Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Doomsday Any Way You Look At It

Since we've taken a look at the covers of the third and second issues of the Galactus trilogy from Fantastic Four alongside the covers of their respective reprints in Marvel's Greatest Comics, it's high time we lined up the covers from the first issue of that classic story which brought both Galactus and the Silver Surfer to the eyes of Marvel readers everywhere. So far, we've seen two of Marvel's top artists of the early 1970s--Gil Kane and Sal Buscema--reinterpret artist Jack Kirby's original covers from this story. Now, a third big gun in Marvel's art stable, John Buscema, gives his own interpretation of the coming of Galactus--

...or is it the Silver Surfer?

As you can see, the two artists have about the same amount of room to work with. In Kirby's efforts on this and other issues, you can generally see a tendency to use an issue's cover to heighten the sense of drama of the story you'll find within, and save all the action for the reading experience. In the issue, there's quite a lot going on, including the FF's escape from the tragic imprisonment of the Inhumans in the Great Refuge as well as the introduction of a new character which the Watcher expends great effort to stymie. After the events of the prior issue's final page, readers are expecting to see what happens to both the Inhumans and the FF after a fatal switch is thrown, and they do--but Kirby's cover has already left that story far behind. That either had a confusing effect on readers at the rack, or gave them the sense of being swept up in the amazing world of adventure that the Fantastic Four shares with them. Kirby was obviously banking on the latter--and let's face it, his method had been time-tested and proven to work wonderfully.

Buscema, in stark contrast, cuts to the chase. Though he, too, considers the situation with the Inhumans old news, he bluntly makes the point that it's the Surfer's appearance and potential danger which this issue revolves around. His interpretation doesn't spill any more beans than Kirby's, when you think about it. With Kirby's cover, we don't know who or what danger is approaching that has both the Watcher and the FF startled and feeling a sense of dread; but the presence of the Surfer on Buscema's cover doesn't tell us any more than we knew before. The difference is that in the latter cover, there's more on the comics rack to pique our curiosity. Comics need to appeal to new readers as well as current ones, and perhaps Kirby's cover takes reader interest for granted.

That said, there's a lot to like about that earlier cover. With the crowds intermingled with the FF, as well as pictured more prominently than just specks in building windows, you get more of a sense of the approaching danger threatening the entire human race--a danger that could mean their end, with the FF standing with them rather than apart from them. And rather than the Watcher impassively--well, watching things play out on Buscema's cover, the stance of the Watcher on Kirby's gives the impression that he regards this threat as something that, this time, holds no hope of being prevented. It's like an eerie moment of silence before the final judgment of humanity.

(But, man, Jack--what's with those sandals on the Watcher? This is the End of the World, not a jaunt outside to pick up his morning paper!)

In hindsight, especially for readers in 1972 who had already covered this ground in Fantastic Four, you can't help but give Buscema's cover less attention than you otherwise might, given that we were already familiar with what the story was behind the Surfer and Galactus, as well as how everything was resolved. On the other hand, like many other readers in the '70s, I was learning about the FF mostly through these reprints, and this was a pretty nifty cover to see as I was watching their story unfold. The timing certainly couldn't have been better--this story was being reprinted around the same time as the regular Fantastic Four issue was giving us a brand-new story of Galactus threatening Earth.  And it was kind of cool to see the FF's regular artist showing up where it all began.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Wow the ultimate nullifier in FF 34 was there ever a greater weapon?