a Project 1983 post
a Wednesday Comics post
From Marvel Comics, John Byrne (writer, penciler, inker), Glynis Wein (color), Jim Novak (letters).
Way back in 1983 this extra sized annual featured a disturbing mystery that involves a rock star, milk, and the Fantastic Four.
The story begins with rock star Sharon Selleck next to her broken down car in the middle of no where, upstate New York. Been there. While reading this classic tale I thought Sharon was created for this issue, never seen or mentioned before or since. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Sharon and her best friend, Julie Angel, are friends and flirtations with one Johnny Storm. The Fantastic Four’s Human Torch. Modern day comic readers forget there was a time when non super powered common people were as important a part of the comics as the super heroes. Spider-Man usually has a good supporting cast. Superman frequently as well. Must be something about working at the papers. Fantastic Four has often featured support staff, girlfriends, even babysitters. All are shown as part of the normal daily life. Sure we have important jobs, but we’re also people too that interact with other people. I think it’s part of that New York busy city attitude that Marvel shows so well.
However, Sharon isn’t in the city. She’s surrounded by fields and cows. Not a gas station in sight and years before cell phones. A pick up truck drives by and completely ignores the young blonde in small clothes stranded at the side of the road. Clearly a work of fiction.
Sharon stares at the truck in disbelief as it drives by. The sun shines just right and she catches a shine of a town in the distance. The same direction the truck is heading towards. Better than just standing there, Sharon walks for miles. She encounters a fence surrounding a farm and decides to climb over it as a shorter distance to town. Not only a short cut, but also a testament to cute white girl privilege. She is spotted by some farm hands and… immediately taken to the police! Maybe not so privileged.
At the police station her story is verified and the chief explains they don’t get a lot of outsiders here. A non apology for her experiences so far. Her car is towed into town and she’s given a room at the local hotel until it’s fixed. Everything seems better until her lactose intolerance acts up in the middle of the night.
Next morning and still no car. No working phones either. No relief from the intolerance at all. Sharon starts to feel trapped in this town over a couple days and sneaks out of her hotel room late at night. She gets far away from the town, but knows someone is behind her. Sharon finds a payphone just outside of town, makes a call, and then it cut off by someone.
Through some set up dialogue, Johnny Storm sees his friend Julie Angel. Julie tells him her concern over Sharon’s whereabouts. They head over to the Baxter Building where it turns out Sharon’s last call was to the Fantastic Four’s help desk. They track the call and head over to help. All the while feeling something is familiar.
Now, finally the big reveal. This is a familiar town. In fact it goes all the way back to Fantastic Four issue 2 from 1962. In that issue the shape shifting Skrulls appear on Earth. The Fantastic Four battles this small contingent of their soon to be regular adversaries, and win. Reed Richards agrees to not kill them or send them back in defeat. Instead the remaining Skrulls must change into cows and are then hypnotized to forget they were ever anything else. These cows have gone on to live on a field, eat, get bigger, give milk.
Remember that lactose intolerance?
That’s right! This entire town has been collecting, selling, and drinking this Skrull milk. While not completely changing their DNA it has given them certain abilities and problems. This tainted milk is also spread over the fields causing mutations in the crops. The Fantastic Four come up with solutions to save their friend, save the townspeople, and destroy the alien byproduct milk that was corrupting this town.
But what about the tanker full of milk that was delivered to another town?
And, to go further in Marvel history, what happens when someone eats one of these cows?
This comics was tons of fun from an age where nearly all comics were that. No huge crossovers. No confusion over what’s going on. No deconstruction over what is and isn’t a hero. A problem, a mystery, and the good guys come in to solve it. A wink and a nod back to classic Marvel history but no need to go out and read that title. Everything is recapped easily within the story.
Stories like this are why I’m spending more time in the dollar bins than the fresh new comics racks. For $4 I could get one new comic or 4 classic ones. And, depending on the sale and the comic store, maybe even a quarter bin or a 10 for a dollar deal.
John Byrne was in a golden era here and it shows. His writing is inspired, his art is arguably the best in comics at this time. Made even better by him inking over his own panels. All of it makes me want to not buy the newest Fantastic Four, but to go back to those dollar bins for John Byrne’s run during this time. Maybe find out what happened to Sharon Selleck. See if she discovered soy milk.