Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Panel Discussion: Frankly Fond of the Fantastic Four...


Redartz:  Yes, it's true. I'm quite fond of Marvel's 'first family', the Fantastic Four. And this affinity goes  back a long way, to nearly the start of my comics interest. You've all heard how I cut my comics teeth on Superman and Spider-man; well after the wall crawler, the FF pulled a strong second place. This probably stems from exposure to (and devotion to) the 1967 Saturday morning exploits of the FF as presented by Hanna Barbera. 


That and Spidey were the definite highlights of those cartoon mornings for me, and it led to me picking out some FF issues off the spinners (which was, no doubt, the hope and expectation of Marvel executives). Oddly, though I recall almost all my old Spidey issues easily, those FF issues are more difficult to pin down. One that I do remember distinctly having was Fantastic Four Annual 6, with Annhilus. I was drawn irresistibly to that swirling red Kirby/Sinnott masterpiece cover. It's still a favorite. Incidentally, that summer had two 'swirly' covers, both of which I picked up- the other being, of course, Spider-Man Annual 5. What a combination those two books made...


Years later, when I returned to Marvel after years of Archie exclusivity, the second book I picked up was, again, Fantastic Four. This time it was issue 147, in the heart of the Thomas/Buckler era. And I loved it; making the FF another 'must buy' each month. Oh, and Rich Buckler's Kirbyish art really grabbed me. Yes, it was obvious, but the book looked great., and the stories were classics. Doom and the Surfer, Counter Earth, the Inhumans- just so much good reading.  Thomas, Wein, and Wolfman put together a very solid multi-year run on the title. Yes, there were a few reprints and a few clinkers, but overall the FF held a level of quality few comics could match.

 And returning to art, the FF seemed blessed with solid art for most of it's history. From Kirby to Buscema to Buckler to Perez to Byrne; it was like a Comics Art Hall of Fame! Much as I hated to see Buckler leave the book later on, his replacement by George Perez really eased the pain. Still later, Keith  Pollard did wonderful work on the book, and Seinkewicz was different but interesting.  


Then there was John Byrne. He took the Four to heights unseen since the days of Lee and Kirby. Under his auspices the Fantastic Four became my number one favorite; even beating out Spider-man and the X-Men. Which was an accomplishment, believe me. His run on the book, over several years, still stands up as a high point in 80's comics. I look through those books even today and am stunned by how good they were, and are. 

But what about the Fantastic Four themselves? What made them appealing to 7 year old, 14 year old, and 23 year old Redartz? The characters, obviously. "Marvel's First Family", indeed. The series had a feel unlike any other, with that family dynamic guiding the storylines and character development. And the characters- four fascinating ones. Reed, the rather obsessive intellectual. Sue, who grew from a seemingly supportive role to become perhaps the team's strongest and most interesting member. Johnny, the Kid, but with heart (and his terrific 'frenemy' relationship with Spidey). And Ben, wonderful Ben. Ben Grimm may be the greatest, deepest character to arise from the minds of Lee and Kirby. So, so many excellent stories have been focused on him, his frustrations, his conflicts, and his personality. No wonder he trails only Spidey on my list of favorites. 

So there's the reasoning behind my fondness for the Fantastic Four. We'll wind up with a few more eye-catching covers that capture the greatness of the series. So after you feast your collective eyes upon them, let's share our thoughts about all things Fantastic! 





Colin Jones said...

Red, I remember the Spidey cartoon (Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can...) but I don't think we ever got the '60s FF cartoon.

I have to disagree with you about Rich Buckler's Kirby pastiche. I absolutely loathed it!

The FF had their own UK weekly called "The Complete Fantastic Four" which lasted 37 issues from September 1977 to May 1978 and the penultimate cover in your gallery (the one where Sue is holding Franklin in her arms) was the story in #9 of that weekly. But the UK comic had a different, UK-exclusive cover (which was very inferior) and I've always wondered why (as all the other covers were the same as the American originals). Could it be because Ben is pushing Reed through a plate-glass window and UK Marvel considered that cover to be unsuitable? Anyway, that story was also the final one drawn by John Buscema who was another great FF artist. The UK weekly was called "The Complete Fantastic Four" because the first story was a modern one (with the full 20 pages, not split over two weeks as UK Marvel often did) and the second story was a Lee/Kirby classic from the early '60s.

