Sunday, February 10, 2013


Every year the readers of FANTASTIC FOUR were treated to a special story from Jack Kirby. That story was always wrapped up within the ANNUAL issue. Marvel had been doing annuals for some of its titles since before superheroes took hold. It was a way of making money out of stories that had already been paid for and published. You wrapped them up and reprinted them in a larger king-sized format and turned an extra profit. Just about every comics publisher had been doing that same thing, or something very much like it, for decades.

But with Kirby you got something special. He would pitch the reader a story that went out of its way to be different, to be unique, to make the reader hand over 25 cents when they were accustomed to paying 12 cents. The annuals were still mainly reprints--Goodman was going to get his bargain in labor one way or another--but Kirby also served up a new cover and a new story within the annual.

And what great stories! Kirby gave us the FF's best antagonists in unexpected yarns that tweaked curiosity and expectations. He might throw in a gimmick like guest-starring every other Marvel superhero and supervillian. Or introduce new characters. Give us the marriage of Susan Storm and Reed Richards. Or the birth of their child. Each year Kirby found a way to write us a story to make us look forward to that King Sized Annual.

However, the last time he did that was FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #6. After that one, Marvel tended to lean on just reprints for the FF Annuals. Why? I can't say. Perhaps it was the fact that Kirby soon left Marvel for DC. Or maybe it was because sales didn't warrant new stories for annuals that would sell just as well with all reprinted contents.

But the last annual of FANTASTIC FOUR that Kirby produced for his fans was a great one. The birth of the child of Susan Storm and and Reed Richards, wrapped up with a battle with, and introduction to, one of the FF's most inhuman foes, Annihilus. I don't think Kirby ever used Annihilus in another story. Like all of Kirby's creations, he was utilized many times by many other comics creators working at Marvel. Just one more example of the sad theft of Kirby's intellectual property.

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR Annual #6


Kirk G said...

You are correct: Annihilus was never used by Kirby again. He was a one-shot villain that appeared only in this bizarre annual. I must say that I didn't care for this one, if only because it didn't make sense that the only place in the universe that something existed that would allow sue to give birth, was in the Negative Zone. It was just too much of a stretch. Plus, Reed kept opening up the portal to the Neg. Zone every 10 issues after swearing that he'd never open it again! #51, #61, #71 I was amazed that it wasn't opening in #81 & 91 and 101!

James Robert Smith said...

You're right! Reed must have been addicted to the Negative Zone!