Friday, July 18, 2014

Giant-Size July: Fantastic Four Annual 5


Fantastic Four Annual #5 (Nov. 1967)
"Divide--and Conquer!"
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Credited to Joe Sinnott; actual inker was Frank Giacoia

Karen: The cover to this one says it all -this annual is jam-packed with heroes and villains! We've got the FF (of course!), plus all of the Inhumans, and the Black Panther, squaring off against the groovy-looking Psycho-Man in his first appearance. Using Mike's Newstand as my gauge, this annual would have been out at the same time as FF #68. That issue featured the Mad Thinker carrying out a plan to mess with the Thing's mind to turn him against the rest of the team (sound familiar?). The events of this annual were not mentioned until issue 70. In my opinion, this is the beginning of the decline for the Lee-Kirby team. There were still some potent stories to come, like the Surfer in the microverse, but we were definitely on the waning edge of the duo's magnificent run. This is reflected in the main story of this annual, which we review here. It's not terrible by any means -in fact, it's a fun romp, appropriate for summer as it reminds me of a typical summer blockbuster, 'popcorn' movie, full of bombast but a little light on the details. The villain, the Psycho-Man himself, is a spectacular Kirby design, who would have fit in well with the Celestials or perhaps the New Gods. But there are a string of coincidences and contrivances to get all the characters in the same place that scream of minimum effort by the creators that is somewhat disappointing. Also, your eyes do not deceive you -despite Joe Sinnott being credited as inker, he definitely did not ink this issue. As soon as I started reading the book, I could tell it was not Sinnott inks -this was particularly evident when looking at the Thing, who has a much craggier appearance than the usual smooth Sinnott style. I did some research and found that this issue is generally credited to Frank Giacoia, and that makes a lot more sense to me.

Doug: I agree with you -- right from the splash page it's evident that Joltin' Joe is not manning the brush in this tale. I felt Giacoia's inks actually contributed to your comment about this not being a great story. With some of the missteps along the plotting, and Stan's dialogue not always matching Jack's pictures, the lack of polish on the art seemed to step this one down. And since Giacoia inked the rest of the magazine, I think we're pretty safe in assuming he's in the chair here in the main story. And as you said, this may very well mark the beginning of the decline of the FF as Marvel's most innovative and interesting book.

Karen: We start in the middle of things, with the FF in a flutter after Sue Richards, the Invisible Girl, has fainted at the FF's Baxter Building HQ. Everyone's upset as Reed carries Sue to bed but she assures them she's fine, it was just the heat. Ben feels a bit awkward and takes off on his sky-cycle. Not far away, the wildly-garbed Psycho-Man whips out his magic box, or should I say his psycho ray, with its three enormous, Senior-sized buttons labeled 'Fear,' 'Doubt,' and 'Hate,' and terrorizes a hapless minion who failed to deliver the mysterious "Component Five" to the proper address. By pressing the 'Fear' button, he causes the poor man to imagine some horrible thing coming after him. He jumps out a window. You would think this would be his end, but we are told that that he landed on a ledge below. Yeah...right. The Psycho-Ray seems like it could be a precursor, in appearance anyway, to a Mother Box. The Psycho-Man turns and faces his other minions. Here is where I felt this issue really fell short: instead of some wildly imaginative characters, we instead got three boring stooges who would have fit in better as members of the Green Goblin's Enforcers or the Circus of Crime, not as agents of the high-tech, alien-like Psycho-Man. There's Livewire, who looks like a cowboy; Ivan, a bald guy with a gun; and Shell-Shock, a hairy guy with a gun. It's like Kirby ran out of gas here. These three cretins decide to mouth off to the obviously superior Psycho-Man and he fires up the psycho-ray again, this time giving them a dose of Doubt. They come crawling back to him, literally. He tells them if they want to stay in his good graces, find Component Five. It seems it was delivered to a blind girl. Hmmm...


