John Duffy

Strange Tales #110: Flamin' 'Eck 22

Strange Tales #110, page 13, panel 4 Plot: Stan Lee

Script: HE Huntley (Ernie Hart)

Art: Dick Ayers

Letterer: John Duffy

Well, that was fast.

We close on a flaming lasso as Johnny apprehends the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete. Sadly, as they couldn't be categorised, we had no way of looking at the four pages of flashback that padded out this story. Or the bit where the Wizard decided that the best thing to use to defeat a teenager whose power is to ignite himself is a concentrated blast of pure oxygen. Or the other crazy bit where he claims that he can dissolve oxygen from the atmosphere.

Don't forget to let us know your favourite under-rated Fantastic Four stories!

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #110 on our fourteenth episode: The Return of Doctor Doom

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Episode_14.mp3]

Strange Tales #110: Flame On 40

Strange Tales #110, page 2, panel 1 Plot: Stan Lee

Script: HE Huntley (Ernie Hart)

Art: Dick Ayers

Letterer: John Duffy

It's back to Strange Tales, a place neither Andy or myself ever really want to go again. But if I can bear to trawl through these uninspiring early appearances of The Wizard and Paste Pot Pete to ensure that nary a Flame On is missed, then you can come along with me.

Ernie Hart is the man behind the pseudonym behind the script today. Best known as the creator of the Marvel Comics funny animal character Super Rabbit, this issue of Strange Tales is one of only a very small handful of Silver Age superhero comics that Ernie was involved in the creation of.

Anyway, it's had to context this 'Flame On', as it is the first thing to happen in the comic. Johnny's exercising in his backyard, as the caption tells us. Which is good, as not a single panel in the first page detailing this sequence ever manages to depict that backyard.

Don't forget to let us know your favourite under-rated Fantastic Four stories!

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #110 on our fourteenth episode: The Return of Doctor Doom

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Episode_14.mp3]

Strange Tales #106: It's... ASBESTOS!!! 7

Strange Tales #106, page 8, panel 5 Plot: Stan Lee

Script: Larry Lieber

Art: Dick Ayers

Lettering: John Duffy

Between the break in posting and the huge amount of content from Fantastic Four #12, it's been quite a while since we saw an appearance from my favourite trope: Inexplicable usage of asbestos. Thankfully, today's panel is an absolute classic.

Taking a leaf (and a visual) from Paste Pot Pete's book, ZANTE extinguishes Johnny's flame with a jet of liquid asbestos. Ignoring the fact that asbestos is a fibrous substance and liquidising it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.

Ah, my favourite villain and my favourite trope. Life is good!

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #106 in our tenth episode: Hulk? Smash!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Fantasticast_Episode_10_Final.mp3]

Strange Tales #106: Flame On 25

Strange Tales #106, page  5, panel 7 Plot: Stan Lee

Script: Larry Lieber

Art: Dick Ayers

Lettering: John Duffy

Take a look at the page and panel reference for today's image. Now go and see yesterday's. Now back to today's again. That's right, your eyes aren't deceiving you, and I've not made a mistake. Two FLAME ONs in three panels. Johnny sure has an ignition problem, and I'm sure it's nothing to do with Stan having to cover artistic inconsistencies that saw Johnny alternate between fiery and flame-free form from panel-to-panel.

Other details to notice include Reed's rarely-seen pipe, which would occasionally pop up in the early 1960s and in stories set during the early days of the Fantastic Four. Also take a look at Ben - his form has rarely been more 'lumpy-oatmeal'. As Kirby's main inker in the first couple of years on the book, Ayers played a large role in shaping the look of the Fantastic Four. It wasn't really until after he had moved on that the Thing's hide would move away from the organic, hide-like look to the more traditional 'rocky-platelets' look.

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #106 in our tenth episode: Hulk? Smash!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Fantasticast_Episode_10_Final.mp3]

 

Strange Tales #106: Flame On 24

Strange Tales #106, page 5, panel 5 Plot: Stan Lee

Script: Larry Lieber

Art: Dick Ayers

Lettering: John Duffy

It's back to Strange Tales, and a particular favourite of ours. Not only is issue #106 the episode where Johnny's pretence at having a secret identity completely falls down, but it also introduces my favourite villain of the entire run - The Acrobat, aka... ZANTE!

