This week Marvel released a new Epic Collection that features some stellar Amazing Spider-Man stories from David Michelinie, as well as the first part of my run on the book (with the great Mark Bagley). So happy to see these stories in print after so long.
I'm hoping that next year—which will see the celebration of Spidey's 60th anniversary—will finally bring a collection of my two year stint on Spectacular Spider-Man with Our Pal Sal Buscema. Fingers crossed!
Speaking of Spider-Man: Work is continuing on the upcoming Ben Reilly: Spider-Man mini and I'm having a blast collaborating with David Baldeon, Israel Silva, and our editor Danny Khazem. I'm delighted to be hanging out with my old friend Ben again and if the readers have half as much fun reading this as I'm having writing it, the series should be a success. (You can see a preview of the first issue, along with some commentary from yours truly, right here.) Once again: fingers crossed!,
SEMI-REGULAR MUSINGS FROM THE SEMI-REGULAR MIND OF WRITER J.M. DeMATTEIS
Thursday, November 18, 2021
This week Marvel released a new Epic Collection that features some stellar Amazing Spider-Man stories from David Michelinie, as well as the first part of my run on the book (with the great Mark Bagley). So happy to see these stories in print after so long.
More importantly, Buscema needs to come to Detroit, so I can get some comics signed. I think we can ALL agree that is far more important than a trade coming out that you two can get residuals from.ReplyDelete
Interesting thing about al Busecema and John Romita Jr.. Both their family members that worked for Marvel had more polished art than Kirby and Ditko. Lacked the punch to the gut feeling, but made up for it in the more realistic style. Kirby and Ditko jumped off the page, John Buscema and John Romita invited you in.
Any way. Sal and JRJR, both had art that was far closer to Ditko or Kirby than the family members who also worked in comics. That kind of stylized, punch, where you cant explain why it works, you just know that it does.
Just an observation.
A very insightful observation!Delete
Actually Dematteis, teh really interesting part about that art observation is this...Delete
A few years back, I was reading a Spider-Man comic from the #150's. After a few pages of the art, I doubled back to teh creator credits. I could not believe it. I had not remembered that John Buscema had drawn Spider-Man.
He did not. It was earli...er, SAL Buscema. But it looked almost identical to his brotehr's style.
Which means that he made a choice, or the choice made him, to become more stylized.
I like bith their styles, but I would love to know why that choice was made. Maybe it was age, and his eyesight couldn't work the fine detail, or deadlines as JRJR often claims, or just played around and liked how it looked. But the why would be interesting to know.
Also, in Avengers: Endgame, Jim Starlin is in the scene with Captain America at the group session. Am I the only one who wants a show where we follow Captain America and Starlin over the time, and watch them become drinking buddies?
I know Cap can't get drunk...unlike that yahoo writer in the 80s, glad he never did anything again.... but he can still sit and chat.
This reality Starlin could even start out having a delusion that he created Thanos because he was angry at the world, and told his dad to drop dead as he was snapped, and he has to get over it, and come to terms, and realize he is just projecting to make sense of the senseless.. Or some touchy-feely crap like that.
Sal's a guy who was always growing and evolving as an artist. I fell in love with his art from the first time I saw it in an early 70s AVENGERS issue. By the time we were working together on SPEC SPIDEY, his style had changed dramatically. As good as he was in the early 70s, he'd really transcended himself by the 90s.ReplyDelete
By the way, John Buscema DID draw Spidey for a short time in the 60s. As brilliant as he was...one of Marvel's all-time best...I never thought he was suited for Spider-Man, whereas Sal clearly was.
I think the Starlin show should be a sitcom.
I have read all the Spider-Man stories from the 60s, and looked up what issues he wrote. To your point, I did not remember what stories they were, so I looked them up.Delete
I love John Buscema's art...whether you like it or not. But his art is elegant, and raising the human form up to its loftiest potential. That is why it works for the Silver Surfer.
But Peter Parker... as Stan Lee once said, he is heir to all things human. He is in the gutters with the rest of us, being as good and decent of a man in the muck can. That is why Sal Buscema's more energetic and gritty style works better.
