Bronze Age Beginnings

Monday, 29 August 2011

Fantastic Four #121

Cover date: April 1972

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: John Buscema

Inker: Joe Sinnott

After last issues arrival of Gabriel, the Air-Walker, heralding the end of the world, it is left to the Fantastic Four to confront him - as all across the Earth, civilization falls into despair. Riots, looting, industry shutting down because no one wants to work; all within a few hours it seems.

Gabriel convinces the denizens of New York City to destroy the Fantastic Four, so the team makes a quick exit. They appear particularly ineffectual against Gabriel, for as Johnny Storm rightly points out,

“How? How can he stand on air like that?”

That would be Johnny Storm, the teenager who turns into a Human Torch and flies.

After getting no joy at the nearest TV network, Reed orders the team back to the Baxter Building so he can grab a weapon – for they cannot face Gabriel again empty handed – and race after him in the Fantasti-Car. Reed fires his Beta Ray and Gabriel starts to fade away, but that’s not what Reed expected because,

“No! It’s’s mad! It’s not what should have happened!”

So what should have happened Reed? Ah well, we’ll never know now, as suddenly a ship rises out of the water straight at them. The Fantasti-Car crashes into the sea and the ship lands on top. The Fantastic Four escape unscathed however, just in time for Gabriel to show up again, asking,

“Surely you didn’t expect your puny ray to defeat Gabriel!”

To which Reed answers,

“No, I didn’t!”

Wha? So what was the point of going back to the Baxter Building to grab your Beta Ray, eh Reed?

Never mind, because Gabriel creates a massive tidal wave that sweeps the Fantastic Four into the city, where they become separated. The Thing ends up on the same roof-top as Gabriel for some “CLOBBERIN’ TIME” while Reed and Sue race to help him. The Human Torch gets there first, however, and goes after Gabriel with his NEAR-NOVA HEAT to no avail. How are the Fantastic Four going to win this one? Cut away to...

The Silver Surfer moping around on an asteroid in the distant sub-stratosphere. Despite his persecution complex, he decides once again to aid us mere mortals. Surfing to Earth he confronts Gabriel with his POWER COSMIC, and Gabriel admits that all that went on before was a meaningless sham as it is the Surfer that he sought to destroy.

Not sure why he didn’t just go and find him then.

After a brief battle, the Silver Surfer uses his POWER COSMIC to tear Gabriel’s cape, which is, as Gabriel announces...

“It is my power! It is the source life!”

...before crashing to the ground and revealed to be a robot. The Silver Surfer asks the question on everyone’s lips,

“What of him who made the robot?”

The final page cliff-hanger reveals all.....


As with the previous issue, the plotting is shambolic and the dialogue makes little sense. The best bit is the last splash-page reveal of Galactus.

Which is AWESOME!


  1. I remember that final page well! Unfortunately, this is probably the least interesting encounter the FF had with the Big G. I wonder now if this was a story Stan had plotted for the Surfer's own book? The Biblical villain (and his prosaic origins) would have seemed more at home there.

    I'm a big fan of those framed covers from the early 70s. I like that style.

  2. Me too Dougie. When I see a framed cover, I KNOW it's an early Bronze Age Marvel. DC dabbled with framed covers too - to best effect on Nick Cardy's 'spooky' later run of covers on Teen Titans.

    To be honest, I'm not sure Stan was even plotting these FF's beyond the smallest suggestion to Buscema - and then just filling in dialogue willy nilly.

    Like your blog by the way. I've added it to my blog roll.

  3. Oh, what a rubbish story that was, I remember it from Marvel UK (Captain Britain Weekly?). Count me in as another fan of the cover frames, though - they just looked so classy.

  4. If I may spam your blog, I'd like to offer an alternative re-telling of FF #121 here -


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