ZANTE makes his way into the book by convincing Johnny that he would be better off in a team with him, rather than with his family. Johnny pop round to tell Reed and Ben the news, and predictably, gets into some sort of fight. Still, it makes for a nice ignition panel from Dick Ayers - his first of many.

Check out our coverage of Strange Tales #106 in our tenth episode: Hulk? Smash!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Fantasticast_Episode_10_Final.mp3]

Fantastic Four #2: The Humanity Of Benjamin J. Grimm 1

Fantastic Four #2, page 19, panels 5-7

Fantastic Four #2, page 19, panels 5-7

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

One of the greatest tragedies of the Fantastic Four is the lost humanity of Ben Grimm, trapped forever in a monstrous form, unable to connect with humanity on the level that he used to. Forced to wear a large mac and fedora to hide his looks (or at least until he came to accept who he was and decided to wear a fetching pair of trunks), The Thing would quickly move beyond his anger issues and become the true heart of the team.

Not that it would stop Stan and Jack from teasing him regularly with the promise of returning to his human form. In this first instance, a repeated exposure to the cosmic rays affects only Ben, causing him to lose his powers and disfigurement. This only lasts for a couple of pages before he loses his human exterior again, but this unexpected transformation launches one of the longest-running subplots in the book, that of Reed working to somehow regain the humanity of his best friend.

Fantastic Four #2, page 21, panels 4-6

Fantastic Four #2, page 21, panels 4-6

I really enjoy Kirby's layouts of the transitions, and the way they mirror each other. In both triptychs, the eyes are the key element and focus of the panels. In the first, they change from the unnaturally round eyes of The Thing to the more natural shape of Ben Grimm's. In the second, they eyes vanish as Ben becomes The Thing again, highlighting the loss of his physical humanity.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: It's A Marvel Comic 1

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 1

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 1

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

One of my favourite conceits about the Marvel universe is the way that Marvel Comics themselves exist in their own universe. The general setup is that Marvel heroes license their images and adventures to Marvel Comics, who then publish comics based on these, which are usually almost completely identical to the ones we read. There have been some wonderful stories involving this across the years, a particular favourite of mine being The Thing #7 from 1984, where Ben heads over to the Marvel bullpen to protest the poor nature of one of his issues.

So, every now and again, we're going to see Marvel Comics in The Fantastic Four, and we'll take a look at them as they appear.

Here, Reed brings along some comics with him when he visits the Skrull spaceship, and manages to pass them off as surveillance intelligence and, incredibly, averts an alien invasion! The art of Kirby and Ditko has arguably never been so important!

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Fear Of The Thing 3

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 2

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 2

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 3

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 3

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 4

Fantastic Four #2, page 18, panel 4

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

It's a multi-panel spectacular today as Ben has one of his most spectacular meltdowns to date. Here, the team assault the Skrulls' hideout to rescue Johnny, and Ben sees Red. Not helped by Reed's insistence on calling his long-time friend "Thing", he threatens to smash a heavy dresser over the heads of the Skrulls. What makes this really stand out is the way Reed takes this into his stride and threatens to turn The Thing loose on the Skrulls unless they tell him everything. This dangerous and manipulative side to Reed is seldom seen.

As we get to see the entire team in these three panels, I just wanted to drop a quick note about the costumes. When The Fantastic Four was conceived, Stan wanted to move away from the conventions of the genre, including having the team in costumes. These first two issues feature the team in civilian clothes throughout, and seeing Reed in a suit and Ben in a pair of slacks does look a little strange. This unusual appearance coupled with the darker behaviours seen in these early issues gives us a Fantastic Four that is both familiar and different, resulting in a less-familiar reading experience across these first few issues.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Flame On .1

Fantastic Four #2, page 14, panel 5

Fantastic Four #2, page 14, panel 5

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

This is kind of a cheat, but it is worth pointing out the first time that the words 'flame' and 'on' are used consecutively in The Fantastic Four. Here, the Skrull impersonating Johnny Storm has managed to negate Johnny's flame by flying head-on into him whilst both were flaming. What's nice to see is that despite being in mortal danger, Johnny was actually thinking, 'hmm, those words sound good when said together. I must try them out at some point."

