With the 94th issue of Fantastic Four, Marvel Comics’ new single-issue story policy, first announced by editor-in-chief Stan Lee in a “Stan’s Soapbox” editorial three months earlier, finally caught up with the publisher’s flagship title — its implementation there having been delayed for a couple of issues while Lee and his collaborator Jack Kirby wrapped up their “Skrull gangster planet” multi-parter. Prior to that storyline, the book had featured another serialized tale, involving the Mole Man, that filled up two issues and spilled over into a third; that story had in turn followed a Dr. Doom epic that ran four issues; and so on. In fact, the last real “done-in-one” story to appear in Fantastic Four had been “Where Treads the Living Totem!” in #80 (Nov., 1968) — an issue which happened to be not only the second-ever FF comic I’d ever bought, but also my least favorite issue to date. Outside of reprints, prior to October, 1969 that was likely the only single-issue, non-continued Fantastic Four story my twelve-year-old self had ever read. Read More
The titular subject of today’s post is the first full chapter in the final complete multi-issue storyline of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four. Along with that distinction, this story arc is well remembered for being one of the best examples of how Kirby, by this time deeply dissatisfied with his situation at Marvel Comics, was rather brazenly lifting his story ideas from stuff he’d seen on TV. Several months earlier, he’d “playfully parodied the theme of” (as an item in this very month’s Marvel Bullpen Bulletins put it) the British cult program The Prisoner for the main conceit of a four-part Doctor Doom epic. This time, it was an episode of Star Trek — or, more probably, two episodes of Star Trek. But before we get into all that, here’s a bit of background to help set the stage… Read More
When last we saw Captain America, back in May, the Living Legend of World War II was in a very tight spot. His greatest foe, the Red Skull, had used the awesome power of the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with him, and then, after forcing him into conflicts with police officers, his buddies in the Avengers, and even his girlfriend Sharon Carter, had banished him to the remote Isle of the Exiles. Read More
I feel pretty confident in making the statement that Neal Adams’ cover for X-Men #58, featuring the debut of Scott “Cyclops” Summers’ younger brother Alex in the costumed hero identity of Havok, is one of the most iconic of the late Silver Age at Marvel Comics. But apparently, not everyone associated with that cover was, or is, completely happy with how it turned out — at least, not in the published version.
According to a 1999 article for the comics history magazine Alter Ego by the issue’s scripter (who was also Marvel’s associate editor at the time), Roy Thomas:
…Neal turned in a real beauty for X-Men #58, with a color-held overlay of Havok as the focal point. Alas, Neal’s suggested color scheme wasn’t followed. Instead of the blue that would have been the closest equivalent of the black in his costume inside, it was decided (by whom I dunno, but it wasn’t me, babe) that the Havok figure should be color-held in orange and yellow. Bad idea.
Well, maybe. I gotta say, though, that that orange-and-yellow has always worked for me. I mean, those colors really popped against the cover’s dark blue-gray background; and besides, blue ain’t black, after all. Too bad we don’t have a “blue” version to compare the published version with… wait, what did you say? We do, kind of? Courtesy of the cover to the trade paperback edition of Marvel Masterworks – The X-Men, Vol. 6, featuring Adams’ art newly recolored by Richard Isanove? Oh, okay then. Read More
After having bought Captain America for five months straight (or almost straight, as I somehow managed to miss issue #111), in early 1969 I took a couple of months off from reading the Star-Spangled Avenger’s adventures. Five decades later, I can’t quite remember why I did so. Obviously, beginning with #114 there was a considerable stylistic shift in the look of the book, which had just seen the end of Jim Steranko’s brief but epochal run as the series’ artist — but it seems unlikely that I would have turned up my nose at the work of either John Romita (who drew both the cover and interiors of #114) or John Buscema (who contributed the interior art for #115, behind a Marie Severin cover), considering how much I enjoyed their work on other titles. Admittedly, the Romita cover is a little dull, at least in comparison to the Steranko (and Jack Kirby) jobs that immediately preceded it, but it’s hard for me to believe I would have passed on Severin’s dramatic rendition of a shrunk-down Cap being held prisoner within a transparent cube by the Red Skull, while Sharon Carter looks on helplessly. Perhaps I never actually saw that issue on the stands (or the one preceding it, for that matter). Read More
My interest in Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer series seems to have been somewhat sporadic in the first half-year or so of its original run. As I’ve written in earlier posts, I bought the first issue in May, 1968, and though I liked that book a lot (at least, that’s how I remember things), I opted to pass on both the second and third issues (unless, of course, I never saw either of them on the stands, which is quite possible). Issue #4, however, was most likely a no-brainer purchase decision for my eleven-year-old self, what with its absolutely iconic cover (by John and Sal Buscema) depicting the Surfer and the mighty Thor about to come to blows. And considering how spectacularly that book delivered on its cover’s promise, my picking up the following issue when I saw it was probably a given, as well –even though its cover (by John Romita, according to the Grand Comics Database), while good, wasn’t quite in the same exalted class. Read More
In December, 1968 — about a year and a half after my first sampling of Marvel Comics’ wares, and a year after I’d begun buying the company’s books on a regular basis — I finally got to read a story featuring their number one super-villain. Of course, I’m talking about Doctor Doom.
