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.
Shhhhh! Don't tell me very frail aunt!
Richard Willis said:
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?
#158-159: Quicksilver summons the FF to help the Inhumans against Xemu (originally "Zemu"), on old foe of the Torch's from Strange Tales #103. The most important aspect of this two-parter (as I see it) is that Sue, reconciled with Reed since #150, officially rejoins the team. Medusa resigns from the team and stays behind in the Great Refuge.
#160-163: It begins with Reed Richards selling Fantastic Four, Inc. to Mr. DeVoor of Interlocking Technologies, but Devoor is actually fronting for the other-dimensional leader Arkon (Avengers #84). Arkon's plan is to pit the inhabitants of three dimensions against each other, and reap the rewards. In addition to Marvel-Earth, the other worlds are Xemu's Fifth Dimension as well as the alternate introduced in #118. (It is this "Earth-A" that Dan Slott will later use to explain some of the inconsistencies of the modern day Marvel Universe.) Roy Thomas has expressed regret for introducing the ice hockey-themed "Gaard" (a good-natured parody of Jack Kirby's Black Racer, himself an echo of a "somewhat more inspired creation," the Silver Surfer) into such a serious story, but perhaps the secret identity reveal makes up for it.
That's the end of MMW v15.
NEXT UP: George Perez
Thomas has said the Thing is his favourite Marvel character, and there's an emphasis on him in the run, I think. Even more on the covers.
Marvel Feature #11-#12 appeared at the time of Fantastic Four #138, #140. Marvel Two-in-One started the month of Fantastic Four #142. So the Thing's team-up feature started while Thomas was editor.
When Thomas guested on Fantastic Four #303 he wrote a Thing-centred story about the Thing's feelings about Alicia's marriage. It involved Thundra and Makhizmo, and at the end Thomas expressed his thanks to editor Don Daily and artist John Buscema for "giving me another crack at the big fella".
The first Earth-A story was written by Archie Goodwin, but perhaps it was Thomas's suggestion: it's in his vein, an adaptation of DC's Earth-Two concept.
Valeria's intro in Strange Tales #103 was written by Larry Lieber. He also wrote the first half of the Marvel Super-Heroes Doctor Doom issue, introducing Doom's Valeria.
At this point the Torch had had two serious girlfriends (Dorrie Evans and Crystal). The Strange Tales story ended with the Torch mooning over Valeria, so I suppose she was the most obvious dropped possibility. The other one I can think of is Princess Pearla in Fantastic Four #16.
Odd that Stan Lee* was the one who thought the Human Torch would be the FF's breakout star (else why award him the solo spot in Strange Tales?).
*Or maybe it was Martin Goodman. He was the one who insisted the original Human Torch be plastered over most of the covers of Marvel Mystery Comics.
I take the original Torch to have been Marvel's founding hero. He shared Marvel Mystery Comics with the Sub-Mariner, and their solo titles ran about as long, but Namor is quite an odd character, by far the oddest of the major Golden Age characters.
The thing about fire is it's uncontrolled and dangerous. Lee wrote in the surviving plot for Fantastic Four #1 that the Code had told him the Torch could never throw or burn anyone with his flame. The restrictions were loosened - in the first Strange Tales story he does both - but Johnny was never a dangerous character. The Golden Age Torch covers often show him burning and melting things.
Marvel nearly gave the Angel from X-Men his own feature in 1968. The solo Angel stories by Jerry Siegel and Dick Ayers must have been done at that time, as they're tied to the X-Men's brief break-up period. That may have been Goodman's idea too, as he apparently regarded the Golden Age Angel as one of his top characters early on.
(Marvel Comics #1 featured the Torch on the cover, but four of the first eight covers feature the Angel. The Torch's feature was always placed first, and initially the Angel's was placed second. From #10 the Sub-Mariner's was placed there, which I think indicates at that point at Marvel the second slot was the second-top slot, whereas at DC the last slot was. The Angel was sub-featured on the opening Sub-Mariner Comics covers.)
"I take the original Torch to have been Marvel's founding hero."
It's difficult to argue against that stance (for the reasons you cite), althought I personally prefer the Sub-Mariner.
"[Goodman] apparently regarded the Golden Age Angel as one of his top characters early on."
Yeah. Go figure.
Possibly they wanted to start an Angel solo series to maintain their trademark on the character name. I don't think Goodman was as attached to the Silver Age Angel as the original Angel. Except for the name they had nothing in common. The original Angel was pretty much a pulp hero, having no powers and carrying a gun.
The Human Torch #1 (S'74) which was an all-reprint series came out the same time as Fantastic Four #150 but almost a year before The Invaders started. It was during that run of Marvel Team Up when Johnny took the lead every four issues!
