Sunday, April 17, 2011


It´s been a while since my last post because it seems that the title of my last post has become a selffulfilling prophecy. After 5 years the question is - now what ?

Five years is a long time and this blog has gone through a few changes in the topics and posts since it´s humble beginnings in 2006. While I originally just wrote about whatever crossed my mind or comics that I found some material on, lately I have put a bit more thought in my posts. I know, that often doesn´t look like it but I think the blog and the quality of the posts have profited from it.

On the other hand there are dozens of topics and series I started which I didn´t continue. So, since nothing else tickles my intellectual fancy right now I thought about writing about one of my favorite lines at Marvel, the ESSENTIAL line. I have often recommended them but so far I don´t think I have done an extensive post about them. Just this week I have acquired ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 8 which I was thinking about buying as a birthday present for my brother but then I liked it so much I got something else for him.

Don´t worry, it was another essential, ESSENTIAL THOR 4 which not only contains great artwork by Jack Kirby but also a lot of issues by the incomparable John Buscema. After John Buscema had died I had expected that Marvel would do something special as a tribute to one say it frankly was one of the reasons why Marvel still exists.

John Buscema was one of the artists who defined the look of Marvel for future generations, not only through DRAWING COMICS THE MARVEL WAY but also through his innumerable comics. This may be common knowledge to some readers out there but I just wanted to mention it for the few civilians who may have stumbled upon my blog by accident.

I also mention it because John Buscema is one of the artists in ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 8 and - with two exceptions - the sole artist in ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 6 about which this first post will be. Maybe I can wrap it all up in this post but if this post follows the usual pattern here on TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN this could expand into a number of posts like with the CLASSICOS DC - THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD I did a while ago.

Now before I come to the actual review of ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 6 I have to say why I wanted to write about a comic of the big two instead of choosing a smaller publisher who could use more recognition. In my latest post I put up a link for an episode of Comic Geek Speak about Marvel in the 60s which reminded me how amazing and incredible and astonishing Marvel used to be. We all love to take a stroll down memory lane and reminiscence about the comics of Yesteryear. And with the latest happenings in the world´s greatest comic I thought it appropriate to speak about happier times with Marvel´s first family.

One thing I miss ever after reading my first issues of BIBLIOTECA MARVEL - the spanish mangasized version of the essentials - were the introductions. In the spanish version there is always one foreword, an introduction and a prologue that enlighten the reader about what happened at Marvel and in the world of comics at the time the stories came out, some background information about the writers and artists of that particular issue, why the stories are special and a look ahead to the next volume. It always feels like you bought something really special - with every issue !

The american version doesn´t have that but it has more issues in one volume ( the spanish version has about 8 issues ) and it is printed in the original format. The paper is not as good as in the spanish version ( even Gene Colan commented on the superb paper quality of the spanish edition in an episode of Comic Geek Speak ) but it´s okay and for all inkers, aspiring inkers or inking afficionados I can only recommend the essential line because you can see all the inks without the color.

Which is one of the reasons it took me so long to write about the essentials. So far I mostly found coloured pages but even if I knew how to turn them black and white it wouldn´t be an accurate depiction of the pages you can find in the essentials.

There are some instances where they didn´t find good original pages and had to use the black and white copy of colored pages. But mostly it´s just the pages without color. Which - by the way - doesn´t look very good if ther original pages are not inked but just the penciled pages inked digitally. One of the reasons why I mostly don´t like digital inking and still get the feeling I just paid for an unfinished comic.

Now selling comics in black and white is not easy, especially in Germany - at least it seems that way. Which is the reason why I´m pimping the original essentials instead of the german version. Because there is no german version. In America there is Marvel´s ESSENTIAL line, in Spain and Italy there is BIBLIOTECA MARVEL which prints the material in mangasized tomes for 5 or 6 bucks ( I think I have already written a bit about that ) but there seems to be no demand for big chunks of comic reading material for a good price in Germany.

Or it may just be a case of the market only offering what it wants to sell instead of what readers want to read. This may be a lot of speculation on my part but I have the impression that in Spain the comic market tries to have most of the old classics available for the readers at a reasonable price.

Almost all of the works of such legends like John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Gene Colan or Jack Kirby are available in cheap poket books for everyone to read.

There are also some editions available in german but always highpriced collector editions with limited print runs and glossy paper. In Germany all comics have to be printed on paper that you could use to swat a fly and then wash without any visible marks. Don´t laugh, I did it with an issue of U - COMIX once and it´s still in pristine condition. Now we may ask if all the comics are printed in color because nobody would buy it in black and white or if everybody just buys them in color because there are no black and white editions.

