Monday, August 08, 2011

Happy Birthday, Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny!

Today is the fiftieth birthday of Fantastic Four #1!

Or at least, it's the fiftieth birthday as close as anyone can determine.

Back in the 1960s, some magazine distributors (often called "rack jobbers" because they were the ones who stocked the racks in grocery stores, drugstores, convenience stores, newsstands, etc., putting out the new magazines and pulling off the old magazines) would stamp the arrival date on the cover of comics. The most common date stamp on copies of Fantastic Four #1 is August 8, 1961 (although there are a very small number of copies stamped a few days earlier and a small number of copies stamped later), indicating that this was the date when the bulk of the rack jobbers in the country began to process the book.

Thus, the Marvel Age of Comics is officially a half-century old today.

I remember buying Fantastic Four #1 on the stands, and I was absolutely fascinated by the mix of two different genres. I recognized the cover art style (even though at the time I had no real idea who Jack Kirby was) as the style that had graced so many of the monster comics that I loved; I presumed, therefore, that Fantastic Four was going to be a book pitting four monsters against one monster (after all, that's what the cover looked like). But once I read the book, I realized that these weren't monsters--they were people changed by cosmic rays. They were heroes.

But they couldn't be superheroes, could they? they didn't have any costumes!

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby settled that confusion for me two issues later when they gave the FF their familiar blue uniforms. But even by the end of the first issue, I realized that this was a different sort of hero team... and I knew that I wanted more.

For years, FF claimed to be "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine." And for several years, the claim was absolutely correct. And to this day, I will always see FF as the flagship title of the Marvel line.

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