BEING A SLIGHT
EXPLANATION OF THE REAL STORIES
OF SOME COMIC BOOK "SUPERHEROES" IN THE WNU
Although the fantastic origins of the Four can said to have begun in 1909 when Jada Grimm gave birth to Daniel Grimm, her son by Edward Hyde, (1) in truth the story begins in the Antarctic in 1925, when members of a scientific expedition discovered an alien craft buried in the ice. Uncovering it they released a "Thing" from another world. This protoplasmic creature was either an infant Founder or a related species. The members of the species fought it off and "killed" it but there were several aftereffects. One of the members of the expedition was a man called MacReady; he has been identified by some sources as James Clarke Wildman, a.k.a. Clark Savage Jr. a.k.a. Doc Savage(2).
Another member of the expedition was known to Doc and associated with him in an odd sort of way. Just as Doc Savage is given the pseudonym of MacReady by John W. Campbell in Who Goes There?, the physicist Vance Norris is also a pseudonym. Vance Norris is described as "comparatively short in this gathering of big men, some five foot eight, and his stocky, powerful build tended to make him seem shorter. His black hair was crisp and hard, like short steel wires, and his eyes were the gray of fractured steel. If MacReady were a man of Bronze, Norris was all steel. His movements, his thoughts, his whole bearing had the quick, hard impulse of a steel spring. His nerves were steel, hard, quick acting swift corroding." (3)
Despite some physical differences, another member of Doc Savage's band of adventurers often appeared shorter than he actually was and he was stronger than he appeared, besides sharing Norris' general temperament he also shared Vance Norris aptitude for science being a world renown electrical engineer. I am not suggesting that Long Tom Roberts was Vance Norris, but rather that Vance Norris was actually Nathaniel Roberts, Thomas Roberts estranged brother.
While Nathaniel Roberts as Vance Norris was described as being dark haired with gray eyes, Tom Roberts has been described as pale, blond and blue eyed. However such differences can and do exist in families. I myself knew some fraternal twins, one who was pale, blond and blue eyed while her sister was dark haired with swarthy skin. Nathaniel Roberts resembled a combination of phenotypes that often cropped up in his family.
The brothers were estranged and the sources of the estrangement became two of the defining characteristics in Long Tom Roberts' make-up. Long Tom has been described as a bit of a miser and as a misogynist. These attributes came in part from his relationship with his brother. Long Tom was ten years older than his brother and so had very little in common with him when they were growing up. Their father encouraged this, making them compete against each other whenever possible.
Their father Bartholomew Roberts had devised several labor saving machines that were used in factories and so the family was financially solvent. Because of his hardscrabble background, Bart Roberts' forebears had been western settlers and lawmen whose families often lived hand to mouth, he was a bit of penny pincher, a trait he passed onto his eldest son. The Roberts family lived in an impoverished area and it is unlikely that Thomas ever knew they were well off. Bartholomew Roberts stressed the importance of his boys making their way in the world without relying on anyone. To this end he provided Thomas with little support making him find a way to educate himself.
Thomas Roberts through hard work managed to get into a couple of universities, working as part of the crews of the electrical researchers Thomas A. Edison and George Steinmetz. He may have even worked for the temperamental Nikolai Tesla for a while.
Thomas and Nathaniel Robert's mother had died of scarlet fever when Nathaniel was five years old and Thomas was fifteen. Thomas had been close to his mother and he took the death hard. By age seventeen Thomas was at the
while working at Thomas Edison's New York Laboratory. Columbia University
Bartholomew Robert's married again and his new wife urged him to use his money to enjoy life. They moved into an affluent neighborhood and Nathaniel began attending a private school. Thomas Roberts' antipathy towards women started with his new stepmother, he never trusted her and thought that her free spending ways (in his opinion) would bring about the ruin of his father and their family.
By the time Thomas had finished with his scholastic work he had already been making a name for himself in the scientific world. Indeed he had a few patents that were bringing him a steady income. His brother Nathaniel was ready to go to college. Nathaniel however did not have to scramble and hustle to get an education and eke out a living at the same time. At the new stepmother's urging, Bartholomew Roberts opened up the purse strings a bit more and paid for Nathaniel's education.
This engendered a bit of resentment although Thomas resented his brother and his stepmother more than he did his father. Thomas met a young lady circa 1912 and became quickly infatuated with her. She was Evelyn Reid, daughter of the famed inventor Frank Reid jr. (4) He had met Miss Reid when she accompanied her father on visits to the plants of Edison and Steinmetz. While Miss Reid merely thought the older gentleman escorting her about town as a means of keeping her occupied, she soon realized that Thomas Roberts was deeply in love with her when he introduced her to his parents and younger brother. There were almost immediate sparks between Nathaniel Roberts and Evelyn Reid. Evelyn Reid broke the news to Thomas Roberts that she considered him only a good friend and that the prospects of a closer relationship between them were dim. She then took up with Nathaniel Roberts who was gaining a quite a name for himself as a scholar in the area of physics.
