Friday, January 18, 2013

BAB Classic: The Return of Galactus part 1: Fantastic Four 120

Fantastic Four # 120 (March 1972)
"The Horror That Walks on Air!"
Stan Lee-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

NOTE:  This post was originally published on January 19, 2010.

Karen: We're going to look at yet another super-team (we love team books, obviously) this time around. While the Fantastic Four are best known for the ground-breaking 60s work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the FF had a number of good years in the 70s as well. I personally began reading the Fantastic Four with issue 113. Although I also had the Marvel's Greatest Comics reprints which featured Kirby's art, the FF artist I grew up with was Big John Buscema. The story we'll be examining over the next several posts runs through issues 120-123 and was one of the earliest sagas I personally can recall.

Doug: I came to the FF a bit later, but have certainly had a blast over the subsequent years catching up on everything before the 140's. This is one of the best arcs -- I had a friend who had one or two issues in this run, but the first time I read it completely was in a Marvel Treasury Edition.

Karen: FF 120 is like a non-stop roller coaster. The story doesn't break down into sub-plots at all but follows the FF continuously, from an ill-conceived attack on the Baxter Building by some thugs to their search for the mysterious Air Walker, whose coming seems to spell our doom. This was a really strange method of telling the story -almost like a movie done all in one long take! At least it felt that way to me.

Doug: I was a little mystified at the "thug attack" scene. In these days of heightened security, terrorism, etc., their entrance to the Baxter Building seemed a bit too easy. And of course we all know of Stan's penchant for the melodramatic... don't you think Sue just could have thrown up a forcefield around the would-be baddies and stifled the operation? However, the scene at the end with the landlord, who instantly riled Ben's hackles, was a nice pay-off.
Karen: Agatha Harkness, the FF's friendly sorceress baby-sitter, warns the team of a great, alien danger to our planet. Reed begins scanning the globe for signs of this threat. We get some rather amusing scenes from around the world -Stan uses the short-hand of having witnesses to the Air Walker make some colloquial comment, such as "Blimey!" for an Englishman and "Mamma mia!" for an Italian. The Air Walker is a somber man clad in what looks like a silvery breast plate, vaguely Roman skirt and leggings, and a strange fiery cape or plume from his back. As drawn by Buscema, it all works and looks amazing. True to his name, the Air Walker literally strides or glides on the air, over the skies of the world.

Doug: I agree, Karen -- the costume is somewhat unique, and quite impressive-looking. Not sure if John Romita designed it or if it was Buscema, but the color scheme is unusual as well. A really nice effort. I liked his power to hover, walk, glide, and "zoom", as Stan wrote it. His strength was impressive, too, when he lifted the Fantasticar with one hand. Now that takes some leverage!

Karen: The FF track him down and then manage to lure him back to the Baxter Building. Of course there's a fight, and of course, the FF are out-matched. The military is also helpless against this strange being (nice cameo by Thunderbolt Ross here!). Finally, the stranger speaks. Pulling a golden horn out of thin air, he proclaims that his name is G
abriel, and he is here to trumpet the end of the world!

Doug: I thought there were some real parallels between this issue and the original Silver Surfer/Galactus arc, which we dealt with some time ago over on the Two Girls, A Guy... blog. The omnipresence of the Air Walker, the fear on the faces of those around the world, the presence of Agatha Harkness to warn the FF (as the Watcher had done), etc. Formulaic, maybe, but you know what? It wasn't tired to me. Stan just has a whimsical way of holding my attention, and the last page splash was a great teaser to bring readers back the next month.
Karen: I think the very best thing about this book was the art. It's just amazing to me how good Buscema's FF looks even today. Gabriel also looks wonderful, despite a costume that has the potential to be ludicrous. Buscema imparts such drama to his figures that you can't help but take them seriously. Sinnott (oddly enough credited on the splash as "John" Sinnott) is not my favorite inker for Buscema, but by this time (1972) he had become such a staple to the title that his work seems almost essential - he pr
ovided a certain continuity from Kirby to Buscema (and later to Rich Buckler).

Doug: Yes, Karen, you and I have commented before -- most likely over on the Avengers Assemble message board, that Sinnott can be one of the most overpowering inkers. But your point is very well taken -- he was the glue that held the book together through the post-Kirby turmoil. If moving from Jack to Romita to Buscema is turmoil!

Karen: Oops! I can't believe I forgot Romita was in there! But to be honest, I never felt his style worked with the FF.

Doug: The Jazzy One was on the book for such a short period of time... And I agree, he works on the FF for promo art, but I also didn't care for him during his tenure on the book. Strange, because he's one of Marvel's best and I'd never say I didn't like him on Spidey or Cap. Can't put my finger on it, but there's just something about his FF work.
Karen: Check back next time for the sensational second part of our series!


Edo Bosnar said...

Wow, thanks for posting this - this is the first Galactus story I read, although I'm not sure where because I didn't have the original issues (I would only start reading comics a few years later). Do you know if this was this reprinted later in the '70s in a Treasury edition or something?
By the way, not only did I love Buscema's art throughout, I loved Sinnot's inks - his style may be overpowering, but there's something about his clean, powerful style that really appeals to me.

Andrew Wahl said...

