Lee & Kirby & Ortolani: The Last Fantastic Four Story, Part One

This is a bit of a forgotten masterpiece, both because it saw limited distribution, and because it was published in a non-English speaking country. Between 1992 and 1994, in the pages of the Italian fanzine MADE IN USA, devoted to American comics, cartoonist Leonardo Ortolani (often better known by his simple signature, Leo) was such a hardcore fan of the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era of FANTASTIC FOUR that he wrote and drew his own four-part finale to the series, set just after the final Lee & Kirby story. In doing so, he attempted to pay homage to the creative spark that had filled the title, and to bring a variety of dangling plot threads and disparate elements together into a satisfying conclusion.

It’s terrific.

Ortolani would become known and recognized for his series RAT-MAN, a satirical take on an America-style super hero which became wildly popular in Italy and throughout Europe, but which I don’t believe was ever translated for publication in the United States. And certainly this story, which ran four chapters and close to 100 pages and was totally unlicensed, never gained a lot of recognition. Which is a shame, as it’s a labor of love produced by a creator who clearly has an excellent grasp on the material.

All of the translations here were done by me using software, so it’s possible and even likely that a few errors crept in along the way. There are also some idioms that needed to be rephrased in order to work in English.

REED: Without Ben, we can never stop him!

WHEN FALLS THE SCYTHE!

CAPTION: THE FABULOUS FANTASTIC FOUR

TITLE: PROLOGUE..

COLONEL: I’m sorry, Doctor Richards, but your rocket won’t take off until you get approval from the government.

REED: All right, Colonel, I’ll wait until you give us the “green light.”

BEN: Don’t call me next weekend to go to the stars. I’ll be in orbit with Janet the Red

SUE: Ben!

BEN: Sorry, Suzie, I didn’t mean to scandalize you. I’m not gonna say “orbit” anymore, okay?

CREDITS: A HOMAGE TO STAN LEE/JACK KIRBY & JOE SINNOTT. PLAGIARIZED BY LEO.

CAPTION: Later, in Reed Richards’ apartment…

BEN: Why didn’t you tell him the truth, Reed? That we found an alien ship from space up there?

REED: Because in the current political climate, they would immediately believe that it is a new Russian orbiting weapon.

REED: No…for them, the mission will only be a practical demonstration of the possibility of space travel…

REED: That’s all it was until last month…

REED CAPTION: Then, with the help of a nuclear telescope of my own design, I discovered the heat of an object invisible to normal instrumentation…

REED CAPTION: …that will enter geostationary orbit at 11:00 tomorrow, local time!

REED: That’s why, with or without permits, tomorrow night we’ll take off to intercept its course!

JOHNNY: Contact with an alien race! An event that could change human history… for good or bad!

REED: Let’s hope for the good, Johnny…that thing is as big as a small town! If they’re going to attack us, who’s going to stop them?

JOHNNY: Isn’t it creepy, Ben? Could be our last hours…!

BEN: I can’t believe that I’m walking past her for you, you creep!

JOHNNY: Aw, admit it! It’s good to have a friend to talk to who knows what you need right now!

BEN: Okay, okay. Don’t make me blush!

JOHNNY: Well…if we have to have a three-eyed lizard to dinner tomorrow, we might as well get used to the idea, right?

BEN: I’m warning you, kid! So help me, if you stretch out your dirty feet on my popcorn, I’ll pulverize you!

REED: Susan…

REED: Susan?

SUE: Oh, sorry, Reed, I…

REED: It’s almost morning, I know. I’m not calm either…

CAPTION: She smiles…she wants to stop Reed, stop them all…but she doesn’t have the courage, and she just prays that everything will be okay!

CAPTION: The next night, events follow quickly…

CAPTION: …and before the base realizes it, the rocket heads towards the stratosphere!

REED: So far, so good…

BEN: Yeah…so far…

CAPTION: Their initial sensation is a ticking, almost imperceptible at first…

BEN: Reed! Cosmic rays! Penetrating the hull!

REED: It’s not possible!

REED: Intensity…my god…4.7!

SUE: It’s a cosmic storm! And we’re in the middle of it!

SUE: Johnny!

JOHNNY: Burning! I feel like I’m burning up!

BEN: Someone…take the controls…I can’t…lift my arms…!

REED: Automatic return! It’s our only chance of salvation!

ALIEN: Sir! The Earth rocket coming towards us is in trouble and returning to the planet!

LEADER: Excellent! We couldn’t risk being discovered at this early stage of our plan: examine what the planet’s defenses are and evaluate the possibility of an invasion…

ALIEN: When you are ready, Commander, laser cannon is still on target…

SKRULL: No!

SKRULL: It is no longer necessary!

SKRULL: Whoever flew that ship no longer represents a threat to the advance of the glorious Skrull Empire!

CAPTION: Upon his return, Captain Gore’nn was stripped of his rank for “serious misconduct in the exercise of command” and disintegrated in a public ceremony…

CAPTION: The apocalypse of the Fantastic Four begins…

TITLE: WHEN FALLS THE SCYTHE!

