My Favorite Year: Fantastic Four #39-51

This sounds too silly to be true, but I see my first decade of comic books in Fantastic Four Time. I really do. So when I think of my favorite year in comics, I think of Fantastic Four #39 (“A Blind Man Shall Lead Them”) to issue #51, my favorite comic, “This Man This Monster,” not the actual dates (1965 to 1966). I can never forget Ben Grimm turning back into the Thing (issue #40). I loved the light-hearted wedding of Sue and Reed .”What a Way to Spend a Honeymoon” when was introduced with a whole new race of Inhumans, in issue #44. “The Coming of Galactus” also featured TWO of Lee and Kirby’s best characters, the Silver Surfer and the Watcher. After those stories, I wondered what villain could top that. Well, no villain did in “This Man, This Monster,” my favorite comic. Yet to come was the Black Panther.

FF50 Galactus and the Watcher Original

Fantastic Four, Vol. 5 (Marvel Masterworks)

While I like the “Spider Slayer/Robot” in issue #25, one of my favorite Spider-Man story at the time was the mystery two-parter, “The Man in the Crime Master’s Mask.” I never would have got the ending. The stories just got better culminating with the Master Planner three-parter and the unforgettable “Hernia Sequence.” I mean Lifting Sequence. Yet to come was Spidey #39-40, with Romita’s brilliant work on a brilliant story. I always wondered what it would have looked like if it was Ditko’s parting shot.

Spidey 31 a

I am a Wally Wood fan so I loved his last few Daredevil stories. But I am also a Romita fan so I thoroughly enjoyed his Daredevil with Ka-Zar and the Master Planner. And certainly his fun Spidey two-parter was a tryout and was enjoyable. Yet, the Ox story in issue #15 still resonates the most with me. Like “This Man” it is more of an emotional piece than an action story. Although Wilbur, in issue #8, did look “awkward and stilted.”

Daredevil Kazar

Until now, Thor was NOT one of my favorites, but Kirby and Lee launch this into the stratosphere, starting with “The Trial of the Gods” in issue #116. The stories now become epic and not earthbound as the creative pair finally found the character. Lee gives Thor an old world touch by having Thor use a corruption of old English. It worked so well. The Annual with Hercules also worked even if the story made little sense. But then that leads us to issue #124 and the battle between Thor and Pluto, which was just brilliant. Meanwhile characters from “Tales of Asgard” are now going into the main feature and making it even more enjoyable.


The Avengers, invented, I thought, to mimic the Justice League, gets a complete makeover and now can go in new directions, unburdened by the continuities of Iron Man and Thor. I missed Kirby, but I enjoyed the Swordsman and Powerman stories. It was also fun to see Henry Pym try again, this time as Goliath.

The X-Men stories here were some of my favorites too. I not only like the Juggernaut story, but the Sentinels tale, to this day, remain one of my favorite. I liked Roth over Kirby.

X-Men Sentinels

Where do you start with the anthology comics? Marvel discontinues its great fillers, which I miss from this day, but gives us great double features. Nick Fury, Hydra and a whole new realm are introduced in Strange Tales. When Captain America gets his new series in Tales of Suspense were are treated to remakes of this WW2 adventures. This ties into a modern day three-parter introducing the Sleepers. Then Lee and Kirby begin to knit the Marvel Universe even closer together when Cap teams with Fury and Them and A.I.M. are introduced. Cap’s partner, Iron Man, developed so well under Don Heck, but Gene Colan’s Shellhead was always my favorite.

TOS 73 Iron man walking castle

Dr. Strange concludes his wondrous 17-episode Ditko Adventure in Strange Tales.The Sub Mariner replaces a sinking Giant-Man in Tales to Astonish and Gene Colan gives us a wonderful multi chapter quest, which ends a bit too abruptly but was fun while it lasted. While the Ditko Hulk stories were my favorite, I loved the Hulk traveling to meet the Watcher and was startled when Rick Jones reveals his identity to the world. That had never happened before in a comic.

Finally is the last of the new comics, was Sgt. Fury. I was not a fan of the war comics released under the Comics Code. They showed nothing of the horrors of war and became adventure strips. Sgt. Fury, at this stage, was different. It did show the sadness and sacrifice of war, and the loss of Pam was devastating.


Sgt Fury inside My eye

Fantasy Masterpieces was introduced and it reprinted wonderful (and for me unattainable) stories form the Atlas Age. Soon, Timely Captain America, Subby and Torch stories would be included. Boy, I could not wait for the next issue!

FM4 Fake Money Fiends

2 panels Torch and Toro

Oh, and new paperbacks came out, most with reprints from the early years, but the Captain America story was a great new novel by Ted White.

Captain America Paperback

Lancer Spider-Man

And there were posters!

Poster Spiderman

Well, that’s my favorite year. What’s yours?

8 thoughts on “My Favorite Year: Fantastic Four #39-51”

  1. I do the same thing with keeping track of years by comics (and cartoons and movies in my case). The FF and Spidey storylines you mention are on my favorite comics list, but my favorite year(s) will surprise you! I’ll do a separate post on that, except to make the point here that “favorite” can have as much to do with nostalgia as the quality of the comic.