Romita sr.works because of his skill to not raise the human form, but to express the beauty of every day humanity. Also perfect for Peter Parker.
Of course the Starlin-Captain America series would be a sitcom. The question is what would the influences be?
They'd be the cosmic Oscar and Felix, of course!Delete
I have a question for you Dematteis, well to, but they are connected.ReplyDelete
1. Does Martian Manhunter just hate Orson Welles and H.G. Wells... perhaps even anyone with the name Wells... because for War of the Worlds?
2. Does he read John Carter as a comedy, and just laugh and laugh? "Pale skinned, human looking Martians bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhaha! (deep breath) HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAH" and so on. You get it.
Well I won't keep you, you are probably sitting, smoking a pipe, remember Thanksgivings of years ago, when you would go into the Brooklyn woods and hunt the turkey with our father, and help your mother pull up the yams and potatoes you grew on the farm for the occasion. Then walk over with a bushels an dgive them to your neighbors on the next farm, then they'd give you some corn.
Wasn't a trade either just too old farm families bein' neighborly, and sharing the fortune they could take from the Earth...even in the lean years.
And about years later telling your kids how lucky they were not to have to go through all that... but silently wondering if something was lost.
I'm sure those thoughts are like 70% of your week.
Also, don;t forget, Hanukah starts Sunday. You know what makes that important?
CORRECT! it is the first time in a year it has been legal to watch the Hanukah/Christmas/Hanukah Night Gallery ."episode..."The Messiah on Mott Street."
Remember to plan. You only have eight days to watch it, then it is illegal again for a year and almost a month,
DOn't know why people were not ore upset at the passing of that law.
J'onn probably rolls his eyes at every 1950s sci-fi movie (little realizing that those movies were responsivke for his creation!).ReplyDelete
Haven't seen "Mott Street" in many years. Maybe I'll seek it out.
I submit the theory to you Dematteis, the best way to note the Lee-Kirby collaboration is 51 issues of one character... The Thing.ReplyDelete
SO, Ben starts off looking much more like a rock monster, Misshapen, rough, inhuman.
He is also far more... no pun interned...grim. More angry. Exactly what Stan Lee described in his original idea,back in '61... the heavy.
I will always remember Fantastic four #5...because it has Ben dressed as a pirate. bit of humor.
After checking cover browser, I noticed, right after that issue, he starts to become more like the Ben we know. Physically, he becomes smoother.
But, I checked my reprint, and Ben Cracks jokes in #5. Of course it did, it would be insane if he did not.
I think teh use of humor injected by Lee's comments... and seeing his own work, which probably mad Lee realize he NEEDED a joke... smoothed him out to make the jokes seem mor enatural, and not a joke of himself.
And in fairness, Lee probably did not want Ben to just be a complainer, and he now had the Hulk in the works... In think... to be the morose angry monster, with no levity.
The fed each other, and themselves.
Next change, according to the covers, is after #8, when Ben meets Alicia, and we see the new human side to him.
Then it really starts coming together in the looks, but there is still something off with the face. It is darker, angrier looking.
If memory serves, Ben is still kind of written that way by Lee. A bit of a bruiser. Like he belongs in Requiem for a Heavyweight? Maybe. There is probably a better example.
Then comes #30. Diablo. Who, I can still remember, offered Ben the changes to his old self. And that is How Kirby drew him, as normal Ben Grimm, but still made of rocks... with no hair.
How do we see him. Acting human. Desperate. Angry at his friends for trying to take it away from him. How you might expect seeing it so close.
Lee's plot, gave kirby the idea of how to draw the perfect image for the emotion, which led to Lee writing the character as fallible and human.
Issue #32 is the first cover that really looks like Ben.
Things go on, and you can see some touch ups in the art here or there. The character becomes a little more like how we know him in the fine details.
this goes on for 20 issues
Then, #51, "This Man... This Monster." Often considered, one of, if not THE greatest Fantastic Four cover ever written. And rightfully so.
It is also the ultimate melding of Satan and Jack's sensibilities. Lee's love of melodrama, and angsty brooding, and villains who have been slighted by society. Kirby's dynamic and moody artwork. The contrast of Reed's glamorous Lab of tomorrow and the dingy streets of New York (City). Kirby may have had more impressive displays, but none more beautiful.
