Fantastic Four 25-30

Arcs & Runs #51. It’s time to take my semi-annual look at another segment of the landmark Kirby-Lee run on the Fantastic Four issues #1-67. We are on segment number five if you are counting (and I am). Early Fantastic Four comics are a real treat to read and re-read as you get older. They don’t get stale. I once owned a Fantastic Four run from issues #16 through #102 and beyond with a smattering of earlier books. Writing these posts makes me wish I had them all back! I’ve always got the reprints I guess…sigh.

All stories are written by Stan Lee. All pencils are by Jack Kirby, and inking chores are split between Chic Stone and George Roussos. Sol Brodsky and Stan Goldberg help Mr. Kirby on a couple of covers. The gang was at the top of their game in this little run

Let’s get to the books!

Fantastic Four #25
April 1964
The Hulk vs The Thing

We start our run today with a big-time key FF#25 and the battle of heavy weights, and two of early Marvel’s more popular characters the Thing and The Hulk. Fans appetite for this battle had been wetted back in their first meeting in another Marvel key – Fantastic Four #12.

We begin our story today with Reed Richards, he is working on another formula to change the Thing permanently back to Ben Grimm. This was ever-changing theme in the Fantastic Four stories involving the Thing, to change or not to change. Today Ben did not want to change back, and he swats the potion away from a dejected Reed Richards. Meanwhile in the desert, Rick Jones and the Hulk read about Captain America taking the Hulk’s place in the Avengers. Infuriated the Hulk leaves the desert and returns to New York to take on the Avengers. Back at FF headquarters Reed Richards has come down with a mysterious virus that lays him out and takes Sue Storm out of the picture (staying by his bedside). The Human Torch is heading across town and runs into the newly arrived Hulk. The Hulks sends Johnny Storm to the hospital after a quick skirmish, leaving the table clear for the much anticipated one on one battle between The Thing and The Hulk. The battle rages between the two across New York. The Thing begins to tire and the Hulk only appears to be getting stronger as the battle wages on. Finally, out of gas the Thing is pummelled to helpless submission and the Hulk leaves to find the Avengers. The Thing eventually gets up, and can’t believe he has been thoroughly beaten by the Hulk. He vows to re-join the battle, even if it kills him. Continued next issue.

One side note for those of you who haven’t read the book or heard this story. In one large panel of FF#25 when the Hulk is pounding the Thing, the Hulks face changes. It looked way out of place, but the Hulk’s face quickly returned to normal in the next Hulk image. I could never figure this out as a young kid reading the book. I read years later that Jack Kirby had drawn Marvel bullpen artist Sol Brodsky’s face on the Hulk for just this one panel. I don’t know why he did it (joke, favour, appreciation – who knows), but it was pretty cool they left it in the published book.

Fantastic Four #26
May 1964
The Avengers Take Over

Part Two of the battle with the Hulk takes on a much different look. Reed Richards has fully recovered with a comic book quick antidote for his virus. Sue is on board, and the Human Torch is also off his hospital bed. The gang races to help The Thing in his battle with the Hulk. They arrive to the fray about the same time as the Avengers and Rick Jones. Both teams see the battle as theirs to fight, and there is the obligatory skirmish between each other before they decide to work together and stop the Hulk. In time and with the help of Rick Jones the Hulk is subdued and returns to Bruce Banner form. Banner appears to drown, but doesn’t of course returning to the pages of the next issue of the Avengers (#5).

The Fantastic Four leave the battle having met the Avengers for the first time, and with lovable Thing. The Thing has a slightly bruised ego and has been beaten – but not beat.

Fantastic Four #25 & #26 have been tied together in value for the first forty years of the Overstreet Price Guide. Over the past few years, issue #25 has gradually started to become more valuable. I like both books. Fantastic Four annual #4 has both books reprinted in it if you are looking for a cheaper alternative to own these stories in comic book form.

Fantastic Four #27
June 1964
The Search for Sub-Mariner

In this issue, the Fantastic Four battle the Sub-Mariner with the assistance of special guest star Doctor Strange. The Sub-Mariner is looking for a queen to share his throne. His only choice is Sue Storm with whom he has been smitten since Fantastic Four #4 and his return to the Marvel universe. The Sub-Mariner dons a disguise and enters the Baxter building, quickly defeating The Human Torch, The Thing, and absconding with Sue Storm. Reed, who has been out buying an engagement ring for Sue, returns to find out the bad news and goes berserk. He takes off leaving the Thing and Torch behind. Unable to track him the Human Torch sends out a “help signal’ to Doctor Strange. The good doctor answers the call quickly in his astral form. He agrees to help Johnny and Ben find Reed. The Doctor locates Reed in the Sub-Mariner’s underwater kingdom and he transport the Torch and Thing there. A fierce battle between Reed and the Sub-Mariner and his minions has been taking place for about five pages now. The overall battle is moving in the Sub-Mariner’s way when Doctor Strange intervenes, transporting the whole team to safety as they make their way back home.

This is Doctor Strange’s first crossover into the Marvel universe from the pages of Strange Tales. It certainly wasn’t his last. Journey Into Mystery #108 with Thor and Loki, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2, and X-Men #33 and the Juggernaut, come to mind. Early days for Doctor Strange were spent mostly in other dimensions, so these cross-overs introduced him to a new audience who might not have read Strange Tales.

One final note, we can’t leave this book without tipping the hat to the outstanding cover of Fantastic Four #27. One of my favourites.

Fantastic Four #28
July 1964
We have to fight the X-Men

The Mad Thinker and Puppet Master make their first appearance as a bad-guy duo and it is a doozy. The two baddies plan to destroy the Fantastic Four using the X-Men as their foil. They gain control of Professor X’s mind with one of the Puppet Master’s radio-active puppets. The X-Men listen to everything the professor says and he is now in control of the Mad Thinker. The X-Men meet the Fantastic Four for the first time at the Baxter building and it’s going pretty well until X-Men attack the FF. A long battle between each other ensues, and the X-Men are commanded to lead the FF into a Mad Thinker trap. Once this is accomplished, more commands from the Mad Thinker controlled Professor X, this time telling the team to fall asleep. The Beast resists and crushes the Professor X clay doll held by the Puppet Master. It looks like the battle is over, however the Mad Thinker unleashes his Android and another battle begins. The Mad Thinker and Puppet Master use this side battle to escape. The now recovered Professor X puts the Android to sleep and the donnybrook is over. Everyone leaves on good terms. This was a good vehicle for the X-Men, who back then could use all the positive exposure they could get. The little kid in me still can’t figure out how the Puppet Master can mold radio-active clay with his bare hands and not kill himself….

Fantastic Four #29
August 1964
It started on Yancy Street

The team and in particular Ben Grimm the Thing are being terrorized by the Yancy Street gang with gags and exploding parcels. The Yancy Street Gang see Ben as a bit of traitor since he quit the as leader of the gang years ago. They never let him forget it. One of the notes issues a challenge to the Thing to a street fight and he takes them up on it. Reed, Sue and Johnny also tag along. Once there they quickly learn it is a trap set by the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes. Taken by surprise the Fantastic four are taken by space-ship to the Blue side of the moon and dumped there to die. Sue’s force field gives them enough air to stumble into and find the Watcher’s hidden underground living space. There are more high-tech gizmos here than the Baxter building. Reed uses one of the gizmos to bring the Red Ghost and his ship down to the Blue area of the moon. There is a battle which the Fantastic Four win of course. The Watcher arrives and sends the team back home to Yancy street.

Fantastic Four #29 was always a tough comic to get in high grade for me anyway.

Fantastic Four #30
September 1964
The Dreaded Diablo

The Dreaded Diablo – sounds like a scary drink or something that happens to you when you eat too many grapes. It is the title of last story here today and introduces a long-standing foe of the Fantastic Four and the marvel universe – the alchemist Diablo. The Fantastic Four are on vacation in- Transylvania and are lost in a forest. They stumble upon a mysterious castle but before they can enter it, they are stopped by the mayor Baron Hugo. He says no one must enter Diablo’s castle and he offers shelter at his own place. The mayor explains that the dreaded Diablo has been imprisoned there for over 100 years and immortal. That evening Diablo summons the Thing who mistakenly sets him free. Diablo partially returns the Thing to Ben Grimm form in return for being a servant of Diablo. Ben jumps at the chance and quickly tells the rest of the Fantastic Four to take a hike. Reed Richards is not so sure about Diablo’s formulation and begins testing it. It is a fake. The damage though may have already been done, Diablo has acquired a powerful army which is to be led by the Thing. The bad news for Diablo is the Thing has discovered the truth and is fighting mad. The Thing single-handily buries the defeated Diablo in his own castle and brings the whole thing to the ground. Diablo has been defeated and the Fantastic Four discover they are still lost in the forest, as our story and this little run has come to an end.

Listed below are the 47th Overstreet Price guide prices for the books covered in today’s post.

6.0 8.0 9.0 9.2
Fantastic Four 25 $213 $568 $1284 $2000
Fantastic Four 26 $192 $512 $1158 $1800
Fantastic Four 27 $120 $296 $673 $1050
Fantastic Four 28 $138 $368 $834 $1300
Fantastic Four 29 $81 $194 $435 $675
Fantastic Four 30 $81 $194 $435 $675

I do hope everyone is enjoying their summer, and continued good luck with your wants lists.

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Mike Huddleston
Mike was born and raised in Cambridge, Ontario. He has read and collected comics for over 40 years. A Marvel Zombie specializing in the Silver, bronze and early copper age of comics.
Articles: 101

13 Comments

  1. Mike, Just amazing issues and I agree, some of the FF’s best. I had bought FF #1 off the stands as a nine year old, then didn’t get another until #18. Then another gap. But with #27, I started buying every Marvel title, what was it, just eight or ten at the time, not much over a dollar a month in lawn-mowing money for a 12-year-old. Thus my soft spot for these issues. I was hooked, and 53 years later, I look forward to reading them again, fortunately I recollected reading cooies of around #5 to the end of Kirby’s run after #100, so can chew up one original issue after another. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Some of the best early FF issues here. Especially #25-#28. FF, Hulk, Avengers, X-Men and Dr. Strange is Marvel Silver Age goodness in my book. The art and stories where great. I own or have owned all four of those issues. Great choice!!

