NOTE: The latest updates are at the bottom of this post.

I’m an idiot.

Last month, Denny’s unveiled a special menu of six new items tied to Josh Trank’s upcoming reboot of Fantastic Four. At the time, I was having issues with my press pass for Comic-Con; in a moment of extreme stupidity, I jokingly messaged ScreenCrush editor-in-chief Mike Sampson: “If I don’t get into Comic-Con, I’ll go to Denny’s and eat all of these meals and write about it.” His response: “Uh, now you’re doing that anyway.”

And just like that, I was (doctor) doomed.

Quickly, a game plan formed. “You go,” Mike continued, “and get the Invisible Woman Slam for breakfast, the Human Torch Skillet for lunch, The Thing burger for dinner and the Dr. Doom lava cake for dessert. Then you die.” I’m sharing his words with you now in the hopes that, should Denny’s Fantastic Four menu actually kill me, you will use them as evidence against him when you prosecute Mr. Sampson for my murder. Please go after him to the fullest extent of the law.

Anyway, I wasn’t able to talk Mike out of this plan or find suitable employment at another website, so here we are. I’m going to attempt to eat all that food Mike mentioned (hopefully without dying). Also there’s a fourth entrée he forgot that I need to squeeze in as well. Plus a fruit smoothie. Hey, a fruit smoothie! That’s healthy! This is going to be easy! (Why can’t I stop crying right now?)

Here’s what the special menu looks like:

Will I succeed in eating it all? Honestly, probably not. I could definitely house one of these things with ease. Two? No problem. But four? And a smoothie? And a lava cake? No, it almost certainly won’t happen. But as C.S. Lewis once said, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”

(C.S. Lewis, by the way, was a huge Denny’s fan. Loved the Strawberry Pancake Puppies Sundae.)

As you read this, Mike Sampson and I are settling into New York City’s hottest and most exclusive Denny’s. (It’s actually very nice, and they have free wifi.) We’ve just ordered our first course. Now I’m going to systematically eat my way through this menu Fantastic Four member by Fantastic Four member (okay, it sounds kind of weird when you put it that way). I will not stop until I eat everything or my arteries spontaneously combust (or I run out of patience when a dish takes an hour and a half to come out of the kitchen; the Yelp reviews for this Denny’s aren’t exactly filling me with confidence). Along the way, I will grade each dish not just on a scale of deliciousness, but also on its fidelity to the Fantastic Four characters as they’ve appeared in the comics (which I’ve read a lot of) and in previous movies (which I’ve seen, unfortunately). In the end, we will try to gain a greater understanding of the marketing and publicity apparatus that drives Hollywood blockbusters, and consider the larger ramifications of the food we put in our bodies. Well, either that or I will take one of the worst bowel movements of my entire life.

Or hey, maybe it will be both! Join me, won’t you, as I fail forward toward success. We’ll be back with our first update shortly.

COURSE #1

For my first dish, I chose the “Invisible Woman Slam.” It’s got pancakes, and that seemed like the most fitting breakfast fare. Here is the description from the Denny’s menu:

Two buttermilk pancakes cooked with blueberries. Topped with fresh strawberries, banana slices and drizzled with a clear citrus glaze. Served with two eggs cooked to order, two bacon strips or two sausage links and hash browns.

And here is what it looked like:

I guess that’s a citrus glaze on the pancakes but I must confess that I detected no actual citrus flavor. (Perhaps the flavor was ... invisible? Thank you.) Otherwise, they were tasty pancakes. And the hash browns were solid too; crispy and delicious. So far, we’re off to a pretty yummy start.

We’re not off to a very character-appropriate start. What do eggs, hashbrowns, bacon, sausage, toast, blueberry pancakes and fruit have to do with Sue Storm, aka the Invisible Woman? Is she a fan of inordinately large amounts of food? Eat a couple of these things and you definitely won’t be invisible for long. Then again, at 680 calories, the Invisible Woman Slam is the “healthiest” option on the Fantastic Four menu by a wide margin. Which makes me very scared for what comes next. Stay tuned.

COURSE #2

Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Next up is the “Human Torch Skillet.” From Denny’s menu:

A hearty breakfast sausage with seasoned red-skinned potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, fire-roasted bell peppers and onions, jalapeños and freshly made pico de gallo served on a sizzlin’ hot skillet. Topped with our new spicy five pepper sauce, Pepper Jack queso and two eggs cooked to order.