REED: Come on, honey! By concentrating your force-field, you should be able to drill into that plate…

SUE: I’m…trying…

SUE: It’s starting to bend…maybe…

SUE: No! Useless! The effort is too great!

REED: Rest, you’ll try again later…

JOHNNY: Hello, people! Can we break the tedium?

REED: Johnny! Crystal! Come in!

REED: We were just carrying out a series of experiments to test the actual extent of Susan’s powers…

CRYSTAL: What’s wrong, Johnny?

JOHNNY: I don’t know, Crys…I’ve never seen my sister try to use her powers so…lethally!

JOHNNY: It’s as if being a part of the Fantastic Four doesn’t give her security anymore…

JOHNNY: …what’s changed?

CRYSTAL: She’s got a son now, Johnny! What would have become of Franklin if Magneto had defeated us*? Susan is trying to become more powerful than anything that can wipe out the rest of the team…!

CRYSTAL: …and she doesn’t lack courage!

JOHNNY: I…I know who’s gonna kill Johnny Storm, the Human Torch…

CRYSTAL: Who?! Tell me, Johnny!

JOHNNY: You, if you put on your mini-skirt tonight! Yahoooo!

CRYSTAL: You’re a…a…

JOHNNY: And yet, Crys, sometimes I think about it…

JOHNNY: When the scythe falls, who’s it going to touch first?

CRYSTAL: Johnny?

JOHNNY: Yes?

CAPTION: “Where is Ben?”

WOMAN: Don’t worry, Mr. Grimm…I’ll be with Alicia day and night.

ED NOTE: *FANTASTIC FOUR #102!

ALICIA: Too bad you can’t come to Boston with me.

BEN: I’m sorry too, baby. I’m sure your statues will make them like stone…

BEN: …it worked with me, didn’t it?

CAPTION: But before you think you’ve accidentally bought the latest issue of “Ivy”, let’s move to a semi-deserted pier…

CAPTION: The water boils under the bridge…

CAPTION: Unseen, a humanoid figure emerges from the waves…

CAPTION: For a moment, he remains still, the silence broken by the hum of his electronic components…

CAPTION: Then, it disappears into a sewer conduit that leads under the city…

CAPTION: Whisper Hill. The lonely house of Agatha Harkness, the incredible nanny…of Franklin Richards…

REED: …all it says is that the child is well and they’ll return in a few days…

SUE: But…Reed! He is my…our son!

REED: I know, Sue…Miss Harkness has never behaved like this before…but she is the only person we can trust…if she says Franklin is safe, we can only believe her…

CAPTION: As the spaceship takes off, hidden glances spy on the distressed face of Susan Richards…

WATCHER: It’s sad to lie…

WATCHER: …but sometimes it’s necessary…so little Richards is safe…

AGATHA: I understand…

AGATHA: Will you warn them, too?

WATCHER: No…I can only observe…

WATCHER: …even if that means losing the only beings that Uatu calls…

WATCHER: …friends!

CAPTION: The Baxter Building. Headquarters of the fabulous quartet.

CRYSTAL: Johnny! You’re in trouble if you don’t watch your reach!

JOHNNY: Who do you take me for, Crys, my brother-in-law?

SUE: How can I raise my child if I have to leave him in custody all the time to fight alongside the team?

SUE: Crystal could replace me, but…what about Reed?

SUE: Can I abandon the one I love? “For better or worse…”

SUE: …Reed…

CAPTION: “…Reed…”

REED: Strange…very strange…

REED: The instruments have found the echo of a major anomaly in the values of the Negative Zone…

REED: The episode is probably weeks old…but I have no idea what might have happened…

REED: The alarm! We’re under attack!

REED: A robot broke through the wall! And Johnny and Crystal are on the ground…not moving!

REED: Susan! Save yourself while I try to stop him!

SUE: If you think I’m just a defenseless “wife and mother”, you’re wrong about a lot of things, Doctor Richards!

REED: It’s too strong! Without Ben, we can’t defeat him in a hand-to-hand fight!

REED: Watch out! It’s about to fire!

SUE: No! Not if I can stop him with my force-field!

REED: If I want to try to short-circuit it, I have to do it…now!

REED: Too late! It’s already…

REED: Unnh!

SUE: Turning invisible is useless…it’s turning towards me…knows where I am!

SUE: It’s time to test the strength of my force-field concentrated in one single spot…

CAPTION: The giant staggers and shudders under the onslaught of invisible shots that he can’t intercept…or stop…

CAPTION: …until, confused, it falls to the ground!

SUE: Now…if I could knock his head off!

SUE: I have to…make it…so close, he can hit me at any time!

ROBOT: SKREEEE!

SUE: Susan Richards’ fears do not delay becoming reality!

CAPTION: Far away, the unseen operators of the mechanical puppet discuss the partial victory…

GUY1: All that’s missing is the one they call “The Thing”!

GUY2: We can’t use the “final ray” if all four aren’t present! The Master gave us one chance!