Fact is that when the TOMB OF DRACULA was newly released in Germany I had to buy the essential edition because not only was it much cheaper ( the german version is 7 tomes for 20 bucks each which puts the complete set at 140 EUROS while the 3 american tomes cost 47 bucks ) but the color destroyed a lot of the wonderful inks by Tom Palmer.

If you really want to appreciate the art of Gene Colan and Tom Palmer on this series you should definitely get the black and white version. And it´s a great read.

Everyone who says that comics were not better in the 70s should read them and experience an almost literate art of writing comics. Today everything is decompressed and most writers are against using caption boxes but reading those issues you realize how much you can express with words that cannot be told with pictures. Back in those times comics really had a combination of the best of words and pictures. Reading comics today I often get the impression that while the new comic writers have made advances in writing believable dialogue and storytelling they have lost that literary quality that comics used to have.

Now if you´re still with me I want to stay a bit in Germany, or to be more exact in Germany during my youth. Because one of the reasons why I chose to write about ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 6 which I bought some months ago instead of volume 8, my most recent buy, is that it contains the bridge between the latest issues that came out when WILLIAMS was doing the Marvel comics in Germany and the later editions of CONDOR. Which some readers in Germany still refer to as the dark age. When WILLIAMS ceased publishing, their last issue of DIE FANTASTISCHEN VIER was issue 124 which contained WHERE THE SUN DARES NOT SHINE by Roy Thomas and John Buscema and left us readers with a cliffhanger.

On the last page the Thing is attacked by it´s own teammates who see him as a monster and for several years the german readers had no idea if Ben Grimm ever survived this issue.

There has been a special edition of the missing issues in the meantime but here´s your chance to read them in the original version.

And yes, I know. A lot of my readers out there will now resort to the argument that I only think that those comics are better than what comes out Today because I read them when I was young and that´s just the nostalgia taking over. I have debunked that urban comic legend a few times already but let me remind you that I have read over a dozen essentials so far and a lot of them were stories I had not read previously. Like the TOMB OF DRACULA issues. I only read two or three of them when they came out in Germany so the big bulk of stories were new for me and I read them for the first time. Still I found them better than a lot of the new stuff.

So this may not have anything to do with nostalgia. Now don´t get me wrong. I´m not saying that all the new stuff that comes out is dreck. There are some great books coming out that stands toe to toe with the classics. But there also are great comics from the 80s, 70s and 60s that are above and beyond a lot of stuff that comes out now. So call it campy, simplicistic or throw - away - literature but unless you have really tried it - you don´t know what you´re missing.

And speaking about throw - away - literature : one of the reasons why comics are not as widely read as in former decades may be the collectability. While better production values have greatly improved the lifespan of comics it has also prevented them from being the mass medium they used to be. Comics used to be produced cheap ( like the essentials - see, it´s all connected ) so you read them and when you were done you threw them away or gave them to someone else to read. Now, tell me : when was the last time you gave your comics to someone else ?

Today we don´t lend them because we are afraid in which condition we might get them back. If we get them back at all. I for myself prefer to just give them away instead of having to suffer how they look when I get them back. Which is a not - so - subtle hint at my 5 year anniversary contest in which I give away free comics to all readers who sent me their address. It´s still open and while I have already sent out a few packages there is still some good stuff left.

One of the main reasons why I got ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 6 was THE SAGA OF THE OVERMIND or like it was called in Germany DIE SUPERHIRN SAGA.

There are a few spoilers ahead so if you haven´t read the story and think about getting the essential you should skip the next paragraphs till the link section.

What is interesting is that while the story ran from issue 113 to 116 in the original edition the german version ran from issue 109 to 113 of DIE FANTASTISCHEN VIER. They needed one more issue so they had to make up this dreadful cover.

As far as I can tell it´s redrawn using three different pictures as reference for Reed, Ben and the Over - Mind of which I have been able to identify two :


THE SAGA OF THE OVERMIND, written by Stan Lee and Archie Goodwin with pencils by John Buscema and inks by Joe Sinnott, is a 4 part story which in my opinion shows to which heights this title can aspire. One of the reasons why I still remember it is that - apart from being one of the best stories I read when I was still a young lad - it was the topic of a conversation I had with Robi during my last visit to the COMIC ACTION in Essen. Not only one of the nicest professionals you will ever meet in the german comic community, Robi has a real passion about comics and an understanding of how to write great comics that is rivaled by few.

And hearing him explain the greatness of the SAGA OF THE OVERMIND and anlyze it in every aspect of storytelling is really a unique experience.