I'm pretty sure this was my first Galactus story, too, and remember it fondly. One thing though: How tough can Galactus be if he keeps getting his rear kicked by mere Earthlings. The original Lee/Kirby three-parter had such power. Unfortunately, Marvel reduced the character's grandeur with each subsequent appearance.


Sphinx Magoo said...

I remember this from the Treasury Edition. I remember being kind of disappointed in Gabriel the Air Walker in that he seemed to diminish the uniqueness of the Silver Surfer. I much preferred Firelord (who I think had already appeared by the time the Treasury reprint came out).

Still some of that John Buscema artwork is sheer awesome. That image with Agatha Harkness... and that final image with Gabriel blowing his horn... the sheer operatic nature is so strong in those images. Nice...

Doug said...

Edo, Andrew, and Sphinx Magoo --

Thanks for the comments!

Edo, info. about the Treasury Edition can be found here:

It was my first exposure to the entire story; I still have it!

I agree with Galactus being somewhat diminished over time, but one of the things coming up in our review of FF #122 is the increase in the physicality of the Big G. Byrne would revisit this some years later in his first run as FF artist in the Galactus/Sphinx battle.



Karen said...

Ugh, you guys are making me feel old, with all this talk of the treasury edition! I actually still have the copies of these issues that I bought way back when. I seem to recall that I read the Marvel's Greatest Comics reprint of the original Galactus story either right before or right after these later issues. I would agree, with repeated use, Galactus became less awe-inspiring. I think that's essentially true for most villains. I would include Thanos and Darkseid in the 'over-use' category as well.

dbutler16 said...

I’ve got a big gap in my FF collection, and this is part of that gap, so I’ve never read this story.

Yes, Stan (and many other writers for that matter) often seem to forget Sue’s powers in a crisis, probably because she could end things too quickly!

I agree with Doug that there seem to be parallels between this and the first Galactus story.

Gabriel has a costume with the potential to be ludicrous? Galactus, anyone? The art here is very good, though. I agree that Sinnott is a critical part of the FF’s continuity over the years. As far as why you two didn’t like Romita’s work on the FF, could it be his depiction of the Thing? It seems to me that the most critical thing about drawing the FF is getting that blue eyed idol o’ millions down right, and it’s a very difficult task.

I have to say, based on how this story ends, I’d sure want to pick up the next issue. I assume Galactus’ name hasn’t been mentioned, so there is some mystery as to what this great threat is.

david_b said...

I still cannot handle Romita's tenure on FF well.., just didn't seem suited for that magnitude of expectations. He's my alltime fave on Spidey, but didn't like him as much on CA&F interiors.

With all love to Jack Kirby, the Buscema years for FF were my favorites. Some stories didn't quite measure up, and for a spell Big John made Benjy look kinda thin, but all in all, this was the look I admired most.

'Course it was heaven to have both Kirby and Buscema on the stands back then, reprints and current.

I'll have to reread this saga, because I've got 'em in my collection as 'readers copies'. I too didn't like the diminishing of Galactus during this time. As I've lamented on other columns, I felt he lowered himself a bit here, losing a lot of the original mystery.

Luckily Byrne was able to reestablish it during his time later on.

Edo Bosnar said...

As noted in my original comment almost 3 (!) years ago, this is my first Galactus story, and I just loved it; just loved it through and through, especially the art by Big John and Big Joe (I think Sinnott deserves that appellation as well).
By the way, I love Gabriel the Air-Walker's look. As Karen noted, when you describe it is sounds ludicrous, but visually it is striking and it really works. Whichever of the two Johns designed it, he was obviously channeling Kirby, otherwise the master of designing awesome costumes that should look ridiculous but don't.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Anybody remember the storyline on HBO's Entourage where Hollywood was seriously considering making an Air Walker movie? I remember thinking, "Now there's an obscure, intensely geeky reference the show's writers came up with." The story arc even had a Stan Lee cameo...

Never read this issue but I did read the entry for the Air Walker in the Marvel Universe so I think I remember the big twist involving the character. Looking forward to the next installments to see if I remember it right.

Doug said...

Here are a couple of observations from a vacationing Bronze Age Baby (not really -- just on my prep period at school right now) --

Look back over the week and check out the number of comments on the reader-elicited posts. You guys are doing a great job coming up with topics that interest the community!

Additionally, these old comic reviews are receiving new life, and Karen and I appreciate you jumping back into them. This almost makes me feel like we can run "reprints" whenever the "Dreaded Deadline Doom" strikes! I remarked to Karen earlier today that we've gotten wordier in our reviews as we've gone on. Maybe that's evolution, I don't know. Maybe we say too much and it's cuts into your conversation. Worth thinking about...

Carry on, and have a great weekend, too!


Anonymous said...


I had a similar thought - the BAB is really established. It's in "reprints".


david_b said...

"This almost makes me feel like we can run "reprints" whenever the "Dreaded Deadline Doom" strikes!"

Hmmmm, sure smells like an Avengers #150 goin' on around here...

I kid, I kid. Seriously it's been fun. You should label 'em as an 'Encore Presentation', that clever SNL catch phrase for their early reruns.

humanbelly said...


Or "Bronze Age Babies Classics".

Or "BABies: Genesis"

Or "Bronze Age Babies All-Star Greatist Hits"

Or. . . (etc). . .


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