Doug: In regard to Livewire, I kept seeing Kid Colt whenever he was on-page, but as you remarked he also bore a resemblance to Montana from the Enforcers. And despite my agreement as to Kirby's less-than-inspired creation of those three "toughs", I will say that Jack never shortchanged the reader on the designs of his main bad guys. We've heard through the years how many artists would complain about being assigned to team books such as the Avengers or the Legion of Super-Heroes. I'd argue that being assigned to a book with Galactus, or the Psycho-Man, would drive an artist nuts. Look at the detail in those designs!

Karen: The Thing is at his girlfriend Alicia Masters' apartment (who happens to be blind... you see where this is going...) and she tells him that she got an unexpected delivery. He examines it -it appears to be a large golden cube. As he tries to figure out how to open it, he hears a voice and is startled to see a monster. He's not sure why, after all he's seen and done, but he's overcome with fear. But he goes ahead and battles the creature anyway. But it is far more powerful than he is. Desperate to protect Alicia, trying to rally himself, he yells his battle cry, "It's clobberin' time!" The monster disappears, as if it was never there -but the Thing is so overcome with exhaustion, he passes out. Towering over him is the Psycho-Man, who admires his perseverance. Ben had been fighting his own fear of losing control of his strength and hurting others. Few victims of the psycho-ray even fight back. With the Thing out of the way, the Psycho-Man and his goons grab Component Five and take off, but not before the villain blabs that it's the final thing he needs to complete a gigantic version of his psycho-ray that will allow him to control the emotions of everyone on Earth! Once they take it to his base on a Caribbean island and install it, he'll be master of the world! Hoo boy.

Doug: Odd to have one's base of operations in the Caribbean, but then I suppose no one enjoys 24-hour do-badding; the locale would certainly be advantageous for those off hours. It cracked me up how Psycho-Man's three lackeys were all gung ho to overthrow him, yet now -- after being subjected to one of his emotional rays -- are all about doing whatever bidding needs done. Did you think a monster was the best way to depict Ben's fear of hurting others? Why wouldn't that have manifested itself in a fear of touching anything? We could have seen Alicia want to hold Ben's hand or ask him to kiss her and him drop to the floor quaking in distress. A monster seemed too easy a vehicle and didn't really convey what I thought was going on.

Karen: I agree, that's just one of the 'shortcuts' the story takes, rather than really fleshing certain ideas out. The Caribbean is a popular spot it seems. The Black Panther has purchased an island there and named it, somewhat immodestly, Panther Island. He is running along the beach with his men, using equipment to detect some intruders who just landed there. He dismisses his men and travels on alone, intent on finding out who the strangers are. Suddenly his feet are grabbed by long red strands of hair! He is pulled into a clearing to face Medusa and Karnak of the Inhumans. Karnak immediately attacks the Panther, while Medusa tries to calm her cousin down. But before things get too far, a powerful figure appears -it is Blackbolt, ruler of the Inhumans. Blackbolt signals for peace, and intrigued, the Panther stops and takes it all in. Then the slient king flies off towards a small rock outcropping in the water. He uses his mastery over molecules to "harden" the water into a bridge the other three can cross. Medusa says that Blackbolt senses danger. She wishes that their cousins Gorgon and Triton were with them as well. Karnak reminds her that Gorgon is on an errand and will return soon, but Triton is with Crystal in New York, staying with the FF and her boyfriend, Johnny Storm. At this the Panther perks up. "The Torch? Then, we share a friend in common!" He declares that whatever the danger is, they'll face it together. Karnak uses his power to detect weakness and strikes the rock perfectly, shattering the reef into a million pieces. I'm not really clear why the Inhumans are here -it seems they knew about Psycho-Man somehow, but if there was an explanation in here, I missed it. 