You Need Lee's melodrama and character hear more than anywhere, to sell Thing's joy, and then frustration at his own luck.
You need KIrby's crazy elements to sell out out of his element Ricardo Jones, and the humility of the streets and apartment to show how every day are the joys Ben longs for, and then how out of place he was now.
It is the two of them at the most symbiotic. And whether you like it or not, it shows.
The contrast of the Fantastic with the every day, along with the type of lesson also makes it feel like a Twilight Zone episode.
For context: that comic came out in March 1966 (according to Marvel.famdom.com). Also that year, the Beatles release Revolver (and Don't claim Eleanor Rigby does not elicit similar emotions, as when Ben turns back, just as he meets his girls door) and the Rolling Stones release Aftermath (and on it, Mother's Little Helper). That same year TIME Magazine names "the Inheritors" person of the year. You might better know that group as... Baby Boomers.
Thus comics came out at the forefront.
I posit that Lee's plot, fueled Kirby's Art and expansion, which led Lee's dialogue fueling and inspiring the others that led to specific moments of character growth.
Each issue not fueled by the work on the current page, but the previous. The art struggled to keep up with the previous tone, which caused the character moments to catch up with the changes in art.
This game of catch-up led to specific developments, that added to Ben the tough guy bruiser, a habit of covering up his insecurities with humor. Evolved him to the tough guy who had a soft spot for his girl, and finally a fully fleshed out man.
All ending in a comic that arrived directly to be part of the forefront of the cultural movement.
But also that those interactions and movements building on each other did not inspire this man this monster, but rather made it inevitable. A story of that kind would have had tom come out.
I combined the two men, the Twilight Zone stories that fueled the monster books that led to the FF, the working class tough guy with a soul stories popular in the late 50s and early 60s (I wish I could think of a more appropriate example than Requiem for a Heavyweight), the shifting tide of the youth's ideas on culture the comics plugged them into, the nature of New York at the time, the fading optimism of the decade that originally fueled the FF, and the nature of episodic story telling.
You could even argue it had the spirit of New Hollywood, being more character based and small in its storytlling, and flying int he face of what even their own comic book conventions were. All three years before Easy Rider started it
continued a little more....ReplyDelete
Fantastic Four #51 is the perfect example of not only the contribution of two titans in their field, but of the comic medium, and it ability to take form others and create new, show hoe culturally tuned in it can be without even trying ...ever. Not because of the issue was great, but because it was earned through work and passion for years before hand.
And al that came together in a single issue, that topped the biggest issue in F.F history, the three issue Galactus saga.
That following it ads fuel on the fore two, it added balance and cooling. Explored the moments in-between the world building.
It was not like say... Defenders 101, or countless issues after evens that followed. Where the characters reflect. However, it was certainly a forebear, by going from big to small.
Probably not even intentionally, but by pure instinct or luck.
And all that came before is a sign of evolution, and could ot be done outside of comics.
That one issue, and the journey of Ben to get to there, is how you know Stan and Jack are both responsible, and why they are the legends that the legends bow to.
The contents and context of that one issue shows why they were the best, and why the partnership was greater then the sum of the parts.
And why through the decade there have been many great partnerships in comics, but none ever accomplished the same thing.
It was primordial and cosmic..
Sorry to waste space on your site gushing about Stan and Jack
Also for not coming up with a better example than Requiem. That is embarrassing.
FF #51 is one of my all-time favorites. I wrote an essay about it for a Marvel reprint book back in the 90s. It really is Stan and Jack at a peak. And that splash page! No action, no fights, just pure, raw emotion. Classic!Delete
Thanks for sharing your insights.
Actually Dematteis, your favorite Fantastic four story is the one where Thing is abducted by the Skrulls, who are acting like 1920s gangsters. And before for you argue, I think I know your life a little better than you do.Delete
But, I bet you did not realize until reading my insane scrawling that those mop-top Limeys you love so dear only recorded the new direction album Revolver (yes, I am aware Rubber soul was first, I don't consider it as prominent) because of "This man this monster," did you?
