These days, the name John Byrne is synonymous with that of the Fantastic Four. His run both writing and penciling the series in the 1980s is held up as a high water mark for the title, and typically regarded as being second only to that of FF creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Byne had been a huge fan of the characters and threw his all into depicting their adventures. In fact, he was such a fan that years earlier, back when he was trying to break into the industry, he had plotted and penciled a 30 page Fantastic Four story that could prospectively become either an Annual or an issue of GIANT-SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR, which had then been launched. Alas, John got no takers for his story at that time, though he’d soon after start getting professional work. But the pencils for these 30 pages were run in the 25th issue of David A. Kraft’s magazine COMICS INTERVIEW along with a massive conversation with Byrne about his career, particularly on FANTASTIC FOUR.
At the time this story was produced, Reed Richards and Sue Storm were estranged, their marriage headed towards divorce. Medusa of the Inhumans had taken Sue’s place on the team. And the Human Torch had donned a red costume reminiscent of that of the Golden Age version of the character.
The story involved an encounter between the Fantastic Four and an alternative version of the Torch’s lost love Crystal, who had by this time married Quicksilver of the Avengers. This alternate Crystal, it turned out, was from Counter-Earth, the artificial planet created by the High Evolutionary on the opposite side of the sun, where life was permitted to evolve without any super heroes (until teh advent of Adam Warlock in his own series.)
This version of Crystal burned uncontrollably when exposed to the air, a fact that made her more of a match for Johnny Storm rather than less. In fact, Byrne would later use much this same design when he empowered Frankie Raye as a second Human Torch before transforming her later into a herald of Galactus.
It’s still formative work on Byrne’s part, with a very strong Jack Kirby influence. In the interview, Byrne relates that, at the time, Rich Buckler was drawing FANTASTIC FOUR and often emulating (or straight up swiping) Kirby’s style. Byrne figured that he could provide a Kirby look just as readily as Buckler could, and set out to prove that fact with this sample story.
John wasn’t above swiping from Kirby at this point, either. That fifth panel is a straight-up Kirby lift from FANTASTIC FOUR #75.
9 thoughts on “The Unused Fantastic Four Sample Story by John Byrne”
Byrne’s ending immediately reminded me of the end of FF #79, This Monster Forever.
It looks more like Barry Smith’s early work for Marvel and prior to that Odham’s Power range of comics. I can almost pick out the issues some of the panels were swiped from off the top of my head. You didn’t say how old he was at the time but a good effort. By the way, once John Buscema warmed up on the FF he was at least the equal to Kirby, art wise that is and as nice as Byrne’s run was, it wasn’t quite in the same league. John Byrne’s work was best illustrated when in conjunction with Pablo Marcos’ inks as shown in their brief stint together on the Avengers. Nuff Said!
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The period when Reed and Sue seemed headed for divorce began around late 1973, and Sue returned to the team in early 1975, so John was 23-24.
The last few pages are rushed, but the earlier ones are pretty good – better than some work by others that has appeared in professional comics after this period.
As already noted, the art reminds me greatly of the earliest Barry “Not-Yet-Windsor” Smith material for X-Men and SHIELD. Nice to see that android back in action, Thanks for sharing this.
That is indeed a very Kirbyesque Byrne.
I don’t see how Counter-Earth could have a Crystal though. The Kree couldn’t have been there to create the Inhumans and Man-Wolf wouldn’t have allowed them anyway. Or was it simply our old friend the exact double?
Correction. The story had one taker. I was doing freelance editing and copy writing for Marvel at the time. I might even still have been editing some of the black-and-white magazines. I recommended that John’s story be bought. I even offered to script it gratis.
Thank you for posting this. I’ve seen some of the pages but not all. Fantastic to see the early works of John Byrne. You’re killing it with your posts lately. I love this and the post of the original Gerry Conway JLA Avengers plot. Thanks for sharing.