Do you remember the Fantastic Four live action TV series? You know, the old black and white one? The one that aired only once in 1964? The one that starred Russell Johnson as Mister Fantastic and Elizabeth Mongomery as the Invisible girl?
You don’t remember that?
Don’t worry. It never happened.
If you see it showing up in your twitter feed or your Facebook then you should know by now that it was an exercise in imagination dreamed up by a couple of television and comic book fans who only identify themselves as Tom and Roger. And boy have they come up with a doozy!
The website which can be found here, goes into exhaustive detail about the production of a show that never existed. The web page includes star bios, an epsiode guide, a history of the production, even a faux history of how the two comic book fans discovered this rare marvel in a box of memorabilia bought at an estate sale and offered on Ebay.
It’s a great prank with just enough detail to make it believable, right down to a a warehouse fire in 1974 which destroyed all existing tapes of the series, along with production notes, explaining why so few people have heard about it until now.
I know people who were taken in by this prank when it showed up on facebook and got very excited about it. It’s no shame to those who fell for it because it is a masterful piece of work only given away by the a few obviously photoshopped images, some of which have inconsistencies that would easily be spotted by the most die-hard of comic book fans.
And, honestly, who wouldn’t have wanted this to be real? A live action Fantastic Four TV series with scripts written by Jerome Bixby, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison? With a guest cast that included actors of the time like Fabien, Jean Shripmton, Sterling Holloway, Bob Denver or even Bruce Sammartino as The Hulk?
It’s a glorious daydream and the website is a lot of fun to explore.. It’s like getting a glimpse into an alternate universe.
And it’s not the first time that it has happened either.
Remember when Orson Welles tried to make a Batman movie back in 1946? Remember that he wanted to cast George Raft as Two-Face (after Humphrey Bogart turned it down), James Cagney as The Riddler, Basil Rathbone as The Joker and Marlene Dietrich as Catwoman? Remember how Welles himself wanted to play Bruce Wayne and Batman and how he wanted to make a “a cinematic experience, a kaleidoscope of heroism and nightmares and imagery seen nowhere save the subconscious of Goya or even Hawksmoor himself.”
No? You don’t remember?
That’s okay. It wasn’t true anyway. It was another hoax started by Mark Miller, a columnist for the Comic Book Resources website back in 2003.
Miller included just enough detail to make it believable, even including a production sketch supposedly drawn by Welles himself showing ideas for the Batman’s costume.
Many people fell for it. I remember being one of the few skeptics in an internet group that got very excited about this unmade classic. Again, it was no shame if it fooled you because the idea was so attractive. Who wouldn’t have wanted to see the great Orson Welles tackle The Batman?
These hoaxes are some of the better ones the internet has come up with. They’re fun and they don’t really hurt anybody. Even if you get taken in by it it’s okay because they’re so believable and really, we want to believe in stuff like this. No one’s trying to bilk money, no one is trying to cause panic and no one is trying to make anybody look stupid. It’s just like an elaborate April Fool’s joke. No one gets hurt and we can all laugh about it afterwards and then dream happily about what the world would have been like if it had actually been real. These kinds of internet hoaxes are a wonderful exercise in “what if…”
And, really, isn’t that what speculative fiction is all about?