Beware the Over - Mind. With these ominous words, uttered by the watcher begins a story that will lead the members of the Fantastic Four to their limits - and beyond.

Because the Over - mind is more powerful than the Fantastic Four. He´s stronger than the Thing, his mental powers are greater than Mr. Fantastic´s intellect and neither the Human Torch´s powers nor the ones of the Invisible Girl´s are a match for him. In fact, after their first encounter in which he totally schools them he decides that they are no danger for him and he erases their memory of him. So not only have the FF forgotten who he is and have to find out who the Over - Mind is but even if they find out - how shall they defeat him ?

For the Over - Mind is the collected brainpower of a billion people, last of the Eternals of Eyung, a last resort weapon in their war against the Gigantans ( a race of giants as the name implies ). Hurled into space in suspended animation the Over - Mind landed on earth to begin the revenge of the Eternals. Which, by the way, are not related to earth´s Eternals who appeared in later stories. It seems when Stan liked a name he stuck with it.

Even after learning the history of the Over - Mind from the Watcher Uatu the Fantastic Four didn´t have much chances against the Over - Mind. What is a bit strange is how the Watcher once again helps the Fantastic Four despite his oath of non - interference. Okay, he doesn´t actively help them but he gives them their initial warning and provides them with much needed intel. It has always varied from writer to writer how much the Watcher does or does not interfere. Something we will discuss again when we come to volume 8 of the Fantastic Four Essentials.

After Reed becomes the slave of the Over - Mind Sue enlists the aid of Doctor Doom but even with his added strength they fall before the might of the Over - Mind. In the end it is the Stranger who defeats him by shrinking him and exiling him on a nameless particle of dust. As it turns out the Stranger is the last surviving Gigantuan who had a score to settle. In later stories this was never mentioned and I think he became just another one of Marvel´s galactic entities with a mysterious past. He was in INFINITY GAUNTLET where he opposed Thanos togehther with the Living Tribunal, Champion, the Gamemaster, the Collector and others.

But back to the Overmind Saga : of course the Fantastic Four are a bit miffed because they were basically pwned by the Over - Mind ( he even made Reed his bitch who almost killed Sue ) but then the Watcher appears and explains that ultimately their part was the most vital.

By fighting courageously, unflaggingly, they forced the Over - Mind to expend his full power thus alerting the Stranger to his presence before he could conquer other worlds and ultimately become more powerful than the Stranger. In losing their battle they won, like the spartans in Frank Miller´s 300.

So, a great story with all the usual ingridients that made the Fantastic Four such a huge success with great art that´s really worth to read. And which you won´t find in any trades. Unlike the Kree Skrull Saga or the Trial of Galaktus the Saga of the Over - Mind was never on any best of lists.

And this are only 4 of the 27 issues reprinted in this volume. As this post has become rather long - with all the usual sidetracks by yours truly - I think it´s about time to wrap things up here and hopefully talk a bit more about this in the next part. Then we will speak about another unforgettable story in which we witness the coming of Gabriel, the return of Galaktus and the end of the world.

over - mind profile and history / over - mind wikipedia

Since we´re on the subject of the Fantastic Four, a while ago I posted a picture of a megahot cosplay massita dressed as Susan Storm.

I have gotten a few comments asking who that is and I can now confirm that her name is Marie - Claude Bourbonnais. She´s a model and you have probably seen pictures of her on actiongirls or other websites on the net. As for the hot babe who is dressed up as Loki I still have no idea who she is. Here is a link for Marie - Claude Bourbonnais pics as Susan Storm.

She also has done some cosplay as my favorite heroine, Power Girl - she obviously has the right body for it - so I couldn´t resist posting this video.

Our second video isn´t Fantastic Four - related. It´s a fanmade POKEMON APOKALYPSE trailer. Now I know what you´re thinking, and normally I wouldn´t be caught dead doing anything Pokemon related since I think it conditions kids to participate in cockfighting. But I would pay to see this.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Another great blog and not a lot I'll disagree with! Loved the old German FF comics -lost a lot along with my Mykros years back.
Hey -There has been a Marie-Claude Bourbonaise link on CBO for 3(?) years now. She has a MySpace site but most of her photos (WATCH YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE!!) are on her Face Book page. I believe one has her dressed as the Wasp.

SUBZERO said...

I just re - read the post to eliminate some typos ( yes, you really have to read it numerous times to catch them all ) and I really hope I can do the second part of this topic. And maybe even write about ESSENTIAL FANTASTIC FOUR 8. I had hoped to find volume 7 in the meantime but it seems to be out of print.