Sunday, September 30, 2012

Home Is Where The Fantasti-Car Is

One of the things I appreciated in John Byrne's stint on Fantastic Four was his occasional nod to the Lee/Kirby gift for connecting fans to the FF in ways other than just the stories. The fan mail. The "rogue's galleries." The pin-ups. The various inserts which told you a little more about the characters.

Going back through those issues, you'll find that Byrne duplicated some of the original pin-ups of the team--in his own style, yet borrowing from the Lee/Kirby presentations. For instance, have a look at this side-by-side comparison of the FF group pin-up--originally published in Fantastic Four #15, and recreated by Byrne in Fantastic Four #250. Byrne's more contemporary presentation still can't help but remind you of the original:

Instead of a dynamic "charging into action" pose that we see so often in team art spreads, each of these pin-ups is presented in a family snapshot pose that comes across as more inviting to readers/fans. You feel like you're a part of the FF's world, rather than just looking at it by turning pages. That's helped a great deal by the simplicity of the room the FF are gathered in--and also the fact that they're looking directly at you in greeting, as well as including their personal autographs to you. They were unexpected treats to a kid reading comics--you felt like part of the adventure.

Byrne obviously, and interestingly, interprets the characters differently in his rendering. Kirby, for instance, sees Reed as a bolder figure, the unquestioned leader and decision-maker, with a build to match his drive. In Byrne's portrait, Reed is far less built, more cerebral--and he tends to blend with the other members of the group, rather than stand out. Sue portrays a picture of loveliness in both portraits, though seems more animated and engaged in Byrne's drawing. Johnny, all of 16 in Kirby's pin-up, is still Sue's kid brother in Byrne's, but seems more of age than the boy that Kirby presents to us. And the difference in Ben is striking--larger, more protective in Byrne's pin-up, his stature more in line with the kind of power he's been shown to possess.

Byrne also gives us individual messages with the autographs, where Kirby felt signatures would suffice. And the addition of Franklin was a nice touch, though of course that's no oversight on Kirby's part.

Being the close-knit, mostly related group that they are, I suppose only the FF could get away with this kind of "welcome to our home" pose. Since they've had more than their share of action shots, these pin-ups were a good change of pace, and served to add a little dimension to the team.

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