Saturday, January 31, 2009

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 31

What If? v. 2 #109
Panel from What If? v. 2 #109 (June 1998), script by Bill Rosemann, pencils by Anthony Castrillo, inks by Ray McCarthy, colors by Felix Serrano, letters by Chris Eliopoulos

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Football: Now and Then

Football: Now and Then (Walt Disney, 1953), directed by Jack Kinney

Friday, January 30, 2009

FFotomontage: The Next Generation

FF: WGCM #98Hey, kids, look what I found! Only two days after posting a potpourri of photomontage collages from Jack "King" Kirby's Fantastic Four, I was re-reading the twelve-issue 2001 retro-style miniseries Fantastic Four: The World's Greatest Comics Magazine. The series is a great romp that I oughta get around to reviewing one of these days, since I consider it one of the most fun comics ever! A veritable modern Bullpen of Marvel artists joined together to create a mega-cosmic FF story in the style of Lee and Kirby, creating a retcon adventure that fits between Fantastic Four #100 and 101 and involves our Fearlessly Frenzied foursome teaming up with virtually every other hero in the Marvel Universe of 1970, from Spider-Man to Captain Mar-Vell, up against a crazed Doc Doom wielding the Cosmic Cube against Galactus. It's Lee-tastic and Kirby-riffic!

I'd re-read the series to see if I could find a buncha good Ben Grimm images (and boy howdy, did I!) but the big surprise was the final page of issue #8 (pencilled by Rick Veitch and inked by Terry Beatty), which is a homage not only to the style of Kirby but also to his fantastic photomontages, as cosmic-powered Doom leaps into the Negative Zone. So, here's a special bonus Friday FFotomontage, in the style and spirit of Kirby but with the dreamtastic drama of Roarin' Rick!:

Jack Kirby-style photomontage by Rick Veitch, from Fantastic Four: The World's Greatest Comics Magazine #8 (September 2001)
Page from Fantastic Four: The World's Greatest Comics Magazine #8 (September 2001), co-plotted by Erik Larsen & Eric Stephenson, script by Kurt Busiek, layouts by Erik Larsen, pencils by Rick Veitch, inks by Terry Beatty, colors by Eric Stephenson, letters by Richard Starkings & Comicraft

(Click on image to Rarebit Fiend-size)

And, via the kind suggestion of Matthew Alan Smith over at Holy Calamity: The TeamSmithy blog, see Veitch's original photocollage for this page at!

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 30

Hostess advert
Marvel/Hostess Snack Cake advertisement: The Thing in "A Lesson to Be Learned" (appearing in Marvel comics cover-dated November 1981), script by Alan Kupperberg (?), art by Richard Howell (?), letters by Irving Watanabe

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If I Ran Marvel Comics (And the BBC, too)

Marvel Team-Up

Back issues:

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 29

FF #30
Panel from Fantastic Four #30 (September 1964), script by Stan Lee, pencils by Jack Kirby, inks by Chic Stone, letters by Artie Simek

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Fantastic Photo World of Jack Kirby

Marvel Legacy 1960sIt's the mid-sixties! (Well, not now it isn't, but bear with me here; I'm tryin' to make a point!) It's a time of change and turmoil. Malcolm X is assassinated; the Vietnam War rages on despite protests, the Beatles claim to be more popular than Jesus, Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde is released, the first man to walk in space...uh, walks in space, the Warner Brothers cartoon division is closed, Winston Churchill passes away, Star Trek premieres, Hurricane Betsy devastates New Orleans, Cassius Clay wallops Sonny Liston. And, perhaps most shocking and earth-shattering in this world of tumult and transformation...the motion picture The Sound of Music debuts.

Meanwhile, comic books are 12¢. Whatta bargain! 'Specially if you're zipping down to Pop's Sodium Shop to finger through the spinner rack and tug out copies of Marvel's flagship title, Fantastic Four. This is the period where Stan Lee and Jack Kirby stretched the boundaries of superhero comics just like Mister Fantastic stuck in a taffy pull—even more so than when they reinvented the whole genre back in the early sixties. Stan's scripts became more frantic, funny and frenzied; Jack's artwork became bigger, bolder, more energetic and powerful than every before: a perfect storm of widescreen entertainment that could be rolled up and stuck in yours back pocket. Each and every month in the pages of FF, Messrs. K. and L. assured the public their production would be second to none. We got such huger-than-life characters like The Silver Surfer and Galactus, Psycho-Man, Black Panther, and the Uncanny Inhumans (featuring Kirby's most gorgeous creation to date, the lovely Lockjaw Crystal). Also, Wyatt Wingfoot.

