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!