A few years ago I put a Fantastic Four submission together for Panini UK’s all-ages Marvel Heroes book, just in time for them to stop putting out original content. The very talented Jake Bilbao (Wolverine, Bloodrayne) and Yel Zamor (The Interactives, Hero 9-5) did a few pages to help show how it could work. Here’s what I came up with, excuse the formatting I did try and amend it but it was taking an age.
All Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are Trademarks & Copyright © 1941-2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
THE FANTASTIC FOUR in “SEEING DOUBLE”.
PAGE ONE (3 panels)
We are on the huge front lawn of an extremely large American house, the kind that a self made businessman might own. The one in the Starsky & Hutch movie owned by Vince Vaughan’s character would fit the bill or the houses they tend to end up with on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. A big banner across the house says “Happy Birthday Amelia and Tommy”. Gathered on the lawn are groups of young children, this is the 10th birthday party for a twin boy and girl. They are all wearing their best clothes, party dresses for the girls and ribbons in their hair and blazers and combed down hair for the boys, very apple pie all American. There is a long table laid up with party food behind them, it has a white and red checked tablecloth on it. The girls look happy playing with balloons and dolls, the boys are unhappy with their hair, their bow ties etc. They are fiddling around, loosening things and trying to feel less prim. At the moment it feels more like Amelia’s party than Tommy’s. There are also a few parents in the background who have accompanied their children to the party. In the centre of all the action are the twins themselves AMELIA and TOMMY with their big shot Father. Amelia wears a pink party dress with her hair in bunches, all smiles and rosy cheeks. She is smiling so much because her Father MR. JACKSON is in the process of giving her a pony; it is a small Dun coloured one with a pink bow around its body. Her Father is smiling even more broadly, he’s an All American guy in a dark blue suit, with a pale blue shirt, crimson red tie and white Stetson. Think Dennis Quaid/ Kevin Costner kind of guy or even something from the TV show Dallas. He looks very triumphant, he is very pleased that his present has made his daughter smile so much. He is the big man in town that’s for sure. Tommy, who is the smartest dressed of all the boys, looks down at the ground, kicking the grass. He thinks his present won’t be as impressive as his sister’s pony.
- AMELIA: Oh Daddy, thank you. Thank you.
- MR. JACKSON: Only the best is good enough for my little girl.
Hey what’s the matter Tommy? Don’t you want your present?
Close up on Tommy, he looks far from impressed. Looking down, hand on face, down in the mouth. You get the feeling his twin sister tends to get better presents and possibly more of her Father’s time.
- TOMMY: It better not be a dumb dog.
Mr. Jackson is taking a bow and waving his Stetson in a sweeping motion, kind of framing the scene, to welcome their special guests. Walking across the lawn from the house towards us are the Fantastic Four, ok actually it isn’t the Fantastic Four it’s THE FABULOUS FOUR but the reader should think it is and Tommy definitely will. They are wearing the usual FF uniform, and fake Johnny is himself rather than having his flame on. They need to look different enough from the real FF who appear on the third page, fake Ben for example is smaller than his real counterpart and his rocky appearance less defined. Fake Ben is carrying a large present box with a bow on the top, it’s big enough to carry an H.E.R.B.I.E.
- MR. JACKSON: Boys and girls, please welcome our very special birthday guests THE FANTASTIC FOUR!
Happy Birthday son.
PAGE TWO (4 panels)
The fake Fantastic Four are standing in front of a grinning Tommy, who has the widest smile you have ever seen. It’s like he’s a different boy, his whole face has lit up and his body language exudes positivity. The fake Thing stands before him, really showboating almost with jazz hands, he doesn’t really know what to say so says what he thinks he should as The Thing. Fake Reed is shaking Tommy firmly by the hand.
- TOMMY: But….you’re….
- FAKE THING: Sure am kiddo. Here to say Happy Birthday from the ever lovin’ blue eyed Thing.
IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME!
- FAKE REED: Happy Birthday Tommy.
All four of the fake FF are posing for a photo with Tommy. He is at the front with the Fake Thing’s big arms around his shoulders from behind. He looks as proud as he possibly can be. Groups of children and parents are taking photos on digital cameras and mobile phones.
- A MUM: Say cheese!
- FAKE THING: GORGONZOLA!
