Friday, June 12, 2015

Making a Splash: John Buscema's Fantastic Four, Part Two

Wow! Has it really been nearly two years since we planted our peepers on some sensational John Buscema Fantastic Four splashes? Well, Groove-ophile, here's where we make up for lost time! From 1971-1976, Big John was one of the main FF pencilers (other main pencilers were Rich Buckler, George Perez, and sometimes even Ross Andru) on Fantastic Four, and while he didn't dig super-heroes all that much, he sure made the Fantastic Four look...well...FANTASTIC! From FF #117 (September 1971) through FF #175 (July 1976)--plus one last hoorah in FF #202 (October 1978), here's John Buscema's Fantastic Four!


  1. A gremlin (or mebbe Gerry Conway) messed up these comments, so Ol' Groove is gonna copy/paste 'em here for the love of my commenting Groove-ophiles...

    Charlie Horse 47 has left a new comment on your post "Making a Splash: John Buscema's Fantastic Four, Pa...":

    Dude... So many things come to mind after seeing this! First, given my age, Kirby and Busecema define the FF for me. Second, Gerry Conway did more to wreck comics in my young mind, and ween me off them, than any other person. Sspecifically I mean the death of Gwenn Stacey and Sue filing divorce papers on Reed, during this run by Buscema (issue 130 with Thundra in the splash). If Reed had ditched Sue for Thundra, I would have understood. But Sue divorcing Reed for endangering their freak mutant-and-cosmic-ray-modified son Franklin... Curses on Conway. I suspect Conway had an unhappy childhood and was trying to take it out on the rest of us young kids. Well, he suceeded in seriously hurting the enjoyment I was having with 70s comics. (Did he simply not understand that comics were read by boys like 8 - 13 years old? Or was he just a sadist?)


    Edo Bosnar has left a new comment on your post "Making a Splash: John Buscema's Fantastic Four, Pa...":

    Fantastic, indeed. Love the ones from that Galactus story with his herald, Gabriel. I first read those in a treasury edition reprint.

  2. I must agree with Charlie Horse 47. A lot of the 70's marvel is where comics took a wrong turn. In my opinion.
    Bringing in issues that were too "heavy" for the characters. Stan and Jack (Ditko too) naturally understood a kind of "adolescent profundity" that they could infuse the work with....but they knew to keep it
    kind of broad. Their comics had a wonderful melodrama that a kid thought was deep. In the 70's when the fans started to write the characters they brought in too many elements that took you out of that delicate fantasy world. I didn't realize it at the time ('cause I was a kid!) but I know I most responded to the melodrama and not to the "adult issues". Those characters weren't created to hold serious adult issues...and ultimately this approach led to the comics of today. Rape, mutilation, endless murder. Grim stuff for those wonderful characters from the sixties. I know this sounds like old geezer talk...but those Marvel characters had a charm that was very much a part of the fact that they were for kids and adolescents. Not 50 year old guys.

    1. Amen! Conway may have been the first, but was not the last, to wreck that beautiful world for children (and we were children, not adults) that lived there a few hours a week. I just started re-reading FF from issue 60 onwards and will stop around 150. It is fun: Kirby's art, Stan's wise cracking, the foot notes, all of it. Not withstanding Conway's having Sue file for divorce from Reed, the issues above retained that. To this day, I stil think FF #120 and 121 are the best FF covers (just my opinion). FYI - the alleged "final" issue of FF, #644, is on sale now. Inside, there are several pages where numerous FF writers (Stan Lee, John Byrne, et al.) and artists talk about their favorite FF cover.

  3. Never much of a FF fan, just never have been able to get into their books, though I do love The Thing when he is away from the 4. I am digging this groovy art though!

  4. Groove, Help me out. The splash where Doom is standing over Sue for FF 116 ("The Way It Began.") Ever since I was a kid, that page screamed "Gene Colan" at me. As I see it again, for the first time in decades, I am still convinced Gene Colan drew it, at least in some part? What say ye?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Charlie Horse 47,

      Re Sue in the FF #126 splash ("The Way It Began"), that Sue image is actually based on a Kirby Sue from FF #42.

      But your instincts are correct: Colan also used a similar Kirby Sue (also from #42) for his depiction of Sue in Daredevil #35.

      Feel free to check out the various Sues here (shamless self-promotion):

  5. Really have to disagree with some of the comments re: comics in the 70s getting too grim. I grew up with O'Neil/Adams on Batman/GL-GA, Gerber on Howard and Manthing, etc and I see this as the era when comics stopped being kidstuff and became a legitimate art form. The death of Gwen Stacey in particular ushered in that era with a bang (or should I say a 'snap!') with that one page being one of my all time favourites.

  6. This is a fantastic discussion! I'm sure you know where Ol' Groove stands on comics of the 70s, but there are valid points for both sides. Here's a bit of context as you go forward: Gerry Conway was a mere 20 years old when he wrote Reed and Sue's separation and the death of Gwen!

  7. Awesome! My first FF was drawn by Buscema and Sinnott. Issue 147 featuring the best Sub-Mariner costume ever. I have recently started reading from issue 100 through to whenever the Byrne era ended...mid 200's? I can't remember but it's a lot and I'm having a ball. Currently around issue 130 or so. Lovin' it!

  8. It's a complicated argument. I can see both sides as well (I grew up on those seventies comics and loved them) but ultimately I think the attempts to inject "relevancy" by the young writers of the 70's haven't aged well. The comics from that time often don't stand up to rereading as well as the more "innocent" comics of the years preceding them. They seem very overwrought to me. Especially because those young and "hip" writers were straining to be taken seriously. The work of the top notch comic makers never had that feeling--Kirby, Ditko, even Stan, they seemed to understand the line between melodrama and kitsch. I'm not surprised Conway was 20 years old. Those comics have the zeal of a "serious" minded 20 year old about them. I suspect he would have written quite differently if he'd been Stan or Jack's age. I don't condemn those young writers of the seventies for their story choices. They were trying to make exciting comics and they were trying to write earnestly their own age group. I just think they initiated a way of thinking/writing that inevitably led us down the road to the ugliness of today's superhero comics. I don't think the Fantastic four was created to deal with "heavy" issues and real violence any more than Curious George, or Tarzan or The Creature from the Black lagoon were (I know, I know, a weird mix of examples!). They were meant to hold a certain kind of mock seriousness. And to be fun and exciting. That's why I still love them.



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Special thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics and Grand Comics Database for being such fantastic resources for covers, dates, creator info, etc. Thou art treasures true!

Note to "The Man": All images are presumed copyright by the respective copyright holders and are presented here as fair use under applicable laws, man! If you hold the copyright to a work I've posted and would like me to remove it, just drop me an e-mail and it's gone, baby, gone.

All other commentary and insanity copyright GroovyAge, Ltd.

As for the rest of ya, the purpose of this blog is to (re)introduce you to the great comics of the 1970s. If you like what you see, do what I do--go to a comics shop, bookstore, e-Bay or whatever and BUY YOUR OWN!