Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fire up the grill for a Fantastic Four Roast!



Fantastic Four Roast #1 (May 1982) ( Cover by Fred Hembeck and Terry Austin)
"When Titans Chuckle" 
Story by Fred Hembeck, plot by Jim Shooter, art by: Fred Hembeck and just about everyone else

Redartz:  Happy Saturday everyone! Today we will kick back, loosen up, and laugh a bit; the source of the hilarity: one of my all-time favorite single comics, Fred Hembeck's "Fantastic Four Roast". It may be possible to fit more fun into a 32 page comic, but I don't know how. 

To start, here's the 100-Word Review:

The Fantastic Four are the honored guests at a "roast" dinner, featuring blessings and brickbats from just about everyone in Marvel's 80's universe. Fred Hembeck himself serves as Master of Ceremonies, and he introduces both the dinner courses and the abundant speakers. We witness loads of banter between the guests and guests of honor, replete with puns both verbal and visual. Unfortunately some mystery villain appears to be sending deadly dishes for our Foursome to partake of. After Dr. Doom denies his involvement, the assembled heroes discover the identity of the true culprit,and the day (and dinner) is saved! 

Man, where to start? Why, the cover! Fred Hembeck fills it up completely with his signature curly-jointed figures. I loved Fred's humorous cartoons in the 80's, and bought several of his comics (and I need to replace those...). His stories are good for lots of laughs, full of puns and nostalgia. He speaks for the comic geek in all of us! 

Once we open the book, we are bombarded by a hailstorm of humor. The artwork is so jam-packed, you need a magnifier to catch all the detail. I would love to see some pages of original art for this story, simply so I could admire the artwork better! For instance, page 3 introduces the Avengers, Defenders, Inhumans, X-Men, and Legion of Monsters (!), in the space of 5 panels; complete with claustrophobic crowd detail in the backgrounds. My eyes are still refocusing...




The artwork in this comic is a treasure trove. Hembeck provided layouts, and everyone (a list follows shortly) took it from there. Often the characters were rendered by the artists most associated with them, for example: the Spider-man panels by John Romita Jr. and Sr., Captain America by Mike Zeck, Iron Man by Bob Layton, Daredevil by Frank Miller and Hulk by Sal Buscema. The artists seem to have had a lot of fun doing this book. Miller's Daredevil page is hilarious, with some self-parody as DD dramatically mugging with a flashlight. 

Hembeck has a fine feel for the voices of the characters he works with. He handles everyone with familiarity , starting from  the first pages with the Fantastic Four ( by Ron Wilson and John Byrne), with Ben and Johnny sparring as usual. He continues perfectly capturing each player, through the various character roasts and audience banter, to the last page where he brings the house down (literally). Fred has the whole Marvel toybox to play in, here; he makes the most of every piece.

There is way too much in this book to cover in detail, but I will mention a few great scenes: 

Here Spider-Man and the Torch , old friends and rivals, engage in some verbal sparring. Love Johnny Storm's comment about Spidey's showbiz faux pas...

Next up we find Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, making a splash with his entrance...and breaking the third wall with a reference to his return in the FF's comic...
















 HB, this page on the left is for you, courtesy of  "Our Pal Sal". On the right,  the Avengers and Champions get a few words in with their comments on the Fantastic Four's origin story:















Frank Miller's Daredevil page is a big highlight in this book. The Torch at a self-serve pump; gotta be a potential problem.

Eventually, after Black Bolt (of all people) reveals the existence of a threat to the gathering, Ben Grimm quickly assumes it is the work of Dr. Doom...


















Nonetheless, the gathered heroes quickly find the culprit, order is (somewhat) restored, and all is well. Yet I can't conclude without sharing this colossal two-page spread:



Ok, now take a deep breath; here's the list of artists  I promised earlier:
Fred Hembeck, Ron Wilson, John Byrne, Michael Golden, John Romita Jr. and Sr. , Al Milgrom, MIke Zeck, Bob Layton, Alan Weiss, John and Sal Buscema, Mike Vosburg, Kerry Gammill, Bob Hall, Keith Pollard, Frank Miller, Denys Cowan, Marshall Rogers,  Don Perlin, Gene Day, Walt Simonson, Frank Springer, Brent Anderson, Steve Leialoha, Dave Cockrum, Bill Sienkiewicz, Chic Stone, Terry Austin, Joe Rubinstein, Joe Sinnott, John Beatty, Ricardo Villamonte, Dan Green, Klaus Janson and Bob McLeod . Whew...

