Pencil and ink cover to Fantastic Four (Vol. 1) #1 taken from Digitizing Comics.
How Many Issues?
Fantastic Four #1-9 came out in 1962. The title started out bimonthly, but changed to monthly with #6.
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inkers: Christopher Rule (#1), George Klein (#1-2), Sol Brodsky (#3-4), Joe Sinnot (#5-6), Dick Ayers (#7-9)
Were They Good?
My initial reaction was that these issues were only “okay,” but when I think more about them, there are some pretty cool things going on. In these 9 issues, we get two ridiculous Doctor Doom plots and three crazy Sub-Mariner stories. Ignore the rest of the stories — which include classic stories involving the Skrulls and the Mole Man — and you still have some classic tales.
When you compare these comics to the rest that Marvel produced in 1962, it is obvious that Fantastic Four was a tier above. It had only one writer and penciller for the year, and that consistency paid dividends in story quality. The inkers were all over the place, but they’re a little hard to judge because Kirby was changing the characters significantly from issue to issue in the early months.
What I am most thankful for is the distance this title seems to be placing against monster-of-the-week villains. The better the bad guys, the better the stories are.
There is room for improvement, of course. Mr. Fantastic has no personality yet; he acts as a disapproving father figure more than anything, and that gets old quick. Invisible Girl is even worse; when she’s not getting captured (three times in nine issues!), she either comes across as helpless or lovesick. Hopefully, with the Human Torch getting a regular feature in Strange Tales toward the end of the year, maybe there will be more of a focus on these two in 1963.
What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?
It can be fun to track the minor story points throughout a year’s worth of comics to see what ideas were developed and which were quietly dropped.
- The FF became international celebrities between issues 1 & 2: this has been the status quo for the team, and it’s honestly a great way to avoid hackney plots about maintaining a secret identity.
- The Thing is depressed by his mutated form: This is the Thing’s defining trait in these early issues.
- The Thing changes back — temporarily — into his human form: This happens four times in these first nine issues. It’s a good idea once, but they are going to the well far too often here.
- Johnny gets stopped by asbestos: There are other ridiculous ways used to subdue the Torch — the fireproof African tribe in Fantastic Four #9 stands out — but asbestos is only used once in this comic. That seems strange, right?
- The Thing has a crush on Invisible Girl (Fantastic Four #3): This appears to have been dropped quietly. However, Thing has befriended Alicia by issue #9, and she allegedly looks just like Sue, so maybe not.
- Namor & Sue have romantic feelings for each other: This seemed creepy when it started with Namor capturing her, but it somehow got less creepy with time. Namor clearly comes on too strong, but his directness isn’t harassing, which I must admit is surprising. For her part, Sue treats Namor like a bad boy her parents won’t let her date. Still, it’s a very chaste romance and, so as long as it’s mutual, I guess everything is okay.
- Reed and Sue are engaged: This was mentioned in Fantastic Four #1, and then not mentioned again. Reed hasn’t even overtly been jealous about Sue’s crush on Namor.
- Invisible Girl keeps getting captured: Three times in nine issues! I have a feeling that the 60’s may not be the best time period for her character.
- Both Doctor Doom and the Puppet Master appear to have died in their most recent appearances. How long will they stay dead? I’m guessing both will be back before the end of 1963.
- The team almost breaks up, but doesn’t: The Torch quit the team for about half an issue, and the team almost split for about a page when they were considering bankruptcy. I hope this doesn’t become a regular thing to raise the stakes in this book, because it’s not very interesting.