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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No, no... not Dr. Wilfred Doome who fought the Seven Soldiers, but Dr. Victor Von Doom (no "E") who fought the Fantastic Four. They are often confused but are actually not related. Also not to be confused with...

#197: "With issue #197," wrote Marv Wolfman in his introduction to MMW FF v18, "I start to move the book into high gear." In an effort to get his powers back, Reed Richards pilots a shuttle into space which brings him into conflict with the Red Ghost. Reed's mysterious benefactor reveals himself to be... Dr. Doom's son (!?). Reed defeats the ghost, regains his powers and the shuttle crashes into the sea where Reed is rescued by Nick Fury. Now "Mr. Fantastic" again, Reed asks to borrow his Pogo Plane back from SHIELD (which had been storing it) and sets out for Latveria as the storyline barrels headlong to #200.

At least it wasn't this guy who couldn't defeat a child!

#197: Mr. Fantastic invades Latveria for the first... but not the last... time. He soon meets Zorba, the leader of the Latverian Freedom fighters, who uses his deformity for inspiration, not as an excuse to do evil. Doctor Doom prepares to transfer the powers of Ben, sue and Johnny into his son. Alicia has also been captured in order that she may sculpt a statue of Doom with his undamaged face. Assisting Doom is Dr. Hauptmann, brother of the scientist killed by Doom back in #85. Reed and Zorba break into the lab. Zorba is at first distracted by Hauptman; it was Hauptmann's brother who disfigured Zorba's face. This Dr. Hauptmann is not loyal to Doom, but he's too weal to oppose him. Reed is captured and Doom proceeds with his plan to transfer the powers of all four into his son.

What's up with this "son"? We'll find out... NEXT ISSUE.

Whoops. That was #19(above). This is...

#199: Zorba is the brother of Rudolfo, Latveria's former monarch, and rightful heir to the throne. Alicia is sculpting only the face of the statue; the body was constructed previously and is hollow. Doom plans to present it to the United Nations before they vote on whether or not to admit Latveria. Doom's "son" is revealed to be his clone, and the FF escape in the middle of the power transfer process... reunited at last! I'm not certain exactly what Dr. Doom had in mind, whether it was to transfer his mind into the clones body or rule from behind the throne or what, but what happened next definitely wasn't part of his plan. 

The clone did receive a portion of the powers of all the Fantastic Four, but he was transformed into a semi-rocky state, which Doom himself said was worse than his own. The clone's powers were not as strong as any of the Four's individually, but he could utilize them all at the same time. He turns on his "father" who is forced to kill him, which sets up the Dr. Doom/Mr. Fantastic face-off for #200.

#200:

MARV WOLFMAN: "In 1978 nobody did books with double the pages at twice the price. Those larger books were reserved for Annuals only. But i wanted to make the FF's 200th issue into something special and for months I lobbied for a double-sized book.

"The powers that be back then thought if we charged twice the normal price we would lose sales. But I kept pushing until they finally relented, probably just to shut me up. FF #200 is double-sized and double-priced and it turned out that we sold even more copies than we ever had before. Needless to say, a year later when I asked for the same double-sized treatment for The Amazing Spider-Man #200, nobody said boo.

"Anyway, this is my absolute favorite FF issue. Hope you like it, too."

You wanna know what impresses me? It's that, back in those days, Marvel knew the difference between a title's 200th issue and its 17th anniversary.

Storywise, Doom locks up the FF and proceeds with his plan to deliver the statue to the United Nations. the vote, as it turns out, is not simply whether or not to allow Latveria to join, but rather "to condemn fair Latveria... and outlaw her from their organization." the statue has to be forcibly carried inside the main chamber by Doom's servo-guards, it main purpose being to brainwash the other delegates to admit Latveria to the U.N, 

By this time, Mr. Fantastic has broken free of Doom's prison and mano a mano battle ensures. The statue is activated by intensified solar reflections broadcast from his castle. The scuffle takes them within the projector's inner chamber and, when Mr. Fantastic removes Doom's damaged mask (which had been protecting him from the effects of the ray), Doom is driven insane by his own disfigured face reflected back at him "from a million directions." 

Zorba is placed on the throne and Dr. Doom is never to be seen again. (Yeah, right.)

That's a good spot to stop for the day.

Great cover!

Jeff of Earth-J said:

#200:

MARV WOLFMAN: "In 1978 nobody did books with double the pages at twice the price. Those larger books were reserved for Annuals only. But i wanted to make the FF's 200th issue into something special and for months I lobbied for a double-sized book.

