Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fantastic Four

JACK KIRBY was possibly the single most creative person to ever work in the comics industry in America.  A professional since 1937, he did it all-- concept, design, writing, pencils, inks, and even colors (though he usually did that "for fun" in his spare time).  Early-on, his work appeared in publications from Lincoln Feature Syndicate, TEM Publishing, Fox Feature Syndicate, Novelty Press, Worth Publishing, Timely Publications (later known as Marvel Comics), Fiction House, Prize Comics, and Fawcett Publications.  Kirby & his business partner Joe Simon struck a deal with Timely publisher Martin Goodman to create a new "patriotic" hero in answer to MLJ's The Shield-- CAPTAIN AMERICA. The book became a million-seller, and S&K were contractually guaranteed royalties on the sales.  Unfortunately, in a move that seems to be standard operating practice in Hollywood, Goodman's accountant "cooked the books" to hide the sales in a move to deprive them of what they had due IN WRITING.  Simon's answer was to sign with National Periodical Publications (later known as DC Comics Inc.) for double the page rates and no accompanying editorial duties to get in the way.

Following World War 2, the duo reunited and, despite an early slump due to the post-war boom that saw too much product and not enough shelf space, they eventually rebounded, creating the "romance" comics genre, and had another MILLION-seller on their hands.  Publishers Kirby's work appeared in during this time included Harvey, J.C. Penney Co., Hillman, Crestwood and Prize.  Things only took a wrong turn when they decided to start THEIR OWN company-- Mainline-- which, tragically, fell victim to the early-50's WITCH-HUNT spurred on by crackpot psychiatrist Frederic Wetham's ham-fisted "expose" book, "Seduction Of The Innocent", which tried to blame all juvenile delinquency on... COMIC-BOOKS.

After Joe Simon decided to get out of comics (for awhile), Kirby scrambed to find what work he could. In late 1956 he wound up doing some for the last place he ever wanted to be again-- Martin Goodman's Marvel Comics. Before long he found more at National / DC, and in addition to HOUSE OF MYSTERY stories, revamped the dull-as-dirt Green Arrow.  He also created a new "adventure team" in the form of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN.  It became a hit, especially when science-fiction artist Wally Wood began doing the inks.  This is turn led to an opportunity that must have seemed too good to turn down, a chance to do a science-fiction newspaper strip-- SKY MASTERS OF THE SPACE FORCE, also with Wood on inks.  The deal proved a bad one, and led to a lawsuit over a "finder's fee" payment.  The result was all of Kirby's DC work vanished overnight, and he found himself forced to return to Marvel, which was on the verge of shutting down following a disastrous distribution debacle.

From the first, spurred on by desperation and a belief in his own powers of creativity, Kirby urged his editor to try reviving costumed heroes as he'd done with the CHALLENGERS. Instead, he spent the next couple years doing mostly westerns and giant-monster stories.  Finally, in mid-1961, publisher Goodman, no doubt seeing the success of rival DC's revivals of THE FLASH, GREEN LANTERN and JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, gave the okay.  (Goodman always imitated what someone else was already having success with.)

The result managed to combine, in one title, costumed heroes, giant monsters, and the "kid gang" and "smartass teen humor" formula Kirby had used so many times before (only, like CHALLENGERS, with adults-- albeit ones who often acted like kids).  Somehow, it wasn't QUITE like anything that had been seen before.  For many comics fans, THE FANTASTIC FOUR would become the one series Jack Kirby was MOST associated with out of his entire long career! 

FANTASTIC FOUR 1  /  art by Jack Kirby & George Klein   (November 1961)
FANTASTIC FOUR 2  /  art by Jack Kirby & George Klein   (January 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 3  /  rejected art by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky   (March 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 3  /  art by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky   (March 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 4  /  art by Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky   (May 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 5  /  art by Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott   (July 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 6  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (September 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 7  /  art by JACK KIRBY   (October 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 8  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (November 1962)

FANTASTIC FOUR 9  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (December 1962)
FANTASTIC FOUR 10  /  art by Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers   (January 1963)
(Continued in Part 2)

I figured with Nick Simon's Silver Age Marvel site down for the forseeable future, I might as well start posting some more of my "restorations" here, since, at the moment, this is the only place most people are gonna have a chance to see 'em.

One of the great unsung heroes of early-60's Marvel was Stan Goldberg, who back then, colored pretty much EVERY book they put out! While the extremely primitive technical conditions (and uncaring people at the engravers) did no service to most of the interiors, Goldberg somehow managed to work miracles on the covers, and for the most part, HIS color work has never even been attempted in reprints.  But here it is, in all its original scanned-in / Photoshop cleaned-up glory!!!

(4-8-2013)  I just dug out the files for these and have begun doing ADDITIONAL clean-ups.  So if you've come here before, these are going to look BETTER than they did before!  (Pass it on...)

(8-20-13)  I decided to go back and add a text intro as I'd done with my DAREDEVIL section and the various later pages of the FOURTH WORLD section. It seemed called for, given the crucial and pivotal nature of the FF series.

Artwork (C) Marvel Comics

Raw scans supplied by Barry Pearl
Scan of FF #3 rejected version from FANTASTIC FOUR #224 (Nov'80)

Restorations by Henry R. Kujawa


  1. When I was in the 10th grade, some guy brought in a complete MINT run of ALL of the early Marvel comics. All of them. Nothing was missing. FF 1-30, Amazing Fantasy 15. Amazing Spider-Man 1-20. Avengers 1-20. Journey Into Mystery 83-100. X-Men 1-15. Tales of Suspense 39-50. Tales to Astonish 27-50. Strange Tales 101-130. Etc. And HUGE runs of the pre-hero Marvels. All in near mint to mint condition.

  2. Brought them into my dad's bookstore, that is. Not high school. I remember my dad bringing them home to show me and asking me if he'd made a good deal (he'd traded a buttload of Civil War history hardbacks for them).

  3. You should have told your dad that it was a bad deal, and that you'd take them off his hands for him... for a little over ten bucks!

  4. I've noticed on these earliest Fantastic Four issues, it always says "IND." in the upper left corner, and then to the right, close to the issue number, there an "MC" which I assume is "Marvel Comics". Just where and when did these desigations start, and what exactly did they mean at the time?