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Provide Some Answers – Where the Heck did the Fourth Skrull Go?

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This feature is basically a counterpart to our Left Unresolved feature. That feature is for plotlines that were, well, left unresolved. In this one, though, we spotlight examples of long unresolved stories that WERE ultimately resolved by later writers. The only rule is that at least four years have to pass between the plot point being introduced and it being resolved.

Today we take a look at the decade-long mystery that was accidentally introduced in the second issue of the Fantastic Four!

Just the other day, I did an article about the outlandish way that Reed Richards succeeded in convincing the Skrulls not to invade Earth way back in 1961’s Fantastic Four #2 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and George Klein). He showed them panels from Marvel monster comics and the drawings convinced the aliens that Earth was too dangerous to invade.

Here’s the issue, though. So four Skrulls were sent ahead of the invading fleet to get rid of the Fantastic Four ahead of the invasion. The FF then capture them, but have to think of a way to get rid of the invading force, as well…

fourthskrull1

The FF impersonate the Skrulls and convince the invading force to leave through the aforementioned comic book strategy.

When they return to where the four Skrulls were kept captive. The Skrulls try to attack them, but what is most interesting is that there now THREE Skrulls there!

fourthskrull2

This was almost assuredly just a mistake by Jack Kirby. This was done Marvel Method style, so Lee scripted the book after Kirby did the art, so Lee almost certainly saw that Kirby had forgotten to draw a fourth Skrull, so Lee came up with an explanation for why there was only three Skrulls there…

fourthskrull3

Obviously, though, as we just saw – the entire point of their mission with the invading fleet was to keep them from learning the truth about Earth and NOT letting them talk to their captors, so it makes no sense to say that they then let one of the Skrulls go with the fleet (not to mention we never saw it happen).

So anyhow, the remaining three Skrulls were put out of commission in a peculiar fashion…

fourthskrull4

What, then, happened to the fourth Skrull? It would take us a decade for the answer to be revealed! It will only take YOU the time it takes to go to the next page…

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34 Comments

So when were they transformed back into cows for the skull kill crew series?

So what was the fourth Skrull doing between his first appearance and his last? Even with comic book time, a couple of years must’ve passed between FF #2 and Avengers #92, and Nick Fury says the Skrull had been impersonating Craddock only for “some weeks”.

I would have gone with “Reed accidentally killed the fourth one trying out the hymp-mo-tism,and Ben enjoyed some dee-lish burgers flame broiled by Johnny.”

This doesn’t really solve the question, since what was that Skrull doing until he impersonated that dude?

Also, Fury digs the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. I guess LMDs love LSD.

Probably worth mentioning what happened to the three cow Skrulls!

What I’m curious about is how this story reconciles with the origin of the Skrull Kill Krew, who gained Skrull-like powers by allegedly eating beef obtained from those three Skrull cows.
Also, in Chip Zdarsky’s recent Howard the Duck run, Howard’s sidekick Tara Tam apparently gained similar powers from eating the fourth Skrull, who Reed Richards turned into a duck. How many Skrulls did Reed transform into food animals, anyway?

Superconnectivity

March 12, 2016 at 5:24 am

Wait, didn’t these cows get eaten in skrull kill crew? And wasn’t the fourth Skrull revealed to be turned into a duck, and also eaten by Howard the Duck’s friend Terra? Not mention the cows milk turning a whole town of folks into Skrulls.

It kind of seems this is a go to story for writers, but they don’t always check to see what the last story resolving it was.

I can see a skrull, dropping the guise of being a cow, then assuming the form of Mr. Fantastic. (Though how he knew Reed now wore a blue jump suit rather than street clothes, I don’t know). But no way could that skrull impersonate the human torch, without the jet pack and flame throwers hidden on his person – as shown in FF # 2.