"The powers that be back then thought if we charged twice the normal price we would lose sales. But I kept pushing until they finally relented, probably just to shut me up. FF #200 is double-sized and double-priced and it turned out that we sold even more copies than we ever had before. Needless to say, a year later when I asked for the same double-sized treatment for The Amazing Spider-Man #200, nobody said boo.

"Anyway, this is my absolute favorite FF issue. Hope you like it, too."

You wanna know what impresses me? It's that, back in those days, Marvel knew the difference between a title's 200th issue and its 17th anniversary.

Storywise, Doom locks up the FF and proceeds with his plan to deliver the statue to the United Nations. the vote, as it turns out, is not simply whether or not to allow Latveria to join, but rather "to condemn fair Latveria... and outlaw her from their organization." the statue has to be forcibly carried inside the main chamber by Doom's servo-guards, it main purpose being to brainwash the other delegates to admit Latveria to the U.N, 

By this time, Mr. Fantastic has broken free of Doom's prison and mano a mano battle ensures. The statue is activated by intensified solar reflections broadcast from his castle. The scuffle takes them within the projector's inner chamber and, when Mr. Fantastic removes Doom's damaged mask (which had been protecting him from the effects of the ray), Doom is driven insane by his own disfigured face reflected back at him "from a million directions." 

Zorba is placed on the throne and Dr. Doom is never to be seen again. (Yeah, right.)

That's a good spot to stop for the day.

In an effort to get his powers back, Reed Richards pilots a shuttle into space which brings him into conflict with the Red Ghost. Reed's mysterious benefactor reveals himself to be... Dr. Doom's son (!?). Reed defeats the ghost, regains his powers and the shuttle crashes into the sea where Reed is rescued by Nick Fury.

NASA has a 2017 posting that says a single space shuttle cost 1.7 billion dollars. I guess it was really important for Reed to be stretchy.

Alicia has also been captured in order that she may sculpt a statue of Doom with his undamaged face.

She's still blind, right? IIRC, she would feel a face so she could sculpt it. Is she looking at an old photo?

You wanna know what impresses me? It's that, back in those days, Marvel knew the difference between a title's 200th issue and its 17th anniversary.

When I saw the cover (of #200) that you posted that was the first thing I thought, too.

"Great cover!"

That is a great cover. I've gained a great appreciation for Kirby's mid-'70s Marvel covers. If someone were to release a set of them on trading cards, I would buy it. It's clear from Kirby's Captain America and Black Panther (and his reluctance to fold Eternals into mainstream Marvel continuity) that he didn't have a clue about then-current continuity (now, I daresay, did he much care), but if he were assigned a covers and was asked to include elements A, B and C, he could drawn the hell out of it!

"I guess it was really important for Reed to be stretchy."

It was important to Reed to be stretchy again, but the whole dummy corporation he was working for was being financed by Dr. Doom, who who wanted Reed to get his powers back... so he could steal them from him.

"Is she looking at an old photo?"

That thought occurred to me. But you know how sighted artists can take years (or pounds) off their subjects when painting a portrait? I figure Alicia could use her artistic license to remove Doom's scars.

#201: Mr. Collins, the FF's former landlord at the Baxter building, has been unable to rent their former HQ to new tenants due to fears that some of their old foes might mistakenly attack. Collins want to raise the rent to cover his losses, but Ben realizes Collins is over a barrel and negotiates a lower rent. They move back in and Reed's security devices mysteriously attack them for some reason.

#202: The FF are attacked in their HQ by Iron Man, or an Iron Man doppleganger, anyway. The Iron Man imposter "uncouples" the top five floors of the Baxter Building and flies away with them. Apparently, as part of the new lease, Collins insisted that the top floors have the ability to be "disengaged" from the rest of the building and flown away in case of emergency for the safety of the other tenants. I am barely willing to suspend disbelief that such a feature could be built into a new construction, but to add it to an existing building...? Whatever.

They go to Stark International on Long Island and enlist the help of the real Iron Man. They are able to track the top floors somewhere they have to fly "over the Atlantic" to get to. (Looks like it might be a tropical island...?) The perpetrator behind the attacks is Quasimodo, who ultimately steals the FF's rocket and jets off into space. Quasimodo is one of those characters I feel should never have been used again after his initial character was concluded (in this case, FF Ann. #5). Setting aside my unwillingness to suspend disbelief for how the top five floors of the Baxter Building were flown away, just how are they going to get them back

#203: As the story opens, the FF's five-floor HQ is situated back atop the Baxter Building as if it had never left. This issue's threat is a set of FF dopplegangers created by a nine-year-old boy whose body chemistry has been affected by cosmic rays. Willie Evans, the boy's father, was a soldier in Viet Nam, and his platoon was subjected to "an Army experiment to determine the close range effects of a cosmic ray bomb." The single flashback panel shows four men of indeterminate race (except for Wilie, who is Black) being caught in an explosion. Although we don't know for sure, the implication is certainly that all the soldiers in the platoon were African American. I mean, they would be, wouldn't they? 

