Jonathan, son of Kevin:
Fantastic Four #1-10
Issue(s): Fantastic Four #1, Fantastic Four #2, Fantastic Four #3, Fantastic Four #4, Fantastic Four #5, Fantastic Four #6, Fantastic Four #7, Fantastic Four #8, Fantastic Four #9, Fantastic Four #10
...Reed Richards is the smartest man alive...
...and none of them seem to have to work or go to school.
Losing their money was more of a one-time plot point than an on-going struggle. Nonetheless, this certainly started something big. There is at least some focus on "down time" - the team just hanging out in their headquarters, which is kind of interesting and certainly a change from the Golden Age Marvel stories (it's worth noting that the most obvious way to meet Goodman's demand would have been for Lee and Kirby to deliver a repeat of the All Winners Squad. Instead they delivered three all new characters plus a re-make of a Golden Age character).
The most interesting character is Ben Grimm, who is surly and violent...
...and frequently considers turning to crime in the early issues. The others also have their moments, especially mousey Sue and her obsession with Namor. The Sub-Mariner and the Mole Man are somewhat sympathetic villains, but Doom and the Puppet Master are generic and pure evil at this point. The writing is very corny. The constant bickering between teammates, supposedly the big innovation of the Marvel Age, is contrived - they often fight for no good reason at all - and quickly becomes very annoying. The art on these stories are truly terrible. Sloppy and lacking in detail. Backgrounds are sparse or non-existent. This is not the Kirby you think you know. But these stories still are interesting from a historical perspective, and may have felt like more of an innovation at the time than they do today since i am reading from a vantage point where "realistic" super-hero comics are the norm.
#1 "The Fantastic Four" - The Fantastic Four investigate the collapse of nuclear power stations into the depths of the earth all over the world, and wind up on Monster Isle, where they fight the Mole Man and his hoard of monsters.
The Mole Man himself is a somewhat sympathetic villain, and the issue takes time to delve into his origin as well.
He's also the first in a long line of "blind but can fight just fine" characters for Marvel.
It's amazing how neatly this first issue signals the end of a Monster Age and the beginning of a super-hero era. Judging from the cover, this issue might not have been different than any number of monster stories that Marvel was publishing at this time (Sean Howe, author of Marvel: The Untold Story, notes similarities to the cover of Strange Tales #90, published the same month as FF #1).
The Mole Man's lair is said to be sealed off forever, but of course the Mole Man will go on to be an enduring character.
This issue also tells the FF's origin: rushing to get into space before the commies, super scientist Reed Richards sneaks onto an experimental rocket with his girlfriend Sue Storm and her kid brother Johnny, as well as pilot Ben Grimm who was correctly concerned about the negative effects of cosmic rays but was badgered by Sue, who he had a crush on.
In space they were bombarded by cosmic rays...
...each given strange abilities that matched their personalities and loosely corresponded to the four classic elements. The Thing, truly dangerous and not at all the cuddly guy you know, is the most interesting.
The story is told in an unusually ambitious format, starting with a set of present day scenes that introduce the mysterious new characters, then a flashback to the origin, and then the Mole Man plot.
Despite the cover, nowhere in this story is Mr. Fantastic tied up with rope.
....forcing the real team to have to go into hiding and eventually get caught by the military.
Here's the first appearance of a Daily Bugle, although Barney Bushkin's Daily Globe gets more prominence.
The FF escape...
...capture the Skrulls that were impersonating them, and stop the Skrull invasion fleet by showing the commander pictures from Strange Tales and Journey Into Mystery comic books. Considering that just last issue the FF fought the Mole Man and an army of creatures very similar to the ones in the comic books, one wonders why he couldn't just have shown them pictures of the real things.
Anyway, the deception works, and after the FF show the captured Skrulls to the cops, they are taken off the most wanted list. Reed reasons that the Skrulls can't be held in conventional prisons so he hypnotizes them into thinking they are cows (and hooo-boy the trouble that little throw away bit will cause!).
During the course of this story, the Thing is exposed to cosmic rays again and he briefly turns back into Ben Grimm and then back.
In an earlier scene, the Thing starts ranting quite a bit and the rest of the team whisper that they need to do something about him.
I've mentioned that the constant bickering gets annoying, but this real anger and danger of Ben Grimm is actually quite good. The Thing is miles beyond the others in terms of power levels at this point, and the fact that he is barely in control and has little regard for the law makes for interesting reading.
The Torch does a good job of standing up for himself this issue, though. These aren't the playful fights i'm used to; there is real tension here.
The FF get uniforms and the flying-bathtub Fantasti-car. The car is presented with little fanfare; its first appearance is a tiny panel.
We also see that it can break apart into four pieces a few panels later.
There's a neat cutaway shot of their headquarters which indicates they have a long range passenger missile, a helicopter, and a pogo plane as well as a number of other nifty rooms and gadgets (we are told to clip this panel and save it for future reference).
Considering the amount of equipment the FF have bought and are maintaining, it is no wonder they have gone broke by issue #9, but right now it feels like a turn towards more conventional super-heroics. The Thing's costume includes a helmet that will much later be dredged up after he is injured in a fight with Wolverine.
The entire costume is quickly discarded.
They fight a master hypnotist called the Miracle Man, and a cool monster illusion.
A nice scene of the team at the Baxter Building in this issue - i love Reed smoking the pipe.
Johnny and Ben continue to fight. Note that Ben tells the Torch to "Flame off". This is before the Torch coins his "Flame on" catchphrase.
Sue's invisibility is defeated by a dog this issue.
At the end of the issue the Thing gets upset that the Human Torch gets credit for blinding the Miracle Man, and the Torch gets upset and quits the group. Reed worries about the fate of mankind if the Torch should turn against them.
The Invisible Girl apparently likes freaking people out by drinking sodas in public restaurants while invisible.
I could be wrong, but i think Jack Kirby had strange ideas about what kids wore in 1962. I highly doubt they were wearing plaid suit jackets and bow ties.
I could be wrong, i don't know. The Thing finds the Torch and they fight, but the Thing temporarily turns back into Ben Grimm again, and the Torch escapes to the Bowery and winds up in a flop-house where he reads an old Sub-Mariner comic book (Namor was last seen in print in 1954.).
Amazingly enough, the Sub-Mariner is in the flop-house too, in his bearded, amnesiac state. After a fight with some local toughs the Torch burns off his beard, recognizes him, and flies him to the ocean.
Namor swims home, sees that his kingdom has been destroyed by nuclear tests (the water is still glowing with radioactivity!) and vows vengeance on humanity.
He starts by waking the ancient creature Giganto, a really cool looking whale monster with arms and legs.
Johnny calls in the rest of the FF and the Thing defeats Giganto by strapping a nuclear bomb to his back and jumping into the whale's mouth. Holy crap what a crazy idea...!
The Invisible Girl grabs Namor's magic horn, preventing him from summoning any more monsters, but he catches her and... uh-oh, some serious sexual tension kicks in that basically will never go away.
The Human Torch first shouts "Flame on" this issue, although it's worth noting that the Golden Age Torch already came up with that phrase (and even "Half-Flame On!" when necessary).
After a little scuffle Namor is thrown back into the ocean but he swears to return.
#5 "Prisoners of Doctor Doom!" - The first of four issues in a row where the FF are "Prisoners" or "Captives" of someone. This issue is the really terrible introduction of Doctor Doom. Like a lot of generic villains, he has a lot of pet animals, like vultures and tigers, in this issue.
Johnny is reading Hulk #1 and remarks that the Hulk reminds him quite a bit of the Thing.
While Johnny and Ben are fighting, Dr. Doom covers the FF's tower with a electrically charged web. After forcing Sue to become his hostage (sheesh), the other three are sent back in time by Doom to recover the treasure chest of Blackbeard the pirate.
I guess it is pretty bad-ass to have a pet tiger.
Well, after getting some disguises, it turns out that the Thing is Blackbeard...
...and he doesn't want to go back to modern times, until a tornado destroys his pirate boat. The FF bring back the treasure chest but divide the actual treasure among the pirate crew (which contained Merlin's magic stones - now on the bottom of the ocean due to the tornado). Back in modern times, Doom and the FF fight, but Doom escapes.
We learn a little of Dr. Doom's origin, as well.
I'm not quite sure why Namor didn't realize he was being suckered. His job was to sneak into the FF's building and plant a device. Any henchman or robot, or even Doom himself could have done that. Anyway, Doom activates the device, launching the FF's building into space (as Twisted Toyfare Theater likes to point out, it's his best move)...
...thereby taking care of all super-powered beings who might have been able to challenge him in one fell swoop. Surely Namor could have seen that coming, but he was probably distracted by the idea of seeing Sue again. Likewise, Johnny, snooping through Sue's stuff, finds a glossy 8x10 of the Sub-Mariner hidden behind her bookshelf. Anyway, Namor is able to fly to the rocket Doom is using to drag the building to the sun...
and he stops Doom (who is left hurtling into outer space on an asteroid) using his little used electricity absorption powers.
The Baxter Buidling is returned right back to where it was. I'm sure the plumbing and electrical wires all hooked right back up when the building landed, too. Namor heads back into the ocean where he is not really doing much to locate his people that were displaced by the nuclear tests.