While Nathaniel was receiving his free and extensive education which carried him all the way to his doctorate, Thomas Roberts was serving his country as an officer in artillery during The Great War. He received the nickname Long Tom when he stopped a German attack on a village by loading up a seventeenth century cannon with scrap metal and firing it into the German ranks. It was also during the Great War that he developed his absolute hatred for mosquitoes and spent much of his life attempting to create an electronic device to kill them. When "Long Tom" Roberts returned home from the Great War he was shocked to discover that Evelyn Reid had married his brother. This was one more reason for his continued estrangement from his brother and his distrust and dislike of most women.
In 1920, Bartholomew Roberts died and left his fortune divided between his second wife and his second son, with Long Tom receiving a modicum of property. Although Long Tom's stepmother tried to explain that Bartholomew Roberts had felt that since Long Tom had done so well on his own, it would have been tantamount to an insult to leave him money. It was Bartholomew's manner of telling Long Tom he was proud of him.
Long Tom however did not buy that explanation and had very little to do with his family again. His loss of the family fortune reinforced his resolve never to be poor. Despite being a multimillionaire he was considered a cheapskate. Long Tom had terrible eating habits due in part to his erratic working schedule. He existed mostly on candy bars and soft drinks. Although his active lifestyle and low food take kept his weight down, all the sugar affected his teeth and stomach. He had several bad teeth, which were replaced with gold, and he had a re-occurring stomach ulcer. Despite his lack of regular exercise and his bad eating habits Long Tom was still a fairly healthy man.
In December of 1949, Long Tom went to see a specialist about his stomach problems, not wanting to bother Doc or get another lecture on his eating habits. The stomach specialist was a decoy. Miles Morgenthal kidnapped Long Tom and subjected him to mind-control gas, causing him to betray Doc (The Mind Molder and The Heritage of Doc Savage). (5)
After Doc disappeared Long Tom felt incredible guilt and went into seclusion becoming a monk.
Nathaniel Roberts deeply admired his older brother and was continually bothered by his apparent dislike of him and his family. He did not know why Thomas disliked him so because Thomas would never discuss the matter. He could understand that perhaps Thomas was jealous in the matter of Evelyn but the relationship between Evelyn and Thomas had only been platonic and Evelyn had informed Thomas that it would never be a romantic relationship. Thomas was aware of this long before Nathaniel began courting Evelyn. He also understood that Thomas might have felt like he had been disowned when their father had given him so little but this was not Nathaniel's doing. Nathaniel was especially disturbed by Thomas' remarks about Nathaniel's heritage, alluding that Nathaniel was perhaps adopted or his father's bastard. Thomas' innuendoes were spurred on by the physical differences in the brothers, Thomas being pale and blond whereas Nathaniel was dark and brunette.
However a trip through the family tree soon turned up evidence that suggested that both phenotypes existed in the legitimate family.
Bartholomew Roberts had married Susan Murdock, a diminutive blonde with blue eyes who hailed from Wyoming. She was the cousin of Arnetta Murdock, the lady love and later wife of Young Wild West. Bart Thomas' parents had been Bob Roberts, a lawman in the old west whose most famous case involved a feral boy raised by wild horses (6) and Margaret Crabb. Margaret Crabb had a most interesting history according to the notes left by Bart Thomas. She had been the daughter of Thomas Crabb and Priscilla Tremaine. The Crabbs had come west in a wagon train that was attacked by Indians. Thomas Crabb had been killed in the raid. Mrs. Crabb in order to save the life of the rest of the passengers had done a very hard thing and traded her youngest son and daughter to the Indians for safe passage. There were rumors that the youngest son had thrived among the Indians and become an Indian fighter of some repute. He was alive still. (in 1921). (7)
Thomas Crabb was the daughter of Joshua Crabb and Anne Carter. The Carter connection was most interesting because Anne's brother Jack Carter was the grandfather of the famed detective Nicholas Carter who was short and very strong, like Nathaniel and Thomas. Jack Carter also had black hair and gray eyes (8) which helped demonstrate that Nathaniel's looks were ancestral rather than illegitimate.
Nathaniel made a name for himself in the realm of physics both theoretical and practical in 1924 he and Evelyn had a child, Brian Thomas Roberts. It was also in that year that Nathaniel was asked to be a part of an Antarctic expedition, one of the main goals was discover the magnetic pole and also to investigate magnetic and other scientific anomalies. It was too great an opportunity to pass up and so with Evelyn's blessing Nathaniel Roberts joined the Antarctic expedition. One of their first tasks was to document, take reading of and analyze the magnetic sculpture termed the Ice Sphinx. Although their main findings are still unknown the papers of this particular investigation having been misplaced the object was deemed to be a magnet composed of meteoritic iron and carved into a likeness of a sphinx. It was man-made and of indeterminate age. (9)
Later on the expedition discovered a ship buried in the ice and successfully extracted it, unleashing a horror. Nathaniel Roberts was one of the few survivors of the expedition alive when the Thing From Another World had been killed. Yet he did not survive unscathed.
Nathaniel was forever plagued by dreams in which the creature was swallowing him whole or worse yet where he was becoming one of the creatures. There was good reason for his nightmares for despite all precautions Nathaniel Roberts had been splattered with some of the creature's ichor. Although Doc Savage quickly sterilized the area where the blood had touched Nathaniel Roberts, a.k.a. Vance Norris. A microscopic amount bonded with his flesh, over the course of time affecting his DNA.