Doug: If I was T'Challa, I'd be suing the realtor or former owners of the island for not engaging in full disclosure about the property! And above you mentioned the contrivances of this story -- seriously? The Psycho-Man is hanging out in the islands and on the same one at the same time (no less!) that T'Challa decides to open up a western branch of his Wakandan kingdom. Yeah... I was also unclear as to the goals of the Inhumans at this point. I also wondered if the intruders that T'Challa had detected were the members of the Royal Family, or Psycho-Man and his goons? I suppose we're to believe it was the Inhumans, as it's Blackbolt who detects the presence of the others. Still -- Wakandan tech was so advanced that I still think it was the Psycho-Man that T'Challa was unwittingly looking for. Question -- in terms of coloring, do you prefer the Panther as colored here with the blacks highlighted by gray, or the more common coloring of the blacks highlighted by dark blue? I am partial to the latter.

Karen: Hmmm, I am used to the dark blue, but I find myself also appreciating the grey color too. But I guess if I had to choose one it would be the blue. It seems darker and sleeker.

Karen: Back in New York, Ben and Alicia come rushing into Reed's lab, where we find the rest of the FF (and Crystal) hanging out. Ben excitedly tells Reed that they have to go after Psycho-Man, but Reed calmly says they can't go anywhere without a plan. Ben gets more agitated but Reed says there's another reason he doesn't want to rush off -Sue's pregnant. Everyone is stunned -and then delighted. Kirby draws Ben and Johnny reacting like big kids, running around carrying Reed through the HQ, while Alicia and Crystal hug and congratulate Sue. Ben's excited to be an "almost uncle" and Red and Sue tell him they'd like him to be the Godfather. It's a charming slice of Fantastic Four family life. After the excitement settles down, Ben decides that if they're going to have a kid to look after, they really do have to make sure they catch the Psycho-Man, and just because Reed and Sue can't go after him, there's no reason he and Johnny can't. "I ain't gonna let no kid of ours git born into the same world with creeps like them runnin' around loose!"


Doug: I loved the aspect of communal ownership and care for this unborn baby. You are right in that it truly set this magazine apart from the rest. Through the years it made the Fantastic Four, along with Amazing Spider-Man, two standout titles among the others. Although Avengers has always been my favorite, it never could equal some of the warm fuzzies generated by the well-rounded casts and ingrained emotions of FF and ASM.

Karen: The previously-mentioned creeps are setting up the Psycho-Man's machine on his hidden Caribbean base. Oddly enough, they are putting Component Four into place -is this the same component they took from Alicia's apartment? That was called Component Five. And the art shows only four such components. This seems like a lapse on Lee's part.  Psycho-Man tells his minions that the base has been discovered by intruders -of course, he's taking about Blackbolt and company. He tells them to get out and take care of them. Now hold on -these three grade Z guys, with their trick guns, are going to take on Blackbolt, the Panther, Medusa, and Karnak? Blackbolt alone should be able to handle all of them! Sheesh. As the three prepare to exit the underground base, Blackbolt blasts through.  Ivan whips out his solar pistol and blinds Blackbolt. Livewire uses his electric lariat to tie up Medusa, while the Panther has to dodge Shell-shock's seeker missile. He manages to evade it long enough to bring it back to his enemy, blasting him. Karnak goes after Livewire, jumping through his lariat and knocking him out. Once Blackbolt recovers his sight, he easily takes down Ivan, one punch sending him sailing. 

Doug: I also noticed the disconnect in the names of the components. In fact, I went back to that previous scene to be certain I'd read it correctly. But when the editor is also the writer, I guess missteps can fall through the cracks. 

Doug: If you think that goons come in groups of three, which they often do, then consider some other groups as compared to this unnamed trio: The previously mentioned Enforcers, with no super powers at all. The mainstay on the Frightful Four, including the Wizard, the Trapster, and the Sandman. Shoot -- even the Ani-Men! I'd concur that Blackbolt by himself could take out any of those trios; this group of misfits shouldn't have been any trouble. So this was a really unsatisfying part of the story. Although antagonists, there was no real sense of antagonism.