Disneymarvel said...

The Fantastic Four have always been my favorite team of superheroes and The Thing is my absolute favorite character! I was 6 when the FF cartoon came out in 1967 and I was immediately hooked! I received a puzzle of the team soon after my parents became aware of my obsessiveness, along with the Big Little Book featuring the team in the House of Horrors.

I can still remember playing out adventures of the FF out on the elementary school playground. Even though the Thing was my favorite, I seem to remember being cast in the role of Mr. Fantastic, most likely because play-acting these characters was probably my idea.

At the time of the cartoon, I was unaware of the comic books. During the summer of 1974, I came upon Avengers 127 (featuring my favorite cover by Gil Kane, with the Thing bursting forward), along with Marvel Two-In-One #s 4 & 5. These were all it took for me to become a full-fledged FF fan, quickly buying up back issues through The Comics Buyers Guide, used books stores and some early comic book shops.

It was a great time to be enjoying these stories. I was gobbling up the wonderful Rich Buckler artwork, but also devouring the classic Lee-Kirby back issues. Plus, reading the team-up adventures of Ben with the rest of the Marvel Universe was educating me on the rest of the heroes. So, that caused me to buy up all the other books - current bronze age, as well as silver age back issues. Fortunately, most back issues were still relatively inexpensive, so I amassed thousands of books in a few short years.

My favorite runs will always be the heart of the Lee-Kirby run, which I consider to be #36-67, though I love them all. Of course, starting off the bronze age just as Sue was returning to the team, those issues of #s 148-200 are also near and dear to my reading heart. Perez's version of the characters, with the help of the consistent inking of Joe Sinnott, provided some of the best issues! Finally, the John Byrne stories returned the team to it's glory days! Beyond that, the Walt Simonson adventures were great fun, too.

My long-suffering wife has her routine quote of "How many 'Things' does one person need?" whenever I purchase yet another collectible. The answer is "At least one more than I currently have!" and my collection continues to grow. From comics to trade collections and Omnibuses, action figures to model kits, original Perez artwork to Steve Rude artwork, I try to get it all!

Whenever I'm at a comic con or toy show, I love to challenge a vendor to come up with an FF collectible that I don't yet have. It's a pretty tough find these days. It does happen, though. My wife recently found an older FF-themed Hot Wheels car that I'll most likely receive for my upcoming birthday. And there are, thankfully, new action figures, HeroClix, Funko Pops! and more coming out even now.

The past several years have been disappointing, since Marvel turned it's back on the FF to spite the Fox-licensed movies. It almost brings a tear to my eye when I see a poster or other merchandise celebrating the Marvel Universe, but leaving out my favorite team of Imaginauts. The current comic is just 'okay' but seems to be getting better. Plus, there have been announcements of recognizing the FF's upcoming 60th anniversary - a birthday we both share - so there is hope.

Now if they can just get the eventual MCU movie version of the FF to capture the richness of these wonderful characters! I'll be in heaven!

Sorry to prattle on, but this team is obviously "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" of all-time for me!

I look forward to reading the rest of my fellow Bronze-Agers to see what memories the FF brings to you! And let me know what rare FF collectibles you have found!

Humanbelly said...

That's a terrific testimonial, Disneymarv-- well-done!
(Hmm-- my math tells me we must be almost exactly the same age-- you're likely class of '78 or '79 out of high school, yup?)