Now you know, and knock down the album on originality as you see fit. I'm sure the next time you read it you will scream that Lennon :stole it all from Lee and KIrby! You thief!"
I guess ripping of Motown was not enough. COME DOWN, DEMATTEIS! It is a joke, a joke based on truth , but a joke. The Motown part, the Lee-Kirby stuff is obviously fact.
It is interesting though. Writers int eh 70s, like Englehart, Starlin, and most especially Gerber, loved mixing that melancholy with the fantastic. Also, using those fantastical elements to explore character in ways not possible otehrwise, like Ben in FF #51.
You could see certain elements of that in Wolfman;s Teen Titans, with Cyborgs physical tragedy more in sync with the every day, and Not to mention his Dracula, which, while not full issues, did stress quite moments among the chaos...again like Ben.
I wonder if there could be some subconscious element from that story. The one issue, and its tone, might be completely responsibel for teh Bronze age.
Hell, one could argue Len Wein's Swamp Thing was every issue being all the elements smashed together.
Come to think of it, in the years sense it has become common to do "talking head" comics after big event. Cool downs that are more character centered to even out teh more plot heavy story, that has to push forward.
The earliest I remember seeing this is X-Men #138 and Defenders #101. The two issues were almost exactly a year apart.
Now, the X-book is really just a recap of everything that happened. More of a prepping for anyone who just came on.
But the Defenders book is more of the true first. An actual talking head comic, light on action, following a big story, to establish the effect on every character.
There is something similar to "This Man this Monster," just one is dealing with the effect on the characters from the event more directly. FF #50 could be argued to be sort of that, a result of Ben asking big question in light of facing Galactus, and Alicia's associating with the Surfer. And he was wandering around at the end of #50.
Wait.. was #51 an actual intended epilogue? Is it really the Galactus..quadrilogy?
Anyway, I wonder if that first post-event talking head issue was unknowingly effected by FF #51.
If memory serves the comic was written by some guy named G.N. DeMarcus... never did much else.
Also worth noting, the very next story was #52-53, the first Black Panther story. Arguably the last Really seminal story done by the two. DOn't get me wrong, there are still a lot of great stories, but removed from them coming out, It is less moving and shaling ans quality sutainability.
Not to mention, 20 issues or so after the panther, the collaboration starts to recede. Kirby is clearly becoming a more dominant force, as Lee shifts more of his attention to Spider-Man and the new Silver Surfer series. The character is little more light-hearted, the stories more broad with fewer really punch in the face character moments...not none, but fewer. It is a shift
Of course, Lee was clearly more dominant for the first 30 issues or so, but that was leading toward the collaboration yin-yang sweet spot. A clear advantage to move more towards perfection than away.
I just realized something as I typed this, do you think it is possible? Possible that Stan Lee's Silver Surfer was spawned in writing FF #15?
Writing such a story, literally either right after... or as we just discussed, a part of... the first Surfer story, a character presented as a blank slate to him. Not to Kirby who wanted him to be Machine Man, but to Lee, YES!.
Kind of makes sense, right? The SUrfer story style matches FF #51, but also starts to exceed it a bit with more breathing room. Not just one issue.
WOW. Talk about the secret history of the Marvel Universe. One issue leading to most of the bronze age, a trend that continue to this day, the creation of Swamp Thing (and thus eventually Vertigo), and Stan Lee's groundbreaking Silver Surfer run. The potential of of it intended to be a part of the Galactus trilogy, and then possibly the post big story, talking-head more character driven story coming from it.
DO you know what this means, Dematteis?
You have so many insane conspiracy theories to call me crazy over. ope you killed your schedule.
I wasn't thinking about that story when I was writing DEFENDERS #101...just followng my muse...but you never know: it could have been lurking in my unconscious.ReplyDelete
Also: I think SWAMP THING owed more to classic horror films and the pulpy majesty of EC Comics than it did to Stan and Jack.
AS I said, much of this would likely be in the subconscious, and I doubt we can ever figure out what is lurking in the deep recesses of of the minds of Bronze Age creators as a whole, too much hippie crap in all their minds.ReplyDelete
And I hear the writer of Defenders #101 is one of the most Hippie of them all. He even has the words "wavy gravy" sewn into every shirt he owns.