They can assume forms, and somehow gain or lose mass when they take on giant or miniature forms, but they don’t actually gain superpowers. That is why, when trying to imitate the Invisible Woman (then Girl), the skrull shrunk rapidly, appearing the disappear, rather than actually turn invisible. But this would have given up the ruse to quickly. Hat tip to Rick Jones for knowing that the real Johnny Storm would not use phrases such as “stripling.”

IIRC Skrull Kill Krewe explained that after the Kree-Skrull War, the government had the Skrulls turned back into cows, then sent them to the slaughterhouse to eliminate further threats.

I don’t think it’s a huge problem that the Skrull only impersonated Craddock recently. Presumably he spent the next decade tatking whatever identities would let him live without drawing attention, then Supremor put the Craddock idea in his head.

I am thoroughly depressed that once again, a story I read in my youth is now an obscure piece of comics trivia baffling to later generations. Kids today, with their death metal and their indie comic books!

So, did Roy Thomas finally get his No-Prize?

Comic-Reader Lad

March 12, 2016 at 6:05 am

This explanation doesn’t really fix FF 2 because Reed said that the fourth Skrull went back with the mothership. Why did he say that if the Skrull just escaped according to Nick Fury?

The later retcon that he was turned into a duck also isn’t consistent with Reed’s explanation.

It might not make sense that Reed let him go back on the ship, but a better explanation would be that Reed hypnotized the fourth Skrull into forgetting just like the other 3 but let him go back home — perhaps with a post-hypnotic suggestion that the fourth Skrull would warn Reed if the Skrulls tried to come back to Earth.

It was just a mistake by Kirby, and it should have been left alone because no explanation was really satisfying.

The fourth skrull hypnotized the FF into thinking there were only three skrulls. Perhaps he also hypnotized them into believing they hypnotized the other three and they never were cows in the first place.

That issue of skull kill crew was just reusing the plot from fantastic four annual 17, where the towns people where the skrull cows were kept drank the skrull milk. They acquired skrull powers and turned evil.

LOVE the shout-out to the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers! I wonder how many modern day comic book readers would even know who they were?

That issue of skull kill crew was just reusing the plot from fantastic four annual 17, where the towns people where the skrull cows were kept drank the skrull milk. They acquired skrull powers and turned evil.

Fantastic Four Annual #17 was about milk from cows that had BRED with the Skrull cows. Not the actual Skrull cows. Skrull Kill Krew was about specifically the actual three Skrulls from Fantastic Four #2.

Shame you couldn’t work in Neal’s cover from the trade paperback;

http://www.giantsizemarvel.com/2009/11/neal-adams-avengers-kree-skrull-war.html

Ha! Yeah, that is awesome. I recall Roy Thomas once being told about what Adams’ wanted to call the story originally and being like, “Really? He seriously thought we were going to call a story ‘Three Cows Shot Me Down’?” I love that Adams has enough pull that he was able to get them to put that on the cover of the trade.

It’s also noteworthy to say that John Byrne also addressed this plot BEFORE Morrison did it in Skrull Kill Krew.

Yup, Byrne revealed that humans were acquiring skrullesque transmorphic powers after drinking milk or eating dairy products from those “skrull cows”.

If I remember it right, the story was written during the peak media hysteria on the mad cow disease (caused by prions, which are noxious protein particles) – so Byrne, as usual, brilliantly catched the “zeitgeist” up by the time.

And yes, I’m checking here, and Byrne pointed out that the skrull DNA in the milk was to be blamed for the “epidemics” (and DNA,is protein, folks!).

Such story happened in the long and great run of Byrne in Fantastic Four – more precisely, in Fantastic Four Annual #17 (September/1983) – about 10 years before Morrison!

Aaaannnd, recently we had another retcon by Chip Zdarsky in Howard the Duck.

The new female partner of Howard, Tara, is a human with skrull powers… she ate meat from a FIFTH skrull!

It was revealed that Reed Richards forgot about a fifth skrull, and then hypnotized him to become a duck!

So, REALLY, Tara has her powers by eating a skrull duck, for Howard’s disgust.