As described elsewhere (10) Doc Savage took a few samples of the alien tissue to study. He kept samples in his Fortress of Solitude and a few in a freezer at his Empire State laboratory.
In one of the many break-ins to Doc Savage's headquarters the samples were stolen. They fell into the hands of a crooked scientist who tried to revive the dead tissue. His experiment was accidentally ruined by yet another crook. Eel O'Brien was shot by the police after a failed bank robbery but escaped. Although wounded, O'Brien refused to give up, he broke into a deserted warehouse only to find it to be a hidden laboratory. Weakened by blood loss he fell into what he thought was a vat of acid with partially eaten corpse inside it. It was the alien flesh of the Thing submerged in a solution that the scientist had stolen it thought might revive it.
Had O'Brien not interrupted the experiment it might have actually worked for certain molecular sections of the protoplasmic being had revived. These entered O'Brien's wound bonding with his DNA changing it but there was not enough of the creature left to overwhelm transform O'Brien into a Thing. O'Brien clambered out the vat and in doing so knocked over several chemical containers which fell into the van contaminating it and creating a combustible mixture that burst into flames, incinerating the tissue sample and the warehouse.
O'Brien stumbled out of the warehouse and into the back of a truck. The truck carried him out of town to a monastery where he sought asylum. The good monks converted him and Eel O'Brien became the mystery man known as Plastic Man. His services were eventually co-opted by the government, he was I believe the first mysteryman who came to work almost exclusively for the government.
Nathaniel Roberts DNA was affected in somewhat the same manner but to a far less degree than O'Brien's.
The Roberts had one more child after Nathaniel Roberts returned from the Antarctic, Reid Roberts born in 1928. Most people of course recognize the name but indulge me as I trod over what may be familiar ground.
Nathaniel Roberts continued to be plagued by nightmares and so threw himself into his work as a means of not sleeping. Evelyn died of a mysterious illness that was related to a miscarriage she had in 1935. Although Nathaniel Roberts became addicted to stimulants, he was still an integral part of the Manhattan project, he would later work with Edward Teller on the development of the Hydrogen bomb. After the seeing the horrific power of the hydrogen bomb Nathaniel Roberts turned his intellect towards another direction, although records are spotty he appears to have worked with first with CMDF a.k.a. Project Proteus. Dr. Donald Reid, a cousin of his deceased wife, brought him on board to the project.
Nathaniel Roberts helped design the hyperspace protocols that made the miniaturization process possible. (11)When this project was closed due to a lack of funding in the mid-sixties, Nathaniel Roberts began working with Jacob Moishe in time travel research. Although Roberts was in his early seventies he apparently hale and hearty. He abruptly retired however and dropped from sight. (12)
It is probably a good thing that both Brian and Reid Roberts were intelligent and self-sufficient children. Brian was 11 when his mother died and Reid was 7. Nathaniel's parenting skills were pitiful and he knew it. So he bundled the boys off to private schools with high scholastic records. Brian and Reid attended separate schools and did not keep in touch, following in much the same manner as their father and his brother.
Brian's path followed a pretty familiar pattern of attending college and getting his doctorate in his mid-twenties. He married the Janice Nordstrom, the daughter of one of his professors. Brian was a brilliant physicist interested in atomic research and in the nascent field of robotics. He believed and this belief was shared by his father in law that space travel was too dangerous to be attempted by mankind because there were so many unknowns to be considered. He believed that unmanned probes were the best method in gathering information about the universe around us. In this he differed from his brother.
Brian and Janice had one child also named Brian born in 1945. The younger Brian was a bit of child prodigy. In 1949, Brian Roberts succumbed to leukemia contracted from unshielded exposure to nuclear material. His father-in-law continued to work on their unmanned probes and on the artificial intelligence necessary to pilot it. He designed a built a rather clunky robot named Tobor. Brian jr. or Gage as he was called, felt a bond with the robot and made improvements to it, showing an incredible intuitive grasp of cybernetic systems. The robot is made to respond to telepathic impulses. Unfortunately pesky spies from the Soviet Union found out about this mind controlled robot and kidnapped Gage and his grandfather. Gage called the Robot to the rescue.(13) You may ask why we haven't heard more of about this child prodigy and the mind controlled robot. This is because the mind control device was flawed, it had the unfortunate side effect of damaging the brain's cellular structure, reducing Brian "Gage" Roberts intellect to that of a normal child.
Brian "Gage" Roberts uncle, Reid was also a child prodigy, basically on his own at private schools from the age of eight, he excelled at every school that he was put in. He began attending the California Institute of Technology at the age of fourteen attending between the years of 1942-1946 He soon wracked up degrees at Empire State University (1946-1948) Harvard University (1948-1951) Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1951-53 and Columbia University (1953-55). He studied physics, engineering-electrical, structural and aeronautical, architecture, bio-chemistry and medicine.
While attending Empire State University he met his best friend and his greatest enemy. The best friend was Benjamin Grimm, a star football player and a damned fine engineer. (14) Reid Roberts roomed with a young man named Viktor Domovoi. This name was an alias. A Domovoy is a trickster character in Russian folklore. Viktor Domovoi claimed to be the heir of the King of Gypsies as well as the true heir of the throne of Latveria. His main interest in attending Empire State was to acquire proficiency in technological matters and to use the laboratory facilities. Although secretive about his activities Reid deduced that Viktor wished to wed technology to the arcane arts. He saw some of Viktor Domovoi's calculations and saw a simple mathematical error.
