I recently started re-reading this and decided it would be fun to view it as a project of sorts. The modern Marvel Universe has its beginnings here and I find it fun to revisit it from time to time. I'm at FF 17 now and may finish the volume today (it's a day off for me). Some thoughts:

- Reed is clearly the big brain of the group, but early on is also a man of action and has a sense of humor. The overlong speeches, explaining things with words the others probably don't understand, is not there yet.

- Sue is taken hostage far too often, is scared far too easily, her powers are only defensive AND she has trouble controlling them. At the same time, though, she is sometimes shown to be clever and even feisty. She is the center of two love triangles - first with Reed and Ben (this is dropped almost right away) and another one I'll mention in a bit.

- Lee and Kirby seem to want to make Johnny the star of the book, but I just don't buy it. He keeps saving the day and his powers keep expanding. He gets the girl and drives cool cars. I kept wishing Ben could have pasted him one just once.

- The Thing is scary, especially early on. I never found the smooth rocky appearance to be scary - it just looked like a type of body armor to me. He's hideous to look at in these stories. Before Alicia Masters comes along in issue 8, he seems to be on the verge of turning on humanity at any moment, and it doesn't help that Reed, Sue, and Johnny don't call him Ben, only "The Thing".

- The Mole Man may not be a great villain but he worked well enough that they kept bringing him back. He's the first bad guy out of the gate and you can't help but feel sorry for him - a woman says he's too ugly to date, and a businessman says he's qualified to work for him, but he'd scare the other employees away. Harsh.

- Unless the Miracle Man is a mutant, the story in issue 3 just doesn't work. He has to be using minor hypnosis on the entire city.

- Issues 4, 5, and 6 are true classics. We get the first modern appearance of Namor, the first appearance of Doom, and their subsequent teaming. The Reed/Sue/Namor love triangle adds a lot of angst to the series. Doom's character is spot on from the get-go; he is chillingly evil in a way that the Silver Age Lex Luthor never was. Ben's courage in strapping a bomb to his back makes the reader want to cheer for him, maybe for the first time. These three issues, imo, are the first signs of true greatness of the series.

- The next five issues, unfortunately, are clunkers. Issue 7 features a highly advanced scientific world that is doomed to destruction, sort of like Krypton, except the leaders of the planet have lots of notice. They don't construct rocket ships to get away because they were never interested in space travel. Umm, ok. Issue 8 is the debut of the Puppet Master, whom I have never liked. Issue 9 is the very convoluted story where the FF are broke, Subby buys a movie studio to make a movie about them and will pay them for being in it - but he really isn't making a movie, just trying to get Reed, Ben, and Johnny out of the way, so he can have Sue. Reed and Johnny escape their deathtraps, and collect Ben, who was beaten by Namor (but only after he transformed back to Ben Grimm). They are about to fight, but Sue prevents it, and Namor agrees to put a movie together, even though he never meant to in the first place, and what he cobbles together becomes the sensation of the nation - solving the FF's money woes. Issue 10 features Doom in full mad scientist mode, worse than Lex Luthor ever was, and also features the deservedly forgotten Ovoids. The story requies Sue, Ben, and Johnny to act dumber than they ever had been before or since. Issue 11 features the debut of the annoying Impossible Man, whom Lee and Kirby would not re-use (and seems to almost be a potshot at Mr. Mxyptlyk) and the awful, awful, awful comparison of Sue to Abe Lincoln's mother.

- Issue 12 features a guest appearance by the Hulk. Some parts of the story haven't aged well (good thing the bad guy carried "a membership card in a subversive Communist-front organization" ... in his wallet ... on a U.S. Army base ... but I digress) but overall it's pretty enjoyable, being the first modern MU crossover. There's really no way to square this story with Johnny reading a Hulk comic is issue 5, but that's a minor quibble. Oh, and remember what I said about Sue being feisty? She saves the day here, stopping the bad guy before he can kill Ben. If only Lincoln's mother had been at Ford's Theatre.

I have a lot more I want to say but this has been a fairly long post and I've only covered about half of the Volume. I'll wait and see if any of you want to chime in with your thoughts before I make more comments.

