Fun Fantastic Four Follies! (Because Alliteration is the key to every good superhero)

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably heard something about the Fantastic Four.  For the few rock-dwellers out there, here's a quick explanation:  The Fantastic Four is a superhero team created in the early 1960's that has appeared in a couple cartoons and films over the past four and a half decades.  The team includes "Mr. Fantastic" (Reed Richards) who can stretch his body like a Stretch Armstrong figure, "The Invisible Girl" (Susan Storm) who can turn invisible and create force fields, "The Human Torch" (Johnny Storm) who can set himself on fire (actually I can set myself on fire as well, but I usually have to go to the burn unit, unlike Johnny), and "The Thing" (Ben Grimm), who is your required "big dumb strong guy" for any superhero team (I think it's an affirmative action thing).  The Thing is also known as the "Big Rock Monster Wearing a Blue Diaper." I'm not sure why I felt I needed to explain that.  I mean, if you don't know about the Fantastic Four, what are you doing reading this article?  For you non-rock dwellers, what you're going to be reading today is a quick review and look at both Fantastic Four movies as well as their amazingly crappy cartoons.  It's all sort of bizarre and interesting; I'll do my best to refrain from reverting to my geeky comic-collecting childhood self.  Let's begin with the most recent:

Fantastic Four (2005)

Superhero movies are becoming the new sensation for Hollywood to churn out.  The excuse for this is that technology (read:  cheap computer animation) has made certain things finally feasible.  So, superhero movies are usually chock full of special effects, right?  The joy of the new Fantastic Four film is that for a movie about people who can do amazing super things....it's pretty domestic.  There're a total of two scenes where special effects are thrown at you left and right....the rest of the film is just dramatic back story and characterization (read: boring for a superhero film).  Now, both Fantastic Four films (as well as all the cartoons) revolve around how the Fantastic Four became...um..."fantastic," so I'll break it down for you in a sentence:  Four people go into space, get irradiated, and mutate into people with super powers.  There's a bit more to it, but hey, that's all characterization stuff.  Instead of giving you a play by play of the film, let's just cover some highlights and lessons learned.

1.  Never trust a guy who has the word DOOM on all his stationary. 

Seriously.  If your full name was Doctor Victor von Doom, how could you NOT grow up to be evil?  Maybe it's just me, but when someone's normal name is Dr. Doom, I'm already pretty suspicious.  Though, I can imagine that name sucking in grade school.

Annoying Kid:  Hey Vic, I'm gonna sing the Doom Song now!

Lil' Doom:  Please God, no.

Annoying Kid: Doom, DOOM, DOOM, Doom, DOOM, Doom, Doom, DOOM, Doom, Doom...doom, doom, DOOM, Doom....

Lil' Doom: :runs off to invent world-annihilating device:

2.  The Invisible Girl is an exhibitionist slut. 

Ok, that's an exaggeration, but seriously.  At one point in the film she's modeling these new "bio-suits" that the team will be wearing, and she has hers unzipped so low, it's a case of dancing cleavage.  (When she was modeling the "low cut slut" suits I was really afraid the men would have the same suit, with their chest hair jutting out all over the place. :shudder:)  I'm not saying anything bad about the writers, but I will say that it's kind of difficult to get a character to be both "very intelligent" and "taking off her clothes as much as possible."  So, yeah.  The Invisible Girl strips off her clothes a couple times so she can walk around invisibly.  Pay close attention to the "phantom bra" scene.

3.  You can take a train from the Swiss Alps to New York City.

I don't pretend to understand this, and it's probably just a mistake in editing...but Ben Grimm (the Thing) starts walking from the top of the Swiss Alps and ends up taking a train to New York City.  Apparently, the locomotive industry is much more efficient than I thought it was, because he beats the rest of the cast there, despite them taking a plane across the Atlantic instead of a....um....train.  :shrug:

4.  Everyone wants to talk about Mr. Fantastic's wee wee.

Johnny Storm grants the first interview explaining the Fantastic Four.  Now, think about this...everyone in the world has just learned that super heroes/mutants are real.  People with amazing powers have appeared...it's a pivotal moment for mankind to understand.  So, when Johnny grants his first interview what does the bimbo newscaster say?

