Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Roll With the Changes: the Fantastic Four

Doug: Welcome back to another historical look at cover logos and corner boxes -- this is Cropmania, Part II! Today we're going to examine the changes that took place on the World's Greatest Comic Magazine from its inception in 1961 through around 1985. So buckle in, comrade...

It's funny to look at the "plainness" of these early covers, but hey -- give Stan a break. After all, this was the book that ushered in the Marvel Age of Comics. So, it took awhile to get up to speed. I want you to notice the subtle change in the title from FF #1 to issue #2 -- see the movement of the word "The"? It would revert back to its original position and stay there until issue #17, when it would be gone altogether. Also, note that the cover to #4 (which also brought back the Sub-Mariner) was the first to boast Stan's bravado concerning his and Jack's new creation. Please also notice the corner box on issue #17; this artwork first appeared in the now-famous top left corner two issues earlier.

This FF logo would remain largely unchanged for almost the first 100 issues. And, the corner box art would remain static as well for the better part of the first five years. This is somewhat significant, as in our earlier discussion the Avengers corner boxes had changed virtually issue-to-issue. However, with FF #64, we began to see a little variety, as Jack Kirby designed boxes that spotlighted each team member individually, and these alternated on the covers for the next several years.

With Fantastic Four #95, there was a barely-noticeable change to the cover logo -- take heed if you will, comparing with the covers above, how the lettering loses some of its height. Not a big deal, and most people probably never paid any attention to it. But hey -- that's why I'm here.

And then... and then the changes seemed to start coming rapid-fire as we entered the High Bronze Age. First we got a new corner box, as Bashful Benjy seemed to run right off the page after us. Next came a short-lived revision of the logo, followed by Johnny in the corner (the Marvel Team-Ups he headlined would feature this image on the covers, too), and then finally a thorough revamping of the covers. The four headshots on the last cover are by Rich Buckler and Joe Sinnott. The logo that debuted on issue #160 was "my" FF logo, as it appeared on the first issue I bought with my own quarter at a drug store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The next change was the switching of Ben's headshot from the Buckler/Sinnott image to one drawn by George Perez and Sinnott; but you know what -- on second thought, it may be by Buckler as well. Thoughts? For whatever reason, the other three team members remained the same until issue #190 , when a total Perez revamp showed up and lasted for the next couple of years.

For you nostalgia buffs, this is the original logo, but shortly after this the title would revert to the style present on issue #95. You'll notice that the art is the same, although now the Four are bunched into a corner box again.

It's somewhat fitting that the cover logo reverted to this style, as John Byrne would soon reinvigorate the magazine with epic tales in the style of the Lee/Kirby heyday. We'd also see Byrne use the corner box to spotlight each member, or even to fit into the cover or greater story. Note that one of the boxes is sans Sue, and the men are not so much logos but floating heads!

Hope you enjoyed this look back -- anyone up for some X-Men?


Andrew Wahl said...

Bring on the X-Men, Doug! Seriously, I love this feature. I was surprised to find I had a very different reaction to the FF logos than I did the Avengers logos. Because I bought a lot more FFs as a kid, all of these logos kind of felt like "my" logos, where as with the Avengers there was no question the class arrow-A was the one with the most emotional tug. FYI, Todd Klein has done several logo studies over on his blog, including ones on the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. He offers some deep geek on these! You'll probably enjoy them, as will readers who enjoy "Roll With the Changes."

Keep 'em coming!


Fred W. Hill said...

Although I had a few of the early post-Kirby issues, my FF collection really began with Roy Thomas' retelling of their origin and first encounter with the Mole Man, by which time they'd already switched to that "modern" early '70s logo, with the "Four" nested under "Fantastic". That logo lasted throughout Conway's run, when the FF were really in flux, with Sue leaving, Johnny & Crystal breaking up and Johnny taking up the red costume, Medusa joining, Franklin lobotomized, etc. Notice that the third distinct logo started shortly after the original team was back together and all back in their standard costumes.
Anyhow, I actually prefer that original funky logo. To me, it just sort of fits the FF, in a way that the original Avengers logo no longer quite suited them by the time of the Kree-Skrull War. Maybe it's because the FF were essentially a family group while the Avengers, especially when their membership regularly exceeded 6 members, had more of a corporate feeling, especially when the "Big 3" (Cap, Iron Man & Thor) were part of the team.

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