Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bummer, Jack!

When I was a kid I totally freaked out trying to get my hands on a copy of Fantastic Four #25. I was already a huge Jack Kirby/Marvel Comics fan and had heard about the issue, but had never been able to land a copy in my dad's store or warehouse. It just wasn't in there for some reason. I really wanted to see Ben Grimm and the Hulk fight it out and have the world know once and for all that Ben Grimm was the toughest of the two.

Finally....FINALLY my dad got in a run of Fantastic Four that included issue #25. (At the time, issue #67 or so would have been the current issue.) I put it in a bag with a stack of other comics I wanted to read and brought them home from my parents' bookstore. And I was in super-hero heaven! Jack Kirby knew how to write a great battle story! It was what I had been expecting and hoping to read...except that Ben Grimm lost to the Hulk. And it wasn't a TKO, either. The Hulk beat him fair and square and the outcome was a definite loss for Grimm.

However, the issue ended on a very dramatic note with Ben Grimm swearing that he was going to find the Hulk (who was terrorizing New York) and beat him. All I had to do was find issue #26! It hadn't been in the run my dad had picked up, so I was forced to wait. It took a few weeks, but at last he bought a big stack of comics with a copy of FF #26. I didn't even wait to take it home to read but sat down behind the counter and read then and there.

And man was I bummed out!

It was a rip! The issue does seem to begin where the last issue left off, with Ben and the Hulk continuing their monstrous fist fight. But this was no rematch between Grimm and the Hulk! It was mainly a free-for-all comedy when the Avengers showed up to take the Hulk back under their wing. I will assume Kirby was trying to recreate some of the wackiness of the movie IT'S A MAD, MAD,MAD, MAD WORLD, because that all I could compare it to while I was reading it. Gone was that final dramatic panel from FF #25. Drama, this was not! In fact, the Hulk and Ben don't even really get to fight in issue #26! They come close, but a steel girder gets in the way, and then the Avengers muck up the works.

Still, it was a comic by Jack Kirby, and while it wasn't what I had expected, it was still a lot of fun. And of course I have a copy in my collection these days, and I take it out and recall what it was like to read it that first time in my parents' used bookstore in Atlanta GA in 1967.

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #26 (Written and illustrated by Jack Kirby).


Al said...

Y'know, I don't think I've ever read this issue. I didn't start reading the FF until issue 31, and while I read most of the earlier ones in reprints, don't think I ever read this one. By the time I started reading comics, around age 13 or so, I wasn't impressed by the question of "who was stronger", anyway, so just because the Hulk and the Thing were battling one another, that wouldn't have impressed me. But, looking at that cover, it sure does look like a lot of fun, something a lot of todays comics don't have, the idea of fun. So, will try to get hold of this story in some way, guess one of the archives has it, undoubtedly.

MarkGelbart said...

Didn't the Thing beat the Hulk once?

I may be wrong but I seem to remember an issue when the Thing did beat the Hulk.

It's only fair though that the Hulk should be able to beat the Thing. The Hulk's all by himself, but the Thing is with a group.

James Robert Smith said...

When I was a kid, I didn't really care if Ben was stronger than the Hulk. I just wanted him to win the fight, figuring that just because someone is stronger than you are keeps you from beating them in a fight.

I do recall some comic stories in which Grimm beats the Hulk with the aid of other characters. But never one-on-one.

Kirk G said...

I may be wrong, but in the first Giant Sized Fantastic Four, isn't there a rematch of the Green Giant and Grimm? As I recall, they have switched bodies, and Ben in the body of the Hulk is winning, when the rest of the FF arrive and chime in. But I may have that wrong. There was a fight in about FF #112 in Central Park where the Hulk may have killed Ben (his hide is SO thick, it's hard to tell)...
For those of you who are lusting after the original FF #25-26, it was reprinted in FF Annual #4, and has appeared 'recently' in the Essential FF Volume 2, and in full color in Marvel Masterworks FF Volume 3.
For a similarly fun fight between Thor and Hulk, look up Journey into Mystery #112, which has a WONDERFUL 16 page donnybrook...cleverly told in flashblack.

James Robert Smith said...

Yeah, there is a Hulk/Thing battle there. A mind-switch story, as you say. The Hulk doesn't know what's happened and the fury of his attack, combined with Ben's confusion of trying to get his wits about him allows the Hulk-with-Thing-Body to initially win the fight.