FANTASTIC FOUR #100 July 1970
Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott original artists
|Reaching a milestone hundredth issue of the
self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Comic
Magazine", each and every one of them
helmed by the book's two original creators,
would've seemed like a dream come true to
the inordinately fascinated 9 year-old who
had had a copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #4 thrust
into his trembling hands almost as if by
fate several years earlier. Funny thing,
though, how sometimes dreams unexpectedly
turn into nightmares...
|Don't get me wrong. I was just flipping through
my copy of FF #100, and its utilization of
the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker as
means to send out a score of android versions
of colorful and familiar adversaries against
our beleaguered team befits the perfunctory
anniversary theme called for to mark such
a landmark occasion, and does so nicely enough.
But that's the problem right there--for an
awful long time, Lee and Kirby turned out
work that was far more than merely nice--good
golly Gracie, it was determinedly GREAT!
But with a mounting dissatisfaction rapidly
building up--if not an outright resentment--the
brilliant Jack Kirby seemingly cranked out
most of his last year's worth FF material
as if on autopilot. Granted, the King operating
on fumes is still a far sight better than
many another pencil-pusher at their bushy-tailed
best, but it didn't matter. We'd all been
spoiled by those earlier stone-cold classics.
Jack's heart obviously wasn't in his 1970
Marvel assignments, and we long-time readers,
well, we could all too easily tell...
Through the fan press, I was probably aware of Jack's plans to move over to DC Comics when I sat down with this 100th issue celebration, which certainly would've thrown a decided pall over the proceedings. Reading this, one can almost picture Jack, hat in hand, coat pocket well-stocked with his beloved stogies, one foot out the door as visions of Apokolips danced in his head! I've never been any sort of Fourth World fanatic, folks, but at least the enthusiasm that clearly radiated off THOSE pages beat the ennui pervading Kirby's last months working with Stan Lee...
And what about Stan, anyway? Well, in fairness to Jack, he wasn't exactly setting the comics world on fire with what would ultimately amount to being his final collaborations (save for that late-seventies Silver Surfer trade paperback) with his most famous--and gifted--partner. The boys, y'see, set the bar prohibitively high early on and, well, you do your best, sure, but sheer unadulterated brilliance isn't the easiest thing to keep going for near unto a decade, y'know?
In all, Stan and Jack lasted a staggering 102 consecutive issues on FANTASTIC FOUR (as well putting together a handful of Annuals, with an odd epilog of sorts coming with number 108, consisting as it did of portions of an unpublished--and gutted--Kirby story, supplemented by art from both John's Buscema and Romita). I suppose its nice that they made it to the One Double Oh--and went two over rather than, say, two under, besides. Its an achievement to--you should pardon the expression--marvel at, no denying it, but if you put aside the numbers for just a minute, maybe it would've been better for all--as well as the legend itself--had Lee and Kirby closed up shop after their last big Doc Doom multi-parter (#87), rather than string things out with the uninspired likes of the Monster From the Lost Lagoon, and an entirely unnecessary trip to the moon. Ah well...
Stan lasted exactly a year without his erstwhile partner, turning over the scripting chores of Marvel's most prestigious title to others once and for all come the 115th issue. Nothing particularly memorable occurred in the issues Mr. Lee presided over sans Mr. Kirby, as Stan approached, however unknowingly, the end of his days as a full-time four-color wordsmith. Not to worry, though. Stan took advantage of the time immediately thereafter and perfected perhaps his GREATEST creation: Stan Lee!!
FANTASTIC FOUR #100--one last hurrah for two seasoned vets. But as the entirely competent but hardly inspired cover illustration might rightly indicate, as it turned out, it was was just not an overly LOUD one...
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