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Tong is one of four young Moloids, a sentient race created by the Deviants which first appeared in Fantastic Four #22 (vol 1), who became students/ members of the Future Foundation. Tong, Kor, Mik, and Turg were joined by youths from several other groups that comprised the cast of characters under the mentorship of Ant-Man, She-Hulk, Darla Deering, Medusa, and Dragon Man when the Fantastic Four left Earth for a mission.

The Moloids live underground and as a whole they possess a less developed brain in comparison to humans. They’ve been the compliant work force (re: slaves) of the Mole Man since their introduction in Fantastic Four #22 (cover dated January 1964). The subterranean ruler apprises the Fantastic Four that both the under and above ground worlds will be drastically changed due to consequences set in motion when the High Evolutionary failed to shut down the Ascension Engine before fleeing the city with its scientifically advanced systems with which he conducted ethically compromised experiments. The “Forgotten City” became home to some of the Moloids. It became apparent at some point that new Moloid babies born in the confines of the city’s structures were affected the High Evolutionary’s still operating Ascension Engine. As the babies aged they began to exhibit intelligence beyond that of their non-mutated elders.

Two changes then occurred in their society: the Moloids refused to have more children and the mutants were cut off from the larger group and left to survive in caverns under the city. As the Fantastic Four venture to this faraway destination, Ben Grimm (the Thing) becomes increasingly disturbed by their plight and the Mole Man’s prejudiced attitude toward them, speaking of them in terms as both monsters and slaves. Upon arrival in the city, Grimm makes it his mission to find and rescue any remaining mutated Moloids and is disgusted to discover only three, making four, including the one who traveled alone trying to get help from the surface world as recounted in the issue’s beginning. Grimm brings them back to their vessel and the entire group (minus Mole Man who skulked off because villain) returns to the surface world. Despite some initial reservation, the Fantastic Four take in the Moloids.

This quartet (Tong, Kor, Mik, and Turg) soon started to show their deep gratitude for being rescued and treated compassionately by idolizing “The Ben”. The four developed very close bonds based on their shared horrendous treatment and the knowledge that they are the last of their kind. They’ve formed their own family of choice, share opinions and typically do things together, and refer to themselves as “brothers”. That is until one day Tong, now wearing a ruffled dress, addresses the three brothers to share a secret. Tong apprehensively says: “I have this thing. and now you will have it as well. It will be ours, and we will find out what ownership of this thing means. I have a girl inside of me. I tried to be a boy like you, but there is no boy here. And I do not wish to be what I am not any longer. This is unexpected? It is unexpected and scary. And wonderful. It is new. Who I am…is new. My brothers: You have a sister.” The brothers show their love and acceptance hasn’t changed in light of revelation, and Tong’s anxiety turns into tearful happiness. She-Hulk and Darla Deering smile approvingly at Tong as she and her brothers take a walk around the building. Tong was treated exactly the same by the rest of the extended cast throughout the series. From this point on Tong was always seen wearing bright, frilly dresses, courtesy of Mike Allred. We’d like to think Tong’s style as being a bold statement and break from the drab robes and dreary surroundings of Subterranea.

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This event wasn’t hyped by Marvel. It simply appeared, waiting for readers to experience it, as if a relative or friend might be telling them without any advance notice. Take into consideration that these four siblings had been deliberately osctracized and imprisoned for their differences (and others like them had died from similar treatment or outright killed) and how they bonded after being rescued. Fraction’s writing here is very subtle though the message of love for and acceptance of trans individuals, and the importance of familial bonds for them resonates.

Tong first appeared in Fantastic Four #575 and writer Matt Fraction revealed Tong to be a transgender female in FF #6 (vol 2). Created by Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham. The Moloids first appeared in Fantastic Four #22 (January 1964), and were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Art by Michael Allred and Laura Allred.

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September 27, 2021
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