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.
When I left off, I was closing in on the end of MMW FF v13...
#138-139: Gerry Conway shows his roots here by bringing back a villain from his boyhood, Miracle Man (issue #3), but I remember it for the return of Wyatt Wingfoot, Johnny's roommate from his short-lived college career, always one of my favorite supporting characters. His return officially marks four years "Marvel Time" since #51. (I think Wyatt was last seen in #80.)
#140-141: This two-parter marks the return of Annihilus and the Negative Zone. In order to save the world from his son Franklin's ill-defined powers (specifically, a "blast of psychic force... strong enough to kill every living thing in the solar system"), Reed Richards throws his son into an induced coma. This action does not sit well with Sue, which leads to a trial separation (although they did not use that term at the time). and "The End of the Fantastic Four!" (a call-back to the last panel of #71).
It was at this natural break point I had originally planned to move on to another discussion, but I've read beyond so let's continue on to MMW FF v14, which reprints #142-150 as well as Giant-Size #1-2 and Avengers #127. I've already identified Fantastic Four #126 as the first issue I bought new; this volume contains my second, third and fourth. The bulk of the volume is by Gerry Conway and Rich Buckler. It makes for a choppy read, start to finish; it's a mixed bag, but it's a good mix.
#142-144 is a Doctor Doom story; #142-144 has fill-in art by Ross Andru, and also features a "Climate Cannon" designed to lower the world's temperature (which we could use now), which brings us up to Giant-Size Super-Stars (Featuring Fantastic Four) #1, one of my seminal comics. I have long maintained that my "first favorite character" was the Hulk, and this is already my second Hulk/Thing slugfest in "real time" (the first being Marvel Feature #11).
By the second issue, Giant-Size Super-Stars had changed its title to Giant-Size Fantastic Four, my third new FF comic book. It had the same cover date as #149 (my fourth), but I don't think I would have bought an issue of the regular series with only one Giant-Size in my possession. The way I remember it, I didn't buy #149 until after G-S #4, but I did buy it new, so I must have bought it between G-S #2 and #3. G-S #2 featured the Watcher, and also reprinted #13, the Watcher's first appearance. Based on that evidence, I concluded that the "new" artist (John Buscema) got his look "wrong." (This would have been before Marvel Treasury Edition #2 reprinted an abridged version the so-called "Galactus Trilogy" and I saw the "old" artist himself changed it.)
#147 & #149 features the Sub-Mariner and the reconciliation of Reed and Sue Richards, sandwiching the Frightful four in #148. As I've already mentioned, #149 was my fourth FF comic. I missed the beginning of the story, but as I already knew how it ended, I wasn't so hot tp pick up the backissues which led into it.
One day, my big brother (who never read a comic book in his life as far as I know), came home from college with two of them: Spider-Man #137 and Avengers #127. Avengers #127 was probably my first "wedding" issue, although the wedding itself didn't happen until Fantastic Four #150. Although I had to wait several years, Fantastic Four #150 was one of the first backissues holes I filled after I got my driver's license and could drive to out of town comic shops.
That's MMW FF v14. Since I'll be catching up on some of my other discussions tomorrow, I'd like to end this post with an informal...
POLL: Johnny Storm's red uniform.
C. Other (explain)
I always liked Johnny's red & yellow costume. It made him look more like a solo star as he almost was in Marvel Team-Up. It's ironic that the change was made in homage to the Original Human Torch yet Johnny was put back in blue because the OHT was appearing in The Invaders!
