So when the war ended, it's hardly surprising that many women had little ambition to return to their traditional role of home-maker and unpaid domestic servant, even as their men returned from the War looking to pick up their old lives again.
|Seriously? This is how advertisers in the 1950s saw women? Talk about poking the tiger with a stick ... is it any wonder that as the Sixties rolled around, there would be a feminine backlash against this kind of this nonsense?|
|Betty Friedan in 1960.|
|Betty Friedan's ground-breaking book, The Feminine Mystique (1963), would forever change the way women saw them selves and how they wanted to be seen.|
Friedan asserted - quite correctly - that women are as capable as men for any type of work or career path, countering the assertions by the mass media, educators and psychologists that working mothers are bad mothers. The book became a bestseller, which many historians believe was the impetus for the "second wave" of the women's movement in the United States, and significantly shaped national and world events.
My point in describing all of this is that Stan and Jack were creating the Fantastic Four comic against this very background. Where they may have started out simply wanting to characterise Sue Storm as being no helpless female victim, as so many other comic heroines were, as 1963 rolled over into 1964, we'd see Sue Storm becoming more assertive about her role in the team and in her relationship with Reed Richards.
|Though initially, it seems all Sue Storm has to do is act as surrogate mother to her unruly family, it later turns out that yet again, she is key in defeating this issue's seemingly invincible super-baddie.|
|It's still not perfectly formed yet, but Fantastic Four 18 has another instance of Sue - rather than Ben or Johnny - being key to defeating the team's current menace.|
The following month, Fantastic Four 19 had the team travel back in time to the era of the Egyptian Pharaohs in search of a cure for Alicia's blindness. There, they're subdued and enslaved by fellow time traveller Rama-Tut, who may be a descendant of Kang or Dr Doom or both. And yet again, it's Sue who frees the team from captivity to defeat the slightly slimy villain who had ear-marked her for a lifetime of emotional and physical slavery. Given the catharsis of the moment, I'm a little surprised that Stan doesn't give Sue some harsh words to say ... or maybe Sue's just too classy to gloat.
|At the climax of "The Hate Monger" it's up to Sue storm to deflect the aim of the villain's Hate-Ray so that it strikes his minions and turns them against him.|
The end of the tale has the shocking revelation of The Hate Monger's true identity ... at least it shocked me as a ten year old reading this issue. And, true the form of recent FF issues, it's Sue once again who thwarts the enemy's plan and causes him to fall victim to his own weapon. But we had reached the point where this didn't seem to be enough for Stan and Jack any more. Repeatedly showing Sue rescue the others issue after issue wasn't driving the message home that not only did Sue think more quickly than her companions but often acted more decisively. Something else had to be done. So why not make Sue the most powerful member of the team by extending her meta-human capabilities?
Fantastic Four 22 (Jan 1964) was on sale in early October 1964, around a year after Reed Richards' impassioned defence of Sue's membership of the FF in Fantastic Four 11. The issue opens with Reed Richards running some tests to determine the extent of Sue's abilities. Unexpectedly, in response to Ben and Johnny's horseplay, Sue generates an invisible force field to save herself from being splashed with chemical foam.
Just as quickly, the FF are besieged by angry neighbours complaining about the Fantastic Four's disruptive behaviour, and are visited by a police officer, who looks suspiciously like Car 54 Where Are You's Officer Muldoon, about their storing an ICBM in midtown Manhattan.
Then it's back to more exploration of Sue's new powers. The team establishes that Sue can also make other objects or people invisible, but can't maintain her own invisibility at the same time. And then the story switches back to more complaining neighbours. This back and forth takes up the first half of the issue's 22 story pages.
|I always thought The Mole Man was a pretty weak villain, and he's easily thwarted by Sue, using her force field power. Stan and Jack also reveal an additional ability when they have Sue force invisible objects to become visible.|
As the saga of the Fantastic Four unfolds over the next couple of years, Sue's increasingly sophisticated abilities play key roles in saving the team from disaster. In the climax of their battle with evil counterparts The Frightful Four, in FF 38 (May 1965), it's Sue's force field that ensures the survival of the team.
It's Reed and Sue's engagement in Fantastic Four 35 (Feb 1965) and their marriage in Fantastic Four Annual 3 (Nov 1965) that turns the team into a proper family, but it's Sue's humanity and empathy that remains the moral compass of the team across the years that followed.
And though Invisible Girl took maternity leave in Fantastic Four 83 (Feb 1969) and was replaced by Crystal of The Inhumans, then later by Medusa in Fantastic Four 130 (Jan 1973), and again by She-Hulk in Fantastic Four 265 (Apr 1984), she would always return to take up her role as the most grown-up member of the Fantastic Four, and eventually became leader of the team in Fantastic Four 382 (Nov 1993).
Next: Separated at Birth II