In this issue, the Fantastic Four answer a fan mail letter, and in the process explain why Mr. Fantastic's costume stretches with him. The second letter is the first mention of the Yancy Street Gang.
The Yancy Street Gang will remain a source of humor in the comic for decades. Mr. Fantastic's unstable molecules are even more significant, eventually explaining why most super characters' powers don't affect their costumes.
This issue also gives us an updated cutaway of the Baxter Building.
...causes all individuals on Earth to start fighting with each other, and, more specifically, hate the Fantastic Four. The FF agree to go to Planet X (more out of curiosity than anything)...
...where they discover that this advanced race has only built 2 spaceships, and they are about to get destroyed by an asteroid. Reed helps by shrinking the entire planet's population down to a size where they can fit on one ship, and they fly home in the other. Reed is described in this issue by Sue (or maybe Johnny) as "The greatest scientist of Earth... perhaps in the whole universe!"
This issue has a little hijinx between the Torch and the Thing. It's a little more good-natured than their previous fights, but there's still some real tension.
#8 "Prisoners of the Puppet Master!" - The Thing is prevented from entering Reed's lab, and he storms off, with the Invisible Girl following - and talking to him while invisible, which attracts the attention of some ruffians, which Ben and Sue kick the crap out of to blow off some steam. Meanwhile, the Puppet Master is using his radioactive clay (sheesh!) to force some poor schlub to commit suicide. The Torch catches the poor guy, and the Puppet Master gets his finger burnt.
He vows vengeance and possesses the Thing. The Puppet Master also makes a point of correcting Alicia when she calls him father instead of step-father (in later issues his love for Alicia will be his only humanizing trait, but here he doesn't think much of her). Alicia is blind and is therefore unaware of the things her step-father is up to. The possessed Thing, and a naive Alicia who is dressed up to look exactly like Sue (Alicia having such a close resemblance to Sue may be a key factor in her romance with the Thing - in earlier issues it is quite clear that Ben is in love with Sue)...
...head back to the rest of the FF for a sneak attack. The Thing crashes into the potion Reed was working on in his lab and turns back into Ben Grimm - Reed had been working on a cure for Ben but didn't want to get his hopes up. However, Alicia, who had taken a liking to the Thing, gets confused when she touches him, and Ben quickly turns back into the Thing (neatly setting up the idea that the Thing never turns back because Alicia is in love with the Thing, not Ben Grimm. It's hard to say that was intentional at this point considering he has been temporarily changing back every other issue so far).
When the Thing turned back into Ben, the Puppet Master's control was broken but he's already moved on to inexplicably causing a prison riot.
The FF head over to the Puppet Master's house, and they fight a giant robot "puppet"...
...and then the Puppet Master escapes on a flying horse "puppet".
While the FF are stopping the prison riot, the Puppet Master returns home (where the FF have irresponsibly left poor blind Alicia - he could have killed her!). He grabs a puppet of himself, somehow thinking that by playing with it he will make himself the king of the world...
...but instead he drops it, causing himself to fall out the window.
Here's a nice action shot of Reed. I've always found his powers boring, but Kirby does make him look interesting.
He's basically a pussycat in a funny body. Women. Anyway, the FF are broke, and they have to sell their equipment and hitch a ride to Hollywood, where they have been offered the chance to star in a movie. But the movie producer is the Sub-Mariner...
...who tries to kill them. With giants!
They fight him, but Sue stops them from beating him, and he agrees to make the movie anyway and they get their money back. Terrible issue.
Here's a cool visual using another of Namor's early powers, when he had the abilities of all the fish in the sea. While it looks nice, it basically means that Sue's powers are useless against Namor, which makes her kind of pointless except as a romantic object.
#10 "The Return of Doctor Doom!" - Reed is attempting to invent something so that he can see Sue even when she is invisible. Why?? This proves that Reed is either a closet super-villain, a pervert, or he's devising ways to defeat all the other members of his team in case they go bad (he was worried about Torch in issue #3 and the Thing in #2).
Suddenly, the emergency signal flare appears in the sky, and after discovering that the nuclear lock mechanism is jammed, preventing access to the fantasti-car (it's always comforting when nuclear-powered devices aren't working properly), Reed, Sue, and Johnny cause all manner of havoc and property damage getting across town to Alicia Master's house, where... nothing is wrong. Alicia's just made some statues of all the FF's villains (Mole Man, Miracle Man, Skrulls, Doom, and Namor), presumably based on the Thing's descriptions since Alicia has never seen some of these characters.
Sue contests that Namor does not belong with the villains, leading to some hard conversations between her and Reed. Sue isn't even sure of her own feelings, and Johnny, who in issue #1 revealed that the only thing in the world that interests him more than cars was... being the Human Torch, remarks that he's glad he's not old enough to have these mushy problems. Meanwhile, Dr. Doom shows up at the office of Marvel Comics, where pictures of Thor, Ant-Man and the Hulk can be seen, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (you never see their faces) are working on the next issue of the Fantastic Four.
Reed Richards has a working relationship with Stan and Jack, helping with the comic book plots, and Doom forces the creators to lure him to the office, where he is captured and transported to a secret laboratory. Doom tells the story of how he was rescued from the asteroid in issue #6 by a silly group of aliens called the Ovoids, from whom he learned the power of switching bodies.
Doom then switches bodies with Reed...
...and then the rest of the FF show up and attack Reed/Doom, and lock him into an unbreakable plexi-glass prison.
The next (truly bizarre) scene starts with the FF's headquarters overrun by tiny animals while the Thing reads in the newspaper that all the animals have been stolen from the zoo.
Doom/Reed explains, in a ludicrous tale involving space dinosaurs...
...that he had to steal the animals to test a new shrinking ray that he will use to increase the FF's powers.
The Torch will be able to maintain his flame longer and fly faster. The Thing will be able to turn into Ben Grimm at will, and the Invisible Girl... well, she'll be able to turn parts of her body invisible... great.
The rest of the FF are all over each other for the chance to be the first recipient of the shrinking ray. Meanwhile, Reed/Doom escapes from his prison and seeks out Alicia, but is knocked out by a visiting Invisible Girl. She brings Reed/Doom back to Doom/Reed, and the FF start to suspect that something may be up. In a complicated scheme that includes the Torch impossibly creating a heat mirage, the FF reveal the truth and Doom accidentally switches the bodies back. He then gets hit by his own shrink ray and disappears.
Reed Richards is a dick: In issue #7, the FF helps an alien race that has only two spaceships escape their doomed planet by inventing a shrinking potion so that the entire population can fit on one spaceship. He gives them a canister that he tells them will restore them to normal size once they reach their destination, but he is lying.
All appearances of Dr. Doom are actually Doombots built by Reed: In issue #6, Doom is seen flying off into space on an asteroid. That may be the actual last appearance of Victor Von Doom. In issue #10, Doom re-appears with a cockamamie story about being rescued by a group of aliens with oval heads (called Ovoids, of course), who also teach him the ability to switch his mind with someone else. This is a very strangely structured story. It starts with the Fantastic Four admiring statues of FF villains made by Alicia Masters, when Sue starts lusting after the statue of the Sub-Mariner. Reed says "I always thought we had an understanding, Sue! I thought, when the time was right, that you and I -- I mean --" And suddenly, the entire story is derailed. Dr. Doom shows up at the Marvel Comics office to explain his return, and then forces Stan and Jack to lure Reed to the office so that he can be kidnapped. Then Doom "switches minds" with Reed (uh-huh). Then, "Doom's" plan is to shrink the rest of the Fantastic Four (probably using the same technology Reed used to shrink the denizens of Planet X in issue #7). So Reed, left feeling inadequate due to Sue's feelings for a real man, invents a super-villain for him to dominate, takes on an aggressive, non-stuffy persona, and makes up for his inadequacy by trying to make Sue (and his other teammates) smaller.
Maybe all FF super-villains are really Reed Richards - In issue #2, Reed reveals that he has the power to hypnotize Skrulls. In issue #3, the FF watch a magic show, and then Reed mysteriously ponders the fact that if the magician were to turn to crime, he would be a nearly undefeatable opponent. And then, sure enough, the magician turns to crime, and only Reed's genius saves them. Or were they just hypnotized into believing the whole thing? The Miracle Man is pretty much never seen again.
Reed is a government stooge In issue #7, Reed, after politely listening to all the other members of the team tell him why they don't want to go to a government dinner, tells them "All, right, I've heard all your silly little excuses, and I'm sure you feel better now that you've said them! So, let's start getting ready now, and let's end all this nonsense! You know we can't refuse a request from congress!"
Giant-Size Super-Stars #1 contains a reprint of a review of issue #1 that Roy Thomas wrote in the fanzine Comicollector in August 1961:
It was bound to happen! The Human Torch is back, flaming his way across the heavens, scorching everything which stands in his fiery path.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: When Dr. Doom tries to throw the FF and Namor into space, it is from the perspective that they are the only beings on Earth that could possibly challenge him. When Namor goes on a rampage in NYC, the public assumes that it is the FF that will save them. Based on this, i'm assuming these stories take place before other Marvel heroes appear. That's partially self-serving, since i have these issues in a single trade and i don't want to break them up. And we do know thanks to some continuity inserts like Inner Demons (which shows Spider-Man debuting around FF #3) that it isn't entirely true, so you should really think of these 10 issues as occurring at the same time as other events in 1962.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Fantastic Four Marvel Masterworks vol.1 (softcover)
Inbound References (126): show
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Posted by: Gustavo | October 17, 2008 2:51 PM
Sol Brodsky didn't ink the first two issues. For a long time nobody could figure out who had, but the accepted belief now is that longtime Superman inker George Klein did them as he was doing some Marvel work at the time.
