> Reprinted in: Fantastic Four Masterworks Volume 6  •  Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2

From the Mouths of the Marvels:

"All these years - - when I thought I never got the breaks - - now I know the truth! It was my fault - - nobody else's! I wouldn't work hard enough! I wouldn't make the sacrifices that a Reed Richards would-- !"

-- Thing impostor, page 16

Reed takes his first long look at Sub-Space (aka the Negative Zone).


Fantastic Four #51
June 1966 • 20 pages

Publication Date: March 10, 1966

Letters Page: Page OnePage Two

House Ad: Ad #1Ad #2

I: Feature Story: "This Man...This Monster!"

Pages: 20

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letters: Artie Simek

Villain: Thing Impostor/Ricardo Jones

Guest Appearance: Wyatt Wingfoot, Whitey Mullins, Coach Jim Thorpe

Cameo Appearance: Alicia Masters

Marvel Milestones: First appearance of Sub-Space (later called Negative Zone), Kozy Kampus Koffee Shop

Gadgets & Technology: Duplication Apparatus, Short-Range Subliminal Inducer, Meson Particle-Smasher

Synopsis: Thing is wandering dejected in the rain when a shadowy figure offers him refuge. Though he is a scientist, he tells Thing that he understands what it means to be an outcast. He offers Thing a cup of coffee and suddenly, Ben feels woozy. Thing passes out on the scientist's couch and the strange man grins. He pulls out a Duplication Apparatus of his own invention and with a zap of crackling energy, it steals the Thing's cosmic rays. Thing is returned to the form of Ben Grimm and the scientist is now a dead ringer for the Thing! He can now follow through with his plan to destroy Reed Richards and the Fantastic Four.

A few days later, the Thing imposter arrives at the Baxter Building. Reed and Sue are working in the lab and, thinking everything is normal, ask the imposter to move some heavy machinery as if he was really Ben. The Thing impostor slowly catches on to the situation and adapts to how Reed and Sue would expect Ben to act. Suddenly, the real Ben Grimm shows up mad as hell! He tries to convince a stunned Reed and Sue that the Thing they see before them is an imposter, and that he is the real Ben Grimm! Reed is dubious about these claims and Ben, insulted, storms off.

Reed puts the incident out of his mind and prepares the imposter for what he declares will be his greatest experiment. He is going into Sub-Space, and only the strength of the Thing can anchor him, to keep him from flying off forever into the "negative zone" of space. Meanwhile, Johnny is getting used to college life with his new friend, Wyatt Wingfoot when they are both harassed by football star Whitey Mullins. Coach Thorpe breaks up the exchange and, noticing Wingfoot and his obvious athleticism, begs him to join the football team. He could be exactly what they need to get out of their slump, he tells him, but Wyatt refuses. When Coach Thorpe realizes Wyatt is the son of his old friend, the legendary Olympic decathlete Will Wingfoot, he laments to his wife that he won't play for him.

Sue pleads with Reed to abandon his new experiment but Reed refuses. This is an important breakthrough for science, he says, and he must follow through with it for the good of mankind. The Thing imposter is shocked. He slowly comes to realize, with great shame, that Reed Richards isn't in this for fortune and glory; that he's risking his life solely for the good of others.

Reed enters the chamber wearing only a space helmet and a lifeline for protection. He hands the lifeline to the Thing imposter, and reminds him that his life is in the Thing's hands. If he gets into trouble, he will tug on the line and the Thing must pull him out. Once the chamber is sealed he pierces the barrier of the Negative Zone and is hurled into the great expanse of Sub-Space. He lands on an asteroid but is caught in the gravity well of Earth. Since he is now transformed into anti-matter, when he hits the matter of the Earth, he predicts that he'll explode. He pulls on the lifeline to get Thing's attention, but nothing happens.

The Thing imposter, who is in a perfect position to follow through with his maniacally conceived plan, is stunned. He realizes now that his career pales in comparison to Reed Richards, that he hasn't sacrificed and worked as hard as Reed has. Sue screams for Thing to pull Reed in, but the imposter has hesitated too long. When he finally pulls the cable, it snaps in his hands. Sue and the impostor realize that Reed is doomed.

But in a moment of self-sacrifice, the imposter realizes he must do something to save the life of the man he wanted to kill, and he grabs the broken of cable and is pulled into Sub-Space. He lands on the asteroid next to Richards. Reed can't believe the Thing would sacrifice himself like this. Reed openly regrets that they will both die, and tells the Thing impostor about how great a friend he has always been to him through life. Even at the last moment, the impostor realizes that Reed is thinking of others. His shame overwhelms him, and with his mighty strength, he tosses Reed back to the portal to Earth.

The impostor takes a seat on the asteroid as it hurtles towards the Sub-Space Earth's deadly atmosphere, realizing that this is the only unselfish act in his life he'll ever make.

Ben Grimm arrives at Alicia's apartment. In his human form, he believes he is free of his curse. But the moment he knocks on her door, he changes back into the Thing! He runs off before Alicia can open the door. He returns to the Baxter Building and Reed is confused to see him as the Thing, thinking he somehow miraculously survived his trip into Sub-Space. But Sue, using her "woman's intuition", realizes that it's the real Ben Grimm, and that he was telling the truth earlier when he said he had an impostor. Together, they surmise that the man who died in Sub-Space was an imposter bent on their destruction, but at some point changed his mind. They may never know who he was but Reed is sure that today he died like a man.

--synopsis by Jonathan Clarke, aka doesitmatter, with Gormuu

--letter pages and house ads provided by Crusher Creel

Issues Reprinted
Fantastic Four #51-60 and Annual #4

Click on cover image to learn more about each issue.


FF #51

FF #52

FF #53

FF #54

FF #55

FF #56

Ann #4

FF #57

FF #58

FF #59

FF #60


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