Personally, I approved of the change, even if it only lasted for the period of the FF's dysfunctional era. Although I'd gotten a few late Kirby-era issues of the FF, my main collection didn't really begin until Roy took over from Stan on the title (purely coincidental; most of my then meager comics collection prior to 1972 had been tossed during one of my family moves, and issue 126 just happened to be where I essentially started over again with the FF, which also just happened to include a re-telling of their origin. A few issues later, Sue informally separated from Reed, Johnny & Crystal officially broke up in a rather bad way, and Medusa officially became a fill-in member, with her swim-suit style, purple variant of the FF uniform. Well, with that, it made sense for Johnny to opt for a red with yellow trim variant of the uniform. Since Ben's version was just his blue trunks, that left Reed the only one with the standard FF uniform, and IMO, that suited his character. He was capable of inventing all sorts of crazy gizmos, but he wasn't a flashy character who was going to parade around in a flashy costume. Something that was basically a sort of working jumpsuit with a bit of trim and the team logo.
(As I was typing the above, a tiny, bright green spider landed on my desk. Best as I can tell, it was a green lynx spider. I escorted it outside, not taking a chance on being bitten and possibly being transformed into the Amazingly Translucent Green Lynx Spider-Man!)
Gerry Conway wasn't one of my favorite comics writers, but I still mostly enjoyed his runs on the FF, Spider-Man and Thor. The rift between Reed & Sue really started in the latter part of Lee's run, as their arguments got increasingly intense, so their split as chronicled by Thomas & Conway was really a continuation and logical outcome of Lee's subplot. And as they were no longer the original unit, they might as well have a different look. I also rather liked Medusa's character as a member of the FF. Not that I was upset when Sue and Reed finally reconciled and she re-joined the team and Medusa took her leave. Actually the line-up change I least liked was when Ben Grimm left during Byrne's run. To be honest, while I liked much of the early part of Byrne's run, aspects of the latter part appalled me.
Jeff of Earth-J said:
This two-parter marks the return of Annihilus and the Negative Zone. In order to save the world from his son Franklin's ill-defined powers (specifically, a "blast of psychic force... strong enough to kill every living thing in the solar system"), Reed Richards throws his son into an induced coma.
I first encountered this sequence in Fantastic Four #190, where it's retold. It seems to me a striking concept.
By the time I started reading Fantastic Four Franklin was OK again and Reed and Sue had reconciled. I can imagine a reader at the time being shocked, and not knowing where it was all going to lead.
That Franklin had powers had been hinted at before. I remember a bit in one of the Lee/Buscema issues where he knows Sue is there although she's invisible. Was this the first appearance of the idea that Franklin, potentially, has enormous power?
The cover of #143 was reused on the 1977 Pocket Books paperback reprinting #1-#6.
"Was this the first appearance of the idea that Franklin, potentially, has enormous power?"
"Enormous" power, yes. But, as you point out, that he had some kind of power had been hinted at before.
Fred W. Hill said:
(Reed) was capable of inventing all sorts of crazy gizmos, but he wasn't a flashy character who was going to parade around in a flashy costume. Something that was basically a sort of working jumpsuit with a bit of trim and the team logo.
This also fits with the beginnings of the team before they had uniforms. Sue was the one who designed and pushed for their first uniforms in FF #3.
As I was typing the above, a tiny, bright green spider landed on my desk. Best as I can tell, it was a green lynx spider. I escorted it outside, not taking a chance on being bitten and possibly being transformed into the Amazingly Translucent Green Lynx Spider-Man!
Ah, but if you were, would you tell us?
Re the poll, I like the FF in matching costumes, as it emphasises they're a close-knit team. There's enough visual variation as Johnny's costume mostly disappears when he flames on and the Thing just wears shorts.
I also like the black lines of the standard costumes. The red costume substituted yellow.
I forgot to weigh in myself on the poll. Personally, I liked it. Red suggests heat and fire more than cool blue. I never really thought of Medusa's costume as being a "uniform" of a different color (to me it looked like her regular outfit with a "4" emblem attached), but it's presented as her version on an FF uniform.
My favorite comment on Johnny's costume came from a pin-up (which appeared in one fan press magazine or another, IIRC) from the time when John Byrne tweaked the design slightly. It was a group shot in which the Thing quipped, "At least the hotshot ain't wearin' red this time!"
