Saturday, May 18, 2013

True or False: Fantastic Four is the World's Greatest Comic Magazine



david_b said...

Sure, TRUE.

"Who else is a contender..?"

Seriously, while most would agree out of favorite stories or memories, Lee/Kirby's FF has introduced more far-ranging concepts to the industry with ripple-effects far beyond the Marvel Bullpen.

Just to consider Doom, Kree, Skrulls, Negative Zone, Watcher, Galactus, Inhumans, "This Man.. This Monster!", team bickering/conflict.

But more than that, it was the FF that brought early synergy, confidence and scope-broadening to Lee and Kirby's creative vision.

And that masthead caused a boy like me, suffering through a long hot, cross-country summer family road trip back in '73 to spend 20 cents at a gas station for ish 138.

Suddenly that trip got a WHOLE lot better.

J.A. Morris said...

False. But david_b makes the case that it's the most important comic series of all time.

It started "The Marvel Age" of comics and introduced so many great characters in addition to the FF themselves.

Comicsfan said...

Gosh, I haven't read FF in so long that I don't feel qualified to answer this one.

Can I cross out "is" and pencil in "was"?

cerebus660 said...

Personally, I would answer "True" but amend the statement to read "The Fantastic Four from #1 to #102 was The World's Greatest Comic Magazine..."

William Preston said...

. . . of the Bronze Age."


david_b said...

Agreed with everyone.., especially the Lee/Kirby years as mentioned.

Like it or not, it rivaled Spiderman industry influence of carving out a flawed, vulnerable hero, layering in drama and pathos.

But did it's success not give Kirby the gravitas to create and weave ideas into 'Fourth World' and arguably, co-create X-Men among others..?

It's influence was a benchmark for other companies to literally redefine cosmic adventures and team dynamics..

And..frankly, WHAAAAT a benchmark.

Anonymous said...


William said...

Depending on who the creative team is, I'd say TRUE. During the Lee/Kirby years the Fantastic Four definitely was "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine". And I personally would also argue the same of the Byrne years.

It seems that the FF has always been the center around which the rest of the Marvel Universe revolves. It was the first of the new age of Marvel superhero comics, and it purposefully broke all the rules. No costumes (at first), no secret identities, a teenage member who was an equal member of the team and not just a sidekick, etc. etc.

Most of the enduring mythology of the Marvel U was also introduced in the FF. Things like Galactus, The Negative Zone, Skrulls (and other alien races), The Inhumans, The Watcher, and so on. And let's not forget that Marvel's greatest villain, Doctor Doom, is also the FF's arch enemy.

When handled correctly the Fantastic Four is a really fun read, and is one of my favorite comics. But when handled incorrectly (as they so often are, especially these days), some of the stories can actually be quite tedious to endure.

John Byrne once wrote something to the effect that - at the risk of sounding immodest, only Lee/Kirby and himself really understood how to do the Fantastic Four right. I would have to agree. Excelsior!!

Karen said...


That was another bit of Stan Lee hyperbole. From 1965-1967, it could make a claim at that title. But otherwise, no, too many average to downright poor runs to let that statement stand.

And now I am off to see the new Star Trek film -and tomorrow we'll throw open the blog to let everyone give their (spoiler-free) thoughts on it!

Anonymous said...

If this wasn't true would it be printed on the cover? ;)

More seriously, I guess I have to say false because that designation has no meaning.

I mean, FF's Lee/Kirby and Byrne runs would be in my top 5 comics to be stuck on a deserted island with, but overall it has been really uneven, and a tad bit repetitive and tedious (even more than usual for superhero comics).

I tried the recent Marvel NOW restart (not a reboot, but a new premise for the family leaving Earth for a while) and it stunk, but strangely the FF (Future Foundation) series by the same writer is a helluva lot of fun, with great art and it takes place in the Baxter Building. I have a blog post about the latest issue going live on Monday morning.

In the current era of Marvel comics Reed Richard essentially reads as a villain to me, having more in common with Dr. Doom or whoever than I like (esp. whenever he teams up with the equally villainous Tony Stark).

But when it was at its best, it was certainly the best and as pointed out above, its influence was incalculable.

Edo Bosnar said...

False. Karen's point about hyperbole is apt. Honestly it can't be said about any single title I can think of, Marvel, DC, Charlton or anyone else.
However, I agree that it was certainly great, perhaps even greatest, at the height of the Lee/Kirby years, and also during most of the Byrne run.

Anonymous said...

False. Amazing Spider-Man, Batman/Detective or even Superman/Action would be better contenders (bearing in mind that it's completely subjective anyway).

Mike W.

david_b said...

Ok, as comments have shown here, it really depends on what your 'exactly' asking..? 'Greatest Comic Magazine' in terms of what..?