In #3, Sue had originally created masks to go with her and Reed's costumes, but these were removed from the art before publication after Stan thought better of it.
I suspect that the Sub-Mariner was brought back at Martin Goodman's insistence, considering that neither Stan nor Jack had done much with the character before. Stan probably wrote some post-WW2 1940s stories with him, while Jack only drew him on a cover or two before he and Joe Simon left Timely for DC. Goodman probably thought Sub-Mariner was the best bet for a revival as his series lasted the longest out of the Cap/Torch/Subby 1950s revivals.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 30, 2011 11:00 PM
UHBMCC also tentatively lists George Klein. Credits updated.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 1, 2011 9:31 AM
so, does Alicia's resemblance to Sue have implications for Johny as well, since he later married Alecia. I always saw Johny as a sicko.
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 5, 2011 2:53 PM
Stan Lee wanted to develop and foreshadow Johnny Storm leaving the FF in anger in #3, but Kirby didn't leave any room for that in the bulk of the story, meaning Lee had to cram it all in the book's last panels, coming off unintentionally unconvincing in the process.
Dick Ayers later stated that many of the early fan letters for this title were fabricated by Stan himself.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 15, 2012 7:20 PM
Marvel Mirror #5(4-5/68)(an early Marvel fanzine)questioned why Dr. Doom didn't just travel back in time to get the jewels himself.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 31, 2013 5:29 PM
According to FOOM#17, Martin Goodman suggested calling the FF the "Righteous League".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 7, 2013 8:47 PM
In the Roy Thomas review, the mention of Don Thompson refers to a review Don did of FF#1 that was almost completely negative.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 14, 2013 4:13 PM
I just read all of these again recently and while I still love the insane concepts tossed around and the way that Kirby and Lee were shattering cliches left and right, I have to say that they're not as well constructed as they could have been. And while it's tempting to say that lee wrote the Invisible Girl poorly, it's more accurate to say that she was simply created as a weak and shallow character. It begs the question, when long running female characters like Sue Storm, the Wasp, or even Wonder Woman, are being written by modern writers and treated with dignity, should it be looked upon as "out of character"? Should Sue Storm and the Wasp always be written as vapid, flirting, emotionally fragile damsels in distress obsessed with shopping? Should Wonder Woman be constantly tied up and spanked and be do obsessed with her own "feminine vanity" that she's unwilling to lose an eyelash during an adventure? To drift from these portrayals is certainly to subvert the original "authorial intent", but you don't see the "purists" like John Byrne (to name just one) advocating that.
Posted by: Anonymous | June 7, 2013 4:24 AM
Roy Thomas has a letter in #5.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | June 29, 2013 3:31 PM
Later fanzine articles criticized #6 for having nobody witness the Baxter Building land.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 27, 2013 2:57 PM
People probably look back and see how ridiculous these issues are these days from the perspective of where we are now. The flaws are evident: four WASPy (well three WASPS and a Jew) people with no flaws whatsoever flung into space and given super-powers. The leader's got senses of megalomania and thinking too far ahead; the female's a ditz; there's a rebellious teen and one of Lee and Kirby's monsters rounding out the team. There are too many random monsters and Communists running amuck. It reeks of the Silver Age silliness that DC was running around with. The threats they do face seem rather ridiculous, including aliens, magicians, a puppet master and some guy out of the old serials with an iron mask and bizarre magical and super-science attributes. There are dinosaurs ruling Earth running around in space. (well OK, that's cool)
But from the perspective of 1961/1962, these comics were revolutionary. It was the beginning of something that would go on to change the world. Even with the problems we can see as a modern audience, things were happening in these opening issues that hadn't been done in comics. No one was thinking of doing this sort of thing...and then there it was. Yeah you could state that Stan Lee had a mindset of a previous time and Jack Kirby hadn't become THE MAN yet, but this was still amazing stuff for it's time period.
Though seeing a couple things I do wish you could split the issues apart (since obviously the early issues are about time of "The Man in the Ant Hill" and by 10 "The Meanacing Ant-Man" (yeah right) was a massive threat to all those in his city. (we know otherwise) But I guess with the collection they all stay together.
Posted by: Ataru320 | September 23, 2013 9:01 AM
It's a reminder that some of the most enduring characters and concepts EVER started out very rough, shored up with ridiculous and cliche elements, with some shred of soul picked up on by their creators (and their successors). I'm not sure any FF story in Supermegamonkey has ever gotten an A review. But creative people often times give up on their ideas because they can find every fault and hold every fear of an imperfect creation, and that desire to make the perfect genius thing straight off the starting line has left many protean ideas in limbo. Every professional creator I can think of has taken a chance that has clearly misfired in the process of creating a body of work hailed by fans everywhere.
Posted by: Cecil | September 8, 2014 6:37 PM
You've got the pic of Johnny getting his car fixed twice (Third and tenth scans).
Although I do chuckle a little of the thought of a broken down car being included in the same group as a giant underground creature and a King Ghidorah clone.
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | October 14, 2014 7:35 PM
I like these early issue since Reed is on the verge of being a supervillain and Ben is nearly a thug. I wouldn't mind seeing an alternate universe though evil Reed is pretty common with Ultimate Reed and Venture Bros of course.
I also like the series had less of a 'we got ot stop this bad guy' and kind of have a more Twilight Zone feel to them. I mean yes there was always a bad guy but in a few years there will be more fighting but many creative ideas, more 50 50 there. Been years since I read these though.
I do remember really liking Namor and wished he got to pop up more but at least Dr. Doom got ironed out after a while.
Posted by: david banes | October 14, 2014 7:53 PM
I removed the duplicate image. Thanks.
A couple of notes on "Ghidorah", whose name is apparently Tricephalous. First, King Ghidorah's first film was in 1964, so i guess he's the clone. I don't think i've ever seen anything attributing the design of one to the other, though. Second, Tricephalous seems to have a two headed cousin (Duocephalous?) who appears in Fantastic Four #329.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 15, 2014 12:29 PM
I wonder where Reed got those photos of the missing nuclear plants in issue #1. The government?
Posted by: Archie | December 1, 2014 9:05 PM
There have been two quadrupedic Ghidorahs actually. One called Death Ghidorah from the crappy Rebirth of Mothra and Keiser Ghidorah from Final Wars.
Posted by: david banes | December 2, 2014 2:35 PM
The Lee/Kirby early stories in Marvel for the most part, I don't think stand up to the test of time. This is the exception though, and I think more so, because I've always been less of an FF fan than the Avengers or X-Men.
In response to the JLA, rather than just make modern versions of the old Timely heroes (with one exception), Lee actually creates new heroes and bring them with actual personalities. So much great stuff came out of these first 10 issues (Byrne would come back to them precisely because they had so much good stuff). You have the revival of the Sub-Mariner, the creation of Dr. Doom, all the fights, even the first self-referential scene with Doom's return. I even like the old way that Kirby used to draw The Human Torch and The Thing.
Two things stand out as questions.
1 - Should this come all as a series if The Hulk obviously came out? In theory shouldn't that be a chronology consideration?
2 - Since JLA #4 came out a year before FF#4, does the importance of issue #4 in a series really come from DC?
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 4, 2014 11:49 AM
Belatedly answering Erik's first question (and Erik probably knows this by now since i gave a similar answer on Amazing Fantasy #15, but just for anyone else coming along): when i have comics in trades like i do for these issues i try to not break them up, so the idea is that events here are happening concurrently with other events in the 1962 category. I was less inclined to cut up trades when they were sequential when i started than i am now, and if i were reviewing these issues now i definitely would have cut up the trade. One downside to doing it now is that i can't transfer comments to new entries, so the comments here would have to all remain on whichever isues i keep this entry associated with. But i may still come back and do it at some point. In the meantime just think of these issues as happening at the same time as some of the entries that follow.
The Hulk comic may be a special case anyway. Even though by issue #10 of this series we learn that there is a Marvel Comics within the Marvel universe, that might not have been applicable by issue #5, and we might write off the appearance of the Hulk comic as a topical pop culture reference (i.e. it could have just as easily been a Superman comic or something).
Posted by: fnord12 | April 4, 2015 1:03 AM
The innovations outshine whatever nitpicking some may have of the early FF.
The FF probably didn't bicker as much as The Beatles who were popular in the same time period.
Posted by: a.lloyd | May 26, 2015 7:52 AM
a.lloyd wrote:"The FF probably didn't bicker as much as The Beatles who were popular in the same time period."
...or Hoss and Little Joe! ;)
Posted by: Shar | May 26, 2015 10:55 AM
I wonder if Stan/Jack deliberately intended some 'meta' references from the start. I agree with the consensus that these issues aren't very good, but there is something about them that stands out from DC books. The villains are generic monsters or aliens. The Thing is cast in that mold, and though he may be a retread of the Golden Age character, the Torch is obviously foreshadowed the same way. He might become a villain, like Namor. Reed himself is kind of creepy. Sue may be cast in the plucky girl/damsel-in-distress role, but she has an actual role to play - once you get past the question of why she was on the rocket flight in the first place - and gets plenty of screen time.
