Wednesday, December 16, 2009

1. Fantastic Four #1

Fantastic Four #1

August 8, 1961

  • Fantastic Four #1 is cover-dated November, 1961. At the time, Marvel was constrained by their newsstand distributor in how many titles they could have on the stands, so their output that month was decidedly paltry:

  • Reading slowly, one is impressed at the enormous economy of storytelling shown: We start off with 8 pages of prelude / "gathering the team" in which to build the suspense and immediately show off the powers & wonder of our cast; a 5-page flashback illustrating their origin; 3 pages setting up the threat of the Mole Man, the FF's inaugural villain; 3 more pages bringing the fight to, and then under, Monster Island; and a final 6 pages of villain origin, climax, and resolution. Whew!

  • Kirby was clearly still figuring out the characters, as they're all a bit "off-model" to what they would become. Most obvious are the Human Torch, as only a vaguely-humanoid jet of flame, and the Thing in his early "oatmeal" form. But Sue also may have been initially intended as more of an upper-class socialite (when we first see her she's "having tea with a society friend", and check out the style of her hair and clothes) and Reed Richards seems more serious and ominous than he would later become - in fact, he looks like nothing so much as Reginald Tate's Professor Bernard Quatermass:

  • Goofy Silver Age writing: Excited at the call to arms, Johnny unthinkingly melts through the car he and his mechanic buddy have spent the afternoon working on; spooked by the appearance of the Torch, the US government sends fighter jets AND A NUCLEAR MISSILE, which Reed throws "far from shore, where it explodes harmlessly over sea" (Y'know. As nukes do.); and in a similar theme, the story's end sees Monster Isle being destroyed in a giant mushroom cloud. Wonder if that's brought up the next time the Mole Man makes an appearance?