Friday, August 19, 2011

THE FOUR

Today Trey Causey shares with us more of the magazine article he recently discovered that unearths the truth about the Fantastic Four. You can read part one here.

“Together we have more power than any humans ever possessed!”
- Reed Richards, as depicted in Fantastic Four #1 (Marvel Comics, 1961)

Before the abortive spaceflight and its amazing aftermath, before they were the Fantastic Four, they were just four; four disparate individuals brought together by chance—or perhaps, destiny.

Reed Richards was born in 1920 to Nathaniel and Evelyn Richards.  Like his son, Nathaniel Richards had a brilliant scientific mind.  Unlike his son, he shunned the public eye, and few of his accomplishments are known.  Undoubtedly, they were substantial, as Nathaniel Richards became a billionaire from the fruits of his genius.

He was also extremely involved in his work and spent little time with his family.  When Reed was seven, Evelyn Richards died.  Nathaniel Richards grieved, but didn’t halt his experiments for long.  His young son was left with the domestic staff and a succession of tutors.

Though Reed Richards and his father have always had a somewhat distant relationship, he does not seem bear him any strong resentment.  Perhaps he understood the drive to achieve goals and push the boundaries of science, heedless of the effect on others.  Certainly, Reed Richards has appeared to possess this kind of singleminded personality himself.
Nathaniel Richards was not there to see his son’s spacecraft launch.  He had disappeared mysteriously in 1957, about three years before the fateful takeoff.

Reed Richards entered college at fourteen at Caltech.  By the time he was eighteen, had had obtained four degrees.  It was when he was working on his fifth at State University in Hegeman, New York, that he would meet two men with whom he would forever be linked—one as best friend, the other as greatest enemy.

The soon-to-be enemy was a foreign student in the United States on scholarship.  Like Richards, he was a scientific genius with a great deal of ambition.  He came from the tiny eastern European country of Latveria.  His real name has never been revealed; Lee would give him the suitably villainous nom de guerre of Victor von Doom.  



Doom would start out as Richards’ roommate, but would storm out within minutes of their first meeting.  No sooner had Doom left, than Richards met his replacement.



Benjamin Jacob Grimm was born in 1920, a second-generation American of German-Jewish descent.  He grew up in poverty on Yancy Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.  His father Daniel was an alcoholic who had difficulty keeping a job.  His mother was in poor health and freequently ill.  Young Ben spent most of his time tagging along with his brother Daniel Jr., who was member of a local street gang, and whose illegal activities were the main source of income for the family.  Daniel, Jr. died when Ben was eight.  In a few years, Ben Grimm was in his brother’s old gang.



He might have ended up like his brother, if fate hadn’t intervened.  Eventually his father drank himself to death, and his mother succumbed to an illness.  Still a minor, Ben went to live with his Uncle Jake and Aunt Alyce.

Jake Grimm had worked his way out of poverty and become a moderately successful physician.  Jake and his first wife Alyce provided the stable home environment the boy had never had previously, but only by getting him involved in high school football was Jake able to get his nephew out of street gangs.  Ben was star at his high school, and got a football scholarship to State University in 1938.

Ben Grimm’s freshman year roommate would turn out to be Reed Richards.  Despite the vast differences in background and temperament, the two would become lifelong friends.  Richards must have sensed this at their first meeting, because the normally reserved Richards confided in Grimm his intention to build a spaceship—maybe even a starship.  Grimm responded jokingly, prophetically, that if Reed built it, he would fly it.

These plans would have to wait.  In December following their graduation, Pearl Harbor was attacked and the United States entered World War II.  Richards and Grimm both wasted no time in volunteering.  A decade would pass before they saw each other again, but in the intervening years both would go on to become heroes.

Ben Grimm became a Marine aviator.  He saw intense fighting as a member of the “Cactus Air Force” based at Henderson Field on Guadalcanal.  After the war moved closer to Japan itself, Grimm flew in combat over Okinawa.

Reed Richards was recruited for the O.S.S.  The full extent of his actions during the war has yet to be revealed.  The official record mentions working with Italian partisans to obtain intelligence on the Germans.  Certainly, there are clear accounts of Reed Richards—ever eager for “hands on” action—doing fieldwork behind enemy lines.  It is likely, however, that he spent most of the war analyzing and finding ways to counter Axis technology, matching wits against Nazi geniuses Armin Zola, Heinrich Zemo, and the Baron Von Blitzschlag.

After the war, Richards traveled the world, pursuing his own scientific interests and perhaps intelligence interests of the United States.  Before embarking on his years abroad, he returned for some post-doctorate work at Columbia University.  While boarding at a house in Manhattan, he would meet the third member of The Four.

In our next installment, we will meet the other two members of this fantastic four!

- Have a great weekend!


4 comments:

JimShelley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JimShelley said...

Trey - I'm really enjoying these articles you've found. They are doing for the Fantastic Four what Alex Ross's art did for the Marvel Universe in Marvel's, and I mean that in a good way!

BrittReid said...

Interesting choices for the pix.
Gerald Mohr as Reed Richards is appropriate since he WAS Reed's voice in the 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Anton Differing, as Victor Von Doom isn't quite what I pictured. Not handsome enough. Maybe Robert Shaw (who was a superb example of European aristocratic arrogance in Battle of the Bulge or Julian Glover. (and both of them were James Bond villains!)
Aldo Ray as Ben Grimm is dead-on.

Needles said...

Very Cool Trey very cool! Please continue on!

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