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Early on he had powers that were apparently magical - my recollection is he performs a magical rite in the first storyline - but later he had hypnotic and mental powers. Likewise in the 40s and later the apparently-supernatural either turned out to be faked, or was explained in SF terms.

 

Oddly enough, the 1978 MANDRAKE tv-movie, which was so bad on so many levels, actually got his origin right. I didn't think so at the time... but later on, I ran across a reprint of the origin story, and was astonished to learn the tv-movie had gotten that one thing right. Who'da guessed?

Fantastic Four #12 - Ok, I love this comic.  I love this version of the Hulk, nasty, ruthless, and a little scary.  When I first encountered the Hulk in the late 70s, he was fully in his child like phase ... I had no idea he had once been so verbose.  I love that this comic and Amazing Spider-Man #1 (FF on the cover and guest starring inside) both came out in the same month and they lay the foundation of the interconnected MU that made it so cool to me as a kid.  I love that the natural Thing / Hulk rivalry is born here and doesn't feel at all forced.  Thoroughly fun.

"he was fully in his child like phase"

That really came into full swing when Jack was still plotting the book, and Bill Everett had taken over the art (pencils & inks). If you look at the original art, you can see a HUGE GAP forming between what Jack's margin notes were describing (often with dialogue included) and what Stan was over-stuffing into those word balloons.  I don't know WHY Stan preferred making The Hulk into such a COMPLETE imbecile, but it bugs me no end. My first exposure to The Hulk was actually "Not All My Power Can Save Me", and it was apparently one of the last episodes before The Hulk almost completely lost his intelligence, for a very long time. I mean, he's just so damn much more interesting when he can THINK.

I suppose it's one more example of how Stan always seems like such a "Hollywood" kinda guy. He spent decades wanting to go there, hoping to work in the film industry (embarrassed by his career in comics, which he always saw as a "temporary" thing). And the most famous and pervasive adaptations of both FRANKENSTEIN and TARZAN have the characters as illiterate morons, when both were originally quite intelligent in the books.

At least in "Rampage In The City" (the LAST Kirby episode), The Hulk's brain-deadedness is played FOR LAUGHS (especially the scene where he gets an overcoat to hide his identity). But most of the series' run was NOT played for laughs. It was dead serious. And deadly dull. And infinitely repetitive, and boring.

And the most famous and pervasive adaptations of both FRANKENSTEIN and TARZAN have the characters as illiterate morons, when both were originally quite intelligent in the books.

 

That's one of the things tha tI like about the current DC Frankenstein book, that he's portrayed as being reasonably bright.

As a kid I didn't care for Hulk solo stories because his approach to problems was just to hit things, but I think the bruiser Hulk would not have become as popular. Being dumb allowed him to be a monster (because violent and dangerous) while remaining sympathetic.

 

I suppose he slipped into being unintelligent from being unthinkingly violent. He became dumb during Dikto's TTA run, but when Kirby returned to the strip he briefly acquired Bruce Banner's brain before returning to being a bruiser (and then becoming dumb again, but I haven't read the strips in which that happened).

GEORGE is at it again. He doesn't like differing opinions, so he attacks the person who has them, rather than consider that maybe the other person might be DEAD-ON correct.

Another fan at one of the Yahoo groups I frequent had this to say earlier today...

"It's clear Kirby saw The Hulk as intelligent, but very powerful, and resentful. 

I think The Demon is something of an indicator of what Kirby had in mind for The Hulk. Also the hidden monstrous side of Captain Victory and Orion. 
When Captain Victory "Hulks-out" is he raving like a lunatic, or has he dropped pretense and revealed his honest feelings. 
Another thing Kirby's border notes show us is KIrby intended for Banner and the Hulk to have an internal dialogue. Picture the kind of "big-foot" cartoon where you see a character with the devil perched on one shoulder, and an angel on the other, each talking into the adjoining ear. 
Kirby's Hulk doesn't seem to be a Hyde-like evil creature, rather he's angry because of the stupidity and aggression he's confronted with, and more than powerful enough to fight back. 
One thing I've observed about Lee is he either consciously (and I think it was willful) or unconsciously turned Kirby's characterizations on their head. 
I just saw a FF page that drives home that point. It shows the Surfer talking to the Thing's girlfriend. In Kirby's border notes the Surfer is expressing how he longs for the freedom of space. As Lee wrote it the Surfer is wondering about Earth, and why people don't appreciate how wonderful Earth is. That's a 180 degree turn. 
I have little doubt Lee did this kind of thing to show Kirby who was boss, in other words he did it simply because he is an a******."
I did NOT say this. But I AM it total agreement with it.