MMW v15 (#151-163 + G-S #3-4): Like v14, v15 is choppy but a good mix. It sees the transition of Gerry Conway to Len Wein back to Roy Thomas (with Marv Wolfman and Chris Claremont writing the Giant-Size ones); Roy thomas Writes the lion's share this volume and Rich Buckler draws the most, but they're not necessarily the same ones. Behind-the-scenes was a choppy as the stories: Thomas stepped down as EiC to go freelance; Wein was promoted to editor of the color line (Wolfman b&w); Wein's new duties forced him to step down as writer, and he hired... Roy Thomas!
The continuity was not as tight between the main title and the Giant-Size as it was on Avengers, but Giant-Size FF #1-6 is still a pretty good run. [Steve Englehart did better (than anyone) coordinating between titles; Gerry Conway did better with incorporating the compulsory double-page spreads into the story.] For many years (starting in the '90s when Marvel annuals really sucked), I held up Fantastic Four Annual #1-6 as the gold standard, but let's compare them to the Giant-Size run.
1. Sub-Mariner invades the surface world
2. Origin of Dr. Doom
3. Wedding of Reed and Sue
4. Return of the original Human Torch
5. Psycho-Man, Inhumans, Black Panther, Sue pregnant
6. Annihilus, Negative Zone, birth of Franklin Richards
1. Hulk/Thing slugfest
2. Watcher, Tempus, time-travel
3. Maddrox the Multiple Man
4. Four Horsemen of the Apocolyse
5. Psycho-Man, Inhumans, Black Panther, Sue pregnant
6. Annihilus, Negative Zone, birth of Franklin Richards
Okay, G-S #5-6 were reprints of Annuals #5-6, but that's still a pretty good line-up. And when you're reading them for the first time as I was, the fact that they were reprints doesn't really make much difference. [It is also around this time that Marvel treasury Edition #2 (featuring the Fantastic Four) was released.] Here are some things you may not have noticed about G-S #3-4 at the time.
GIANT-SIZE #3: Here's an issue I have re-read much more frequently (than G-S #4) over the years, primarily because it ties in to what I call "Interim X-Men" continuity. But have you ever noticed how the "next issue" blurb says that Silver Surfer is next? That's because the story intended for G-S #4 actually became FF #155-157.
GIANT-SIZE #4: Maddrox the Multiple Man and Professor X. But have you ever noticed how the "next issue" blurb of G-S #4 says the Inhumans are next? That's because the story intended for G-S #5 actually became FF #158-160. This one wasn't quite as off-base as the last one, because G-S #5 did feature the Inhumans (albeit a reprint). Let's return to the regular series at this point...
#151-153 features Thundra, and Gerry Conway introduces a "Nuclear Man" (Malizmo) quite different from the one he would later introduce at DC.
#154: A reprint of a Human Torch story from Strange Tales with a new framing sequence added.
#155-157 features the Silver Surfer and Doctor Doom. It was probably my interest in backissues of Silver Surfer which led me to these issues, and it was probably these issues which led me to Wally Wood's "Doctor Doom" series in Astonishing Tales (although it could just as easily have been my interest in Ka-zar by Jack Kirby followed by Barry Smith).
This story had multiple twists. [SPOILERS] Back in the Silver surfer's solo series, Mephisto brought Shalla Bal to Earth to torment the Surfer. In #17, Mephisto sent her back to Zenn-La to torment him further. BUT... (Twist #1), in #155 the surfer learns that Mephisto did not send her back to Zenn-La at all, but rather sent her to Latveria with a new identity layered atop her own. Knowing that shalla Bal had been on Earth all this time torments him even further. As he interacts with her, pieces of her original memory and personality begin to emerge. THEN... (Twist #2), we learn than her memories of being Shalla Bal were falsley implented by Dr. Doom in order to force the surfer to do his bidding, and she really is a peasant girl named Halena. FINALLY... (Twist #3), Mephisto reveals (to the readers only) that "Helena" actually is Shalla Bal after all, and the Surfer is now more miserable than ever. [END SPOILERS]
This "identity crisis" will finally be resolved (by John Byrne) in the Silver Surfer one-shot (1982), but he and Shalla Bal will not be reunited (by Steve Englehart and Marshal Rogers) until the Surfer's second series in 1987. [Back in 2005, I wrote a program that translated "Marvel time" into "real time," which I did for several key events: How long was the surfer stranded on Earth? How long was Shalla Bal? How long was Jean Grey considered to be dead? Elektra? Gwen Stacy? How long were Hank and Jan married? How long was the Hulkbuster base in existence? A lot of stuff like that. It was all predicated on the then-still-current belief that everything since Fantastic Four #1 happened within "the last ten years." I simply compressed cover dates from 1961 through 2005 into 10 years. Of course, that program is now 15 years out of date, and I don't even know if that "10 years ago" concept still applies.
