Four Letter Words

As I indicated yesterday, having been entertained by the latest movie, I wanted to post some more images of Fantastic Four stories  that had stayed with me over the years.

In my primary school days, life rarely stretched beyond Strathaven and East Kilbride- maybe Glasgow or Clyde coast towns like Ayr or the more distant Girvan, where my godmother lived.

I had missed the most inventive period of Kirby’s work on FF but I think the late Sixties saw the comic at its most cinematic and gorgeous.

Doom

Mole

Two early memories of the First Family from Craig’s newsagent

Happily, 10p  reprints enable me to catch up with the earlier exploits of the team in their “B-movie double feature” mode:

super skrull classicsDragon man

The Diablo comic was from EK but the older one was from Baird’s pet supplies shop in Strathaven

100-1

I missed the 100th issue of the FF – just as we seemed to miss every anniversary issue of every comic here- but, a few years later, the cover could be assembled from the bubble gum cards that accompanied these stickers:

Morbius

Of course, it wasn’t simply the fabulous foursome themselves who were an attraction of the comic in its sixties heyday. Many characters span off from concepts featured in the series, including the Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel, Warlock and the Black Panther.

The split book format had been popular in the 60s and I read at least one or two copies of  Tales to Astonish with the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner ( and originally Giant-Man) and  Tales of Suspense with Iron Man and Captain America; Strange Tales with SHIELD and Dr. Strange was one I never read as a child. Too outlandish!

Concurrent with the centennial issue of FF, I think, two new split books  were launched featuring Dr. Doom and the Inhumans- supported by a Kirby Ka-Zar riff on Tarzan’s New York Adventure and an Emma Peel-styled Black Widow.

Astonishing_Tales_Vol_1_2

Astonishing_Tales_Vol_1_4

Doom is very much ahead of his time here, predating the antiheroes of 90s Marvel ( Sabretooth, Venom or DC’s Deathstroke). The vagaries of distribution in Scotland being what they were, I got the comics above in East Kilbride and this one, with the Skull’s Exiles, in Ayr.

AT 5 Ayr

This one, somewhere in Glasgow city centre.

AA Inhumans

The narration in the Inhumans strip reads very like a DC Fourth World comic.

The Inhumans was subsequently graced with Neal Adams art for a short while. Barry Smith took over from Kirby on Ka-Zar and brought a uniquely stylish (while still dynamic) fantasy flavour, not unlike his early Conan stories. The Petrified Man’s demise ( a rip-off from She) haunted me for a long while.

If Kirby hadn’t moved to National/DC, I think Thor, rather than the FF, would have been the vehicle for these guys:

New Gods

After Kirby departed, however, the next issue of the comic that I read was by Romita and starred Magneto and the Sub-Mariner. The issues after that had a darker, more menacing tone:

ThingHarknessI didn’t know there’d been two “Ben Goes Bad” stories earlier and wasn’t aware that Stan’s melodramatic scripts were becoming hackneyed and lacklustre ( cf. the Cap/Strucker/Gorilla Man stories).

Black Leopard

The High Street (near Bow’s), Glasgow

Conversely, I was too young to appreciate Thomas’s apartheid story that introduced us to T’Challa’s short-lived “Black Leopard” i.d.

As I indicated in previous blog posts, once Marvel UK began producing b/w weeklies, US Marvels became more scarce. Last time you saw my first Conway issue. with the awful Gor-inspired Makhizmo. I also read this dull Doom/Surfer story:

Doomsman

I like the cover and the twist ending but otherwise…blah.

Xemu

Bought in the village in EK with a Defenders/ Sons of the Serpent comic that was far more cool.

My later encounters with the FF were sporadic and I never enjoyed the comic as much. The Inhumans story above returned to the early 70s status quo- out went Medusa and the Torch’s red togs. I never cared for Buckler and Buscema seemed inhibited or constrained- the FF never had the grandeur and hauteur of his Avengers. There’s also a jaundiced, sour tone in Thomas’s scripts. He sounds as disaffected in much of his 70s work, except perhaps in Invaders.

Crusader

Kirby drew some mid-to-late 70s covers and I was excited by this Strathaven purchase, since I knew Marvel Boy from Marvel Super Heroes reprints in the late Sixties. But here, Thomas employed his Red Raven/ Toro schtick by making a vintage hero dangerously unbalanced.

It was, as I said yesterday, Byrne’s FF, wordy as it was, that reconnected me to the Baxter Building gang. There’s something of Gil Kane’s sinewy dynamism in Byrne’s 80s work and I’ll be looking at Kane’s sword-and -science creations in the next post.

 

All images are considered copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “Four Letter Words

  1. Kid Robson says:

    So you’re the buggah who made me travel farther for my comics by buying them first – you’re claimed. I loved Byrne’s FF. It was as if he ignored the visual evolution of the characters after the first 5 issues, which suited me ‘cos I loved those thick collars.

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