Reed's Stretchy Body

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 101

 Fantast Four #38, page 10, panels 5-6

Fantast Four #38, page 10, panels 5-6

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 101

Rapturously Written by Stan Lee

Deliciously Drawn by Jack Kirby

Impeccably Inked by Chic Stone

Lavishly Lettered by Artie Simek

After 14 months, we're back. The Patreon had nudged itself above the blogging goal, and it's time to site down with that fine tropey toothcomb and continue our journey through the early days of the Fantastic Four.

We last left our heroes fighting each other thanks to the manipulations of Gregory Gideon. Reed and Ben are going at it in the Baxter Building, thanks to Ben's not-really-a-realisation that Reed is a Skrull. Reed remembers the basic rules of pub fights, and decides to take it outside, with a more successful ball vs window manoeuvre than Thor in Ragnarok, and then a nifty torso parachute.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #34 on our thirty-eighth episode: Two Not-That-Fat Men On Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 100

 Fantastic Four #34, page 7, panel 5

Fantastic Four #34, page 7, panel 5

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 100

Rapturously Written by Stan Lee

Deliciously Drawn by Jack Kirby

Impeccably Inked by Chic Stone

Lavishly Lettered by Artie Simek

Our 100th Reed's Stretchy Body is a perfect illustration (literally) of that well-known principle of "What stretches out must snap back". It's a lovely use of Reed's body as he sends several police officers and The Thing hurling around the corridor by running waves through his body. It's great fun, and drawn with panache by Kirby and Stone.

Every film director to tackle the Fantastic Four has used Reed's powers in the contexts of 'reaching' or 'going flat'. When Fox inevitable redo the Fantastic Four, I'd love to see some more invention in the depiction of Reed's powers, and something like this would be a great moment in a film.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #34 on our thirty-eighth episode: Two Not-That-Fat Men On Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 97

 Fantastic Four #34, page 3, panel 2

Fantastic Four #34, page 3, panel 2

Fantastic Four #34: Reed's Stretchy Body 97

Rapturously Written by Stan Lee

Deliciously Drawn by Jack Kirby

Impeccably Inked by Chic Stone

Lavishly Lettered by Artie Simek

Today's choice is an interesting post-stretch moment for Reed. He'd already done his stretching to restrain Ben during his tiff with Johnny, and here he has to sit on the floor, winding his limbs back in. Why, exactly? We've never seen this before, and it seems like a particularly troublesome quirk to his powers if he has to manhandle his body back to its starting form. Doctor Doom would have a field day with this if it ever had to be done in a battle...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #34 on our thirty-eighth episode: Two Not-That-Fat Men On Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 96

 Fantastic Four #33, page 20, panels 7-8

Fantastic Four #33, page 20, panels 7-8

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 96

Script: Smilin' Stan Lee

Art: Jolly Jack Kirby

Inks: Chucklin' Chic Stone

Lettering: Amiable Art Simek

We end the issue with the Fantastic Four using Reed's body as a life raft. It's hard to work out just how they're going to get back to the mainland, as nobody seems too fussed about means of propulsion, but I guess that's just something that'll happen off panel.

In the meantime, the ongoing will-they-won't-they with Namor, Reed and Sue rears its head in the final panel, having remained mostly dormant for the issue. We're still a little way away from Reed and Sue getting engaged, but at this point, it seems clear that Stan and Jack want to continue playing the emotional beats of the love triangle.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #33 on our thirty-seventh episode: Yes, Mr Lister, Sir!

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 95

 Fantastic Four #33, page 19, panel 4

Fantastic Four #33, page 19, panel 4

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 95

Script: Smilin' Stan Lee

Art: Jolly Jack Kirby

Inks: Chucklin' Chic Stone

Lettering: Amiable Art Simek

With Attuma and his electro-antennae defeated, the Fantastic Four need to make a swift exit from Atlantis. As Yazz and the Plastic Population said, the only way is up, so Reed uses his body to stretch the Fantastic Four to the surface. Paying attention, of course, to the bends (although the use of the oxo spray should have gone some way to countering this).

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #33 on our thirty-seventh episode: Yes, Mr Lister, Sir!

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 94

 Fantastic Four #33, page 17, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four #33, page 17, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 94

Script: Smilin' Stan Lee

Art: Jolly Jack Kirby

Inks: Chucklin' Chic Stone

Lettering: Amiable Art Simek

Oooh, can you spot the horrendous piece of over-writing? I'm very glad that Attuma's men have been trained in instant narration during combat situations, as I'd never have worked out that Reed had snuck in front of their high-tension titanium wire launching device and used his body to absorb the cable.