"So we hear you call Reed Richards "Mr. Fantastic"....is it true what they say...that he can stretch ANY part of his body?" :insert "I'm talking about his penis" chuckle here:

Jesus Christ!  First interview ever, and she's asking about the team leader's junk.  That's like George Bush unveiling a new anti-terrorist unit and a reporter asking:  "So does the leader have a really BIG gun?" before running away giggling.  The people in this movie are FAR too accepting of the mutant freaks that are now walking among them.

On a side note if someone called themselves "Mr. Fantastic" (which already sounds like a sex toy) I can't help but think of the song by Shaggy.  "Lova Lova! They call me Mr. Fantastic Mr. Boombastic!"  Twenty bucks says Reed Richards sings that to himself when he thinks no one's around.

Trivia Time:  Whenever a superhero movie that was based off a comic book comes out, hardcore comic book fans invariably bitch and moan about how the movie would have been better if it had followed the comic books.  Well, when the big-budget Hollywood movies started coming out (Spiderman, X-men, Daredevil, etc) Marvel Comics started something called the "Ultimate" series.  The series is effectively restarting the comic book universe for some of their heroes...so that new fans that enjoyed the movie can read something that's not miles and miles away from what they saw on the screen. It's also nice to restart stories so that it makes sense that all the heroes from the 1960's are still in their thirties in 2005.

5.  The Fantastic Four are ALL about causing an incredible amount of damage to property and innocent people, and they are STILL called heroes.

Now I've talked about this matter before, but never have I seen it so obviously done than in Fantastic Four.  The Thing freaks out a guy who was about to kill himself.  The guy runs and falls into traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.  This is going to sound callous, but what the hell:  instead of letting the guy die (as he wanted to), The Thing smashes a truck, causing an incredibly huge pile-up on the bridge.  If anyone out there knows anything about traffic accidents, then they'd know all these people are DEAD.  By saving one guy, a chain reaction occurs which puts dozens and dozens of people in harms way....and it's the Fantastic Four's fault.  Completely.  They don't mention the death count, choosing to focus on the 4 or so people the Fantastic Four save (instead of the dozen dead or wounded in the horrible flaming accident of death that they caused).  They actually go out of their way to show that people don't die in the car crash.  A truck his The Thing head-on at one point.  Take a look at this:

The Driver of that truck is dead.  I don't care if he's buckled up or not.  You don't go from 60mph to 0 in one seconds and not get hurt....a LOT.  Still, in the next minute we see him fine and completely uninjured and being "saved" by The Thing, the very freak that just about killed him.  :shrug:  All I can think about here is what the hell the insurance company is going to list as the cause of the accident.  Speaking of insurance, in the final scene of the film (where the Fantastic Four face off against Doctor "You Should Have Known I Was Evil By My Name" Doom, who apparently got the power to turn into metal and shoot electricity at people), The Thing (again, the most property destructive of the team) picks up an old lady's car and throws it at the bad guy.  Now he does say "I have to borrow this," but he doesn't wait for a response.  I can just imagine them screaming "My daughter's in the back seat! NOOOOO!"  Besides being a jerk who throws random strangers' cars, he's a jerk who doesn't even hurt Doctor Doom with it.  Personally, if a big mutant freak was going to total my car in the name of super-violent "heroism," I'd want it to be at least somewhat effective.  Oh, and just to show that Ben Grimm isn't the only one destroying completely innocent people/things, the Human Torch sets a random boat on FIRE to attract the land to air heat-seeking missiles that are chasing after him.  Poor boaters.

"What a Beautiful night for a cruise.  Aren't the city lights beautiful at night, Honey?"

"Dear, look at that....is that a firework?"

"No, Dear, that looks like.....is that a guy on fire flying towards us?  What's he....OH SWEET JESUS WE'RE ON FIRE!  I CAN SMELL MY FLESH COOKING!"

"STOP DROP AND ROLL, DEAR! OH GOD MISSILES!"

(To be fair, I think it's supposed to be a barge of some sort, but since you don't get to see the boat until Johnny's immolated the damn thing, so exactly what kind of boat is anybody's guess.)

6.  Why is it whenever Mr. Fantastic tries to restrain someone, it invariably looks hella sexual?

The first picture is from the recent movie....and the second one is from the 1994 Fantastic Four cartoon.  Reed Richards tends to pull this move a lot and all I can say is that when a guy can stretch and flatten his body like crazy, it's anybody's guess where his crotch is.  What's worse is putting that second picture (from the cartoon) into context.  Here, he restrains the evil alien "Super Skrull" and yells this amazing line to his wife:

"Hey Sue, remember how we do it at the beach!"

