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When Did the Molecule Man's Personality Change So Dramatically?

This is "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking," a feature spotlighting notable examples of retcons that don't fit into the framework of Abandoned an' Forsaked, which is specifically about stories that outright "overturn" older stories. There are many examples of "retroactive continuity" that do not actively abandon the works of the past. Some of them are minor, some of them are major, all of them are interesting enough to me that I figure that they are worth writing about.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Jason G., we look at the dramatic transformation of the Molecule Man from an outright villain to, well, a bit of a pushover.

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The Molecule Man debuted in Fantastic Four #20 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Dick Ayers), where the Watcher shows up to warn the Fantastic Four about the danger that the Molecule Man poses to the world. The Watcher also shows them his origin (the Watcher really got off to a strong start with his whole "non-interference pledge," huh? He just debuted seven issues earlier and he's already going way overboard with interference)...

As you can see here, the Molecule Man is just your standard tyrannical villain here...

Later, Mister Fantastic figures out that the Molecule Man cannot affect anything organic...

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He then tricks the Molecule Man into thinking that the Fantastic Four are a bunch of statues of themselves so that he will use his powers on them, which will backfire...

I just love that the story ends with the Watcher just showing up and taking him away. Why didn't you just do that earlier, Uatu? Also, you have to dig the FF's lack of interest in where the Watcher took him. "Eh, I'm sure it will be fine."

One of the funniest parts of the Molecule Man's history is that he seemingly died in his second appearance! Steve Gerber brought the villain back for the launch of Marvel Two-In-One (with art by Gil Kane and Joe Sinnott). We see that the Watcher banned him to a world where time moves super fast. He has had a son and he passes the torch to his son...

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You have to adore that messed-up looking costume. Anyhow, he comes to Earth and turns the Thing and the Man-Thing back to their human selves, but then reverses it right before he is separated from his wand and dies...

Gerber then brought the Molecule Man back in Iron Man Annual #3, by having the wand possess a little girl...

After the Molecule Man posseses a few other people in the issue (plus a SNAKE!), he falls into the hands of the Man-Thing, and he can't possess the Man-Thing.

In Fantastic Four #187 (by Len Wein, George Perez and Joe Sinnott), Klaw finds the wand and finds a new person for the Molecule Man to possess...

He then possessed Mister Fantastic, but the FF defeated him through the unstable molecules in their costumes (he wasn't prepared for them). The wand possessed one more person in Micronauts #23...

Then everything we thought we knew about the Molecule Man was changed!

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