It's influence and impact of it's 'glory years'..? That's not even arguable, still today.

It's longevity of hi-qual stories..? It tanked post-Buscema, some say earlier.. And I didn't like Byrne as much as others here either.

Like the other 'Fab Four' of the 60s, they had meager beginnings (Chic Stone inking prior to Sinnott), rose to influential success, then unlike the Fabs, didn't quit while ahead.

But the Fabs still top or near-top every international 'fav group' poll, over 40yrs since they broke up.

Point is, you can say 'was' all day long, but for lasting impact (and influence as a benchmark, still regarded and heralded during their heyday..), I still qualify that as an 'is'.

William said...

Yeah, I suppose for any given individual, "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine" is the one they like the best. :)

Doug said...

I made no judgement when putting the post together. I just ran the statement as Stan had written it. I did decide on "is" as opposed to "was" -- you all have done a nice enough job of discussing the meaning of the different tenses.

William Preston's comment about the greatest comics magazine of the Bronze Age was intriguing to me, and no one else had run with it. I hope, William, if you come back by and see this, that you expound on your rationale for pigeonholing the book into that particular era. I'll wait, and then play off of your thoughts. My first impression is that you may go with artists, such as John Buscema, George Perez, and John Byrne -- all favorites of mine on the title.

I think Karen's drilling down to 1965-67 echoes the take in The Wonder Years book that I reviewed last month. That period truly was the zenith for the book, and for the Lee/Kirby team.

Nowadays? I got no idea.


William Preston said...

Hey, Doug.

In its Silver Age run, the comic is a lot of fun, but it's also juvenile, and the art at both the early and late stages of Kirby, only occasionally shines. (Plus, it's not around for the first so-many years of the Silver Age.) Still, what the comic establishes during the Silver Age, the things it sets in place for Marvel as a whole, can't be matched. So I do think much of what made it so great comes in the Silver Age.

I came of age later, reading Buscema, Buckler, and Perez drawing the comic, and other writers taking over from Lee. Pollard was okay, but Wolfman on the script was the worst; once Byrne came in, the series again became wonderful at the end of the Bronze Age--though it also read rather stiffly compared to what we'd by then seen in X-Men.

I can certainly see a vote for Spidey, but FF at its best is, to me, better than Spidey at his best.

Doug said...

William -- thanks very much!

Buckler was also the artist on the book when I started reading it, followed in just a few years by Perez (sadly, inked by Colletta on that first Hulk issue -- Sinnott needed a vacation every now and then). I agree with your comments about Pollard and Wolfman, too.

While Spider-Man may have been the best soap opera running, I do think that the FF was the premier mag being put out by Marvel.

It's funny, isn't it, that the X-Men dominated the 1980's-90's, and the Avengers most of the past decade or so. But if you look to those books historically, neither can hold a candle to the formative developments wrought by Lee and Kirby in the FF. What was really innovative coming out of the X-Men or the Avengers? I'm not trashing the books (Avengers has always been my favorite book), just wondering what all the hubbub has been. Marketing, I'd say, huh?


Anonymous said...

True - during the Lee/Kirby/Sinnott years, that is; false in the present era.
Hoo boy, the next blog is gonna be on the new Trek movie? As Shatner famously said on SNL - "Get a life!". Just kidding! LOL :)

- Mike 'did I just eat too much fried chicken? True!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

William Preston said...

FF has always been the true standard-bearer for Marvel, despite the marketing focus on Spidey, X-Men, Wolverine . . . what have you. Had the FF not worked so well for so long, the rest of Marvel would never have amounted to much. (And, yeah, I also love the Avengers.)

I've seen the more recent FF stuff (pre-Torch death) and found the storytelling by Hickman to be elliptical and too abstract. Some fun ideas, but, like the TV series LOST, no way to think them through narratively.

Fred W. Hill said...

It was hyperbole when Stan put it on the cover in 1962 but for much of the remainder of the decade it really was "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine", with the only other serious contender, IMO, being The Amazing Spider-Man, and there were periods even in the early Silver Age when Spidey really was better. In any case, even if the FF has long since fallen off the pedestal, it was really the starting place for more mature stories with characters who had distinct personalities and all too human foibles. All that and those incredible Kirby characters & concepts!

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Doug, I wouldn't say it was entirely marketing that boosted the X-Men, at least not initially. I never got the sense that there was any big hit superhero comic in the '70s -- about which fans raved over both the writing & art and which was a great seller for an extended time -- until near the end of the decade when both Daredevil by Frank Miller, and X-Men by Claremont & Byrne became Marvel's biggest hits, which was a big thing because they were both underdogs among the titles that lasted from Marvel's initial burst of creativity from 1961 - 1965.
Of course, I'm only speaking of the period up to the mid-80s, after which marketing seemed to start steamrolling over everything at Marvel, interrupting ongoing series for the latest mega-crossover and good storytelling getting shifted for marketing concerns.