AS for Swam Thing...
I admit, I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Wein, so I could not say if Ben Grimm was going through his mind.
It is especially hard to tell with a comparison to Ben Grimm, because Ben had all the parts of morose brooding over stuck in a body turned to a monster.
However, I have to say, I don't see the EC connection. EC tended to be more gory and revolved around bad things happening to bad people, I don't remember Alec Holland doing anything so horrible as to be stuck.
I can kind of see a mixture of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein. Maybe a little more of "The Fly" mixed with the unwarranted fear based on looks from "It Came From Outer Space."
Though I can;t help but notice more of a similarity to the now classic, then current Warren Magazine and Hammer Horror movies, but with out the gore and bare breasts of them both. And without the Christopher Lee of Hammer. So I guess Even 70s Swamp Thing can be improved.
That was A joke, Dematteis.
But after I typed the last one, I got interested, and went to the Marvel Fandom site, and looked up what else was coming out at the time.
As FF 48-53 was coming out, Ditko was wrapping up the Eternity saga with a crazy new kid named Denny O'Neil.
And, perhaps more notably, literally two months after "This Man, this Monster," as the Black Panther debut story was wrapping up, John Romita took over art duties on the Amazing Spider-Man.
Which was another long term collaboration for Lee, and a by all accounts, very natural one.
It was also the point when Spider-Man became fully formed to the character we know, with a supporting cast, and cutting put some of the more sough edges (not that Ditko was not great, but it was only 3/4 of the equation).
It was also where Lee was started to do a lot more interpersonal work, and dove even deeper into Pete was. Of course it was there before Romita, but it started to real feel next door.
Which brings us to the fact that it was also where Marvel really started to be a part of youth culture and reflect it, and feel like it was where Marvel was a mirror to the outside world, in some respect.
Those first 53 issues did three things...
Okay, go back ans reread the previous post so you can keep up. Just kidding.ReplyDelete
Three things they did...
1. It beautifully bridged the past and present of the Timely/Atlas/Marvel Universe. In a weirdly complete way.
For starters, from what it was, a collection of what it was. Monster comics? You better believe it, we have the Thing, the tragic monster story, not to mention Mole Man.
Then there is the rest of the sci-fi elements. Most of their villains were not supervillains, but rather sci-fi or light fantasy tales. Even Dr. Doom is an invading army, with magic at his disposal, and science that is basically magic.
Romance comics. Reed and Sue, with the drama, and her falling for Namor (who by the way is an invading force from another world, with crazy technology, sci-fi much?) and Reed saying he understood, and the will they won;t they. And when did it end? The marriage, which was right before the Galactus trilogy (quadrilogy?).
War comics. Not only did saying Ben and Reed were WWII vets ground them in reality, it allowed for them to actually take the next step with the stories. What happens to soldiers after the war? You could even argue that through a very dark glass, if you squint hard enough, Ben turning into a monster from a rocket crash, is a stand in for being crippled or maimed.
Then there is bringing in the already established characters. Namely, Namor. Who they revived and kept things going as he was, as Everett planned. A complex character, lashing out, but with a noble soul,fighting humanity for what they did to his people.
Bonus points, he was the one that freed Cap from the ice, while fighting the Avengers.
An finally, updated one... the Human Torch. The same thing done at DC with the Flash, Green Lantern, Atom, Hawkman, and so on, just a few years before.
They say you cannot have a future, unless you know your past. And they showed they did, by bring it back, making it part of the fabric what was, and reforging it into something new. NOt easy.
2. It incubated the Marvel universe.
If we are honest, the Marvel U we know really started to take full form around '66. Peter Parker would still be a jackass at times, Iron Man and Captain America would have these moments popping up that we reading now would scratch ur head at.
However, the FF was blazing forward, and having an effect on the rest.
Hulk was almost assuredly inspired by the success of the thing, and the anti-hero nature of Namor.
And when Hulk was cancelled, he started to show up as a semi-regular in the FF book. It was only three appearances, but it was a major stop on Stan Lee's push to bring him back
Not to mention, Hulk teamed up with Namor, a charact3er who despite being 20 years older, feels like a art of the FF.