Reid Roberts told Viktor Domovoi that he did not know what Viktor was attempting to accomplish but that a mathematical error could ruin his experiment. Viktor cursed Reid for a meddling fool and told him to mind his own business. Reid shrugged his shoulders and went back to ignoring his odd roommate.
Viktor was attempting to build a chair that would function as a vehicle to travel through the dimensions. He intended to travel to these fabled dimensions such as the Dreamlands and gain arcane lore from the Great Ones, which he would use to dominate the world. The chair was designed to allow him to traverse the dimensions without alerting the Hounds of Tindlosi. The chair did not function properly because of his mathematical error, as it faded into the dimensional void, its resonance actually summoned a Hound of Tindlosi. The Hound managed to cripple Viktor's chair and maul Viktor before it was banished. Viktor came to consciousness amidst the ruin of his chair and within a pool of his own blood. The Tindlosi Hound had clawed his face.(15)Viktor purified the wound with holy water, something he found ironic given part of his heritage.
As he replayed in the incident in his mind, Viktor began to suspect Reid Roberts of having sabotaged Viktor's experiment out of jealousy. Since Viktor was certain that he had not made any errors in his construction of the chair or the formulas that could be the only answer.
His mere instant of travel into the outer realms had given him a clue as to how he could succeed in marrying arcane lore with high technology. He had seen a city filled with marvelous vehicles, wielding weapons of immense power. Viktor recognized these vehicles as being nearly identical as those depicted in Tibetan scrolls. Viktor left Empire State the next day.
Reid Roberts asked Ben Grimm to bunk with him. Reid Roberts explained his plans for the future to Grimm, he wished to built a moon rocket and believed that the best way to do so was through private enterprise, a government agency would be too inefficient to get the thing properly and quickly built. Ben told him he planned to be a pilot and if Reid ever built his moon rocket he would fly it for him.
After getting an Engineering degree from Empire State University, Reid Roberts attended Harvard studying the law and medicine. From there he went to MIT and from there to Columbia University. While he was attending Columbia University, he boarded at the home of Mrs. Steven Harrison, the wife of a somewhat famous private detective. She was not quite a widow her husband having disappeared while on a case. Mrs. Harrison was the sister of a respected doctor, Franklin Storm. Dr. Storm was however going through a rough time, having just lost his wife in an automobile accident. Mrs. Harrison was helping to care for Susan and Jonathan, Dr. Storm's children. Susan was thirteen years old and just coming into puberty; she fell head over heels in love with her aunt's handsome, young boarder--- much to his embarrassment. He attempted to channel her energies into more productive endeavors and found that she was very intelligent when she chose to apply herself.
When Reid Roberts left Columbia he took a position at Berkley as an assistant professor of physics. This gave him access to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and also to the various aircraft companies in the California region. While teaching he intended to design and build an aircraft using private resources, mainly his own. His father had left Brian and he quite a bit of money. Brian had spent most of his funding the Tobor project. Reid Roberts found to his chagrin that he had spent most of his acquiring an education. He still had quite a bit left over but if his calculations were correct, he would also need outside investors.
Many of the people he contacted, most of them as a matter of fact, thought that his notion of building a moon rocket was absurd and ludicrous. One prospective backer however was very enthusiastic about the project. This was D. D. Harriman of Harriman Enterprises, although Reid Roberts suspected that Harriman had his own agenda, Reid was happy enough to accept financial backing with no strings attached. (16)
In 1958 Reid Roberts was shocked to discover that one of his new students was Susan Storm, his little pest from New York. She had grown into a very attractive and intelligent young lady, she had however not grown out of her infatuation with Reid Roberts. He discovered that she was not so much a pest after all. She began helping him organize his work load and acting as an unpaid clerical assistant while he divided his time between teaching and designing his aircraft. In 1958, his friend Ben Grimm also joined Reid. Grimm had left the astronaut program at NASA believing he was not going to ever make it into the actual rotation. He and Reid worked on the rocket designs and Ben test piloted the early models.
In 1960, Susan Storm was forced to leave school and was going to return to New York to stay. Her father had died and she needed to take care of her brother. Reid asked her not to leave but to stay and marry him and to bring Johnny out to California to live with them. She agreed but told him that she would not marry him until the rocket project was finished. Susan went to New York to retrieve Johnny and returned to California. Although it is true that she supplemented their income by working as a model, following in her mother's footsteps, and did some bit work in films. It is not true she was actively seeking a career in the films, Reid just could not afford to pay her enough to support Johnny and her and himself as well.
In late 1960, D.D. Harriman told Reid Roberts that while he was pleased with the progress that he was making his partner George Strong and the board of Directors of their business concerns were not. Harriman told Roberts that unless they demonstrated a feasible rocket that is one that could orbit the earth very soon, his funding would be pulled. The ship was actually very close to completion, there was the matter of finding a crew and training them and there was a difference of opinion between Reid and Ben about the shielding of the ship. Reid was certain that the shielding was strong enough to withstand the radiation from outer space, Ben was not certain.
