Thursday, 27 September 2012


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Hard to believe the above issue is nearly 50 years old.  I acquired
it just over two decades after it was published, which means I've now
owned it for almost 30 years - something else I find difficult to wrap my
mind around.  The first six F.F. Annuals all had new content alongside
select reprints, but with #7 they became all-reprint material - which
lasted until 1976 and the release of Annual #11.

The seventh Annual (or King-Size Special, if you prefer), reprinted
the contents of #2, above, while #8 re-presented the first in the series,
minus the opening chapter of the origin of the foursome from their 1961
debut in F.F. #1.  (The 1963 reprint had faces and figures redrawn
in places, to update the look of the some of the characters.)

The above cover was one I re-created for the original printing
of Volume 25 of MARVEL MASTERWORKS, and was featured
in several publications over the years until an earlier, superior source
was discovered and utilized for the OMNIBUS and recently updated
Masterworks editions.  JACK (KING) KIRBY was still alive when
I re-inked, re-created and restored this page (and others), and it was
an immense thrill to see my name in the credits section of the book
alongside some of the (then) living legends of the Marvel Age.

Annual #4 featured the modern-day return of the original HUMAN
TORCH, but it was the reprint tales which made this issue a 'must-have'.
Re-presenting F.F. #s 25 26, the second meeting between the HULK
and the THING was a real classic.  I was never overly fond of GEORGE
ROUSSOS's inks (under the name of George Bell) over Kirby's F.F.
pencils, but, some way, somehow, they work in this two-part
slug-fest from the '60s.

The above was the cataclysmic issue that featured the SILVER
SURFER in his first solo story.  By this time, Kirby's figure-work had lost
some of the grace and fluidity with which he had imbued NORRIN RADD
when he first appeared in what later became known as the GALACTUS
TRILOGY.  I have to say that I think STAN LEE made the right choice
when he picked JOHN BUSCEMA to draw the regular adventures of
the Surfer in his own mag.  Short-lived though it was, I fear it would
have been even shorter had Jack been at the helm.

The sixth in the series was the one which made comicbook history by
introducing childbirth into the world of superhero escapades.  Nothing
graphic, and all 'off-camera', but, as far as I'm aware, no other super-
powered couples had ever entered into parenthood before.  REED and
SUE's son, FRANKLIN, is with us yet and is still only a kid - I just
wish I knew his secret.

Which brings us back to the beginning - in reverse - for this series of
Specials, as the above ish reprinted the story from the second Annual
from 1964.  I'd be interested to know if the reprint editions sold as well
(or better) as the ones which contained new material, but I'm assuming
so as they must have cost less to produce.  Anyone know for sure?

We end our journey where it began - with the re-presentation of the
tale from the very first 1963 Annual.  It's always nice to come full-circle,
don't you think?  And isn't it interesting to compare JOHN ROMITA's
cover with Jack Kirby's?  On balance, I think that Romita's is far more
dynamic, with Kirby's being a little sedate for such an action-packed
adventure.  However, we aren't restricted to one or the other - we
have both to enjoy whenever the fancy may take us.  'Nuff said!


In answer to a request in the comments section, what follows
(eventually) is the restored cover of F.F. Annual #3 for Marvel
Masterworks Vol 25, published in 1993.  First up (below) is what
I had to work with, taken from an issue of SMASH! printed back in
the 1960s.  I later found a much sharper copy of this ad in an issue
of FANTASTIC, but by then it was too late - I'd already
completed all the work.

And below is the finished result, a combination of re-created lettering
and some taken from my own copy of the actual issue.  You'll see that
I had to add two missing figures, as well as re-ink the entire page.

When I first started restoring pages, my aim was to make them as
exact as I could, but then I succumbed to the temptation to leave my
own little 'stamp' on them.  If you look closely, you'll find occasional
little deviations from the original.  However, this has been accentuated
by Marvel not following the original colouring of the printed comics.
Nowadays, Marvel strive to make their Masterworks editions as
close to the originals as possible.  The recent softcover editions
really are worth acquiring.

Above is a section from the cover - isn't that gilded frame a thing
of beauty?  Below is a section from the credits page - Stan Lee's
name kicks it off, I bring up the rear.

And now, what you've been waiting for - the published result.
Unfortunately, the outline of 'King-Size' in the banner at the top of
the page was somehow 'lost' in the colouring process, but it was fixed
when the cover was later reproduced in various other publications.

All in all, it turned out not too badly, considering I only used a Mars-
matic technical pen to re-ink a photocopy on cheap paper.  (Copied
in my local library.)  I also worked on Volume 26 (THOR) - the series
was cancelled after Volume 27, but was revived a few years later.


Dougie said...

The Romita sub-mariner cover is a beauty. I never read that version- I didn't see that story until the MWOM reprint- but I certainly remember the preceding Special with Doom and Moley.

Kid said...

I think I first read the tale in MWOM too, Dougie. I've lost count of how many versions I have of it now.

Chris B. said...

Hi Kid,

Any chance of seeing your version of #3.

Chris B.

Kid said...

Sure - I'll dig it out and add it to the post as soon as I can. Unfortunately, when initially published, Marvel printed 'King-Size' with a yellow outline which gave it a somewhat blurred look.

Chris B. said...

Thanks Kid and considering what you had to work from, a job well done.

Comicsfan said...

I'm not a fan of reprints without a little heads-up (the caption on the cover of FF annual #4 is a good example)--but otherwise, I must say the reprints that comprised Marvel's Greatest Comics were nice for those of us who hadn't picked up and read those earlier FF issues. The annuals were another matter, since readers were accustomed by then to the annuals being really something special, something extra. FF annuals 7-10 were hugely disappointing in that respect, IMO.

Kid said...

I suppose they were - although not to those who hadn't read them before in earlier annuals or their original printings. As you say, however, to those who bought the annuals regularly from the beginning, they would've been a major disappointment. Thanks for commenting.