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|