Yancy Street Pranks

Fantastic Four #34: Yancy Street Pranks 10

 Fantastic Four #34, page 2, panel 2

Fantastic Four #34, page 2, panel 2

Fantastic Four #34: Yancy Street Pranks 10

Rapturously Written by Stan Lee

Deliciously Drawn by Jack Kirby

Impeccably Inked by Chic Stone

Lavishly Lettered by Artie Simek

Fantastic Four #34 opens with the mystery of an unusual package sent to The Thing from the Yancy Street Gang. It's a typically off-beat opening, the kind that Stan Lee would trumpet as a reason why Marvel's comics were better than the offerings of their Distinguished Competition, but the revelation is somwhat... lacking.

It's a Beatle wig, because this comic comes from a time when The Beatles were as much about their image as anything. The joke is 'look how silly Ben would look in this wig', but for a Yancy Street prank, it feels a little flat. I don't know if it's the one-note nature of the joke, or the pretty blatant pop culture namedrop, but the revelation is very much a let down after the full-page setup to the joke.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #34 on our thirty-eighth episode: Two Not-That-Fat Men On Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four #29: Yancy Street Pranks 7, 8 and 9

Fantastic Four #29, page 2
Fantastic Four #29, page 2

Fantastic Four #29: Yancy Street Pranks 7, 8 and 9

Written with a dash of greatness by: Stan Lee

Drawn with a hint of glory by: Jack Kirby

Inked with a touch of drama by: Chic Stone

Lettered with a bottle of india ink by: S. Rosen

I'll try my hardest not to post full, consecutive pages of these comics. Splash pages seem like fair game, story pages less so. However, I'm doing this today because this is the first time the Yancy Street Gang has taken on the entire Fantastic Four. As I'm sure anyone reading this knows, the Yancy Streeters focus their attentions on Ben Grimm, but it's clear here that if the FF head onto their turf, then the entire team become fair game.

So, in short order, we get a trashcan, a pail of water, and some sneezing powder (purchased, no doubt, from the small ads in any Marvel Comic!) used to see the heroes off. It's a scene that works really well. None of the pranks are truly offensive, none are illegal. Kirby and Stone enjoy the physicality of the humour, from a bedraggled Johnny to a hopping Ben.

Great stuff!

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #29 on our thirty-second episode: Now With Genuine People Personalities


Fantastic Four #29: Yancy Street Pranks 6

Fantastic Four #29, page 1
Fantastic Four #29, page 1

Fantastic Four #29: Yancy Street Pranks 6

Written with a dash of greatness by: Stan Lee

Drawn with a hint of glory by: Jack Kirby

Inked with a touch of drama by: Chic Stone

Lettered with a bottle of india ink by: S. Rosen

It's a bit touch-and go as to wether this splash page really counts as a prank. Technically, it's 'littering' and 'defending your turf'. However it's the first time the Fantastic Four have ventured down Yancy Street itself (previously, the Thing had stood at one end of the street holding up a flattering picture of himself), and that felt like it warranted a mention.

More appropriately, it's the first page to feature inks by Chic Stone, who instantly displays his strengths as an inker and set himself apart from his predecessor, George Roussos. Where Roussos favoured a heavy, chunky line, Stone's inks over Kirby's pencils would be defined by the lightness of his line, especially when it came to scenery and background. He also provides stronger definition for the main cast - check out Reed's cheekbones or how Johnny's 'flame-lines' hint at a more detailed musculature than had previously been depicted.

It's no secret that Stone is one of my favourite Kirby inkers, and although he would spend less than a year on the book, he was a valuable part of the title's transition from the earlier, experimental and improvised feel into the Fantastic Four truly becoming the World's Greatest Comics Magazine.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #29 on our thirty-second episode: Now With Genuine People Personalities

Fantastic Four #25: Hulk vs The Thing Round 3.3/Yancy Street Pranks 5

Fantastic Four #25, page 16, panel 3
Fantastic Four #25, page 16, panel 3

Fantastic Four #25:

Hulk vs The Thing Round 3.3 / Yancy Street Pranks 5

Sensational Story by: Stan Lee

Astonishing Art by: Jack Kirby

Incredible Inking by: George Roussos

Lighthearted Lettering by: S. Rosen

This is a very important panel, and not just because it features The Thing and The Hulk brawling in the back of a speeding pickup truck, although that would surely place it in any list of top panels.

