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The Fantastic Four Meet the Beatles

on Tue, 05/19/2015 - 00:00

Strange Tales 130
In November 1961, Marvel Comics premiered The Fantastic Four, a new type of superhero comic book that was more grounded in reality than its predecessors with as much emphasis on the personal lives of the main protagonists as their world-saving exploits. The Fantastic Four likewise launched the beginnings of the Marvel Universe, with Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Spider-Man joining the fray in the immediate years to follow. On February 9, 1964, meanwhile, the Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, ushering Beatlemania into the United States and helping to define the ensuing decade as much as anyone else.

Thirteen months later—in March 1965—these twin Pop Culture icons collided when the Human Torch and Thing came face-to-face with John, Paul, George and Ringo in issue 130 of the Marvel comic book series Strange Tales. Or at least that was almost the case. In true screwball-comedy fashion, the Fantastic Two kept getting sidetracked on their way to a concert by the Fab Four, circumventing traffic jams and hunting down a trio of criminals at an amusement park instead of actually attending the festivities.

The adventure begins innocently enough, with Ben “Thing” Grimm and Johnny “Human Torch” Storm being instructed by Reed Richards to finish repairs on a “blasted cornball thingamajig”—in Thing’s words—while he and Sue “Invisible Girl” Storm attend a conference at City Hall. With more bickering than teamwork, Thing and the Human Torch cause further damage to the device they are supposed to be fixing before receiving a phone call from girlfriends Doris Evans and Alicia Masters. Doris and Alicia had been out shopping when they not only discovered that the Beatles would be performing that evening but scored four tickets to the sold-out show as well.

Although Thing declares that he would rather be “goin’ bowlin’” than see the Beatles, he quickly gets caught up in the hysteria and moves cars out of a traffic-jammed street in order for their taxi to make it to the concert on time. The Human Torch assists as well, shooting fireballs into the air to distract the crowd. Thing then lifts the cab to a second floor fire escape ladder so everyone can enter the theater in time, giving the cabbie an autographed photo as a tip. Doris and Alicia, meanwhile, immediately find themselves surrounded by the Beatles.

“It’s them!” Thing declares upon likewise entering the building. “My ever-lovin’ idols! Be still, my patterin’ heart!” Before he can get near the legendary rock band, however, a man rushes into the hall declaring that the box office had been robbed. “Some idiot set off some fireworks in the sky, and while everyone was looking at it, three hoods stole our payroll!” he announces to the Fab Four. “We can’t pay you!”

Realizing that the “fireworks” in question were actually the Human Torch distracting the crowd, the pair of superheroes forego autographs from John, Paul, George and Ringo in order to catch the culprits. While the Human Torch takes to the sky in pursuit, the more slow-moving Thing is forced to make his way back to the Fantastic Four’s headquarters and retrieve the Fantasti-Car.

The Human Torch stops the criminals’ escape by melting the road and trapping their vehicle in the resulting goo, but the trio of robbers then makes their way into an amusement park on foot. Realizing that the Human Torch is low on energy, they board a toboggan car and douse water from the water ride onto him. While the Human Torch is able to cushion his resulting fall to earth, he is still knocked unconscious in a diving pool filling with water nonetheless.

Fortunately Ben Grimm arrives in time to keep the still sleeping Johnny Storm from drowning and tracks the fleeing criminals to a roller coaster. Ripping the rails from the ground and lifting them into the air, he sends the trio hurling towards him. Thing immediately catches them but then flings them onto a Ferris wheel for safe keeping. As he attempts to figure out the control panel, however, one of the robbers disembarks from the Ferris wheel and decides to clobber an unsuspecting Thing over the head with a pole.

Fortunately the Human Torch arrives to save his fellow comrade-in-arms in the nick of time, and before you know it, all three criminals are tied up and left to hang in the diving pool until the police can be dispatched to retrieve them.

“I hope we haven’t missed much of the Beatles,” Johnny Storm remarks on their way back to the concert. “Not a chance, kid!” Ben Grimm replies. “You know that they’d never start the show until we get back!”

With the stolen money now returned—and Thing sporting a Beatles wig—the Fantastic Two head for their seats only to be slammed against the wall as the doors to the theater open and a satisfied crowd rushes out. “Johnny!” Doris Evans declares upon seeing her boyfriend. “I’m glad you’re here! You’re just in time to take us home.” It turns out that John, Paul, George and Ringo did not wait for Johnny and Ben after all. “This is very humilifying!” Thing cries out. “We wuz robbed!”

To make matters worse, the Human Torch and Thing are not even able to take their girlfriends out to dinner afterwards, as they still need to not only repair the “blasted cornball thingamajig” they were initially charged with fixing, but also have to clean up the mess that they made at the amusement park while pursuing the robbers.

“Maybe someday I’ll understand why anyone would want to be a superhero,” Doris says at the end, leaving Ben “Thing” Grimm and Johnny “Human Torch” Storm to wonder the same thing.

Anthony Letizia

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