While I always liked the FF and sort of followed them via a pal's brother's issues, I didn't start buying the title regularly until around issue. . . #165-ish, maybe? I recall a storyline that wraps up with an alternate-universe (or Counter-Earth?) Johnny Storm has been trained up as a cosmic. . . hockey goalie, IIRC. It was doofy as blazes if examined very closely, but darned if the solid art didn't put it over. I'll hazard a guess this was probably Buckler, not too long before Perez came in-? This was also before I was paying much attention to specific artists-- all I remember is that after a few months I was thinking, "Geeze, this is a GREAT book! How come nobody seems to have noticed that??" But then you start looking back farther and yeah, as mentioned earlier, the art ALWAYS looked "right" on this title, y'know? Perez, Buckler, Byrne's brief first run, John Buscema, Romita (unfairly maligned for his short run, I stand firm on that), and clear back to most of Kirby's time. The unifying element, of course, is beloved ol' Joltin' Joe Sinnott. The man inked that title for about a million years, giving it a clean, sharp, polished, of-the-future look that carried through regardless of who was doing the pencils. Ahh, talk about yer un-sung heroes.

So HBSon, even before he was 2, developed a HUGE fondness for Ben Grimm. To the point that I began reading Fantastic Four to him for his bedtime stories, starting with issue #1 (Thank you Essential FF, vols 1 and 2!) (And thank you other reprints to fill in the gaps I had between that and roughly issue 102!). This is one of my favorite early childhood memories with him. . . and it's even kinda bittersweet, because while I remember embarking on that extraordinary journey (it took years!), he actually doesn't remember it beginning, because it's on the other side of his first-memory line-- (*sigh*). To him, it was a happy constant that was never NOT there. Which is also kind of neat. I can tell you, as an actor it was one of the toughest (self-imposed) challenges I think I've EVER wrangled with. You have to give everyone their own distinct "voice"-- 'cause a little kid IMMEDIATELY points out when you're using someone else's voice for a new character-- and the cast of repeating characters is HUGE. Biggest mistake: In a panic, latching onto a French accent in general for the Inhumans, to make them sound "Other". And then suddenly being faced with having to do eight to twelve of THEM with different voices. . . in a bad French accent.

Rest assured, though, Ben Grimm got my best approximation of Paul Frees' Thing from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon-. Absolutely definitive.


Graham said...

I actually discovered the FF with Marvel Treasury Edition #2......nice starting point. I went from there to the reprints in Marvel’s Greatest Comics and finally started reading the regular comic around 148 or thereabouts.

I caught the tail end of the Buckler/Sinnott era and dug the Perez issues, but fell off track for several years for some reason until Byrne took the reins. That was a great run and I was into the first 35 issues or so before college classes came calling.

Currently, I’m reading the first 8 Marvel Masterworks series via Kindle (great deal on them during the holidays). Nice to watch it develop into the eventual juggernaut it became.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Not much to add to the genius summaries above other than:

Steranko’s issues around approximately issue 130, 131... Not nearly the same as his mind-blowing work just a few years earlier on Cap and Shield. I wonder why?

Certainly one of my all-time Fav covers is featured here with Giant Size Super Stars #1. I remember to this day buying it off the spinner! It brings a tear to Charlie’s eye! Thank you Red!

I fully agree that Rich Buckler performed a vital (!) role keeping Charlie engaged with Marvel and the FF. Frankly, Kirby-ish was the standard by which I judged the FF (Colan for DD, Romita for Spidey).

Lastly, I just could not get into Two in One. I was never a fan of the dilution for dollars at Marvel; my only exception being the first dozen or so issues of Marvel Team Up!

And, FWIW, I have been re-reading my FF collection out of the long boxes so as to be able to contribute over at Steve Does Comics when he does the “50 years ago at Marvel” posts. Right now he is approaching issue 108 from 1971?

And, whether Marvel can revive the FF... I don't know. It might be a concept past its cultural prime? Perhaps the team concept and the villains and guest stars (like Inhumans and Surfers) were so original that, what was once extraordinary, is now common place and doesn't grab a young person's attention like it did 40 - 60 years ago?

Colin Jones said...

HB, I love the idea of the Inhumans with French accents :D

I didn't mention John Byrne in my earlier comment but I was a huge fan of his version of the FF (for the first couple of years anyway). By around mid-1981 I'd totally abandoned Marvel's UK comics so I could concentrate on buying only the imported US Marvel comics. And of those US Marvels my absolute favourite was the FF which I bought regularly after Byrne took over the book. But I did not like (absolutely hated more like!) the change of costume which Byrne introduced in late 1983 - those white collars, yuk! But it didn't really matter because the change of costume occurred around the time that I stopped reading comics altogether and when I eventually started again (in 2007) the FF were back in their classic garb :)

Redartz said...

