Monday, March 29, 2010

FF Re-read: The Fantastic Four #2 (Jan. 1962)

"The Fantastic Four
Meet the Skrulls From Outer Space!"

Script by Stan Lee 
Pencils by Jack Kirby 
Inks by George Klein (again, that’s the best guess from Mark Evanier, whose opinion in such matters is eminently trustworthy) 
Letters by John Duffy 

The second issue picks up pretty much where the first left off, developing and adding certain themes and motifs the series would repeat endlessly. It’s also a wildly uneven story, but one whose highs outweigh the lulls.

The Fantastic Four continue to be anti-superheroes in this issue — eschewing costumes and hanging out in everyday settings such as Reed’s apartment and a hunting lodge. Apparently, they are already quite famous by this point — the cops all know the FF on a first-name basis and, in an early scene, Sue is given high celebrity status by a jeweler who, frankly, should have known better than to let the Invisible Girl see his famous jewels. But at the same time, they’re also freaks that people are quick to turn against at the slightest provocation. (Apparently, the polarized opinions of 1960s Marvel Universe foreshadowed the current political discourse in the United States.) This dichotomy more than any other has come to define the Marvel style, from these early years through the present day.

This issue begins with the Fantastic Four having apparently gone bad. The Thing destroys an oil-drilling platform off the Texas shore; Sue steals a valuable gem; Johnny melts a marble statue; and Reed reaches into the power station and shuts off the city’s power. These latter two stretch plausibility. If Johnny could get hot enough to melt marble (more than 3,000 degrees), the crowd of onlookers would have been incinerated. And electric utilities are too complicated to just “turn off” with one switch. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FF Re-read: The Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961)

"The Fantastic Four!"
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Script by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by George Klein (at least that’s the best guess from Mark Evanier, whose opinion I trust in such matters)
Letters and logo execution by Artie Simek
Colors by Stan Goldberg
Production and logo design by Sol Brosky

Fantastic Four #1 is a fascinating comic, as much for the ways in which it doesn’t stand out as much as for the ways it does.

Let’s start with the cover. First, I love the logo. Every time Marvel decides to change the FF logo, it’s an unspoken strike against the current creative time. Which is not exactly fair, to be honest, but it inevitably reverts to this original version and to me it’s as much a part of the book as the Baxter Building, Willie Lumpkin and all the rest. The lettering style is very much of the times, but at the same time wholly suited to type of book this was to become and very different from the style in vogue at DC and other publishers. Plus, whoever decided to print it as large as possible and in that awesome red ink against the white background was a genius. It was one of the major drawbacks of the original Masterworks and the Marvel Milestone Edition to change the logo to black. The image of the monster is fairly typical for what Marvel was putting out at the time. There’s a weird bit of copy in the blurb about these characters being “together for the first time,” which is true. But it also implies that they’ve appeared separately before, which is impossible since three of them never appeared in any form before this very issue.

Public panic over superheroes would be a running theme through Silver Age Marvel, reaching its heights in J. Jonah Jameson’s diatribes against Spider-Man and the anti-mutant public sentiment in X-Men.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fantastic Four re-read: Introduction

Being a busy adult means that it is much harder to find the time or willpower to re-read long runs of favorite comic books. In my mid-teens, I often would pick about 10 or 12 comics to read each night before going to sleep and could easily power through a year’s worth of the old Marvel Star Wars or The New Mutants or Alpha Flight in a couple hours before turning out the lights. Most of the runs of comics I know by heart are still ones from those days, in large part because I was reading and re-reading them. I also used to devour new comics as soon as I got them home each week. These days, they often sit around in stacks waiting for me to carve out some time on the weekend or the occasional evening to get to them. Rarely do I find time to go back and re-read much. Because of that, there are some classic runs of comics I have accumulated slowly in recent years that never got a complete run through, and that’s what I’m going to rectify. I fully admit to lifting the idea from other blogs ( in particular, where they’ve been re-watching Star Trek and re-reading The Lord of the Rings).