Perhaps Stan felt that the thinking, brooding Hulk was cancelled in six issues while the child-like, raging Hulk sold and would become a TV and movie star. If readers did not like the "stupid" Hulk, it wouldn't have lasted so long and every time they made him more intelligent, it always seemed to go back to the "Hulk Smash puny Humans" version.

Henry R. Kujawa said:

Another fan at one of the Yahoo groups I frequent had this to say earlier today...

 

I just saw a FF page that drives home that point. It shows the Surfer talking to the Thing's girlfriend. In Kirby's border notes the Surfer is expressing how he longs for the freedom of space. As Lee wrote it the Surfer is wondering about Earth, and why people don't appreciate how wonderful Earth is. That's a 180 degree turn. 

I have little doubt Lee did this kind of thing to show Kirby who was boss, in other words he did it simply because he is an a******."
 

 

I have to disagree with that particular poster's assessment of Stan Lee's motivations.  As he apparently is interpreting it, Kirby's approach to the Silver Surfer was brilliant and Lee's was sub-standard---so obviously, the only reason Stan could have for changing Kirby's dialogue was to throw his weight around.

 

That's quite a leap---impugning a man's motives simply on the basis of which idea the poster found preferable.

 

Now, let me be clear here:  I'm not saying that Stan's "Why don't Earth people appreciate their own planet?" dialogue was better or worse than Kirby's original dialogue about the Surfer longing for the freedom of space.  Maybe it is; maybe it isn't---that's pretty much a subjective call.  But it's not the point.

 

The point is:  Stan Lee was the editor.  He's the one calling the shots.  He's the one responsible to his publisher for profit-making sales on the title.  So, it fell to Lee to decide what approach would, in his determination, work better.  In this case, maybe Stan was right, maybe he was wrong.  But it was his call.

 

Was Stan's decision arbitrary?  You bet it was.  Arbitrary is defined as "based on or subject to individual judgment or preference."  However, I doubt it was capricious.  I'm guessing that Lee altered Kirby's dialogue because he felt that the "why don't Earth people appreciate their own planet?" approach was more in line with what he wanted to build into the Silver Surfer's characterisation and what he thought would resonate better with the viewers.

 

Was Kirby's original direction better?  It very well could have been and someone insisting that would get no argument from me.

 

But Jack Kirby wasn't responsible to Martin Goodman for how well The Fantastic Four sold.  Lee was.

 

Arguing that Lee's dialogue was worse is fair territory.  But, without any other information, it was unfair for that poster to presume and then castigate Lee's motives.

I have little doubt Lee did this kind of thing to show Kirby who was boss, in other words he did it simply because he is an a******."

I did NOT say this. But I AM it total agreement with it.


Captain Comics Rule No. One: NO PERSONAL ATTACKS.

This can't be that hard to understand, Henry! You can hate Stan Lee's work with the white-hot intensity of a supernova (as you clearly do), but you don't know him and can't pass judgment on him personally. Calling him names reflects on you, not him. And how does cutting and pasting other's name-calling and saying you agree with it remove you sufficiently from it?

Not only that, but continually attacking Stan's character is counter-productive. Some readers probably stop reading when you go off on one of these personal attacks. Others who agree Stan wasn't a great writer end up saying, "He wasn't THAT bad." So you're just bringing more readers to his defense.

So: Losing readers, getting readers to defend Stan, breaking Captain Comics Rule #1. Which part of this keeps seeming like a good idea after people keep saying you shouldn't do it?

-- MSA

Sorry about that. GEORGE was just asking for it again. Every time Stan slips into one of my posts, GEORGE goes ballistic and starts making things up about ME and going on and on and on about ME and being rude and obnoxious toward ME. Generally, I try to avoid reading his nonsense.

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