As we trudge ever-closer to the end of 2015, we're taking a look back at this past year in the life of The Fantasticast. On Monday, we covered January-March, and yesterday we covered April-June. Today, we're focusing on July-September. We had two Fantastic Four movies to cover, did a whole bunch of Fan-Splaining, and started our regular Marvel Team-Up coverage...
July started with our first-ever fill-in issue, Fantastic Four #119 - Three Stood Together. Roy Thomas provided his first Fantastic Four script, a neat and effective tale of racism, intolerance, and a thinly-veiled apartheid-era South Africa analogue. The cover format had recently changed, but this was also the first appearance of the new Fantastic Four logo and, thanks to our designer Sam, our own new logo. Just in time for some special episodes...
After a few months away, Stan Lee returned to the FF with Fantastic Four #120 - The Horror That Walks On Air. Stan's final run on the FF isn't a high point, and this story gets underway with a limp retread of the first appearance of the Silver Surfer. And, with our special episodes just around the corner, our decision to start a four-part story just before taking a few weeks off shows that our ability to plan ahead is, as always, impeccable.
Despite the movie turning out to be terrible, we decided to celebrate its release with a series of special episodes, kicking off with Steve And Andy Fan-'Splain The FF Part 1. Taking more than a little inspiration from Rachel And Miles X-Plain The X-Men, we decided to run through the first 51 issues and 3 annuals of the Fantastic Four in just under an hour. It was something a bit different for us, and we hope that it was a lot of fun to listen to.
Our second special episode was Steve And Andy Fan-'Splain The FF Part 2, bringing our recap of every Fantastic Four issue covered on the show up to date. In just under an hour, we rattled through Fantastic Four #52-120, along with annuals #4-6. Huge thanks go to our designer Sam Savage for these wonderful covers, and to Michael Bailey of From Crisis To Crisis for counting slowly and clearly for us.
Our final special episode was our commentary on the unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four movie, produced by Roger Corman. It's not a great movie, but history is unlikely to judge this the worst Fantastic Four film. The film featured some phenomenal glove-acting, a terribly-animated Human Torch, and we added some more fun to the mix by turning Youtube's automatic subtitling feature.
After much anticipation, we finally got to start our coverage of Marvel's 1970s team-up comics with Marvel Team-Up #1 - Have Yourself A Sandman Little Christmas by Roy Thomas and Ross Andru. We also took this as the excuse to invite back onto the show Avengers Inspirations host Jon M. Wilson, as the show has taken so much inspiration from Jon's former show Amazing Spider-Man Classics.
It's at about this time that the Fantastic Four movie was released into cinemas, to some of the worst reviews seen since After Earth. Steve got to see the movie just before release, and managed to get his conflicted, angry thoughts in order to produce a midweek minisode, reviewing the film. After a very long time away from the core FF title, we returned for Fantastic Four #121 - The Mysterious Mind-Blowing Secret Of Gabriel. It's another Stan Lee runaround issue, frantically looking to fill time until the glorious final splash page by John Buscema. Sadly, at the end of everything, it turns out that the secret of Gabriel was neither that mysterious, nor particularly mind-blowing...
Fantastic Four #122 - Galactus Unleashed turned out to be one of most physical confrontations between the Fantastic Four and the World-Eater seen in comics. Making Galactus someone that the team can take on in combat may remove some of his mystique, but it lends itself to some great artwork from John Buscema. After two issues of very streamlined storytelling, Stan Lee remembers that he's Stan Lee and splits the team up to give greater story possibilities.
Our final episode in a very busy month looked at Marvel Team-Up #2 - And Spidey Makes Four. The Frightful Four are invading the Baxter Building, and only the Human Torch and the Amazing Spider-Man can do anything about it. Assuming, that is, that Spidey can shake off his brainwashing and stop fighting as part of the Frightful Four! We also brought along Cinematic Universe co-host James Hunt to take a look at this packed issue.
September was all about bidding farewell to Stan Lee as regular writer of the Fantastic Four. We kicked off with the conclusion to his latest Galactus story in Fantastic Four #123 - This World Enslaved, featuring a return of our favourite FF guest-star - Richard M. Nixon. We also had a brief peek at Captain America and Falcon #150, and a longer look at Incredible Hulk #152, the prelude to the Trial of the Incredible Hulk.
Fantastic Four #124 - The Return of the Monster was the start of Stan Lee's final story for the FF. It's fair to say that wasn't a huge clamour for the return of the Monster from the Lost Lagoon, which led (in this issue) to a lot of running around for no real reason at all. We also spent some time looking at Incredible Hulk #153, in which the Fantastic Four find themselves participating in the Trial of the Incredible Hulk, and Reed faces a moral quandry.
Morbius, The Living Vampire was the villain for Marvel Team-Up #3 - The Power To Purge, in which Spidey and the Torch teamed up, attended lectures, drank tea, and took on the not-quite-undead. Continuing our theme of teaming up with other podcasters, we invited Stacey Taylor of Stacey's Pop Culture Parlour onto the show to help make sense of this issue. Spoilers: We didn't. And we still don't really know what an enzyme vampire actually is...
This is it - Stan Lee's final issue of the Fantastic Four as regular writer. What a shame we couldn't get something a little better than Fantastic Four #127 - The Monster's Secret. With more running around and a rushed, nonsensical conclusion, this certainly isn't a good example of Stan's writing. Bidding farewell to our Fearless Leader, we also took a little bit of time to compare and contrast Stan's return to the book with his return of Amazing Spider-Man.
Well, we're nearly there. Check back tomorrow for the final episodes of 2015, and then come back on Friday for an exciting announcement about the future of the podcast.