Image taken from Fantastic Four #11
How Many Issues?
Thirteen issues were published with a cover date of 1963: Fantastic Four #10-21 and Annual #1.
Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inkers: Dick Ayers (#10-12, 14-20), Steve Ditko (13, Annual #1), George Klein (Annual #1), George Roussos (#21).
Was It Good?
These are some fun issues. They’re not all good, strictly speaking, but they are all fun. Even when the stories get a bit formulaic or silly (the Microverse story and Impossible Man come to mind), the creative team manages to balance things out with good characterization. Stan and Jack are starting to “get” the characters, and that is leading to weirder stories, but the stories are grounded by the FF’s interactions with each other.
It helps that they aren’t telling any more generic monster stories. In 1963, the focus was on colorful villains: Doctor Doom (three times), Hate Monger, the Hulk, Impossible Man, the Mad Thinker, Molecule Man, Namor the Sub-Mariner (twice), Puppet Master, Rama-Tut, Red Ghost (and his apes), and Super Skrull. There’s a decent variety of enemy types in that list, but what makes these issues fun and interesting is the variety of ways the heroes counter the bad guys.
What About the Sub-Plots and Continuity?
- We start to see Reed Richards acting as more of a brilliant scientist in these issues, and the rest of the team often acts as his assistants (or test subjects).
- Things get meta when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby become characters in the Marvel Universe. Apparently, the Fantastic Four (or Reed, at least) has story input for the comics, and they receive fan mail.
- The Thing temporarily becomes loses his powers on four separate occasions in 1963. This makes it eight times in the first twenty-one issues of this comic. When does this stop being a common occurrence?
- Reed’s college years have been retconned a bit. In 1962, it was revealed that Reed and Doctor Doom were college rivals. In 1963, we learn that Reed was Ben’s college roommate; Ben didn’t recognize Doom from school, though, which probably should have been explained.
- Reed and Sue’s romance has also gone through some revisions. In Fantastic Four #1, the pair were described as engaged, but in #10, it seems like they are “engaged to be engaged.”
- Sue’s age is questionable, thanks to Reed’s backstory. Since Reed was in the OSS in Europe in World War II, that means he is in his late-30’s (at least!) in 1963. He thought of Sue as his “girl back home” during the war. So, either Sue is roughly Reed’s age and is infantilized by the men in her life, or she was a child when Reed became romantically interested in her. Either way is gross.
- Sue is still torn between her affections for Namor and Reed.
- Asbestos is used to stop the Human Torch three times in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1963; combined with his appearances in Strange Tales, that is eight times for the year, and eleven since his first appearance.
- Reed appears to have deduced that Bruce Banner is the Hulk. Whether that goes anywhere, we’ll have to wait and see.
- After several issues of being either a hostage or a non-factor, Sue is starting to play a more important part on the team. There’s still a lot of sexism in this comic, but she is being given a little more agency. Sadly, her personality is a blank slate, and she is still largely defined by her relationship to the men in her life.
- The Thing and Alicia have started to date. No mention has been made of Thing’s brief crush on Sue, or about Alicia’s likeness to Sue.
- Sue only gets captured once this year, which is a marked improvement over the three times (in only nine issues!) in 1962.
- The FF break up twice in 1963 —- once to take on temporary jobs, and once due to the Hate Monger’s interference. Neither time was for more than a few pages.
- There were a few notable guest appearances in 1963:
- Nick Fury made his first appearance in the “modern day” Marvel Universe.
- Spider-Man’s audition to join the FF (taken from Amazing Spider-Man #1) was redrawn and expanded in Fantastic Four Annual #1.
- The Hulk was featured in an issue, just as his own title was being cancelled.
- Ant-Man helped the FF in the Microverse.
- The Fantastic Four’s villains have a tendency to appear to die at the end of adventures. This happened to Doctor Doom twice, the Hate Monger, the Puppet Master, and the Red Ghost. This makes three total apparent deaths for Doctor Doom, and two for Puppet Master.
- Both Rama-Tut and Namor wanted to make Sue their queen. That’s a bizarrely specific thing to happen twice in a year.