O_O  He's restraining a guy who, judging from his expression, isn't too happy about the violation that's about to occur, and suddenly Reed starts telling his wife that they should "do it" like they do on the beach.  Sweet Mother of God.  Of course, he just means for his wife to throw the "control disc" like a frisbee, but when this moment happened in the cartoon, I couldn't help but shoot coke out my nose.  Since I'm already talking about the cartoon, let's move on.

The Fantastic Four....the cartoon  (1994)

The less said about this cartoon the better.  With a theme song that's only a few notes from the Punky Brewster theme and supporting characters that include a rich bitch with a small yapping dog who's the Fantastic Four's landlord, this show will wound you.  While I'm told the plots of the cartoon are very close to the original plots of the old comic books....therein lies the problem.  The original stories were ALREADY over thirty years old when this thing came out.  So instead of updating them to match the current generation, the show's creators just chose to inject more "current" characters.  There's an episode where The Thing is recording a music video for MTV, and a sleazy Howard Stern look-a-like chases after him with a video camera.  If you thought that wasn't cheesy enough, the finale of said episode is watching and listening to the Thing singing "What time is is?  It's Clobberin' Time! Oh Yeah...what time is it?  It's Clobbering Time!"  It burns and stings.  Pay close attention to see the Human Torch pretending to play guitar in the background.

I don't care what you say:  The Thing's back-up dancers are hot...despite the fact that they're back-up singers for a big orange guy in a diaper.

Tangent again:  You know, I'll say it again:  I'm glad the comic books restarted with the Ultimate line, and I wish they had when I was a kid.  You see, when I was ten I remember reading the Fantastic Four for a little while....and deciding it was too weird and it seemed like I was coming into the middle of a soap opera.  Don't quite get what I mean?   When I read the Fantastic Four, it was all about The Thing having breasts (and being a girl, apparently) and the Human Torch deciding to kill the entire student population of a college because he found out his wife was an alien.  If you started reading the books after the mid-1960's you really were intruding on whatever the hell was going on in the series. 

I did some research, and I found out that during the 1980's the Fantastic Four had different members, most notably She-Hulk (a female version of the Hulk...isn't that so freaking clever?) and Ms. Marvel a.k.a. She-Thing a.k.a. "Ben Grimm with BOOBS."  Apparently, (thank you Wikipedia.com) her name's Sharon Ventura, and she got superpowers from a women's wrestling promoter.  Then she got mutated in an accident and ended up looking exactly like The Thing from the Fantastic Four...only more feminine.  She was "quite happy with the change," because now she didn't have to put up with constant sexual harassment.  Oh, Lord.  Let's analyze that for a moment.  Now, Ben Grimm (the Thing) is usually considered one of the more tragic characters from Marvel.  He's completely depressed because he's a big mutant freak and he just wants to be normal....except if he were normal, he wouldn't be able to make a difference.  If you saw the recent movie, they conveyed that pretty well:  It sucks to be ugly.   Such a petty moral, but you can't blame Marvel.  The Fantastic Four's first villain, The Mole Man's only problem was being "so ugly that he had to journey to the center of the earth."  I'm not kidding.  But, back on Ms. Marvel....while Ben Grimm is completely traumatized by being hideous, a WOMAN is completely happy to become a mutant freak, because it'll stop men from treating her like a sex object.  Now how culturally relevant is that lesson?  It's a sad state of affairs when beautiful (big-breasted) women are willing to be hideously disfigured to get away from sexual discrimination.  I guess the message there is this:

Ladies:  If men bother you too much, it's because you're too beautiful.  Dip your head in radioactive acid or something...that should free you from their harassment.

Back on the topic of the cartoon:  The weirdest thing here is the fact that Stan Lee himself makes appearances from time to time.  Pictured to the left we have him explaining that the alien's language will be translated through the "Magic Marvel Trans-lingual Translator."  There's nothing creepier than an 80-year-old man reading something out of a comic book.  In fact, does anyone else get the whole "child molester vibe" whenever they see Stan Lee?  I know the guy created all this crap, but really, he freaks me out with his tinted glasses, far too big prosthetic teeth, and his tendency to show up in big budget movies, if only for a second or two.  If you don't agree with me, I suggest you rent the movie "Comic Book Confidential."  There's a scene where Stan Lee (I always wonder if that's his real name, i.e. were his parents that goofy/dumb?) reads a Spiderman comic book to the audience for like five minutes.  There's no WAY he doesn't seem like he's inviting your child into his sweaty apartment for candy and molestation.  Stan Lee:  You're awesome it's just a shame you're getting so much press coverage these days...because you give me nightmares.