I’m starting with The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The reasons why should be obvious: this was the superhero comic book that launched what came to be known as the Marvel Universe. It was the backbone of Marvel's rise to prominence in the Silver Age. It also was one of the best lengthy series that Lee or Kirby ever contributed to. And it remains essential and very good comic-book reading to this day.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amazon kicks in $25 credits in omnibus apology

Looks like Amazon is doing something to make up for the all the canceled Marvel Omnibus orders.

I and many others have received a follow-up email in which the internet bookseller apologizes by bestowing a $25 credit for future purposes. Which is not bad result, considering the deals were too good to be true anyway. And with the discounts Amazon normally applies on the Omnibus books (about 35 percent), everyone should be able to get one of the books they wanted at a really good price. Or at least they will once Amazon restocks.

I have to add a rather nice little addendum to this story. Today, I stopped off at Legacy Comics in Glendale on my way home from a business meeting to pick up this week's new comics. This is a really good comic shop — they're well stocked in just about everything and had a pretty complete selection of Omnibuses, Marvel Masterworks, DC Archives, trades, etc., on the shelves. But they also have a pretty good sale shelf, which just happens to include a number of Omnibus volumes at half off, including Spider-Man Vol. 1, X-Men Vol. 1 and the one I happened to pick up, Secret Wars.

It was not as cheap as what I thought I'd get on Amazon, but I was able to make the decision to buy it with the actual book in my hand and a price tag on the shrink wrap that guaranteed the price. Plus, I got to chat with the clerk about the series — we agreed it was in many ways a Marvel must-have — and how I once owned the full set of comics but sold them at some point and regretted doing so.

So, thank you, Legacy Comics. I hope anyone in the area who wants to get their hands on those books at a real discount stops by your lovely establishment.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Amazon omnibus orders canceled

So the cancellation order finally came for my dirt-cheap Marvel Omnibus order. Here's what they said:
Our records indicate you recently ordered 'Secret Wars Omnibus
Secret Wars II Omnibus
Golden Age Marvel Comics Omnibus Volume 1 HC Jelena Kevic Djurdjevic Cover
The Death of Captain America Omnibus
Madman Gargantua (Madman Comics)'. Unfortunately, due to a pricing error, we sold many more than expected. In fact, we completely sold out — we don't have any in stock right now, and we're not even sure if we'll be able to get more.
As a result, we've had to cancel your order. I realize this is disappointing news, and I'm so sorry for any inconvenience this causes.
You may want to check our website from time to time to see if this item is available. If anyone is selling it, you'll see a "More Buying Choices" box on the product detail page; if it's not available from any sellers, you might see an "Order it used" or "Alert me" link. "Order it used" allows you to place a pre-order for the item in case another seller lists the item for sale later. "Alert me" allows you to sign up so we can e-mail you when Amazon has stock available for purchase.
I'm sorry I don't have better news. We hope to see you again soon.

Not that this was unexpected, but it's not like Amazon never runs such sales. Ain't It Cool News frequently posts news of flash DVD sales on Amazon featuring huge discounts for short periods of time, so it was worth a shot to get a chance at those books so cheap. 

It's interesting that their reason for canceling the order is they sold out of those books, not the glitch itself. It sounds like some people are getting at least some of the books they ordered. Maybe if I'd ordered huge quantities they'd have honored at least a few of them.

Maybe next time. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Go buy Marvel omnibuses from Amazon right now!

Thanks to a tip from Bleeding Cool, go to Amazon as quickly as possible and scoop up the Marvel Omnibus titles you've been putting off buying. Normally priced anywhere from $75 to $100, tons of these books are currently selling on the site for $14.99 all the way down to $8.49!

Titles include X-Men Omnibus Vol. 1, Wolverine Omnibus Vol. 1, The Ultimates Omnibus Vol. 1, Secret Wars and Secret Wars IIGolden Age Marvel Comics and even the non-Marvel $125 Madman Gargantua! I picked up a few of these myself, as these prices are almost too good to be true .... so let's hope this isn't a glitch that will result in the worst-case scenario of Amazon not honoring these prices.