Karen: The Psycho-Man is adjusting his device, when he realizes his minions have been overcome. Nevertheless, he finishes the job, and decides to first use his tool on his attackers. Blackbolt and crew race towards his location but are stopped by a wall. Suddenly, a glow appears in the air -it is the Inhuman dog Lockjaw, teleporting in with Triton, Johnny Storm, and the Thing. How did they know where to go? Karnak says, "Perhaps he sensed we needed them!" That's as good an explanation as we'll get, and about all we need I suppose! The good guys all line up and do that slow-motion march towards the wall, with Blackbolt up front, leading them. You can just imagine some cool soundtrack music to accompany this scene. Lee writes, "We suggest you study this illustration carefully, and perhaps even file it away in some safe repository - for it is unlikely you will soon see another such awesome aggregation of raw power as now confronts your ever lovin' eyes!"

Doug: While it's a great visual, perhaps done best in Monsters, Inc., I was underwhelmed. Among the Silver Age FF Annuals, this one ranks far behind #2, #4, and #6 on my favorites list (I don't think I've ever read #1, if anyone's wondering, and I think #3 has become so cliched that it's lost what must have been some bright luster when first published). All that being said, there is a definite sense of anticipation whenever we read a tale where the cavalry arrives to make all things right!

Karen: The wall seems to disappear and a bizarre multi-limbed creature pops up and attacks. Blackbolt, the Thing, and Triton begin wrestling with it but it is like the mythical Hydra -when they hurt it , it grows more limbs. Triton puts up a good fight but it taken down. Meanwhile, Medusa and Karnak seek out the source of a mechanical humming sound. It appears to come from behind a wall, which Karnak strikes. Rather than shattering, the wall sticks to his hand like tar. As he struggles, the Psycho-Man watches from another room, pleased with his Fear device. An alarm goes off and he becomes aware that the Panther is sneaking up on him. He uses the machine on the stealthy hero and the Panther believes he is being attacked by a catlike humanoid.


Doug: I don't know what you saw, but I saw this monster as some sort of inhuman speaker. Check 'im out: tweeters on his upper arms, woofers on his mid-arms! Perhaps the biggest thing he had going for him was an unending case of UGLY! I almost got the sense while reading this that Kirby had never left the monster books of a decade earlier. Even with the psycho ray, it's a plot device that we might have seen in Tales of Suspense, pre-Iron Man. But I suppose there's no harm in recycling an idea and putting it in a new context, in this case with our beloved FF cast of misfits. And always a fan of the metaphysical realms, Kirby did indeed borrow that Hydra element from Greek mythology. As to the fellow who attacked the Panther? At first glance, he could be Blastaar's kid brother!