Reid won out with a demonstration of the shielding and Ben agreed to pilot the ship but still had reservations. Susan and Johnny were familiar with the workings of the ship and volunteer to stand in for the other two crewmen. Since the flight was going to be a short one, Reid and Ben agreed. They also wished to keep their project under wraps for a bit longer.
The ship blasted off, left the earth's atmosphere and entered the Van Allen radiation belt as it orbited the earth.
Unbeknownst to Reid Roberts and in truth unbeknownst to scientists until recently the Van Allen belts, "the radiation belts surrounding Earth can become extremely powerful in a matter of seconds, New observations by an array of satellites show changes in the planet's own magnetic field can accelerate electrons in the belts to nearly the speed of light, transforming them into what some researchers describe as "killer electrons."
The mechanism by which the acceleration occurs is unclear, but its effects are more obvious.
Under such intense conditions, the charged particles can pierce a sheet of aluminum a half-inch thick. That could result in a catastrophic accumulation of charged particles in the sensitive electronics of hundreds of orbiting satellite, and perhaps endanger astronauts."(17)
Although for years, Ben blamed Reid for what happened chances are even with their improved shielding, the high radiation would have affected them. The intense thyophite radiation triggered latent genes in all four of the passengers of the rocket ship.
Ben Grimm's latent theriomorphy was activated and he changed into a creature of his childhood dreams, a Golem.
Sue and Johnny Storm's mother had been Kitty Caroll, the Invisible Woman. (18) The invisibility trait had been passed onto Susan as an infant but had soon faded. Both of them carried genes which allowed them to manipulate light waves around them, albeit the manner in which they did so manifested differently. Susan like her mother had the ability to become invisible, somehow bending light waves from around her or allowing them to pass through her. Although the comics portray her as having a vast telekinetic gift this was apparently not factual. She may have also had a minor amount of telekinetic ability, although it may have been not so much telekinetic as an ability to manipulate photons into invisible yet solid shapes. This ability however seems to have been mentally and physically taxing and was used sparingly.
Johnny Storm on the other hand accumulated light around him creating a blurry white humanoid shape. He was a Human Torch, however only in the slang term of being a flashlight. He was in essence a human glow worm, it was not until later that his brother-in-law created at device which allowed him to convert the photonic energy that Johnny accumulated into heat energy so that he could indeed project beams of heat and throw fireballs from specially crafted gloves. He would also be able to fly using the light energy Reid created jet boots and a jet pack powered by photonic energy as well. The corona of light around him hid the technological additions to his powers.
Reid Roberts discovered that he too had been changed by the Van Allen belt radiation, it had activated the latent protoplasmic DNA in his body giving him much the same abilities as Plastic Man had.
The shock of the crash and the discovery of the great changes made to their bodies caused a great shouting and screaming matched that turned into a physical confrontation between Reid and Ben Grimm. At the end the Four went in three separate directions, Ben Grimm running off into the direction of the New Jersey woods, Susan and Johnny Storm returning to their home in New York and Reid Roberts trying to salvage what he could of the crashed rocket.
The aftermath of the failed rocket was the Harriman Enterprises pulled their funding and Reid Richards abandoned his idea of becoming the first man on the moon. He was able to patent and sell many of his designs to NASA for a substantial sum.
Reid Roberts having survived the plane crash and having acquired incredible abilities became convinced that there was a reason for these events. Taking inspiration from the group known as the Challenger's of the Unknown (19) he decided to gather up his friends and form a similar group. Getting Susan and Johnny to join with him was not too much of a chore, once they had gotten over the initial shock of their new abilities they were more than happy to be with Reid again.
Ben Grimm was however having a hard time of it; he was stuck in his rocky Golem form most of the time although he would revert back to his normal appearance. The reversion to his normal appearance occurred mostly when he slept, although a few hours later he would suddenly change back into the rocky form. In the four months that he was on his own, he had tried several different types of employment, just to survive. He was a bouncer but left because his appearance scared away customers, a manual laborer but tired of having to answer the same questions over and over about his appearance. He finally ended up as a professional wrestler. Most people believed that the rocky skin was some kind of costume gimmick and Grimm let them think so.
Despite Reid's persistent efforts to have Ben join them, Ben still stubbornly went his own way, still angry with Reid, blaming him for his condition. It took Susan Storm and Johnny Storm, demonstrating how Reid had designed tests and regimes that allowed them to control their new abilities before Ben would think of allowing Reid to conduct tests on him.
Ben Grimm managed after months of training to master his transformations. He maintained mostly full control over his transformations although; a rush of adrenaline through fear or anger could trigger an involuntary change into the Golem state. Through out his life he would have trouble maintaining his human form when he became depressed, going into his shell literally.
