Fantastic Four #3: 9 Easter Eggs and Callbacks That Made The Book

Reading over the third issue of writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk’s run on The [...]

Fantastic Four #3

Reading over the third issue of writer James Robinson and artist Leonard Kirk's run on The World's Greatest Comic Magazine, part of what excited me about the book was the fact that it referenced a good deal of past continuity and Fantastic Four-related publishing history. Being a longtime fan and reader, I appreciate that sort of thing. Realizing that a lot of you out there might not have the greatest depth of knowledge with the series, I figured I'd put together a handy-dandy cheat sheet for you to help you make the most of your reading experience. So, in alphabetical order… SPOILERS!!!


Asbestos Man Johnny Storm again makes reference to a prior foe who in issue 1 of this run he mentions as having died, the Asbestos Man. For those interested, the Asbestos Man, real name Dr. Orson Karloff, was a villain of the Human Torch who first appeared in Strange Tales #111 (August 1963), which was at the time a starring vehicle for Johnny. When first created by Stan Lee, Ernest Hart, and Dick Ayers, asbestos was believed to be a benign substance but subsequently it has become common knowledge that it causes cancer. Coincidentally, his last appearance prior to his apparent death occurred fairly recently. In November 2011's Fear Itself: The Home Front #6, it was revealed that Karloff was a cancer survivor who now required an oxygen tank. However, this did not prevent him from reconsidering a return to crime.


Damage Control In this issue, Reed is shown speaking to an individual by the name of Lenny who happens to be a representative of Damage Control about the repairs to the Baxter Building. Well, in the Marvel Universe, Damage Control is a construction company that specializes in repairing the property damage caused by superpowered conflicts between heroes and villains. Lenny is Lenny Ballinger, foreman of Damage Control who apparently takes offense to having his appearance compared with actors James Coburn and Lee Marvin. (He thinks he looks like Paul Newman.) Damage Control was created in 1989 by Dwayne McDuffie and Ernie Colón, and has been the subject of four limited series to date. Incidentally, I can find no reference to Damage Control owning the pug which is seen wandering the site as Reed and Lenny converse.


Doctor Doom's Treatment at the Hands of Scott Lang and the Future Foundation


Valeria Richards in her note to her mother references Doctor Doom's "encounter with Mr. [Scott] Lang and the substitute FF" as an event which seems to have made him receptive to her ideas. For those unaware, in the excellent FF series written by Matt Fraction and Lee Allred with art by Mike and Laura Allred, Doom was completely and utterly humiliated. Doom killed Scott "the second Ant-Man" Lang's daughter Cassie Lang. For this as well as other reasons, Scott and the Future Foundation attacked Latveria and neutralized Doom. Lang then proceeded to beat him to within an inch of his life. To add insult to injury, the Living Tribunal punished Doom for harming the Watcher by proclaiming that his then-unblemished visage would thenceforth be impervious to harm except that every "base act of malice on [his] part [would] carve a new scar" on his face. Then to add further injury to both insult and injury, Doom was then tricked into thinking he'd killed Valeria, an act which actually appeared to shake him deeply. Oh, and by the way, Kirk nicely depicts the official flag of Latveria, the country of which Doom is the ruler, as established prior to this run.


Starting in issue 2 of Robinson and Kirk's run, Reed has made reference to the universe created by his son Franklin Richards, often affectionately referred to as the Franklin-verse, as the source of the bug-like horde that attacked New York City in that issue. This is a reference to the pocket universe created by Franklin during a massive fight between the heroes of the Marvel Universe and an entity called Onslaught []. Onslaught is a great big bag of narrative crazy but in a nutshell he's a sentient psionic entity created from the consciousnesses of Charles Xavier and Magneto. Anyway, during this fight (see the one-shot Onslaught: Marvel Universe 1996), the heroes apparently die when in reality Franklin created this alternate dimension and sent the heroes there which began the second volume of most of Marvel's flagship titles. Eventually, all of the heroes would return to the main Marvel Universe in the four-issue limited series Heroes Reborn: The Return (1997). Since then, the Franklin-verse is occasionally referenced but for the most part it just sort of sits there waiting for writers to pick up the concept and drop it once again. Giganto