So with FF, HT, some MTU and Marvel's Greatest Comics and Marvel Two-In-One, Marvel's First Family was well represented!
"...that run of Marvel Team Up when Johnny took the lead every four issues"
The meta-textual reason for that is those are the months Giant-Size Spider-Man was published and Marvel didn't want to over-saturate the market.
MMV v16 (#164-174 & Annual #11 + Marvel Two-In-One #20 & Annual #1):
This volume is by Roy Thomas and George and George Perez (primarily).
I completed my collection of Fantastic Four in the '80s, but reading this volume reminds me that a accumulated the backissues piecemeal.
#164-165: This two-parter features Crusader, the former Marvel Boy (one of them, anyway) of the '50s. I was right on hand when Marvel Man (Marvel Boy/Crusader's successor, later Quasar) debuted in Captain America and soon crossed over to Hulk, but it was collecting the "Project: Pegasus" story (as backissues) which led me to seek out #164-165. Marvel Boy first appeared in six issues of Marvel Boy and Astonishing from '51/'52 (also collected in MMW format), and these two issues make a great epilogue to those. #164 is also the first appearance of the torch's latest girlfriend, Frankie Raye (named for a former pseudonym of Frank Giacoia). She freaks out the first time she sees Johnny burst into flames, but it will be some time before we find out why.
#166-167: The Incredible Hulk was still my "first favorite character" at the time of this guest appearance (between #194 and #195 of his own title) and I certainly would have bought it at the time had I seen it, but I didn't. I probably bought it around the time I bought #164-165. #166 takes place in Nebraska, and #167 takes place in St. Louis on the way to the Southwest. (They must have been taking the scenic route.) I am from St. Louis (the St, Louis area, anyway), and I keep a [mental] list of all the depictions of the Gateway Arch in comics. Most of them are crap, and Jack Kirby's version on the cover is among the crappiest. (George Perez's on the inside aren't much better.) At the end of this issue, the Thing is "permanently" transformed back into Ben Grimm because reasons.
#168-170: I have spoken before of my love of #1 issues and of "Giant-Size" comics back in the '70s. Consequently, Giant-Size Power Man #1 (reprinting Steve Englehart's "Retribution") was one of my earliest comics. I really liked that story, but I wouldn't buy any more Luke Cage comics until I went through a "phase" in college. I bought all of the early issues up to and including "Retribution," but I then swithced over to his early appearances in Spider-Man (reprinted in Marvel Tales) and this run in Fantastic Four. (I already owned his appearances in Defenders because I completed my run of that series while still in high school.)
In #169, Sue Storm flirts with idea of changing her heroic name to "The Invisible Woman" but decides not to do so at this time. (I'll get to the point when she does; be patient.) Mr. Fantastic has designed a "Thing suit" (a strength-enhancing exoskeleton) for Ben to wear. The Wrecker was possessed by some outside force in the previous issue, and Power Man is similarly possessed this issue. In the next issue, the culprit will be revealed: the Puppet Master. Luke cage was only a temporary replacement for the Thing until Reed could get the exoskeleton up and running.
Annual #11: This issue is a time travel story featuring the Invaders, but the Invaders of an alternate reality. Consequently, it fits better in Fantastic Four continuity (or Marvel Two-In-One continuity) than Invaders. the story continues into Marvel Two-In-One Annual #1 and concludes in MTIO #20.
#171-175: This one starts lame, then builds to a confrontation between the High Evolutionary and Galactus. #171 introduces the giant "Golden Gorilla" known as Gorr. [Cartoonist Scott Shaw! has since used the cover & blurb ("Not just another Giant Gorilla story!") as part of his "Oddball Comics" presentation at comics conventions.] #171 also is the second appearance of Frankie Raye. Galactus' latest herald, the Destroyer (see my "Post-Kirby Thor" discussion) appears in #172 as Galactus sets his sights on Counter-Earth. (I acquired this run of issues as a tangent to my "Warlock" phase.) The Kirby robot Torgo also appears leading up to an epic battle between the High E. and the Bif G. Ultimately, Galactus ends up devouring the Imposssible Man's planet, Poppup... and gets indigestion.
Also pictured in this volume is the cover of Marvel Treasury Edition #1, published during this time-frame and featuring the FF, the tenth FF comic I bought new. [When i said MTE #3 on the previous page, that was a typo; I meant #11.]
I was ten years old when I started getting Fantastic Four semi-regularly. I loved the Hulk issues and even understood Ben's alliance with Jade-Jaws. "There for but the grace of God go I."
I wrote a Fan of Bronze about Power Man joining the FF over SIX YEARS AGO! Yikes!