Friday, January 8, 2016

The Treasure I Left on the Newsstand

Fantastic Four 2 was the first issue I spotted on the newsstand in late 1961. I debated picking it up. But I was unsure if this intriguing new comic was about superheroes or some kind of a battle between various monsters. Had the Human Torch been fully ablaze on the cover, he might well have lighted my way to a purchase.
I had only a quarter a week to spend, and that usually had to be devoted to two superhero-related comics — say a Justice League, a Lois Lane or a Flash, maybe an Adventures of the Fly (a title also created by Jack Kirby) or a Space Adventures (featuring Steve Ditko’s first superhero, Captain Atom).
At the half-priced used comic book store, with the means to buy five whole issues for 25 cents, I might be able to expand my horizons and indulge my taste for a Strange Adventures, a Tales to Astonish, a Gorgo, an Archie’s Mad House with its funny monsters (or even, on some rare occasion, John Stanley’s Little Lulu, providing it featured Witch Hazel or Tubby as the crime-fighting, suspicious, always-in-error Spider).
So sadly, I didn’t risk my dime on that Fantastic Four 2. But when Fantastic Four 3 appeared, with the heroes finally in costume and airborne in a bathtub turned flying saucer, I was certain what they were, snapped it right up, entered the Marvel Age of Comics and never exited.
Looking at the early Marvel art now, I’m struck by its paranoiac quality — all stalking and shadows, fear and anger and angst. Despite the protection afforded by superheroes, Marvel’s world was edgy and uncertain where DC’s was sunlit and secure. Both had their attractions.

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