Cool stuff! Oh well, dark humor stuff, but still cool! hehe

Wait, so the Skrull/cows were bred with bulls in FF Annual 17? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.

Wait, so the Skrull/cows were bred with bulls in FF Annual 17? Talk about cruel and unusual punishment.

Hey, they said that anything was better than being a Skrull! :)

David Spofforth

March 12, 2016 at 11:36 am

@Jim Kakalios
“I can see a skrull, dropping the guise of being a cow, then assuming the form of Mr. Fantastic. (Though how he knew Reed now wore a blue jump suit rather than street clothes, I don’t know). But no way could that skrull impersonate the human torch, without the jet pack and flame throwers hidden on his person – as shown in FF # 2.”

It was shown in the following issue, Avengers 94, that the Torch Skrull was indeed using his jet pack.

David: do I even want to know where he was keeping his jet pack all those years when he was a cow?

@Steve, at least one of the cows had to produce enough methane for the illusion to work.

And then at the very end of that FF Annual it’s implied that the milk’s been shipped to a nearby military base.

When I wrote to the Howard The Duck comic about it, here’s the response:
“that Skrull said he was just passing through! He was on a totally different mission and he just HAPPENED to stumble across the field where the FF were deciding the fate of those other Skrulls.”
(I’m not sure if the ‘that Skrull’ in their response is the duck or the Senator.)

“Fantastic Four Annual #17 was about milk from cows that had BRED with the Skrull cows. Not the actual Skrull cows. Skrull Kill Krew was about specifically the actual three Skrulls from Fantastic Four #2.”

Hmm… I’d totally missed that detail.

I still maintain, though, that you generally wouldn’t milk a beef cow or eat a dairy cow – so those shouldn’t be the same cows in any event…
Unless they were dairy cattle when they bred with Byrne’s cows, and when they got convinced to transform they became beef cattle? That could work!

would have gone with reed sticking the fourth one in a cryo tank then forgetting about it till maybe the baxter buidling got blown up. plus was going to mention the skrulls cows being turned to burgers later on.

@PM Agria. Mad cow disease didn’t peak in the UK until 1993 about 10 years after the FF Annual was published and wasn”t detected in the US until 2003 so it’s doubtful Byrne was referencing this situation.

Was the Skrull Kill Krew concept ever used outside the minisseries?

The Skrull Kill Krew was at least mentioned in the recent Howard The Duck series – it provided an origin for a character.

I think they popped up during Secret Invasion.

“Fantastic Four Annual #17 was about milk from cows that had BRED with the Skrull cows.”

This just keeps getting creepier. I think I’ll just quit thinking about it now.

Was the Skrull Kill Krew concept ever used outside the minisseries?

They played a major role during Secret Invasion and afterward.

“What, then, happened to the fourth Skrull? It would take us a decade for the answer to be revealed!”
When I read that, I went “Roy Thomas, right?” before clicking Next.

Anyway, I love that panel in which Reed decides to masquerade as Skrulls. That shading in his face makes him look so sinister.

I also love the panel in which the Skrulls claim that they hate being Skrulls and want to live peacefully on Earth as something else. You can tell that Lee felt the punishment Kirby had the FF give them may be too harsh, so he added that dialogue to soften it.

Some of the early Marvel punishments were hardcore. Thor once made an alien become a tree, with it being explicitly noted that the alien would lose all sentience upon doing so. That’s basically just killing the dude, right?

I dunno, Brian – when I read that story I imagined the alien thinking ‘Fools! Little do they know turning into a tree is something children do on my planet! I’ll just change back when he’s not looking.’

It just never made sense to me that that was something his species could do to themselves.

Austin Burton

May 3, 2016 at 10:42 am

So this one plotline generated five stories (FF #2, the Kree-Skrull War, FF annual #17, Skrull Kill Krew and the recent Howard the Duck story) in five different decades? That’s the kind of continuity that some people hate, but I love.

P.S. Shame on the 2000s for not having their own cow skrull story!

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