The last time I did a comprehensive FF re-read I stopped with the last of the Kirby issues (or rather the first two of the four Romita issues that wrapped up the story). That brings me up to Fantastic Four #105. John Romita was as humble to take over Fantastic Four for the King in 1970 as he had been to take over Spider-Man from Steve Ditko in 1966. He didn't feel qualified in either case, as did his best to draw in their respective styles both times. Why Stan Lee didn't assign Joe Sinnott to ink I have no idea, but #103-105 were inked by John Verpoorten. 

#105 opens with the Thing, Johnny and Crystal enjoying some hot dogs from a street vendor, when suddenly the city is wracked by a series of explosions. Crystal unexpectedly collapses, and Johnny flies her back to the Baxter Building to seek Reed Richards' help. Meanwhile, Sue has been shopping and finds herself closer to the source of the mysterious explosions. She goes to the street to find Dr. Zoltan Rambow, a colleague of Reed's, pursuing an energy being.

Back at the Baxter Building, Reed has diagnosed Crystal as having an adverse reaction to the pollution she has no resistance to and says she must return to the Inhumans' Great Refuge or die. Reed has also discovered, in Crystal's DNA, what he thinks can be a cure to the thing's condition. Summoning Lockjaw, Crystal quickly says her goodbyes and departs immediately for the Great Refuge. Johhny flies off in frustration and soon comes upon his sister in conflict with the energy being. Sue cannot leave the conflict, but urges her brother to get Reed and Ben. Johnny returns to the Baxter Building only to find Reed at a critical juncture in his attempt to cure Ben.

CLIFFHANGER: Reed must choose between the life of his wife and that of his best friend.

It is widely accepted that Jack Kirby plotted most if not all of the Fantastic Four stories. I have generally come to the conclusion that if Stan Lee is credited with "script" that Jack Kirby provided the plot (or at least co-plotted). The credits for this issue list Stan Lee "story" and John Romita "illustration." #105 is one of the most densely-plotted and action-packed issues in a long time (the Sub-Mariner/Magneto conflict notwithstanding). Jack Kirby certainly didn't have anything to do with this issue. I think just because Stan Lee hadn't been regularly plotting Fantastic Four for some time doesn't mean he couldn't

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The "Black Leopard" name wasn't arbitrary: African black panthers are leopards. It's said to be the case that you can see the spots at times, and I think I have in online images.

Probably the names are equally viable translations of whatever "Black Panther" is in Wakandan. It might mean something like "royal beast of Wakanda".

The leopard family also includes North American cougars and mountain lions. They have spots as kittens.

Black Panthers have shiny black coats with flat black spots. These can be seen depending upon the light source.

 

I saw a black leopard at the Bronx Zoo from a few feet away (thank Rao for glass walls!) and the spots were quite visible.

I felt that Fantastic Four #120-123 lacked the grandeur that Kirby gave the character. Running amuck through an amusement park is more like Godzilla than the Devourer of Worlds! 

That was one of Kirby's greatest strengths: his ability to make the fantastic elements seem just awesome.

Galactus was really an alien who meant to strip Earth of its resources. When you put it like that, it sounds like a Justice League of America plot.

#124-125: After the grandeur and majesty of the epic Gabriel/Silver Surfer/Galactus four-parter, Stan Lee brings the story back to a "human" level (pretty much the same thing he did after the original Galactus story) with the reintroduction of "The Monster from the Lost Lagoon" from #97. Hey, you can't do "cosmic" every issue. 

#126:

According to "My First Fifteen," Fantastic Four was my 16th comic overall. (I ended up going a bit beyond 15.) It was my fifth Marvel comic, but my very first issue of Fantastic Four. I've always been pleased that this was my first. Not only was it a great jumping-on point (retelling, as it does, the first issue), it just so happens to be the first issue written by Roy Thomas (the third person ever to script the FF after Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin). I didn't know at the time that the cover was an homage (the first of many) to the cover of that first issue. (It was to be another two years before I read the actual first issue reprinted in Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics

#126 recaps a bit of the Mole Man story from #88-90, which gives the Thing the idea to seek him out in hope of finding a cure for Alica's blindness. As it happened, I acquired a copy of #88 early on as a backissue, but it would be years until I read the rest of the stories begun in #88 and #126. 

Three or four years after I got FF #126, I got the "Power Records" version, a slightly abridged version of the comic itself with a dramatization on a 45 r.p.m. vinyl single. I had several of these, including all of the Planet of the Apes movie ones, before Marvel Comics had adapted them all. The Human Torch is voiced by Peter Fernandez (Speed Racer). I don't know who voices the Thing, but it's the best voice ever and still the one I hear in my head when I read FF. 

Here's a link to the audio/visual of Power Records FF #126. I hope you enjoy it. (The audio begins about 25 seconds in.) 

I have the Power Record, too.