In this issue, the reader is treated to Namor the Submariner giving Susan Richards and the kids of the Future Foundation a tour of the Gigantos' grazing land. Giganto is an Atlantean bipedal whale-like creature with arms and legs. It first appeared in The Fantastic Four #4 (May 1962) where Namor used the Horn of Proteus to call upon it to attack New York City. It was defeated when the Thing strapped a nuclear bomb to his back and walked it down Giganto's gullet where it exploded. This issue marks of the few times, if not the first, where we see Gigantos in a peaceful context. Oh, and don't confuse this Giganto with the Mole Man's Giganto which appears on the cover of The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961) and is classified as a "Deviant Mutate."


Johnny Storm's Death & Resurrections This is actually a pretty recent development but it bears mentioning. Back during writer Jonathan Hickman's run on Fantastic Four, he killed off Johnny Storm. In #587 (January 2011), Johnny steps into the Negative Zone and faces down Annihilus' horde of monstrous bug creatures that made up his "Annihilation Wave." He knows it's suicide but he puts his life on the line to keep this force from attacking earth and nobly pays the ultimate price. Unsurprisingly but without undermining the drama of the situation, he comes back in issue 600 (November 2011). During the interim, it turned out that he was actually killed and brought back to life by Annihilus who apparently has bug-like creatures that can just do that. This experience in the Negative Zone is apparently what made Johnny susceptible to Reed's "energy mine" from issue 2. This would seem entirely plausible given the apparent visual similarity between the Franklin-verse horde and the Annihilation Wave. Lyja


Toward the end of this issue, Johnny Storm mentions the time he was married to who he thought was Alicia Masters. That is a rather long and complicated story but the short version is that the Alicia he got to know and love while Ben Grimm was out of the picture/off-planet and eventually married was subsequently revealed to have never actually been the real Alicia. Clever plot or retconning of regrettable nuptials? You make the call! Regardless, it turned out that she was replaced by a Skrull named Lyja. Ultimately, Johnny came to care for her but following the battle with Onslaught (see Franklin-verse) she disappeared to seemingly attempt living a normal life in the guise of a human. It would take until the Secret Invasion tie-in Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four (2008) for her to reappear at which point she was sealed in the Negative Zone seemingly back on good terms with Johnny. Surprisingly, Robinson has him referring to her as "quite possibly the love of [his] life" and that he unsuccessfully looked for her while he was in the Negative Zone. This suggests that she may once again play a part in this series which would be a welcome development for fans of the series back when she was a member of the team. Marvel Two-In-One


When Ben Grimm, the Thing, is speaking with Alicia Masters he makes reference to "old times" when he and "some other random hero would team up," "two of us in one adventure." This is a reference to the series he starred in called Marvel Two-In-One which ran from January 1974 to June 1983 for a total of 100 issues and seven annuals. The premise of this series basically is just what Ben says, he teamed up with a different random hero each month from heavy-hitters like Captain America, Thor, and Spider-Man to obscure characters like Wundarr the Aquarium. The series only ended when the Thing's eponymously titled solo series kicked off. Coincidentally, Deathlok, a character who appeared in two separate issues of Marvel Two-In-One (27 and 54), is depicted fighting with Ben against "Empire Agents" which prompts his reminiscences. Wrecking Crew


The cliffhanger at the end of this issue reveals that Bentley "the Wingless Wizard" Wittman has reformed his evil counterpart to the Fantastic Four known as the Frightful Four. Realistically speaking though, all he's really done is take over the Wrecking Crew and kick off one of the members. As seen at the end of this issue, the members that he's kept around appear to be Dirk "Wrecker" Garthwaite, Dr. Eliot "Thunderball" Franklin, and a new and unidentified female Bulldozer. The Wrecking Crew are generally Thor villains and their powers originally derived from the Wrecker's enchanted crowbar which was granted magical properties when the Norn Queen mistook him for Loki… somehow. Actually, it is oddly appropriate for the Wizard to confront the now-powerless Human Torch considering that he was originally an enemy of the Human Torch specifically.