Fantastic Four Family Vacation

Tom Beland and Juan Doe take the FF on a third trip to Puerto Rico in Fantastic Four In…Ataque Del M.O.D.O.K.!

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By Chris Arrant

Over the course of three years and three one-shots, writer Tom Beland and artist Juan Doe have taken comics' first family, the Fantastic Four, to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico for fun, sun, and superhuman struggles. In the upcoming one-shot FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K., set for release on September 29th, the duo wrap up the trilogy with a story about Reed and Sue attempting an island getaway.

FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K. cover by Juan Doe
"The thing I love most about Puerto Rico is, once you've experienced it, it's very hard to get it out of your system," comments Beland, who moved to the island to be with his future wife. "When you visit just for fun, you get a feel for the romance of it all and it's a place you'd want to return with someone special in your life."

Although Mr. and Mrs. Richards visited Puerto Rico alongside The Thing and Human Torch in FANTASTIC FOUR: ISLA DE LA MUERTE, their return trip marks the first time they can actually enjoy it the locale.

"To me, this is what I think Sue experienced on her first trip here," notes Beland. "You can see the effect the island had on her in the first book. She gets it. So when they finally have some time on their own, she wants to come back to this place. But it's funny; you'd think that between the two of them you'd think Sue was the romantic one. But Reed also has his moments. "

Beland endeavors to show that romantic side of Reed Richards-aka Mister Fantastic- while also trying to keep pace with the patriarch's mighty mental prowess.

"I'm not a genius," the writer admits. "I can barely work my X-Box, so it was very difficult to write a character that is on that level of smart. I can't explain how unstable molecules work or space/time continuum theory. But I know what it's like to have someone who means the world to you. I know what it's like to have someone who's in your corner and means enough to you that you'll always be there for that person."

FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K. preview art by Juan Doe
But don't expect this one-shot to be all romance, unless your idea of amore includes a swollen-headed evil super-genius named M.O.D.O.K. Created back in 1967, M.O.D.O.K. has achieved cult status for his freakish appearance and mad intellect. But as it were, the villain tough for the writer to get a hold of.

"I'll go on record as saying that M.O.D.O.K. is a tough [character] to figure out," confesses Beland. "Some have him as a living computer genius and then sometimes he's portrayed as a bit of a joke. I'm not going to lie, I first wrote him as the latter. Then our editor suggested I go the computerized genius route and once I figured him out more, he was fun to write. I can understand why writers dig him so."

Artist Juan Doe echoes Beland's appreciation for M.O.D.O.K.:

"M.O.D.O.K. is one of my personal favorite old school comic book characters. That's been one of the best parts of these three one-shots, to take on these classic characters like Mole Man and Diablo. And with M.O.D.O.K., since he's essentially a giant floating head, he has unusual proportions, which makes for a really good juxtaposition with the others in the book. You have M.O.D.O.K. floating around, then Reed with his elongated body."

Joining Reed and Sue Aon this adventure will be el Vejigante, a new character owing their roots to the island itself, sharing a name with a demon often depicted in Puerto Rican parades.

FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K. preview art by Juan Doe
"Vejigante is sort of my thank you to Puerto Rico for letting us use their island for these books," explains Beland. "He's one of the symbols of the island and making those costumes are a huge source of pride for everyone. You see them in festivals and they're always hand-made. They were originally seen as spirits that guide you back to the church. Some see them as spirits who chase away evil demons and there are those who just dig the designs of the costumes. But they always appear everywhere and the people who make and wear these costumes are very serious about them. "

Doe describes the creation of this new character as one of the "most fun" parts of this project.

"With this project we've been able to create a character, el Vejigante, that might have some longevity in Marvel Comics library," the artist says. "The Vejigante character is part Puerto Rican lore, owing back to many years ago when he was considered a demon in street celebrations. El Vejigante is even referenced in the Don Quixote story as a demon."

When it came time to translate this urban legend of Puerto Rican past into the four-color world of Marvel Comics, Doe took time to accentuate the basic design for his super hero debut.

FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K. preview art by Juan Doe
"In Puerto Rico, el Vejigante from the parades has these ornate masks with a lot of horns, and that really lent itself to creating a cool visual design for the comic book," Doe says. "I also incorporated the colors of the Puerto Rican flag, as he's a patriotic hero. To my knowledge, he's the first Puerto Rican superhero who represents the country in a patriotic sort of way. He has really cool powers as well, and we're showcasing that in his confrontations with Sue and Reed, and also with M.O.D.O.K. and his mutant monkeys from A.I.M."

Although not hired because of it, both Beland and Doe have connections with the islands of Puerto Rico, with Doe's father coming from the country and Beland moving there in adulthood.

"This book really hits close to home," says Doe. "I take pride in that. It's an amazing coincidence, since we didn't plan for this comic to be by people who were connected to the island necessarily. But both Tom and I are, as well as our editor Alejandro Arbona, who is Puerto Rican. It's really been serendipitous."

In addition to serving as editor, Alejandro Arbona also acted as translator, with this one-shot and the two before being simultaneously published in both English and Spanish. Arbona not only translated the text Spanish, but specifically to the unique dialect used in Puerto Rico.

FANTASTIC FOUR IN...ATAQUE DEL M.O.D.O.K. variant cover by Juan Doe
"I always hear someone here tell me that they loved both versions, which tells me we got it right," shares Beland. "Without Alejandro, we'd have to have the books translated in a generic Spanish style that wouldn't have been as endearing as these books have been. They probably wouldn't have been made in Spanish if we didn't have Alejandro in on it. And I know many people here who've never read a Marvel book who are now into them because of these three books, and that's such a huge compliment."

 

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