Saturday, December 30, 2017

Fantastic Four - The Kirby Era!


At one point my scheme was to take a long and loving look at the entire Lee-Kirby run of the Fantastic Four during this final month of the year-long focus on Jack "King" Kirby. But in the end my saner self took control and I limited myself to the first four years. But that doesn't mean that those other Lee-Kirby epics aren't worthy of at least a glimpse and here we have that very thing, a glimpse.


The FF battle the Skrulls yet again. This time on their home turf in the deeps of the Andromeda Galaxy.


The Frightful Four turn up yet again, this time with deadly results.



The recently red-draped Daredevil joins forces with the Fab 4 to confront the devices of Doctor Doom once more.




Thanks to Frightful Four, Ben Grimm turns against his partners and becomes a deadly menace.


Reed and Sue tie the knot but not before nearly all the superheroes in the Marvel Universe have to fend off most of the villains.





The secret of Medusa is finally uncovered as the FF meet the mysterious Inhumans and travel to the Great Refuge for the first time. This story marks the return of Joe Sinnot to the art chores and signals the beginning of the greatest storytelling in the history of comics.




The Silver Surfer comes to Earth in advance of the great and powerful Galactus but thanks to the FF the menace of the World Eater is rebuffed as the Surfer turns on his former master.


A man becomes a monster but then learns a valuable lesson and becomes something of a hero.



The FF go to Wakanda and discover the tech-jungle paradise of the Black Panther and confront the menace of Klaw.


Johnny Storm and Wyatt Wingfoot meet Prester John as they search for the Inhumans.



Meanwhile the Surfer learns more about Earth and the deadly Klaw returns, strangely transformed.


Johnny Storm meets the Human Torch of the Golden Age just in time to send him back into the comic book limbo.





Doctor Doom lures the Silver Surfer into his net of deceit and steals the Power Cosmic and becomes a menace the FF are barely able to defeat. Meanwhile the Inhumans break free.




Sandman takes on the team then finds a new partner from the Negative Zone, the living bomburst Blastaar.



The FF defeat the Sentry and have to confront the deadly justice of Ronan. They survive but it is a harbinger of things to come.



Alicia Masters is kidnapped and discovers the power and glory of Him the living being created by the Enclave.



Psycho Man appears from the depths of the Microverse to battle the heroes on their own territory.




The Thing is made an enemy once again but becomes an ally again in time to defeat the deadly androids.



The FF take on some very popular heroes about town.





Galactus returns to reclaim the Surfer but the former herald has ventured into the Microverse and the Fab 4 (minus the pregnant Sue Storm) must find him and battle Psycho Man along the way.



The Wizard turns up again in time to battle Ben Grimm in a deadly one-on-one.


The FF confront the Kachina doll made manifest -- the amazing Tomazooma!


Sue gives birth to Franklin Richards, but not before the FF must venture into the Negative Zone and confront Annihilus to save the lives of the mother and child.


Crystal of the Inhumans becomes a member of the FF taking over for a time for the new mother Sue Richards.



The FF have to save the Great Refuge again as Maximus the Mad rises to power.





The Fantastic Four confront Doctor Doom again, this time on his home turf in the little country of Latveria. Doom uses mind control and deadly robots but as usual the FF win the day.



The Mole Man returns and battles the FF, this time making them blind before he attacks openly.






Ben Grimm is kidnapped by the Skrulls and taken to a world where gangsters have become a template for civilization. He is put into an arena to fight for his life along with slaves from across the depths of space.








In response to some perceived wish of the fans Marvel eschewed continued stories for a short time and the FF spent that brief moment battling the Frightful Four again, the Monocle, the Thinker, and the Monster of the Lost Lagoon. They even ended up giving Neal Armstrong an uncredited assist on his famous Moon landing and the Torch ended up in the Great Refuge again.


All this set up the epic one hundredth issue, Marvel's first centenary of the legit Marvel Age and it was a slam-bang doozy as the Fab 4 battled robotic versions of all their former enemies.


Jack Kirby was headed out the door as he gave us a one-shot when the Baxter Building was invaded by thugs.

This final issue by Jack Kirby is shrouded by the well-drawn John Romita cover art. Romita was the first choice to replace Kirby on Marvel's flagship magazine. It was a canny choice by Lee as Romita was at once someone he had a good working relationship with and Romita's tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man had coincided with an uptick in sales on that book.




But Romita's time on the title was short and he quickly gave over to John Buscema, the artist who more than anyone would replace Jack Kirby in the Bullpen. Buscema's illustrative style had infused some of Kirby's dynamics and he'd created a powerful style which worked well as the hub for the new house look of the company.


Kirby's last FF story was fragmented and supplemented by new material from Lee and Buscema to create a different kind of story featuring a new villain named Janus. After his time at DC, Kirby would return to Marvel and he'd produce some more covers for the FF, but he'd never again draw a story featuring the team he co-created with Stan Lee.


We'd have to wait decades to see that final story as Kirby originally intended it to be shown in what was labeled as the Fantastic Four - The Lost Adventure. This final Kirby cover for the Fab 4 is as wonderful and evocative image of the team as he ever produced. A stunner and a great way to wrap a month of FF adventures.

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5 comments:

  1. One of the greatest-ever runs in comics - along with Lee & Kirby's Thor - these mags will stand the test of time. Great images, Rip. Happy New Year when it comes.

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    1. Happy New Year back to you. Great covers by a great team for a the "Greatest Comic Magazine"!

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  2. I started re-reading the classic FF run for Kirby's 100th, and what a joy it was. I remembered the big picture of those stories, but so much of the little details and small stories had been forgotten.
    A great view, but - What the heck is that first cover? At first i thought i might be a Big Little Book, but a check through what i've got dissuaded that thought. And yet, it looks achingly familiar.

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    1. It's an image of a tin sign which isolates the Fab 4 as they are seen on issue #45. Imagine the Inhumans behind them.

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    2. Ah - that explains why it was both familiar and yet not. A tin sign is very cool, and made an excellent start to the cover collection.

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