Drink and Draw
The next Drink and Draw is This Thursday, February 13th. It is a simple concept; show up, get a drink and sit down to doodle, draw or sketch. However, you don’t have to draw if you show. Everyone is welcome.
Finally altering hours
For sometime this has been coming and now we are going to just do it.
Starting next week, we will be closed on Mondays and will reduce hours back to six on Friday and Saturday nights. Don’t cry to me about this, you weren’t coming in anyway.
Changes to Cup in 2014
As has been posted and written about the last couple month plus, the shop is moving in April. The Des Moines Social club (soon to be at 9th and Mulberry downtown) will be the new home.
The shop will be taking on a much different look and style in its new digs. It will revert much of what it was when it started out, a coffee shop with a sprinkling of comics. This will change how we do pull lists and how both we and you will have to approach ordering.
- The new system will be a pre-order and pre-pay.
- It’ll be based around Diamond’s Previews and THEIR shipping schedule.
- This means, for instance, if you order from the February Previews, those books will ship in April.
- It is simple. Order what you want from the Previews catalog, pay for it in advance.
- When we switch, there will be no other pull list system from us.
- We are rewarding you for your commitment. The new system will get you a 20% discount.
- Yes, you are locked into those books, but you will also save more in doing so.
- If this works for you and you need more details, please ask or e-mail.
Stuff from the net
If you don’t know that Warren Ellis is doing a new series, then let me tell you he will be restarting Moon Knight in three weeks. In my personal opinion, Ellis is the best comic writer, ever. Many will argue that Morrison, Ennis or Moore are all better. I have to say, I’d take the body of work from Ellis over the others. Nonetheless, there is a couple interesting articles/interviews with the bald master of comics:
Last week the industry sales numbers for January arrived. And what do you know, Image is in double digits in unit share – one third of what DC had. They were just a slight shy of 10% in dollar share. If you want to look at them yourself:
…and something very interesting out of New York. The somewhat up scale comic shop Bergen Street Comics has made, I’m sure in the eyes of “comic elites,” a radical choice – they are no longer going to stock most DC and Marvel new issues. I’ll let that sink in for a second, come back when you realize how freak’n awesome that is.
Customers will be able to still order issues, if they choose and have them pulled, but they will not be shelving them anymore. Co-owner Tom Adams said this via the twitter, “Strength of self contained, creator controlled comics will let us move away from double shipping, editorially driven, artist-swapping, inconsistent, tied into events/gimmick comics.” He continued “Nothing to do with other shops/state of comics in general. [We] represent such an insignificant amount of Big 2 sales this should mean nothing to anyone other than our regulars.” It may not, but it is a statement for sure. A good one!
Their shop: http://bergenstreetcomics.com/
Article on announcement: http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2014/02/bergen-street-comics-to-stop-racking-most-marvel-and-dc-titles/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
Now, this sort of sounds like something… hmmm. Nope, doesn’t ring any bells. OH, wait, less shelf space, not going to just stock any old garbage book just because the company thinks it is the next greatest thing… till next week when the NEXT great thing is released (too bad about no one buying the last big thing, but seriously, this one is really big.) please, go reread his statement – it is an indictment of everything being done by the big two.
Something pretty special
I have known Mike for a long time. Most of the long term customers of the shop have, of course, a favorite series or character. That one group or hero that you will always buy. I have mine, you have yours and Mike has the Fantastic Four.
His knowledge of them is crazy. He has a near complete issue run of the book (yes, even those REALLLY expensive ones at the beginning) and buys them still religiously. So, it was a couple years ago, probably at the beginning of the Jonathan Hickman run, that I challenged Mike to put forth a list of the best runs on the title. Here is that work. It is a great read and one that seriously, makes me want to go down stairs right now and pull out issues of my own and re-read.
The Top Ten Fantastic Four Creator Collaborations of All Time
When Matt first asked me to put together my personal list of the ten best creator collaborations in Fantastic Four history I had no idea what a daunting task this was going to be. There have been many throughout the FF’s storied history. It took far more research than I expected and some of the things I discovered in my research were very interesting.
But first, I needed to establish some rules for myself. For instance, one of my favorite “runs” of all time was a tribute series called; The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. It was a 12 issue tribute series celebrating 40 years of the FF back in 2001 that is acknowledged in continuity between issues 100 and 101 of the series original run. However, I disqualified it as there were over 30 different writers and artists that produced this series.
This made me think; what is a “run” on a book? The Creators need to considered and it should be a continuous working collaboration. Fill in artists will always exist and need not disqualify an entire run. I have tried to include them when they were part of the “run.”
With this top ten run I am trying to keep it within the realm of writer/artist pairings that produced what I feel is the best FF collaborations of all time. With that said, some of these runs are actually briefer than what I recalled growing up as a Fantastic Four fan, which was surprising and disappointing. Ah, the innocence – and memory – of youth!
So, the collaboration has to be at least a significant amount of issues or series. It really is a “you know it when you see it” type of thing. Part historical, part creators, all Fantastic… So, the rules are loose and given that there are easily over 100 combinations of writer and artist teams on the FF books alone that is no small accomplishment. Take into account all the mini-series, specials, Giant Size, Unlimited, Unplugged, Marvel Knights, Ultimate… that number of collaborations might easily be over 200. One day, I may just have to count them all up, but not today.
THE TOP TEN
#10 Fantastic Four: The End 1-6 (2007), Fantastic Four Volume 3 1-3 (1998) and Annual #33 – Scott Lobdell & Alan Davis
Fantastic Four: The End was a great mini-series highlighting a future tale of what might be the Fantastic Four’s final adventure. It was a wide, sweeping bonanza incorporating heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe. The story begins and ends with the FF’s final battle with Doctor Doom. In the series the Four are fractured and broken and go their separate ways after the devastating loss of Franklin and Val. Johnny becomes an Avenger. Ben and Alicia retire to Attilan and live and thrive as a couple with children in the home of the Inhumans. Reed has become a recluse; throwing himself into his work. Sue is on a personal quest of her own; having never given up hope her children might yet live.
This is an adventure filled with action, drama, pathos, spirit, and, ultimately, hope and love. Davis does a magnificent job telling the tale in words and pictures and gives the F4 family the perfect ending…and beginning. If only Davis would be given a creative run in regular continuity! I suspect he would do the title very well!
I’m also including on the technicality of creator association Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis’ to brief run in 1998 volume 3 1-3. I really enjoyed the work these two men were beginning after the ramifications of Heroes Return. I thought they really had the pulse of what makes the FF great and was disappointed when their run together ended so abruptly.
#9 Fantastic Four (1978) 195-216 Annual # 12 - writer Marv Wolfman with artists Keith Pollard/John and Sal Buscema/John Byrne
When Marv took over with issue 195 Reed had lost his powers and as a result the team had disbanded; moving on to pursue personal interests. Things started heating up quickly with Wolfman’s tenure as Reed regained his powers via a mysterious benefactor who turns out to be none other than Dr. Doom. This leads to the FF reforming and their inevitable confrontation with Victor in the classic FF 200; probably the 2nd best ever written and drawn battle between Richards and Doom!
In their continuing adventures under Wolfman and Pollard there was a fun battle between the FF and telekineticly created nightmare versions of themselves from the fevered dreams of Willie Evans Jr. (whatever happened to that kid?); Johnny attempts to go back to college; a wild outer space adventure involving Skrulls, the world of Xander and the Nova Corps (with Nova and his version of the new Champions), the Sphinx vs. Galactus (a truly awe inspiring battle between two cosmic powered entities), plus the introduction of Galactus’ most vicious herald ever; Terrax the Tamer (my personal favorite villainous herald.)
I’ve many great memories of this classic run. It also debuted the first works of John Byrne. Keith Pollard, himself, is a really great artist and storyteller. I applaud this man’s highly underrated efforts. His visuals of the planet Xander and its super computer are detailed genius! He was the primary artist during this run and his work is deserving of high praise. John and Sal Buscema (two legends of the industry) also contributed some quality fill in work.
#8 Fantastic Four 103-125 Stan Lee with several artists (see below)
This one might be a bit confusing. With Stan Lee credited writing most and plotting this entire run in the series. I decided to include this run entirely as it had great highs during this turbulent time after Jack Kirby left the title and Marvel (and Stan) were left scrambling to make things work out. It proved to be pretty crazy without Jacks’ steadying contribution and indicative of things to come at Marvel to this very day as far as consistency goes in the creative team department. Here’s the breakdown:
Lee and John Romita (103-106, 108-Romita and Kirby and John Buscema)
Lee and Buscema (107, 109-125) with a writing assist to Archie Goodwin on 115-118 and to Roy Thomas on issue 119.
Now, on to the reasons why I view it as number 8.
With Jack Kirby’s sudden departure on the title, I think Stan continued to write and plot some excellent work on the FF. It was a moment in his career and the company in general to prove that high quality could continue without the irrefutable genius of Kirby.
With excellent artistic work from John Buscema in particular as well as John Romita they succeeded in helping the FF live on! Particular high notes during this time include FF 112′s Thing vs Hulk battle; the introduction of the Overmind (a really underrated, later abused, and now fully forgotten villain) which culminated in a battle royal in 116 with Dr. Doom battling alongside the FF to save the world!
It really must be noted that with issues 115-118 Lee is listed as co-writer/plot with Archie Goodwin and the same with Roy Thomas on 119. Undeniably, Stan’s time as a writer was coming to an end as well as plot and story direction, but, even to this day, his influence shall ever remain. Excelsior!
#7 Fantastic Four 542-553 (2007) Dwayne McDuffie w/Mike McKone (542-543) & Paul Pelletier (544-553)
Dwayne McDuffie was brought on board right after the insipid Civil War storyline and he worked some excellent damage control on the FF and Reed in particular. The ramifications from Civil War had him introduce Black Panther and Storm as replacement members for Reed and Sue as they took a second honeymoon to repair their relationship. Panther and Storm are great characters in the Marvel Universe and it was enjoyable to experience their interaction with Ben and Johnny. Reed and Sue were never truly away from the title and their being replaced was short lived.
McDuffie had his own tale to tell in adding to the legacy of the Watcher (introducing Uatu’s Encyclopedia Universum), Galactus, the Frightful Four (unleashing the fierce and frightening warrior that can be the Invisible Woman), and versions of a future Dr. Doom and the FF where it is shown what a great and benevolent man Reed Richards’ truly is in redeeming his character and status.
Pelletier is an excellent artist. I really enjoyed his version of the FF; especially the Thing. He really conveyed the grandeur of the cosmic adventures in his storytelling along with the simple things of calmer times between the members when at the home in the Baxter Building. McKone’s an artist worth viewing, too, during the first two issues of McDuffie’s run.
#6 Fantastic Four 334-354 (1989) Walt Simonson with assists in art from Rich Buckler (334,335); Ron Lim (336); Art Adams (347-349)
Simonson is really a big screen/ big idea storyteller who’s work propels one forward issue to issue with a high octane sense of pace and adventure. Kind of like Indiana Jones on superhero steroids! Throw in the 3 aforementioned artists to help out the dreaded deadline doom when Walt needed illustrating assistance - with his own unique and enjoyable style – and we have the recipe for an excellent 19 issue run.
Simonson introduced the Time Variance Authority to the pages of the FF; had Reed face off against congress with the first superhero registration act in a war of words and ideas and win the day in a far superior manner than the later debacle that was Civil War; Ben in human form and still remaining as a viable adventuring member of the team was an excellent touch; as well as his eventual return to being the ever loving blue eyed Thing. Dr. Doom was written superbly and his battle with Reed thru time in issue 352 was the coolest, craziest battle between the two I think I’ve ever seen! Made my brain hurt in a good kind of way just to keep up!
#5 Fantastic Four (1973)133-152 writer Gerry Conway, artist Rich Buckler on issues 142-144 &147-152 and Giant Size Fantastic Four 1 and 3
Gerry Conway is probably the most underrated comic writer ever. Throughout his tenure he scribed some very controversial stories (for this time period especially.) He guided the book through the separation and reconciliation of Sue and Reed as well as the ramifications of Reed putting his own son in a coma to save the world. Harsh times and tribulations for the 4, indeed! In the format of the given time he conveyed the balance of action and drama and raw emotion in a manner most writers’ of today could never hope to accomplish.
The first issue I ever purchased (not read at the doctor’s office or a friend’s house) was #145 by Conway & Ross Andru as the FF face off against the abominable menace of Ternak. In the annals of FF history this will never be remembered as one of their finest moments, but it does hold a special place for me and is the most worn out copy of a comic book I own.
Rich Buckler has always been one of my favorite FF artists and thus he is represented here with Conway’s run. His style is very reminiscent of Jack Kirby, but still retaining his own personal touch. He brought a lot of action packed fun to each panel without a lot needless background detail to clutter his work; all the while illustrating a great story.
I had a chance to meet the man at a convention once and it was a real thrill for me to get to speak with him and share in some past stories of the work he has produced in his life. He even autographed a copy of FF 148 for me. (I really need to get that framed some day!)
One of my favorite action sequences of all time takes place in this issue between Reed and the Sandman. Great stuff! Reed and Sue’s reconciliation takes place in the following issue which is one of my favorite books of all time. Another of my all time favorite stories takes place in Giant Size FF #3 which introduces the original (and truer) version of the four horseman of the apocalypse. Underrated and excellent stories back in the mid 70′s when I took a true interest in comics. While these two only collaborated on 11 total issues together they did a lot of work separately on the 4 as well and are two of my all time favorite contributors to FF history.
#4 Fantastic Four 570-611 (1998)Jonathan Hickman and ten other artists. Notably Dale Eaglesham (570-578) and Steve Epting (583-587, FF 1-3, 8-9 600-601, 604)
Jonathan Hickman might be the most intricate and intelligent writer to ever grace the pages of the Fantastic Four. He told an epic four year odyssey with an ultimate goal in mind that carried a variety of interlocking adventures along the way. Talk about vision and intestinal fortitude! Undeniably, it took a lot of patience to reach the climax of his epic plan but I felt it was well worth the journey.
He had an excellent grasp of the family concept that drives this book and hopefully his legacy will continue with the expansion of this concept in the Future Foundation. I actually liked what he did with the all the kids but especially Bentley, Valeria and Franklin. Believe me when I say, I know exactly how Reed feels when a child you love acts up and is at odds with you! (…and it’s not always in a bad way.) It was a very good story conflict and handled with appreciated subtlety.
To write the FF well, you really have to present Reed Richards appropriately and his characterization is the most critical. He’s the most brilliant man on the planet, a leader and an adventurer (physically and mentally,) and most important of all a husband and a father whom, despite his undeniable character flaws, genuinely has the best interests of his family and humanity at heart. This was exemplified during the Council of Reeds storyline, his creation of the Future Foundation and the simple things like sitting down to watch TV with Ben in one particular issue that truly stand out.
The death of the Human Torch as well as his inevitable return was also well conceived. Spider-Man as Johnny’s replacement was enjoyable with the interplay between Spidey and the 3 members, as well as the kids. Ben taking out four Kree Sentries with the inspirational return of the Human Torch had me cheering out loud. Especially, after the Sentries had easily dispatched She-Hulk and Red Hulk. It really showed what a tank Ben can be when properly motivated.
The future tale of Ben carrying on Reed’s dream for a better tomorrow long after all his team mates had passed on was one of those stand alone, human touch stories that not only defines Reed and Ben’s friendship, but also defines what the FF is really all about more more than any galaxy spanning adventure. The art was good throughout this run, but the inconsistency of one creative illustrator/storyteller is probably the one thing that keeps this run at number four instead of three or even number two. The book had ten different artists contribute throughout Hickman’s run. Of those, I enjoyed the work of Eaglesham and Epting most.
#3 Fantastic Four (2002) 489-516 Mark Waid & Mike Weiringo (with creative assists from Casey Jones/Howard Porter 501-508 & Karl Kesel/Paco Medina 514-516)
Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first. The only thing that keeps Waid’s run a notch below #2 is his portrayal of the greatest villain of all time: Dr. Doom. A lot of Doom’s historical nobility was cast aside in his quest for ultimate power and further his goal of world domination. I’ve no problem with Doom’s portrayal as a ruthless villain. At the end of the day he should be, and that should never be forgotten. But, Waid did take it to an extreme that was really out of character. Perhaps if there had been more build up to the radical character change in way of explanation it would have seemed more palatable. Plus, in the FF’s confrontations with Doom, the dialogue was of such a personal familiarity that it seemed really off and awkward between enemies so diametrically opposed.
All that aside, Waid is an incredibly compelling storyteller! Few times in the history of any comic series I’ve read has the need to read the next issue been so overwhelming. One of my favorite story lines in the Fantastic Four, ever, was Reed finding a way to pierce reality and reach the hallowed gates of Heaven to return Ben to the family. The reveal of Jack Kirby as God was the epitome of the coolest moment in comics. Waid coined the term Imaginauts and he truly brought that to life within the pages of the FF.
Mike Wieringo is an exceptional artist and story teller in his own right. He brought great flair and a charismatic touch to every page. Any artist in my top 10 knows and understands what it takes to tell a dramatic, action packed, panel to panel story and Wieringo was no exception; beautiful, clear and colorful work. RIP, sir, you left us too soon.
#2 Fantastic Four (1981) 220-221, 232-294 Annuals 17-19 John Byrne
Byrne had an obvious love and respect for the FF and it showed exceptionally through his five plus years on the title. He had a magnificent artistic style that meshed so well with the characters and could tell such an excellent story visually. His dialogue was spot on with all the cast in each book (which can be horribly negligent this day and age.)
The story ideas he brought to life within these pages brought great tribute to the existing history, as well. Highlights of his run include Terror In a Tiny Town; Dr. Doom’s stand alone story, the return of Terrax and eventually Galactus leading into their epic battle inclusive of guest stars galore, the Trial of Reed Richards and especially the positive metamorphosis of the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman.
He had an excellent blend of action, drama, and sub plots, too, that constantly propelled the characters and the reader forward. His run also had, what I consider the single greatest punch out in comics as the Thing returns to action after previously being demolished by Terrax just in the nick of time to save the others with a blow that sends the herald through the separate skyscrapers to the city streets below.
Eventually She-Hulk was brought in as a replacement member to Ben after the events of Secret War and the series continued on at a high quality. However, what nearly dropped this run to 3rd place was the extensive length of time She-Hulk served in place of Ben (I’ve never been a fan of replacement members). 28 issues without the Thing as a part of the FF were way too long. Even worse, was the horribly contrived love affair between Alicia and Johnny. However, these major glitches aside, no run is ever perfect or ever going to make everyone happy and I have great love and respect for Byrne’s run on the FF.
Well, maybe there was one perfect run…
#1 Fantastic Four (1961) 1-102; 108; FF: the Lost Adventure; Annuals 1-10 by Stan “The Man” Lee & Jack “King” Kirby
Stan and Jack created something special back in 1961; a new way of experiencing the content of comic books. In all their collaborations back in the beginning of the silver age it was never more apparent than in the pages of the Fantastic Four. They brought an energy and enthusiasm to the title that has never been equaled. Not just in the FF, but any other book ever conceived.
It was the greatest work either man ever achieved together or apart. The volume of characters birthed through Marvel’s flagship title is still overwhelmingly prevalent and significant to this day. Kirby’s art and storytelling ability had such imagination and style and a rhythmic panel to panel flow that few artists could hope to match and none have ever surpassed. Stan’s writing became more polished each progressive issue and the plot and story ideas they formed together were always unique and exciting. Especially considering the era in which they worked.
From the first ever world threatening, extinction level event (Galactus) in comics to the first superhero marriage to the first child ever born to a superhero couple the stories broke heretofore unseen ground with plot and characterization and only grew sharper and more stylized as the series gained momentum. Whether it was single issue stories like the highly regarded “This Man, This Monster” or multiple issue arcs like “The Coming of Galactus” everything flowed together seamlessly from issue 1 all the way to their final work together in issue 101 (108 contained art unused by Kirby in combination with Romita and Buscema.) That length of collaboration was unheard of at the time and truly groundbreaking.
Their subplots weren’t convoluted and had perfect synergy with the ongoing plotline that always transitioned the reader from one issue to the next in a journey that always made you feel like a part of the characters’ lives. They brought great emotion to every tale and seemed to strike that perfect balance of action and drama each and every issue. Without this collaboration on this title, I’ve my doubts that comic books would have even survived the 60′s, let alone thrived. Truly, comicdom owes an awesome debt to these two men and the Fantastic Four.
And there you have it. My top ten writer/artist combinations in the series that is the Fantastic Four. It is obviously my favorite comic book series ever and Ben Grimm, The Thing, my favorite comic book character ever. Actually, my absolute favorite literary character ever! Every creator on this list had a story telling style I enjoyed and I felt did extremely well by the 4 both visually and in the written word. A synchronicity so important and too rare in the medium; not only in today’s market, but back in the silver and bronze age as well. A truth which became really apparent as I researched this topic. So much turnover, sometimes up to three writer/artist combinations in one year, that it made this top ten much harder to compile that I originally thought.
Few creators since Lee and Kirby seem to have that energy and motivation to stay with something, meet a deadline and not get distracted by the outside world, or at the very least, balance everything with it. The FF has always seemed to be at a crossroads in popularity and sales which is a shame. There are tons of theories as to why, but ultimately in any comic series it’s the creative team that makes the difference. Great writing; great art create great storylines and that always equals great interest.
Now, just for fun here is a continuation of the Fantastic Four lists, the next best ten and after that, the worst ten of all time.
THE HONORARY MENTIONS
#11 Karl Kesel, writer and 13 different artists contributing over the course of 23 different issues throughout random points in FF history. He’s always been excellent filling in and never fails to hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded. Definitely deserving.
Technically, this run breaks my rule, however, Karl Kesel has written for the Fantastic Four many times in the past; including finishing up Matt Fraction’s most recent run. This guy has been called upon more than a few times to fill in between other creator’s runs, but all too briefly and always with a variety of different artists. Never more than a couple issues together at a time with one artist including Fantastic Four:2099 which was a really fun series. Kesel write’s the FF so well and has proven over the years to be the ultimate pinch hitter when needed. Bases loaded he always knocks it out of the ball park for the win in my personal opinion.
#12 Fantastic Four: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine (2001) 1-12 a special 40th anniversary run of tribute issues. Plot, writing and some art by Erik Larsen with an army of talented artists and a couple guest writers (including Stan Lee) assisting throughout the run.
#13 Fantastic Four #133-141, 145-146 writer Gerry Conway and artists John Buscema and Ross Andru. Here is that Gerry Conway again. Seriously, he is the most underrated writer in comics history.
#14 Fantastic Four volume: 3 #38-50 Jeff Loeb and Carlos Pacheco/Tom Grummett
#15 Fantastic Four #295(Artist: Jerry Ordway) #296 (Artist Barry Windsor-Smith and various) #297-302 (artists-John and Sal Buscema) Roger Stern wrote all these with an assist from Jim Shooter in FF 296.
#16 Fantastic Four #157-181 Writer Roy Thomas with artists Ron Wilson, George Perez and Rich Buckler
#17 Fantastic Four #119, 126-132 writer Roy Thomas and artists John Buscema, Rich Buckler, and Ross Andru
#18 Fantastic Four volume:4 #1-12 and Future Foundation volume 2 #1-16 writer Matt Fraction and artists Mark Bagley, Andre Aarujo and artists Mike Allred, Joe Quinones respectively.
#19 Fantastic Four #356-373, 375-381 Fantastic Five (1999)1-5 (2007)1-5 Writer-Tom DeFalco and Artist-Paul Ryan and Ron Lim
This creator tandem I want to give some credit to, but is almost unthinkable among fans of the FF, but it deserves some praise. Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan together produced 58 issues (almost unheard of with today’s writer and artist combos) of the FF plus 5 more in a future FF tale called Fantastic Five. DeFalco would follow up that series 8 years later in 2007 with Ron Lim (another artist I really like). The first 25 issues of DeFalco/Ryan WAS actually very good, however, once they “killed” off Reed and Doom in issue 381, I felt the story rapidly declined and meandered on, and on, in a direction I despised. The strength of the future tales of the two Fantastic Five mini series was enough along with the first 25 issues in the regular series to give the two creators consideration for a higher spot, but the last 33 hurt their ability to gain anything higher than here for me.
#20 Fantastic Four #155, 156 184-188, 191 writer-Len Wein and artists-Rich Buckler and George Perez
THE WORST TEN
#10 Fantastic Four #527-541 writer-J. Michael Straczynski and artist-Mike McKone Not necessarily a bad creative team, they were unfortunately straddled with horrible editorial direction pertaining to the events of the ugly farce that was Civil War.
#9 Fantastic Four # 304-333 Steve Englehart and assorted artists. The runs only really great moment was pineapple Thing destroying Gray Hulk. During Steve Engleharts run on the FF; he became pissed at the direction the editors forced upon him and changed his name to Johnathan Harkness. The run got slightly better under the Harkness alias, to be honest. Sometimes the editors get it right!
#8 Fantastic Four #219, 222-231 writer-Doug Moench and artist-Bill Seinkiewicz Two great creators who’s styles just did not work for the FF.
#7 Fantastic Four volume:3 #35-37 writer-Rafael Marin and artist-Carlos Pacheco Dialogue was horrible! Marin had no grasp of the characters personalities.
#6 Fantastic Four #374, 382-414 writer-Tom DeFalco and artist-Paul Ryan
And for four of the bottom five, well, some mini-series just should never be made:
#5 Fantastic Four: Foes #1-6 by Robert Kirkman and Cliff Rathburn
#4 Fantastic Four/Iron Man: Big in Japan #1-4 by Zeb Wells and Seth Fisher
#3 X4 #1-5 by Akira Yoshida and Pat Lee
#2 Fantastic Four: House of M #1-3 by John Layman and Scot Eaton (…and I am a big Eaton fan!)
And, now, the worst Fantastic Four crap I’ve ever endured…….
#1 ANYTHING TO DO WITH ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR
I really did try and give it a chance and tried to like it for over 60 issues. I just could not; as the characters inspired absolutely no compassion, interest or empathy in their reimagining and now they are soon to be back with more. –sigh-
Kyle’s Retro Review – The 80 Page Giant
These next three weeks I’m going to take a break from the normal format, and instead of spotlighting a specific run of a character or book, I’m going to do more of a Comic’s History segment covering DC’s Reprint Program through the Silver Age in their “Giants” which gave rise to a new a format for publishing new content in some amazing anthology books during the Bronze Age. This will be similar to the two different Retro Reviews I did last fall on Marvel during this same time period (the Silver and Bronze Age truly were the best era of publishing for both companies).
In 1960 DC really pioneered the reprint concept that Marvel would later adopt in the mid Silver Age with series like Collector’s Item Classic that I discussed in one of the aforementioned reviews. By 1960, DC had been running on full steam with characters like Superman and Batman for over 20 years and Marvel hadn’t even entered the Silver Age or debuted their properties like Fantastic Four (1961) or Spider-Man (1962). DC meanwhile, on the heels of their Silver Age Superhero resurgence courtesy of the 1956 makeover of the Flash in the pages of Showcase #4 had amped up their Silver Age superhero output after it had taken a sharp decline in the late 40’s as the Golden Age came to a close and Western, Crime and Horror comics flourished in the Atomic Age from 1947-1956.
DC introduced the “Annual” concept, printing 80 page books collecting stories from the Golden, Atomic and early Silver Age of fan favorite characters. These newly coined Annuals were actually on a semi-annual release schedule with Superman seeing 2 Annuals a year published in 1960-1963. In 1961 DC began to broaden their Annual publishing material and in addition to the 2 new Superman Annuals, they also introduced two Batman Annuals as well as a Secret Origins Annual. In 1962 they diversified even further, adding a Lois Lane and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer 80 Page Annual to the lineup of 2 Batman and Superman Annuals. This trend continued, as DC put out 22 of these 80 page annuals through the beginning of 1964, when the series got an overhaul and a new name.
The 80 page Annual concept gave rise to a new series, appropriately, titled 80 Page Giant. Each issue featured a specific character and reprinted between 5 and 7 classic stories ranging from the early Golden Age through the mid Silver Age. Issue #1 of 80 Page Giant appropriately starred Superman, as this issue was originally advertised in comics a few months prior as Superman Annual #9.
When DC instituted the 80 Page Giant series, they abandoned the Annual altogether. Since 80 Page Giant #1 took the content of Superman #9 and ended the annual line, we wouldn’t see DC return to the annual format until they released Superman Annual #9 19 years later in 1983! 80 Page Giant ran for 15 issues, featuring all reprinted material, and each cover caring the issue number in the G## format. The self-titled series ended with G15 Superman and Batman, before it underwent another transformation.
The G## would continue, but now the 80 Page Giants would be special giant sized reprint issues that ran through popular ongoing titles. For example G16 would be Justice League #39, an 80 Page Giant that reprinted early exploits of the Justice League, including their first appearance in the pages of Brave and the Bold #28. This format lasted until 1971, ending with G89 which was Justice League of America #93.
This 80 Page format included the front and back cover in the page count, and had very limited advertisements. Most of the ads were in the form of ¼ page house ads below the final panel of the story or were written as full one page comic stories, so, even if it was an ad, you were still getting some comic reading.
Since trade paperbacks didn’t exist at this time, this was really the only way that you could get your hands on past Superman and Batman stories. These stories were easy for DC to collect, as 99% of stories at this time were one and done 12-20 page stories. Readers would get 6 or 7 stories for the small price of a quarter. It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t just order a trade of those early golden age Superman stories, but this format offered newer readers a chance to read some of the classics from DC’s past.
It’s too bad they didn’t have the foresight to publish a Giant or two collecting the first few issues of More Fun Comics, which featured crime and adventure stories years before Detective Comics or Action Comics #1 would hit stands. It would’ve been cool for DC to release a volume collecting some of the first stuff they (National Publications) put out in the very early days of the comic industry’s infancy.
A lot of the stories reprinted in these are still fan favorites today, being collected in volumes such as “Best Joker Stories,” “Superman in the 40’s,” and “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.” If you keep your eye on ebay, it’s surprising how cheap you can score a number of these from the early 60’s. I’ve picked up a few of these in VG condition over the past year for under $5 shipped; not too bad for these truly classic stories.
The Silver Age, especially at DC, I think is too often dismissed as an era of silly imaginary stories that lack direction or relevant content. While that may be the case in some instances, the stories that are usually reprinted in these specific Giants were classics then, and still hold up today. Some of these stories are downright brilliant, and while fun and enjoyable for all ages of readers, many have adult themes and morals that are presented much better here than in current stories trying to share the same messages today.
If you’re really interested in reading some of these, your best bet is probably to pick up a DC Showcase Presents “phone book” edition of a series you’re interested in. I’ve been reading a lot of the early World’s Finest team-ups lately and most are a total blast. There are some real gems in there; I wish the current Batman Superman title would steal a page from these and try to capture that fun tone. Maybe I’m just an old comic’s curmudgeon, but damn it I do miss the days when Superman and Batman were best friends and got along.
So go out there and give the Showcase World’s Finest vol. 1, Batman vol. 1, or Superman Family vol. 1 a try. With something like 500 pages for $17, you can’t go wrong with these classics. Some are better than others, but I guarantee you’ll walk away with hours of more satisfied reading than you will in 5 issues of the current take on the characters for the same price.
Next week…the DC 100 Page Super Spectacular!