Friday, August 12, 2011

Falshback Friday: Fantastic Four #217

Fantastic Four #217
Someone turned 50 this week.  Yes, fantastic Four matched the President and reached the big five-oh.  In honor of this milestone I decided to do this week's Flashback Friday looking at one of my favorite stories of the FF.  It is the death of a member of the Fantastic Four.  When this member passed by sacrificing their life there was no fanfare and news reports.

Instead, this character made news when he premiered in the NBC Saturday Morning Cartoon Series of the Fantastic Four.  H.E.R.B.I.E. was the mechanical replacement for the Human Torch.  The big fear was that small boys would see the Human Torch, douse themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire to imitate the hero.  Just like the numerous boys that wrapped a blanket around their necks and jumped off buildings to be Superman.  (Still, wearing a cape on the swing set slide was a bit dangerous as mine got caught once and jerked my head back a bit.)  The suits decided that the robot would be better as a cartoon character.

So H.E.R.B.I.E. joined the FF and eventually made it into the comics.  Here in this issue we see a frantic Reed and Sue differing on where Franklin should be to be safe.  Reed is beefing up security with H.E.R.B.I.E.'s help after Blastaar escaped from the Negative Zone and caused havoc.  So the Building needs work.  While this is going on, Johnny meets the lovely Dazzler and is disco dancing the night away while a maniacal H.E.R.B.I.E. attacks.  Seeing Sue easily dispatched reminded me how many times writers just got the female out of the way.  Sad as I feel she is the strongest member of the FF.

H.E.R.B.I.E. takes out all the FF and is soon on the verge of winning.  Well, not H.E.R.B.I.E., but the evil Dr. Sun The Living Brain.  He had possessed H.E.R.B.I.E. after being downloaded as part of the information from the computers of the planet Xander.  The Doctor slips into the Baxter Building itself as he attacks The Torch and leaves H.E.R.B.I.E. in a stand by phase.  Reed begins switching circuits in the main computer and soon only one place is left for Sun to return, H.E.R.B.I.E.

The little robot commits suicide by smashing into and exploding the main computer and himself to make sure he is not used to attack the FF again.  All the banter and stuff from Ben to H.E.R.B.I.E. is boiled down to this quote from the Thing, "Mebbe ya built him better than you knew Reed!  I think H.E.R.B.I.E. sacrificed himself to save us.  I - I hate to say it, but the little squirt was all right in the end."  That says it all.  A misguided attempt to "Think Of The Children" gave us a simple story of one small robot showing what it means to love.

Happy 50TH Fantastic Four!