Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fantastic Four # 49: the Galactus Trilogy, part 2

Fantastic Four 49-Galactus Silver Surfer
Fantastic Four #49 (1966) 
Doug: The cover of this issue is the most striking of the trilogy. While issue #48’s ominous Watcher cover, with the cast staring off at the approaching Galactus, was a nice starting point (but thoroughly ignoring the fact that the first half of the book was a finishing-up of the Inhumans saga), #49’s cover is just eye-catching. The large head of Galactus, in my opinion rendered better here than in any panel within the magazine, his ray-firing hands, and the gliding Silver Surfer over a terrified and retreating Fantastic Four… the conveyance of action, intensity, and suspense was perfect. The color scheme was interesting, as well.

Sharon: A great cover. It was “swiped” (deliberately, of course) later on for the “What If? The Avengers had fought Galactus (instead of the FF)” story. This featured the Avengers of the Kooky Quartet plus Jan and Hank era (which would have been just about contemporaneous with FF #48-50).
Doug: The first thing I noticed about the book was Galactus’ changed appearance. Gone were the ugly green and red tones, replaced by the more commonly known purple. The brown remained. In addition, his arms and legs were bare – strange for a guy who lives in space and encounters in his travels all sorts of atmospheric conditions.

Sharon: So the Christmas look is gone, but the brown remains. The colors we commonly refer to as “earth” tones—green and brown—are an odd choice for an interstellar, decidedly non-Earthbound character. The cool purple/blue colors are a much better choice.
Karen: Unfortunately, we still have the giant ‘G’ on his chest. Seriously, that’s so goofy.
Doug: The next thing, and I’ve noted this in prior commentary in regard to (specifically) Don Heck’s rendering of Goliath in the pages of The Avengers, is my lack of satisfaction with large characters who seemingly change size from page to page, if not panel to panel as is the case here. On page 3, panel 1, the Thing is depicted as being approximately as tall as Galactus’ legs are long. However, only two panels later, as Ben lays into a punch to Galactus’ leg, he is not even as tall as the boot. While I prefer to think of Galactus as a true giant, there is a difference in his being 15-feet tall and 40-feet tall! A little consistency, please…

Galactus’ easy handling of the Thing’s and Torch’s attacks is good stuff – building on the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. I especially liked how he gave Johnny a dose of his own medicine, turning his power (somewhat) back on him. The scene immediately after where Ben and Reed clean up was funny – good stuff, showing Reed’s constant analysis, Johnny’s hotheadedness, and the fact that no matter what, Stan treats them as much like “normal” people as he can.

Sharon: I know this scene was dramatically necessary, but…was there only one bathroom available? Ah, togetherness…
Karen: Yeah, that was a bit…uncomfortable. But I find it funny that Ben says they’re trying to devise a plan, and then that plan pretty much turns out to be Reed and Ben will attack Galactus, and if they don’t survive, it’ll be up to Sue and Johnny! Wow, genius, that’s some plan.
Doug: The entire scene with the Surfer and Alicia Masters was hard for me to read – I just couldn’t put away the fantastic origin story from Silver Surfer #1 (“to be told in another two years, in 1968”). It’s obvious that Stan (as he’s said many times in the past) was blindsided by this new character the Jack had thrust upon him. Even though we can get a sense of the Surfer’s nobility, and of his calmly foreign manner, the things he says to Alicia make it obvious that Stan was writing on the fly. It would be awhile before The Man had Norrin Radd’s personality completely developed origin tale ready to tell.

