Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Fantastic Four, Issue 1 (1961).

My five-year-olds have been bringing home these secondary source Marvel comics primers from the library, none of which are actually, y'know, comics. So dad rolled up his sleeves and placed some holds for some those Marvel Masterworks hardcover collections and here we are: me reading the first ten issues of Fantastic Four out loud.

I'm embarassed to admit it, but I don't think I've ever actually read these before. I've seen the cover art, and I think I've seen the page or pages where the four discover their powers after the cosmic rays thingamajig, but no, never read them page by page. Here's my impressions:

Stan Lee reads great out loud. And holy shit is that guy verbose. But he has a real strong rhythm and a discipline that screams of multple stern NYC public school English teachers. The sheer volume of Lee's prose drops off a ton after the first two issues, probably because he's so dang busy creating the future of a multi-platform entertainment super-industry.

Jack Kirby's art in the first issue is pretty raw, I think, but notable. I never realized how much of modern (1990s, at least) comic book art involves you always being able to see the character's face, and that if more than one person is featured in a panel, that you can see ALL their faces. Its as if, if you tried simulating where characters were standing, you would quickly find everyone had their backs to the same wall and were basically standing in a line (thinking of a lot of Jim Lee here, for some reason). Kirby, by contrast, will never hesitate to draw someone's back, especially the Four themselves.

Also striking is how little ink is devoted to actual action sequences.  For example, when the Mole Man's big green meanie from the cover of issue 1 finally makes his big appearance, the battle is devoted one single panel of the Human Torch "buzzing around the monster's head like a hornet." On the next page the Four "race for the surface." And that's it. Kirby and Lee just move on.

So, a little wordy, and the eye candy element is not so strong, but also fun and very theatrical.


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