  3. Some of the best early FF issues here. Especially #25-28 Crossovers galore. FF, Hulk, Avengers, Dr. Strange and the X-Men is Silver Age goodness in my book. The art and stories are great. I own or have owned all four of those issues. Great pick today!!

  4. Thanks Nathan X2. I was going to do just the #25-28, but decided to make it like today’s story arcs which average about six books. Even if the quality of #29 and #30 slip a bit compared to the others, they are still pretty top-notch.

    Hi Bud – Thank you for commenting. I wish I had your foresight and bought a bunch reader copies. I bought higher grade copies of Marvel Collector Item Classics and Marvel Greatest Comics. They are good books and you get the stories, but as you have said before – there is something special about owning & feeling original copies of books, regardless of condition..

  5. Sorry about double comment. I guess my computer was having issues and didn’t know if thew first comment went.

  6. Mike

    with Kirbys’ birthday just under 3 weeks away , this was the perfect time to run this segment !!! Kirby is definitely the King ! I , too , reread Kirbys’ run every few years . I didn’t start to read comics until late in ’68 , but , by the early 70’s , I finally understood the significance of the early Marvels . it must have been awesome to read them new , all the books linking together and appearing in each others books !

    as for the Marvel reprint books , you have to be careful , Mike ! they didn’t always reprint everything in them , so , it’s far better to read low grade copies like Bud does ! then you can read the letters pages , smell the paper , etc !

    as always , I do enjoy reading your arc runs ! thanks for the work you do !

  7. Hey Chris,

    Good to hear from you again. I do agree with you on all points. I was thinking about Bud’s Fantastic Four #5. I did own copies of that book a couple of times. They were just above a rag status (2.0 or less) definitely reader copies. but were still worth $400-500! so off they went. I wish I had hung on to one of them! Thanks for the support Chris.

  8. Great post Mike!I entered the FF saga at number 76 and it took me a long time to get those early issues.I know exactly the panel where the Hulks face changes and I see it clearly in my minds eye!It always amazes me how the comic went so cosmic when Joe Sinnott took over the inking chores on FF ,everything just exploded with creativity compared to the 1-43 run, but you have to love the early era as well since it is what led to the best 50 ish run in comics ever!

  9. Look at the covers of FF # 26,28 and 29….Kirby’s style often imitated but never duplicated…He really was magic…I happen to prefer Kirby’s art in the issue # 10 to 60 range…but the whole run is magic. And the Kirby covers from 1963 to 1965…awe inspiring.
    Thanks Mike

  10. Thanks for your comments Dennis & Dave,

    Funny how we all have our own special “run” within this spectacular run of the Fantastic Four. My first store spinner/rack bought book was Fantastic Four #59, although I had read quite of few previously enjoyed books prior to that. We were very lucky and maybe a little spoiled to have grown up in this time period when Jack Kirby work was “the norm” and what you expected to receive every month. Thanks for the memories Jack!

  11. Hey Mike
    The FF were like a breath of fresh air in the ’60s. I jumped on board with the fantastic FF #55 with that classic Thing vs. Silver Surfer story. Nobody, and I mean nobody,could fill a page with so much power and dynamism. It took me years to track down the rest of the Kirby run, and, sadly, over the years that run has diminished to the first ten issues, 48-51 and that great #55. I still have the copy I bought off the rack at Lou’s Variety in downtown Preston. Somebody recently offered stupid money for it, since it is, believe it or not, still about a 9.6 (I was a rather particular kid and kept all of my books in pretty much the shape I bought them in).

    I think probably the stupidest stunt Marvel ever pulled off was cancelling the Fantastic Four to spite Fox. Where is their loyalty to the fans who have supported this title since 1961?! Certainly the main reason I have pretty much turned my back on Marvel comics for the last few years. Make mine Image!

    cheers, mel

  12. Hi Mel,

    I remember that copy of FF#55 very well. You pulled it out of your comic collection and showed it to me when Ivan and I came to look at your “Whites”. It is the best raw copy of that book I have ever seen. It would be interesting to see what it would get graded. I also remember being quite worried about damaging the book. Not in the handling of the book, I was worrying about drooling all cover and bone white pages :). A book to be proud of, that is for certain.

  13. Hey Mike
    I remember that visit, particularly because you were one of the first fans I ever showed that book to who didn’t immediately start trying to haggle me into selling it. Why, just last year, I had a big fan of the Canadian Whites here, who, upon seeing my copy of Nelvana of the Northern Lights, pulled out a wad of cash and offered me $10,000 on the spot. Imagine his surprise when I politely declined the offer. He did immediately apologize for being so overzealous, but I do find a lot of people just don’t understand the genuine attachment we have to our favourite books. It takes a gentleman like yourself to politely sit back and drool.

    cheers, mel

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