Saturday, July 1, 2017

What If Reed Richards Starred In 1950s Horror Comics?!?

I've said many times before that the true genius of Stan and company was how they built the early days of the Marvel Universe by subverting tropes from horror magazines and turning them 90 degrees or so.

You want a prime example? How about Steve Ditko's first story, back in 1954? It's the story of how Reed Richards would have turned out had he appeared in a horror comic and not a super-hero joint.

Since childhood, poor Lawrence Dawson had been plagued by "brittle bones," which led to constant injuries, leaving him an embittered man. Until his doctor calls him with a miracle cure...

Well, you shouldn't have scoffed, Larry!

Now, if this were 1961, and Stan were writing this tale, you'd expect something like this to follow:

But no, it's a horror story, not a hero story, and Dawson goes full evil. He's not just going to use his powers to get rich (really?), but...

That's pretty damned ungrateful, Larry!

Oh dear.

He goes on the run...

...but it's easy enough for Mr. Not-So-Fantastic to escape!

But do you remember what your mother taught you? Stop making that face or...'ll be stuck like that forever!!

And things get worse...

Rough day. But hey, at least you don't have any broken bones!

Dawson remembers a famous scientist who might be able to cure him...


So, of course, why not resort to murder again?!?

The police figure out who the pliable perp is, but when they get to his crib:

Hey, Josh Trank and Fox--if you wanted to make the Fantastic Four as "body horror," well, this 1954 comic had more balls than you did.

So that was the true genius of Stan and company. They took characters who just a few years earlier would have turned to evil and died gruesome deaths--the FF, Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Tony Stark, etc--and turned the stories around so they didn't become evil and overcame their tragedies to become heroes, instead of a puddle of flesh quivering on the floor.

From Fantastic Fears #5 (1954), as reprinted in Strange Suspense: The Steve Ditko Archives Volume 1 (2009)


George Chambers said...

Steve Ditko really hit the ground running, didn't he? Such talent and such a distinctive style, right from the beginning of his career.

Mista Whiskas said...

I wonder if there's been re-imaginings of all those heroes as straight up 50's style horror subjects (btw-I think you've got a great insight there that part of Lee's genius was to subvert that trope making them heroes instead).

Warren JB said...

So wait, he looked like Lon Chaney before the drug?

Warren JB said...

Mista Whiskas: it kinda reminds me of the 90s Marvel 'Ruins' miniseries, which takes place in a parallel universe where everything superhero-related goes wrong. It's pretty impossible to find now, so I don't mind spoiling parts of it, but just in case:


Bruce Banner was mutated into a pile of giant green tumours. He lived.
Peter Parker was patient zero for a radioactive virus. He didn't.
Logan is a begging barfly with 'a gross bone disease'.
A corpse is found floating in orbit. Apparently it went mad and tried to claw off it's silver coating.
The deeply unpopular president is a reclusive bald man in a wheelchair.
A man's jerry-rigged electronic harness failed, and he was crushed as every piece of iron in an airport flew towards him.
Benjamin Grimm lives alone in the rockies, haunted by the fact that his three friends went up in a spaceship without him and came down as weirdly changed corpses.

And so on.