Calling themselves simply the Four; Reid Roberts, Ben Grimm, Susan Storm and Johnny Storm using their newfound abilities and their combined skills and intellects to create highly advanced technologies, began to pick up where the Challengers of the Unknown left off. They made a deal with one comic book company to have a series based on their exploits. However the comic book company which had continued to make up stories about the Challengers had also began using news reports of their Four's exploits and crediting them to the Challengers (this is probably why the Challengers were depicted as using more high tech equipment during the mid-sixties)
Unlike Superman and other heroes the Four actually were a world traveling organization that spent their careers stopping major threats to the Earth or to humanity. Although their exploits were exaggerated for the comic book, they did in fact stop persistent invasions such as from the "mole" people groups of people living in the hollow spaces between the Earth's surface. (20) Usually these people had either been forced to move or became aware of the surface people due to underground nuclear testing. They did in fact, often in concert with MIB, stop alien invasions, although not ever on the major scale attributed to them. They also stopped invasions from the Negative Zone. (21). They also worked in concert with CIALD (22) and other government organizations and on occasion with Professor Damien Harmon against supernatural or criminal threats. (23)
Their most persistent and deadliest foe remained Doc Doom as Viktor Doom termed himself.(26) Although they defeated him time and time again, he still returned to plague them.
Reid Roberts and Sue Storm married in 1965 and had a child whom they named Franklin in 1967. Franklin Storm inherited his parents abilities but in an odd combination. He could turn invisible at will but he could only manifest his stretching ability when invisible. As a child he learned to be able to turn invisible, stretch himself a great distance rapidly, reform into normal human shape and become invisible again in a matter of seconds. This gave the impression that he had mastered teleportation over short distances.
Ben Grimm dated a blind sculptress named Alicia Masters (27) for years but that relationship faltered due to his recurrent bouts of depression, his tendencies to disappear for weeks at a time and his increasingly short temper. There was also the matter of a discrepancy in age, Ben did not age as rapidly as his team mates.
Ben Grimm would eventually find a more stable relationship with Jennifer Walters, the so called She-Hulk.
After Ben Grimm's relationship with Alicia Masters broke up, Johnny Storm began dating her. They were eventually married in 1977.
2. See the Doc Savage Chronology by Win Scott Eckert, "Who Goes There" entry
4. See The Reid family tree by Dennis E. Power, Masked Memories by Dennis E. Power and The Reades of America by Jess Nevins. For a graphic representation of the Roberts family please view, The Roberts Family Tree by Dennis E. Power
5. Speculation taken from Win Eckert's Doc Savage Chronology
7. For a different perspective of this incident please read the book Little Big Man by Thomas Berger. For more information on the Crabb family read Little Big Men-Crabbes and Carters The boy in question was Jack Crabb. His memoirs, edited by Thomas Berger are contained in Little Big Man and Return of Little Big Man.
8. For more information on the Roberts family which Nathaniel Roberts was not even privy to please view the The Roberts Family Tree
11. The CMDF and Project Proteus are depicted in the film Fantastic Voyage 20th Century Fox, 1966 with the novelizaton and fix-up by Isaac Asimov. Rumor has it that Nathaniel Roberts left the CMDF when he learned that some of the miniaturization technology had been sold to the British. Kim Philby had given some of it to the Russians. Unscrupulous Russians had sold it to criminals. What most bothered Nathaniel Roberts was that the British were using a process which permanently shrunk a person, so apparently the Americans were holding back key portions of the process. For more on the British version of the CMDF see Cold War in a Country Garden and Killer Pines by Lindsey Gutteridge.
12. Jacob Moishe was the scientist who developed the process that allowed John Gribardson to travel back in time to the Stone Age. For more information please read Time's Last Gift by Philip Jose Farmer. For further speculation read Triple Tarzan Tangle by Dennis E. Power.
14. Benjamin Grimm's origins are described in Hyde and Hair: Part 4 Hyde and Heirs
15. The Hounds of Tindlosi or Hounds of Tindalos live in a dimension outside of time and space, they are attracted by attempts to travel through the eldrich dimensions. Once a traveler has been scented the hounds can track them through time and space. They are more fully described in Frank Belknap Long's The Hounds of Tindalos. For a non-canonical account of their origin see Aliens Among Us; Tocs and Ogs.
16. This D. D. Harriman was apparently the WNU version of Delos D. Harriman who funded the first successful moon landing as a private enterprise as seen in Robert A. Heinlein'sThe Man Who Sold the Moon. Harriman's voyage to the moon at an advanced age was related in the Heinlein story, Requiem. Both are part his Future History sequence and can be found in the collection, The Past Through Tomorrow.
17. See the article Radiation Belts Pose Risk: Scientists Discover Rapid Changes in Electrons
18. See the article Invisibles: The Unseen History of the Griffin family by Dennis E. Power for more information on Kitty Carroll.
