brainchild of Richard Clorfene and Peter B. Lewis, the Marvel Radio
Series was originally envisioned as a Silver Surfer series by Clorfene,
a fan. Eventually Clorfene departed and Lewis pursued the series'
development with the Fantastic Four as its stars. Airing in 1975 with
13 episodes, the series marked not only the team's, but to my knowledge
Doctor Doom's only appearance in the radio medium. The series was
characterized by its faithful recreation of the comics by making
scripts complete with dialogue and narration taken straight from the
actual comics. The series not only featured Doctor Doom but a myriad of
Marvel characters like Nick Fury, Ant-Man, Namor, and others. Doctor
Doom appeared in three episodes. Below you will find a my commentaries
on the episodes featuring Doom.
For a look at the behind the scenes of the creation and production of the Fantastic Four radio show visit the 4 Freedom's Plaza's exclusive interview with series writer and producer Peter B. Lewis.
Bob Maxwell....Mr.. Fantastic
Cynthia Adler...The Invisible Woman
Jim Pappas...The Thing
Bill Murray...The Human Torch
Jerry Terheyden...Doctor Doom
Note: The episode titles are not the official ones and none are given during the actual episodes.
Episode 4 - "Meet Doctor Doom"
Based on Fantastic Four # 5 by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
The radio show sticks very close to the actual text of the comic with only the slightest of changes. The first interesting change is that as Stan Lee narrates the opening he refers to the Fantastic Four's headquarters as the Baxter Building. The FF's "secret headquarters" made its first appearance in Fantastic Four #3 but was not actually named the Baxter Building until Fantastic Four #6. Also notable is that there is some added dialogue during Johnny and Ben's fight as well as some dialogue exchanged between Reed and Sue. Interesting is some of the changes/deletion in wording. Johnny's use of "doggoned" is a goner and Sue refers to Johnny as "little brother" versus "kid brother." This is an understandable conceit to the fact that while young at the time, Bill Murray doesn't sound like a "kid."
What I found to be among the more interesting translations from one medium to the other is the way that certain things must be described to the audience. For instance, the net which Doom covers the FF tower in is simply described as a net in the comics. However in order to give the audience a better idea of what is going on, Doom describes it as a "electrified wire mesh." For further dramatic effect, the wire mesh is then reused as the team's transportation into Doom's ship as opposed to being whisked away by a separate device as in the comic. As far as translating the FF's powers the most difficult is Reed's stretching abilities. While Thing just needs to clobber his opponents and Johnny can just proclaim "Flame On," Reed's is signaled by a wah wah sound effect. I would be interested to know, however unlikely, if anyone who heard the show without being familiar with the comics was able to get the idea.
Reed's narration of Doom's origin is taken near verbatim from the source. However not presented is the actual dialogue within the flashback so no mention is made of the explosion which scars him. Rather it is inferred that it was demons whom he conjured up which cause his disfigurement. This is most interesting in light of the the recent Books of Doom miniseries which makes a similar assertion and the Fantastic Four Special wherein Reed confesses that he feared Doom was doing exactly that.
With roughly ten years of hindsight, Doom's arsenal receives a slight upgrade in the show. First off, Doom's "time travel device" is now a "space time travel device." Then later when Thing attacks Doom he doesn't bash a robot but thin air as it happens to be a Doom hologram which had been menacing them the whole time. His goals also seem to be bigger as the gems inside Blackbeard's chest will give him "all the powers of the universe" versus just making him "ruler of Earth!" One of the more humorous additions occurs when Torch comments on Ben's disguise saying, "Say, you look like the real thing, Thing." A drastic and noteworthy change to the story is that in the radio show Thing does not come to terms with having to return to his own time but rather Doom's machine swoops them back to the present before he can do anything about it.