Colin- glad you popped back in. I was going to ask what you thought of the Byrne run, but you made the question moot (rarely get the chance to use that word; thanks!). You say you started reading again in '07; have you read any FF recently published?

Disneymarvel- excellent story and commentary! And it seems you, HB and I are all similarly assembled. I too picked up comics in 74, and Avengers 127 was an early pick (but my first MTIO was issue 2; always liked Sub- Mariner). Can't think of any rare FF collectibles offhand. But you mentioned conventions; one fond memory is attending a small local con years ago, and in their film 'festival ' they included an episode of the 67 FF cartoon (on genuine film reels). First time I'd seen an episode in many years. Wonder why that hasn't been offered on DVD? I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

HB- Wanting to hear your French Inhumans voices! You could start a whole new 'thing'- audio comics (hey, audio books are common, so why not ?).
Very cool that your son was a Ben Grimm fan. So did you two ever have debates over the classic "Hulk vs. Thing" battles?

Graham- that Treasury was a great selection of classic tales, and a great introduction to the series!

Charlie- yes, Giant size Super Stars is dear to me as well. Another reason 1974 lives forever in my honored memories! As for the possibility of the FF attracting readers today- I think so, if well written. Good solid storytelling will usually find an audience. And the characters are truly iconic...

Colin Jones said...

Red, I did read some FF issues from around 2009-2012 but I haven't read any of the very recent ones (I've been mainly reading Conan since he returned to Marvel in 2019).

And just to clarify - I don't dislike Rich Buckler's art, just his blatant Kirby pastiche!

Anonymous said...

Red, my Brother From Another Mother, I’m right there with ya on GIANT-SIZE SUPER-STARS (and 1974 as My Favorite Year). I’d only been buying comics regularly for a few months when that wonder hit the spinner rack and I loved loved LOVED it. I go back and forth in my appreciation of Buckler’s ‘Xerox Kirby’ period — some issues I don’t really care for at all — but I think he and Joltin’ Joe are firing on all cylinders on GSSS. By the way, FF112 is another awesome Hulk/Thing donnybrook, with fab art by Buscema and Sinnott.

The first FF issue I bought was #141, the one where REED BLASTED HIS OWN SON WITH A BIG SCI-FI ZAP-CANNON AND SHUT DOWN HIS LITTLE BRAIN. I was like, ‘Wait, WHAT?!’ And the next 5 or 6 issues dealing with the fallout from that event got pretty heavy at times. At one point Sue even files for divorce. Yikes.

While all that was going on, I was simultaneously experiencing Classic Lee / Kirby / Sinnott FF via reprints in MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS. Some of my faves of that run were 49-52 (corresponding to FF 66-69), with the two-part Him saga and ‘By Ben Betrayed!’ and 55, reprinting that kooky free-for-all with Thor, Spidey and Daredevil fighting the FF for the flimsiest of reasons. I was totally blown away by Jack and Joe’s DD especially. And yes, I know that FF 43 to 53 are considered ‘Peak FF’ by unanimous decree — first Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and ‘This Man, This Monster!’ — and rightly so. The boys were positively ON FIRE, yes they were. But MARVEL’S GREATEST 48-57 are the FFs I’d pack in my Desert Island Longbox. The heart wants what the heart wants.


Humanbelly said...

B.t.-- Lordy, oh, lordy-- the Reed & Sue split up (after Reed effectively killed Franklin in order to save the world) was yet another trauma heaped on us by Gerry Conway. At that time my parents were in the early stages of an ugly, years-long dissolution of their marriage. . . and this just hit SO flippin' hard to my insecure, goobery adolescent self. It was an unfortunate instance of comics not offering an escape at all. I imagine my relief at Reed & Sue's (highly improbable in real life) reconciliation was easily double that of the average reader's. . .

Say, with Buckler's art in FF-- I fully recognize the Kirby-feel. . . but am I the only one who saw a John Buscema influence at work as well? It was like a perfect sweet spot between the two artists. . .