19. The Challengers of the Unknown were four men who survived a plane crash and also believed that they had been spared for a reason. They bonded together and formed a partnership that would use their various skills as pilot, deep-sea diver, wrestler, and sportsman to "confront any enemy of humanity, no matter how deadly, horrific, powerful or unknown!" Hyperbole aside they became pretty renown as men willing to risk their lives to take care of problems too politically sensitive or mundane for governments or other persons to become involved. They were partially funded by a comic book version of their adventures, which as par for the course created its own mythology and exaggerated their adventures with fantastic elements. The Challenger's apparently died confronting a Nazi War criminal residing in the United States. (This incident was later credited to the Four under the National Periodical's version of the team)
20. For more on the true construction of the Earth interior please read, Black as a Pit, From Pole to Pole by Steven Utley and Howard Waldrop, New Dimensions 7, 1977, reprinted in Eternal Lovecraft Golden Gryphon Press, 1998. Basically it describes the earth as a series of concentric rings, much like the design of Hell in Dante's Inferno. Each of the concentric rings contains lands and peoples of various kinds. The interior world visited by the scientists in Journey to the Center of the Earth is part of this vast system as are Pellucidar, Skataris, Atvatabar etc. Barriers of ice or stone as described by David Innes in At the Earth's Core, by Edgar Rice Burroughs separate each concentric ring
21. "The Negative Zone" was in fact two different places although connected through quantum sinkholes. The Negative Zone described as an other dimensional space filled with energy distortions and the like is the Phantom Zone as discovered by Kryptonian scientists millennia ago. The Negative Zone as a populated area filled with would be alien conquerors and alternate versions of Earth people are actually other universes connected to the Phantom Zone by interconnected spatial anomalies.
22. See Marvelous, Fantastic Tales of the WNU: Batman for a more in depth explanation of CIALD
23. National Periodicals, the comic book rival to the Marvel Comics, approached Reid Roberts to do a book about them. Even though Marvel Comics was already doing a book called the Fantastic Four, DC had an idea about a comic book based on their characters and on their experiences but even more fictionalized. Reid Roberts turned them down. However unbeknownst to his team mates, Johnny Storm made a deal with DC and provided the writers with wild exploits and false histories of the characters, which were then twisted, by the writers of the new comic book. He did this partially as a youthful joke, being only 17 at the time. He also needed money to buy and fix up cars, his one great passion. One of Johnny's many embellishments was that Doctor Harmon was the actual leader of the Four with Reid being his main Lieutenant. The comic book writers also changed the Four in terms of their names, powers and specialties. Sue Storm became Elasti-Girl, Johnny Storm became the Negative Man , Reid Roberts became Mento and Ben Grimm became Beast Boy. As a unit they were called the Doom Patrol, whose exploits were orchestrated by the wheelchair bound Niles Caulder which was the name given to Damien Harmon. .
25. Galactus! How does he fit into the WNU? Well, if you are talking about the Giant Humanoid that travels the Universe draining planets of their energy to sustain his life, then you are correct, he doesn't fit in. The humanoid, sentient characteristic was a creation of the comic book writers for dramatic purposes. There was however a Silver Surfer. Galactus was a machine, a doomsday machine, created 50, 000 years ago by unknown people outside our galaxy. The Machine was so powerful it destroyed its home solar system and began moving throughout the universe destroying solar systems as it was programmed to do. It seems to have destroyed only those systems where it detected life. The "Silver Surfer" was a survivor of one of the solar systems involved in the war that created the doomsday machine. He had been off planet testing his invention, which would have revolutionized his people's, lives, giving them not only virtual immortality but personalized travel through space. He had designed a suit made of smart metal composed of nanites (akin to the technology used by Skynet on the Terminator 1000 models but much more advanced) which covered the entire body and bonded to it. Using cosmic radiation as its power source the smart suit provided the human body, again via nanites with what ever it needed from oxygen to nutrients. They nanites also kept the body perpetually young. The smart suit could create limited extensions of itself; this allowed the wearer of the suit to travel through outer space wearing only the suit and a propulsion system that was an extension of the suit. The Silver Surfer at first made an enclosed capsule in which he rode.
When the "silver surfer" returned to his home world he found his entire solar system destroyed. He followed the trail of debris and soon discovered the doomsday machine. He attacked it with blasts of comic radiation yet it seemed impervious to his attacks. He did not have enough power to stop the machine even if he used every bit of his suit's energy. The silver surfer traveled in the doomsday weapon's wake, yet as he gained greater control over his suit he learned how to create space warp and was able to travel ahead of the doomsday weapon. He learned new technologies and techniques that he used in several attempts to destroy the weapon. He took to warning those worlds which had even rudimentary space travel capabilities, he had some success in getting worlds or people from doomed worlds to evacuate but most often not he was disbelieved until it was too late.
When he arrived on earth he contacted Reid Roberts, having been monitoring Earth's radio broadcasts for some time, and told him of the danger. The Four utilizing some of the technologies provided by the Silver Surfer constructed a ship that would rendezvous with the ship. Reid's idea was that if it was impossible to stop it and impossible to destroy the doomsday device, it might still be possible to shut it off. Finding a way into the device was difficult enough in itself. Like the Silver Surfer's suit the doomsday device was composed of a smart material. "Galactus" created several drones in an effort to keep the Four from gaining access. However the combined abilities of the Silver Surfer and the Four defeated the drones and found an access into the mind of the machine. The Silver Surfer was familiar with the plasma brains of the doomsday device and aided by Reid Roberts they managed to divert the doomsday machine from the earth and stop its destructive programs.
The Silver Surfer felt that his mission was now complete and spent a few years on the Earth before taking to the stars again. The Silver Surfer was unaware that fail safe protocols in the doomsday machine's programming restored the original mission directives after a few decades. The doomsday machine began destroying solar systems again until the U.S.S. Enterprise finally stopped it in 2267 as seen in the Original Star Trek series episode, The Doomsday Machine.