You can also find a great episode of this cartoon which revolves around The Black Panther, a Nubian prince from Africa who attacks the Fantastic Four.  Way to go, Marvel...keep naming your characters after hate groups.  I'm sure the KKKLansman, the Al Quaidanator, and The Misogynist are all on their way, too.

Also in 1994 (let's move on before I piss off someone else) came the unspeakable and super-secret (sort of) film:

The Fantastic Four's Original Movie, produced by Roger Corman.

Now, chances are you haven't see this film or even heard of it.  In 1994, Marvel comics got Roger Corman (one of THE worst directors/producers in film history....but worst also means "cheap" which is really important here) to help put together a feature-length live action movie about the Fantastic Four.  It was finished in 1994 but was never officially released (it only circulates now through bootleg VHS collectors, as far as I know).  So why didn't it get put out?  One suggested reason is that it was too GOD AWFUL, and that no one wanted to be associated with it.  That's a pretty valid reason, and that's the exact same reason the Justice League of America's show never got off the ground after the pilot (see last week's article).  Yet, that's not the truth.  The truth is:

Hollywood is filled with Dicks.

Really.  It's true.  There're a lot of shady crappy practices going on in Hollywood all the time. For example, Newline Cinema, back in 1990, bought the rights to every popular/potentially successful script for kids movies with the intention of only making one:  They ended up releasing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which was phenomenally successful not only on its own account, but because its producers had BOUGHT OUT THE COMPETITION, SO THAT THERE WERE NO OTHER KIDS MOVIES TO COMPETE WITH IT.  So, how does this example apply to the old Fantastic Four Movie?  When a studio buys the rights to a script, they only have about a decade or so to make the movie...if no one made a Fantastic Four movie, then they would have lost the rights to it (so says an interviewed Stan Lee).   But, they didn't want to make a big budget version quite yet, and, well, they didn't have  a lot of time.  So, they put together a cheap as hell staff and didn't tell them that the film they were working on would NEVER BE RELEASED.  I told you Hollywood is filled with dicks.  Maybe I'm just bitter because I went to film school and would be freaking pissed off if I found out my potentially "big break" was going to buried in a basement so that the owners could make more money later.  :deep breath:

All that aside, this movie's pretty god awful.  The plot is pretty close to the new film (it's the story of how they got their powers), with a bank robbery and a world-annihilating laser thrown in there for kicks.  There's also a cheap Robert Englund rip-off known as "The Jeweler," who leads 1980-style goons who wear Raybans while lurking in their sewer hideout.  Doctor Doom's there too, but the fact that you can't understand half of what he's saying through his mask is the only charm you'll find here (also, he hires henchmen who dress up as "little" versions of him).  There's the same humor as the new one (read:  corny goofy dumb humor), but what little special effects are found here are enough to make you want to kill yourself.  The Invisible Girl still turns invisible, and the Thing is really in a big rubber suit that, to be honest, doesn't look any better or worse than the new one.  The major changes that make me cry refer to Mr. Fantastic and The Human Torch.  The Torch, much like the new Fantastic Four film, turns into a terrible computer-generated special effect when he "flames on."  It also doesn't help that he tries to stop a world-destroying laser with his ass.  Think I'm joking?

That's not implicative like, at ALL....really.

Also lame as hell are the "elastic" special effects you see for Mister Fantastic.  In the end, you get to see Dr. Doom being punched by "big rubber hands on sticks" that interns just off camera keep prodding him in the face with.  It's really embarassing for everyone involved.    Also, the Invisible Girl has the strange habit of only making her crotch invisible, as pictured on the left.  On the whole, the film is pretty terrible, using camera and mechanical effects instead of "expensive" computer animation, which while sort of cool/eye candy, doesn't look any more realistic than these ye olde crapstatic special effects.  (It still bothers me how much money Hollywood is saving by using competely unconvincing computer-generated special effects, thereby lowering the standards of film while increasing the profit margin.)  Oley Sassone, the director of this bad boy, ended up doing another thing called "Mutant X" for Marvel about 6 years after this...how much do you want to bet he double and triple checked to see if they wanted him to create something that would be released. Maybe it's not Hollywood.  Maybe it's money that makes people dicks.  Oh, well.

