Wednesday, December 23, 2009

4: Fantastic Four #3

Fantastic Four #3
December 12, 1961

  • Stan has talked many times how the FF was his last stab at "doing superheroes right", and a large part of that was realism (relative to the time). So he avoided the genre trope of secret identities, and likewise avoided giving them costumes. But after the first two issues, the readers wrote in to say they weren't having any of it - and Stan, quick to respond, had Kirby give them the blue suits they're known for, their Fantasticar - aka "the flying bathtub" - and their famous headquarters, the Baxter Building. No more meetings in "secret apartments"!

  • Also noteworthy is the FF's first letters page. Stan's style of engaging the reader, and fostering the appearance of a real dialogue, is evident from the start. "So let's hear from you other readers. What types of covers do YOU prefer, and how do you feel about the name Mr. Fantastic?"

  • Character conflicts are taking center stage more and more. When Sue is kidnapped, Ben loses his temper and takes a swing at the Torch, who flies off. Reed yells at him: "Why can't you control yourself, Thing? Why must we always fight among ourselves? What's wrong with us?" It's commonly understood now, but this really was Stan's biggest innovation, and what's largely pointed to as what quickly turned Marvel Comics into the powerhouse it would become.

  • Also the first "I quit!" as Johnny again flies off in a huff. Not only the first cliffhanger (albeit a character-based rather than plot-based one), it's evident from the "next issue" tease that Stan already knew where this was going, and which star from Marvel's past he'd be bringing back in #4. Three issues in, and we're already seeing that he's begun to glimpse the long-term possibilities....

  • Goofy Silver Age writing: This is really too rich to let pass without comment: