MRE1957's picture
Posted by: MRE1957 | May 12, 2014

Moments like these in their early issues

are what made the FF worthy of the title, "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" and made Marvel stand out even more from DC and all the rest. Who else but Jack and Stan would devote an entire story to showing the everyday side of their lives? And does anyone know if this is the very first mention of the Yancy Street Gang?

Doug's picture
Posted by: Doug (not verified) | May 12, 2014

I agree.

A few years back, a book of interviews of former FF artists and writers was published, and the contributors clearly drew lines regarding the book's best period. A clear majority felt that the golden age was #44-#67 or so--Inhumans, Galactus, Black Panther, Kree, Him, etc. But a substantial minority, most prominently, Roy Thomas, felt that the first year was really the most innovative. For me, I think of the first year as Stan's peak, but the middle period as Jack's. I wonder which side of the debate you fall on?

Lockjaw's picture
Posted by: Lockjaw | May 13, 2014

Annual 2 to Annual 5

I think it's a fairly easy argument that the peak Kirby/Lee FF period was from the seminal Annual 2 that was released between FF 31 and 32 and Annual 5 released between FF 67 and 68

So in my mind those 3 annuals and those 36 issues are it. I see how people latch onto the FF 44-67 period where nearly every issue was introducing some new iconic character, but I feel strongly that the 1 year run-up to that explosion can't be left out.

Solid Stone inks A2- FF38, Kirby's workload cut enough for him to have a little more time to plot and do more complete backgrounds. The "Marvel method" finally fully in-place.

The tragic Dr Storm/Invincible Man story and it's sad conclusion in issue 37. The final FF/Subby story and the conclusion to the love triangle and the creation of Attuma as Subby's own arch enemy. The creation of the frightful Four---including Medusa who was far more interesting as a villainess. Creation of Dragon Man and "the proposal."

And the fact that the days of super hero crossovers had passed from the 'gimmick era' FF 16-28 where almost every time they met another hero(s) there was a mandatory dust up ending in a draw.
The Daredevil crossover in issues 39-40 was a revelation--actually having a well-written and logical use of another hero rather than to just as a vehicle to advertise the other titles.
Thing vs. Doom in issue 40---nuff said.

FF 41-43, marred by terrible inks, but still the ultimate 'FF at odds with each other' arc that frankly didn't need to be repeated ever again.

Lastly, the wedding, which put to bed for the FF title, it's need for the rest of the Marvel universe to even exist. Such an orgy of heroes and villains that probably the only way to go forward was to create a universe within a universe.

From issues 44-72 not a single other established hero appeared in the FF and the only villains from their vast stable to appear in that run were Doom, Thinker and Frightful Four.

They had so thoroughly utilized the previous universe of heroes and villains prior to issue 44 that the best thing was to start all over and ONLY Kirby and Lee had the imagination to do it!

In 24 months starting from scratch they created arguably even more interesting villains and heroes than the previous 4 years of the title.

Then like a switch being turned off it all fell apart. In a two month period in summer '67, they went to the smaller art page from which Kirby's art never fully recovered, management wanted the sub-plots to end, cutting out Johnny's college, Wyatt, the Inhumans, etc., Kirby angered by the altering of the "Him" story stopped creating new interesting characters and the stories became padded, rehashed and redundant.

50 years since that summer of '64 starting point begins THIS summer and can we say that anything that came after was ever quite as fresh, as groundbreaking or original?

Oh and I clean forgot to mention Annual 2 itself, but if you've read it and if you know it's context in what was then the average comic villain story---then I need not say anything at all.

rpineros's picture
Posted by: rpineros | May 13, 2014

FF Peak Period

Great Post Lockjaw. I agree with you that the peak period needs to include the year prior to Sinnott's arrival as steady inker. Looks like you have laid the groundwork for a great article to submit to The Jack Kirby Collector! (please!)

MRE1957's picture
Posted by: MRE1957 | May 13, 2014

Here's my take on it.

Because I didn't start buying and reading Marvel comics until late 1967, I was totally unaware of that #44-#67 period. In fact, the first FF issue I bought was #68 but at that same time I was experiencing the FF's early adventures through reprints in Marvel Collector's Item Classics. It was many years later when I got to read the stories from the middle period that everyone holds in such high regard. However, by that time I had already discovered Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther and the Kree in later FF issues and other Marvel books.

Now knowing the complete history of the FF and the back story of Jack and Stan's working relationship from articles and blogs, it is apparent that Lee handed off more and more creative responsibility to Kirby as the issues ticked by. For me, the early issues were very 50/50 between the two of them. It's impossible to say exactly when Jack completely took over, but if I had to guess I'd say it was when we were introduced to the Inhumans. That is clearly a Kirby concept.

Many postulate that Kirby "shut down" after Lee changed the plot Jack had developed for the "Him" saga and he didn't care as much after that. But I believe the real rift happened a little later when Stan partnered up with Buscema on the Silver Surfer book, shutting out Kirby. Your thoughts?

ofolayne's picture
Posted by: ofolayne | May 13, 2014

That dumb bell?

I wonder what Jack originally drew where the dumb-bell is? Stan obviously wanted something different, and even drew what he wanted on the back. Maybe it was just Jack's perspective he didn't like? Although, judging by the change also to the last panel, I reckon it must have been something different all together.
I think the posters above are right. It's clear that Stan had major input into these early issues, even down to seemingly micro-managing bits and pieces after the inking was done - such as on this page.
Regarding the 'shutting down' of Jack, I reckon there's no straight forward answer. I don't think it can be judged entirely on how many new characters Jack was prepared to give. I think it shows more in how much Jack puts into a story. For instance, I reckon the FF took its first major down turn with #73. The plotting is trite and Jack's art often, for him, light on. It was clearly an issue that editorial (=Stan) wanted, and that Jack would have no interest in. The following Galactus 4 parter is like the concurrent Thor/Mangog epic - great big panels, with minimal plot movement. In the FF, after a run of ordinary issues, mostly plot wise, Jack then tightened up with the Dr Doom story, through to the Agatha Harkness issue (maybe this was because he dropped Cap America and was doing just 2 per month). After that, down hill again. The same happened on Mr Miracle. Issues 13 to 18 can't hold a candle to the earlier ones - artwise and plot wise. And it's not hard to see why.

Lockjaw's picture
Posted by: Lockjaw | May 13, 2014

Great posts.

Really good stuff on the "peak period" !!

My first FF issue was 66 and after one issue I WAS HOOKED. I too, never knew that I had missed the peak period until I as well, started with MCIC with the issue that featured FF 16 in reprint.

So I was reading MCIC (later MGC) as those reprint stories got better by the issue and as the current FF run went downhill.

As for when the exact point the book went south....

The smaller art came in at issue 68.
The sub-plots with the Inhumans, and Black Panther as a supporting characters ended with Annual 5.
The college plotline ended in issue 61
The foreshadowing of future storylines ended with the kidnap of Alicia in issue 65
The ending of "interesting new heroes and villains" ended with Psycho Man (or Kirby's original NAME---much better imo--- "PSYCHON' ) in annual 5 AND "HIM" IN ISSUE 67
IMO his art fell off a lot between FF 71 and 72.
As stated, the Galactus reprise was terrible--I really doubt Kirby felt it needed a sequel.
And finally issue 81 brought in the "terribly padded huge paneled issue era" where there was zero time for plot advancement--meaning a story that could have been told in 2 or 3 issues (with side sub-plots throw in) in 1964-1967 era was now told in 4 issues with NO sub-plots or foreshadowing!

Those foreshadowings were a thing of beauty---the UN-needed but wonderful 1 page cutaway in issue 45 where Kirby showed Sandman and Trapster in jail--just great. As a kid I was so impressed that they did that. And they even threw in that the Wizard was in the infirmary and they assumed Medusa would be trying to break them out!

A full year later in issue 57 we get a payoff where Wizard and Sandman stage a jailbreak and only Sandman gets away. Which in turn set up the issue 61 appearance of Sandman in his new costume.

How management thought that throwing away that kind of continuity would help the magazine boggles my mind.
The Thinker/Thing amok story in 68-71 was impeccably drawn and inked and was------- absolutely lifeless. Dull, padded (a full-up of Sue's head??), two issues fighting 1 android? 4 issues in total? Stall, stall, stall.

Then issues 72, 74-77 were one long promo for the upcoming Surfer magazine---geez they used to do that in ONE issue (TOS 58, TTA 59, DD 7 etc.)
Stan went out of his way pointing out Surfer had been significantly depowered (presumably so he wouldn't be omnipotent as a hero in his own book) at the end of FF 72, but then totally forgot to tell Kirby and Buscema who continued to show him at full strength.

I call the era from issue 68 to 87--- the "robot era"

The FF battled robots/androids/similcrums in issues 70, 71, 74, 75, 76, 79, 80, A6, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86 ,and 87.
Clearly Kirby chose to create all these cardboard robot villains to avoid handing marvel more heroes and villains to exploit.

Ah well, to paraphrase the movie--"We'll always have the 'middle years' ."

Krackles's picture
Posted by: Krackles | May 19, 2014

Jack Kirby's Artist Edition

What you guys think of the book?

(Sorry if I derail the comments topic but the forums are sorely in need of exposures)

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