Hard to believe the above issue is nearly fifty years old. I acquired it
just over two decades after it was published, which means I've now had
it for almost thirty 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 - a situation 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 used in several
publications over the years until an earlier source was recovered and
utilised for the OMNIBUS and recently updated Masterworks editions.
Just think - JACK 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 too 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 figurework 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 confess 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 issue reprinted the story from the second Annual
from 1964. It would be interesting to know if the reprint editions sold as well
(or better) than the issues which contained new material, but I'm assuming
they did 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
that of Jack Kirby's? On balance, I think that Romita's is more dynamic,
while Kirby's is a little sedate for such an action-packed adventure. How-
ever, we aren't restricted to either one or the other - we have both of them
to enjoy over and over again 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 '60s. I later found a 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'd 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 the occasional
little deviation from the original. However, this has been accentuated by
Marvel not following the original colour scheme of the printed comics.
Nowadays, Marvel strive to make their Masterworks editions as much
like the originals as possible. The recent softcover publications 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 was only using a
Marsmatic 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.