And by this time, I was more than ready to make the not-so-good Doctor’s better acquaintance. After all, not only had I caught him on several episodes of the Fantastic Four’s Saturday morning TV cartoon show (one of which, “The Way It All Began”, had even provided a stripped-down version of his origin story), but I’d also encountered him in flashback or other cameo appearances in several comics, including Silver Surfer #1 and Not Brand Echh #9 (though the latter was technically not the “real” Victor von D., but rather the “Marble Comics” parody version, “Doctor Bloom”. Read More
You know, I could have had the whole run of Jim Steranko’s Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. — all four issues of it! (seven if you include the three he only did covers for) — bought new off the stands, back in 1968. If only I’d had the smarts, or the good taste, or the foresight to buy ’em at the time. Alas, for the road not taken…
Just to clarify — I’m referring here to the titular Nick Fury comic book series that premiered in February, 1968, and not to the whole run of the legendary artist’s work on the “Nick Fury” feature, which began with his providing finished art over Jack Kirby’s pencil layouts in Strange Tales #151. Although, come to think about it, I could have started buying Steranko’s work even as far back as then, if I’d wanted; that issue came out in September, 1966, after all, and by that date I’d already been buying comic books for a little over a year. But Strange Tales was a Marvel comic, and in 1966 I was only buying DC’s books (with the odd Gold Key thrown in here and there). By early 1968, however, things had changed. I had started buying a couple of Marvel comics (Amazing Spider-Man and Daredevil) regularly, and was considering sampling some others. And, as veteran Marvel readers and comics historians well know, 1968 was the year that Marvel Comics finally got out from under the thumb of their distributor (who also happened to be their primary competitor, DC Comics) and significantly expanded their line. Over the first three months of that year, Marvel took their three “double feature” titles — Tales of Suspense, Tales to Astonish, and the aforementioned Strange Tales — and split them up, resulting in six “new” titles — Captain America, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Doctor Strange, and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Three of the books continued the numbering of the titles they’d been spun off from, while the other three (including Nick Fury) started with brand new issue #1’s. What a great opportunity for a young comics fan to get in on the ground floor of some exciting new series, right? Read More
As I’ve related in previous posts on this blog, my introduction to Marvel Comics’ Inhumans came not by way of their usual stomping grounds in Fantastic Four, but rather via an issue of Amazing Spider-Man that featured Medusa. Soon afterwards, I encountered Medusa’s little sister Crystal as a supporting character in FF — but all I knew about her at first was that she was the Human Torch’s girlfriend, and that she had a weird pattern in her hair. It wasn’t until issue #81, in which Crys suited up in blue to become the Invisible Girl’s temporary replacement on the team, that I even learned that she had superpowers, let alone that she was a member of the mysterious Inhumans’ royal house.
And then, just one month later, it was at last time to meet the rest of the family… Read More
Sometimes, it can seem like most of the introductory paragraphs I write for these blog posts are explanations (or apologies) for the posts I’m not writing — i.e., the posts about the classic comic books I can’t write about here (at least not directly), because I didn’t buy them new off the stands fifty years ago. That’s been especially true for the comics of 1968 — a year seemingly chock full of milestones, of which I seem to have missed at least as many as I caught. The latest example came just last week, when I had to explain in the introduction to my Avengers #58 post how I’d missed the three issues that led up to that landmark story. And this week, we have yet another one.
- If you’re a regular reader, you may recall that my first issue of FF was #78, which featured the first half of a two-part story in which Ben Grimm was cured (again) of being the Thing; unfortunately, I missed the next month’s issue, and by the time I got back on board, with #80, Ben was all orange ‘n’ rocky again, and he and the other guys were having a brief adventure way out West prior to the birth of Sue and Reed Richards’ child. But hey, at least I got to witness the return of one-time regular supporting character Wyatt Wingfoot, along with the awesome debut of a brand-new villain, Tomazooma! Still, that would soon prove small consolation for my missing the next issue of Fantastic Four to hit the stands — namely, the 1968 Annual, which featured not only the debut of a considerably more impressive (and durable) villain, Annihilus, but also the introduction of a brand-new supporting character: none other than Reed and Sue’s bouncing baby boy, Franklin Benjamin Richards.