Fake Reed has approached Mr. Jackson, away from the other party goers. He looks very concerned, this isn’t their usual kind of gig and he is getting more and more nervous. Mr. Jackson is used to getting what he wants, he just keeps on smiling.
- FAKE REED: Mr. Jackson I’m a little concerned about all these photos being taken? That isn’t what we agreed.
- MR. JACKSON: We agreed I’d pay you treble your usual fee though didn’t we?
- FAKE REED: Yes I know but like I said on the phone our usual crowd know we aren’t the real thing. What if he wants us to show off our powers?
Mr. Jackson is explaining things to Fake Reed, as he does we can see a small boy tapping into his mobile phone/blackberry/iphone (he’s tweeting about the FF).
- MR. JACKSON: Once that present’s open he’ll have more than enough to keep his attention. Relax, have some cake and then you can get out of here, okay?
Tommy is opening the box and pulling out H.E.R.B.I.E the FF robot, he couldn’t be happier. H.E.R.B.I.E looks like he is smiling back. In contrast Amelia is standing next to her pony and facing to the side, her arms are firmly crossed and her face is like thunder. She does not like being upstaged.
- TOMMY: Wow Dad it’s amazing,. That’s better than 10 ponies!
PAGE THREE (4 panels)
We are in the Baxter Building, Sue is standing outside Reed’s lab leaning on the doorway. Reed is inside in his FF uniform with his white lab coat over the top. He’s as busy as ever, with his head down over a cool mini microscope. Sue is looking at her handheld PDA style device, which has the FF logo on the back.
- SUE: Reed, are you going to be long?
- REED: Hopefully not Sue. Why is there a problem?
- SUE: Well according to the internet we’re playing kids’ party games in New Jersey.
We’re in the Baxter Building lounge where Ben “The Thing” Grimm is playing the drums and Johnny “Human Torch” Storm is playing guitar. Yes, it’s Rock Band FF style! Ben looks huge sitting on the little stool with the small drum-kit around him (a bit like the Dairy Milk gorilla), but by the smile on his face you’d say he was having the time of his life. He’s wearing jeans and a plain t-shirt with an FF baseball cap on. Johnny, on the other hand, looks less happy. He is playing the rock band guitar put pulling a face at Ben who is ruining things by being so out of time. He is also in jeans and t-shirt.
- BEN: ♪♪HEY HEY I WANNA BE A ROCK STAR♪♪
- JOHNNY: I don’t know which is worse, your out of time drumming or your out of tune wailing? Next time I’m asking Reed.
- BEN: The day you get Stretch doin’ this is the day I eat my hat.
Johnny has stopped playing guitar and he’s left it hanging round his waist while he gesticulates towards Ben. It’s a typical Johnny and Ben jokey row that could descend into a real fight any moment. Ben is laughing at Johnny. Reed and Sue are walking into the room, both in their FF uniforms and both ready for action. Reed has no time for fooling around he wants to get down to business.
- JOHNNY: Speak of the devil! You want fries with that Rock Head?
- REED: When you boys have quite finished playing there’s somewhere we need to be.
We are looking at the Fantasticar flying over the cityscape leaving New York city. Johnny looks unhappy, he’s thinks this mission is a waste of time. Reed tries to placate him and Ben laughs at the whole thing.
- JOHNNY: I’m just saying that going to a kid’s party is hardly fighting Galactus that’s all.
- REED: Better to be safe than sorry Johnny. It could well be a hoax, but it could just as easily be a version of us from another dimension or the future.
- BEN: Or Skrulls. Don’t forget them Skrulls.
PAGE FOUR (5 panels)
Back on the lawn of the Jackson house where the Fake FF are saying goodbye. Fake Reed pats Tommy on the back and Fake Johnny makes pistols out of both thumbs and forefingers, giving him a two gun salute (like Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore). Tommy is so wrapped up in his present he doesn’t even look up or acknowledge them. Instead he looks at the robot in his arms.
- FAKE REED: Thanks for the invite Mr. Jackson. We’ve got to get back to the Baxter Building now. Nice meeting you Tommy, you take care of my friend H.E.R.B.I.E.
- FAKE JOHNNY: Yeah see you around kid, just look out for the flame in the sky!
Close on H.E.R.B.I.E flying out of Tommy’s arms and into the air. Suddenly the smiling face has gone to be replaced by a dark screen and orange aggressive features. He wants FF blood. The Fake FF are petrified and Reed is the one who looks most scared. He backs away fearing his life and tries to talk his way out of it.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: The party’s over for you Fantastic Four. Ha ha ha!
- FAKE REED: No please, we’re not who you think. We’re a tribute team, The Fabulous Four. We do store openings and product launches we don’t fight killer robots.
Close on Tommy who kicks fake Ben hard in the shin. Tommy’s face is a red screwed up ball of rage. Fake Thing is hopping mad.
- TOMMY: You’re not the real Thing? I HATE YOU! And I hate this stupid party.
Larger panel. H.E.R.B.IE is high above them all shooting down on them with opti blasts. The children and parents from the party are running around in different directions desperate not to be hurt. The fake FF are running just like everyone else, hoping to make it to their van. The fake Thing has made it the furthest so far.
- KIDS & PARENTS: Help! Aaggh! Etc.
Fake Ben has just run headfirst into real Ben’s chest. It really hurt, but fake Ben has mixed emotions he’s starstruck, in pain and scared all at the same time. Real Ben is not happy.
7. FAKE BEN: Woah! It’s you!
- BEN: Who were you expecting? She-Hulk?
- FAKE BEN: I’m..I’m your biggest fan.
PAGE FIVE (6 panels)
Reed ushers Ben away, trying to calm him down. Ben continues to eye up fake Ben over his shoulder snarling back at him.
- BEN: So what you get your kicks pretending to me. You think it’s funny looking like this do ya wiseguy?
- FAKE BEN: Please don’t be angry. It’s my job, we’re a tribute to you.
- REED: Come on Ben, leave him alone. Let’s focus on the real problem here, that’s H.E.R.B.I.E up there.
The real FF are standing in a semi circle ready to attack H.E.R.B.I.E or at least talk him round. Reed is calling up to him. Johnny and Ben look suitably unimpressed, they just want some action. Sue is doing as Reed said and using her force field to protect them all.
- REED: Sue keep us covered. I need to talk to him.
- REED: H.E.R.B.I.E what’s going on?
- H.E.R.B.I.E: At last the real Reed Richards. Just when I thought this was going to be a waste of time. And you can call me Dr.Sun.
- JOHNNY: That’s impossible.
Underneath the force field the FF are in disagreement. Sue is worried about what Dr.Sun might be capable of. Johnny is raring to go and Ben is backing him up. Reed disagrees.
- SUE: If that is Dr Sun inside H.E.R.B.I.E we’re in trouble. Those are opti-blasts and my force field won’t hold us for long.
- JOHNNY: Then drop it. I’ve had enough of this already.
- BEN: He’s right Susie Q, let us at him.
- REED: SUE!
Close on Johnny flying into the sky with his flame on.
- JOHNNY: FLAME ON!
As Johnny approaches H.E.R.B.I.E he is hit with extinguisher foam.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: How about Flame off!
A flameless Johnny drops to the ground like a stone.
PAGE SIX (5 panels)
Reed is not happy, he hates it when the team don’t do as he says, especially Sue. And now someone is hurt because of it. He is starting to stretch on his way up to meet Dr.Sun/H.E.R.B.IE head on.
- REED: This is exactly why I wanted to talk to him first. Sue, check Johnny’s ok. He’s crazy if he thinks he can take out all four of us.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: You think I’m all ego Richards? I’m not the one who decided to call himself Mr. Fantastic.
Reed is fully stretched, trying to grab H.E.R.B.I.E with a giant hand. H.E.R.B.I.E literally slips through his fingers.
- REED: I don’t know who you are but you can’t be Dr.Sun. The first H.E.R.B.I.E put an end to his evil plans a long time ago.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: But I was hiding online! A living brain can achieve quite a lot tucked away in cyberspace. When Daddy dear tried to sync the H.E.R.B.I.E he bought to the boy’s music player I was back!
Down on the ground Johnny is flat on his back, slowly coming to his senses. Leaning over him and holding his hand Florence Nightingale style is an “invisible” Susan Storm. We don’t see her in the blue almost transparent way we used to we see her transparent and infa-red the way H.E.R.B.I.E does. H.E.R.B.I.E is still dodging Reed and is looking down at Sue menacingly.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: With my infa-red sensors I know exactly where your wife is Richards. Over…
H.E.R.B.I.E swoops down and blasts Sue in the back the back with an opti-blast. Sue recoils and shrieks out in agony. Reed turns back on himself and calls out to Sue. Ben runs across the lawn towards Sue and Johnny.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: THERE!