The X-Men and Avengers... surprising s it is to think of now, struggled in sales at one point, and they started showing up in the book.
Daredevil was made their lawyer, and made appearances in each others book in those first two years.
Even break but character Spider-Man developed a rivalry with the Human torch, tutored his girlfriend, played a prank on them in his own book by making a web bat to scare them, and tried out for them in his first volume.
And if you through in its sister book, Amazing Adult Fantasy, which first came out in that format the month after the FF premiered, and was likely part of the same movement. Giving that the stories in its previous carnation sort of gave credence to Stan Lee's story that The FF was his chance to do things as he wanted. And it had a new direction, based on more thoughtful stories.
There is a similar vibe to those FF stories, and that gave us god coming to the modern world (Zeus in #13) and mutants, and as an oppressed minority (#14), which are Thor and X-men basis respectively.
3. It pushed the boundaries of everything first, and made it so basically anything can be anything.
Dematteis, you have wasted so much talking about the Fantastic Four, I apologize.
I'm sorry, Jack. I'll try to contain myself.Delete
Those Kirby-Lee FF stories remain a true high point, not just in the history of Marvel, but the history of comics.
There have been great writers and artists on that book since then, but no one can match what Stan & Jack did.
Sorry, that was supposed to be wasting time READING about the Fantastic Four, not writing. The writing was MY time wasting, that i was apologizing for.Delete
It is one of those times a typo can completely change the meaning.
My deepest apologies for any unintended implications that I was not interested in what you have to say. That is not the case.
However, my lack of proof reading when I am not working, that is very much fact.
I agree 100%.
I think those first 53 issues, when they are really in the groove are shockingly amazing. Yeah... the 89 afterwards are by no means bad, well, to put it in a way a hippie could understand the had been to India. They were still putting out the hits, but they were eyeing their solo careers. Thought a Beatles reference would help you.
By the way, if you are wondering what prompted all of thsi, it is because I guy I know is a huge X-Men fan. He used to have a Marvel room, and now has a MArvel and an X-Men room... also had two wives who are okay with it... read the x-books all the time as a kid, but never really read much else.
I met him when he started getting back into comics, but now was expanding. I in recent years have been sort of a Spider-guru to him. Loved Spec. #200 by the way.
However, another one he is reading is the FF. He is on another X-Men read through, but incorporates other Marvel titles now. He listens to the music of the eras, and really gets into the vibe. I emailed him, asking how the music was syncing up with some comics I recommended
He was reading SImnoson;s FF, which I was was very underrated. So he agreed, and then said, Byrne was still his favorite.
I agree, Byrne's run is rightfully celebrated, but I pointed out to Me Lee and KIrby were still the best. At which point he said he had not read them. He is a huge Stan Lee fan, but was waiting until they had them all in trade to start.
So, my brain got thinking on the run. And tat is why I bored you will al this nonsense.
I started reading those FF comics after I got Essential FF vol. 1 for my 18th birthday. At which point, I started to get one for every birthday or Holiday season until I finished the Stan Lee written ones. After that, it was the actual issues.
So... I finished when I was 20. If you are wondering they hold up to an 18-20 year old, who had already read Dark Knight Returns, Kraven's Last Hint, Watchmen, Kingdom Come, Batman Year One, most of Man0thing, Marvels, Squadron Supreme, X-Men God Loves, Man Kills, Sandman, and by the end The Death of Captain Marvel, a good chunk of Dreadstar, the answer is...
I really think the Fantastic Four suffers because o what it did. It created the Marvel universe, which in turn solidified comic fandom, which a few decade later would dig deep.
There is a lot more to those 53 issues than people give it credit for, and a lot more to discuss.
Was it the Buddha who said "a thousand candles can be lit and the life of that candle is not diminished."
Wow the Fantastic Four, the Beatles, and ow Buddha. This is really the day to peak your interest on the blog, isn't it?
Well, in comics that happened three times. Superman, A Contract with God, and Right in the middle... the Fantastic Four.
One final thought, the FF are much like the Simpsons. The Simpsons are also cited to be "more real than most real families on TV" or at least in their prime.
