My Favorite Year: Fantastic Four #39-51I dedicate this post to a good friend, Bill Hall. His site always reminds me of what a great time the 1960s were for comics. And he kind of prodded me to do this! Kind of!
This sounds too silly to be true, but I see my life in comic books in Fantastic Four Time. I really do. So when I think of my favorite year in comics, I think of Fantastic Four #39 (“A Blind Man Shall Lead Them”) to issue #51, my favorite comic, “This Man This Monster,” not the actual dates (1965 to 1966). I can never forget Ben Grimm turning back into the Thing (issue #40). I loved the light-hearted wedding of Sue and Reed .”What a Way to Spend a Honeymoon” when was introduced with a whole new race of Inhumans, in issue #44. “The Coming of Galactus” also featured TWO of Lee and Kirby’s best characters, the Silver Surfer and the Watcher. After those stories, I wondered what villain could top that. Well, no villain did in “This Man, This Monster,” my favorite comic.
Yet to come was the Black Panther.
While I like the “Spider Slayer/Robot” in issue #25, one of my favorite Spider-Man story at the time was the mystery two-parter, “The Man in the Crime Master’s Mask.” I never would have got the ending. The stories just got better culminating with the Master Planner three-parter and the unforgettable “Hernia Sequence.” I mean Lifting Sequence. Yet to come was Spidey #39-40, with Romita’s brilliant work on a brilliant story. I always wondered what it would have looked like if it was Ditko’s parting shot.
I am a Wally Wood fan so I loved his last few Daredevil stories. But I am also a Romita fan so I thoroughly enjoyed his Daredevil with Ka-Zar and the Master Planner. And certainly his fun Spidey two-parter was a tryout and was enjoyable. Yet, the Ox story in issue #15 still resonates the most with me. Like “This Man” it is more of an emotional piece than an action story. Although Wilbur, in issue #8, did look “awkward and stilted.”
Until now, Thor was NOT one of my favorites, but Kirby and Lee launch this into the stratosphere, starting with “The Trial of the Gods” in issue #116. The stories now become epic and not earthbound as the creative pair finally found the character. Lee gives Thor an old world touch by having Thor use a corruption of old English. It worked so well. The Annual with Hercules also worked even if the story made little sense. But then that leads us to issue #124 and the battle between Thor and Pluto, which was just brilliant. Meanwhile characters from “Tales of Asgard” are now going into the main feature and making it even more enjoyable.
The Avengers, invented, I thought, to mimic the Justice League, gets a complete makeover and now can go in new directions, unburdened by the continuities of Iron Man and Thor. I missed Kirby, but I enjoyed the Swordsman and Powerman stories. It was also fun to see Henry Pym try again, this time as Goliath.
The X-Men stories here were some of my favorites too. I not only like the Juggernaut story, but the Sentinels tale, to this day, remain one of my favorite. I liked Roth over Kirby.
Where do you start with the anthology comics? Marvel discontinues its great fillers, which I miss from this day, but gives us great double features. Nick Fury, Hydra and a whole new realm are introduced in Strange Tales. When Captain America gets his new series in Tales of Suspense were are treated to remakes of this WW2 adventures. This ties into a modern day three-parter introducing the Sleepers. Then Lee and Kirby begin to knit the Marvel Universe even closer together when Cap teams with Fury and Them and A.I.M. are introduced. Cap’s partner, Iron Man, developed so well under Don Heck, but Gene Colan’s Shellhead was always my favorite.
Dr. Strange concludes his wondrous 17-episode Ditko Adventure in Strange Tales. The Sub- Mariner replaces a sinking Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish and Gene Colan gives us a wonderful multi-chapter quest, which ends a bit too abruptly but was fun while it lasted. While the Ditko Hulk stories were my favorite, I loved the Hulk traveling to meet the Watcher and was startled when Rick Jones reveals his identity to the world. That had never happened before in a comic.
Finally is the last of the new comics, was Sgt. Fury. I was not a fan of the war comics released under the Comics Code. They showed nothing of the horrors of war and became adventure strips. Sgt. Fury, at this stage, was different. It did show the sadness and sacrifice of war, and the loss of Pam was devastating.
Fantasy Masterpieces was introduced and it reprinted wonderful (and for me unattainable) stories form the Atlas Age. Soon, Timely Captain America, Subby and Torch stories would be included. Boy, I could not wait for the next issue!
Oh, and new Marvel paperbacks came out, most with reprints from the early years, but the Captain America story was a great new novel by Ted White.
Well, that’s my favorite year. What’s yours?