- SUE: AAggggh!
- REED: Sue! Nooooo!
H.E.R.B.I.E is floating almost at ground level now, he is really enjoying himself. Reed is halfway back to normal size and his full attention is on his wife who is now laid out on the ground unconscious next to her brother. H.E.R.B.I.E fires an almighty blast right into Reed’s anguished face.
- H.E.R.B.I.E: And now while you’re distracted and your guard is down I strike once more. Proving Richards that I’m not only a better scientist than you but a better warrior too.
PAGE SEVEN (4 panels)
Three of the Fantastic Four are down and out on the ground, with Reed now slumped next to the other two. That leaves just one, Ben Grimm . He is looking at the scene of devastation particularly those hidden behind the long picnic table. Tommy, Amelia and Mr Jackson are all huddled up together kneeling with the fake FF. It is Fake Ben who has caught real Ben’s eye and as he looks over at him he has an idea. Fake Ben looks terrified, he points at himself hoping Grimm means someone else.
- BEN: Ok, you want to get back in me good books now’s your chance. Come over here I got an idea.
- FAKE BEN: Me? I’m just a guy in some cheap special effects. There’s nothing I can do.
- BEN: You been pretending to be me, maybe it’s time I stated pretending to be someone else too.
Ben is looking Fake Ben up and down, Fake Ben looks even more worried. As he does so H.E.R.B.I.E circles around happy with his potential victory.
- BEN: We need something so quick that little robot won’t be able to nothing. An’ if this don’t work Colossus and Wolverine are both off my Christmas card list.
- FAKE BEN: X Men?
- H.E.R.B.I.E: And then there was one.
Close on the three felled heroes, they are all starting to come to. Johnny has just about opened his eyes and Reed is sitting up again. Reed has that “Where am I?” look on his face.
This is the classic Fastball Special, but instead of Colossus throwing Logan skywards this time the real Ben Grimm is launching a very scared fake Ben into the sky towards H.E.R.B.I.E.
- BEN: One fastball special coming up!
- FAKE BEN: What?
- BEN: Reed, I hope you’re well enough to play catcher.
PAGE EIGHT (6 panels)
Fake Ben collides with H.E.R.B.I.E. head on.
Reed is standing up now, reaching out. One hand catching the frazzled H.E.R.B.I.E. the other a discombobulated fake Ben, who hangs draped over Reed’ hand head hanging low. The whole birthday party is out from their hiding places clapping the heroes.
- MR.JACKSON: Looks like you got to see the Fantastic Four in action after all, hey Tommy.
- TOMMY: Wow!
Sue and Johnny are waking up, Amelia is standing next to them smiling as they wake up and taking their photo on her camera.
- SUE: My head hurts.
- JOHNNY: You and me both sis.
- AMELIA: This has been the best birthday ever!
The real FF are standing talking to Tommy, Amelia and Mr. Jackson. Reed is making sure Mr. Jackson has learned his lesson. The way he is looking down at the floor it appears he has and that he can be humble. He has his arms around his two twins as if to suggest he might stop trying to buy their love. The fake FF are in the background loading up their Fabulous Four van. With the exception of fake Ben who is taking to real Ben.
- REED: Next time Mr. Jackson I suggest getting him a more conventional present.
- FAKE BEN: So what would have happened if they hadn’t woken up?
- BEN: I hadn’t really thought that far ahead.
Fake Ben is suddenly feeling cocky, everything is ok and he even helped save the day. So he pushes his luck with new “friend” Ben as they walk along. He wants to be part of the FF camaraderie. Ben looks furious, like he could happily land a punch on fake Ben’s chin. Johnny is catching up with them and he has Ben’s back.
- FAKE BEN: I could sue you for this you know.
- BEN: You what?
- JOHNNY: Wait, so you’re telling me you guys paid to use our logo, uniforms and catchphrases. Right?
- JOHNNY: No? Then I suggest you cool down before I hot things up.
The Fantastic Four are walking away together as one close knit unit and the Jackson family are waving them off. Johnny has his arm around Ben. No matter how much they disagree their friendship will always remain.
- JOHNNY: Come on Ben. There’s a drum kit at home with your name on it.
- BEN: You know what I realised Johnny? I’m already a rock star…ha ha ha!