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 close to 30 years - something else I find difficult to wrap my mind around.  The first half-dozen 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 King-Size Special Annual, reprinted the contents of #2 (above), while #8 re-presented the first in the series, minus the opening chapter of the foursome's origin from their 1961 debut in F.F. #1 (which had faces and figures redrawn in places, to update the look of 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 return of the original HUMAN TORCH, but it was the reprints which made this issue a 'must-have'.  Re-presenting F.F. #s 25 26, the second meeting 'twixt 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 scintillating '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 would later become 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 sagas.  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 a re-presentation of the tale from the very first '63 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 takes 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 wasn't willing to do it again.

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 'stamp' on them.  If you look closely, you'll find occasional little deviations from the original.  However, this was accentuated by Marvel not following the original colouring of the published comics.  Nowadays, Marvel strive to make their Masterworks volumes as close to the originals as possible.  The recent softcover editions really are worth acquiring for your collection.

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 other publications.

Considering I used only a Marsmatic technical pen to re-ink a photocopy on cheap paper (copied in my local library), it turned out not too badly.  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.

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