I suspect Stan and Jack weren't really trying to come up with great superhero stories so much as they were trying to do stories which focused more on the characters. Hence all the downtime scenes. Reed's a scientist who creates fancy gadgets as often as he goes to the bathroom, presumably he'll take it into his head to find a way to see Sue when she's invisible. In most stories, that gadget would have become relevant later on, but here it never shows up again. It's just something Reed works on because he's a brilliant scientist.
Hence my suspicion that there was a deliberate 'meta' angle from the start. They're completely unknown in the first issue (even though they really are superheroes, and even the Thing knows without being told that they have to use their powers to help mankind) so by the second issue, they've become famous heroes. I'm a bit skeptical about the official story that they started wearing superhero costumes because of all the letters Marvel was getting, because wouldn't Lee and Kirby have already been working on #3 by the time #1 went on sale?
In #2, they're clipping panels from "Journey Into Mystery" to fight the Skrulls, promoting other comics within this one. Johnny would be reading an issue of "Hulk" a couple issues later. It looks like Stan and Jack were (a) taking a few issues to build the FF up as superheroes rather than dropping them in right away (b) in the process, starting the concept that the characters change from issue to issue, thus creating continuity, character development and long-running arcs, (c) treating the characters as real people, which is what writers do, in order to make them seem real to the readers, and (d) continue this line of thought that if the FF are real, they've got Stan/Jack doing a comic book about them. Which they do. So the fictional FF also have a comic book, just like the Hulk does.
And that is why the second Doom appearance starts off with a mish-mash of stuff, downtime moments to introduce the characters, and then says that's literally as far as Stan/Jack got before Dr. Doom walks in, gets his introduction and sets up his master plan. I doubt it was that literal ["Nothing's happening, and suddenly a character we thought was gone forever returns"] but it might have been similar.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 6, 2015 9:21 PM
This site theorizes that Stan and Jack didn't initially give the FF costumes in order to trick DC into thinking it wasn't a superhero comic since they were still dependent on DC's distributor: http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/ff-act1.html#uniforms
Posted by: Morgan Wick | August 6, 2015 11:05 PM
Also very possible. Even then, the FF's costumes weren't much more superhero-ish than the Challengers of the Unknown, and still had to be functional at least in the sense of handling their individual powers.
Maybe it's less of a case of being 'meta' about the concept and more that Stan and Jack had to put a lot more thought into this feature than either of them were used to. They were told to bring in a Justice League, but chose not to simply gather up a bunch of Golden Age characters. Stan's always been clear that this was the first time he'd actually written a comic he himself would want to read. Kirby had never much liked working on other peoples' characters, recent attempts at reviving Captain America had failed, and he might as well bring in new characters.
The JLA had revamps of some characters from the Golden Age, so they reused the Human Torch, made him into the kid member and spun him off into "Strange Tales" almost immediately, almost like they were trying to reverse-engineer a Justice League, all under the watchful eye of DC. By the time the book was clearly a hit, they could bring back Namor directly, and as a villain.
After that it became about how they could bring back the other big star of the Golden Age. By then they'd created Nick Fury [Reed appears in "Sgt. Fury" #3] and eventually segued him into the modern Marvel Universe when the FF faced the Hate-Monger, better known as Adolph Hitler, in a story published a few months before "Avengers" #4.
I don't know how much of it was deliberate and how much Stan and Jack just fell into the concepts, but they were clearly putting a lot more thought into these books than, almost any other comics had before.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 7, 2015 9:08 PM
This is entirely my own speculation, but that may have been why Stan was so interested in Spider-Man. Currently, the record says that Martin Goodman really liked the idea of Ant Man, which Stan went along with. It's not hard to see that discussing the concept with Jack as they try to think of new characters would have led them towards Simon and Kirby's Fly, and the old pulp figure The Spider. It's probably why they gave Ant Man a girl sidekick called The Wasp.
It's also why Kirby actually remembered contributing to the concept of Spider-Man and why he even claimed ownership in some of his late-80s interviews. He was there for much of the thought that went into "Amazing Fantasy" #15, and contributed quite a bit, it's just that he didn't have anything to do with the resulting story which we all know. The Kirby version of Spider-Man didn't work, so Stan assigned the story to Steve Ditko, and history was made.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 8, 2015 1:30 AM
The same site as before also argues that many of the most recognizable elements of Spider-Man actually have more in common with Kirby's work than that of Lee or Ditko, costume aside: http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/ff_Lee-Kirby.html (starts a little past halfway down)
Posted by: Morgan Wick | August 8, 2015 12:16 PM
OTOH, Byrne has pointed out that Spider-Man and Dr. Strange are both Ditko characters in that they start out as selfish jerks, something happens to show them the error of their ways and then they become heroes.
Posted by: Michael | August 8, 2015 12:42 PM
Yeah, but that kind of applies to Kirby characters as well. The Thing is a violent nutcase for his first few appearances, and it's only because the character is so well-done that we can excuse it as the ace test pilot's reaction to being turned into orange rock by his best friend. The Hulk is a sociopath. Reed Richards is a dick. I agree they aren't selfish jerks in the same way and it's a good point that this figures prominently into Dr. Strange and Spider-Man's origins. We can attribute this to Ditko, but even there, Peter Parker was kind of a jerk for a long time despite Spidey being a hero. Dr. Strange changed immediately and never looked back.
I've read the "FF: The Great American Novel" stuff before. It's certainly interesting and well-thought out, but its bias (not sure that's the right word but I can't think of a better one off-hand) shows up from the first full paragraph. If Jack Kirby had quit comic books in 1960, he'd still be a noted figure for Captain America and his other work with Joe Simon, romance comics, Fighting American and the rest. If Stan Lee had quit comic books in 1960, at best his name would appear in ownership statements as a historical legacy. Stan deserves a ton of credit for his accomplishments, but most of those accomplishments came from working with Kirby and Ditko during the 1960s. However good of an editor he was, Kirby had more noteworthy accomplishments by 1945 than Lee had by 1960 and would still be remembered today, if only by historians.
This is just nit-picking over that first paragraph by the way. It's a very interesting and well-thought out article, and I've only read up through the "Spider-Man" parts. As I've said, clearly a lot of thought went into the early Marvel comics, and just as clearly Jack Kirby would have been doing a lot of that thinking. There's a story about a never-named Superman writer who had no clue what to do with the character, so he conspired to find out what subway Kirby took on his visits to NYC and made sure to run into him there, and direct the conversation to what projects they were working on. By the time they got off the train, he could head to DC with a dozen ideas for stories.
As far as the thought that went into early-Marvel, certainly Kirby provided a huge amount of it, even for characters that weren't his. This was the first time Stan had ever applied himself to making good comics, and as editor, there's no doubt that he contributed quite a bit. Even if it was just editor/writer deciding which of artist/writer Kirby's ideas should be pursued, and putting together a plot/full script to reflect them. He'd written thousands of full scripts in his career to that point. He may not be a good *WRITER* by any stretch of the imagination, but his work ethic shames us all. Plotter/artist Steve Ditko also had ideas. And who knows who else Stan was talking to at that point, or what they were talking about?
Posted by: ChrisW | August 8, 2015 7:32 PM
The infamous "synopsis" for FF #1 will forever frustrate historians. Did Stan have it ready for Jack as soon as Kirby came in to deliver his latest pages? Did Stan have it typed up during or after meeting with Kirby about the new "Fantastic Four" title? If so, there's no way of knowing how many of these ideas were from Stan, how many were from Jack, how many were Stan-as-editor deciding what Jack should do. I think it's entirely possible that this is as good as Stan got as far as writing a comic that he himself would want to read and had it ready for Jack, just as I think it's entirely possible that Jack came in, learned what Stan wanted, told him what the new comic would be and went home to draw it. And after the finished work was entirely different, even Jack couldn't explain how he got from one point to the next.
I do not think that this synopsis was solely intended to get around DC's rules. Stan had too much else to do just running the Bullpen, I don't think he was much more worried about DC's rules for "Fantastic Four" #1 than he was for any other story. He knew DC's rules, he knew how to work within them, just like the Comics Code, he'd already inculcated in his style what he could or couldn't do. The only reason the question arises is because the Fantastic Four were so much different than everything else he'd done, even in their early adventures which aren't that good, and were so successful.
And, this is purely my own speculation which even Occam's Razor disproves, I think there were a lot of synopsis flying around in that period, and the only reason "Fantastic Four" #1 exists is because it was "Fantastic Four" #1. Nothing else was worth saving, except for the one piece of documentation of Stan wanting to write a comic book he wanted to read. As a result, improbable though it may be, nothing else survives.
The characters are there. They are not what made it to the finished page, but Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny are clearly established. And you can see the early issues of "FF" taking inspiration from this synopsis. There's no way you could go back and fake it after-the-fact. Sue being permanently invisible but not her clothing is just an idea that Stan wants to see a comic about, and he's worried that it might come off the wrong way in finished artwork, so he wants Jack to clear it with him before too many pages have been drawn. To Stan, the Comics Code was a higher priority than DC, because the basic idea could have fit into a monster magazine, and he's paying Jack by the page.
