Friday, November 09, 2012

FANTASTIC FOUR #22 and #23

Another couple of bits of my childhood arrives in my collection. This time it's very nice copies of FANTASTIC FOUR #22 and #23. Written and penciled by Jack Kirby, they have inks by George Roussos who, for some reason, also worked under the pseudonym of George Bell. Roussos/Bell was a fine inker and had a wonderful reputation in the comics industry. But when I was a kid he was not my favorite inker, especially on Kirby's pencils. But he was a good comic artist whose work among Kirby inkers is highly regarded.

When you look at the comics from this period at Marvel, you can easily see that it was the artists who were actually writing the books (and not the editor who was taking credit for writing). For instance, some artist/writers were very good storytellers. Kirby and Ditko of course were the best, and their stories, while sometimes very silly, were typically far more coherent and imaginative than those of the lower tier artist/writers. If you read a story from Dick Ayers, it was going to be much more child-like and simple than something from the imagination of Kirby. Just compare stories created at the same time by the two artists to see the huge difference in writing abilities. Lee didn't seem to know what to do when he was tinkering with the dialog in an Ayers yarn, but easily understood what he should do when modifying the captions and word balloons for a Kirby adventure.

My very nice condition copy of FF #23

My equally nice copy of #22.
Typical back cover ad on a Marvel book from this period.


Henry R. Kujawa said...

2 very nice stories, both butchered by "George Bell". (Oh well!) I take you you subscribe to the idea that not only did the (ahem) "artist" write (not "plot"-- WRITE!!! --use of the word "plot" always seems to minimize what's really involved), but also much of the dialogue, and that Stan did not merely write only the dialogue (which I'm sure is true), but in many cases, did not even do that much, merely modifying some dialogue where he felt he could "punch it up" (itself, not a bad thing, but he damn well should have only been paid and credited for what he actually did).

I like to look at the HUMAN TORCH series as the acid test for who wrote what. Clearly, the Kirby stories were by Kirby. Much imagination, action, etc. Despite a multitude of (ahem) "writers", it's clear Dick Ayers wrote every HM story he pencilled. It's a whole different style and tone. Simple, less imaginative, yet at the same time, focusing more on character humor. Ayers' stories were FUN! I think of it as a sitcom. (Incidentally, the 60's Johnny Storm stories were mnuch better than any of the 50's HUMAN TORCH stories that Ayers illustrated-- did he write those, or someone else? I've never been impressed with any stories starring the original HT.)

Bob Powell's stories are a near-incoherent mess. I guess it shows he could "plot", he just wasn't to good at it-- and probably, should not have been forced to. It would also have helped if he'd had more consistent inks-- and probably would have been best if HE had inked his own work from start to finish.

It flipped me out when I learned, decades after-the-fact, that this guy who's 60's Marvel work almost never impressed me, was also one of my earliest BATMAN artists. He pencilled the 1966 bubble-gum cards that Norman Saunders then did full-color paintings over. "FILM NOIR"!!!

"The Master Plan of Dr. Doom" was one of the earliest MCIC reprints I ever had. Cool story. "The Return of the Mole Man" was, in its 1967 Hanna-Barbera cartoon adaptation by Alex Toth ("Menace of the Mole Man") my ontroduction to the FF!! Possibly the BEST cartoon in the entire series. Though I still wonder why they started with the sequel instead of doing FF #1.

Kirk G said...

Ironically, FF #22 was one of the earliest of the Silver Age Marvel FF's that I ever owned, so I am very, very familiar with both the story, and the poor inking that George Bell gave it. But even he couldn't ruin FF #25, the Thing-Hulk battle that was the next issue I owned.
I agree that Bell wasn't right for Kirby's inks. I recall his impact on all the FF reprints that I found in MCIC and my most memorable image of his work is the big reveal in the Hatemonger's story. Didn't he also do the Rama-Tut story. Though crude, Chic Stone's work was a step up! One of my favorite years in the FF run!

HemlockMan said...

FF #25 was pure gold. You can tell that Kirby went all out on that one and it was really hard for any inker to screw it up.

Roussos/Bell was definitely not my favorite Kirby inker, but he wasn't the worst by any stretch. Never cared for Chic Stone, either.

I think I got spoiled by Sinnott's work. He was the best of the best when it came to inking Kirby's pencils. Nobody was better. Some came close, but no one beat him.

Kirk G said...

Are you aware that the Dr. Doom adventure in FF #24 leads directly to the meeting between Kang and Doom and the grandfather paradox is born! Or did you already know that?

HemlockMan said...

I vaguely recall the time paradox with Doom but it has been so long since I read those stories that I've forgotten the details. I do remember how Kirby's use of the time paradox plot used to confuse the hell out of the fans.

Kirk G said...

This issue, FF #24, sees Doom step off into the outer space, seemingly lost for good.
It's not until the FF Annual that we see Rama-Tut rescue and draw the lone figure into his ship, where Doom fast talks himself into considering the Grandfather paradox. (Fans have posited that he was dicking with Kang, trying to keep him off balance as Kang clearly had some skills and power that would have put Doom at a disadvantage. But that's not in cannon. Only the introduction of the CONCEPT of the Grandfather paradox is brought up. It's never been proven if Doom's thought was correct.)

Kirk G said...

Oh hell, if I typed #24 in that last post, please edit it to read #23 please.

HemlockMan said...

I'm going to have to read those stories again. I want to read them all in order, so I have to cobble some more issues together before I tackle them.

Kirby was a great writer.

HemlockMan said...

Oh. Also, I can't edit posts. All I can do is either publish them or not. Your follow-up will stand in as a correction.