Re: The expected MCU reboot-- Gods, just DON'T let them do an origin film AGAIN!!! If we need to hold onto the original one. . . or even an alternative one. . .JUST LET IT HAPPEN IN THE OPENING CREDIT SEQUENCE. Five, six minute recap. . .and OUT. And we can move onto a villain that is NOT flippin' Dr Doom. Or Galactus. Give us maybe Annihilus, or some iteration of the Frightful Four, or the Sub-Mariner-- geeze, anything else... It just HAS to be smartly written, unlike the previous iterations.

Hey, has anyone else ever seen the murky pirated tape of the Roger Corman version?


Redartz said...

Colin- no worries, different strokes and all that! And granted, some of those swipes were pretty obvious. But HB makes a good observation; I too have thought that some of Buckler's FF work (especially some of the figures) had a Buscema look.

B.t.- you got the best of both worlds, with Lee/Kirby goodness in MGC alongside the then-current tales. And that lengthy arc with Reed and Sue's difficulties was tough to read. It was most reassuring when Namor helped guide them back together.

HB- No doubt that story was tougher on you, given your situation. Comics were (and are) generally fun, but there are times they can be discomforting. Some graphic novels I've read over the years have been...troubling. Hmmmm, perhaps there's another topic- comics that actually troubled you...
Regarding the reboot- Annihilus would be great, as would Sub-Mariner. Can't believe Namor hasn't shown up in any form yet.

Anonymous said...

We didn't have cable when I was a kid, so I didn't see the FF cartoon when it came out.

My first exposure to them, and to a Marvel Comic, was a bit later, in 1968, at eight years old. I was extremely terribly sick with the Hong Kong Flu (back when pandemics were f'ing SERIOUS, buddy), feverish and vomiting all over the place. My mom went to the drug store to get medicine and she came back with this bizarre comic.
At eight, I was a devoted follower of the Legion of Super-Heroes, other DCs like Aquaman, Metal Men and the Super- books, some Gold Keys like Turok and Space Family Robinson, and Classics Illustrateds. I had looked at Marvels on the spinner racks sometimes and felt very snobbish towards them. They seemed so brash, garish, and overly bombastic compared to Curt Swan's classic LSH or the genteel restraint of Classics' War of the Worlds, etc.

My mom didn't understand all this, she just saw that FF announced itself as the "world's greatest comic magazine" and thought her poor sick kid might enjoy it.

So I lay there on the couch with a raging fever and a heaving stomach, trying to make any sense out of Fantastic Four 76, "Stranded in Sub-Atomica," part three of a four-part Lee and Kirby Galactus epic that made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. It was swirling all over in a spacey surreal psychedelic world, this weird Silver Surfer character kept flying around, I didn't understand who anybody was or what they were trying to do, my head just kept pounding, the room just kept spinning, and finally I projectile vomited up all over the comic and thus back down all over myself. It just totally confirmed my opinion of Marvel Comics at that point in life.

For another year or three I followed the DC books, gradually losing interest and then suddenly turning to just Archies and Teen Titans for a year or so. Then I started seeing reruns of the FF cartoon on syndication after school, and finally got the impulse to pick up an issue, FF 131. Again, I didn't have a clue who anybody was (except for what I'd seen in the old cartoon) but now the vomiting had long past and the complex storyline and relationships (Human Torch/Crystal/Quicksilver) were utterly fascinating.
Soon after that, I found a double issue of Marvel's Greatest Comics that reprinted FF 44 and 45, the first appearance of the Inhumans, the most stunning comic I'd ever seen. Each month I would buy the new FF which was good, and the new Marvel's Greatest Kirby reprint which was incredibly awesome.
After a few months of this, I thought I might as well finally give another Marvel a try and I bought Avengers 112. And that, as they say, was that.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Red - These posts are actually quite "deep" compared to typical posts. I think you touched a nostalgic nerve with the FF.

Truly they were my favorite book and folks here are really showing them the love! I haven't read the latest incarnation that started maybe a year ago after supposedly being discontinued "forever" maybe 3 - 4 years ago. Let's hope that "lightening strikes twice!"

Redartz said...