Doug said...

Back atcha, Fred --

I agree with you. But once the '80's hit, the X-Men were featured in just about every mini-series Marvel produced. And the popularity of Wolverine continued to skyrocket. The X-Men caught that fire by association. And of course, Secret Wars and Secret Wars II ushered in the mega-crossover that you cited.

The Avengers became prominent because Quesada and Bendis said they should, I guess. :/


david_b said...

Ok, all..

Let's turn this question around....:

What would the 'Worlds Greatest Comic Magazine' be now..??


On the stands.

(crickets chirping...)

Yeah, didn't think anyone could put that moniker on any magazine nowadays.

Besides, no one even mentioned the 2nd Greatest Comic Magazine..

The 'Inferior Five', of course.

Garett said...

I've read quite a bit of FF, from Kirby to Perez to Buscema to Byrne...but they're not my favorite characters. I like the creativity that came out of the Lee-Kirby era, as many have mentioned, but it hasn't been the series that's gotten into my heart. As a kid I liked Torch, and now I like Thing, but never liked those other two...whatever their names are! ; )

Mad magazine might have a claim to greatest, with the quality of artists and writing from the '50s to the '80s. Since David brought it up-- a few epic series that may qualify for greatest in the last 10 years: 100 Bullets, Walking Dead, Criminal.

I'm not sure if it's been a topic yet, but could be: everyone's favorite epic series run of all time.

fantastic four fan forever said...

I would have to say true, because it was my first introduction to the world of super heroes. Back in 1967, I would watch the Hanna Barbera version of the Fantastic Four. That was very close to it’s comic roots. There was even one about the Silver Surfer meeting Galactus. That same year, the ABC Network ran the Spider-Man cartoon series for three years. Unfortunately, the FF only lasted 19 episodes. However, it left such an impression on me as a child, I never forgot the cartoon , the music and sound effects of that classic. I had a friend of mine get a DVD of all 19 episodes and I still have fond memories of them.

But I digress, the first 100 or so classic issues of the comic were never surpassed after Kirby left. The art and character of the book was never, ever the same again. I cherish those issues as a child because it was the end of era after issue 102. As much as I liked George Perez and John Byrne’s runs on the title, they could never duplicate the magic that Kirby brought to the page!

Rip Jagger said...


It was perhaps once upon a time when it was produced by "The King" and "The Man", but not for a very long time.

Rip Off

Joseph said...

I'm voting 'yes'.

Not always and not necessarily right now, but overall I will vote YES.

Fred W. Hill said...

In response to David B's question as to what is the "greatest comic magazine" now, I doubt there'll be any consensus on that even among the relatively small Bronze Age Babies community.
I stopped collecting floppies age ago and lately the only current series I even get collections of is Fables. These days I just prefer comics that are self-contained (or mostly so). Anyhow, I think most if not all of us would agree that a great comic is not based on the title character(s) but on the talent of the creative team and what they do with the characters. Whatever greatness the FF had was not based on the four particular stars of the series & their unique powers but on the stories Lee & Kirby came up with for them and the character traits they imbued them with.

ChrisPV said...

First off, david_b? I would like, most heartily, to vote for Atomic Robo. It's just so much fun. It doesn't get bogged down in needless continuity, no retcons, really crisp artwork, and has a wonderful, adventure feel to things.

As for the FF? I think it is, if you're going by potential. When you've got those four personalities bouncing off each other, coupled with how Reed just happens to have a portal to an alternate dimension in his spare room, you can go anywhere and anytime. It's a lot like Doctor Who in that regard: if you can't find stories to tell about a dysfunctional family with a spaceship AND a time machine, you have no business in comics.

However, the big problem with the book (if you want to call it a problem) is that it's inherently optimistic. It's all spirit of adventure and discovery. The origin hinges on going out and doing something no one has done before. It's about family and how you love people, but don't necessarily always like them. That's tricky to do, and frankly given the way the medium has shifted over the years to be less optimistic by nature, I think the FF are viewed as this quaint afterthought by Marvel. Consequently, they don't get much push in either talent or marketing and seem to chug along on force of inertia. No book is going to be brilliant under those circumstances, no matter how good the premise is.

maw maw said...

False. For most of its run in the 1960s (and beyond) Spider-man was better than the FF.

spencer said...

Based on what it created, and what followed, I would say true. The original run by Lee/Kirby, doesn't have any comparisons that I can think of. I'm sure others will disagree.

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