Thursday, June 12, 2014


I landed a decent copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #8 for my Kirby collection. There are several things notable about this issue. One of which is how common it is as a back issue. From my general experience in my years as a dealer of collectible comics, it is far and away the single most common issue of the first ten issues of the title. When I was a dealer I was rarely without a copy. I attend comic conventions from time to time and just about every serious dealer of back issue comics seems to have at least one copy in stock.

I can't imagine why it's so common. Sometimes I wonder about the availability of certain back issues and the reasons for their relatively great numbers in current days. The bottom line is that these issues sold more than the issues immediately before and after and thus survived in greater amounts. Was it because more copies were distributed? Was it because there was something more appealing in the cover or in the story inside the book? I have no idea.

Issue #8 features a character who went on to become a long-running villain in the history of Kirby's tenure on the book: The Puppet Master (Phillip Masters). As his name indicates, he can control others through the manipulation of puppet likenesses that he constructs. What attached him inexorably to the heroes of the book is that he is the stepfather of Alicia Masters, the woman who became the love interest of Ben Grimm (aka The Thing).

Jack Kirby chose to show the Puppet Master as resembling a puppet himself, most notably Howdy Doody of TV fame. Perhaps it is this resemblance to that TV star that caused the book to sell so well that month, even though the TV show had been long cancelled by the time this issue appeared.

Kirby was still using as a major plot device the fact that Ben Grimm was a kind of loose cannon among the Fantastic Four, one to be feared. Kirby would also use a similar storyline in the Avengers with his other super-strength-endowed anti-hero, The Incredible Hulk. It was quite an effective device and although Kirby used it time and again in various issues of the FF he was able to keep the stories fresh enough so that it never became tired and predictable.

My copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #8.

In these early issues Grimm would still make the transition from monster to human and back again on a relatively often basis.

We see just how powerful and how scary Grimm can be.

Kirby explains how the Human Torch's powers work.


Kirk G said...

Even though Howdy Doody was off the air by now, most of us kids DID recognise the image, and knew what a puppet was. It was an easy concept to grasp, as opposed to the issue before it...Prisoners of Planet X with a hate ray and robot kidnappers, funny short little hairy men and shrinking gas...

I have to wonder though if this issue survived in such large numbers because: Was it printed in larger quantities? Were more sold through, and in people's homes? OR just the opposite...that there were so many returned or never shipped through, that a treasure trove have been found and distributed through the collector's market?

James Robert Smith said...

I never can figure out why so many of certain issues that should be rare are common. FF #8 high among them. The logical explanation is that they sold exceptionally well. But sometimes it's a mystery.