Anonymous- Great, great story. Thanks for sharing it! I do wonder if you ever replaced that ill- fated copy of FF 76...

Charlie- you may be right! Seems the Four still have a place in the hearts of many. I'm going to have to make a trip to the lcs and give a look at the current incarnation.

Disneymarvel said...

A favorite memory with my nephew was after a trip to a bookstore when he was about 4. I was showing him some of the superhero images in the trade collections and mentioned that the Thing was my favorite.

The next morning, I was in the kitchen with the rest of the family gathered around ... and in walks my nephew. He looks up at me in my Marvel t-shirt and exclaims, "Hey, it's my favorite, Thing!" Somehow, this little guy spotted a very small image of the Thing in a wide shot of the entire Marvel Universe and made this announcement, much to the befuddlement of the rest of the room. Of course, I immediately knew what had happened and gave him a big hug!

And, yes! That FF Treasury was a great find just months into my FF comics reading back in 1974. I had never seen the lumpy version of the early Thing before. Those front and back covers are still some of my favorite images, as is the fun 'family portrait' certerfold of the book.

I miss the days when the Thing was almost always in the top 3 of favorite characters when polled in the old Buyers Guide weekly paper, along with Spider-Man and Batman. Sometimes he would even end up on top, where I still think he deserves to be!

He continued to be interested in comics and now has his own selection of trade collections and HeroClix figures. He also has a bunch of the distressed image metal 'signs' of classic Marvel covers on his walls. He's 16 now. It's rewarding to introduce and share hobbies with the next generations!

Anonymous said...

Humanbelly :
You’re not wrong about detecting some heavy Buscema influence in Buckler’s work. In fact, his very first issue of FF , #142, looks very much like Big John, without even a trace of his ‘Kirby-ish’ stylistics. The Kirby-isms start showing up in #143, and by #144 they’re pretty blatant, and all over the place. I think GIANT-SIZE SUPER STARS may be the first instance of Buckler resorting to using actual Kirby swipes, which became his S.O.P. on FF, on GIANT-SIZE AVENGERS #1, and his short run in THOR.

I think Buckler’s own ‘natural’ style (for instance, his stuff on JUNGLE ACTION, DEATHLOK, DEMON HUNTER and a ton of covers) is somewhere on the Venn Diagram of Buscema, Adams and Kirby, with storytelling and page layout tricks inspired by Steranko and Krigstein. He’s at his best when he seems to be synthesizing those influences into a dynamic, satisfying melange, not just directing aping any one of them. It’s kind of a shame he didn’t focus more on that approach throughout his career. I think the ‘Swipe Guy’ thing was detrimental to his reputation in the long run — first, with the blatant Kirby-isms at Marvel, and later when he went all-in on being a Neal Adams clone at DC.


Humanbelly said...

Haven't had a chance to catch up on our thread here just yet, but want to throw in a thought:

Keanu Reeves as Namor.

Okay, okay-- he's NOT exactly a tremendous actor, but has the requisite screen charisma. . . . and cripes, could anyone be more physically on-point??


McSCOTTY said...

The FF have had a long history in the UK starting in the mid 1960s being reprinted in the weekly Wham comic, then in monthly black and white titles like Creepy Worlds etc and in one off annuals before being published in Mighty World of Marvel (Marvel UK) and various other marvel weeklies, monthlies, pocket books etc. My first memory of the FF was buying my pal at the time, a Marvel story book annual that they appeared in for Christmas in 1967/8. It took me awhile to get into the FF but loved Kirby's later takes and enjoyed Bucklers run on the title ( issue 150 being a fav). My favourite was actually John Romitas short run on the FF and Walter Simonson's run was nice. Incidentally Colin the FF cartoon briefly appears on TV in Scotland ( if not the other countries of the UK)

Edo Bosnar said...

Man, late to this party.
First things first: HB, not sure about your casting for Namor. I love Keanu Reeves, but I don't think he has the chops to pull off the necessary arrogance. Personally, I think The Rock is a better choice, but at this point I think he's kind of aging out.

