This is one of those covers that falls into the category of “I’m not sure it’s masterful art, but it sure is a landmark drawing.”
In the third “Fantastic Four” annual, Marvel took a step that comics publishers rarely take these days: They married two characters off.
Reed Richard and Sue Storm – Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman – had been half the Fantastic Four for a couple of years and the comic book was already close to living up to the “world’s greatest comics magazine” slogan that Stan Lee had come up with. Along with Ben Grimm – the Thing – and Sue’s younger brother Johnny Storm – the Human Torch – the FF had already had some amazing adventures and fought foes like Dr. Doom and the Mole Man. (Okay, so Dr. Doom was a lot better than the Mole Man.)
But Reed and Sue hadn’t yet faced their greatest challenge: Not only getting married, but pulling off a wedding in the midst of a supervillain attack.
What better place for Lee and artist/co-writer Jack Kirby to stage the wedding than in the latest annual edition of “FF,” which – as you can tell from looking at the cover – offered 72 big pages for only a quarter. The page count and price were double their usual, but you had a feeling it would be worth it.
Annuals really felt like a big deal to me, the typical Marvel comics reader. I probably caught up with this issue sometime after the October 1965 release date, but it still felt like a milestone to me. So many pages of story, so much eye-popping art.
And why not? The cover alone – drawn by Chic Stone in the Kirby style – offered up an impossibly huge and dramatic selection of characters.
The practice of guest-starring superheroes was what made Marvel comics special and what’s made the last five years of Marvel big-screen movies so fun, and FF Annual 3 might have been the craziest crossovers yet.
Look at that cover: A bunch of Avengers. Spider-Man. Nick Fury. X-Men. And a whole bunch of bad guys.