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
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
They just don’t make superhero wedding comics* the way they used to.
These days, it’s as likely as not that a heavily promoted “wedding issue” will come out and have not a single scene where anything remotely resembling a wedding ceremony occurs. Or, a couple does get married, but it’s a different couple than the one whose marital union the book was supposed to be about. Something of a bait-and-switch going on in both of those cases, if you ask me.
Ah, but in the Good Ol’ Days (AKA the Silver Age of Comics), the major funnybook publishers really knew how to celebrate them some nuptials. For an example, take Aquaman #18 (Nov.-Dec., 1964), where the whole blamed Justice League of America turns out for the Sea King’s undersea wedding to Mera (bubble helmets thoughtfully provided by the Royal Atlantean Event Planning Committee, I’m sure), Or Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which not only do all of Reed Richards’ and Sue Storm’s super friends show up, but so do a whole passel of super foes, as well, thanks to the machinations of the diabolical Doctor Doom. Now that’s what I call a wedding to remember. Not a dry (or un-blackened) eye in the house, y’know what i mean?
And then, there’s Avengers #60, featuring “‘Til Death Do Us Part!”, by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), and Mike Esposito (inker, as “Micky Demeo”) — which not only gives us an Avengers Mansion-ful of super-powered guests and gatecrashers, but also brings the wacky on a level rarely seen before or since. 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.
Marvel Comics’ original summer tradition of publishing “King-Size Special!” annual issues featuring (mostly) new material had a relatively brief heyday in the Sixties — just six years, really. I’ve known that for decades, but before digging into my collection to do the research or this blog, I hadn’t realized how very few of those annuals I actually bought new off the stands. While I’d bought my first Marvel comic book in the summer of 1967, I didn’t pick up any annuals until the summer of 1968 — and that was the last year that the specials featured all-new material, at least for a while. As it turns out, I just managed to catch the very tail end of this golden era of Marvel annuals. And I’d end up buying all of two off the spinner rack Read More
“The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”
Honestly, I have no idea why it took so long for me to buy my first issue of Fantastic Four. After all, I’d been watching their Saturday morning TV cartoon since September, 1967, same as I’d been watching Spider-Man, which had premiered at the same time. But while I’d started picking up Spidey’s monthly comic in January, 1968, it took me another five months to take the plunge with the FF.
As I speculated in last week’s post about Captain America #105, it may have been that I was a little leery of Jack Kirby’s artwork, which looked different than the art in any other comic I was reading. Or, possibly, I was waiting for the continued story that, thanks to the issue descriptions featured in the monthly “Mighty Marvel Checklist”, I knew had been running since issue #74 — involving Galactus, the Silver Surfer, and Psycho-Man — to wrap up, so that I wouldn’t be jumping in in the middle of a storyline. At this late date, I have no way of knowing for sure. But in any event, when I saw #78 on the spinner rack in June of 1968, I was ready at last to put Marvel’s claim of global preeminence to the test. Read More
If you’ve ever read this blog, the cover of Detective #354 should already be familiar to you. There it is, proudly displayed in the header above every post. Obviously, I have a lot of affection for this particular offering from the team of Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, who contributed so many classic covers to this era of Batman comics (and even got to sign this one — not a routine occurrence at the time).
In some ways, it’s a head-scratcher that the cover is as effective as it is. A dozen or so thugs — none of them especially formidable-looking — are depicted standing in a half-circle around Batman, shaking their fists at him. The cover copy describes this as “The Caped Crusader’s most dangerous trap”. Really? Even in 1966, and even without taking the then-insanely-popular TV show’s weekly cliffhangers into consideration, I believe my eight-year-old self must have been skeptical of that claim. Sure, the odds are against him, but he’s Batman. These hoods aren’t even armed. Even if he’s not able to take them all down, our hero should at least be able to break free of this “most dangerous trap” and escape. And while those “force lines” drawn around the thugs’ brandished fists may be intended to make them look more threatening, the actual effect comes off as just a little bit silly. Read More