BOY, am I off topic!
Let's see what I've got left in my notes.
Roy Thomas had been titling chapters of the Surfer/Doom story using chess-related terms, one of the being "zugzwang." A footnote advised readers to "Look it up!" but if you never bothered, it means "the unfortunate compulsion to move."
Much more recently, when Mark Waid was writing the title, he had Reed go off on Johnny because he's always having to say, "Johnny, wait!" because of Johnny's compulsiveness. At that time, it was the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four that was freshest in my memory, and I don't think Reed said, "Johnny, wait!" even once. Reed was the team leader and he ran a tight ship. MMW FF v15, however. is jam-packed with "Johnny, wait!"
Whew. I think that's about enough for this post, don't you?
The Torch story incorporated into #154 was "The Mystery Villain!" from Strange Tales #127. It strongly recalls "The Raid on Blackhawk Island!" from Blackhawk #109.
I think the latter story was its inspiration, and the question is how this could have come about. Complicating things, whereas it's very likely early on Marvel's covers were often created before the story, I don't know whether that was still the case in 1964, when Strange Tales #127 appeared.
My theory is the Torch story was ghost-written by whoever wrote the earlier story. The writer wasn't willing to use a pseudonym, and Lee took credit. I want to stress I'm not saying Lee stole credit. I'm certain he credited writers when he could, as he often credited them under pseudonyms. But at the time there weren't all that many professional comics writers, and some may have feared their identities being ferreted out.
Currently the GCD attributes "The Raid on Blackhawk Island!" to Dave Wood. I'm not aware that he wrote for Marvel in the Silver Age. (I don't happen to know if he did earlier. Marvel was one of the largest publishers in the mid-50s.) But I've also seen the story attributed to Robert Bernstein, who did. That was a bit earlier, and he was credited as R. Burns. That's a transparent pseudonym, and it could be he was burned by it.
By the time of Strange Tales #127 the feature was likely written Marvel-style. So it could be Lee wrote the dialogue but someone else wrote the plot. But Tom Brevoort has written that in the period payment wasn't allocated at Marvel for plotting as opposed to scripting. I don't know it's plausible Lee paid people to plot informally.
Other explanations are possible: penciller Dick Ayers had read the Blackhawk story, or both stories reflect some earlier story I don't happen to know about.
As always, Luke, I thank you for your color commentary. I tend to doubt is Dave Wood had anything to do with Strange Tales #127 for the very reason you cite, but who knows? Anything's possible. I checked Bruce Canwell's introduction to MMW Strange Tales v2, but he doesn't say anything about it. Here's a heads up: when I return to this thread, Fantastc Four #158 features a villain from Strange Tales #103.
I have previously identified Fantastic Four #126 & #149 and Giant-Size #1-2 as the first four FF comics I bought new. MMV v15 contains G-S #3-4 and the covers of G-S #5-6 (which were reprints), my fifth through eighth new FF comic books. My ninth would have been Marvel Treasury Edition #2, and MTE #3 my tenth. and that's it... for a while, anyway. Sure, I acquired some backissues and reprints over the years, but the next issue of FF I bought new was to be #241, well into the Byrne era.