CAPTION: But the ever-lovin’ Thing is not so far away!

BEN: The wall of the good living room is missing!

BEN: I told him to wait for me before attacking those shelves! Reed never knows what to do with a drill!

BEN: I’d better move…

BEN: I’ve got the sense that the gang’s in big trouble!

BEN: As I thought…

BEN: A fucking six-foot-long rod in the living room…and no one else standing!

CAPTION: Taking advantage of Ben’s hesitation, the robot attacks!

BEN: Aarrghh!

CAPTION: Meanwhile, the other members of the team are beginning to recover…

JOHNNY: It’s Ben…

JOHNNY: He’s fighting with the robot, but I can’t intervene! I might hit him!

REED: Sue, shield me with your force-field…if I can get close enough with this ion-induction plate…

REED: Now! Drop the field!

REED: It’s done!

REED: I’ve drained off his energy charge!

BEN: O…okay…big man! Let’s see how well you do without batteries!

BEN: And now, people…

BEN: Cover your eyes if you’re impressionable, because…

BEN: …IT’S CLOBBERIN’ TIME! (literally “It’s Time For Destruction!”)

GUY1: Now! This is the moment! Activate the final ray!

REED: Watch out! It’s still active!

BEN: A lot of good that’s going to do him!

GUY1: No…it’s not possible! They’re unharmed!

JOHNNY: FLAME ON!

GUY2: We’ve failed…failed!

JOHNNY: This is for Crystal!

REED: No! Johnny!

REED: Now, without a structure to analyze, we cannot learn who built it!

BEN: Why, do you want to buy 7 more of them to put in a garden with Snow White?

BEN: We beat him, all right? Give me “five”, kid!

SUE: Come, quick! Crystal hasn’t recovered yet!

CAPTION: In what was the command room of the robot, the sinister hiss of the opening of a door announces a feared arrival…

VOICE: The battle is over! The war is won!

GUY1: But…my lord…the final ray didn’t work!

GUY1: The Fantastic Four…are still alive!

VOICE: Of course, you idiot! But what do you know about my plans?

GUY1: I…ask forgiveness…I thought you hated them…

VOICE: Hate? Hate is for lesser beings! I act out of love…that love I lost too many years ago…that I had long been under the illusion of finding in conquest…in you…

GUY1: S…sir…we love you!

GUY2: Yes, we do! We do!

VOICE: Shake…

VOICE:: …and terror shuts your throat…your love is for a terrible and vengeful god…

GUY1: …

VOICE: And I’m tired of this love!

VOICE: Tired!

VOICE: Soon…soon she will return to me, and the old struggle will end!

CAPTION: Meanwhile, on top of the Baxter Building…

JOHNNY: Why? Why do they have to take her away?

REED: Because, Johnny! Only the medical science of the Inhumans can help her!

JOHNNY: At least let me go with her!

REED: I’m sorry, son, but for 48 hours after an attack, no one can leave our base…it’s our rule!

JOHNNY: Crystal!

JOHNNY: I’m tired of your rules! They can’t be right if they separate us from those we love!

JOHNNY: If it wasn’t for them, Sue would have gone back to Whisper Hill much sooner and found Franklin, not just a note on the door!

SUE: Johnny! Wait!

BEN: Damn matchstick! It would take him 48 hours to kick in

REED: Ben!

BEN: Okay, okay, I won’t say “kick” again!

REED: I’m…sorry, Susan…I…

SUE: It’s nothing, dear…nothing…

JOHNNY: Crystal! Crystal! Crystal!

JOHNNY: I’m an idiot! If I hadn’t fused that robot, Reed could have studied it and found out who attacked us!

JOHNNY: But I’m not Reed. I get heated up easily!

JOHNNY: Ah! Nice joke!

JOHNNY: Since the cosmic rays transformed us, I’ve seen extraordinary worlds…unimaginable universes…

JOHNNY: But the view of stars in the sky is always something exciting…when we were little, Suzie and I spent hours watching them…making plans…dreaming of the future…

JOHNNY: And my future was…burning?

JOHNNY: Tonight my flame seems brighter than usual…

JOHNNY: I feel more powerful…

JOHNNY: And faster…

CAPTION: Then, he who is called the Human Torch smiles…

JOHNNY: FLAME ON!

CAPTION: And there is light…

JOHNNY: It’s…it’s fantastic!

JOHNNY: Fantastic!

JOHNNY: I…

JOHNNY: I…

JOHNNY: AARRR!

JOHNNY: No.

JOHNNY: No

JOHNNY: No

JOHNNY: God, no

JOHNNY: Not this

JOHNNY: Not now!

SUE: Johnny!

SUE: Johnny, what’s going on with you, little brother?

JOHNNY: Sis…

JOHNNY: Did you see…what a sky…what stars…

JOHNNY: I never…I never remember…

JOHNNY: …what was my future?

SUE: R…Reed?

SUE: REEEED!

CAPTION: NEXT ISSUE: REVENGE FROM THE PAST!

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