Karen: On the surface of the island, Gorgon returns from his errand to find the Inhumans' base empty. Alarmed, he spots the "hard water" bridge Blackbolt had created earlier and heads for the rocks, which now have smoke coming up from them. Inside Gorgon finds the Torch and Medusa battling a fire-proof monster. Gorgon stomps his hoofed feet and dispels the creature -so if it was an illusion, it was one everyone could see? But it was the Torch's fear, why could they all see it..oh, never mind. Next they group runs off and finds Karnak, who was also freed from his sticky situation by his cousin's thundering feet. But cousin Triton isn't fairing so well. He is trapped inside a clear, dry cube. Without any humidity, he'll die. Gorgon stomps again and the shock waves cause the cube to disappear. The group find Blackbolt and The Thing, whose titanic foe has also vanished. Now they are faced with that wall which bars their way. But the Thing is having none of it. He tears the wall apart, only to come face to face with the enormous muzzle of the Psycho-Man's weapon. The Psycho-Man says that a single blast will be enough to destroy all of them. Acting swiftly, Blackbolt uses his little antenna doohickey on his forehead to fire an energy beam and completely destroy Psycho-Man's ray. But the villain doesn't seem very upset. "I am Psycho-Man, soon the master of Earth!" he proclaims. "We should'a guessed -another nut!" Ben says. Psycho-Man says that despite the destruction of his big old gun, he can always build another one. In the meantime, he'll wipe them out with his Psycho-ray. He then decides to tell them his story -hey, why not, right? -he's not a human being at all, but a denizen of Sub-Atomica, the tiny worlds within worlds that exist at sub-microscopic levels. He is the greatest scientist of his world -which is faced with over population. Looking for places to expand to, he discovered the Earth. Figuring Earthlings would be defenseless against his mind-weapons, the Psycho-Man created this artificial body and began his one-man invasion, preparing the way for his people. While his speechifying goes on, the Panther has recovered from his fight and makes his way towards the chamber. Just as the Psycho-Man turns his Fear ray on the heroes, the Panther springs on him. But he comes up with a limp, lifeless suit. Confused, the Panther looks for help. Ben explains, "He can't bother us any more than any pint-sized germ floatin' around the joint!" Karnak ponders the villains' fate. "I wonder! Has he returned to the sub-atomic world from whence he came? Or is he now forever trapped within that now useless suit?" Seemingly unconcerned (where is Reed when you need him!) the heroes wrap it up, satisfied that they've ended the Psycho-Man's threat.

Doug: In addition to Kirby's fabulous costume and character designs, he was also quite adept at technology. I was happy to see Ben astride the jet cycle near the beginning of the story, and I've always liked the sleek look of the craft on which Gorgon rides. Of course, none of that tops the rocket shoes Ben wears in the poster later on in this magazine (we've featured it several times -- check it out here). Anyway, your point about Gorgon's dispelling of the monster is well-taken. If it was the Fear ray that the Psycho-Man had employed, why would each person present have seen the same thing? Certainly T'Challa was engaged with a wholly different beastie (Karnak's fear was different as well). Did the thunder of Gorgon's hoof break the concentration of those who were under the ray's control? I don't want to say there weren't well-done elements of this story -- there were -- but there was enough head-scratching going on by me that left me a bit dissatisfied. 

Doug: I did like Psycho-Man's origin, and maybe some of our readers can clue me in -- is he from the same sort of Sub-Atomica as Psyklop, or Jarella? This sort of idea, where the very atoms and molecules can be universes in their own right, should have opened up an endless array of story possibilities. 

Karen: I think you can see what I meant about this being a 'popcorn' movie annual. It's big, it's goofy, it's fun, but it doesn't stand up to a lot of scrutiny. Still, it wasn't a bad way to spend 30-40 minutes! The Psycho-Man was an interesting foe, and this makes me want to pull out the FF issues with his appearances that followed.

Doug: Yes, agreed. If I recall, the second story featuring this base villain is more interesting, and would of course feature Joe Sinnott back on the inks. Speaking of, it's no secret that Sinnott was as much a part of the success of the Silver Age FF as Terry Austin was to the Bronze Age X-Men. But I feel like I've unfairly denigrated Frank Giacoia's work throughout this post. I really don't have a problem with Giacoia overall. I just don't know that I'd ever say that he'd be my go-to guy. He's steady, not going to get in the way... but when it comes to the "look" of certain books in certain timeframes, I want the Cadillac version. And in this particular case, that would involve Joe Sinnott.


Karen: Yes, Joe Sinnott was sorely missed here. Something  I find interesting is that this annual and the next year's (number 6) are really a set when you look at the events contained in them: in this one, we get the announcement of Sue's pregnancy with Franklin, and then a year later, in number 6, we have the story of Reed, Ben, and Johnny risking everything in the Negative Zone to ensure that Franklin and Sue both survive the childbirth. The two annuals are linked in that both dealt with the pregnancy, this one more peripherally than #6. But even so, it's as if they felt the need to put these events (the announcement and then the birth) into annuals rather than regular sized issues. Although I'd say annual 6 is a far superior read!