Thanks deeply to the Grand Comics Database for this list , here's a link to the page for this comic with all the specifics:
 http://www.comics.org/issue/36361/

This comic is a terrific remnant of the day when comics could be silly, free-wheeling and just plain fun. It would be wonderful to see a bit more of such things today ( albeit, to be fair, there are some light-hearted books coming out today, but that's a topic for another day)...

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, the Hulk's fondness for baked beans is legendary, after he was introduced to them by Cracker Jack Jackson.
However, I would not care to share a dais, or a county, for that matter, with a Hulk suffering from intestinal havoc.
M.P.

Humanbelly said...

Oh my lord-- which box is this in? 'Cause now I will OF COURSE need to go dig it back out-!! This is a great treat from the Bronze Age at its best, Redartz-- well done.

And thanks for the spotlight on the parody of "my" Hulk. LOVE Sal when he's doing a bit of humor like this, 'cause really--- he plays it pretty much straight stylistically and lets visual progression and (great!) facial expression carry the humor. Much more like a director/editor would do if working with real actors. (Best subtle bit? Black Bolt gamely smiling rather than laughing along with everyone else at Hulk's lame joke)

At some points in the book, it does suffer from the fact that comic book writers are not the same as Comedy writers, and the dialog and routines themselves can become labored, a or a touch flat, or just clunk (sometimes, mind you, not throughout). If I were to hazard a guess, I'd bet that this was never read aloud at any point, which would have gone a long way to tighten up the delivery. But that's going down the critical road much further than necessary.

My FAVORITE line in the whole book is, "WHAT did you do with Jimmy Hoffa, Dr Doom??"-- it just perfectly sums up the spirit and execution of the whole thing. I laughed and laughed aloud the first time I read it, and have been known to swipe it on occasion. . .

(And. . . a shout-out to whoever She-Hulk's skeevy first boyfriend was in her original series-! Can't believe he made the cut at this point!)

HB

Martinex1 said...

I knew this existed. Never owned it. Thought it was Hembeck art throughout. I think that is Gfolden when the guests arrive; that's a great page. It seems hilarious; I will have to find a copy. It reminds me of the What If humor issue. Thanks Redartz.

Humanbelly said...

I think you're correct on that arrival scene, MX1. It struck me as Golden doing just a bit of an homage to Marie Severin. (Man, HOW could they not have had her drawing something for this?? Surely she hadn't retired at this point, had she?)

HB

Anonymous said...

I just read this last year...it's pretty crazy!

Mike Wilson

Redartz said...

Thanks for the comments, all!

HB and Martinex1- yes, according to GCD that page is by Golden, inking himself. I can't believe how much he crammed into those panels. Nice observation regarding Marie Severin, HB- it is reminiscent of some of her work on Not Brand Echh, with little details scattered everywhere. And anyone interested in a copy could probably find one for next to nothing, a bargain...

Rip Jagger said...

One of the most entertaing comics of the era; a true hidden gem.

Rip Off

Colin Jones said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ward Hill Terry said...

Oh man, I love this book. And Hembeck. Thanks to his Fantaco books, I learned a lot of Marvel, DC, and Charlton history! As well as the enduring strengths of the stories of Little Lulu and Little Archie.
As for this book, I often think about some of my favorite lines from it. The Legion of Monsters gag, "Now there's a group you don't see everyday!", "No wonder they call him the Whizzer," and, after Johnny Storm says, "Wolverine, that's not funny." Wolverine responds, "Who do I look like? Bob Hope?"
More Hembeck!

Edo Bosnar said...

Not sure why I never had this one: it came out right when I was still in the thick of comics-reading, I had heard of it, and by that time I had already discovered comic shops. Anyway, I've heard this is quite entertaining (kind of like that excellent What If humor issue that Martinex mentioned), and I really like the art on the pages you posted. Altogether - nice one, Redartz.

Humanbelly said...

What If-? #34 would be a legitimate post-topic as well, I daresay. I wonder if maybe we could support a whole little Marvel/DC satire series sub-category that gets touched on every now and again? There's honestly enough output going back to the Silver Age that one could even start talking about stronger/weaker contributors, etc. . .

HB

Redartz said...

HB- count me in for the occasional look at humor and satire! You're right, there is a wealth: from "Arrgh!" To "Zap" (if we dare venture into the realm of undergrounds...)!

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