Posted by: ChrisW | August 8, 2015 9:47 PM
"or he's devising ways to defeat all the other members of his team in case they go bad (he was worried about Torch in issue #3 and the Thing in #2)."
Prof. X did the same thing for his team - Xavier Protocols -
Posted by: clyde | August 11, 2015 8:59 PM
I've always had concerns about the partial Fantastic Four #1 plot synopsis. I know that some people have called into question its validity, and I admittedly have my doubts about it as well.
In Alter Ego -- The Comic Book Artist Edition Roy Thomas mentions that Stan Lee showed him the partial synopsis sometime after comic prices had gone up to .15¢, but before they increased to .25¢/.20¢ -- which would be sometime between April 1969 and July 1971. Kirby left Marvel around March 1970.
How likely is it that Lee's rediscovery of the synopsis was coincidentally at the same time when Kirby was at his most disillusioned at working for Marvel?
In his account of Lee presenting the synopsis, Thomas doesn't mention whether Kirby was still working for Marvel, which would be a relevant detail that would naturally be worth mentioning. Why does Thomas exclude it from his account?
Thomas says that Lee found the synopsis at his home. Apparently Lee often worked on scripts at home, but I'm wondering why he had the synopsis at his home. And Thomas says Lee claims that he did not discuss the Fantastic Four #1 plot with Kirby, prior to Kirby receiving the synopsis from Lee.
But if Lee had the synopsis, how did Kirby know what to draw?
And if Lee made a copy of the synopsis, why would he pass that copy along to Kirby instead of sending the original, which would be easier to read than a photostat or mimeographed copy?
If Lee intended to discuss the synopsis over the phone with Kirby, then why write out such a detailed synopsis? And in fact, Thomas quotes Lee as saying that Lee had already informed Kirby that he would be giving him the written synopsis, which suggests that Lee did not read the synopsis over the phone.
If Kirby returned the synopsis to Lee for reference, why would Kirby return it without notes indicating where the completed art was different than the synopsis?
Essentially, it is really difficult to easily account for how the synopsis ends up in Lee's possession again if he sent it to Kirby for Kirby to draw from.
I tend not to trust convoluted accounts without evidence, nor do I trust coincidence without evidence that excludes intent. I cannot find such evidence in the Thomas/Lee account.
And interestingly enough, Kirby would have completed his issue of Mister Miracle that savagely parodied Lee and Thomas (as Funky Flashman and HouseRoy, respectively) relatively soon after the apparent rediscovery of the script. Was Kirby responding to the Lee's presentation of the synopsis to Thomas?
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 30, 2015 11:54 AM
Re: the timing of the synopsis's discovery being suspicious- yes, it is but so is the fact that Barry Windsor-Smith only "discovered" the synopsis for the Hulk's "child abuse" story after Mantlo was brain damaged. And yes, I know that Shooter and PAD have confirmed Windsor-Smith's account but only years after Smith made his claim. But comics historians generally agree Mantlo stole the child abuse idea from the Hulk from Windsor-Smith.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2015 12:16 PM
"In Alter Ego -- The Comic Book Artist Edition Roy Thomas mentions that Stan Lee showed him the partial synopsis sometime after comic prices had gone up to .15¢, but before they increased to .25¢/.20¢ -- which would be sometime between April 1969 and July 1971. Kirby left Marvel around March 1970.
"How likely is it that Lee's rediscovery of the synopsis was coincidentally at the same time when Kirby was at his most disillusioned at working for Marvel?"
Occam's Razor says it's not likely at all. But what are the odds that Lee, or anybody else, would forge a synopsis which differs so wildly from the resulting comic book, at any point in time? If you've read the synopsis, it's clear that the writer didn't make obvious mistakes to cover his tracks, like saying Johnny turns into orange rock and Ben turns into a human torch. These characters are clearly the Fantastic Four, but they're also very clearly different in how they're handled and how they're presented in the finished work. Kirby would have known how to disregard Stan's suggestions [like Sue being permanently invisible] because they had to work within the Comics Code.
Improbable as the revelation of the synopsis may be, I think the notion that was in any way faked is just as improbable.
"In his account of Lee presenting the synopsis, Thomas doesn't mention whether Kirby was still working for Marvel, which would be a relevant detail that would naturally be worth mentioning. Why does Thomas exclude it from his account?"
Because Roy works for Stan Lee? Because Roy didn't know himself? Because being a fanboy and continuity freak didn't obligate Roy to find out details that might challenge his preconceptions? Wasn't Roy one of the first people on the planet to write about how horrible a comic "FF" #1 was?
"Thomas says that Lee found the synopsis at his home. Apparently Lee often worked on scripts at home, but I'm wondering why he had the synopsis at his home. And Thomas says Lee claims that he did not discuss the Fantastic Four #1 plot with Kirby, prior to Kirby receiving the synopsis from Lee.
"But if Lee had the synopsis, how did Kirby know what to draw?"
Lee was also practiced at dictation. At one point, he was giving stories to three secretaries at once [and doesn't that sound nasty?] and it wouldn't surprise me if he kept at least one of them around to take dictation of the plots he came up with Jack. Like I said earlier, there's an unnamed Superman writer who made a point of meeting Jack on the subway to get ideas. Even at Marvel's lowest point, it's not hard to see why Stan would want at least one stenographer around to catch any of Jack's stray ideas.
And if he wanted to become a famous writer and cultural icon some day, it's not hard to see why he would have made photostats of the transcript. It's not likely Kirby ever even looked at the thing, but I think it's entirely possible that Stan wanted to preserve a copy of him writing a comic book he himself would want to read.
"And if Lee made a copy of the synopsis, why would he pass that copy along to Kirby instead of sending the original, which would be easier to read than a photostat or mimeographed copy?"
Do we know the type of copy that was eventually produced? I'll believe a photostat or mimeograph or a handwritten copy, but then I hear there's a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.
"If Lee intended to discuss the synopsis over the phone with Kirby, then why write out such a detailed synopsis? And in fact, Thomas quotes Lee as saying that Lee had already informed Kirby that he would be giving him the written synopsis, which suggests that Lee did not read the synopsis over the phone.
"If Kirby returned the synopsis to Lee for reference, why would Kirby return it without notes indicating where the completed art was different than the synopsis?"
As I said earlier, I think Lee had copies made. Maybe to suit his own ego, maybe to keep track of all of Jack's ideas, maybe because a secretary was really cute and he didn't want to fire her. I find it harder to believe that there are no other synopsis still in existence.
"And interestingly enough, Kirby would have completed his issue of Mister Miracle that savagely parodied Lee and Thomas (as Funky Flashman and HouseRoy, respectively) relatively soon after the apparent rediscovery of the script. Was Kirby responding to the Lee's presentation of the synopsis to Thomas?"
I doubt it. I assume that was just Kirby's impression of Roy Thomas, and probably a natural reaction of the street gang/soldier/fighter to 'the other side,' a young kid plucked out of nowhere to handle things while Kirby was spending 14 hours a day staring at his drawing board to make Marvel great. He wouldn't even remember a synopsis.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 1, 2015 9:32 PM
Michael, good observation about the timing in the Manto vs. Windsor-Smith situation. But as you note, there is the type of corroborating evidence that I would want that helps confirm Windsor-Smith's account. I don't know (recall?) the exact circumstances as to why Windsor-Smith made his claim public when he did, which would tend to influence whether I thought that Mantlo's condition was a factor in that situation.
For instance, I think Thomas himself took one of the earliest opportunities available to him to give his account of the Fantastic Four #1 synopsis, so I don't read anything specifically unusual in his timing of making that account public, even he did so 30 years after the initial situation (as well as approximately 5 years after Kirby's death).
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 5, 2015 2:24 PM
ChrisW, thanks for the thorough rebuttal. You always give me much to think about.
Kirby stated in the infamous Comics Journal interview with Gary Groth -- http://www.tcj.com/jack-kirby-interview/ -- that he never saw the Lee synopsis for Fantastic Four #1, which is not what Lee claims. So one of the two is either misremembering events, lying, or some combination therein.
Since Kirby has been fairly consistent with his claims from the 1970s to the 1980s, and Lee's claims have shifted from the 1960s to 2010s, I tend to trust Kirby's consistency vs. the discrepancies in Lee's accounts.
Additionally, Stan Goldberg, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, and Don Heck all give similar accounts about how they plotted and created work with Stan mainly acting as editor/dialogue scripter.
By the time that Lee shows Thomas the Fantastic Four #1 synopsis, Marvel had recently dealt with copyright issues with Joe Simon over Captain America and with Carl Burgos over the Human Torch, as mentioned in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe. And according to Howe, Kirby had also asked Marvel for a contact in 1969, a request that would have been unusual at the time.
So Lee was certainly aware that ownership of the Fantastic Four and the other Marvel characters could be an issue, and also that having evidence of early work drafts prior to publication would be useful evidence. And in 1947, in his Secrets of the Comics -- link -- Lee had falsely claimed that Martin Goodman had created Captain America, so I can reasonably assume that Lee might fabricate a rough draft synopsis.
As for Thomas leaving out details in his account, it seems to be very selective, so that details that favor Lee are included, but details regarding Kirby are excluded, and I find that troubling.
Thomas shows a copy of the original synopsis -- which Lee apparently has -- in the Alter Ego article. The copy was made specifically for Thomas to have for the article.
