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Challs/FF

CHALLENGERS OF THE FANTASTIC
Dial B for BLOG's first-ever issue of Secret Origins exposed the pulp roots of the Lee and Kirby's Fantastic Four! Now, as Dial B for BLOG nears the end of its run, it's only fitting that we revisit the FF's origins -- this time, to reveal a little-known predecessor to the Fabulous FF -- a story that first appeared in Challengers of the Unknown #2 (Aug/Sept 1958), several years before the debut of the FF in November 1961.

The similarities between the two stories are SO strong that many people view the Challengers story as a prototype of the FF story. You be the judge! The Challs story, The Menace of the Invincible Challenger, was written by Dave Wood, with pencils by Jack Kirby and some inks by Jack's wife, Roz Kirby (blacks). The FF story, of course, is by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

CHALLS (left) versus THE FF (right)
THE COVERS: On the cover of Challengers of the Unknown #2, pictured below left, Rocky bursts forth from a space capsule with the powers of the Human Torch -- just like Johnny Storm does on the cover of Fantastic Four #1, seen below right! Lower left corner of both covers: Blonde Challenger Ace's body position resembles the Thing's body position. Also, unofficial Challenger June's hairstyle and outfit both look quite similar to the FF's Susan Storm.
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INTRODUCING THE TEAM: In the DC in-house ad seen bel ow left, the Challengers of the Unknown are introduced against a yellow background, in circles with their names underneath, just as the members of the FF are shown on the splash page from Fantastic Four #1 (below, right).

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THE STORIES: Both the Challengers story (panels shown below left) and the Fantastic Four story (panels shown below right) begin with the emergency landing of a spaceship...
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The purple-clad occupant(s) emerge from the ship... seemingly unaffected!
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All at once, Rocky and Johnny realize they now have the power to control FLAME!
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But Rocky has OTHER powers! He and Reed have the power to alter the size/shape of their bodies!
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Rocky and Ben (who is himself quite rocky) have both gained superhuman strength!
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Rocky and Sue have both acquired the power to turn invisible (in front of a rock in the woods)!
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Later, Rocky's strange new powers wear off .... but the Fantastic Four's DON'T!

"And so was born The Fantastic Four!!
And from that moment on, the world would never again be the same!!"
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THE END!
Challs/FF
Challs/FF

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