Anatomy of a Classic: Fantastic Four #50

 

 

As some of you already know, I’ve been steadily working my way through the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on Fantastic Four for the first time ever, and today, you get one of the results: an in-depth analysis of Fantastic Four #50, what it meant for comics storytelling and how it forms the foundation of modern comics.

I ended up doing quite a bit of research (by which I mean I read a lot of comics) in preparation to write this article, and as long-winded as I get over at ComicsAlliance, there were actually a couple of things I didn’t get to mention about the aftermath of the issue.

For one, it didn’t go unnoticed by the Distinguished Competition, specifically ISB favorite/greatest comics writer of all time Bob Haney, who parodied the Galactus saga a year later in the pages of “Metamorpho,’ where a two-foot tall alien called the Thunderer, heralded by “Neutrog the Forerunner,” arrived on Earth and could only be defeated with a guitar that shot laser beams. I covered this story way back on ISB classic, and finally reading its inspiration makes it even better. Also of note, Haney referred to Metamorpho as “The World’s Second Greatest Comics Magazine (But He Tries Harder).” I think it’s pretty clear that the guy was a fan of Stan and Jack — the stories read like affectionate parodies rather than vicious ones.

It’s also worth noting that while today it’s almost universally seen as a classic, fan reaction to the story at the time seemed about as mixed as you’d expect. There actually aren’t too many letters discussing the Galactus story in the following issues (though the Black Panther’s appearance shortly after was met with a lot of discussion, and rightfully so), and what did get printed actually seemed to trend towards the negative.

In the article, I mention the letter complaining that Galactus was a “run-of-the-mill” villain, but a letter in FF #56 goes a little further:

The Fantastic Four reached new heights of glory with the advent of the Inhumans, but they have been steadily going down the drain ever since. The first step was the appearance of Galactus in #48. Galactus: A scientific menace with a devilish apparatus for the elimination of all life on Earth… blah!!! He was defeated, after the retribution of the foolish Silver Surfer, in three issues of pure trash. [...] The next thing you know, the FF will be fighting ‘The Creature from Beneath the Garbage Can’ with his uncanny ‘Onion Gun.’ Finally, the Earth is saved as the FF defeat him with Reed’s ‘Fantasti-kitchen Rubbish Disposal Unit!’ Enough!! Enough new menaces for the FF to battle! Enough super-scientific hogwash! It’s time the FF met (or should I say, re-met) some of their old foes. Perchance the Sub-Mariner.

This letter absolutely blew me away. I mean, not being into Galactus is one thing, but writing in to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966 to tell them to stop creating new characters? Yeesh.

At least it’s a nice reminder that comics readers didn’t just suddenly lose their minds with the advent of the Internet.

Allegedly Educational Posters Inspired by Jack Kirby and Others

 

 

This week, I stumbled on a copy of the Teacher’s Discovery catalog — English teacher edition — that touted their new product: a series of posters designed for the classroom inspired by Jack Kirby, Jim Lee and others.

The Lee one doesn’t quite get it — it seems more like a parody of ’90s Marvel books in general — but I think the rest of ‘em are pretty neat, which is why I gathered ‘em up for ComicsAlliance today. As Benito Cereno told me on Twitter, they’re probably not going to inspire any students to pick up OMAC (and might have the opposite effect of making people think Jerry Siegel’s awesome Silver Age books are as boring as Nathaniel Hawthorne — YEAH I SAID IT), but I think they’re pretty neat. I only wish they were a little more authentic.

The Most Awesome Designs of the Jack Kirby Unpublished Archives

 

 

Today at ComicsAlliance, I’m responding to the news of renewed interest in the design work Jack Kirby did for Ruby-Spears Animation by listing the ten most amazing concepts he designed, from MASTER COMPUTOBOTS to the sheer horror of Hidden Harry, as represented by the 1994 “Jack Kirby Unpublished Archives” trading card set!

I love these things, and it’s nice to finally see someone at least talking about doing more than putting out a trading card set for them. And for those of you who were wondering: Yes. Deceptor’s car is exactly what Solomon Stone’s car looks like.

Kirby

 

 

Today would have been Jack Kirby’s 92nd birthday. In the past, I’ve written of my feelings about the man and his work in a little more detail, but since I’ve already talked about what an inspiration he continues to be–and since nothing I could do would come close to matching Bully’s once-per-hour tribute to the King– I’m just going to sit down with some of his comics and remember how great he really is.

Thanks, Jack!

Crime Does Not Pay! (Except In Comics)

And here’s another hit, Barry Bonds!

 

 

My latest article for ComicsAlliance is up today, so click on over and check out a brief history of crime comics from the heyday of the Golden Age to the Marvel’s recent line of noir-inspired takes on heroes like Daredevil and the Punisher who, what with all the crooked boxing and revenge killings, apparently weren’t noir enough already.

One of the fun things about putting these galleries together is that when I occasionally deign to do research, I’ll often find out something really interesting. This time around, it was Justice Traps the Guilty, which I was only vaguely aware of until Kevin was able to hook me up with a bit. Of course, like it says in the article, it didn’t really come as a shock that Simon and Kirby did crime comics. After all, they did pretty much everything else.

Anyway, enjoy the read, and if you’ve got a favorite crime comic, leave a comment at ComicsAlliance!