As for the possibility of a dictation or copies that might have been created, Wells's essay quotes from a 1968 interview with Lee saying that he had tried tape recording plots, but that no one had time to hear them, and that he switched to writing plots in longhand, and then shared them with the artist in person to discuss and change the plot. When Thomas came on staff, Thomas would take notes, type up a synopsis, and make carbon copies, for Lee and Thomas to refer back to -- not the artists.
Also, Lee wrote a letter in January 1963 to Jerry Bails -- which is quoted in The Stan Lee Universe -- indicating that there were no written scripts for Marvel Comics, but then Lee mentions that he still writes a plot (a contradiction), goes over it with Kirby, receives the penciled pages from Kirby, and he would write dialogue on those pages, but using the pages for reference, not the plot.
And despite Lee's insistence that there are no written scripts, by November 1963, Lee is able to Jerry Bails a copy of the Fantastic Four #8 plot. And in receiving the plot, Bails suggests that Lee uses the terms "script" and "plot" as interchangeable.
I think the easiest explanation is that Lee made the synopsis after Fantastic Four #1 is published, which accounts for why it was apparently in his possession at home. And that explanation also accounts for discrepancies in Lee's accounts over the years, and it shows a MO similar to his falsified account that Goodman created Captain America.
Any other explanation has to not just account for the synopsis going from Lee to Kirby, back to Lee (without any notations from Kirby on it) and then from the Marvel Office's to Lee's house -- but the explanation also has to address:
1.) Why Lee deviated from any of his stated working methods on this occasion,
Complex explanations can be often correct, but any explanation to support Lee's claims has to be somewhat implausible, given everything we already know. The explanation that Lee created a rough draft synopsis after the fact seems more likely, and more unfortunate.
I do think that Lee contributed to Marvel and was a guiding force, but his accounts increasingly have changed to favor himself at Kirby's expense, but are also used to diminish the quality of Kirby's work, and by extension, portray Kirby as mentally inferior to Lee, and to diminish Kirby as a person, as a result. If I am correct in my hypothesis, I still think Lee could set the record straight without diminishing his reputation or his accomplishments -- as Lee was the best editor in comics history, a skilled dialogue writer, and a insightful businessman.
I can understand if other people disagree with my position. It took me years to come to it, and I still view it as hypothesis, not fact. I assume more information will eventually come out to help me reassess my beliefs here.
(Yikes, I apologize for the lengthy response, but I wanted to be respectful in being as thoughtful in replying to ChrisW as he had done with me.)
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 5, 2015 2:54 PM
Well, Lee is constantly claiming he has a terrible memory, so it's almost as if he himself is saying not to trust Lee's word at everything.
Posted by: mikrolik | September 5, 2015 7:00 PM
Re: Stan claiming that Goodman created Captain America- did Stan claim that he was in the room when Goodman created Captain America or did Stan claim that Goodman (or someone else) told him that Goodman created Captain America? If all Stan did was maybe misremember/maybe lie 7 years after the fact,there's a big difference between that and forging a synopsis.
Posted by: Michael | September 5, 2015 11:47 PM
Michael, as usual, a really good question.
Lee's account of Goodman creating Captain America is in the link I included in my previous post. In it, Lee does not detail how he learned that account.
But Lee was hired to work directly with Simon and Kirby while Captain America Comics #1 was being printed (according to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics:The Untold Story), so it is really hard to imagine that Lee was unaware of their creation of the character, especially as proper compensation for the creating the character was ultimately the cause for Simon/Kirby leaving Goodman. Everyone else interviewed about the 1930s-1940s comics industry certainly seems to be aware that Kirby and Simon had created Cap, so it was not an apparent secret.
Interestingly, Secrets behind the Comics (which I mistakenly referred to as "Secrets of the Comics" in my previous post) is published and copyrighted around October 1947 (according to research done by Sean Kleefeld, see link), which is after the June 1947 court case regarding Siegel & Shuster's lawsuit against DC Comics over the Superboy/Superman rights. I can't help but think this is not a coincidence.
In a 1974 Comic Feature interview reprinted in theStan Lee Universe, Lee says "Timely Comics then had Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, and they had just sort-of created Captain America, and they were doing “The Human Torch” and “Sub- Mariner,” and I came in, and before I knew it, they had me writing “Captain America” and they had me doing some editing." In Lee's statement, who the "they" refers to is vague (is it Simon and Kirby or is it Timely Comics?) and the "sort of" statement seems disingenuous, given he had to be aware of Simon's 1960s copyright claim of creating Captain America.
And according to Kleefeld, Lee renewed copyright of Secrets behind the Comics in September 1975, so Lee would also be aware of his earlier claim about Goodwin creating Captain America, so he had opportunities to set the record straight. Even assuming that Lee was not lying about who created Captain America in 1947, but was manipulated instead, he certainly was not forthright about giving full credit where it was due in the 1960s or 1970s, when he had to know better.
In general, some 1960s and 1970s interviews with Lee about his early work for Goodman are interesting, as he avoids also mentioning that they were related, strongly indicating that Lee was extremely careful in how he talked about the inner workings of the company.
To believe that Lee did not actively fabricate his Secrets behind the Comics account of Goodman creating Captain America requires accepting the following:
1.) That the publication Secrets behind the Comics coincidentally occurs during the Siegel/Shuster lawsuit,
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 6, 2015 4:16 AM
By the way, I highly recommend theStan Lee Universe, which I've referred to a few times, as it has several great articles about Lee and some good interviews with him.
As I've tried to indicate before, I do have respect for many of Lee's accomplishments, but I know I'm probably coming off more polarized than I actually am in discussing the Kirby/Lee authorship question here. I think that Lee was perhaps one of the more supportive editors that Kirby worked with, and I think that he certainly valued Kirby's work.
I'm not sure that any comics creator has been a complete saint -- including Kirby, who I certainly have come to respect more than any other comics creator-- so I try to accept their weaknesses (but not necessarily forgive them) while appreciating their strengths.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 6, 2015 4:34 AM
Kirby's memory was almost as bad as Stan's, and they were both very upfront about how unreliable their memories were. Reportedly Stan's memory is a lot better in private than he makes it seem in public, and Kirby's memory was just the problems of being a genius, where he goes off in twenty different directions and ordinary people like us are left scratching our heads and saying that makes no sense, but to him it's totally understandable. Both Stan and Jack are literally comic book characters, in the best sense of the term. Only a wonderful artform like comics could bring them to life.
That said, I don't quite get why you're so opposed to the the synopsis as established. Writing comics was one of the least important things Stan was dealing with at the time, and he would have utilized various means [dictation, tape recordings, etc.] to remind him of what the hell was going on when he actually sat down to script a page. His job and his life were at stake, I don't think he'd have wanted to hang everything on some stray comment Jack made when he showed up in the office, without something being on record. Because as a creator, I absolutely think he looked at the latest "FF" pages or "X-Men" pages or "Hulk" pages and was influenced by his conversations with Jack as much as anything else.
Not to mention his own talent for writing/scripting/editing. Kirby could bring in a full-page spread of Doctor Doom looking awesome, and Stan would have found a way to fit in four other word balloons which described the characters and advanced the story. "Gasp! Reed, what can we do?" "Don't worry, sis, we'll take this crumb down a peg!" "Now yer talkin, kiddo. IT'S CLOBBERING TIME!" "Wait, Ben, stand down! Doom has managed to combine gamma radiation with cosmic rays. There's no telling what tricks he might have up his sleeve."
Aaron, I'm not really arguing with you, just free-associating.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 6, 2015 5:08 AM
ChrisW, I never saw us as arguing, so no worries. 😃
We are all passonate here about our interest in these characters, comics, and creators. It's nice to talk to people who care as much as I do about what we read.
I've really appreciated your insights, as well as Michael's too. Both of you -- like everyone else here -- are really sharp, and that encourages me to try to be equally sharp in my analysis too.
As for my opposition to the synopsis, it just feels manufactured for many of the reasons I had already mentioned. There's more I could add -- such as linguistic analysis -- of how Lee and Kirby talk about the creation of the FF in interviews -- and forensic analysis of literary work -- but I've already posted such long messages on the board and on this thread, and I don't want to abuse the privilege of posting on Fnord's site more than I feel I already have with lengthy posts.
And I completely agree with your assessment of Lee's talent for writing and editing.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 6, 2015 10:32 AM
According to Alter Ego #134, Sol Brodsky created the logo for this book and the Avengers.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 6, 2015 11:19 AM
And of course, there's the HUGE problem that nobody saw that in fifty years not only would these comics still be published, but that they would spawn TV shows, video games, and movies that would gross in the BILLIONS of dollars worldwide. Thus, I don't think Lee, Kirby, Ditko, or anyone else actually put in too much thought about this stuff until YEARS later.
Posted by: mikrolik | September 6, 2015 7:35 PM
Linguistic analysis? Comment away!!!
Posted by: Cecil Disharoon | September 7, 2015 5:13 AM
Cecil, thanks for asking. In short, the linguistic analysis would be looking at the recorded conversations (but not transcripts) both Kirby and Lee have had in recounting the creation of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel characters, to look for conjunction use and frequency, as well as verb tense shifts, to determine whether they were deliberately concealing information. Going over such analysis in a post would be really lengthy, even for me... 😁
Outside of linguistic researchers, trained FBI agents look for such linguistic cues to determine if suspects are lying in interviews -- and the results are fairly reliable. (And more reliable than interrogation, according to research, which is a different approach than an investigative interview process.) Psychologists are also now developing reliable strategies to determine when someone misremembered an incident vs. lying about that incident.
