Top Ten Fantastic Four Covers (Kirby and Lee Era)
Although I am indisputably a child of the X-Men generation, my heart has always belonged on a very important level to the Fantastic Four. My first experience with FF comics came well after my early encounters with Spider-Man and the X-Men, but there was always something about the dynamic of the Fantastic Four that drew me in. Perhaps it’s because I, myself, came from a large family and the relationship between that team is very much that of a family. Perhaps it was the fact that one Christmas of 1991 I received a video cassette copy of “The Menace of Magneto”, an episode of the 1970s Fantastic Four cartoon in which Reed, Sue, Ben and H.E.R.B.I.E. take down the Master of Magnetism himself, with the help of a WOODEN GUN(!?!?!).
At any rate, I soon got my hands on some hand-me-down covers from the John Byrne era of Fantastic Four and my fascination only grew from there. It wasn’t until much later on, though, that I read the Lee and Kirby run on the book. Sure, I had a copy of the Marvel Masterworks reprint of issue #1 , but I’d never delved any deeper until the mid-200s. Jack Kirby’s art is a surprisingly divisive subject, and I’m not terribly proud to admit that I scoffed at it in my younger days.
I have since, however, blossomed as a fan. Fantastic Four is sort of a middle ground in terms of Kirby’s work, especially as his run progressed. While not as angular and bombastic as it would be during his time at DC, it was also a far cry from his early days on the title. I love it all, though, and here are my ten favorite examples.
10) Issue #4
I can’t get enough of Kirby’s weird-looking alien Sub Mariner, add to that his rare red trunks and the birth of his undying love for Sue Storm and you’ve got yourself a classic.
9) Issue #39
Doctor Doom is my favorite Marvel villain, thanks in large part to the cartoonish level of his megalomania. And although it was Kirby and Lee who created the Fantastic Foe’s finest foe and told some of the finest tales in which he has starred, his early covers left a lot to be desired. This one, though, captures the presence of the misanthropic mastermind quite nicely.
A mere ten issues after the tenth place entry, this issue features another one of the team’s many encounters with Namor. And once again, he’s all about making the Invisible Girl his bride and kicking the shit out of her friends. The composition of this cover, though, is not typical Kirby stuff, so it stands out to me. These early ones are so much further into the mainstream of comic art than what has come to be known as the Kirby style, and yet still so far divorced from his early work.
7) Issue #36
Ah, the Frightful Four. Despite the best efforts of Lee and Kirby, these guys never did end up being the signature enemies of the FF. I’ve always been fascinated with them, though, just in terms of the lineup. They don’t quite fit as opposite numbers or analogues to the members of the Fantastic Four, and they have no previous affiliation with one another. They’re a couple of old Human Torch solo villains, a Spider-Man foe, and a mysterious woman who would eventually be revealed as part of a much more prolific group.
6) Issue #43
I love me some Kirby machinery, so this cover is an obvious pick. What the hell is all of that stuff? It’s so alien in appearance and yet we know that it’s of this earth, so Reed Richards must be thinking on an entirely separate level from the rest of us. Also, this is a great example of a defeated heroes cover, and I’m a sucker for that motif.
5) Issue #77
This one, to me, is all about the composition. Sure, the figures are great and there’s that spooky Kirby Galactus giving the reader the stinkeye, but the Psycho-Man is dead center doing whatever the hell it is he’s doing and creating a sort of reverse frame for the rest of the action in doing so. And some more of that Kirby machinery, to boot.
4) Issue #90
I doubt many people would rank this cover among their favorites, but I love how evocative of Kirby’s old monster comic covers it is. If the thing weren’t covered in orange rock, and were just some mook in an overcoat, this cover could just as easilt been featured on a late 50s science fiction comic. And the ghostly Skrull looks so much more menacing than the alien race normally did.
3) Issue #51
This is Kirby’s thing at his best. Throughout the King’s time on Fantastic Four, we saw the Thing evolve from a lumpy yellowish man to an enormously powerful, craggy orange titan. And while this issue should definitely be read by anyone who cares even a bit about these characters, the cover perfectly the captures the Thing’s monstrous appearance, something that we (and those close to him) take for granted.
2) Issue #1
The one that started it all… Fantastic Four #1 ushered in the Marvel age of comics, and I love how they boasted that the characters were “Together For The First Time In One Mighty Magazine” as if they were characters that everyone knew and loved. I mean, the Human Torch I can see, although this is a different character, the name was certainly used before. But the others didn’t have the draw to warrant cover billing. I read this issue not long after I was introduced to the Fantastic Four in the early 90s, but even before I’d actually cracked the spine I had a damn good idea of what was gonna happen inside. There’s something to be said for that on the older issues, the covers were the only advertisement they needed.
1) Issue #48
What the hell could have the Fantastic Four so goddamn scared? The Thing perhaps the most frightened of all, no less! Whatever this “Galactus” thing is, it’s got to be pretty damned impressive! I’ll gladly shell out the 12 cents to find out!
To have been reading this book when it was actually on the racks must have been something else. I know a good number of people who did pick this one up when it was new, and every one of them counts the “Galactus Trilogy” among the most iconic comic stories of all time, and I have to believe that the covers (and this one in particular) had some part in that.
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Posted on February 23, 2014, in COMICS!, Geekology, Nerd Art and tagged Covers, Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four, Galactus, Jack Kirby, magneto, Marvel, namor, Silver Age, stan lee, the thing, Top 10. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.