Join us as we celebrate fifty years of comics’ First Family and revisit some of their all-time greatest adventures!
The Galactus Trilogy is how Fantastic Four #48-50 are commonly known. These issues are important in that they introduce two characters that have had a long-standing impact on the Marvel Universe.
Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966) “The Coming of Galactus!” begins with the conclusion of an Inhumans storyline. After that is resolved, the Four head back to New York and notice two suns in the sky, just as the sky over New York bursts into flames! While trying to figure things out, Johnny Storm takes off as the Human Torch and discovers the flames have no heat. The citizens of New York don’t realize this, they just see flames in the sky and the Human Torch and naturally blame him for the fire. It’s only the quick intervention of The Thing that prevents an angry mob from doing what angry mobs do.
While all this is going on, we get glimpses of a mysterious new entity that is heading to Earth: The Silver Surfer!
Back on Earth, Reed locks himself in his lab to figure out what’s going on. His now-wife, Sue Richards, begins to worry, and her concern turns to anger after Reed flat out ignores her. Marching to his lab, she soon learns that Reed isn’t alone: The Watcher is in his lab!
We then learn the grim truth: All the fire and rocks in the sky was the work of The Watcher, who explains he is trying to hide earth from The Silver Surfer. He further explains that the Surfer isn’t the real danger: “He is the advance scout for Galactus! Galactus, who drains entire planets of their elements, and then leaves them dry, unable to support life!”
All the efforts to hide our planet fail, and the Surfer sees what he needs and signals his master, who quickly arrives in the Mighty Marvel Dramatic Manner, complete with a pop art page and an over-sized panel giving us our very first look at the Devourer Of Worlds!
Fantastic Four #49 (April 1966) “If This be Doomsday!” This issue has a lot going on, and leave it to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to pack 3 issues worth of action into one single monthly comic!
The Watcher tries to convince Galactus to spare Earth. This provides us with our first glimpse of what makes Galactus tick. While generally seen as a villain, he destroys so that he may live. The energies he gets from planets are to him was food is to humans. He doesn’t think about the lives that he wipes out because he is Galactus, and that’s all anyone needs to know.
Torch and The Thing don’t agree, however, and try to attack Galactus, only to see how ineffectual they really are. Galactus dismisses them as a human would a fly…
Meanwhile, the Surfer crashes into the apartment of Alicia Masters, the blind sculptress who is also The Thing’s girlfriend!
While the Surfer begins to learn about humanity, ironically having his eyes opened by a blind woman, Reed and the others begin to work on destroying Galactus’ machinery. Their efforts are met with failure, as Galactus unleashes his robotic fail safe: the unstoppable juggernaut known as The Punisher! Finally, The Watcher hatches a plan that involves sending Johnny into space… into the World Ship of Galactus! Only there can they find a weapon that may turn back the Mighty Devourer!
We end this part with the Surfer finally realizing the error of his ways, having learned of the beautiful side of humanity and the importance of life, and going forth to confront his master in an effort to save the planet!
Fantastic Four #50 (May 1966) “The Startling Saga of the Silver Surfer!” begins with the classic first confrontation between the Surfer and Galactus! To quote Stan himself: “This is it, True Believers!” It all comes to a head as the Surfer tries his best to defend earth and express his new-found humanity while Johnny returns from the World Ship with the only weapon capable of stopping Galactus.
It all happens fast when Galactus sees the Ultimate Nullifier in the hands of Reed Richards!
The Watcher tells Galactus to look at the bravery of the human race, and Galactus doesn’t care. He just sees the hassle of trying to get the energies from this world, and agrees to leave if the Nullifier is returned to him.
Once Galactus gets it back, he takes care of one more bit of business. The Silver Surfer has defied him and must be punished. In a move that sets up years of stories for the Surfer, Galactus strips him of his star-spanning abilities, stranding him on the world he fought to defend.
After Galactus leaves, Alicia Masters shows up and, to the surprise of The Thing, runs towards the Surfer, happy that he stood up to Galactus and helped save the earth. The problem is that in doing this she ignores Ben Grimm, who begins to think of himself as more of a monster, especially when compared to the noble Silver Surfer. He walks away before Alicia can call for him.
After all the dust settles, a few plot points are set up for the coming issues: a mystery man plots to destroy the Fantastic Four from within, Johnny Storm heads to Metro College to continue his education and Reed and Sue try to adjust to married life, something that is very difficult for both of them.
This story is legendary and deserves every bit of praise it gets. Outside of some of the slang and fashions, it holds up very well and shows exactly the sort of fast-paced, action-packed escapist entertainment that superhero comics can be. So much of this story defies logic, but that’s what makes it fun. Silver Age Marvel is full of stories like this, and any fan would be doing themselves a HUGE favor by reading them.
Don’t worry about cost, either. My copies of these issues are collected in Marvel’s Essential Fantastic Four, Volume 3 as well as Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four, Volume 5, which are available at most comic book stores as well as online.
These early Fantastic Four stories, written by Stan Lee with art by Jack Kirby, should be essential reading for comics fans. As old as they are, they are still perfect examples of how magnificent and fantastical the medium of comic books can and should be. If you can get past the ‘these are old stories’ way of thinking, you’ll find a world full of action and excitement. I know I did, and I simply cannot recommend these stories enough!
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