On a final note, the cartoon which came out the same year as this secret terrible film has The Thing saying the following:  "When [my producer] comes to, tell him I'm also available for Feature Films....if I like the directing."  So Marvel never had any intention of letting this film get out, and they're still making jokes about it in the Fantastic Four material they DO let out. That's just mean.

Yet another Fantastic Four Cartoon (1978)

I'm so sick of hearing about H.E.R.B.I.E. (henceforth just written as Herbie, because that's annoying to type).  If you do any research on this show, apparently EVERYONE WHO EVER SAW THIS SHOW wants to disprove this bizarre urban legend (which it really isn't an urban legend if no one knows about it, so we'll just call it a stupid rumor) relating to Herbie.  First:  Who's Herbie?  Herbie is this obnoxiously cute (or cute & obnoxious...take your pick) robot who replaces the Human Torch as a member of the Fantastic Four in this cartoon.  So what's the Stupid Rumor?  The Stupid Rumor is that they removed the Human Torch from the show because they were afraid that kids would immolate themselves to pretend to be the character.  Now, I like that myth since it sort of ties into the whole "Buddhist Monks setting themselves on fire to protest Vietnam" that got played on television a lot during the "we swear it's not a war only a police action" in Vietnam.  I hate disproving this myth or repeating what the truth is, because apparently EVERY WEBSITE IN THE WORLD is so proud to disprove this.  The truth is the Human Torch was slated to have his own show through Universal/CBS just like Spiderman, the Hulk, and Doctor Strange did.  (Great and terrible shows all of them, but that's for another review).  Suffice to say that due to the contract, The Torch couldn't appear elsewhere on TV, even if he was in animated form.  The cartoon, on the whole, was pretty awful, but it's bad in a "dated" kind of way.  Also, Herbie is so obviously a flying talking R2D2 in most respects...I'm not saying they were trying to cash in on Star Wars or anything, but I will point out that Sci-Fi Robots were a Hot Item that year.  Suffice to say Herbie was so freaking unpopular that they wrote him into the comic books just so he could be destroyed.  Now if only they'd do something similar with Jar-Jar Binks.

Oh, WOW, yet another FANTASTIC FOUR CARTOON (this time from 1967)

If you're a huge Hanna-Barbera fan then I suggest hunting this down.  I grew up on reruns of Space Ghost and the Herculoids, so watching this bad boy is fun (mainly because they use the same music and sound effects).  Still, the show's just about as dated as the others and, well, it's dead-on script for most of the comics, which, as you might know already, means they're goofy and dated to hell.  The only other thing noteworthy here is the fact that when this cartoon came out, the Fantastic Four were only 6 years old, having been first published in '61.  You really don't see that kind of cross-media promotion or success these days.  I think Spawn may have been one of the rare "comic book heroes" that got his own movie/cartoon in such a quick time.  Of course, comics were much more successful back in the day...Superman practically had a radio show the moment the first issues sold.  Suffice to say the quality of this one is decent (because it's Hanna Barbera), but that doesn't make it any more intelligent or interesting than other old-as-hell things from them.  Hell, it's cool in a campy sort of way.  Which is a polite way of saying it sucks on toast, but you can pretend it's cool.  Shut up.  I liked it.

My god, I'm sick of typing about the Fantastic Four.  I don't even LIKE the Fantastic Four. Hell, it's been almost a decade since I've bought a comic book.  At some point, this article degenerated from an honest attempt to review some stuff into some sort of "bitch about comic books and Hollywood" session.  Thanks for surviving it and, for the love of God, ask yourself, why do so many comic book characters stand as great examples for alliteration?  Think of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Bruce Banner, Peter Parker, Green Goblin, Otto Octavious, Silver Surfer, Ms. Marvel, Mole Man, Doctor Doom, Clark Kent, Wonder Woman, DareDevil, and so many others....  I'm not saying that comics are just for kids, but you will notice that so many of the most famous superheroes sound like they were named by a bad talent agent.  Enjoy yourselves and see you guys next week.

I still can't believe I just sat down and wrote over 4,000 words about the Fantastic Four.  Jesus.

 

-jared

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Copyright 2005 Jared hindman...except for most of the images which are property of their respective owners (FOx, Marvel, etc).  Please don't sue me or I'll have to swallow radiation and get superpowers that let me use the Fair Use act for review purposes.  Seriously...all images used are for purely critical purposes.  I swear.