Still, how glorious is this? You really get the sense of the momentum of the cable battling against Reed's body, whipping it into these terrible perversions of the human form. It's a shame that the second panel over-eggs the pudding by having Reed smother the soldiers as well as using his body to entangle them.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #33 on our thirty-seventh episode: Yes, Mr Lister, Sir!

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 93

 Fantastic Four #33, page 11, panel 3

Fantastic Four #33, page 11, panel 3

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 93

Script: Smilin' Stan Lee

Art: Jolly Jack Kirby

Inks: Chucklin' Chic Stone

Lettering: Amiable Art Simek

Reed Richards: Aquatic Marsupial

I can't help but break into a huge grin at this panel. Yes, it breaks my personal rule for Reed's stretching - this certainly doesn't keep to the basic layout of a human body. And yet, it's awesome. 

It makes perfect sense that Reed would adopt the form of a ray to best navigate the currents and speed towards Atlantis. Creating a pocket in his chest to carry the rest of the team - and Lady Dorma - along with him? That's the detail that tips this into 'hilarious' territory.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #33 on our thirty-seventh episode: Yes, Mr Lister, Sir!

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 92

 Fantastic Four #33, page 10, panel 5

Fantastic Four #33, page 10, panel 5

Fantastic Four #33: Reed's Stretchy Body 92

Script: Smilin' Stan Lee

Art: Jolly Jack Kirby

Inks: Chucklin' Chic Stone

Lettering: Amiable Art Simek

"Get a load of that! How corny can ya be!"

Well, Ben, it can be very corny. But it doesn't stop it being fun! The normally stoic and sensible Reed leans into the ridiculousness of the Fantastic Four, hopefully with a wry grin on his face, and it's something that I love.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #33 on our thirty-seventh episode: Yes, Mr Lister, Sir!

Fantastic Four #32: Reed's Stretchy Body 91

 Fantastic Four #31, page 14, panels 1-2

Fantastic Four #31, page 14, panels 1-2

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 91

Story by: Stan Lee (Who has never been more dramatic!)

Illustrations by: Jack Kirby (Who has never been more thrilling!)

Inking by: Chic Stone (Who has never been more realistic!)

Lettering by: S. Rosen (Who has never been more than an hour late!!)

And so continues the fight, but here's where things get really interesting. I've spoken and written at length how I like my Reed Richards to use his stretching powers within certain limits, such as respecting the basic layout of human anatomy. He's more of a Elongated Man than a Plastic Man, and should have certain limits when it comes to how he manipulates his body. As such, this should fall into the category of things I don't like.

But I love it. You've got break the rules every now and again, and this is one of those times. You can easily rationalise why Reed would choose this course of action. He's a scientist, he's going to have a good knowledge of potential energy, and how to use it for propulsions. He'll also understand the principles of aerodynamics. Whilst it might be more logical for him to just stretch out, this really works, both for Reed and for the reader enjoying a visually-unique depiction of his powers.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #32 on our thirty-sixth episode: John Byrne Quits Comics

Fantastic Four #32: Reed's Stretchy Body 90

 Fantastic Four #32, page 12, panel 6

Fantastic Four #32, page 12, panel 6

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 90

Story by: Stan Lee (Who has never been more dramatic!)

Illustrations by: Jack Kirby (Who has never been more thrilling!)

Inking by: Chic Stone (Who has never been more realistic!)

Lettering by: S. Rosen (Who has never been more than an hour late!!)

The fight against the mysterious figure who has usurped the place of Franklin Storm continues, with a few clues as to his identity starting to appear. Reed notes, as he is punched away, that the figure has the strength of The Thing, and in the next panel, the figure can set his hands on fire ("like The Torch", he handily exposits). If you're not thinking Super-Skrull at this point, then you're really not paying any attention at all. As a side-note, John Byrne claims that the ease with which he identified the mysterious figure is the reason why he stopped read Fantastic Four comics for the next decade or so.

I'm not sure why Reed decided that the best way to break his flight was to wrap himself this intensely around a lamp-post. If he had hit it, he would have stretched around either side of it, and it would have been a lot easier to just grab hold of the lamp-post. I guess committing so much of his incredible brain power to working out the mystery of the Invincible Man meant he had little left to avoid making visually-interesting and logically-unsound stretching choices.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #32 on our thirty-sixth episode: John Byrne Quits Comics

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 89

 Fantastic Four #31, page 14, panels 1-2

Fantastic Four #31, page 14, panels 1-2

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 89

Written by: Stan Lee, The Man With The Talented Typewriter!

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby, The Man With The Power-Packed Pencil!

Inked by: Chic Stone, The Man With The Panoramic Paint-Brush!

Lettered by: S. Rosen - The Man With The Leaky Lettering Pen!