The FF then, acted more like real people than the vast majority of not only comics... but TV shows.
But, while no other works have lit as many candles than those three, in all the cases, we act like their light dimmed by it Which is vert unfortunate.
I really enjoy and respect the Lee-Kirby FF. Not sure if that came through
I think the FF kept it rolling through #67. FF #68 was a "back to basics" issue in which the Thing turned against his teammates (again!) and it was downhill from there.Delete
Now let me say that downhill for Lee & Kirby meant that there were still plenty of extraordinary stories, any one of which I would be happy to claim as my own (I especially love the first Microverse story with the Surfer), but there wasn't the same groundbreaking magic in every issue that we'd seen till then.
I know part of that was because Kirby decided he wasn't going to bring any new concepts to the company. He was already hoarding his New Gods ideas and preparing to jump ship.
Something else to consider: While they were breaking ground in FF every month, Kirby & Lee were doing the same over in THOR. The High Evolutionary! Hercules! Ego, the Living Planet! The Colonizers! Ragnarok! For a time THOR eclipses the FF in sheer imagination, but the FF, of course, always had more compelling characters.
I have to say, #68 is a strange place to pick the slide to towards back to basics to start. After all, the story directly before that is the first Adam Strange.Delete
Now, I enjoy the story, don;t get me wrong, and it might be because I had already read Starlin's brilliant 70s tales, but wasn't that story a retread of Silver Surfer?
A character created by a non-benevalont force (it is hard to call Galactus a villain, part of the brilliance), with insane power, who finds his better angels by coming in contact with Alicia Masters.
It is different enough to stand out, but it is also similar enough to be a retread. An attempt to recapture lightning.
Interesting side note I noticed checking on some things. That story was before Silver Surfer #1 came out, but his next appearance was the same month Silver Surfer #5. And that appearance of Adam was in Thor, which Kirby was still working on.
Also, that first Adam Strange appearance was AFTER Lee had used the Surfer in a Hulk story... a character Kirby had not worked on in quite some time. Perhaps signaling that he had plans for the character.
One can;t help but wonder if Kirby brought Adam back, maybe even created him, to do his original plan for the Silver Surfer.
The fact is Stan Lee's idea for the Surfer WAS better. Kirby tried his idea for the character at least once, Machine Man. The sad truth is that is was fun, but nothing to write home about.
In 2008, Marvel released a "lost" Lee-Kirby Fantastic Four story. Which was one that had previously come out, but Stan Lee had changed a lot of (#107-108), they published both stories. Both are good, and the Lost one has a lot of interesting ideas. but the one Lee changed functionally better as a story.
Kirby would not be the first person to not want to admit they need an editor.
And it is always possible that fans did not respond as well to Adam as the Surfer. Who knows?
Maybe that had an over all effect on Kirby's views on Marvel. I don't know.
And there issues after that I still really like. The story when the encounter Agatha Harkness for eh first time, the one where Ben is abducted by Skrulls who act like 1920s gangsters, and the one where they encounter NOT-the Creature from the Black Lagoon... all lovable tales. But it is not the height by any means.
I like the New Gods. You and I disagree about how much, because I do think it is flawed in ways, but there is no denying how awe-inspiring it is. Nor how much energy and passion radiates from every page.
So, perhaps it is all for the best.
As for Thor....
Of all the Marvel characters of the Silver Age, Thor (T-Hor? You work in comics, you can let me know) is the one that took me the longest to care about. Also the one that is hardest to really get into for very long. Even with writers I like.
Ego and the People Breeders ... a much cooler name than the High Evolutionary ... are classics. That is even were Galactus got a little more dimension to him, even where is origin comes from.
But it... as you pointed out... lacks the character anchor. So much so that Don Blake was completely abandoned as a concept. I think that was sort of where things maifested to its self.
Don Bake never seemed to get the attention that Peter Parker, Ben Grimm, or Steve Rogers did. He lacked the naturally interesting basis that Tony Stark did, as a rich playboy.
So, Lee and Kirby jettisoned him. I would not call it a bad choice, but Thor remained the larger than life figure for a very long time.
