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:
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)...