Holy colour-bleed, Batman! I guess there were production problems with this issue, as almost every page has colour-bleed of a degree, but this is particularly bad. At least Kirby's mostly working with 5 or 6 panel pages, which means that we're not squeezing the images in and reducing the legibility of them. But still, this is an issue that does affect the readability of the comic.

In terms of the story, all that time spent descending to the Mole Man's kingdom has been rendered rather useless, as the Mole Man has sent the team back to the surface. Because this is early Marvel, and Stan's very invested in the idea of a shared universe, The Avengers have noticed that two separate city blocks have vanished, leaving huge holes in the ground, and have turned up to investigate. Because this is any-period Marvel, the two teams fight for a bit. I never thought I'd see Thor defeated in such a manner, but it turns out that he's very vulnerable to having his arms pinned to his sides.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #31 on our thirty-fifth episode: House of the Fallen Storm

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 88

 Fantastic Four #31, page 12, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four #31, page 12, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 88

Written by: Stan Lee, The Man With The Talented Typewriter!

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby, The Man With The Power-Packed Pencil!

Inked by: Chic Stone, The Man With The Panoramic Paint-Brush!

Lettered by: S. Rosen - The Man With The Leaky Lettering Pen!

Ah, the simple task of climbing from atop a building to the street level. You'd have thought that, being gifted with the power to stretch as well as an incredible intellect, Reed would choose a simple method of traversing the distance to conserve energy, and simply stretch his body until it reached the ground.

No.

Instead, Reed decides to wrap his legs around the base of a nearby lamppost, then whilst propping his torso against the parapet of the building, grab the top of the lamppost with his hands, then retract his body whilst twisting around the lamppost.

Well done, I guess...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #31 on our thirty-fifth episode: House of the Fallen Storm

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 87

 Fantastic Four #31, page 10, panel 3

Fantastic Four #31, page 10, panel 3

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 87

Written by: Stan Lee, The Man With The Talented Typewriter!

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby, The Man With The Power-Packed Pencil!

Inked by: Chic Stone, The Man With The Panoramic Paint-Brush!

Lettered by: S. Rosen - The Man With The Leaky Lettering Pen!

Another of the Mole Man's defences is a series of spores that turn, on contact, into cactus-esque floating balls that suck oxygen from the air. Before this, however, they were missiles fired at the Human Torch. So, that's missile > spore > floaty oxygen-sucking cactus ball. Which is quite a life cycle!

The lack of oxygen causes Johnny's flame to extinguish (a rare accurate cause of de-flaming in these early comics), and Reed has to stretch out to grab hold of his team-mate. Quite how he manages to get his arms outside of the Fantasticar without either him or Ben passing out from oxygen starvation isn't really dealt with.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #31 on our thirty-fifth episode:

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 86

 Fantastic Four #31, page 4, panel 2

Fantastic Four #31, page 4, panel 2

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 86

Written by: Stan Lee, The Man With The Talented Typewriter!

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby, The Man With The Power-Packed Pencil!

Inked by: Chic Stone, The Man With The Panoramic Paint-Brush!

Lettered by: S. Rosen - The Man With The Leaky Lettering Pen!

Well, I ask you - if you were blessed with the ability to stretch your body to inhuman lengths, how would you choose to investigate the disappearance of an entire city block which left nothing but a deep, foreboding hole in the ground?

The next panel shows that the hole is deeper than the limits of Reed's stretching (previously established to be around a dozen or so city blocks), but I have to wonder if Reed might be able to cover more ground if he tried stretching anything other than his torso. That neck must be able to grant him a little more distance...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #31 on our thirty-fifth episode:

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 85

 Fantastic Four #31, page 1

Fantastic Four #31, page 1

Fantastic Four #31: Reed's Stretchy Body 85

Written by: Stan Lee, The Man With The Talented Typewriter!

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby, The Man With The Power-Packed Pencil!

Inked by: Chic Stone, The Man With The Panoramic Paint-Brush!

Lettered by: S. Rosen - The Man With The Leaky Lettering Pen!

Fantastic Four #31 opens as we see, with strange tremors causing chaos at the top of the Baxter Building. And what tremors - hurling Ben's chair into the air several feet, and propelling a table lamp at speed across the room. One hopes that at some point following this issue, Reed commission a full structural survey of the Baxter Building!

What I love about this stretchy moment is the complete redundancy of it. Reed has stretched his neck forward and around to the right just to avoid the lamp... that was nowhere near his head in the first place! Never has the phrase 'wind your neck in' been more appropriate...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #31 on our thirty-fifth episode: House of the Fallen Storm

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 84

 Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 21, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 21, panels 3-4

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 84

A Stan Lee Story Spectacular

A Jack Kirby Illustrative Idyll

A Chic Stone Delineation Delight

A Sam Rosen Lettering Landmark

Of course, Johnny has no idea about the feedback, and gets whacked with a huge dose of energy, causing him to fall from the sky. Reed stretches out to grab him, saving his soon-to-be-brother-in-law from a pavement-related death, but putting himself through intense pain at the same time.

