The Return of the King

After a bit of a hiatus, today’s post returns to the Treasury Editions of comics’ Bronze Age This was a purchase from Craig’s newsagent in Strathaven in the late Autumn of 1976. Despite having read all the stories before, the return of Kirby to my favourite Marvel comic of my pre-school years was too great an attraction to resist.

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The Fabulous Fantastic Four (in battle with their most fearsome foes!) features a cover that really pops with the contrasting green and red. The bizarrely foreshortened Doctor Doom looms over blocky simple figures of the FF, echoing a trope of Kirby’s 60s covers.

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The back cover features a portrait of the FF with husky versions of Reed and Johnny and a matronly Sue. Doom looks suitably disgusted; Namor is sardonic; the Wizard, Trapster and Sandman are ugly and grotesque, while Medusa appears implacable. As always, I have to say the reformed Medusa was a huge loss to the ranks of Marvel’s female villains.

The Master Plan of Doctor Doom: A light-heated romp from 1964, I first read it in the 1969 Fantastic Four hardback annual ( one which referred to the tv series that was only shown in Grampian i.e. Moray and Aberdeenshire, in the early 70s).

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While the FF squabble over leadership, Doom recruits his Terrible Trio: Bull Brogi, Handsome Harry Phillips and Yogi Dakor,  three hoodlums who will face off against the Torch and the Thing in Strange Tales two more times. Doom himself is accidentally swept off into space after dispatching his henchmen to another dimension, much as Darkseid was later wont to do.

The Coming of the Sub-Mariner:This is an epic from the primeval era of the comic- May 1962- and one I first read in Mighty World of Marvel ten years later.The Torch has, er, stormed out of the team and finds the Sub-Mariner in the Bowery (where, coincidentally, I would enjoy some potent Martinis, some thirty years later!)

 Finding his undersea realm destroyed by atomic tests, Namor unleashes the behemoth Giganto. Sue is offered the opportunity to become co-ruler of the Earth as Princess Namora. There’s also an amusing cameo by Marlon Brando’s Wild One.

The Return of the Frightful Four: I first saw this 1970 story in the second b/w FF album, circa 1971.

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Baby Franklin is finally named after two years in publication time. Kirby anticipates the horror or “weird” cycle in Seventies comics with the introduction of Agnes Moorhead-er, Agatha Harkness. He will return to this milieu with The Demon for DC.

The FF are trapped in a haunted house with a group of murderous enemies and it is the nanny’s witchcraft that saves the day ( despite a manly Reed in his “wife-beater”).This was MY era of the FF- six months of one-and-dones forming the very end of the King’s tenure on the title.

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This Man, This Monster: I first read this 1966 story in the colour FF album, bought for me in Stonehouse sometime in 1969. It’s a postscript to the Galactus Trilogy.

An unnamed scientist contrives to swap bodies with the Thing. In a terrifying turn of events, he chooses to sacrifice himself to save Reed from the anti-matter universe of Sub-Space. Stan would return to this dramatic sci-fi idea three more times ( twice with Jack). This tragedy is one of their finest although  I wasn’t especially impressed it at the time. But now I can appreciate all the humour, warmth, excitement and scope of the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.

Next: A New Breed of Hero

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “The Return of the King

  1. Kid Robson says:

    When I look at the cover of that FF treasury, it’s a pretty sad reminder of just how much Jack’s talents were in decline. Sad to see indeed.

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