Bad Comic Panels #10: “Just like a woman! […] you’re too scatterbrained and emotional!”

Just like a woman! Everything I do is for your own good, but you're too scatterbrained and emotional to realize it!
Source: Fantastic Four #23, 1964

Ah, Reed Richards. Few characters have been as consistently portrayed as sexist, in mainstream superhero comics. It’s probably because he and Sue were one of the first “real” couples in superhero comics: they were already dating in the very first issue, and were married in the third annual (1965). Therefore, all the “morals” of the late 50s and early 60s could be seen in their relationship; other couples typically came much later, and the moral zeitgeist had, by then, progressed.

Here we see another great example: Reed (and he isn’t depicted negatively, therefore Stan Lee seemed to agree, at the time) treats Sue as if he was a parental figure (instead of a boyfriend, which he was at the time), and insults her entire gender by saying that women are “too scatterbrained and emotional to realize” how, basically, men know best. In other words, according to this view, women should look up to men, including steady boyfriends and husbands, in much the same way as children look up to their parents, trust them implicitly, and obey them, because parents are adults and are, therefore, the only ones who can be rational and responsible.

And what’s worse is that, in the next panel… Sue agrees! Even though she challenged Reed in the previous panel (with, you’ll note, a childish retort: “go polish a test tube or something!”), after she leaves she admits to herself that Reed was right, that he really knew what’s best for her, and that she — like all women — only didn’t accept it at the time because she’s “too scatterbrained and emotional”.

The early 60s, ladies and gentlemen! πŸ™‚

Bad Comic Panels #8: “Da! That is why you will never be dictator!”

Khrushchev: "Da! That is why you will never be dictator!"
Source: Fantastic Four #17, 1963

Unlike other entries in the Bad Comic Panels series, this one’s main quote is from an actual historical figure. I really love how the morally simplistic comics of the 60s (and earlier) depicted their opponents — such as Communists, in this case — as “hi, I’m evil!” card-carrying villains. πŸ™‚ In this particular case, we have a dictator describing himself as such — which is rarer than you might think.

Other things to appreciate here:

  • the Commies are depicted as not just being in competition with the US, or “the capitalistic countries” in general, but as actually living just for beating them. They actually sit around a radio set waiting for news of their counterparts’ demise. Guys, get a life, will ya? ((in Soviet Russia — and, here, this is actually appropriate –, life gets YOU!!))
  • not only that, but two of them are shown holding glasses of wine or champagne. Nice! πŸ™‚ Though I’d have though vodka would have been more appropriate…
  • can you really see Khrushchev’s “number twos” addressing him as “Comrade K”? πŸ™‚ And don’t tell me that this was a case of censorship, as, if they printed comics like this, they weren’t particularly worried about what the Kremlin would think of them, or how it would affect US-USSR relations…
  • “Comrade K” is actually depicted relatively benignly here, being the only one among the Communists in the room with a brain. Very different from an Iron Man comic from the same era ((the one with the origin of the Crimson Dynamo)), where he is presented as a sniveling, treacherous coward (we actually see his thought balloons)… and fatter and uglier, too!
  • is the guy on the left, the one wearing purple, supposed to be based on Trotsky? He had been dead for 23 years when this comic was published, you know… Or perhaps that look was based on an “archetype” of the “evil Commie intellectual” common during the 50s-60s… anyone?

Bad Comic Panels #4: “a pretty young lady can always be of help — just by keeping the men’s morale up!”

"A pretty young lady can ALWAYS be of help -- just by keeping the men's MORALE up!
Source: Fantastic Four #12 (1963)

Yes, if your sense of humor is anything near mine, you may be grinning already, after reading the dialog above. πŸ™‚ But, for the full effect, this entry in the Bad Comic Panels series requires a little more background.

So, Fantastic Four #12, which we’ve already seen before, was, I believe, Marvel’s first “crossover” ever; until then, all of its characters stayed in their books. The Hulk (whose identity wasn’t publicly known at the time) was being suspected of sabotaging some missile installations in a military base, and the FF were asked to help capture him. After a page where the three male members of the Fantastic Four boast, very childishly (yes, even Reed Richards) about how each of them will use his own powers to capture the Hulk, the Invisible Girl, Sue Storm (she hadn’t married Reed yet), says that she probably won’t be of much help (this was before she developed her force field / turn other stuff invisible powers; at the time, her only power was to turn herself invisible, nothing more), and General Ross, without realizing how his words could be interpreted in a later, more cynical age, implies that that’s not a problem, as:

… a pretty young lady can always be of help — just by keeping the men’s morale up!

“Morale”? That’s what they called it those days? πŸ˜€

Of course, arguably the best part is yet to come, as Reed — Sue’s boyfriend, and eventual husband — agrees with Ross:

That’s just the way we feel about Sue, general!

In other words, agreeing that her girlfriend — and, by extension, all women — aren’t much good for anything… but that’s OK, because the only thing they need to do is look good. Ah, early Marvel comics. πŸ™‚

Bad Comic Panels #3: “It’s a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization!”

It's a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization! That means -- Karl Kort must be -- A RED!
Source: Fantastic Four #12, 1963

Comics, like all forms of art, are a product of their times. In the early 60s, American mentality was still mostly based on the 50s, with their sexism ((and there’s an even better one in this very issue, but I didn’t want to go after the same theme twice in a row, so you’ll have to wait for a future installment of Bad Comic Panels.)), and a huge dose of paranoia, especially in relation to Communism and the Soviet Union. At those times, many people really thought that a Soviet invasion was imminent, and that America was already full of Communist spies and sympathizers. If you read the first year of, say, Iron Man, the Avengers, or the Hulk, you’ll find a lot of “red menace” stories, with “commie” villains so obviously evil that, in a way, it negates the paranoia — there would be no fear of Communist spies if they were so easy to spot. πŸ™‚

The example above is one I always found funny, ever since I read it a couple of decades ago. Obviously, Rick Jones’ dialog is great (“That means — Karl Kort must be — A RED!”), but there’s also that other little morsel: that a Communist spy kept his membership card in his wallet! πŸ˜› Rick’s description of the organization Kort belongs to is also unintentionally humorous, and I have always found it funny to imagine that the card itself read something like:

(hammer and sickle)  RED MENACEΒ  (hammer and sickle)
Subversive Communist-front Organization
Member name: Karl Kort

After all, “subversive” and “Communist-front” weren’t terms that the average teenager was likely to use, were they? So, maybe Rick was in fact reading from the card! πŸ™‚ Anyway, sadly, this colorful and interesting villain, filled with intelligent and original motivations, didn’t ever appear again. Who knows what interesting, innovative stories featuring Karl Kort, and the organization he was a member of, could have been written…