Friday, March 01, 2013

FANTASTIC FOUR #27

The only time there was likely any input from the editor or the publisher on the comics created, written, and illustrated by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko was on the occasion of crossover stories. To pump up sales on other titles and to make sure that the casual reader realized that the company's new characters were all under one umbrella and not associated with a rival publisher, there was likely the suggestion that each creator use characters from other books within their titles.

Thus, Steve Ditko might use Daredevil in a storyline. Or Joe Orlando might use Ben Grimm in Daredevil.

But it was Jack Kirby who seemed most adept at this type of thing. Or it could even be that it was his idea to maintain all of the characters within a single Marvel "universe".

Kirby was already using both the Human Torch (created by Carl Burgos) and the Sub-Mariner (created by Bill Everett) in the FANTASTIC FOUR title. In fact, within the first 33 issues of FF, Prince Namor had made no less than six appearances, rivaling him with Dr. Doom as the most utilized antagonist on the title to that point. Of course Namor wasn't precisely a villain. He was already a quasi-good guy. More of an anti-hero than a true villain. Of course this was the way Everett had first shown him to be as far back as 1938, so Kirby understood that was the way the character should be handled.

In the issue I cite here, #27, Kirby uses not only the Sub-Mariner, but also Steve Ditko's creation, Dr. Strange. Perhaps he just wanted to borrow Ditko's character for the yarn, but I'm betting that Goodman wanted the crossover to help pick up sales of STRANGE TALES which featured not only the Human Torch, but also Dr. Strange. I would be curious to hear from some comic book historians to understand how this story--and others like it--came about.

My copy of FF #27
Kirby had long meant for Susan Storm to be a sex symbol. He constantly used her as such, often making her a damsel in distress in the storylines. It was only after he gave her new powers--the ability to make things other than herself invisible, and to create powerful invisible force fields--that she ceased to be used as such and became at least the equal of the other members in power and ability. By the time #27 was out, Susan had only five issues under her belt with her new-found force field powers. She does use them briefly in this issue.

Kirby kept open the mystery of who was physically the most powerful character in the early Marvel Universe. Was it Ben Grimm? Was it the Sub-Mariner? The Hulk? Thor? It kept the readers coming back and created endless debate within fandom. And we see in this issue the constant romantic triangle between Susan Storm, Reed Richards, and Price Namor.


Dr. Strange makes his appearance and agrees to aid the Fantastic Four.

George Bell was not the best inker Kirby had. Not the worst, but he just didn't have the skill to maximize Kirby's brilliant layouts and pencils.

1 comment:

Kirk G said...

It seems to me that the FF really took off with #25...and the almost constant cross-overs and gueststars that mark the next year of the series. The Hulk and Avengers in 25, 26, Namor in 27, X-men in 28, Watcher in 29, Avengers in 31, Namor in 33, and colorful characters with heavy Chic Stone inks. All worked to increase the popularity and visibility of the series. Maybe Mark Evanier can shed some light on this period.