As Jack experimented with larger panels, huge multi-spread splash pages, dynamic fight scenes and introspective character portraits, he also brought a radical new technique for the first time to Fantastic Four: his famous (some might say infamous) photomontages. In these innovative panels and pages, Kirby would Photostat his artwork over a photograph (sometimes in black and white, sometimes colorized or tinted) to create a collage unlike anything else seen in Marvel comics. At their best the photomontages approached a realistic 3D; even when they visually failed (usually due to the relatively poor printing processes of the period) they were still bold visual experiments. Let's hop in Doctor Doom's Time Machine (just kick those Arby's wrappers out onto the floor...Victor kinda lives outta his Time Machine), set the controls for 1964 and beyond, and tune into wonders of the fourth-dimensional mind of The King, Jack Kirby:

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #29 (August 1964)
Fantastic Four #29 (August 1964)
Click on any image to King-size

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #32 (November 1964)
Fantastic Four #32 (November 1964)

Jack Kirby photomontage cover from Fantastic Four #33 (December 1964)
Fantastic Four #33 cover (December 1964)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #33 (December 1964)
Fantastic Four #33 (December 1964)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #37 (April 1965)
Fantastic Four #37 (April 1965)

My favorite part of that last one? Stan's earnest explanation of why the photo might seem a little muddy in reproduction:
FF #37 caption

Give yourself a No-Prize, Mister Lee!

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #39 (June 1965)
Fantastic Four #39 (June 1965)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965)
Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965; takes place chronologically between issues #43-44)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966)
Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966)
Fantastic Four #51 (June 1966)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #55 (October 1966)
Fantastic Four #55 (October 1966)

That last one is a bit murky, perhaps showing off the limitations of the comic book printing and range of colors at the time. But the experiment isn't over, not by a long shot. Maybe it's no coincidence that my two favorite Kirby photomontages are these later two which brought the technique into the double-page spread widescreen format at the same time it more fully integrated the FF characters into the surroundings than ever before:
Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four #62 (May 1967)
Fantastic Four #62 (May 1967)

Jack Kirby photomontage from Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968)
Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968)

Whoa. That last one shoulda come in a black light version.

New Gods #3Kirby would continue the visual photomontages in his later work, most notably in various issues of his Fourth World books over at DC. It's a pity he did his work before the age of Photoshop, before the dawn of much-improved printing procedures, wider ranges of printed color, and deluxe paper—but then again, knowing how innovative the man was, he'd probably now be amazing us with a technique light-years beyond anything we'd seen. If Stan's scripts filled us with a sense of action and adventure, then Jack's artwork gave us its energy and power...and in his photomontages, awe and wonder over the vastness of unexplored space, undersea, or the Negative Zone.

So, in short? Jack Kirby: Genius. But, you knew that already, right?

Also, see Rick Veitch's homage to the Kirby photocollages here!

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 28

MAD #456
Panel from Marvel Two-in-One #62 (April 1980), script by Mark Gruenwald, pencils by Jerry Bingham, inks by Gene Day, colors by George Roussos, letters by Joe Rosen

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Well, you know that it's going to be all right/When we go shopping

I'm in the money, I'm in the money... Oh, hi! I didn't see you there! I just got my weekly paycheck (from selling copies of Grit magazine ("Grit: celebrating rural America since 1882"). So yes, that jingling and jangling you here...that's cold, hard, American cash burnin' a hole in my little pocket! (Also, my Tinkerbell video game.) Let's go buy some cool stuff, shall we? And there's no place better way to spend my $4.44 than to head into midtown Manhattan, hop on the 6 train and get off at 42nd Street and Madison Avenue. Look up at that skyscraper towering above us...that's the fabulous Baxter Building, home of the world's most amazing quartet of superheroes, the Fantastic Four! And just like all great sightseeing venues like the Louvre, the Taj Mahal, and that Texas restaurant where Ben Grimm once ate a 72 ounce steak just to get his name on the wall...there's a gift shop. In this case, the fabulous and frantic Fantastic Store!:

Panels from Fantastic Four #503 (November 2003), script by Mark Waid, pencils by Howard Porter, inks by Norm Rapmund, colors by Matt Milla, letters Rus Wooton

Step inside this amazing fantastic shop, and manually widen your eyes in wonder at the incredible fantastic souvenirs and other uncanny fantastic loot your hard-earned wampum will buy! Why, I want one of those back-scratchers in the shape of Ben Grimm's crusty paw, and a bottle of "Sue Storm Invisible Bath Beads," and what visit to The Fantastic Store is complete without picking up your very own Willie Lumpkin action figure?

