Wednesday, January 9, 2019

In The Clutches Of Doom!

Having previously seen two of Jack Kirby's recreations of his own classic Fantastic Four covers (specifically, FF #36 and, to a lesser extent, #27), let's bring into the spotlight the remaining few covers he was asked to restyle in order to help sell reprint issues of their respective stories, while placing them alongside their revamped counterparts. It's regrettable we didn't see more of these "reimagined" covers from the artist; but with Kirby's departure from the company in 1970, it would have to fall to other artists to render new cover art for reprinted stories, whether it was for the long-running Marvel's Greatest Comics or the FF annuals, though in many cases Kirby's original work would prove to be sufficient for selling the same stories over the counter again. (Just look at how effective the "True Believers" series has been, even after all this time.) There are any number of FF covers that I'd like to have seen Kirby reinterpret--but though he turned in work on a number of contemporary covers for their monthly mag (along with other titles) during his second stint at Marvel in the mid-1970s (including the 1976 FF Annual), he would never return to bringing new life to his old FF covers.

Fantastic Four Annual #2
"The Final Victory of Doctor Doom!"

There was once a time--before I got a clue, that is--when I was convinced that fresh artwork on an annual cover indicated fresh content... that a comics publisher wouldn't be so duplicitous as to pad the entire annual with previously used content and then market it in such a way that would disguise the fact. But even if we take deception out of the equation, what reader would think it likely that a yearly "special," with at least ten months to be plotted, written, and drawn, would be filled from cover to cover with old material? In what way did that add up to "Twice as many thrills!"?

Nevertheless, it's admittedly easy to appreciate Kirby's changes to the cover of this story five years later--moving from a symbolic representation of the conflict within and instead making it appear as if the reader were glimpsing an actual panel from the story. And thanks to his cameo, you could also almost imagine that the Mole Man was teaming up with Doom to take on the FF--which really would have made for an interesting story for an annual, had a few people rolled up their sleeves in February and taken the time to produce it.

Fantastic Four #17
"Defeated by Doctor Doom!"

While both covers insist that the FF are in Doom's clutches, they certainly seemed to already be in his clutches on the cover of the 1964 annual. Suffice to say, the FF fall into Doom's clutches a lot, figuratively speaking, which is just how we like it. As we can see, however, Kirby's 1967 revamped version of this tale's original cover actually mimics the layout of the '64 annual, while having Doom facing the FF from a different angle (and demonstrating how Doom's mandible can open wide even on an armored mask--the man thinks of everything). As for the FF, the inserts of the Hulk, Dr. Strange, and Iron Man story promos don't leave them much room to maneuver--which may be another reason why Doom is so filled with glee.

Fantastic Four #35
"Calamity On The Campus!"

We have the villain Diablo to thank for Dragon Man suddenly taking an interest in higher education, and in crushing the Fantastic Four. From the MGC cover, it's easy to discern that Kirby has made Dragon Man more sophisticated and expressive, with the backgrounds of both covers giving way to Dragon Man's bulk and the reactions of the FF members. And on that note, can someone explain what the Torch is up to, putting up a flaming wall in front of all of them? From the way he's glaring at Diablo, my guess is that he's trying to keep their foe from fleeing--but from the look of things, he also ends up keeping his partners from getting out of the way of Dragon Man's attack! Nice going, Torch!


Anonymous said...

I have always loved Dragon Man. He's a prime example of stunning Kirby imagery--this huge monster, heavy, massive, hanging in space suspended by wings that could't possibly hold him aloft, belching rivers of flame in all directions.
Solidity and kinetic energy all at once, that was Kirby.


Rick said...

Maybe the Torch is trying to squelch the fire emitted by Dragon Man moments before on the original cover. Could be, hunh? Jack is forever the King.

Comicsfan said...

That's not a bad guess, Rick--though it sure looks like he's adding fuel to the fire!

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