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Another Blockbusting Bullpen Bonus Bombshell

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When the first X-Men film came out there was much self-flagellation and recrimination at Marvel because, some executives felt, they had passed up an opportunity to turn interested filmgoers into new comics readers. The team shown in the movie were not being published as an ongoing comic at that time, and if a new fan went looking for the X-men in a comic shop they'd find nothing that bore any relation to what they'd seen on screen, and what they did see was mired in decades of very complicated continuity.

There were attempts after that to make sure that the comics reflected the movies, such as the Ultimate Comics line, although nowadays it seems that Marvel prefer to carry on with the comics pretty much as normal while ensuring that collected editions related to the films are very much available. There are also direct tie-ins set in the Cinematic Universe, rather than the comics one. I don't know if this has had any particular effect on sales, but I do know that book shops have been full of Thanos collections just recently!

None of these issues seem to have worried Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1967, when this Annual was first published. TV stations across the country were broadcasting the Hanna Barbera 'Fantastic Four' cartoon, featuring a simplified, more streamlined, version of the team, but Stan and Jack were happily ploughing on with some very complicated, often rather adult, storylines. This issue, for instance, not only features The Psycho Man - a new villain who cynically manipulates people's emotions for his own ends - but also a huge dollop of continuity. Psycho Man comes from The Micro World, first visited way back in Fantastic Four #16, and spends a lot of his time fighting supporting characters The Inhumans and The Black Panther in plotlines that have been building up for months, coming to a climax here as they all team up with the FF to fight him. Also in this issue is the announcement of Sue's pregnancy as part of the main plot, plus an extremely jolly short story written and drawn by Jack Kirby purporting to show how he and Stan Lee come up with plots, and a surprisingly dark tale featuring The Silver Surfer and Quasimodo The Living Computer. It's a weird, exciting, funny, action-packed mixture that bares very very little relation to the cartoons being broadcast simultaneously, preferring instead to be part of the height of Lee & Kirby's classic run on the series. Doom only appears in a pin-up featuring some of the various supporting characters who make the Marvel universe such a storyworld. I said at the start that Lee and Kirby don't seem to be thinking about the TV show, but maybe this is actually a reaction to it, an attempt to re-stake their claim on the characters. A television show might be seen by many as more "important" or "respectable" than a lowly comic strip, and would definitely have a bigger team and budget behind it, but what Lee, Kirby and their small group of associates are creating here has a much wider scope for invention. Indeed, their run on the comic would be referred to many times over the forthcoming decades, including in the Hanna Barbera series - as we shall see next time!



link to information about this issue

posted 18/5/2018 by Mark Hibbett

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DOOMBOT FILTER: an animal that says 'buzz' (3)

(e.g. for an animal that says 'cluck' type 'hen')

An examination of Doctor Doom in The Marvel Age written by Mark Hibbett