26. Who was Viktor Domovoi a.k.a. Viktor Von Doom a.k.a. Dr. Doom? In Russian folklore a domovoy is a household spirit, also called "the grandfather" and "the master". This spirit is a big trickster and mischief-maker. Originally it was a malicious spirit, which is consistent with Dr. Doom's modos operandi. In a great essay, Champion of Catastrophe and Son of the East: A Short Genealogy of Victor von Doom by Scott Koeller (Wold Atlas vol. 1, no. 4) Mr. Koeller explores the theory that Viktor Von Doom was the son of Fu Manchu, unfortunately the dates do not match up. The incident, to which Mr. Koeller refers in The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu, took place in 1910 or 1911. Since Viktor was a contemporary of Reid Roberts, it is probable he was a few years older but not seventeen years. However his arguments demonstrating the physical and mental similarities of Fu Manchu and Viktor Von Doom are intriguing. I would therefore propose that Viktor von Doom was the grandchild of Fu Manchu.
Viktor's immediate parents were said to be a Healer and Dancer of the Gypsies. These Gypsies were part of a tribe that had intermingled with a group of werewolves, descendants of Dracula. The woman that Fu Manchu slept with during his stay in the country called Russia in the Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu and Latveria in the accounts of Dr. Doom, was in fact the daughter of Bela Belasko and one of his gypsy brides. Bela Belasko was King of the Gypsies and King of the Werewolves, at least these particular tribes. He was also the son of Dracula as seen in Children of the Night Compiled by Prof. Charles Loridans, of M.O.N.S.T.A.A.H.’s Bonaport LA. branch. With the heritage of Fu Manchu and Dracula, one can see why little Viktor might wish to become a world dominator and why he was drawn to Tibet and to the supernatural arts.
After leaving Empire State University with a clawed face, Viktor went to Tibet, following the vision that he had seen in his dream. After searching through several orders of Monks he finally found the one in his vision. This group of monks wore costumes similar, according to Mr. Koeller, to those wore by the Si Fan, so he believed that Fu Manchu had arranged to go to Tibet. It is possible that the vision that Viktor saw was a post hypnotic suggestion, although it also possible that Fu Manchu was not then aware of Viktor Von Doom's existence. Fu Manchu did not create the Si Fan, he joined it. These monks were possibly an early offshoot of the Si Fan or possibly the Si Fan were an offshoot of this order.
The order of Monks was dying out, Viktor managed to convince them that he was the incarnation of their leader and in doing so assumed leadership of it. As the order's new head Viktor learned all that he could of their secrets. Most of the ancient technological knowledge had been lost. He did acquire enough super science and sorcery to build himself a special suit of full body armor. One of the more grotesque images in the origin of Dr. Doom was his having the face plate of his armor attached while it was still red hot and in doing so seared his face. The reason for his doing this in the comics was because he was so vain that his minor facial scars were deemed so much of a flaw that he took a self destructive path to render his face totally mutilated. While there maybe an element of truth to this story, the fact is that the entire suit was applied to his flesh while still red hot. It was part of a ritual for him in which he proved his worthiness to bear the armor. He demonstrated he could move beyond the pain to finish any mission set to him. There was also the practical reason that the searing bonded the armor to his flesh as if it were forged together, making flesh and metal as one.
After finishing the armor suit, Viktor returned to his homeland, having heard that it had been taken over by the Reds. Viktor's homeland of Latveria was according to Mr. Koeller's research was none other than Latvia. This of course is depended upon the notion that Latveria does not exist because it is not found on our globes. However the Wold Newton Universe possesses many smaller lands that no longer exist in our universe, namely Fenwick, Freedonia, Sylvania, Viseria, Graustark, Zenda, Calbia, Lutha etc. Latveria is in fact located next to Graustark and was once part of that nation's holdings. Both Latveria and Graustark are located within what was then known as the Soviet Union but were in valleys located in mountainous regions on the Eastern side of the Black Sea. Latveria may have even swallowed up Graustark in the mid twenties since the last current information we have about Graustark comes in 1924. Graustark and Latveria also have a common trait in that despite being ostensibly Russian territories, they have quite a bit of Germanic influences. Graustark was also undergoing dynastic crisis during that period.
Viktor Von Doom used his newly acquired sorcerous skill and armor to seize the Monarchy of the small nation. The Soviets had never had much of a presence there, since with the advent of advanced aircraft its strategic value had plummeted.
27. Alicia Masters was the daughter of the infamous villain, The Puppet Master. The Puppet Master was the son of Murder Legendere, the infamous Voodoo and Zombie Master of Haiti. Murder Legendere is featured in the film White Zombie, United Artists, 1932. The Puppet Master used science and voodoo to create living zombies, he also borrowed a page from the works of Dr. Thorkel, Dr. Franz and Dr. Baldwin who can be seen in Dr. Cyclops, Paramount 1941, Attack of the Puppet People AIP, 1958 The Devil Doll Men Azetca films (1961) and would also shrink people or create deadly miniature homunculi .
All rights reserved. The text and design of this page are
© 2001 by
the author, Dennis E. Power.
copying or reproduction of this article or any portions thereof in any form whatsoever is permitted
without prior written permission and consent of the author.
© 2002 Dennis Power