The biggest change to the story is without a doubt the finale. While in the comic the team's priority seems to be escape from Doom's castle, here the team returns to Doom's lab to investigate what other instruments of destruction he has. There the FF and Doom engage in a battle which mirrors the teams later encounter with Doom in Fantastic Four #10. Doom prepares to use a shrinking ray of his own creation to shrink the team to the size of an electron but is foiled when Sue grabs the gun from his hand and tosses it to Ben. Unwilling to be captured Doom then begins to conjure up as Ben describes, "the devil himself." Ultimately Ben uses the ray and shrinks Doom to a microscopic size. With Doom seemingly shrunk out of existence, Torch decides to destroy the castle so that no one else can find and use Doom's technology. This is a drastic departure from the original issue but a fascinating one. The emphasis on Doom's dual mastery over science and sorcery is very well conveyed. I'm left wondering about the origin of this "alternate" ending to Fantastic Four #5. Had they preserved the ending they could have theoretically continued with Doom and Namor's team up in Fantastic Four #6. Instead this seems purposefully set up so that they can return Doctor Doom in the "Micro-World" story from Fantastic Four #16. Perhaps producer/writer Peter B. Lewis preferred to use the latter story in order to introduce the character of Ant-Man? Ironically, whatever the reason for changing the ending, in FF#5 Doom escapes and Ben proclaims, "and next time I'll handle things my way!" In the show Ben certainly gets his chance at doing just that because while in the original Reed holds Thing back as he wants to go after Doom, here Thing gets away with essentially "killing" Doom much to Reed's dismay.
Episode 8 - The Return of Doctor Doom - Week 1
Based on Fantastic Four #16
This marks the series' first "two week epic event." Like all the episodes, this one does not stray far from the source material. Here it is mostly a case of shortening the story probably for time constraints. The effect is the trimming of a large amount of dialogue. For instance, in the issue each team member relates their story of the first time they experienced the freak shrinking effect. However in the episode Ben cuts Reed off. Also absent is a short sequence from the comic showing Human Torch show off to some high school kids. The only other significant change is that in the comic the Wasp makes a brief appearance along side her husband, but here we are only introduced to the Ant-Man. Of small note is that within the episode is a short recap of the Doom's fate from the previous episode in which the show replays the ending.
Episode 9 - The Return of Doctor Doom - Week 2
Based on Fantastic Four #17
Alterations begin early on in this episode. While it is customary in comics of the period to recap in grand detail what happened in the previous issue, here the radio show found it sufficient to confine the recap to a short exposition taken directly from the issue's narrative text. This also involves excising any mention of Human Torch's rarely mentioned knightly title as conferred upon him by the enchanted queen of the microverse. Other significant trims are the individual FF members attempts to track down Doctor Doom with their respective powers. This is one sequence that I wonder if it was trimmed for time reasons or perhaps because again, having a decade of hindsight perhaps some ideas didn't age well. Case in point Reed's "highly refined radar set extra sensitive to human flesh covered by steel!" Reed doesn't make gadgets like these often enough any more.
After faithfully recreating the scene in which the "janitor" shows the FF a discreet way out of the Baxter Building, the show makes the interesting choice of glossing over the sequence of events which show exactly what Doom's "followers" do to the team. Also of note is the deletion of Doom's threat to deposit a fast growing spore which will clog the city with a giant vine. Perhaps another idea which did not age well? The rest of the issue remains largely unaltered in its radio form. The only final deviation is that during Doom and Sue Storm's duel, Doom does not use the "menace of the moving bars" which is advertised at the beginning of the episode. The other dangers, namely the "threat of swirling cement", the "panic of the deadly whirlwind", and the "peril of the room without a floor" are featured and all take their names from the actual issue's cover. Very noteworthy in this episode is the strong performance by Jim Pappas as Ben Grimm / the Thing. Not having heard the radio show when originally aired, I must admit that when I finally did hear it for the first time not long ago that I found the Thing's voice to be exactly how I imagined it. I think it is a credit to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that they managed to create images and words which so vividly created a character whose voice I feel I could hear coming right off the page. It is also a credit to the voice actor, a field which doesn't get enough credit, for being able to project the character as he did. Honestly I think after hearing these episodes I can't imagine another voice doing the Thing.
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