This instalment of Arcs & Runs will look at the most important run of comics in the silver age IMO. DC Showcase (revival of super-heroes – new Flash and Green Lantern) and The Amazing Spider-Man, both receive and deserve a lot of consideration as the most important run of the silver age. Spider-Man is easily the most popular character to emerge from the 60’s; however he may not have even happened if it weren’t for a comic called the Fantastic Four.
The Fantastic Four is the super-hero comic that basically all of the rest of Marvel comics sprang from. It began in November 1961; co created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and ran in its first incarnation until 1996, has had additional volumes, and is still running on today. It is hard to imagine what our comic world would look like if they had not been invented. It would certainly have been very different.
Although I know some people may argue with the my choice of the FF as the most important comic run of the silver age given their current popularity versus others of today like The Avengers, All X-Men, Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman, they all bent the knee to the Fantastic Four back then. It is not that those were bad back then, far from it, the Fantastic Four was just that good a comic at the time. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee were at the top of their game and created a quality run of comics that may be equalled but will be difficult to surpass.
The hardest thing for me to do on this run was to decide what it was. Not hard to figure out where it starts, but where does it end? The easy out is to say all Jack Kirby issues #1 – 102. How about #1- 50? After a lot of internal debate I settled on issues #1-67. I stopped the run right after the “Him” (Warlock) story as it is the last new character of note (unless you like the Psycho Man) that is created in this run.
The Lee/Kirby split may have not happened until some time later and there are still plenty of good stories being told, but their was a bit of repetition that seemed to be creeping in to the title at this point. Ben Grimm betrays the FF (again), the Silver Surfer returns, The Thing no more (again), The Wizard, The Inhumans, Doctor Doom, Mole Man, the Mad Thinker, The Skrulls, The Monster (he’s new and I like him), etc. It is a magnificent group of villains, however I think Kirby was saving new characters for his new job, and I certainly don’t blame him for that.
We can’t do these 67 issues justice in one column so I have split the run into arcs. We will come back to the FF every once in a while to cover additional arcs. I could be a very old man by the time we cover all of these great stories. We will do them in an order – my favourites first. The first six FF annuals will also be covered in a separate Arcs and Runs as well.
Arcs and Runs # 2 Fantastic Four run Issue #1-67 Part 1 Issues #44-#51.
The Gentleman’s Name is Gorgon!
This book has the first appearance of Gorgon. Re-introduces Medusa of the Frightful 4 and DragonMan. Our tale starts a little slow with a typical FF domestic squabble, fighting each other when there is no one else to fight. Johnny Storm leaves their headquarters only to find Medusa hiding in his Stingray, on the run from Gorgon who has just arrived at said building. Medusa convinces Johnny she is real danger and they take off to hide. They end up outside at Reed Richards old campus. Enter Dragon Man last seen in FF#35, Gorgon, and the rest of the FF. A protracted battle ensues involving everyone. The issue ends with Dragon Man absconding Sue Storm, Gorgon capturing Medusa and getting away. Johnny, Reed, and Ben are in pursuit. We the reader, are left with more questions than answers about the mysterious Gorgon and the fate of Medusa and Sue. For me this book is the beginning of the Inhuman saga. You need to read this book for issue #45 to have the impact that it does. This book doesn’t get the love it deserves from Overstreet as it lumped in with unrelated issues #41-43 for some reason.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $89 9.0 $195 9.2$300
Among Us Hide … The Inhumans
First full appearance of The Inhumans. We have already met a couple of them in issue #44 but didn’t know they were from a hidden race called the Inhumans. That is what this issue is all about. While walking about downtown a brooding Johnny Storm stumbles across one of the most beautiful young women to walk across the face of the earth, in the ruins of some derelict buildings. She disappears. Johnny continues his search the next day and eventually he finds her again as the Human Torch. She mistakes Johnny Storm as a fellow inhuman and introduces herself as Crystal, and proceeds to take him back to their hidden underground hideout. Once there, he meets Karnak, Lockjaw, and eventually Gorgon, Medusa, and Triton. Upset the Inhumans plan on keeping the Torch from returning to the surface, however he escapes and calls the rest of the FF. It is show down time. We get a Wolverine type (Incredible Hulk #180) first appearance of Black Bolt on the last small panel as the issue comes to a close.
For more info on this issue see Walt’s Undervalued Spotlight #162.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $175 9.0 $368 9.2 $600 (Good Luck)
Those Who Would Destroy Us
First Full Cover and appearance of Black Bolt. The action begins right on the splash page and continues for the next 3 pages, as Black Bolt and the Inhumans take on the FF. Then we break way mid-battle to a new threat. A gentleman named the Seeker who hunts Inhumans. He breaks into FF headquarters and takes the sedated Dragon Man (who he has mistaken for an inhuman) to his ship. We also learn he has already captured the inhuman Triton. Back to the battle with the FF/Inhumans, The Thing and Black Bolt are in full gear exchanging blows; finally Black Bolt is forced to use his “master blow” to take out the Thing. It does, but it also takes him out as well. Meanwhile Gorgon, Medusa, Lockjaw, and Crystal have discovered that the Seeker has captured Triton, they gather up Karnak and Black Bolt and teleport to safety via Lockjaw (pretty cool). The FF return to their headquarters and find out they have been broken into and Dragon Man is missing. Reed finds one of his many gizmos and tracks the Seeker to his ship. Once inside the FF learn more about the Seeker and the Inhuman race. The Inhumans were created by another “unknown” advanced race that have inhabited earth at the same time as the human race. As the human race began to grow population wise they began to fear the less populated super beings. The advanced race built a great refuge on the planet and continued to live out their existence there, separate from the human race. Medusa escaped and Gorgon was sent to retrieve her (issue #44). At this point we still do know why the Inhumans are trying to escape the great refuge. The Seeker allows the FF to leave, but before they can the Dragon Man gets loose and smashes Triton’s water globe while escaping and heads to the city. Triton is dying gasping for water as the issue comes to and end. This book is my favourite of the Inhuman part of this run.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $105 9.0 $233 9.2 $300
Beware The Hidden Land
The story continues as the FF split up to cover two emergences. The Human Torch and The Thing take on and defeat Dragon Man. Reed & Sue save Triton from suffocating. Dragon Man is sedated and taken by authorities to desert isle sanctuary. Triton is returned to the great refuge with the Seeker. Reed not satisfied with the state of affairs attaches a homing device to the Seekers ship for future follow up. Black Bolt and family have returned to the great refuge, where we meet Maximus current ruler of the great refuge. Maximus is Black Bolts brother and has taken over as ruler from Black Bolt following an “accident” that has left Black Bolt unable to speak. Maximus has a partially hidden agenda for wiping out the human race, and have the Inhuman race retake the planet. Maximus plans to marry Medusa as she is betrothed to the King. She ran away (issue #44) when the king became Maximus instead of Black Bolt. BB won’t stand for this and re-takes the crown. Meanwhile the FF using their tracking device have found the great refuge and finally get a chance to talk instead of fight the Inhumans. As talks go on the usurped Maximus puts his destruction of the human race on the front burner, and gets his Atmo gun (Atmosphere changer – affects humans only) ready to be fired. He pulls the trigger and issue #47 comes to an end. What the story isn’t over? No this story continues and reaches its conclusion in the much vaunted Silver Surfer intro in issue #48.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $89 9.0 $195 9.2 $300
The Coming of Galactus
Maximus has fired the Atmo gun and vibrations begin. The building housing the Atmo gun begins to vibrate and collapse. The gun itself does not work. The human race still lives and Maximus has failed. Medusa claims Maximus is Mad and contends that the Inhumans may one day rejoin the human race. Maximus goes crazy and races for his Atmo reversing the charge in order to create an impenetrable negative zone around the great refuge. The FF barely get out in time before the negative zone encapsulates the great refuge and begins to sink into the earth. Johnny Storm is crushed by his separation from his new love Crystal. The four head home heavy hearted and vow to try and find a way to break through some day.
As this story ends a new one begins – on the same page (7)! We catch our first glimpse ever of the Silver Surfer soaring through space. The Skrulls are terrified of him putting their whole solar system on total black out. The FF return home to madness, fire in the sky, two suns, space debris, a populace in panic. The crowds believe the Torch is responsible and attack him and he is saved by the Thing. Reed locks himself in a room to work on the problem with The Watcher. The Watcher explains the gravity of the threat, who the Silver Surfer is and who he works for – Galactus! The Watcher has been trying to hide planet earth from the Silver Surfer who is a herald for world devourer Galactus He has failed as the Surfer breaks through the space debris surrounding earth. The Surfer lands and signals Galactus before the FF can stop him. Galactus ship lands and he steps forth. He’s huge! And this issue comes to and end. Great book with the end of a 5 part Inhuman storyline and the beginning of the FF’s most epic story ever.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $456 9.0 $1028 9.2 $1600
If This Be Doomsday!
The Watcher and Galactus converse, they have known each other forever. The Watcher is trying to make a case with Galactus to spare this planet and its billions of people. Such things are beneath Galactus and he dismisses the Watcher’s plea. The FF attack but to no avail. A quick breakaway to the Silver Surfer, who after a blow from the Thing, has landed on Alicia Masters (The Things girlfriend) apartment. She begins to have a conversation with him and we break away again to Galactus who is busy constructing his energy converter with the FF looking on. Enter the Watcher yet again. He has a plan to stop Galactus with a weapon/machine that he knows of but can’t procure himself as it would constitute direct involvement in crucial conflict which he is forbidden to do. Only the Human Torch can obtain it. We go back to Alicia who is working hard on the Surfer to help save there world, and she does appear to be making headway. Reed and Ben attack Galactus with a minute of success, and Galactus summons his “Punisher” to handle these two cretins not wanting to waste time on them himself. We break away this time to The Watcher and The Human Torch, who is being prepared by the watcher to travel through time and space. Once prepared the torch is on his way. Next the Punisher has arrived and he is ordered by Galactus to destroy the remaining FF. A spirited 3 page battle ensues giving Galactus time to complete his energy converter. The FF are OK but they know they are running out of time. One more time we go back to Alicia and the Surfer. She’s done it! Almost as fast as Doc Ock converting to the Superior Spider-Man, Alicia has convinced the Surfer to defy his master Galactus and fight for humanity. On his way to battle Galactus, the Watcher observes this new development with some trepidation fearing the Surfer may inadvertently cause the destruction of earth as this issue draws to a close.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $285 9.0 $641 9.2 $1000
The Startling Saga of the Silver Surfer!
The action begins on the splash page with the Silver Surfer declaring his allegiance with the people of earth to Galactus. He challenges Galactus and then attacks him. As the battle wages on the FF are basically spectators with the Watcher who is mentally guiding the Human Torch back from distant space with “the weapon”. When he arrives he is shock and completely disoriented, but does have the weapon (the ultimate nullifier) and the Watcher instructs Reed Richards how to use it against Galactus. The Surfer/Galactus battle rages on and just when it appears Galactus will lay waste to the Surfer, Reed goes into action pointing the Ultimate Nullifier in Galactus’s face. Shocked at what Reed holds in his possession the nullifier (which has the power to waste to a universe) stops Galactus in his tracks. Galactus turns and admonishes the Watcher for giving this weapon to a child. The two then enter a philosophical conversation about the human race and our potential for greatness. Galactus agrees to cease and desist; Reed gives him the ultimate nullifier on the Watchers say so. Before Galactus leaves he fires his eye beams through the Silver Surfer removing his ability to leave earth’s atmosphere. Exit Galactus. Alicia Masters shows up and runs to the Silver Surfer not directly to The Thing. Ben feels he has lost her to the Surfer and leaves with the rest of the FF. When the Surfer and Alicia have finished their conversation, the Surfer leaves to explore his new found home, and Alicia goes to find Ben. And the saga ends on page 13 of the book. The next seven pages are used to set-up future story lines. Johnny Storm decides to enrol in college (something to do after saving the world), and meets Wyatt Wingfoot for the first time. We also meet an unnamed menace, who we do meet in FF#51 which is our next story.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $359 9.0 $805 9.2 $1250
