Hi anons, let try out a new type of storytime. As most probably know, the Marvel Universe proper debuted in August 1961 with the release of Fantastic Four #1... but that was of course not the only comic book Marvel was publishing at the time.
During the 1950s, Marvel, then known as "Timely" or "Atlas" (they didn't really market their books under a specific label and had a ton of different publishing labels) was publishing an absolute ton of titles, but in 1957 Martin Goodman in his infinite wisdom decided it would be a good idea to shut down his distribution company and have his books distributed by American News Distribution instead. American News Distribution went bankrupt very soon after signing their deal with Marvel, and a scrambling Goodman had to settle for having his books distributed by the DC Comics-owned Independent News instead. Independent News limited Marvel to only 8 comics a month, so Goodman ended up canceling pretty much his entire line of comics and change the few titles he had left to bimonthly books so he'd at least get 16 different titles on the shelves. This is known as the Atlas Implosion and was a pretty significant milestone in Marvel history.
In 1960, Goodman eventually managed to talk his way into getting 10 books a months, and in 1961 he had just managed to argue forth an increase to 11, which in actuality ended up being alternating months of 10 and 12 books each. August 1961 was the first of these 12-book months, and one of the new bimonthly books he added to his lineup was of course Fantastic Four.
But why don't we take a look at EVERYTHING he was publishing at the time? These 10 and 12 book months are pretty easy to split up into 5 and 6 books per thread, so this time we'll check out the first 5 books from November 1962.
Previous threads August 1961, part 1 August 1961, part 2 September 1961, part 1 September 1961, part 2 October 1961, part 1 October 1961, part 2 November 1961, part 1 November 1961, part 2 December 1961, part 1 December 1961, part 2 January 1962, part 1 January 1962, part 2 February 1962, part 1 February 1962, part 2 March 1962, part 1 March 1962, part 2 April 1962, part 1 April 1962, part 2 May 1962, part 1 May 1962, part 2 June 1962, part 1 June 1962, part 2 July 1962, part 1 July 1962, part 2 August 1962, part 1 August 1962, part 2 September 1962, part 1 September 1962, part 2 October 1962, part 1 October 1962, part 2
[Pulls up chair, settles back for some quality]
The first 5 November 1962 books were all published November 1st, and are the same titles we're used to since Fantastic Four went monthly:
"A Visit with the Fantastic Four" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers, lettering by Artie Simek
At the end of last issue Stan made some loose promises about how we'd get more details about the FF's origin this issue, but this hyper-meta story he starts the issue off with is way above and beyond what readers could've possibly expected.
Willie "Lumpy" Lumpkin was the star of a syndicated comic strip Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo did in 1959-1961. Since the strip had already ended by this point, Stan decided to throw the character into this story as a fun little reference for those that knew the strip, probably without any intent of him becoming a recurring character.
We've seen a few of these letters on the letter page, and they led to Stan running a poll to determine whether or not Sue should stay on the team. He ended the poll last issue with votes extremely overwhelmingly in favor of Sue staying.
*The Puppet Master's teeth are too big. *Sue should stay on the team, but she should do more and be a hostage less. *There should be an FF movie and TV show. *The book has improved greatly since issue 1, especially in terms of characterization and character development, which makes it really stand out *Issue #1 should get a reprint *If Ben and Alicia start a relationship it should actually go somewhere *The Torch must be saved (from what? Stan has no idea either) *The crediting of inker and letterer is a great addition and well deserved. *Namor is a great character but would work better as a hero. *Spider-Man, Thor, Ant-man, Namor and the Hulk should NOT join the FF *Alicia should be a recurring character *The celebrity cameos in #9 were great
This was a little behind the scenes feature Lee and Kirby used to answer some questions readers sent in on their letters and postcards (postcards?! remember them?). Our heroes are on a Manhattan street, going to a local store to get the new FANTASTIC FOUR comic. Yes, the comic we're reading is the same one they're appearing in. Sounds metaphyical, but I suppose it's no odder than athletes seeing actors playing them in movies. (Or even actors seeing children playing them as kids) You'd think the Four would get complimentary copies from the publisher as part of the deal, though.
Notice that most of the men are wearing hats; you can tell it's 1963. Soon after Kennedy took office, hats on men went out of style like they were banned under penalty of torture. Then at some point, baseball caps conquered heads and became commonplace. Another clue is Johnny wearing a suit and tie for no particular reason. Customs got more informal early in the 1960s as women started wearing pants more often and men went for T-shirts and jeans rather than suits.
Stan also explains why Johnny and Sue live in Glenville in Strange Tales (because the skycraper is just their HQ, they don't live there), provides the heroes ages (Reed and Ben are in their late 30s, Sue is in her 20s and Johnny just turned 17 (he was mentioned to be 16 not too long ago)) and announces that the FF/Hulk crossover he talked about last issue will happen in #12.
And here is the Namor pinup Stan promised last month.
Next page, the Four just happen to meet four children play-acting as them. What are the odds? Well, not too far-fetched if you remember that the Fantastic Four are huge celebrities at this time, the first super-heroes since WW II. When the Beatles were at their peak, they saw many guys trying to look like them, same with Bruce Lee (who said it was weird in Hong Kong to see his picture all over and so many young men imitating him.) I like Kirby's body language for the kids in the last panel, very true to life.
The overly formal clothes Kirby always gave teenagers were never realistic to begin with, though.
"The Impossible Man" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby/Dick Ayers, lettering by Artie Simek
For the first time ever, we get two entirely separate stories in the same FF issue.
People always rag on the Lincoln's mom comparison, but I always thought it was obvious that what Reed/Stan is saying is tgat you can contribute in other ways than as a fighter and still be considered an important member of a group. I never saw a problem with it.
That's an intriguing mention that at this point the FF don't live at the Baxter Building, We know about Sue and Johnny having a house out on Long Island. But Ben? Well, he was a test pilot and so pulled in serious bucks, He might have had a house all to himself but considering his personality, I bet Ben keep a modest bachelor apartment somewhere near Yancy Street.
Reed came from a well-off family and was an independent researcher,. My hunch is he might have owned kind of a ritzy home in Westchester with a separate lab building and some acreage for privacy, I don't know if this has ever been addressed.
And we end with another mention of next issue being a Hulk crossover. Stan really wants us to be excited for that.
This is great. You're a credit to comic readers everywhere, user.
It's an infodump but then Reed DOES ask him where he comes from and what he can do, The Impossible Man is happy to talk about himself, and it's information the FF wants to learn, Seems natural enough to me.
"The Other Kid Colt" by Stan Lee and Jack Keller
With this issue, Gunsmoke Western makes the leap to having a longer lead story as well. Though it's still lacking full credits for some reason.
That one line about Reed waiting for Sue back during WW II was a huge misstep. It makes Sue about 40 when the story takes place or else under ten in Reed's flashback.
I'm sure if Reed had taken a minute to think about the chronology, he would have worded that differently.. maybe Reed first met Sue a few years before FF #1, But Stan goofed, no one caught it and there it is, Homer napping, as they say.
It will eventually (like in the 80s) get cleared up as Sue being about 8 and Reed thinking of her as a little sister at the time, while Sue had the kind of light crush on him that little girls can have.
Oh, you're right, The word "all" ,makes quite a difference, I can see Reed staying there so much he basically moves in to be with the labs,
As for Ben, it seems like he might not want to spend that much time out in the neighborhood. He's mellowed from the first few issues but understandably a little touchy about people staring. Also, everything is constructed for his weight. Walking up creaking old apartment stairs might be a problem for him,