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Silver Age September – This Man, This Monster

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period, without any “enjoyably goofy” aspect to them. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

Today we look at the classic one-off issue of Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, “This Man, This Monster” from Fantastic Four #51.

Enjoy!

Let’s put “This Man, This Monster” into its absolutely absurd context. This one-shot story took place ONE ISSUE after the Galactus Trilogy! So right after one of the great comic book epic tales (which, itself, took place directly after the epic introduction of the Inhumans), Stan Lee and Jack Kirby delivered a brilliant character piece about selflessness and heroism.

And then the NEXT issue introduces Black Panther!!

How crazy is that, contextually?

In any event, “This Man, This Monster” is about a jealous (unnamed) scientist who hates Reed Richards because he feels that Reed does all of his exploration and scientific discoveries because he is a gloryhound (which might seem that way to an outsider – the guy DID name himself “Mr. Fantastic,” after all). He then decides to eliminate Reed by by switching places with the Thing through some power-switcher thing.

So he shows up as Thing, but he is shocked by the goodness of the Fantastic Four, especially Reed’s selflessness, so, in a moment when he could easily kill Reed (and no one would ever know it was murder)…

This is an excellent representation of the humanity of Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four (and the art, naturally, is excellent).

What a powerful issue.

20 Comments

Ooh, don’t forget about Kirby’s great collage look at the Negative Zone.

Apparently the scientist guy also absorbed Ben’s speech patterns, mebbe.

Great issue, and as you say, look at that context! Firing on all cylinders, those 2.

Another mark of the greatness of the Silver Age is how close to 50 years later so many story titles/covers are still referenced frequently, and not just by the big 2. We still have see variations on the “This Man, This Monster title” on numerous comic issues. Yesterday’s great Superman story reminds me of the repeated references of ‘Not an imaginary tale, Not a dream, not a hoax” that continue to be used in comics.

From a creativity stand point in one comic title, has there ever been a greater burst then what Kirby/Lee did in a span of year with the FF (Inhumans, Galactus, etc). This is the comic book equivalent of Sgt Pepper, Who’s Next, etc.

@Travis: In the story the impostor talks about imitating Ben’s way of speaking.

I quite like this issue. Although apparently, both Sue and Alicia have “women’s intuition.”

How did this scientist who isn’t as good as Reed cure Ben?

nice issue to start the column with for . the issue is still power ful when even posing as the thing the imposter wound up acting like the thing in the end. a noble man.

@sean How did this scientist who isn’t as good as Reed cure Ben?

When he duplicated Bens “thinginess” onto himself Ben, by som unknown means, tranformed back to his human form.
The next thing the scientist guy did was to practice Bens spechpatterns so he could sould exactly like him.

He didn’t cure Ben, he transferred the power. Apparently whatever energy is in The Thing needs a human receptacle. IIRC, isn’t there also a story where Reed tried to do the same thing to himself but Ben stopped him?

When I first contracted the Kirby ‘bug’ I went and bought the whole Lee-Kirby run via the FF Essentials….THIS story was the one that stayed with me the longest…did we ever find out what happened to the Thing-imposter? ..or is the poor bugger still adrift in the Negative Zone?

Well, he’s speaking like the Thing, yeah, but he’s also thinking in that speech pattern, as well.

I chalk it up to Stan being too lazy to make the speech and thoughts NOT match up :)

Dalarsco, I think Brian featured the story where Reed tries to take Ben’s “thingness” in July’s features, mebbe? I know I just saw it here not long ago.

and dannywetts, I maybe be hallucinating this, but I thought I read somewhere that Roy Thomas brought in some scientist who was this guy’s brother, or something. Maybe I’m just thinking that it’s something Thomas WOULD do, though… It is surprising that someone hasn’t used this guy as the linchpin of a whole maxiseries where the FF faces down “This Man, This Monster!!!!”

Ronald Jay Kearschner

September 4, 2011 at 5:55 am

An all time fave! I just bought a used copy of the Marvel Treasury Edition where I first read this. I love Stan Lee’s hokey sentimentality. Reed’s grief over losing his best friend, Ben’s anger at the man who cured him but replaced him, the nameless man’s redemption. I loved it when I was a teen; I love it now in my forties.

Travis, it was Gerry Conway, in Web of Spider-Man #69-70.

Well, he’s speaking like the Thing, yeah, but he’s also thinking in that speech pattern, as well.

I chalk it up to Stan being too lazy to make the speech and thoughts NOT match up

Both DC and Marvel did that a lot, well past the Silver Age. We’d get thought balloons from robots(!) or heroes in disguise that really seemed to match up with the false face they were presenting to the world–and not just in cases when someone would years later be revealed to be a Skrull or a Doombot by some other writer. Far more often it was in cases when the mask would be pulled off at the end of the story. The main difference here is that in this particular story the readers aren’t supposed to be fooled by the disguise, so the thought balloon stands out a little more than in other instances.

Lets not forget that this issue was early on in Joe Sinnott’s mammoth inking run (he came on board full time around issue 45 – to my mind, Sinnott’s arrival as the regular Kirby inker was an important turning point in the FF’s history. Lee / Kirby were the driving force but Sinnot inks just add that little bit extra and help mark a subtle visual change of style for the book as it hit the start of this truly classic run.

The Conway Spiderman story had the scientist’s brother trying the same trick, this time with the hulk… only poor old Spidey got in the way giving us the not so classic Spider-Hulk complete with hulk style speech patterns… ‘Spider-smash!’ :-)

And apart from anything else, that issue of FF starts with that great splash page of Ben standing in the rain. The only time I can recall anyone drawing a rain storm that looked wetter than Will Eisner’s.

Wowee. Comics people, comics.

“How crazy is that, contextually?”

Crazy awesome. That’s how crazy that is. Contextually.

Eric Larsen and I parodied that splash in an issue of What The–? I titled it “This Man, that Monster–That Man, This Monster–This Man, some other Monster.”
But the Run of the FF between #44 and #67 was one of the most dazzling and unremitting bursts of brilliance ever seen in comics. The Inhumans–Galactus–The Black Panther–Doom with the Power of the Surfer–The Negative Zone/Blastaar–The Sentry and the Kree–and Him. Unbelievable–and Comic Book Heaven.

Did we ever find out what happened to the Thing-imposter? ..or is the poor bugger still adrift in the Negative Zone?

Page 19, panel 2: “[Ben] has no way of knowing that, a universe away, the man who had taken his identity has now GIVEN IT UP again– FOREVER!”

This sounds pretty clear to me: He died as Reed expected to do, when he approached the event horizon of negative-Earth.

Wow, did Samuel L. Jackson write Mr. Fantastic’s last line of dialogue or something?

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