They made a choice, to make Thor THE guy, instead of more Don Blake... who had a lot of potential. A hero with literally the powers of a god, but... as Peter David wrote... is lame of leg. All the time living up to a view of what he should be, a son, a husband, a hero. A lot of great pathos there.
And your old nemesis Tom DeFalco proved that a mortal with Thor's powers among the gods has a lot of...no pun intended... legs.
But it was a choice, and the reasoning was grand and epic. true tale of mythology. However, while Thor developed his own elements, he seemed to miss that grounding needed for epic stories. The Bilbo or Frodo if you will.
Wait a minute, a man crippled, gets the power of a god, then they act like the person was never a part of it. That is the Black Racer.
The point is, I think that is why the FF could continue better without Lee or Kirby.
The Fantastic Four became very reflective of society as it moved forward.Delete
The 70s reflected the more cynical nature as it had stories of worlds were men subjugated women and Women subjugated Men, and with the FF breaking up, and Reed and Sue contemplating divorce, always seeing other realities where things went bad, and former heroes returning as mad villains. It was a sci-fi All in the Family.
John Byrne's run reflected the early 80s desire to go back to heat pre-hippie era, with its back to basics approach. l Even getting rid of the "heavy" Ben Grimm for She-Huk, who actually preferred the change. Showing the 80s desire to hide the "bad thoughts" in favor of a manufactured view of everything being fine, don;t think about it.
Mark Waid's run was kind of dark, with Franklin being trapped in Hell, Doom being trapped in Hell, and Franklin having trouble believing he was rescued and still seeing visions of Hell. Ben being inhabited by Doom;s ghost, Reed having to kill the and all four giving up heaven. Then losing all their money and having to take real jobs in a gritty NYC neighborhoods (that part in a subsequent weries), and Johnny being used by Galactus to find worlds.
You might be able to guess that was right after 9/11.
Perfect. My computer did not get the last part to send, because my computer is a jackass.Delete
SO I have to ry and remeber what I wrote. feel free to review what got through while i think. I might make reference....
Thor did not have that same ability as to adapt. The best example is... while there were good stories... it was not until Thomas brought the Celestials in that people started seeming to really take note almost a decade after Lee left. Then sort of a similar thing until Somonson.
A real shame, since the 70s should have been much bigger for Thor considering how popular fantasy was, and her was...you know... a figure from Norse mythology. He could have fit in pretty well.
But the larger issue is that because Thor's character was a less character driven book, it was harder to stop and thing about what you would want him responding to.
Well, you COULD, but it would not be quite as interesting as say Ben Grimm. The book was, and to this day often still is, steered more by plot, that can make the months where an idea just not coming, unable to be saved by a character turn.
I remember reading a back issue of Spider-Man once, a Roger Stern era book from back in the day, and the villain plot was very routine. However, that Peter Parker subplot had me turning those pages.
It is actually a common thread throughout Marvel. I remember reading in a book once that in the Silver Age, Marvel's biggest sellers were Spider-man, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, and Captain America. Which also happened to be the ones with teh most character work but into them.
Even on the low end of sales, there was Daredevil and the X-Men. The X-men got cancelled once upon a time, and Daredevil did not. I don;t think it is a coincidence that Lee wrote about 50 issues of Daredevil, and only 19 of the X-Men.
A base was well established with Daredevil. A show off, arrogant, identity issues, emotionally vulnerable. For all the changes to befall the character, those core elements remained. Hell, Miller and Nocenti's darker runs even continued his joking around.
When he left the X-Men Cyclops was established as a leader, but who was emtionally reserved and out of touch with his emotions off the field. Beast was s mart and had a sense of humor. Xavier was a compassionate leader, who can be a bit of a jerk. The rest were less developed. Even Xavier did not get much
And Cyclops was the one who stayed when it was revamped in the 70s, and Beast was the one that joined the Avengers.
That is a lot of conversation for one issue. Or did you forget that this all started talking about ONLY FF #51?
Also, with the menorah getting ever closer to eight candles (hectically nine), did you ever watch the Messiah on Mott Street again?
Not yet, but I may just pull out some old issues of THOR!Delete