Wednesday, 29 December 2010

A Fantastic Four Christmas

I've had a great Christmas involving much comic book goodness.  I've received all eight volumes of Essential Fantastic Four from various loved ones and I'm currently engaged in the extremely enjoyable task of reading almost twenty years of Fantastic Four comics back to back.  So far I've been struck by how much of an arsehole Ben Grimm is in these early stories.  He's generally portrayed as a loveable grouch these days but in those early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby tales the rest of the FF are treading around on eggshells for fear of setting him off on a super-powered temper tantrum.  It's also amusing to see how much Stan and Jack seemed to enjoy putting Grimm through the emotional wringer.  Every issue Grimm will randomly regain human form, only to turn back to the Thing after a few seconds, much to his crushing disappointment.  Lee and Kirby really were little stinkers!

Fantastic Four #8 by Jack Kirby

Still, it's all great stuff, and it's really got me interested in all things FF related.  I've been debating whether to get the ongoing for a while since I've been hearing great things about Jonathan Hickman's writing.  I'm already a fan of Steve Epting, thanks to his brilliant and much underrated  Aquaman run with Dan Jurgens.  I've been a bit put off by this 3 storyline they're currently engaged in, which is supposedly going to involve the death of a Fantastic Four member.  To be fair, the story may be brilliant for all I know, but FF members have been 'dead' before and it seems to me this story just means a character I really like will be absent for a while until they eventually get resurrected. Having said that both Batman and Captain America's recent 'deaths' resulted in some really interesting stories so I may be wrong.   I think I'll end up waiting it out and maybe get the trades.  After all, it's not as if I'm short of FF stories to read at the moment.

On a bit of a side note, while Googling for Fantastic Four stuff recently I came across the cover of Fantastic Four #375 (1993).

This cover embodies everything that was ridiculous about '90s superhero comics, to the point where I wonder if it was a deliberate parody on Marvel's part.  Sadly I don't think it was.  Note the presence of absurdly large guns, a skimpy uniform for the Invisible Woman, pointless jackets with multiple Rob Liefeld style pouches (even for the Human Torch ?!?!) and a hideous hologram foil background.  Note also the hilarious "This is not your parents' comic magazine" tagline, which makes Marvel come across like an embarrassing Dad trying to look 'hip' in front of his kid's friends.  I was going to let Thing's weird helmet pass, because believe it or not it was actually part of his original costume from Fantastic Four #3.  But it was abandoned in that very issue and he's only wearing it here 'cos Wolverine slashed his face up.  Why does the Thing care that his face is scarred, it's not as if he was winning beauty contests before Wolverine injured him?  

Fantastic Four #3 by Jack Kirby

On the other hand, I own Nobody Gets Out Alive a trade paperback of a story from Fantastic Four #387-392 which occurs not long after the above cover saw print.  It's actually one of my favourite FF stories.  It includes a team in disarray having to battle  a mysterious opponent who's travelling through alternate dimensions murdering different versions of Reed Richards.  It's really entertaining stuff, it features an alternate take on the FF's first battle with Galactus, the hatching of Johnny Storm's Skrull egg and a character called Raphael Suarez who gains the power of the 'Lazerfist' and then is never, ever mentioned again.  It's also worth mentioning that the artist on Nobody Gets Out Alive and FF #375 is Paul Ryan, who's really good and not your typical '90s artist at all.

So, despite the cover, FF #375 might not be that bad for all I know, but it's still an amusing example of '90s comic book excess, and almost certainly not a patch on the wonderful Lee and Kirby stuff that I'm currently having the pleasure of immersing myself in. 


  1. All hail Lazerfist! Great post Paul.

    I'll try and sell you on the current FF run by saying that it is really a giant 30+ issue arc. Much like the changes to Batman and Captain America, the storyline has been building for quite some time, with even the smallest of happenings having reprucussions down the line. I think you would like it quite a bit, since you seem to enjoy sci-fi stories.

    By the way, thanks for enlightening me about the Thing's helmet. I have such a backlog of 80's and 90's FF to go through that I haven't even bothered with the Stan/ Jack comics. I won't blame the 90's for the helmet anymore, but Sue Storm's costume isn't off the hook.

  2. You're right, I shouldn't pre-judge the Hickman run so much. To be honest I'm looking for excuses not to add FF to my Pull List, since I'm skint and the list's pretty long already. I've just got to keep telling myself I'll get the trades one day.

    I can't wait to see which one of them is for the chop. I like them all but I hope Reed and Ben survive, they're my favourites.



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