A post from my long-gone Marvel blog of a decade ago concerning Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s first issue of FANTASTIC FOUR
I’ve name-checked Mark Waid a couple times in this blog over the past few weeks, because we both knew this day would eventually be coming. Today’s Good Comic I Was Involved With is FANTASTIC FOUR #60, the much-storied nine-cent issue, and the beginning of the Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo/Karl Kesel run on the title.
FANTASTIC FOUR was always my favorite title, and a book I had wanted to edit from the moment I stepped through the door at Marvel–so now being given the opportunity, I felt I had to deliver. And as it turned out, the team that had been producing the series when I got it made clear their intentions to leave, which gave be a blank canvas to work on.
Mike came first. We had worked together previously on the SPIDER-BOY one-shot during the first Amalgam event with DC, and I’d really loved his work on SENSATIONAL SPIDER-MAN and TELLOS. In truth, we had thought he was under contract to DC at that moment, but when we discovered this wasn’t the case, I called him up and offered him the gig. It took a little bit of convincing, in that Mike wasn’t sure that he could match the style or approach of Jack Kirby, whose fingerprints will always be all over that strip. I told him not to worry so much about that, that he should instead try to leave his own mark on the strip, in the same way he’d done previously on FLASH for DC.
From Mike, it was a short hop to thinking of Mark Waid, who’d written that aforementioned FLASH run. At the time, Mark and I had spoken a lot, and had done one or two short stories together, but hadn’t worked on anything extensive. He was also exclusive down at CrossGen, but doing some simple math made me realize that his term down there might be approaching it’s end. It was–though in the end we were forced to wait an additional three months for Mark to be able to be free and clear of his CrossGen contract before he could begin working. And, like Ringo, Mark was initially a little bit hesitant about taking on the FF, a series he’d never really warmed to as a reader. But the more we spoke about it, the more he began to see the possibilities, and the more story ideas he came up with.
As a big promotional hook for the relaunched series, inspired by DC’s ten-cent book earlier that year, then-Marvel President Bill Jemas and Joe Quesada decided to offer the first issue of the Waid/Wieringo FF at the bargain price of nine cents. What this meant was that it would likely be the best-circulated issue of FANTASTIC FOUR in a decade, if not longer. This increased the pressure on the entirety of the creative team, in that now, not only did we have to produce a good first issue of the run, but we wanted to make it self-contained as well, and to be a suitable story that you could give to any novice on the street and they’d understand everything they needed to know about the FF–the characters, the relationship, the style, the tone–the whole magilla. And it had to feel modern–part of the difficulty with FF was that it had begun to feel like a period piece from an entirely different era, so without losing what made the book the FF, we wanted to give the impression that all of these events were happening now, in the 21st century.
I like to think that we succeeded. This story’s been reprinted a few times already, often in editions intended to be handed out to civilians, so that’s a vote of confidence in it.
This run on FANTASTIC FOUR is my favorite of all the books I’ve worked on during my career, an absolute joy to work on and an absolutely terrific team of creators to work with–even when the larger circumstances of the world made things difficult. So you can expect to see at least one other moment from this run represented this week.
I also liked the new, updated FF logo, although apparently I was the only one.
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