Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Classic Fantastic Four
I go back and forth on my favorite comic storyline all the time. I think it depends on what classic comic I most recently pulled off my bookshelf. Some days it’s the Lee/Ditko/Romita Sr. Amazing Spidey stuff. Some days it’s Gene Colon Iron Man or Lee/Kirby Thor, some days it’s even the Herb Trimpe Hulk stuff. But more often than not, I find it hard to beat the Stan Lee & Jack Kirby Galactus storyline beginning in Fantastic Four #48. Honestly all 100+ issues of Stan and Jack’s FF work could be considered the best superhero comics of all time, but the Galactus story was so grand, so epic and monumental, that it really is the template of the superhero comic book.
The bottom line of every superhero funny book is that there has to be a superhero/supervillain storyline that makes the reader think that THIS is the time our hero cannot possibly defeat this latest threat. There needs to be one event, one panel even, that makes the reader doubt our heroes ability to succeed. If that doesn’t happen, the writer is in trouble. It sounds easy, but 40 years of the hero kicking everyone’s tail issue after issue makes that simple premise tough to keep fresh. You often hear this problem cropping up with a book like Superman. Where Supes is so powerful that no matter what they throw at him, it’s impossible to think that he may lose. They’ve powered him down and even killed him, but eventually this problem rears it’s ugly head every few years with The Man of Steel. I’ve recently gotten into Superman books and when he’s good, he’s a blast to read, but when he’s bad… he’s bad.
The Galactus storyline typified the idea of making the reader think that our heroes don’t stand a chance. This story also debuted the great Silver Surfer character. Galactus’ herald who combs the galaxy in search of fresh planets for his master to feed upon. Armed with the Power Cosmos, the Surfer is so powerful that it’s hard to think that the FF can even defeat him. Now throw in the fact that some all-powerful being created the Surfer? That he’s just a lackey? A toady? Holy crap. There’s a story!
Now before I spoil this for anyone who hasn’t read it, I’ll stop. An honestly, what kind of comic book fan are you if you haven’t read this yet?
What got me thinking about this was a thread on a comic book message board where it was announced that Galactus will be appearing in the next Fantastic Four flick. Sure, the first FF flick wasn’t exactly a classic film in cinema history, but my love of the Galactus storyline has got me excited, and worried, about FF2. Basically it was rumored that when Galactus appears in the movie, he won’t be in the form of Jack Kirby’s amazing design. To my surprise, a lot of fans didn’t see this as a problem. Naturally the most common reasoning was that the design is a silly one that the “general movie-going audience” won’t accept. To me, that makes no sense, whatsoever.
The “general movie-going audience” has been barraged with superhero flicks recently and they seem to have bought most of them just fine. And the one’s they didn’t buy wasn’t because of a silly suit design… it was because the stories sucked.
They bought a kid getting bitten by a radioactive spider and getting spider-powers and a cool suit that he apparently made on his own. I guess Peter Parker could be a contestant on Project Runway. They bought Superman being an alien from a far away planet and he just happens to look, talk, act, and have an “S” in his logo implying that the planet Krypton also uses the same alphabet as Earth. They bought the FF, including a guy in a giant orange booger-suit and they’ll buy a silver guy flying on a surfboard, but don’t you dare try to pass-off Galactus in a purple suit! The “general movie-going audience” is waaaaay to sharp for that stuff!
I find it really pretentious to think that people who read comics today and go to movies today are smarter than people who read comics and went to movies back during 1966… when FF 48 hit the stands.
We are still talking about, and being inspired by, these stories for a reason… because they’re classic, timeless stories. They’ll be around far longer than we will and for good reason.