Anyway, even though these are the first time that these classic words are used, the fact that a damn dirty Skrull says them means that they only get a .1 tally. It'll be a little while more before we see Johnny use them as his traditional battle cry.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Property Damage 5

Fantastic Four #2, page 12, panel 6

Fantastic Four #2, page 12, panel 6

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

I think this is most extreme example of Property Damage that we've seen to date: The Human Torch destroys a missile launching platform at an army base.

Now, this is all part of Johnny's half-baked plan to draw out the Skrull imposters by pretending to be one of them, allowing him to infiltrate them. Of course, his plan requires that the Skrull impersonating him has gone off on his own for a while, or else he's just the Human Torch acting badly.

But not too badly... note that Johnny destroys an unfinished launching platform. That's still going to be at great cost to tax payer. Your tax dollars, funding silly plans to draw out shape-shifting alien invaders.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Reed's Stretchy Body 1

Fantastic Four #2, page 10, panel 3

Fantastic Four #2, page 10, panel 3

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

One of the great joys of having a member of your cast who can change his body shape must be getting to let your imagination run wild with the artistic possibilities of such a character. The first time I came across this type of power coupled with a writer and artist capable of running with these possibilities came when I read Grant Morrison and Howard Porter's JLA, back in the late 1990s. They had an absolute ball with Plastic Man, and for a large part of the 2000s, successive writers and artists kept Plastic Man as an amusing and inventive character within the League.

But we're not here to talk about the Justice League. We're here, under this category, to take a look at how Stan and Jack handled the possibilities of such a character. We start here, with Mr Fantastic contained in another seemingly escape-proof cell by the US Army. On the previous page we'd seen him use his fingers to probe ever inch of his cell looking for a gap, and here we find him squeezing through a minuscule gap adjacent to a rivet. This leads to this marvellous visual of a plaid-clad Reed sprouting his head from a metal wall.

Oh, and notice that this is before the unstable molecule costumes that would make their début in the next issue. That's an impressive plaid shirt!

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: It's... ASBESTOS!!! 1

Fantastic Four #2, page 8, panel 6

Fantastic Four #2, page 8, panel 6

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

One of my absolute favourite misconceptions of the Silver Age of Marvel Comics is the way that asbestos is thrown around as a catch-all substance to retard flames. Yes, asbestos has fire retardant properties - it's how it was used so extensively before the health risks became apparent - but on almost any occasion that you see asbestos used in the comics you should remember that it is a fibrous substance that is responsible for a pretty nasty and fatal lung condition.

So, when the army throw Johnny into an asbestos-lined cell to contain him, you should be able to visualise all those tiny little fibres heading down Johnny's throat and latching onto his lungs.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Fear Of The Thing 2.1

Fantastic Four #2, page 6, panel 3

Fantastic Four #2, page 6, panel 3

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

Just a quick postscript to yesterday's post, with this great reaction from the rest of the team. It's not often we have three of the team members conspiring against the fourth, but we absolutely get it here. The two-tone colouring and sotto voce whispering add to an air of conspiracy which, thankfully, wouldn't become a staple of the series.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In

Fantastic Four #2: Fear Of The Thing 2

Fantastic Four #2, page 5, panel 4

Fantastic Four #2, page 5, panel 4

Uncredited Writer: Stan Lee

Uncredited Penciler: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: George Klein

Uncredited Colours: Stan Goldberg

Uncredited Letterer: John Duffy

Our first excerpt from Fantastic Four #2 sees Ben not really helping himself in the 'Not-A-Rampaging-Monster' stakes. He has been riled by a series of imposters - actually shape-changing Skrulls with artificially-induced powers - who have been causing chaos around the country and besmirching the name of the team.

Whilst this is going on, the Four have taken a holiday in a remote cabin where no-one can find them. Unless the army need to... There's a very uncomfortable panel featuring Johnny polishing the barrel of a shotgun. But we're not here to look at teenagers with firearms. We're here to look at an angry Ben hurling a mounted bear head through the side of a cabin to prove that he is not a mindless rampaging creature...

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #2 in our second episode: Secret Invasion Tie-In