I love how Kirby shows Reed's agony. He's drawn at an uncomfortable angle, his face is contorted, wracked with pain. The idea that there would be a price for the team's powers, one paid in pain, occasionally pops up in the early issues, but isn't really considered part of the Fantastic Four status quo. Having been watching Fantastic Four (2015) and the extras recently, this was something that the filmmakers wanted to apply to the film, especially when it comes to Sue's powers. I'll let you judge how successful they were...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four Annual #2 on our thirty-fourth episode: The Doomcast, with special guest host Alan Middleton

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 83

 Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 18, panel 2

Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 18, panel 2

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 83

A Stan Lee Story Spectacular

A Jack Kirby Illustrative Idyll

A Chic Stone Delineation Delight

A Sam Rosen Lettering Landmark

Now that Doom has been revealed as the perpetrator behind the conflict, the team can get themselves back together to confront him. This means that Ben and Johnny's tussle needs breaking up, and the best way to that would be for Reed to completely restrain him with his arms. The following panel shows him spinning Ben like a top, which is the inevitable conclusion to such a manoeuvre.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four Annual #2 on our thirty-fourth episode: The Doomcast, with special guest host Alan Middleton

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 82

 Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 17, panel 1

Fantastic Four Annual #2, page 17, panel 1

Fantastic Four Annual #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 82

A Stan Lee Story Spectacular

A Jack Kirby Illustrative Idyll

A Chic Stone Delineation Delight

A Sam Rosen Lettering Landmark

It's a little harsh to brand the final story in this annual as 'throwaway', but coming after the detailed origin of Doctor Doom, and the enjoyable wackiness of the reprint of Fantastic Four #5, having the team fight each other for a bit in an embassy is underwhelming. The whole story feels like filler, from the uninspired conflicts through the conclusion of the Reed/Doom mind battle (spoilers: this is the one where Reed convinces Doom that he's killed him, so the villain happily walks away).

Even this moment that snaps Sue and Reed out of their conflict lacks weight. Doctor Doom randomly decides to check if his face is still messed up, and when he sees his reflection, he starts shooting up the room that he's in, which distracts the feuding lovers.

What works a bit better is how Reed gets himself out of the way of one of Doom's errant laser blasts, corkscrewing his body to maintain his momentum without getting hit, an example of how Kirby's energetic visuals can raise any old tired plot.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four Annual #2 on our thirty-fourth episode: The Doomcast, with special guest host Alan Middleton

Fantastic Four #30: Reed's Stretchy Body 81

Fantastic Four #30, page 15, panels 5-6
Fantastic Four #30, page 15, panels 5-6

Fantasticast Four #30: Reed's Stretchy Body 81

Written by: Stan Lee (A rather nice writer)

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby (A quite noteworthy artist)

Inked by: Chic Stone (A somewhat nifty inker)

Lettered by: Art Simek (An occasionally neat letterer)

Sometimes, it's the less-flashy things that catch my eye. I really get the feeling that Sue, Johnny, and the reader, just happened to stumble upon Reed as he was making his way through Diablo's castle. There's no showing off, no intimidating his enemies, just a guy using his powers to do a job. It's very casual and understated, and I really like it.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #30 on our thirty-third episode: Bad Horse, Bad Horse, with special guest host David Walker

Fantastic Four #30: Reed's Stretchy Body 80

Fantastic Four #30, page 7, panel 1
Fantastic Four #30, page 7, panel 1

Fantasticast Four #30: Reed's Stretchy Body 80

Written by: Stan Lee (A rather nice writer)

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby (A quite noteworthy artist)

Inked by: Chic Stone (A somewhat nifty inker)

Lettered by: Art Simek (An occasionally neat letterer)

It's hard to work out just how Ben was able to knot Reed around the pillar so effectively. I can't quite imagine that Reed would have been this pliant, or that he couldn't undo the knotting all by himself. Still, it makes for a nice, fun, energetic image.

Or, it would, if it wasn't for the strange depiction of Reed. We're still in the era when Jack Kirby would happily use 6-9 panel pages, resulting in his art feeling more cramped than we are used to seeing it today. But there's an almost complete lack of definition on Reed's face, presumably as a result of trying to fit the entire Fantastic Four in a 1/6th page panel. It's unfortunate, but it really throws off the entire image.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #30 on our thirty-third episode: Bad Horse, Bad Horse, with special guest host David Walker