What's that? You say you can't make it to The Fantastic Store, because you're cut off from Manhattan by secretly invading Skrull armadas, a rogue Negative Zone eruption, or maybe you're just plain not on Earth-616? Have no fear, Bully's here! With The Fantastic Store Online...all the finest trinkets, toys, souvenirs and shi stuff that Johnny Storm hurriedly stamped "approved" because he was late for his date with Amy Winehouse! (Remember kids...alcohol and open flames don't mix!). Get your mouse a-revvin' and limber up your clickin' finger to buy some Fantastic Four merchandise. Remember...and I cross my little satin heart here...everything you see is exactly as it's currently titled and pictured on they may be goofy, mis-conceived, titled incorrectly or displayed on Amazon with the wrong image...they're all weirder than the Impossible Man, but they're all as real as Stan Lee. (Click on the links if'n you don't believe me!) You can't make up this stuff, folks!

Stuff like this:

"Fantastic Four Mini Busts Triple Pack"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Hey, let's do three busts of the Fantastic Four...and leave out the one guy that most people like the best! That's a sure seller!

"Comic Book Metal Tin Sign Marvel Fantastic Four"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Wha' th'...? This is no "tin sign!" And has The Invisible Girl suddenly become The Dazzler?

"Fantastic Four #1"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Fantastic Four #1...for only $5.95?!? Wow, sign me up for that...oh. Ohhh.

"Marvel Masterworks: The Fantastic Four #61-71 + Annual #5"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Oh, it's so cute...this graphic novel comes with it's own little Mini-Me!

"Marvel Comics Collector's Edition The Fantastic Four Volume 2"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Now that's an appropriate image for the cover of a kid's videotape. No wonder the box itself is shouting NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

"Custom Photo Plate - Fantastic Four Photo Plate - Customize Your Fantastic Four Photo Plate With Your Favorite Photo"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Let's face it,'ll never get to eat breakfast with the Fantastic Four...not even when your mom puts your photo on a personalized plate that guarantees you to be the saddest little FF fan around! Because your mom loves you enough to buy you a dinner dish from a company called "Healthy Happy Pet Net"!

"The Fantastic Four: Belgian Aerobic Showdown"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Remember that period in the 1990s when the Hulk, Ghost Rider, Wolverine and Spider-Man replaced the FF? They've got nuthin' on these guys. Calling Marvel's legal department...

"Fantastic 4 Series III 6" Figure: Clobberin' Time Thing"
Fantastic Four merchandise


"Fantastic 4 Series IV 6" Figure: Sping Attack Mr. Fantas"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Okay, who doesn't hear an accordion going huh-haw, huh-haw, huh-haw when you see this thing?

"Fantastic 4 Child's Costume Accessory Boots Boot Covers"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Oh, yes, we swear that this is absolutely an authentic Fantastic Four costume accessory! It's definitely not just a generic product we're trying to brand to tie-in to a motion picture, no sir!

"The Fantastic Four Plug And Play Video Game"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Why aren't they making this video game controller for the Wii?

"Fantastic Four Mr. Fantastic Infant Costume: Size 12-18 months"
Fantastic Four merchandise

I think we all remember the issue of FF where Reed was transformed into an African American infant. (Truth to tell, I just thought this one was relentlessly cute!)

"Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer by Unknown. ART PRINT ON CANVAS with 3/4 inch deep bars. 11.00 inches width by 17.00 inches height. Highest Quality Art Poster Print"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Mel Brooks is "Mister Fantastic!” Dom Deluise is "The Thing!" Marty Feldman is "The Human Torch!" And Madeline Kahn is "The Invisible Girl!" They're all Jewish and all hiliarious!

"Fathead Fantastic Four The Thing Wall Décor"
Fantastic Four merchandise

Thing! Stop jumping on the bed!

"Mask of Dr. Doom 1/1 Scale Replica"
Fantastic Four merchandise

What If™...Victor von Doom was a 1960s Doctor Who monster?

"Fantastic Four Bob Bag"
Fantastic Four merchandise

"But Mommy, that's not the Thing!" "Shut up and punch your balloon."

"Premiere Collection: Formalwear Sue Storm 12" Statue"
Fantastic Four merchandise

And finally...we reach the point at which it doesn't matter whether you officially license a character or just churn out some generic crap in a factory and call it an official tie-in product.

So, if you've ever been wondering how the FF could ever go bankrupt...

FF #9 remixed

Now you know...the rest of the story.

365 Days with Ben Grimm: Day 27

MAD #456
Panel from MAD #456 (August 2005), by Johnny Ryan