This Man…This Monster
This story begins with the Thing seemingly wandering aimlessly in the rain, and feeling sorry for himself and his lot. A door opens and the unnamed menace we met in issue #50 is there. He invites the Thing inside to get out of the rain and offers him coffee (the drugged type). We find out he is a scientist whose theories have been rejected by the scientific community. He feels bitterness, jealousy, almost hatred for the successful Reed Richards. He has a plan to destroy the Fantastic 4 to show everybody just how brilliant he is. He has a duplication machine and uses it to change places with the Thing. He becomes the Thing, and the Thing reverts back to Ben Grimm. The scene shifts to the Baxter building where Reed Richards continues to burn the candle at both ends in attempt to build better weapons, to fight advanced threats like Galactus. The new Thing shows up and is welcomed by Reed and Sue, followed shortly by a very mad Ben Grimm. The new Thing convinces Reed and Sue he is the real deal and dismiss Ben Grimm with some doubts. We make a quick trip to Metro college where Johnny Storm is getting integrated into college life along with his roommate Wyatt Wingfoot. This character is based on the famous 1930’s US Olympian Jim Thorpe. They playfully name the football coach Thorpe. Not much going on so let’s get back to the Baxter building. Reed Richards is about to enter a dangerous sub space chamber with the new Thing holding his life line. Reed enters the void and begins to explore the space chamber, meanwhile the new Thing is starting to see the side of Reed Richards he didn’t know, fearless, extremely hard working, willing to sacrifice anything, and examine it versus his own life. Just about then Reed gets in trouble and tugs on his lifeline for help; the new Thing hesitates and then decides to help – too late. The line breaks, and the new Thing grabs the broken rope and is pulled into void with Reed. In the void the new Thing (I keep calling him this as he is never named in the story) sees the error of his way and selflessly grabs Richards and throws him back out of the void. The new Thing hurtles towards certain death but is content having been given a second chance to do something worthwhile with the last act of his life. Back at the Baxter building Ben Grimm has reverted back to the Thing and reunited with a very happy Sue and Reed Richards. It is a great, simple story about the value of friendship. And it is a nice way to end this arc.
43rd Overstreet 8.0 $131 9.0 $291 9.2 $450
It was a bit of a no-brainer to pick this run of books to review and recommend. The Inhuman and Silver Surfer arcs are well-known classics. Its funny looking back on just how short the Silver Surfer/Galactus story is given its long term impact. I did cheat a bit and added FF#51 which is really a one shot but fits here nicely.
All of these books are very good investments but pricey for a lot of readers. They are available in Marvel Masterworks (see below), however if you are like me and still like flipping through, smelling, and reading a comic book (on a budget) I would recommend you visit your local comic shop and seek out Marvel Greatest comics issue #33 thru 38 and you will have this whole run in reprint form. They have some very good new original artwork and they are a bargain price wise.
Until next time have fun reading and collecting.
I love this run and think that it’s the best run of the 60’s. Stan Lee and Kirby were firing on all cylinders and the sheer amount of ideas cramming the pages is amazing. Introduced the Inhumans, Silver Surfer and Galactus and Black Panther only 1 issue later! I’m collecting the run and 48 has always been my dream comic. ‘This Man… This Monster’ is probably one of the best comics I’ve ever read and 48-50 is the best event comic I’ve ever read (I like to look at it as being one of the first event comics, it just felt so momentous). Heck, even the next run, where Doctor Doom steals Silver Surfer’s board is a classic.
Hey Kiwidan the next run will be the next FF arc (#52-60) when I get around to it. I love it too. You can’t go wrong collecting these books.
I have always had the 50 issue run from 44-94 as the best 50 issue run of all time.The number of new characters and concepts created by Stan and Jack during this period are mind numbing!
I’m glad we could start this FF arc right at the beginning of your favourite run Dennis. More to come!
Fantastic Four #51 is on the very top of my “must own” list, an absolute classic. No argument from me that the Fantastic Four was the top comic of the 1960s. Thanks for writing this article.
Your welcome Alan, and I am glad that we could end this arc with your favourite book!
Hi Mike, FF 48 to 50 is my favourite FF storyline of all time, followed by FF #52-53 (Black Panther) as a close second. I love the dramatic interactions between Alicia and the Silver Surfer.
Hi Peter, yes Alicia is the unsung hero of that story line- with no super powers at all !