This was when they would seem to alternate between finding a cure for Ben and finding a cure for Alicia. What's even odder was Ben's fear that if she regained her sight that she'd leave him AND if he was turned back into "normal" Ben Grimm, she'd leave him as well!

#127-128: This is the resolution of the story set up in #126. In it, Ben Grimm travels to Subterrania in hope of forcing Mole Man to cure Alicia's blindness. the rest of the FF follow and become embroiled in a three-way battle between and among the Mole Man, Tyrannus and Kala (the latter from Tales of Suspense #43). At first, Kala and Moley are engaged to be married, and Tyrannus is their slave. Then it is revealed that Kala is actually sided with Tyrannus. Then Tyrannus betrays Kala and the whole scheme falls apart. Mole Man doesn't have a cure for Alicia blindness because, if he had had such a cure, he would have used it on himself. But the Thing thought Mole Man might have a cure because he induced temporary blindness in the FF back in #88.

At least that's the way it played out in the MU. On Earth-J, it was a bit different. I've explained the origin of "Earth-J" before (although i didn't call it that originally). Before I could drive a car (or even ride a bike as far as Ahmann's nesstand), in too many cases the comics I bought were continued, never to be resolved. "Earth-J" is what I came to call the world upon which continued stories were resolved. In my version of FF #127, the Thing tried to force Mole Man to help him, but it didn't work. They commiserated over their shared plight of being shunned by humanity, became friends, and worked together. Although they were not able to cure Alicia's blindness, they were able to cure Mole Man's. 

Hey, that's a nice twist for an eight-year-old, if I do say so myself!

The FF attempted to cure Alicia's blindness in #19; was the idea returned to after that, before this? I think it's a Roy Thomasism, a discarded idea from several years earlier getting picked up.

In Marvel Team-Up #6 the Thing forces the Puppet Master to tell him how Alicia became blind, with the goal of finding out if her blindness can be cured. That was by Gerry Conway. Mike's Amazing World indicates the issue appeared just after this story, the same month as Fantastic Four #130.

"Was the idea returned to after that, before this?"

Hmm... not that I know of. 

Just for the record, based on anatomical features, the various species of cougars, aka mountain lions, pumas (they're all different names for the same species, although there are regional subspecies such as the Florida panther, which is really the last survivors of a subspecies of cougars that once ranged up and down most of the east coast of North America, just as lions once roamed the entire area between North Africa to India, and thousands of years ago had even migrated to North America, going extinct in that continent about 10,000 years ago), are in an entirely separate subfamily from leopards.  Cougars are in the subfamily Felinae, essentially those capable of purring.  Cougars are more closely related to cheetahs and both more closely related to domestic cats than either are to leopards. The other subfamily is the Pantherinae, which includes all the felines capable of roaring, most famously lions and tigers, as well as  leopards and, the only extant true "big cats" in the Americas, jaguars.  The term panther, while scientifically referring to the roaring big cats, in popular usage has been applied to cougars.

As to "Black Panther" vs. "Black Leopard", the former is the far more common term for big black felines, whether leopards or jaguars, in the English language and to my mind has a much better aural ring than the latter.  Neither is the name of any actual species but just a reference to individuals within a species who happen to have a relatively unusual fur pattern.  I think Roy Thomas was being overly cautious with that fortunately short-lived name change, although I'm curious what the overall fan response was.  This was several months before I started collecting comics regularly, getting the FF on a monthly basis starting with #128, when Thomas began his first regular stint on the mag.  I got #119 about 25 years ago, fairly cheaply, and read the Galactus yarn in the Treasury reprint.  I can't recall when I first became aware of the Black Panther Party, maybe by age 13 or so in the mid-70s, but even much younger, I was familiar with the term black panther as referring mainly to leopards that happened to have fur that was predominantly black (at least as young as 9, I had gotten into reading various books about animals and natural history) and I never had trouble recognizing that the comics character the Black Panther was named for a type of animal and not for the political faction that was named for the very same animal.  A few ignorant racist mushheads may have been confused, although I expect they never even bothered to read the stories.


Richard Willis said:

The leopard family also includes North American cougars and mountain lions. They have spots as kittens.

Black Panthers have shiny black coats with flat black spots. These can be seen depending upon the light source.

 

Totally agree on the difference between this and the original Galactus trilogy, having first read both in the giant Treasury editions.  Kirby's Galactus also tended to appear more stoic, doing what he had to do, but not a raging lunatic.  Buscema's Galactus looked maniacal and somewhat more comical.  Unfortunately, throughout the '70s, Galactus' once grand status was gradually being reduced to a galactic joke, including having him get "cosmic indigestion" from consuming the energy of the Impossible Man's world.

Philip Portelli said:

I saw a black leopard at the Bronx Zoo from a few feet away (thank Rao for glass walls!) and the spots were quite visible.

I felt that Fantastic Four #120-123 lacked the grandeur that Kirby gave the character. Running amuck through an amusement park is more like Godzilla than the Devourer of Worlds! 

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