Monday, July 15, 2013

Crackle! Pop!

"Stranded in Sub-Atomica!", the title of the story that's the subject of the following two covers for Fantastic Four #76, was a misnomer, since no one was really stranded there at all. The FF shrunk down to that world in order to retrieve the Silver Surfer--and Psycho-Man, who considered that environment to be his own, had launched an android to also capture the Surfer, but which instead ended up battling the FF. Once the FF find the Surfer, they're able to convince him to return to the world above in order to deal with the threat of Galactus--but they decide to remain in the Microverse in order to pursue Psycho-Man, which is probably what the story's title is referring to, if inaccurately.

There were several ways for artist Jack Kirby to design the original issue's cover, since Psycho-Man's android is only one combatant which the FF deal with--and, indeed, other things of note were happening in the issue, as well (Galactus, for instance, not exactly being chopped liver). The collage design of the next issue's cover would give a more effective representation of all the things that issue was juggling; but here, Kirby chose to focus on the android, which Psycho-Man had made indestructible.* As to how to portray the FF "stranded," it either didn't occur to Kirby or else he disregarded it as much as the rest of us did (assuming he even knew the story's title at that point).

*It must be nice to make something indestructible whenever it suits you. Why aren't cell phone manufacturers beating down Psycho-Man's door?

In the redone cover for the issue of Marvel's Greatest Comics which reprints that issue, artist Ron Wilson follows Kirby's design almost precisely, but goes him one better: instead of its back turned to us, which doesn't make much of an impression on us and gives little indication how this android can be such a threat to the FF, Wilson has the android fully engaged with the FF in a more aggressive and determined posture:

Wilson's effort results in a more visually exciting image where the action pops out at you, even highlighting the FF more by using "Kirby crackle" to make the background less stark--while Kirby's depiction only lets us know that the FF is in battle with something but does nothing to really make us curious as to who or what this powerful opponent is. Even if you removed the newer cover's over-the-top "murder machine" caption, we'd still be left with an image which gives us more of a reason to pick up this issue and see what's going on.


IADW said...

Ohh this is great, both covers have their highs, but for me Kirby's just wins out because the Human Torch looks like he's actually hitting the mystery man with everything he's got to save Ben, not with a sparkler, so the stakes seem higher. ben being out for the count helps with that too - I mean who can take out The thing? He's the best there is at what he does (sorry Logan)!

Super-Duper ToyBox said...

I'm with Dan that both have their high marks, but while I love Kirby, I appreciate them both equally. Good covers!

Comicsfan said...

Dan, that reminds me--sometime I've got to do a post on that time when Wolvie carved up Ben's face. One of the most bizarre stories I've ever read--and probably one of the most disappointing, which is why I guess I've been putting it off. :)