BHOC: MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS #62

This is another book that showed up in the big bin of somewhat-old comics at my local drugstore, and being on the hunt for Fantastic Four stories, I picked it up. It must be said, this really isn’t a great cover–all of the heroes have their backs to us and are oriented around the edges. And Tomazooma isn’t going to make anybody’s list of Top-10 best Stan and jack creations. But ultimately, it didn’t matter to me. it was a new FF story, and so I was going to have it.

Boy, this is a great, if absurd, splash page. That weird forced perspective, that focus on the bottoms of Benjamin’s clodhoppers–completely unforgettable. And a really nice sense of environmental design given how little we see of the room. It’s almost enough to make one not wonder why Wyatt Wingfoot, Johnny Storm’s friend and college roommate, would have sent a letter to the Thing rather than the Torch. Maybe Ben is poking through Johnny’s mail, who knows? Anyway, this is where things jump off from.

Wyatt’s letter mentions something mysterious menacing his old tribe back out on the Reservation, so Ben, Johnny and Reed resolve to go west and check it out. Cutting ahead, we find Wyatt himself, traveling through the back woods in the Gyro-Cruiser that the Black Panther had once given him and Johnny. He’s on the trail of the mysterious Totem that the tribe says is causing havoc in the area. And find it he does, in one of those spectacular-but-unnecessary splash pages that Jack Kirby was doing during this period. This story was produced right around the time that Kirby resolved not to create anything new at Marvel and was dejected by his situation, so the story in this issue is pretty thin–but the visuals more than make up for it.

Meanwhile, the FF have flown to the area in their Pogo Plane, and the Torch flies out to survey the landscape. But the tribesmen take him for a threat and attack him. Johnny counter-attacks, sending them running–all except their chieftain, Silent Fox, who is Wyatt’s grandfather. From him, they hear the legend of Tomazooma, the Living Totem, whose return is plaguing the tribe. Further, Silent Fox tells the FF that the Red Star Oil Company wants the tribe’s land, but that they’ve refused to give it up. Do you think that’ll have some bearing on the outcome? What if I told you that they were based behind the Iron Curtain? 

Wyatt is naturally unable to stop the colossal Tomazooma, and he barely escapes from the encounter with his life. This was my first encounter with Wyatt, and he gets a big chunk of the action in the issue–no wonder I liked him! Thereafter, the oil fields go up in an enormous conflagration, bringing the Fantastic Four running. It’s Tomazooma, of course, tearing his way through them. He blasts the Torch out of the sky with twin eyebeams, and the fight is on.

But Tomazooma proves to be impossible to stop despite the best efforts of the Thing and Mister Fantastic, and he’s making his way to the dam, to tear it down and flood the entire area. back at the tribe, Wyatt has returned bringing news of his encounter–but Silent Fox is one step ahead of him. He knows that Tomazooma isn’t their actual deity but rather a super-powered robot cast in its image, sent to drive them from their land on behalf of Red Star Oil. At Silent Fox’s command, the tribe gears up with modern weapons and heads out to tackle the robot themselves.

But they’re like gnats against the giant invader, unable to make a dent in its powerful armor. But Reed Richards, who’s been watching this whole time, thinks he has the answer. He compresses himself down into a ball, and has Wyatt fire him into the aperture of Tomazooma’s mouth. (We’ll ignore the question of just how one fires a bazooka without a shell.) Wyatt is of course an expert marksman, and Reed’s compressed body flies directly into Tomazooma’s mouth.

From within, Reed is rapidly able to locate and destroy Tomazooma’s power pack, and the robot explodes. Fortunately, Reed’s pliable body saves him from any serious injury. And as things wind down, Silent Fox points to the horizon where, disappearing into the mists, there seems to be a second Tomazooma, one who came to aid the tribe in its time of need. Or maybe it was just an optical illusion, who can say? Either way, the treatment of Native Americans in this story is pretty unenlightened and a product of its time (and, really, the decades preceding it.) 

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