Fantastic Four: 1966, pt. 2 of 2

in the 1960s, Pt. 6
Pt. 2 of 2

(As continued from last time.)

At some point in 1965 or 1966, Martin Goodman heard that Joe Simon had been hired by Harvey Comics to create a new superhero line for the company. He decided the best way to deal with this was to have Stan introduce a slew of new superheroes who would then receive their own books. Stan relayed this to Jack, and they were off to the races. Goodman changed his mind, though, so the new characters that Stan and Jack created ended up premiering one after the other in Fantastic Four.

Part of the reason Goodman decided to change his mind was that Marvel's distribution deal with Independent News restricted Marvel's output to only twelve or thirteen regular books a month. This deal expired in 1968, something which in a roundabout way also allowed Carmine Infantino to make an offer to Jack Kirby to come work for National (DC). We'll get there in due time, but I enjoy seeing these pieces move inexorably into place.


It's nice to see the Black Panther enjoying a bit of a renaissance (in both the movies and the comics) in 2016, the character's 50th anniversary.  

He first appeared back in FF 52-55. The FF receive a gift of a wacky-looking airship from the head of state of the African kingdom of Wakanda. It's theirs to keep if they accept the chieftan's offer to visit Wakanda, where a great hunt will be organized in their honor. Reed accepts and is duly impressed by Wakandan scientific prowess.

Of course, this being Marvel:

Turns out it's all a test to see if the FF are worthy allies. T'Challa needs their help, but before he tells them why, he launches into his origin story.

Wakanda is therefore positioned alongside Ethiopia and Liberia as the only places in Africa never to have been a colonial possession. The '60s were of course an era of mass upheaval in Africa as country after country announced its independence, some peacefully, some with much bloodshed. Smack dab in the middle of this Jack and Stan place Wakanda - a powerful, ancient kingdom with magical unobtanium, ruled over by an Aga Khan-like super-billionaire scientist ninja.

The lifeblood of the kingdom, besides its sacred traditions, is Vibranium, a precious metal so-named for its unique quality of absorbing vibrations. It has other uses, as well, and whosoever harvests it can command great power. Enter: Ulysses Klaw.

It is Klaw who was responsible for T'Challa's father's death.

Klaw has set up a device to convert Vibranium into sound which he can manipulate into solid matter, allowing him to create otherworldly beasts to attack at his command

Something Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck paid homage to in Secret Wars v1 #12.

With the FF's help, he is defeated, though not before falling into his own converter. He returns a few issues later with a new visual and sound manipulation powers of his own. Klaw attacks the FF at the Baxter Building. 

He almost wins, but Reed is able to contact T'Challa via the Wakandan global-radio-message gizmo we saw above. T'Challa dispatches Vibranium insulators to his new BFF at once. And voila:

Like I say, it's cool to see the Black Panther getting a bit more exposure these days. There was a 90s series written by Christopher Priest (which I haven't read), but outside of a mini-series and sporadic guest appearances, no one did much with him in the 80s. He had a few great runs in the 70s, though.

I first came across the character in the pages of Marvel Premiere.

I didn't realize it at the time, but these Marvel Premiere issues were the end of an epic Panther vs. the Klan storyline that began in the pages of Jungle Action. I finally got to read the whole storyline later, and holy crap, folks - Jungle Action is awesome. Highly, highly recommended - the Klan storyline is preceded by an equally epic one "Panther's Rage" (both written by Don McGregor, though the Marvel Premiere issues that tied up the story were written by Ed Hannigan).

Some of the most bad-ass comics of the 70s.

They gave the title to Kirby when he returned to Marvel in the 1970s. Seemed like a natural fit - Kirby created (or at least co-created) the guy, right? But it was an abrupt tonal switch from the Jungle Action / Marvel Premiere stories, and despite some typically imaginative (if wtf-y) stories from Kirby, the series was eventually cancelled. 

Anyway, that all came later. As far as '66 was concerned, the Marvel Universe gained a new kingdom and the FF a new ally. Let's end this section with this original-rendering of the character when Jack and Stan were calling him "Coal Tiger." (Coal Tiger was apparently a name used by journalists of the era to refer to those African nations emerging from British and French colonialism.)

Glad they rethought this.




One of the most fondly-remembered Thing stories of all time is this filler issue in-between the Galactus and Black Panther arcs. Conceptually it's of a piece with the T.O. Morrow or Professor Ivo stories being published by DC (as exhaustively detailed in these annotations to JLA #5:) super-villain scientific genius sends a perfect duplicate of a captured hero back to infiltrate the group, only to discover the true meaning of heroism and sacrifice his or her self to save the day. 

The story has some shades of Frankenstein, but mainly the whole thing is an excuse for Kirby to do his cosmic thing.
Every page is 'cap-worthy in this issue, so I'll stop here.



In many ways, Johnny is the most interesting FF member in 1966. Not only does he gain a tragic love interest, he returns to college, and then, after the events in Wakanda, decides to ditch both college and the FF for a wandering road trip with his buddy Wyatt Wingfoot, ostensibly to find a way to free Crystal and the Inhumans, but in practice just bopping about the multiverse.

