Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Meet Me at the Sphinx Part 1: Fantastic Four #19

Over the years, Marvel has produced many team-ups, crossovers, and multi-issue sagas, and they’ve also published many, many, stories that add new details to older stories. Their rich history and catalogue of unique characters make for a tempting sandbox for creators to play in, and it’s not unheard of to craft new tales based on past adventures or to embellish old stories with new details.

One of the most unusual Marvel crossovers provided a three way team-up between the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, and the Avengers. Not so unusual in itself, but downright bizarre when you consider the story took twenty-four years to complete, and ended up involving characters and a team that didn’t even exist when the first part was published.

It started out innocently enough in Fantastic Four #19 (October 1963), by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. In “Prisoners of the Pharaoh” Mister Fantastic discovers evidence of a possible cure for blindness in ancient Egypt while studying Egyptian hieroglyphs, and the team takes off on Doctor Doom’s time platform to travel back to that era in hopes of restoring eyesight to Alicia Masters, the Thing's blind girlfriend.

The team arrives in the past, but are promptly attacked, captured, and taken before Pharaoh Rama-Tut. Quickly, it becomes clear that the quartet are not the only time travelers in the room:

(Click images to enlarge)

Rama-Tut has used futuristic technology to enslave the FF, and having told his tale, puts the heroes to work for him, choosing the Invisible Girl as his queen:

Reed is put to work as a sentry, the Torch as a clown, and the Thing is forced to toil as a galley slave. But that won’t last for long, as “inscrutable forces” revert him to his Ben Grimm persona, at which point the Pharaoh’s control slips, and Ben breaks free, racing back to the sphinx to free his captive teammates:

As Ben collapses, reverting to his Thing form, he uses his last bit of strength to train Rama-Tut’s Ultra-Diode Ray on Sue, freeing her from control. Then as the Pharaoh escapes, so do the three FF members, who head out to find Reed:

Reunited, the FF re-enter the sphinx, finding it full of booby traps, and narrowly miss the escaping Rama-Tut. They do, however find the Optic Nerve Restorative they were after in the first place, and clear out just as the Pharaoh’s equipment explodes, leaving the Shell of the sphinx to mystify mankind:

The team arrives at their time platform retrieval point just in time to return to their present, where…they find out that the restorative didn’t travel with them:

So…pretty simple, right? Did I mention that the FF might still be slaves of the Pharaoh, if not for a helping hand from Doctor Strange? That Hawkeye, Iron Man, and the West Coast Avengers were there too, narrowly missing an all-important ride back to their present with the FF? Well, they were, as will be further explained tomorrow.

Meet me at the Sphinx for Part 2, featuring Doctor Strange #53!


Tornado Ninja Fan #1 said...

I've only read the West Coast Avengers comics and thought the Invisibe Girl simply dropped it.

Brian Hughes said...

Oh, she probably did, then Richards made up that "radio-active properties" clause on the spot to cover for her.

Anonymous said...

This story was adapted for the TV show in 1967. Alicia was not included in the TV show, so, instead of a cure for blindness, the FF were seeking a way to transform Ben back to human form.