COVER STORIES for 10/22/2006
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #76
Greetings, and welcome to installment number 76 of "Cover Stories," in which I typically feature four or five covers with a common theme... well, except for that one time a month I feature "Comics They Never Made," or, as is the case today... the latest revolving feature...
Yes, I figured it was time to create a logo for this feature!
As explained the last time around, 1-10 is when I take a look at issues 1 to 10 of a selected comic book title. Last time around was Action Comics... this time around, it's The Fantastic Four!
Yes, the Fantastic Four, the title which brought forth the Marvel Age of Comics!
I'm sure you've all heard the story of how Martin Goodman, publisher of Marvel, was having a golf game with the DC publisher, who bragged about the sales of their new book, "Justice League of America," which prompted Martin to go tell Stan Lee to put out a superhero team book... and that Stan went home to his wife and told her he was thinking about quitting writing comics and write the great American novel, but somehow his wife convinced him to write the kind of comics he wanted to read... or something like that anyway! Now, it's possible that story may be true, or it may be one of those comic book urban legends... either way... it's one of my favorite Marvel titles of all time!
So, let's begin!
Now, all ten of these issues features Stan Lee writing, Jack Kirby penciling, and various inkers (there's still some controversy over who inked which issues, especially issue #1).
Speaking of issue #1... what a tale that was! First, the FF are introduced in a series of one to two page segments as they respond to Reed Richards' flare gun signal... then we get the origin of the FF, they go to Monster Isle to investigate attacks on atomic plants around the world, encounter the Mole Man, defeat him, and take off just before Monster Isle is destroyed!
Sheesh, nowadays, in this age of decompressed storytelling, that single-issue story would probably be spread out over a year's worth of comics!
Sure, some of the dialogue is a bit stilted in this first issue (as it was for most of the early Marvel books of the 60s, to be honest), but there was definitely something there!
By issue #2, the Fantastic Four are famous, whereas in the first issue nobody knows who they are, and the Skrulls from Outer Space imitate them as part of their plan to take over the Earth! Of course, the FF discover what's happened, and capture the Skrulls, and trick the Skrulls on the mother ship into thinking the Earth has an army of monsters and gadgets to repel alien intruders (using pictures which Reed cut out of comic books), and finally, hypnotizing the Skrulls on Earth into becoming cows!
I'm sure that Stan and Jack had no idea how much other, later writers and artists would do with the Skrulls, the high point of which had to be the Kree-Skrull War in Roy Thomas' Avengers!
Issue #3 introduces the FF's costumes, the Fantasti-Car, and the Baxter Building, and puts the FF firmly in New York City (in issue #1, they were in Central City). Unfortunately, the villain of this issue is The Miracle Man, a stage magician who decides to turn his talents to evil, making everyone believe he's bringing statues to life and other things... but it's eventually discovered that he's doing this all through mass hypnotism (yes, that's right... hypnotism! That puts this guy in the same league as Mandrake the Magician, yet I don't believe he ever returned).
And at the end of issue #3, the Human Torch quits the FF!
Yes, I'm focusing on issue #4 by itself here... it's truly one of the landmark issues of the early Marvel Age of Comics, as the Sub-Mariner returns to the comics pages! The Human Torch finds an amnesiac man in the Bowery, gives him a shave and haircut with his flame, and discovers it's the Sub-Mariner, who's been missing for years! The Torch revives Namor's memory, and when Subby goes in search of his people, he finds that atomic tests have destroyed his underwater kingdom! So, he declares war on the human race! Johnny Storm tells the FF what's happened, and they all go off to take care of Namor.
Namor, meanwhile, has called up the deadly Giganto, an undersea creature that looks like a giant whale with arms and legs, and sends it against the city of New York! When Giganto takes a nap, the Thing straps an atomic bomb on his back, walks inside the beast, and leaves the bomb there to go off, killing the creature!
Namor is about to call up another monster of the deep when the Invisible Woman takes the horn away from him, but Namor catches Sue! He offers Sue the chance to be his queen, but of course, she refuses... then the Torch flies up in the air, generates a man-made tornado, and uses it to bring Namor and the corpse of Giganto far out to sea!
But if you thought that issue was great... here's issue #5!
Yes, they brought back Namor, and for an encore, created Doctor Doom, quite probably Marvel's greatest super-villain of all time!
This introduction of Doom was probably one of the lamest plots Doom launched, however..he traps the FF in the Baxter Building and forces Reed, Johnny, and the Thing to go back in time to get Blackbeard's treasure, which contains magical gems he wishes to use to... dare I say it... take over the world! But even though the Thing becomes Blackbeard and wants to stay in the past (but he changes his mind, natch), and they do get the treasure, Reed Richards outthinks Doom, and only brings him the chest, filled with chains (after all, he only promised to bring Blackbeard's chest)! Ben clobbers Doom, but it turns out to be a robot, and Doom gets away!
Stan and Jack just keep on topping themselves after this... in issue 6, Doom and Namor team up to battle the FF, but Doom betrays Namor, who then helps the FF defeat Doom, who apparently goes flying off into space uncontrollably!
Then, in issue 7, the FF face Kurrgo, the Master of Planet X, who seeks the FF's help to move the citizens of Planet X to a new world! Reed comes up with a masterful plan, and I won't tell you how it ends... it's a great story!
You'd think after all that, they'd take a break... but then, in issue 8, Stan and Jack introduce the Puppet Master and his stepdaughter (and Thing love interest) Alicia Masters! And in issue 9, it's "The End of the Fantastic Four" as the FF go bankrupt, but then they're offered big bucks to star in a movie - the producer of which is really the Sub-Mariner! And in issue 10, Doctor Doom returns... and he swaps bodies with Reed Richards! Not only that, but Sue develops her Invisible Force Field!
Truly, the World's Greatest Comics Magazine... and it gets even better from there!
Other reprints of issue #1 were in Fantastic Four Annual #1; Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four (Pocket Books, 1977 series) #81445; Origins of Marvel Comics trade paperback; The Fantastic Four: The Secret Story of Marvel's Cosmic Quartet... and probably in a few other places, too!
Issue #2 was also reprinted in that FF paperback reprint by Pocket Books and Marvel Collector's Item Classics #1! Issue 3 was also in that Pocket Books reprint, and in Marvel Collector's Item Classics #3!
Issue 4 was also reprinted in Marvel Collector's Item Classics 3, in an edited for in Marvel Treasury Edition 11, and in the Fantastic Four Fireside TPB. Issue 5 was also in that Pocket Books reprint, Fantastic Four Annual #2, and Bring on the Bad Guys! And issue 6 was reprinted in FF Annual #3, that Pocket Books reprint, a black and white Lancer paperback, and Marvel Treasury Edition #2.
Issue 7's only other reprint was in Marvel Collector's Item Classics 4, and issue 8 was reprinted in MCIC 5. You can probably guess where issue 9 and 10 were reprinted, too!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," when I'll present another installment of "Comics They Never Made," and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !