Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Return To Sender

Near the beginning of the run of Fantastic Four, artist Jack Kirby drew a very early series of Fantastic Four pin-up pages, which served to introduce readers to these new characters which at this point they knew only within the boundaries of the stories they were reading. They were a kind of bonus that a reader would be treated to at the end of the story--as well as incentive to pick up future issues for more in the pinup series.

Once the FF were bona fide comics stars, Kirby did a second set of such pages (published in Fantastic Four Annual #2) that focused on showing the reader a more personal perspective of the characters--both to give a sort of unspoken "thanks" to fans, as well as a way to endear the characters to them in a more direct way than a typical story could.

In this first pin-up we'll take a look at, featuring the Thing, what better way to make us smile than to show how even the supposedly fearless Ben Grimm breaks a sweat at a package sent by his nemesis, the Yancy Street Gang:

As whimsical as Kirby's representation is of the brutish Thing, I still appreciate it because it was one of the ways Kirby let us see this character having all-too-human sensibilities. I miss the Yancy Street Gang, don't you? Always presented facelessly by Kirby (probably to enhance their presence as a "gang" to menace the Thing, making them more difficult for him to corral), they were able to get under the Thing's skin--and, incredibly, make him take notice of their "threat"--like no super-villain could:

Of course, Ben was constantly frustrated by the gang's uncanny ability to remain safely out of reach:

That's not to say that the Yancy Street Gang held the monopoly on being able to make the mighty Thing nervous. Just put him in a dark room with a book of ghost stories, and, well, avoid sneaking up on him at all costs:

And, to my delight, cats were also able to get in under his radar:
(rendered here by artist John Buscema)

It isn't often I look in on the FF these days, as off-track as they've gotten.  But I hope that the Thing's writer will, every once in awhile, have the urge to slip a booby-trapped package into his stack of mail.

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