First in this Wakanda sky-ship gifted to them. Then via Lockjaw (r) whose dimension-hopping powers are random and difficult to utilize with any precision.
Earlier I mentioned Wyatt Wingfoot - Johnny's friend from college and comicdom's first Native American hero - as one of the characters created by Stan and Jack who was meant to get his own series. 
While he has no superpowers, he's a better-than-average fighter, singlehandedly saving the FF's bacon in the mock-trial-by-combat with the Black Panther, and athlete.
Reed must resort to using his stretching powers to get him out in baseball.
Which leads us to:


Not really. It just continues to amuse me to read their marriage as a nest of Freudian vipers and intrigue. The FF, as we've seen all along, was innovative for bringing intra-team conflict and domestic drudgery into the super-team book, but neither of its creators tried to exactly re-define the marital drama in comics.

Welcome to my break-down...
Roy Lichtenstein basically took that panel on the right and made a reputation on reproducing it in a museum.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this screencap-tastic jaunt through a pivotal year in the FF's first and arguably most fabulous decade. See you next time for more fun with Surfer Doom and the gang, as well as the premiere of the Hanna-Barbara cartoon and first appearance of future Marvel-crossover-kings the Kree and the High Evolutionary. And more! 


  1. I know very little about Black Panther, and would love to change that. I'd see him every once in a while in some Marvel comic in the eighties, and always thought he was cool as hell. He was one of the great unknowns to me of that era, sort of tantalizing in terms of what he must be all about. Him and Doctor Strange were probably on equal footing in that regard. I still know very little about either, but the movies will help change that for sure. I already love the movie version of T'Challa.

    Reed using his superpowers to defeat Wyatt Wingfoot in baseball is surely one of the all-time dick moves in superhero history. Haven't the Native Americans suffered enough without Wyatt having to endure shenanigans of that nature?

    Speaking of Wyatt Wingfoot, I'd never heard of him before this post. I looked him up, and found that he evidently got engaged to She-Hulk at some point. Well done, Wyatt Wingfoot!

    I guess I'm on a "Mad Men" kick mentally, but I pictured Reed and Sue as Don and Betty during a few of those panels. Not inappropriate, by any means; I'd watch that series.

    1. The two story arcs I mention ("Panther's Rage" and "Panther vs. Klan") are spread out between Jungle Action and Marvel Premiere. Definitely worth tracking down.

      Yeah when I started reading the FF during the Byrne years, I knew Wyatt as She-Hulk's boyfriend. Then I discovered all this backhistory. Really, the more 60s FF I read, the more I'm realizing Byrne's run re-incorporated much of it. Quite well, too.

      I like that "Mad Men" angle. Jon Hamm and January Jones would actually make a pretty fascinating Reed and Sue.

    2. I know nothing about them, or even who's writing it, but apparently the current "Black Panther" run is fantastic.

    3. Is it though? I really wonder. Haven't read it, maybe it is. But it's the sort of thing that comes with "Brilliant!" religious fervor before anyone's ever read it, because the whole thing stinks of signal-virtue stunt-casting to me. I'll give it the benefit of the doubt if I ever find myself reading it, but for now I have the same skepticism I would if (probably more like when) Marvel hired Lena Dunham to write "Ms. Marvel" or something. i.e. I think the reasons for such hiring are kind of regressive and awful, dressed up in hysterical platitudes and false premises.

      That's just me, though.

      Maybe Coates has got some narrative talent, beyond his talent at triggering the martyrdom and narcissim of the media-bubble/political-class narrative talent that is. Ditto for Dunham - I know you like "Girls," but Dunham is just so obnoxious and such a poster child of the sort of shit choking the intellectual climate of this country that I can't get there. It's like if Goebbels - yes, I'm going there - had a great side career as a mystery writer; I doubt I'd ever really be able to check any of it out without thinking of his other contributions to the state of the world.

      haha - I probably should have had my coffee before responding. Off to get it now.

    4. I haven't read it, so I can't make any salient assessment of it. It could very well be that the hype is pure virtue-signalling. It could also be that if there's a backlash against it, it's motivated by considerations of that nature rather than of its quality. After all, at some point doesn't pointing out virtue-signalling become virtue-signalling in its own right?

      This has been Deep Thoughts, with Jack Handy.

      I got a good chuckle out of the idea that Goebbels was, in some parallel universe, a mystery writer struggling to get people to overlook his mildly-checkered past and focus on his facility with plot twists.

    5. You make a good and important point about virtue-signalling.

      Balance in this world is so difficult to achieve. Not that I have experience of other worlds. I'm not some Jake Chambers or anything.

      My Goebbels/Lena Dunham association was probably a bridge or two (or several) too far. I just get so goddamn grumpy about the state of the world these days. But, I'm glad the mystery-novels joke worked, because imagining that sort of thing is my way out of said grumpiness.

    6. Man, if you DON'T get grumpy about the state of the world, you've got problems. Dunham is indeed a hemorrhoid; I like her show mostly because of the acting, and also because most episodes make no effort to convince you that the characters are anything but hemorrhoids. It's kind of interesting in that regard.

      God, I can't imagine what the response would be if you took that show and dropped it onto the television screens of 1966 American viewers. How alien it would seem to them! That might help to explain something about the world we're living in circa 2016, actually -- a lot of those 1966ers are still around, and a great deal of current culture must seem like a horror movie to them.

      I was actually thinking about Wyatt Wingfoot a bit earlier today. If that character was introduced in today's comics, he'd be seen as either a creation of PC culture or as a victim of cultural appropriation. But in 1966, it HAD to seem like a cool bit of progressive writing. I think I'd say we're better off in 2016...so why does it not seem like it? I think maybe we've all just disappeared up our own asses, and that's probably an inevitable outcome of the advent of the Internet.

      Ah, well! What can you do? I suspect we'll all find the balance again one of these days.