Wednesday, August 25, 2010

FF 176: Roy Thomas Wednesday


Fantastic Four #176 (November 1976)
"Improbable as it may seem -the Impossible Man is back in town!"
Roy Thomas-George Perez/Joe Sinnott

Karen: Howdy folks. We're wrapping up our Roy Thomas Wednesdays with this issue, a follow-up to the Galactus -High Evolutionary saga. George Perez is back on the art chores (as well as Joe Sinnott), and the art in this issue is just brilliant! Perez draws one of the best Things around -I'd say it's neck and neck with Buscema's in my book.

Doug: I fully agree with you, and in addition to seeing Perez back, it's good to see Joe Sinnott again. We both remarked how he was missed over Big John Buscema's pencils last ish. I really think this is the period (coupled with the Bride of Ultron arc we just finished, over in Avengers) where George Perez had become comfortable and really, really improved from his first work back in Avengers #141. I'd hate to say he was in his prime here, because he's had such a long and illustrious career since, but this was some of his finest work and provided many a fond memory for me!

Karen: Ben has just transforme
d back into the Thing, due to the effects of Galactus zapping him. While at first he gets upset and angry, he soon calms down, accepting the situation. I thought this was a nice bit of writing by Roy. After all these years, Ben is used to being the Thing, and despite some frustrations, it makes sense that he wouldn't go into a deep depression over it.

Doug: Yeah, but I think the line about he and Alicia being close to discussing wedding plans was touching and perhaps could have been dealt with more. That may be one of the few good things about comics today -- writing has matured to the point that an issue like that, or perhaps even to the extent of whether Ben and Alicia could have had a physical relationship, could be dealt with and done well. Thirty-five years ago that just wasn't possible. Too, and I know space was limited, I thought Johnny's handling of this scene was really immature and inappropriate for the relationship that the team shared as a family. I know that he was trying to get Ben to look on the bright side, but hey -- give the guy some space to mourn what he'd just lost.

Karen: But Ben, and the whole FF, have a bigger problem: the spaceship the Evolutionary gave them is heading for Earth at high speed -and they don't know how to stop it! OK, here's where Roy loses a few points. I know he's trying to inject some excitement here, but are we really expected to believe that a godlike being wouldn't have devised some automated landing program?! Well, it does give Johnny a chance to use his flame powers in a non-destructive way: by creating a thermal updraft to slow the ship. Add in Sue putting a force shield around the craft and you have a nice little rescue.


Doug: Yeah, I didn't understand the physics of that thermal updraft idea when I was a kid, and I don't really get it now either.

Karen: Unfortunately the FF are still stuck with the Impossible Man, who manages to freak out a cab driver and cause a crash within minutes of arriving on Earth. As the FF try to sort things out, the Impossible Man wanders off and, by an amazing twist of fate, finds the offices of Marvel Comics, who produce the authorized adventures of the Fantastic Four!

Karen: This gives Perez the chance to draw himself, Roy Thomas, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and a whole bunch of other Marvel folks. Impy demands that they create a comic book about him, and when Stan says no, that he's too silly looking to get his own book, Impy goes on a rampage. He mimics the powers or weapons of various Marvel heroes, like Iron Man's repulsor
s, Cyclops' eye beams, Thor's hammer, and so on. It's all fairly amusing, especially picking out the cameos by different Marvel staffers. But honestly, I've never been a fan of the Impossible Man. He's more irritating than funny to me.

Doug: This may be the first time a reader could have used a checklist in order to know all that Perez had included in the story. For example, Len Wein is pictured running for his life, but he's not identified by name at all. I knew who he was because I had several of the Marvel calendars from this time, and the stock photo they used of him showed him wearing the same colonial-looking hat that Perez drew him wearing. I also think Marv Wolfman was unidentified, but uttered the single word, "Michelle?", which was his wife's name. I always wondered, as a kid, if this was really what the Marvel offices looked like. From photos of this era, I know Perez nailed the looks/personalities of many of the staffers -- guys like Kirby, Romita, and the Rascally one himself. Of course, what I found out later was that the Bullpen didn't really exist, at least not as the idea was sold by Stan the Man. It would have been highly unlikely to have found this many creators in the offices at one time.

Karen: The FF finally arrive to try to stop Impy, and this is no easy task. Reed discovers what the
real problem is, and coerces Stan into promising Impy a special issue of Fantastic Four. As things settle down, Roger (Slifer? Stern?) brings a classified ad to Reed's attention: the Frightful Four is holding try-outs at the Baxter Building! Impy improvises surfboards and flys the team over to their HQ, where they come face-to-face with their old adversaries! And with that, we are left with a "to be continued"!

Doug: Great last-page panel of the Frightful Four. I always love the Sandman in his super-villain suit!

Karen: I have to say that although I appreciate a good humorous issue once in awhile, I just don't care for the Impossible Man. It's an enjoyable issue for many other reasons, not the least of which is the gorgeous art, but any Impossible Man is a little too much for me.


Doug: Yep, it's like I said last time -- I don't like the Impossible Man, nor Bat-Mite, nor Mr. Mxypytlk. Annoying with a capital "A".

Karen: At some point we may have to look at the issues which followed; there are some pretty good stories here, particularly with the inclusion of the Counter Earth version of Reed Richards (aka the Brute). Roy's run on the FF was a l
ot of fun and certainly doesn't get the attention it deserves.

Doug: You just say "when" and I'm there. I really like the story that follows. It was an awesome 6-parter (even if there was a "dreaded deadline doom" in the midst of it) with tons of guest-stars. If I'm not mistaken, the Texas Twister was introduced, and he's still around today -- you'd probably be a better candidate to answer that than me. And yes, Roy did a fine job on the FF -- he had everyone's voice down and the family ties were strong. And hey -- you can't beat the artists he worked with over the course of his run, either! Happy memories!

1 comment:

Fred W. Hill said...

I had a subscription to the FF during the period when this ish came out, and I looked upon it as a bit of a silly lark, a breather between the Galactus and Frightful Four fests. Yeah, the Impossible Man is an irritating character but this issue was still fun, although a steady diet of Impy stories would be too nauseating to take. That evil FF/Brute tale, though, was a classic, tho'. I never understood the apparently popular view that the FF was a wasteland between Kirby's and Byrne's runs. Thomas, especially with Perez doing the art, came up with some real highlights, and even with the Impossible Man popping up all over the place in this mag, George's art was magnificent!

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