Karen: As a summer-time bonus, we're including some  pin-ups of the 'incomparable' Inhumans that were a part of this Annual! Enjoy!















14 comments:

pfgavigan said...

In several conversations that I had with prominent comic artists of that era I found, to my surprise, that Giacoia was the preferred inker of their work. I believe this was because Mr. Giacoia was extremely faithful to the original pencils and did not alter them to his artistic taste.

That said, while I believe that Mr. Giacoia was a talented inker who could work effectively with nearly every Bronze Age artist, I also feel that he seemed to, for lack of a better term, fossilize the pencils rather than enhance them. They seemed to lack the spontaneity, the fluidity of form and motion that someone such as Mr. Sinnott could endow them with.

Perhaps this was a problem in the original artwork, perhaps not.

pfgavigan

david_b said...

Great review..!!

I remember picking this up while over in Kuwait. I was all excited to grab a VF copy of it. I will agree the story's conclusion seemed lacking.., and I was all excited about this 'new story'.

First off, the likes..:

1) I find Psycho Man as one of the last great Kirby villains. Awesomely-designed suit (dig those leg hoops..), obnoxiously arrogant personality, he's got it all on the surface.

2) Totally agreed on the warmth and charm of the announcement Sue's in 'the family way'.., so to speak. It's what made the FF resonate so much more; as mentioned, these moments really elevate their realism along side Peter Parker's world quite vividly. Obviously I read it 30-some years after it was published, but I can certainly imagine Marvel readers yelping for joy right along side Benjy.

(As for the previous topic of comics that 'hold up well', this would easily be in the TRUE column..)

3) Not sure if it was a ploy to strengthen a weak story, or just plain pulling out the stops for 'annual's sake', but adding the Inhumans and T'Challa was certainly a welcome change of pace although you didn't really learn too much more about their characters here, it was just added muscle against ol' Psych.

4) LOVE the classic annual extras of the full page gallery pics. Silver Age Annuals stopped being fun or even EVENTFUL when they stopped doing that (Daredevil King Size Annual 1, anyone..?)

5) Classic dynamic underrated cover. Not toooo busy, but it contained sufficient Bullpen exclamations, etc.. It would have certainly got me excited pulling it off the rack in a heartbeat.

The dislikes..?

1) Agreed on the minions.. What was Lee/Kirby thinking..? Bored with your typical gangster/hitmen..? Seemed somewhat phoned-in, indicative of most of this tale, unfortunately.

2) Agreed on the 'Component Five'.., cool looking machine, but there should have been some Kirby-styled 'special cradel' in the middle for the fifth element, ala Cosmic Cube or something along those visual lines.

3) Agreed that Annual 6 was to be much MUCH better of a story, and I didn't really notice that both 5 and 6 were related in that manner (Sue's announcement/delivery) until mentioned here. Annual 6 was by far the superior story.

4) The ending here..? Just an empty suit..? Umm, ok.

All in all, the ability to attack your foes with their worst fears isn't too original, but it works pretty well here and does serve as a nice 'first appearance' issue for what should have been a more major FF villain. I first read Psycho-Man during Byrnes '80s tenure, which was done well. In fact, other than his follow-up appearance in ish 76-77, wasn't that really the second time ol' Psych threatened the FF..., some 200 issues later..?

Certainly a regrettably looooong gap for an entertaining Silver Age villain concept like Psycho-Man.

Anonymous said...

Last year I re-read the FF stories from 1961 - 67 via Essential/Masterworks reprints and I thought there was a noticeable drop off in quality of the stories around the time this annual hit the stands. Supposedly the Him two parter that appeared earlier that year had been the last straw for Kirby regarding Stan's dialogue altering his intent for the plot. And Stan may have been backing off on his input because he was occupied with other matters - Marvel's big expansion was only months away.

Garett said...

