I stopped in my local comic shop this weekend (the same expedition I discovered Transit Man on) and stumbled across something kind of cool: FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (with a little help from their Frenz). I vaguely remember hearing about this coming out but I couldn't swear by it, which is weird, because this should be a Big Deal. As the story goes, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby of course produced 102 consecutive issues of FANTASTIC FOUR and something like six annuals. There was a 103rd story they'd begun in 1970, but never finished for reasons I don't completely understand, although I imagine it had to do with Kirby quitting Marvel for DC around the same time. A few months later, however, I guess Marvel wanted to piss in DC's Wheaties, so they ressurected the story in FF #108. The problem was, it was a completely bastardized, cut-and-paste job fashioned by Lee and John Buscema as a flashback to fit into then-continuity.
In this new one-shot, Lee and Joe Sinnott have reunited to complete the issue in a more faithful fashion, with journeyman Ron Frenz filling in the visual blanks. The issue also includes complete reproductions of Kirby's unlinked penciled pages, as well as notes and analysis by Kirby-expert John Morrow, and a complete reprint of the FF #108 version to compare and contrast.
I really liked this. The new version of the story (or, more importantly, Kirby's) is definitely better than the hacked out version in #108. Also, being able to compare and contrast Kirby's original roughs with the Lee/Buscema FF #108 version and this new version was kind of a fascinating peek into the Marvel Method, which has a certain Choose Your Own Adventure quality to it that clearly didn't serve the story well in #108's case.
There are things that bugged me about the new version, though. Stan Lee's work over the last 30 years reminds me a lot of Paul McCartney at his worst: there's this kind of palpable desperation to follow trends and be "hip" that undercuts his very real talent when he should just do what he does (that whole "Stan Lee Imagines DC" thing was the "Ebony & Ivory" of comics crossovers). Lee insists on dropping references in the new dialogue to things like Doonesbury and DSL lines, creating a weirdly anachronistic and thoroughly unnecessary effect considering that the packaging makes it abundantly clear you're reading what purports to be a faithful interpretation of Kirby's existing roughs from 1970. Now, if Lee had the Thing complaining about Feiffer's strip in the Voice having too many words, that would have been cool.
Also, the cover design sucks (that's not the final cover above, although it would have been better), and the modern lettering is often poorly placed, generic and jarring. Where's Artie Simek when you need him? Plus, all of the old lettering from FF #108 was scanned as a halftone along with Kirby's art, while all of the brand-new lettering is printed as line art, which is kind of cool insofar as you can totally judge the old vs. new, but kind of bad as far as establishing any verisimilitude.
That said, Kirby's original story is restored fairly well, as the copious background material proves, and it's a pretty fun Kirby yarn overall. I'll be damned if Sinnott isn't still Kirby's best inker. I would have preferred that Marvel hired someone other than Lee and Frenz to finish off the dialogue and missing pencils: Mark Evanier and Steve Rude would have been good, although Lee/Frenz acquitted themselves better than I would have imagined (and it's hard to argue giving Lee a shot at it). If you like Kirby, it's a really a must-have; it's kind of like the "Free As a Bird" and "Real Love" tracks that came with the Beatles Anthology. I guess that means Kirby is Lennon, Lee is Paul/George/Ringo, and Ron Frenz is the Jeff Lynne of the bunch. I'm not doing a very good job of recommending this comic, but I did like it.
Don't forget! We have TWO awesome west coast events with Drew Friedman this weekend. First up is a book signing and exhibition opening at our gallery in Seattle on Thursday night. Then Drew heads down to L.A. for an event on Saturday at Skylight Books.
THURSDAY NIGHT IN SEATTLE:
DREW FRIEDMAN: THE FUN NEVER STOPS! March 27 – May 6, 2008. Opening Reception and Book signing Thursday, March 27, 5:00 – 8:00 PM Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery 1201 S. Vale St. (at Airport Way S.) Seattle, WA 206.658.0110
SATURDAY NIGHT IN LOS ANGELES:
WHO: Drew Friedman & SPECIAL GUESTS! WHAT: Discussion, Q&A and book signing WHERE: Skylight Books 1818 N. Vermont Ave. • Los Angeles, CA 90027 • 323.660.1175 tel. WHEN: Saturday, March 29, 5PM
At Skylight, Drew will be joined by several very special surprise guests, as well as discussion moderator Ben Schwartz and comedian Andy Kindler (whose father, Larry Kindler, was good friends with comic book legends Harry Chester and Harvey Kurtzman).
And don't forget to pick up our exclusive silkscreen (pictured above) produced for the Seattle event, available ONLY at the Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery while supplies last. Signed by Drew and limited to 100 copies!
"Drew Friedman isn't just a brilliant artist. He takes you to a place. He takes you back in time. He makes you smell the stale cigarettes and cold brisket and you say thank you for the pleasure." - Sarah Silverman
It's a beautiful day in Seattle today so this morning I went for a long walk in my neighborhood of Ballard, running a few errands and taking in the sun. I was on the main drag of Market St. when I spotted someone curious across the street, and luckily I had my camera on me:
I had to cross the street to get a better look; could Ballard really have it's own superhero?
What could it all mean?!? What powers does he have? He obviously can't fly; if he could, he'd been surfing the net from a rooftop somehwere rather than while waiting for a bus.
I didn't have the nerve to approach him and ask for his story; I mean, he could be a supervillain for all I know. What could the "T" stand for? "T-Mobile Man"? I don't think that's their logo. "Thirtysomething Man"? He looks more like he's in his 40s to me. "Takin' a Bus Man"? "Transit Man"? If anyone has any information it would be appreciated.
If you're not a bookseller or librarian, skip this post, but the new issue of Booklist is the annual spotlight on graphic fiction, and there's some very useful stuff for those building a core collection of GNs. The issue includes an interview with James Sturm, an "honor roll of female pioneers" in comics, and a look back at a lifetime reading "the Funnies" courtesy columnist Michael Cart. There are a number of top 10 lists, reviews, etc. as well.
This has nothing to do with Ray's phenomenal work, which I greatly covet and admire, but looking at Etsy, I am struck by how 'crafting' has seemingly become the new D.I.Y. medium of choice. I wonder if it's because all the zinesters of the '80s and '90s are now in their 30s and 40s and knitting onesies instead of xeroxing Gen X (or L) manifestos? I'm not sure what to make of it. I do like pretty things, but can only get so excited when in boutique potholder form. I'll shut up now, I'm treading on very thin ice with many of my dear friends and coworkers. Not to mention my wife. Did I mention that Jacob Covey hates Manga? He really does. He told me he would rather read a potholder. What's up with that?
UPDATE: I am just being a smart-ass. I don't really mean any of this.
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