Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fantastic Four #37: You want us to do what?!!

Here's a Jack Kirby gem from the Chic Stone era-- Fantastic Four #37 (April 1965), "Behold!  A Distant Star!"  It starts with Johnny Storm burning off his tuxedo.  Why is he wearing a tuxedo?  Because Reed Richards and Sue Storm are getting married, that's why.  The Fantastic Four are right in the middle of preparing for the single most important nuptial event in Marvel universe history, and the groom suddenly takes it in his head to fly them to the Skrull homeworld to fight the whole planet.

This is a book filled with wedding plans and power rays (Reed:  "To put it simply, it's a variation of a power amplifier!  It draws energy from an unknown source from somewhere beyond the confines of our solar system, and converts it into raw, usable power!"  To which the Thing replies: "Thanks a heap for puttin' it simply!  Now how about sayin' it in English?") and alien vistas full of creatures that would give Commander Hoek and Cadet Stimpy nightmares.  And it has a moment where the Thing aptly sums up just what's wrong about Reed's plan.

Take it away, Thing:

Despite the Thing's completely sane objections, off they go to the Skrull planet in another solar system. Faster than light travel is nothing for the Fantastic Four these days, or for us readers. We're starting to take Reed's inventive genius for granted at this point.

But let's never take Kirby's for granted.  I may not be giving Stan Lee his due here (the dialogue between the team members crackles with wit) but that's probably because of Kirby's art in this issue, which makes me feel drunk.  Drunk in a good way, right when the buzz is taking hold and you feel funny and energetic, ready to dance.  The visuals pretty much run the FF gamut, the family drama (it's not everyday two superheroes have a wedding rehearsal) and then the pan-galactic, realized in one of Kirby's collages.  There are elements of tongue-in-cheek and operatic drama and Kirby gets to draw both tuxedos and space finery, design interstellar starcraft for two species and then a lot of alien flora and fauna.  This is evidence of a man truly feeling the material.  The earliest issues are timid compared to the full-blown Kirby... well, Kirbyness we find in "Behold!"

It's not just that collage.  There's a scene where a Skrull monologues and Kirby cuts to an exterior view so he can draw freakish space critters running across a planetary landscape.  It's weird, man.  Weird and wonderful.  Stan the Man must have cackled with glee when he saw that page.  I know I did.


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