I came across a list of the 100 Greatest Comic Books of the 20th Century on the CBR forums and thought that is a list that should be put to the test. To that end I will read and review every comic on that list and report to you faithful readers as to exactly why this comic book should be recognized as a piece of comic book history.
Fantastic Four #1
Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
I remember hearing a story where the head of Timely Comics (pre-Marvel) and National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) were playing golf, and the DC chief says “yeah, we got this book out, it’s a team of superheroes, called the Justice League, selling like hotcakes!” The head of Timely, which was mostly into publishing monster comics at the time, turned to young Stan Lee and said “make me a book, kid, and have it be a team of heroes, but you know, keep the whole monster thing in there to keep these books selling to our regular customers.” Maybe that’s not how it was, but I like the Mad Men aspect of business suits out talking about the big bucks in publishing illustrated periodicals, always on the lookout for the next big thing.
The Fantastic Four was that next big thing, the landmark comic that is essentially the birth of the Marvel Universe, the beginning of the creative dream team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby working in what would become the ‘Marvel Method’. So with Stan eager to make a name for himself and to write comics that he wanted to read, and with Jack Kirby eager for more work outside of DC (then National Comics), Atlas Comics published Fantastic Four #1. What an odd group of superpowered individuals, all fighting a giant monster on the cover. It really has that pulp adventure tone, a team of explorers, altered by cosmic radiation and therefore the perfect people to tackle all manner of bizarre otherworldly menaces. Here on the cover though we have Invisible Girl all up in peril, the Human Torch all bravado and no action, the Thing, his back to us but ready to get into the fray, and Mr. Fantastic is tangled…in ropes. But this all of them in one mighty magazine and it has a nice design-sense to it. That logo though is pure awesomeness. It’s late 50′s pop-quirkiness at its finest. (more…)