And on the table:

Okay, credit where credit is due: the Human Torch connection makes sense. This skillet is spicy. That five pepper sauce definitely contains at least five peppers. My mouth is not actually on fire, but it’s close. Plus, after I finished, I went to the bathroom and took a photo of myself. Check it out!

This stuff really works!

I’m sort of alarmed by the size of the sausage though. Look at this thing! (Fork included to show scale):

Who needs this much encased meat? Doesn’t Denny’s know I’m trying to eat four meals in one sitting?!?

The Pepper Jack queso is pretty good too. Under normal circumstances, I can see this being a very satisfying meal. But here’s the thing: These are not normal circumstances. I already ate “normal circumstances.” Now I need to eat like three more normal circumstances. I genuinely do not think I can eat the whole menu. I definitely can’t finish the Human Torch skillet; I gave up midway. It was just too much sausage for one man to eat. In the interest of attempting to sample the entire menu, I needed to move on.

How does Joey Chestnut do it? I have to imagine speed is crucial; he eats faster than his body can realize he’s full. I’m taking my time. And I’m paying for it (and probably will continue to pay for it for a long time). Please keep me in your thoughts during this difficult time.

COURSE #3 - INTERMEZZO

Dammit, why did there have to be so many f---ing members of the Fantastic Four?

At the moment, I feel physically incapable of ingesting more meat, so we’re going to slow things down a bit. Fortunately, Denny’s Fantastic Four menu includes a “Fantastic Four-Fruit Smoothie,” so I’m going to use that as a mini-break. It’s about as close as I’m going to get to not eating for a while.

From the menu:

Delicious smoothie made with fresh banana, a blend of raspberries, blueberries, and pomegranate, nonfat yogurt and juice.

And here it is:

This raises perhaps the most provocative question of our time: If the Fantastic Four were each of the fruits in the Fantastic Four-Fruit Smoothie, which character would be which fruit? Here’s what I think. A banana is long and thin, so that’s the Mr. Fantastic of the group. The craggy exterior of a raspberry makes that the Thing. We debated the other two for a while; ultimately we felt the tart nature of the pomegranate made it the Human Torch. Process of elimination made blueberry the Invisible Woman.

Aesthetically, I take issue with the fact that the smoothie isn’t blue, since that’s the traditional color of the Fantastic Four’s costumes (then again, at least it’s not black like the new FF’s uniforms). Beyond that quibble, I find myself pleasantly surprised yet again. It’s a good smoothie; I can actually taste at least three of the four fruits. (Blueberry, you need to step up your game.)

The lovely part about this live-blog is people are following along and sending notes of encouragement and jokes on Twitter. Here is just a sampling of my favorites so far:

You guys are hilarious. And actually, the smoothie is helping settle my stomach. I feel as strong as a rock creature who gets a horrifying hamburger named after him! So let’s try that next.

COURSE #4

What the hell is “Thing Sauce”?

That is the condiment atop Denny’s “Thing Burger.” Here’s the full menu description:

Hand-pressed beef patty topped with crispy hash browns, an egg cooked to order, Cheddar cheese, two crispy bacon strips and punch-packing Thing sauce. Served on a Cheddar bun with our wavy-cut French fries.

And the actual item, before I ingested it:

Hilariously, not even the employees of this Denny’s know the contents of “Thing Sauce.” Our attentive waitress said that when the chef showed the staff how to prepare the dish, someone asked what was in the sauce. He could only shrug and reply “I dunno; Thing Sauce.”

It tastes, to my uneducated palate, like chipotle mayo, or maybe some kind of remoulade. The other best guess for its ingredients?

It’s possible. The viscosity is right. And the color! It is very orange.

Look, I know by this point in the day I should be nauseous beyond belief and horrified by the sight of more food (not to mention the sheer concept of something called “Thing Sauce”). But as a journalist of the utmost integrity I have to say this in all sincerity: The Thing Burger is pretty good. There’s a tad too much Thing Sauce; it’s making the whole thing pretty messy. And I’m going to be the stick in the mud who argues you don’t need an egg and hash browns on a burger, especially when the burger already comes with a side of wavy-cut fries. But the patty itself? Juicy, perfectly cooked, and nicely seasoned. It’s revitalizing me like a well-timed blast of cosmic rays.

The Thing Burger also maintains an admirable fidelity to its source material, the Thing of Marvel’s comics. The bun definitely resembles his rocky body, and the combination of eggs, hash browns, bacon, cheese, and beef seems like something a rock monster (or a pot-smoking college student) might dream up at 4AM.