By the way, the Jack Kirby Collector #63 published a synopsis by Lee for some mid-sixties Thor, Fantasatic Four, and Captain America stories, and the synopsis seems to have been written after conferences with Kirby on those issues. When time allows, I'll try to post relevant notes on the relevant entries.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 13, 2015 3:25 PM
I'd be interested in the linguistic analysis, but I don't know if I'd really trust the result. People often misspeak. They use the wrong names, they use the wrong nouns and verbs, they use the wrong tense, all in the course of normal conversation. And that's taking every statement literally at the time it was made, never mind how people return to a statement they made ten or twenty years ago.
Linguistics analysis probably has its place, especially when fighting crime [I once heard somewhere that no writer has ever been convicted of premeditated murder; at worst it was a crime of passion, drug use or insanity, but not actively trying to kill someone] but I wouldn't really trust it with regards to artists reminiscing about their work. Artists can usually come up with multiple stories about how they were inspired, or events that happened while creating the work. "I broke up with this girl, I read an article in the newspaper, my suit didn't come back from the cleaners, an airstrike, LOCUSTS!!!"
I can relate. I have recorded a dozen music albums, I've written and drawn thousands of comics pages [poorly drawn and lettered, but still...] and I'm fighting with myself about publishing my fifth book. And I could give multiple different stories about every single one of them. This is why I did this, that is why I did that, here's a funny story about the creation of the other thing. Even as these memories fall into the unreliable past, I can still tell stories.
And I'm a nobody. Stan and Jack are, well, Stan and Jack. I do think there are more synopses than we know about, and they were probably just busywork for the secretaries that Stan didn't want to fire. He never looked at them, Jack and Steve never looked at them. It was just giving them something to do so that he wouldn't have to fire them.
Posted by: ChrisW | September 13, 2015 4:55 PM
ChrisW, your accomplishments are pretty cool. I hardly think you are a nobody!
And anyone would be right to believe that linguistic analysis is not perfect, but I think it is akin to DNA analysis used in forensic investigations -- it is a testable model based upon quantitive research, as well as qualitative research, which is often less-trusted, but can be as reliable if used well. And many of the concerns you bring up, good linguists are interested in and try to address as well in developing it as a investigative tool.
For anyone who is interested in use of linguistic analysis for investigations, I can recommend the writings of Vincent A. Sandoval (just google "Vincent A. Sandoval FBI" and you'll start to get a list of useful results, some related to his articles in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin). The works cited in his articles will lead people to other useful resources.
And regarding memories, I recommend the article "The Search for HMAS Sydney II: Analysis and Integration of Survivor Reports," which details how psychologists used psychology, cognitive science, and linguistic methods to help locate the lost HMAS Sydney II, sunken during the Second World War, when all conventional search-and-rescue methods failed to find the ship for over 60 years. The psychologists could accurately account for survivors misremembering details, by using some linguistic and psychological theories developed in the 1930s.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 13, 2015 5:49 PM
Hadn’t seen this page before, but as someone with a keen interest in the history of Marvel I’ve found it fascinating and insightful. Also can’t resist throwing my own thoughts into the mix (as I’m prone to do on the Masterworks Board).
First, with regard to the FF synopsis, I agree we can never be sure whether Kirby saw it. Interestingly, though, a number of Lee synopses were found in Kirby’s estate after his passing – including one for Avengers 4 (intro of Captain America) and various FF issues from the mid-1960s. They were provided to Mark Evanier by the Kirby family under strict conditions that have prevented him publishing them (I was able to confirm with Mark that he intends to use some quotes in an upcoming book) – presumably due to the legal issues that were happening at the time.
Secondly, the references to “Stan Goldberg, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood, and Don Heck” all giving ‘similar accounts’ about how they plotted and created work with Stan mainly acting as editor/dialogue scripter” is unfortunately a bit misleading. In fact the accounts/records clearly show that Lee’s idea/plot input varied from artist to artist and from time to time, as the ‘Marvel Method’ was an elastic process. I’ve included a few quotes to illustrate this:
“In 1961 I was working with Stan Lee (writer/editor) at Marvel Comics in producing material (stories and art)…”. “Briefly in regards to our working method, Stan provided the plot ideas. There would be a discussion to clear up anything, consider options and so forth. I would then do the panel/page breakdowns, pencil the visual story continuity and, on a separate piece of paper, provide a very rough panel dialogue, merely as a guide for Stan.”
"He (Stan Lee) would say to me ‘Well it’s roughly like this…’, It’s amazing he had that kind of faith in me at the time. And he’d continue something like, a couple of guys break into a bank and they steal some money”. And then there was an ‘in-between’ of the plot – the middle. And then there’s an ending to the plot. So it was broken down in three parts, the beginning, the middle and the end.” “I wouldn’t suggest any storylines at all” Gene Colan
“Stan would give me a plot, usually typed. Just a paragraph or so. “Thor does this or that’, then he’d say “Now go home and write me a script”. Larry Lieber
“I said, ‘You’re crazy!’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, you can do it.’ I took Lee’s plots over the phone, tape recording them for later playback. “I would put the whole thing together with all the pictures and send it in.” “When I got it back and read it, I said, ‘Gee, it works fine. It’s great.’ “ (Don Heck, talking about working Marvel Method with Lee for the first time)
“I researched it and gave my version of it, and Stan gave his version of it. Stan humanized it in a way where, for instance, I might be concerned about Thor’s relation to the other gods. I might bring up a Ulik or I might bring something out of the wild blue yonder…And Stan would come down to Earth and find Thor’s relationship with Earth.” Jack Kirby (discussing Thor in 1969)
“An idea can come from me, it can come from Stan, it can come from a reader…”. Jack Kirby
“We’ll build a plot around that type of story. I feel that Stan is very wise in looking over letters from readers and keeping tabs on the progress that the character is making.” Jack Kirby
PS: Whereas we can see Kirby’s earlier quotes give Lee a lot of credit for input, this obviously wasn’t the case in later years as other issues emerged. It is apparent that Kirby viewed himself as a ‘writer’ despite Lee’s scripting or any ideas/plots/directions. Indeed, Kirby noted he was the one who sat down with the blank piece of paper and, in a very real sense, created a story. Whereas Romita mentioned that he often lacked confidence in his work being made into a story, Kirby had no doubts and stated that he had already ‘lived’ the events in his head as put them to paper. Kirby clearly had his own vision of what was produced even if the final version readers saw was written/scripted or even amended by Lee).
I should also comment specifically in relation to the references to Stan Goldberg. Goldberg was a friend of Lee who indeed noted that he was the plotter for various humour stories (with Lee doing script). However we should be careful not to take these out of context. Iin those same interviews Goldberg also makes comments such as “…Stan was great at plotting, concepts and dialogue.” (Incidentally, Goldberg also recalled Lee’s decision to costume the FF based on letters from fans).
Of course none of this means that Wally Wood wasn’t being accurate when he talked about Lee contributing little in their Daredevil story conferences. His quotes can often be found on sites such as the Kirby Museum for those interested (Iroinically Wood, a brilliant talent but notorious alcoholic, wasn’t that flattering to Kirby either, stating he was “a genius, but much less of a genius than he says he is – and he’s always claiming he created everything!”)
Anyway…hope someone found this interesting.
Posted by: Rosco | October 4, 2015 6:36 AM
It's interesting. I think Stan deliberately varied how much input he had on a given title once he got a sense of how much the artist was contributing. He freely admitted that Kirby didn't need any guidance, he freely admitted that Ditko had started making up his own plots, and Stan as editor/publisher started considering the overall Marvel Universe instead of being the guy who made each issue happen, which is what he was doing from the start, and continued after Kirby and Ditko left.
Call it 'luck of the draw,' but I think the nicknames say more about their contributions than anything else. Stan was The Man. Jack was The King. Everybody else (up to and including Steve Ditko) was clearly not on their level, and Stan knew to treat them accordingly. Wally Wood was a legend, but he didn't work well with Marvel, and was on a downhill slope, but Stan knew how to work with him to pull out a couple of issues that were on the schedule and needed to be published. If Wally can contribute dialogue [just like Jack does every month] great! One less thing Stan has to do. He's already doing the plotting. And it will be thirty years before anybody really considers the role of the comic-book writer.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 5, 2015 11:23 PM
@fnord: Why when referencing #8 do you refer to Alicia as "blind Alicia"? She's the only Alicia in the story so I don't think you require the adjective to emphasise who she is. You could instead refer to her as his step-daughter, Alicia, who is also blind. He is intent on emphasising her as his step-daughter which seems initially more important, or just as important, as her disability for the plot. Plus her similar appearance to Sue is just as emphasised. Why emphasise her disability above these unless the story does and if so highlight the fact the dialogue is intent on doing that. Just my two cents!