What makes this important is that it fundamentally changes the nature of the Yancy Street Gang. Prior to this, they had been unseen practical jokers, setting up a quick visual gag and helping redefine The Thing as a loveable curmudgeon rather than a raging monster. Here, we are introduced to the idea that as far as they're concerned, no-one but them gets to have a go at The Thing. We're twenty years away from John Byrne fleshing out Ben's relationship with the gang, but by positioning them somewhere between ally and antagonist, a whole world of depth and potential is opened up. I'd argue that it's this two-panel sequence that truly cements the Yancy Streeters in the hearts of fans.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #25 on our twenty-fifth episode: It'll Be Our Little Secret, with special guest-host Michael Bailey

Fantastic Four #23: Yancy Street Pranks 4

Fantastic Four  #23, page 10, panel 2
Fantastic Four #23, page 10, panel 2

fantastic four #23: yancy street pranks 4

Written by: Stan Lee

Illustrated by: Jack Kirby

Inked by: George Roussos

Lettered by: S. Rosen

It's page 10 of this 23-page story, and the plot is only just beginning to get underway. A newspaper reports that a random Maharaja wants to give Johnny a random supercar. In future pages, this random Maharaja will turn out to be one of Doctor Doom's minions. I really can't see why this should be turning up nearly halfway through the book. This could be a great inciting incident for the story, the events of the first couple of pages, with Johnny being kidnapped and the mastermind behind it revealed to be Doctor Doom. The recruitment of the minion would then be a two-page flashback,  before the rest of the story continues. 23 pages is a lot of space for a story, and with Kirby still cramming 7 or 8 panels onto a page, it quickly becomes clear that the number of pages outweighs the amount of plot.

In the midst of all of this, we see Ben reacting to a Yancy Street prank in an uncustomarily calm manner. Instead of getting angry a breaking some furniture, he appears to be sitting at a writing desk, deciding how best to respond to the letter.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #23 on our twenty-third episode: (Asbestos) Grease Is The Word

Fantastic Four #15: Yancy Street Pranks 3

Fantastic Four #15, page 3, panel 2 Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

This prank is one of my all-time favourite jokes played on Ben Grimm by the Yancy Street Gang. I liked it so much that when Skottie Young was announced as a guest at the Thought Bubble Convention 2012, I seriously considered spending rather a large amount of money on a sketch from him, re-interpreting this.

Unfortunately, he had to pull out of the convention. Which turned out to be not unfortunate at all, as I persuaded artist and Fantasticast guest-host David Wynne to give it a shot. And he did so rather wonderfully!

The Thing Is A Sissy, by David Wynne (after Jack Kirby)

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #15 on our thirteenth episode: The Thinker's Fantastical Predictions!

[audio http://traffic.libsyn.com/ffcast/Episode_13.mp3]

Fantastic Four #11: Yancy Street Pranks 2

Fantastic Four #11, page 4, panels 3-4 Script: Stan Lee

Art: Jack Kirby

Inking: Dick Ayers

Lettering: Art Simek

11 issues into the series, and only our second Yancy Street prank.

And this is the first one that fits the classic antagonistic relationship between the gang and the Ever Lovin' Blue Eyed Thing. Considering that certain core elements of the series are in place so early on - Johnny's FLAME ON battle-cry, The Thing's temper tantrums - it's gently surprising that one of the defining features of The Thing has taken almost a year to appear.

There are two things that make this prank great. One is the set-up - Ben gets an elaborately wrapped box, embellished with the dedication 'To The Thing'. Ignoring the lack of a return address or any sign as to who could have sent it, Ben opens the box and receives a classic Acme boxing-glove to the face,

The other is how Ben receives the box. It's through the post, and for the first time, we see the unfortunate individual unlucky enough to have to deliver the fan mail to the Baxter Building. Yes, Fantastic Four #11 is the first appearance of the long-suffering mailman, Willie Lumpkin.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #11 on our ninth episode: Episode 9 - Patriotic Pedestrians Proceeding from Planet Poppup Prefer Poorly Produced Podcasts!

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Fantastic Four #6: Yancy Street Pranks 1

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

Uncredited Inker: Dick Ayers

The Yancy Street Gang  is one of the most important long-running jokes in the Fantastic Four. In the 1980s, John Byrne would give us Ben's upbringing and history with the gang, but for the twenty years previous, their main purpose in the book was the be an ever-present source of irritation to Ben, puncturing his pomposity and taking any opportunity to humiliate him, almost entirely from off-panel (We have Roy Thomas to thank for this, as an early letter to the comic contains the suggestion to never see the gang, an idea Stan and Jack were happy to go with).

Their first appearance in the Fantastic Four merely hints at their later greatness, a letter threatening to take Ben down if he ever shows his face. Ben is not too worried by the letter, laughing it off in a panel that, thanks to some strained perspective, makes it look like he's about to bite Johnny's head off.

Check out our coverage of Fantastic Four #6 on our fourth episode: Super-Villain Team Up