FF ANNUAL #12: "Fantastic Four Annual #12 is one weird book," says Marv Wolfman in his introduction to the Masterworks edition. "I barely remember it, but for reasons I don't recall, there's a guest appearance by Chuck Barris of The Gong Show, along with Arte Johnson, Jaye P. Morgan and Jaimie Farr. Fortunately, I enjoyed the absurdity of The Gong Show, which was a talent show by people who didn't have any talent. As proof, the winner of The Gong Show in this issue was "Annabelle and Her Singing Appendix Scar." Trust me, if you ever saw The Gong Show, that's as ridiculous an example as you'd think." 

Marv Wolfman describes the annual's antagonist as "one of my absolute favorite villain creations. I won't say who it is, but I created him for The Man Called Nova and even today I think he's a great character." Fans of a certain age tend to agree. (I am not one of them.) One in particular grew up to become a comic book professional and featured the character in comics of his own. 

The story story itself feature the Inhumans, and fits into Inhumans continuity far better than FF, which is probably why Masterworks editor Cory Sedlmeier slotted it at the end rather than between issues. Ditto with Annual #13, which actually occurs between #200 and #201 but isn't a great fit. Here's what Wolfman had to say about it. 

FF ANNUAL #13: "Fantastic Four Annual #13 was written by Bill Mantlo, with art by Sal Buscema and Joe Sinnott. It guest stars Daredevil and pits out heroes against the Mole Man and his mindless minions. It's an interesting story about truth and beauty, and it puts a wonderful spin on the Mole Man."

Note to Luke: FF Annnual #12 features Johnny on a racetrack, but he's only testing a rocket car, not racing.

Note to Richard: Alicia Masters sculpts a statue of Agatha Harkness, as a young woman, as a surprise.

MMW v19 (#204-218 & Annual #14):

This volume is mostly by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne. (I'll point out the exceptions as we go along.) Marv Wolfman's own favorite story of his run may be the doctor Doom story that culminated in #200, but mine is the 11-issue epic beginning in #204. The art for the first three issues in this volume continues to be by Keith Pollard.

MARV WOLFMAN on #204: "Drawn by the wonderful Keith Pollard and the legendary Joe sinnott, we opened Fantastic Four #204 with the sudden appearance of Adora, an alien Suzerain queen who had teleported to Earth, a rampaging Skrull warrior who was out to kill her, and Rhomann Dey, a soldier in the Nova Corps. We mixed this giant science-fiction story with a smaller personal story about Johnny Storm going back to college to discover who he was when he wasn't the Human Torch."

But "small, personal stories" tend to blossom into larger ones, and there's a metatextual reason for why Johnny didn't go with his partners into space which won't become apparent for another ten issues or so.

 

MARV WOLFMAN on #205: "Artist Keith Pollard shined with FF #205. the story opened with an incredible double-page spread of the FF appearing on the planet  Xandar in the Andromeda galaxy. the FF found themselves in the middle of a massive war between Skrulls and the Nova Corps, a group I had created in the pages of The Man Called Nova, another Marvel book iwas writing at the time. 

"Meanwhile, on Earth, we continued Johnny Storm's more personal story by bringing in the Monocle, an almost forgotten Marvel Villain. Finally, if Keith's double-page war spread didn't knock your socks off, his full-page shot of the Xandar's living computer definitely will. I'm still blown away by this."

When I was in elementary school, I concentrated on buying first issues of new series because I wanted to "get in on the beginning" of anything I hoped would be the "new Fantastic Four." By junior high school, however, after having every single one of those new series cancelled out from under me, I concentrated my efforts on filling in backissues of known quantities, such as Avengers, Hulk and Captain America.

Although I have written about Nova extensively in the past, I'm not certain when, exactly, I bought the title (although it would certainly have been as backissues). I'm fairly certain the first issue I picked up (on a whim) was #19, after the villain Blackout appeared in Avengers #237. It was very probably this storyline (also acquired as backissues) which led me to buy the whole of the Nova series. Not that I really needed to; these issues of FF told me everything I needed to know to enjoy the story. I just wanted to fill in the backstory.

"The Monocle" first appeared in FF #95... not one on Jack Kirby's more inspired creations, but he was determined, at that time, not to give Marvel another Silver Surfer. 

The thing I remember about Nova is odd it was to see Carmine Infantino's art in a Marvel book.

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