But here’s the problem: I’m still not done. I’ve got one more entrée to go, and it’s an omelette and I have definitely had enough eggs to last me a month (and I’m not a big fan of omelettes in general). How will I do this? And will I succumb to the greatest super-villain of all? (That would be arterial plague caused by excessive cholesterol.) Find out in our next mouth-watering chapter, True Believers!

COURSE #5

I just ordered something that wasn’t on the Fantastic Four menu. Is that cheating? Do I get extra credit?

In fairness, it was just a coffee. After several hours of nausea, my stomach seems to have adjusted to the extreme quantities of fat and sodium, but now my nervous system is shutting down, like Mr. Fantastic after he got zapped by Psycho-Man. I feel even more exhausted than I feel bloated (and trust me, I feel plenty bloated). So I went off-menu to get a cup of joe to wake me up. Just to make it feel appropriate, when my waiter asked how I take my coffee, I did say “Black, like T’Challa, who first debuted in Fantastic Four #52.”

Anyway, into the home stretch, and the “Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette.” Denny’s official plot synopsis (of my food):

Three-egg omelette stuffed with melted Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses, fresh spinach, diced bacon, onions and mushrooms tossed in a blend of sun-dried tomatoes and herbs. Topped with diced tomatoes and served with hash browns and your choice of bread.

And the photographic evidence:

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve already eaten 5,000 calories today, or that I’m having trouble seeing clearly and radiating waves of pain keep shooting down my arms, but the Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette was my least favorite of Denny’s Fantastic Four entrées. On the menu, the filling looks bright and green; on the plate it’s a lot darker and a tad overcooked. Part of the problem might be when we ordered, right at the height of lunch rush. (Or, again, it could be me, because I never want to eat anything ever again right now.)

Also, why isn’t this the Mr. Fantastic omelette? The absurd amount of cheese, which stretches and oozes with every bite, definitely has a rubbery, Mr. Fantastic vibe. There’s a certain kind of logic to a “fantastic four-cheese” omelette, but it’s also so generic. And there’s no Mr. Fantastic item on the menu! Were they worried people would take the ingredients as a commentary on Miles Teller’s acting? (“Teller gives a performance that lives up to the omelette which bears his name: Cheesy, cheap, and horrifically overcooked!”)

I ate the entire Thing Burger, but I’m throwing in the napkin on the Fantastic Four-Cheese Omelette at the halfway point. I’m not sorry. And I’m not done either. There’s still dessert. It will be my literal and metaphorical doom.

COURSE #6 - DESSERT

And now, the dramatic conclusion of our spine-tingling tale, “If This Be Singer’s Doomsday...

There is a dessert on the Fantastic Four menu, and it is the “Dr. Doom Lava Cake.” Because after eating a skillet full of spicy eggs and a sausage the size of a man’s forearm what you really want is a decadent and warm chocolate cake covered in ice cream. It just makes sense.

Denny’s menu description:

A warm, rich chocolate cake filled with molten ccolate and topped with mini chocolate and white chocolate chips. Baked and finished with powdered sugar and a scoop of premium chocolate ice cream.

And here’s the picture (the ice cream is a little melted only because it arrived while I was walking around the block listening to the soundtrack to Rocky IV to psych myself up to eat more; the line in “Burning Heart” about “Just about to burst” really resonated with me):

Again, while I’m so full I never want to eat anything ever again, this was also really tasty. It makes sense for Dr. Doom, too; what’s more evil than encouraging people to enjoy 820 calorie brownies? I probably would have thrown some green in here somewhere (perhaps switch out the chocolate ice cream for some mint chocolate chip?) to echo Dr. Doom’s signature emerald cloak, but I’m not a Denny’s chef. I’m just a man who makes really poor life choices.

And now my poor choices are at an end, at least until Denny’s unveils its next novelty menu. (Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease let that not be for a very long time.) Until then, I want to thank you for reading and for all the many, many tweets of support; they were the only thing that got me through the ridiculous four-cheese omelette. I also want to thank the excellent waitstaff of the Denny’s in Lower Manhattan; they took excellent care of me (arguably better than they should have; I really wish they had cut me off after round three or so). Right now I feel like a fantastic explorer who journeyed into an alternate dimension and returned home changed forever. In that sense, Denny’s Fantastic Four menu is an incredibly accurate adaptation of Josh Trank’s movie (assuming you eat it all together). Not that I recommend you do that.