September, 1975

 After becoming enamored of the Fantastic Four (see FANTASTIC FOUR #177), I went looking for more of the same. And, inevitably, my search led first to that same big bin of off-the-truck comics at the Genovese Drug Store. This time, I pulled forth three issues of MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS featuring the FF–#s 58-60. 

I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why, but I really, really liked these three issues. I knew that they were reprints–the sources of the original stories were listed right there on the splash pages. (FANTASTIC FOUR #76-78, for anyone who cares…)

And, strangely enough, they were drawn by Jack Kirby. I’d encountered Kirby at DC on books like KAMANDI, and hadn’t been terribly impressed. As I continued to explore the world of Marvel Comics, I ran into him again in series like CAPTAIN AMERICA and ETERNALS. And I liked him no better there. But somehow, Kirby in MARVEL’S GREATEST COMICS worked for me! 

Some of that was certainly due to the splendid inking of Joe Sinnott, Jack’s best inker, in my opinion. While guys like Mike Royer were technically more true to the pencils (and let me say that I’ve come to love Royer’s work on Kirby a great deal since), they also made the artwork look too “harsh.” Sinnott kept the power of Kirby, but streamlined it with sleek, crisp linework which somehow made it more friendly, more inviting. 

And, of course, the was Stan. People have been dissecting the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby partnership for years now. But from my point of view in 1978, Stan made the characters fun, made them people you wanted to spend time with. And he wrote some of the funniest dialogue in comics–there was an air of irreverence about Stan’s comics. Kirby provided mainly the substance, but Stan embellished it tremendously with the style.

The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby issues of FANTASTIC FOUR (#1-102 and the first 6 annuals) remains my favorite comic book run of all time.

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