  2. Actively? As in recognizing “pie eyed” Ducks as being by some one “special” ??

    Circa 1964 when I scored Donald Duck Four Color 223 1949 “Lost in the Andes” for a nickel along side Marvel Mystery #92 last issue with its “origin” of Human Torch, Capt America, Witness, etc also for a nickel at Ace Magazine Exchange in Fremont, a then local used PB/magazine shop run by a WW2 vet in a wheelchair who had his legs blown off. I was 12 or so.

    Soon there after scored Uncle Scrooge Four Color 386 “Only A Poor Old Man” (#1) and a few other DD four colors like Ancient Persia, etc., again for a nickel – and I was hooked to get more more more

    Dells were/are the most common of the older comics to locate as Dell was 50% of the comic book business all by itself. Every one else combined was the other half. Dell was in there “first” “inventing” the “modern” comic book alongside with Eastern Color as printer/co-publisher with The Funnies starting Dec 1928, then reformatted in 1934 with Famous Funnies. But I digress…..

    Thru the 60s I was keeping up with Marvels, DC, Tower, Gold Key, etc, avidly going after “one of each” for The Ark as it were – the Barks Scrooges were and remain particular favorites to this day.

    I no longer ponder why so many American collectors seemingly do not cherish Barks Ducks the way some of us still do. Used to ponder, that is, as the super heroic ones, though I like the FF run especially beginning when Sub-Mariner leads the attack beginning #33 thru for half a decade there when Kirby was sooooo inspired to unleash his overly fertile imagination upon the rest of us readers, are also fondly remembered high on that nebulous list of “favorites.”

    But for me Barks also rules a few planets in the pantheon.

    Then there was 1967 when I scored Mad Comics #1 for $5 and Weird Science 18 19 for $1.50 each and the EC world of Kurtzman Wood Williamson Frazetta Gaines Feldstein Davis et al opened up to me -:)

    1. Great stuff! I miss those kinds of prices 🙂 I used to occasionally find Barks Disneys in discount bins for cover price or a quarter, before I was old enough to know enough to hold onto them!

      Dell had given way to Gold Key by the time I came along, and I bought quite a few of those, especially the cartoon and TV tie-ins. For Dell itself, I’m especially interested in Dell’s Disneys, their crime comics (especially their early Dick Tracy run before Harvey took it over), their Westerns (especially the Lone Ranger and Gunsmoke), and their adaptations of Tarzan and a few other franchises. I did a post on Dell’s John Carter adaptations a few weeks ago. One of my goals for this site is to get new generations reading Dell and some of the other important non-Marvel/DC companies of yesteryear, so your comments are most welcome! I looked at your mini-history of comics on your eBay site, you’ve got some really good material there!

  3. You pretty much cover some of my favorite comics in your essay Barry and I don’t know that I have much to add. I remember vividly almost all those books, especially FF and Spider-Man, my two favorite titles at the time. I was never a huge fan of THOR, although I was as much of a Marvel completest as I could be (given what I got in allowance and extra money from doing errands for neighbors), so I was picking up as many titles as I could. As the Marvel Universe became more interconnected it was almost impossible not to be buying all the core books.

    Looking back all those years, it is amazing to realize how Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Larry Leiber, Don Heck and the rest of the Bullpen created characters and concepts that moviemakers and comics professionals are still mining for ideas. Hell, the characters that make up The Avengers in the up-coming film were all appearing in comics by 1964, with only the ‘Black Widow’ vastly different from how she will appear in the movie.

    A fun essay that brought back a lot of good memories.

  4. I’d been reading the Fantastic Four since issue #12 and started serious collecting instantly. One of my favorite moments was Fantastic Four Annual #1, which was when I realized that Jack and Stan were building a solid foundation for a believable world.
    The most magical moment for me began in the late Summer or early autumn of ’65. I was at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park watching a Shakespeare play with my mother and sister. I think it was A Midsummer Nights’s Dream. During intermission, I started reading FF#45 (Is this timeline feasible? The cover date on that book is December 1965)
    Anyway, this is how I remember it.

    I came to the page where Johnny first sees Crystal, and she says to him, “I would like to be your friend.”
    My 13 year old hormones went through the roof. I was in love with her and in love with Johnny being in love with her. It was a confirmation that true love at first sight existed and that I too could meet a beautiful and mysterious woman.
    It was the second book in Sinnott’s long run of inking and it seemed so powerfully real. From that point, the book grew more and more amazing, from the Galactus trilogy through to the Black Panther saga. I attended my first convention the following summer, and the program had some pencil art of the Panther. I couldn’t believe the power of Kirby’s raw pencils. I’d never seen anything like it before.

  5. Steve, I think you are dan right about the movies.

    You wrote, “. Hell, the characters that make up The Avengers in the up-coming film were all appearing in comics by 1964, with only the ‘Black Widow’ vastly different from how she will appear in the movie.

    You are right!

    When I think about it, all of Marvel’s successful movies basically came from plots from three eras. All the super-hero movies came from the era you mentioned. Not ONE super-hero, younger than 40, has made it to the screen.

    They took plots from about 1980-5 (War Machine, Roadie for Iron Man, Walt Simonson’s Thor; The Black Spidey costume; Electra in the Daredevil Movie)

    And some characters and plots from the mid-1970s (Punisher, Blade, The Death of Gwen Stacy)

    But nothing new, and mostly for the early and mid 1960s.

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