Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

In the 1980s, it was my dad who used to be the Goble who had a problem with the logic of current Doctor Who episodes. His concern was that, every time the Doctor landed on Earth in the present-day, no-one ever recognised him off the telly.

That used to mess with my head a bit. I mean, if the Doctor ever had met someone who did recognise him from that show on BBC-1, then theoretically he could have then landed the TARDIS at BBC Television Centre and met the actor who was playing him. But then... surely he would only be able to do that because it had been written by the author, who he could also meet?

Now obviously, apart from that episode in 1988, the Doctor always travelled in a universe which was similar to ours, but didn't have the TV show.

Other shows have been more adventurous with regards to seriously examining just how thin that fourth wall is. Moonlighting could be very post-modern indeed some weeks, the silliest week being when David and Maddie chased the villain off their set, out of the studio and right across the film lot. However in its more dramatic episodes, their world was painfully real again.

There was an episode of Mork and Mindy when Mork met Robin Williams, and it was only then that Mindy was a bit phased by the resemblance.

Perhaps the finest TV crossing of the threshold was The South Bank Show's doco about author Douglas Adams, in which Ford and Arthur from The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy crossed universes into one where they were only fictional characters. Ford finds the documentary's script, and, horrified, asks Arthur to say something completely at random. Well obviously, Arthur's improvised wording was very very improbably spot-on.

But the award for the grandest reconciliation of the real world with a fictitious one must surely go to the Marvel Comics universe of the 1980s.

In their superhero-saturated version of Earth, a fictional version of Marvel Comics Group itself existed, publishing comicbooks based upon the recently transpired adventures of the anonymous Spider-Man etc. For a while, Captain America, in his artist alter-ego of Steve Rogers, actually got a job drawing himself in his own adventures!

But I don't think I've ever come across an issue as near-to-burning as Fantastic Four #262 entitled The Trial Of Reed Richards. (see – I got to it eventually)

It's a lovely chain, but it's just not my color
Writer/artist John Byrne is getting hassled by his editor – Mike Higgins - for this month's issue. It's not really Byrne's fault that he's so late though – the FF are giving him the runaround with regards to what adventures have actually happened to them lately...

Try putting it to your EAR John
Receptionist from Jacques Tati's PLAYTIME
However Byrne's luck is about to change, as he gets to witness the FF's next escapade first-hand.

He was the Doctor all the time!
Whisked beyond the physical plane, the Watcher transports our hapless protagonist to where the Fantastic Four's latest adventure is already in progress. Specifically, where Mr Fantastic is on trial for not killing Galactus a while back. That's right – for not killing him. Galactus later went on to kill billions, something that Reed must prove that he was right not to prevent.

And that's where this story really takes-off. Court-cases are generally the fourth-dullest plot-device, (after interviews with the cast, clips shows and love stories) but Reed has to stand-up for his sense of right and wrong, even in the face of such emotive arguments as the death of 7 billion skrulls.

Worse, he doesn't just have to convince a jury of his innocence, but his prosecutors too.

Balloon debate
Boy, let's hope Reed doesn't go and put his foot in it by saying anything really stupid.

He's pleading insanity, right?

Without any proof, Reed's logic and faith sustain him throughout his reasoning on the nature of universal right and wrong, as along the way entropy itself becomes the villain when we discover the origin of Galactus!

It's a deep, mind-blowing muse, all wrapped-up in a story about superheros and aliens. It's really what I got into comicbooks for.

You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned our space-faring writer-artist for a few paragraphs. That's because, tragically, once the action gets going he gets little to do but sit on the sidelines and watch, ultimately turning out to be irrelevant to proceedings.

It's a real shame, but an entirely forgivable one, given the high-standard of everything else going on in this issue.


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