As for the FF, I've always loved them, but don't think they were ever my favorite. I liked that stretch of issues from the 190s up to about 217 or so well enough, particularly the space opera that spanned about a dozen issues. Most of the art was by Pollard and Byrne, with Sinnott's providing a nice consistency.
But then Byrne took over as writer/artist in #232 and all of a sudden it was my favorite book. Back then I was such a Byrne victim (and I'd say he's my favorite artist), and still smarting from his departure from X-men, that I was all over FF like a bee to pollen - I'd actually stopped reading the title during that year-long Moench-Sienkiewicz run.

Graham said...

Regardless of the artist he was emulating (Kirby, Buscema, Adams, etc....), if I saw Buckler listed in the art credits, I bought it because I always knew it would be good work. There were others I liked better for sure, but I never put a book back on the shelf if he was drawing.

Colin Jones said...

You've got to love how Stan Lee put "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" on the FF covers beginning with only the THIRD issue :D

Humanbelly said...

Aaaaaah,I daresay you're absolutely right about Keanu there, edo.
While Namor isn't a "frenetic" character, he's certainly over-brimming with passion, volatility, and an indomitable sense-of-self. . . which, yeah, are just not traits I see as being Mr Reeve's movie-star long-suit. I. . . get a little concerned about him bellowing "IMPERIUS REX!" at anyone in a convincing fashion. . .


Anonymous said...

Mark Strong — if he were ten years younger and got bulked up — would be a good Namor.


v mark said...

Hey Redartz -

I did replace that FF issue. First it got reprinted in a Marvel's Greatest around '74 or so. I remember reading it then and slowly realizing that "this is it, this is the comic that made me puke!"
I fear it'll never be one of my favorites.

And please no, just no to Keanu Reeves as Namor. I agree that he could probably pull off the look, but as soon as he spoke all would be lost.
But I do like the thought of a big-screen Atlantean attack on New York, with all the giant monsters etc.
Unfortunately the Subby/Sue/Reed triangle is likely way too hetero-normative for 2021 audiences. Maybe what if Namor is bi-curious, he falls for Johnny Storm at first sight and kidnaps him instead of Sue. This infuriates Ben because a)he wanted Johnny for himself and b)Reed had promised to finally cure Ben's sad condition with a gender reassignment procedure which now gets delayed permanently. Ben freaks out because he wants to get his rocks off so to speak and yada yada yada we have a movie. This stuff writes itself.

Of course, Ben cannot be orange any more because Donald Trump but that's no problem, just Think Pink.

And oh sorry, never meant to be "anonymous," just forgot how to post. Hopefully it works this time.

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Jones said...

Red, John Byrne's FF became your favourite book and a high point in '80s comics for you so I assume you approved of the FF's change of costume and She-Hulk replacing Ben?

Humanbelly said...

Okay, okay-- The Gentleman from Beltsville yields the misguided Keanu Reeves speculation. . . (heh-)

Jumpin' in on your question to Red, Colin, I really, really did like the "Negative Image" costume re-imagining! But I do realize that I was apparently always in the fan-minority on that score. It was a pretty smart re-design in that it was still based on the original costumes-- not a total head-to-toe revamp-- so they still felt familiar. And She-Hulk may have been one of the few Tank characters that were a nice fit to temporarily fill Ben's shoes. It was worth it to give Ben a shot at his own title for awhile, and Jen is honestly a hoot-- AND a character worth keeping in the forefront, in spite of her less-than-stellar origin & reason for being created. Byrne wrote her very well, imho, and heck, we ALL knew her tenure was going to be a temporary one. (I also appreciate the fact that she was able to double the ranks of in-house Marvel Universe super-hero lawyers, taking that entire burden off of Matt Murdock's shoulders. . . )

Redartz said...

V Mark- Glad you eventually got a replacement book! And also glad to have a name for you!
Ben in pink rocks? Well, Feldspar is pink, and hence Granite can be...

Edo- yes, I tried to focus on the positive in this post, but to be honest, like you I was less than excited by the Moench/ Seinkewicz run...

Colin- you may consider my response to your question capably answered by our friend HB! I was also one of those who liked the 'reverse' costumes. Also greatly enjoyed Jennifer's stint on the team. Got a kick out of her and Wyatt. As for the FF's 60th., surely they must have something in store.