I like that opening splash page, and the scene celebrating the pregnancy, and the pinups.

Edo Bosnar said...

Nice review, Karen & Doug!

Kid said...

I always felt that the less Stan seemed to direct or be involved with events, the less interesting the FF generally became (with exceptions, obviously). Apart from the four issue Doom/Surfer tale, and the four issue Ben/Skrull saga (and the Galactus Trilogy), I think the earlier, simpler issues were more enjoyable, on the whole. As for Jack's art, the more it was inked like he pencilled it, the less impact it had. Kirby needed a talented inker that enhanced his strengths and diluted his weaknesses; in this case, Frank Giacoia inked it as it was. My two cents.

Graham said...

This was one of my favorite FF stories and I read the reprint of the story that was in the Giant Size FF series in the early/mid 70's.

Around this time, continuity was a problem because we didn't always get every month's issues where I lived. I wasn't actually reading the regular series so much, just the Giant Size issues (because they were usually one and done) and the reprints in Marvel's Greatest Comics, so this was a really cool read and I found out more about the Black Panther and the Inhumans.

Anonymous said...

If Joltin' Joe was a Cadillac, then Giacoia was a Honda Fit! Frank was one of those inkers who serviced pencils adequately but never gave you that wow factor. Ben is definitely drawn differently here.

I'm not privy to what was going on behind the scenes when Stan wrote this. Was he distracted by other projects when he wrote this? Even though I agree with Doug that it's a fun romp I think Stan tried to cram too many characters into one story. It's just too convenient to have T'Challa and the Inhumans on the same Caribbean island!

The best part of this annual seems to be Kirby's art. Excelsior!


- Mike 'Trinidad lies southeast of Panther Island' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Karen said...

Thanks for your comments folks. I guess it's saying something that even a lesser effort by the Lee - Kirby team still proves entertaining. I do find it interesting to try to pinpoint the beginning of the decline of the duo. There were a variety of reasons for it, but it's readily apparent when we go back and read the books. I just wonder if it was obvious at the time, or if it took a while for readers to realize that the book was dropping off?

Humanbelly said...

That sort of becomes a worthy topic of its own, doesn't it? "At what point did a great run begin to lose its luster?" I wonder if we've hit that before, even. It's not quite as obvious as trying to pin down a shark-jump, but still sort of in the same world.

HB

Steve Does Comics said...

Karen, re your question. Thanks to Marvel UK's "Mighty World of Marvel" reprint comic, I read all the 1960s FF tales in order when I was a kid. I remember reading this one in 1975, when I was eleven, and it hit me in the face straight away that something was going horribly wrong in front of my eyes. After years of always loving every FF tale as it came along, this one just seemed a mess, it felt overcrowded, scattershot and Psycho Man's lackeys just felt lame. Somehow the strip never again seemed as good to me as it had been before this tale.

I can therefore confirm that, for me at least, it was obvious at the time that the decline had set in.

Karen said...

Thanks for that validation Steve. It must have been rough to see it falter like that.

Steve Does Comics said...

Fortunately, at the same time that they printed that tale, Marvel UK were also reprinting the Spider-Man drugs story, the Avengers vs Adamantium Ultron story, Barry Smith's Conan, the first Defenders story and the first meeting of Thor and Galactus; so, the disappointment of the FF vs Psycho Man was pretty easy to bear.

pfgavigan said...

I'm not certain if the 'notice the decline' isn't one of those 'hindsight is twenty-twenty' things>. After the fact we can all find warning signs.

I'm really not well informed enough regarding this era. At the time of publication my comic book purchasing options were limited to the magazine section at a local jewelry store. And this was severely hampered by a distribution dispute that limited the product to DC, Archie and Harvey Comics. I only saw one Marvel comic there in two years and by the time I had found a new source, sounds like a drug buy doesn't it, Kirby was gone and Stan wasn't writing anymore.

pfgavigan

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