Posted by: Nathan Adler | January 3, 2016 6:53 PM
Am I the only one that thinks there was some confusion between Stan and Jack about the ending of issue 8? Kirby drew Alicia reaching for the puppet, which fell face up. Then Kirby shows the Puppet Master fall out the window. Then the final scene shows the puppet face down. I think the idea was supposed to be the puppet was made out of radioactive clay and Alicia used the puppet to force her stepfather to fall out the window. But Stan's script had him tripping over her arm by accident.
Posted by: Michael | January 3, 2016 7:32 PM
Michael, probably the only way to know would be to look at the original artwork for FF #8, if it actually still exists. Kirby usually wrote detailed notes in the margins to explain to Stan Lee exactly what was going on, so that Lee could then dialogue the stories. As has been seen when many of these original pages have been printed in magazines such as The Jack Kirby Collector, sometimes Kirby's notes would indicate one thing was occurring, but Lee would choose to go in a different direction when scripting.
It's certainly conceivable that Lee & Kirby worked out a very brief basic plot for FF #8, and then Kirby went off to pencil the full issue, but when he brought the artwork in to Marvel's offices Lee decided that Alicia killing her stepfather was too intense (or maybe the Comics Code Authority would reject it) and so scripted it to indicate the Puppet Master tripped by accident.
Posted by: Ben Herman | January 3, 2016 10:54 PM
Nathan, especially in my earlier entries i aimed for brevity (believe it or not) so calling her "blind Alicia" was just my quick, kind of sloppy, way of introducing her as being blind. No offense was meant. Her blindness is indeed a part of the story, since, according to the narration, it's what allows her to be ignorant of her step-father's actions. But i've revised the text.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 5, 2016 1:12 PM
In #3 the Miracle Man is in effect an evil version of the newspaper strip hero Mandrake the Magician.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 8, 2016 8:00 AM
"The innovations outshine whatever nitpicking some may have of the early FF."
I agree, a.lloyd. These are fun, creative books that I still enjoy reading whenever I'm in the mood for Silver Age Marvel. Yeah it's a little crude in spots, even compared to what Lee & Kirby were doing a few years later, but still pretty impressive for the time.
Posted by: Robert | January 23, 2016 3:22 PM
This is a great article and comments section, especially the comments about the Kirby/Lee disputes, which makes this page the most informative piece on that topic which I've read to date.
Regarding #10, and the whole discussion about Reed's initial studies on Sue's invisibility powers, Reed is arguably just helping Sue to augment her powers, which will eventually lead to her ability to project force fields in Fantastic Four #22. Reed in these early days is constantly experimenting on members of the FF to help them fine tune their powers. That's the ticket. :)
Posted by: James Holt | July 7, 2016 1:49 AM
Thoughtful, benevolent, and concerned, Reed wants to make that he can find Sue, if she ever does become Permanently invisible, as discussed in some of the comments above. She might get lost!
Seriously, this would have been a concern even with the later retcons to her character, and even if the invisible character was male. Jack and Stan on the other hand lived in a time period where those kinds of attitudes towards women were common.
Many men in the early 1960s actually did still wear plaid coats, bow ties, and even the same kinds of hats Kirby drew. This was still before the Beatles and the British Explosion, which came along circa 1964 and later. King Kirby, and most other men of his age, stuck with the older styles. Stan the Man, who was of a slightly younger vintage than Jack, became notoriously "hip" for awhile, Sonny Bono style, with over-the-collar hair and a mustache IIRC.
Posted by: James Holt | July 7, 2016 2:32 AM
That's what makes it so cool. It's not a gimmick that will turn out to save the day by the end of the issue, it's just Reed being Reed, examining Sue's invisibility powers in case there's a use for them at some future point. He'd do this to anyone else on the team if they turned invisible, and one suspects he subjects Johnny and Ben to such treatment regularly. And then there's Franklin. Poor, poor Franklin.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 21, 2016 4:12 AM
According to a Mike Breen article in The Jack Kirby Collector #61, Kirby dialogued #6 himself. The script does feature one of Kirby's quirks, his use of "quotation marks" in unusual "places."
Posted by: Haydn | August 18, 2016 6:24 PM
Also (and I'm not sure what to make of this), Sub-Mariner is referred to as Submariner (no hyphen) throughout #6.
Posted by: Haydn | August 18, 2016 6:29 PM
Also, controversially pronounced "Submareener"
Posted by: cullen | August 18, 2016 6:34 PM
Everett once said he used the hyphen to encourage the correct pronunciation. Subby's name was inspired by Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. (Not surprising that a descendant of William Blake would be well-read!)
Posted by: Haydn | August 19, 2016 12:43 PM
Any Kirby enthusiasts have an opinion about the writing style in #6? It sure reads differently from #5 (Dr. Doom's first appearance), in my opinion. (And what an interesting decision---to bring back Doom and Subby almost immediately after their first appearances in the title!)
Posted by: Haydn | August 19, 2016 12:46 PM
I have my own reading list for Marvel as opposed to an actual chronology. I place Hulk#1 between FF#4 and 5, Strange Tales#101 and 102 between #7 and 8, Strange Tales#103 between #8 and 9, All the Spider-Man-1's, Amazing Fantasy#15-18, Amazing Spider-Man#1 and Strange Tales#104 between #9 and 10.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 22, 2016 4:01 PM
I've recently been reading the earliest Marvel comics on Marvel Unlimited. I think there is plenty of great character material in here, but the plots are often terrible. I love how in issue 2 there is real tension between the Torch and the Thing, and Kirby really gets across the pain in Ben when he turns into a monster again. But the power showcase in issue 1 is just ridiculous, and I laughed out loud when Miracle Man stopped Reed by chucking a brick at him!
In issue 1 Reed says the Mole Man will not be a problem anymore since he left him behind on the island. Pretty weird, considering that just means he's surrounded by the monsters he can control. Only... then the whole island explodes! The FF say Mole Man did it himself, but it sure sounds to me like Reed quickly whipped up a bomb himself!
When Namor proposes to Sue, he says she could become "princess Namora"... hoo boy, does this man have issues!
Posted by: Berend | November 27, 2016 5:26 PM
What I find to be one of the most interesting aspects of the early Fantastic Four stories is that in the first few issues the Thing is definitely *not* the loveable, grumbling, cartoony strong guy made out of orange bricks that we all know & love. He actually starts out looking like a horribly disfigured burn victim. He's also dangerously short-tempered, ready to savagely lash out at the world at the drop of a hat. Ben Grimm definitely started out as a violent anti-hero. As fnord observes, the Thing finally began to mellow out when Alicia was introduced.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 11, 2016 8:11 PM
Ben was brimming with hate in the beginning. I feel like the only thing that stopped him from becoming a villain in those dark early days might have been that he understood wealth and domination wouldn't make him any less miserable.
Posted by: Mortificator | December 15, 2016 6:06 AM
Was Sue Storm really Johnny's MOTHER? Otherwise even from right at the beginning the age discrepancies pile up, fast...
Posted by: Flying Tiger Comics | March 12, 2017 3:17 AM
You're not the only one with that theory: http://zak-site.com/Great-American-Novel/ff-act4-FF274.html#FF291
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 12, 2017 10:31 PM
Really love some the insane and incredible visuals with a number of the early Marvel villains straight out of the 'monster age'. Ben Grimm playing kiloton-Jonah in the bowels of a magnificent bipedal Mobyzilla is just brilliant on a whole other level, like off the charts insane and I love it.
Posted by: MK101 | April 9, 2017 12:22 AM
Much has been made over the years about Jack Kirby lifting ideas and concepts from the work he did on CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN in his time at DC in creating the FF. An even more obvious "lift" is from DC's SEA DEVILS, created by Bob Kanigher and Russ Heath, about a team of four scuba divers who take on strange creatures in the ocean depths. The team consisted of Dane Dorrance, the dashing, intelligent, alliteratively-named leader, Biff Bradley, the big, brawny strong guy/right-hand man, Judy Walton, Dane's beautiful blonde girlfriend who had some acting aspirations, and Judy's equally-blonde, younger teen brother Nicky, described by Dorrance as "a kid topside, but a man underwater" (insert joke here). Take this team topside (and beyond), replace the flippers and tanks with blue spandex, power them up and add a dose of personality (a bigger dose for the strong guy), and see what you get. Of course, while the FF have survived and prospered, the Devils' own series fizzled out in the mid-60's and have been seen sporadically since. Most notably, Dorrance as one of the Forgotten Heroes, as part of DC's Tangent line written by Kurt Busiek, and most recently re-imagined as eco-terrorists.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | June 9, 2017 12:00 AM
Wow, great synopses and commentary! My feelings are much the same. These are of course critical stories from a historical/continuity perspective, but as actual stories, they're mostly... pretty lame. I have fun with them mostly by not taking them overly seriously (which is what I suspect most hardcore Marvel fans do), but there's a lot of dorkiness here. (Sue going out of her way to freak out others with her invisible powers for no good reason; Reed indeed being a dick more than once, although to his credit he's the only one who makes any money in the group, so maybe he partly 'deserves' to be; some really corny origin stories and dialogue; etc. etc.)
I really enjoyed reading this entry. I haven't yet gone through the many comments (which I've found, in general, to be good stuff too) but I look forward to doing so.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 11:50 AM
Has anyone mentioned how much Jack Kirby's drawing of Reed smoking a pipe (issue #3) looks like Kirby himself?
Posted by: James | September 23, 2017 12:30 PM
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