Oh, and not to sidetrack my own post, but is anyone else watching "WandaVision"? My wife and I are loving it. Soooooooo, maybe a Fantastic Four show could be a possibility? If not a film, perhaps a series......

v mark said...

Jokes aside, I am pretty skeptical about whether an FF movie could ever really capture the spirit and essence of the book and its rich and very distinctive history.

The great thing about Iron Man and the Avengers is that Tony Stark is so sophisticated, so sneering, cynical and scientific, that he can be fitted into almost any time and set of social mores, and succeed. In our globalized worldly 21st-century society he instantly becomes the dominant foil against which the purer, more (what? simplistic? old-fashioned?) traditional philosophies of characters like Captain Rogers or Thor fit so well.

From the beginning, the FF were partly defined by all the squabbling and discord between the team members, a level of conflict that must have seemed revolutionary and very fresh in 1962. But such frictions are passé now, expected and typical in any super-hero team. The natural temptation will be to escalate the conflict, the edginess and rudeness, until these characters start to sound more like Deadpool and the spirit of the FF is lost.
It's a little like Watchmen, the idiosyncrasies and distinctive personality of the book are fragile and difficult to reproduce in film.

And the FF's flipside was of course the family bond, the real conviction that although Ben and Johnny argued and fought all the time, either one would readily take a bullet or an ultimate nullifier for each other without a second thought. That level of emotional bond, and the morality and sentimentality that are inherently attached to it, are too easily dismissed or even ridiculed in today's society.

So the Avengers can thrive in today's culture but the FF are likely going to struggle. I can only picture the FF maybe succeeding in film as a sort of stand-alone 1960s period piece with the feel of Alex Ross's Marvels, a pioneering first super-hero family who shocked the world (especially NYC) and blazed the trail for the whole Marvel Universe to follow.
Or maybe, just possibly, a weekly TV relationship-driven hour with a decent special effects budget and solid writers. Hard to imagine, I'd feel very ready to cringe, but potentially interesting..

Steve Does Comics said...

I do think Fantastic Four #44-67 is one of the all-time great comic book runs and laid down so much that fuelled the entire Marvel Universe from that point on. Come to think of, it the issues before and after those weren't too bad either.

I don't see any reason an FF movie couldn't be made to work. It's just a question of how it's handled. The big problem with the movies we've had so far is they've tended to fling into the bin just about everything that made the comic work.

dbutler16 said...

The first Marvel comic I ever bought was Fantastic Four #172, written by Bill Mantlo and, more importantly, drawn by George Perez. That Perez art had me hooked. He now ranks as my all-time favorite artist. I was a regular buyer of the FF from then on, until I stopped collecting comics around 1989-90. I am the proud owner of a run of FF from #158-338, plus a few older back issue, plus the first seven volumes of Marvel Masterworks, and the occasional stray later issue I've picked up in more recent years.

To me, the FF is mostly about Ben and Reed. You can throw Sue and Johnny in a blender for all I care (though Sue's character improved a lot over the years) but Ben and Reed are two of the best characters in comicdom, with the Thing being, depending on what day it is and on my mood, my favorite superhero.

I never loved the FF as much as the Avengers or X-Men, but they still were and are a special group to me, largely because of their unique family dynamic.

I definitely remember the 1978 cartoon, HERBIE and all. I regularly watched it back in the day. While it's not the greatest cartoon ever, I have watched some episodes within the past few years and did revel in the nostalgia of it. I have also managed to catch some episodes of the 1967 series not too long ago. While not quite up to the standards of the 60's Spider-Man cartoon, it was a lot better than the other 60's Marvel cartoons!

Redartz said...

Dbutler16- you can't beat George Perez. He made everything and everyone look spectacular.
And that's an impressive assemblage of FF stories you have! You hung with it a bit longer than I did...

dbutler16 said...

Redartz - yeah, I stuck with the FF a while, but in having re-read them a few years ago, they stopped being good after John Byrne left with #294.

Having your first issue be from George Perez is a good way to get hooked on something!

You Might Also Like --

Here are some related posts: