, the FF, who manage to coordinate their return and time it perfectly despite being scattered over three continents, burst in. But Sue inexplicably protects Namor and demands he live up to his end of the contract. Namor is nothing if not honorable (well, except for that elaborate deception in the first 22 pages of the comic) so he gives them their money and produces the movie. The FF let Namor return to the sea and the movie is a hit, no doubt helping to rehabilitate their popularity.

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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