When you have about an inch of column space and are competing for eyeballs with Sea Monkeys, switchblade pocket combs and get-rich schemes, subtlety is a luxury advertisers in comic books could not afford.
The advertisement above along with dozens of other ads making offers that were probably too good to be true appeared in my well worn copy of Fantastic Four No. 105 published by Marvel Comics in 1970. My older brother probably picked it up at a newsstand or a mom-and-pop corner store for the princely sum of three nickels, read it and chucked it at me. I’ve held on to it ever since.
By the time this comic had come into my possession, the bloom was off the rose for what was called THE WORLD’S GREATEST COMIC MAGAZINE (by the publishers.) The characters that put Marvel Comics on the map had all of their greatest adventures and faced their most fearsome foes in the ten years prior to the publication of issue 105. What followed in the ten years after this four-color feast was like reheated leftovers where newer, younger writers rotated through the roster of villains established by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee and liberally seasoned it with bickering, marital estrangement and family trauma. Reed Richards and Sue “Storm” Richards always seemed to be on the outs; Johnnie Storm was always having a hassle with the latest chick he met at a far out rock concert and Ben Grimm was the sad clown always feeling sorry for himself. There are those that insist that the soap operatic elements are what made the comic great. I beg to differ. It was the loopy energy of Kirby’s pencils and the sheer manic lunacy of the stories that made the Fantastic Four great! Pogo Planes and rocket-ships erupted from a high-rise in midtown Manhattan. A flying metallic surfer heralded the coming of his planet eating boss. The original Darth Vader ruled his toy kingdom with an iron fist and bedeviled the Fantastic Four with robots and a time machine. I’m only scratching the surface of the comic, but there was a lot more to it than soap operatics.
But it was 1970, and my disappointment with the Fantastic Four was yet to come. Outside of the sadly short-lived Hanna-Barbera cartoon, I didn’t know much about the characters. The comic was brand new to me, and I loved it! I loved comics!This issue was written by the late, great Stan Lee and drawn by one of my absolute favorite artists, John Romita. Romita is better known for his work on Spider-Man, but he does a great job on this issue. He does try to ape Jack Kirby’s style, but it was obvious to me that the pencil was in Romita’s masterful hand.
I think the thing I miss the most is how these comics were colored. This was long before computers were used in print production, and I think the use of flat colors on newsprint is vastly superior to the endless noodling and manipulations and outright torture of the original art done in Photoshop. Yeah, the registration may be a little off, but comics fans got one hell of a lot for 15¢. Great art, great stories and the possibility of NOT BEING FAT.