Sharon: I’m one of those people who prefer the original version we see in #48-50 to Stan’s later concoction. Here, in #48 and 49, emotions, beauty, etc., seem foreign to the Surfer. Yet in his origin story (SS #1) and throughout that entire series, Radd/Surfer is shown to be very emotional. How can this difference be reconciled? (I guess it’s been retconned that somehow he lost his memories/emotions when Radd became the Surfer, right? Very clumsy.) When the Surfer was given his own series, Stan completely changed the concept of the Surfer and from what I’ve read, this disgusted Jack no end. (Let’s not get into how betrayed Jack felt when Stan gave the SS art chores to Buscema.) Stan’s commandeering of this character was the straw that broke the camel’s back and led to Jack “phoning it in” and ultimately leaving Marvel in 1970.
Karen: First off, the coincidence of the Surfer landing on Alicia’s skylight is hard to swallow. Secondly, I think I also prefer this more understated personality for the Surfer. Although I loved the Surfer as a kid, it’s hard for me to read his original series now, as he is so completely over-wrought. Stan turned him into a Jesus stand-in, and he seemed to be having his own little pity-party every issue. The wise, noble alien, stuck on a world of heartless savages. It gets old quick.
Doug: I am unsure of the physics of Galactus’ process to drain a planet of its energy, as related in the Watcher’s display. First off, do Galactus’ heralds only take him to planets with water? That seemed to be the case, although I suppose the Watcher could have been speaking specifically about Earth. Secondly, did you find it odd that the apparatus used to drain the planet was surface-based and not somehow connected to the sphere in which Galactus travels? Where does the energy go? Also, I could not decide if the main device was a ray shooting outward, or a display of some tremendous vacuum-type of suction machine. The end result, regardless, was terror.

Karen: I really enjoyed the sequences which illustrate how Galactus would destroy a planet. It was also interesting to me that earlier in the issue the Watcher says that all the worlds Galactus had previously destroyed were lifeless. So this would be the first time he had actually killed sentient beings – or any beings? Why were the Skrulls so terrified of him then? But I thought the description of the process involved was reasonable – once again, Marvel pseudo-science has just enough logic to it to make the whole thing sound plausible!

However, Galactus does evince some regret over the loss of life. That’s one thing I always liked about him: he was not a villain in the usual sense. As someone (Byrne?) described him later, he was more like a force of nature.

Doug: For a guy who is sworn never to interfere in the affairs of others, the Watcher sure interferes in the affairs of others.

Ben and Reed’s combined attack on Galactus is good, and serves for one of the better visuals of the issue – Galactus seemingly knocked over the edge of the Baxter Building only to hover many hundreds of feet above the streets. In the panel immediately following, as Galactus summons the Punisher, I always think he is flipping the bird!

The Watcher does keep the suspense going, doesn’t he? His commission to Johnny is a good speech.

One has to wonder, if the Punisher is half alive, half robot, why Galactus didn’t just use him for a herald. He is reminiscent of a later herald, the Destroyer.

Karen: I wondered that myself. He sure was a funky looking thing.
Doug: I have a question as to how long the Surfer had served Galactus, and whether or not time has the same meaning across the cosmos as it does for we earthlings? I say that in regard to the Surfer’s issue of conscience after the pleas of Alicia. Had he not encountered intelligent life in the past? Had he never been grounded, as he was after Ben’s punch? And, why did he stay in Alicia’s apartment, instead of returning to the fray? It’s certainly an able plot device, but perhaps creating more trouble than originally intended.

Sharon: I agree. I too found it hard to swallow that this was the first time he had encountered any intelligent life form. And when he says “at last I know—beauty!”- - ummm…Shalla Bal, anyone?
Karen: Maybe I am not remembering correctly ( or just imaging it), but I thought there was a story at one time that indicated that the Big G had clouded the Surfer’s memory, to prevent him from doing exactly what he did here?

Sharon: Jack drew Alicia looking more modern here- -sleeker hair, interesting clothing--and I like the change. In many of her prior appearances, her hair looked old-fashioned and dowdy and her clothing was boring—she usually wore suits like Lois Lane did back then. . But in #49 Alicia’s given a hairdo similar to the Wasp’s at the time. Her interesting ensemble here suits her, since she’s an artist. And Sinnott’s inks really make her look facially beautiful (even more so than in #47, her previous appearance before this issue); what a change from how Chic Stone—or anyone else--had handled Kirby’s faces! And despite my misgivings about the “I know beauty” dialogue, I especially love those panels of her and the Surfer (when she’s in profile). Stunning job by Kirby and

Alicia’s been around since 1962 and in FF #49- -1966- -she finally gets a last name (okay, not as bad as Wanda and Pietro and let’s not get into poor Hawkeye who didn’t even have a first name for several years!) Previously, since her debut in #8, she was always referred to in captions as just Alicia, the Thing’s beloved, or Alicia, the blind sculptress, or something like that. But when the Surfer crashes through her skylight, the caption takes pains to state it is Alicia Masters’ apartment. And obviously, the surnname is intended to evoke her connection to the Puppet Master.

Karen: I thought the art in this issue was outstanding! Ben seemed very expressive, Galactus was powerful, and Johnny’s trip to Galactus’ ship were all very well done.


Dr. Pym said...

Interesting info on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and about how Kirby was disgusted with the way Lee handled the Surfer! Never knew that! Another reason why this site is fantastic!

I have to agree in that I prefer the Silver Surfer as he was BEFORE he got his own comic book series. My opinion is that the Silver Surfer is one of those guys that works as a supporting character, and not as a star of his own book. When he got his own book, he became saturated in some way. He became a character with a name, and in a way became "Just another comic book character," instead of the powerful character he once was. When he's a guest star in a book, he's great, but I just couldn't sit through his book.

I get the same feelings for Prince Namor, whose book I couldn't get into at all, but loved his appearances in other books. Then again, my opinion on him is a whole 'nother story, one that can be discussed some other time, when I won't be going off on a tangent!

Fantastic as usual, just once suggestion. I think that the things on the side (Like those Worst Costumes in the World! (I always think of Keith Olbermann saying that!)) should be separate posts as well, because sometimes you guys take off older ones in exchange for newer ones, and I didn't catch the older ones the first time! 'Tis only a suggestion. :)

DLW said...

My good Doctor --

Thanks for the feedback!

I am going to dissent from your POV (and Sharon's as well) and say that Norrin Radd does work well in his own book IF WRITTEN WELL. The first few issues of the 1968 series are (IMO) wonderful. However, it didn't take long until it became "the same old same old" and Stan's Surfer-angst just become way too over the top. All that aside, I love the first 17 issues of the series for Buscema's art alone (although I'm not a fan of Dan Adkins inks).

Similarly, the revival in the early '90's had a great deal of potential -- Marshall Rogers' art was beautiful. The Surfer was lithe, with a clean line (not too far off from Moebius' take a few years earlier). However, Steve Englehart quickly brought in his pet character Mantis and the series somewhat began to ramble. While I think Ron Lim, who eventually took over the art chores, is a capable penciler, his Surfer was too muscular for my tastes.

As to the sidebars, you raise a great point. I know with the things I've contributed that I've just replaced whatever was there before. I'm sure the three of us (hosts) will discuss the possibilities of preserving some of our very opinionated visual material! Karen's the lay-out guru, so I'll defer to her on the possibilities.

Anyway, thanks again for the feedback, and keep checking back -- we have some good stuff in the box to be unleashed in the upcoming weeks!

Karen said...

Dr. Pym, I would agree with you whole-heartedly about both the Surfer and Namor being better as guest stars than as stars. I'd also add the Hulk to that list, and probably Dr. Strange too.

Worst Costumes in the World! was definitely inspired by Olbermann, so nice catch on your part. I do wish we could archive the side-bar features. As Doug said, we of the "Living Tribunal" will discuss and figure something out.

Thanks again for your interest Doc!

Dr. Pym said...

dlw -- I see your point, some of them WERE very well written (And the covers to the first 4-5 issues were beautiful!) and his origin story in the first issue was highly underrated for a premiere story! I just think that after the first six or seven issues, it made me feel like it should've just been a four issue limited series. Of course, this was back when making a limited series was the rarity!

Ahhh yes, Mantis again. That was when she was supposed to be brought in as his romantic partner, right? Eww! Her and Moondragon are two people I can't stand!

Karen -- I agree a LOT with the Hulk, and as well as Dr. Strange. I thought Dr. Strange fit MUCH more nicely when he was sharing half of Strange Tales with Johnny Storm or Nick Fury. I can't really sit for more than a half a book when it comes to him, and I love him! Nick Fury on the other hand, is one guy whom I think would've benefited very nicely from a longer run! Too bad his solo series in the late 60's didn't last long!

I love me some Keith Olbermann! :) I always think of him adding that dramatic dragging of the final word that he does sometimes. "Worst... Costume... in the Worrrrrrlllllddd!!!!"

Thank you for taking my suggestion into consideration, and never take this site down! It's perfect reading material!

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