Marvel in the 1960s brought many minor revolutionary changes to comics – among them, the credits. For years artists didn’t get credit, or credit was given to someone like Walt Disney who had nothing to do with the comics but attaching his name, implying he wrote and drew it, sold comics. Sometimes artists would get credit, signing their name, but often editors removed those. Over the first several issues of Fantastic Four, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby simply signed their names. As the comic progressed Stan wanted to give more credit to the team that made the comic, including the inker and the letterer. These would eventually become, like Stan himself, much more garish and flamboyant.
Kirby’s later bitterness came out as he was working on the comic Destroyer Duck, to help raise money for Steve Gerber’s legal battle with Marvel. Jack grew to consider Stan’s editorial control and his use of the credits as a way to steal credit from Jack. He said of the 60s, “I wrote them all… I never wrote the credits. Let’s put it that way, all right? I would never call myself ‘Jolly Jack.’ I would never say the books were written by Lee. I did a mess of things.” (From Sean Howe’s must-read history of Marvel).
Regardless of Kirby’s take on Lee taking the credit, Lee changed the game for the better. By crediting the creators it would assure creators wouldn’t be jilted and taken advantage of as Kirby had been (not by Lee, but with “corporate” Marvel). With all that, Hulk’s gotta smash, so let’s take a look at Fantastic Four number 12.
The interior splash is gorgeous and heavily detailed. Kirby was known for his speed and at times, his character models suffered. However, he knew the business, covers and splash pages sold comics and this one has sold me!
Thing and a now short-haired Alicia are leaving the symphony, attempting to remain hidden among the crowd. Then an elite Hulk hunting military unit shows up, mistaking Thing for Hulk… so maybe not so elite after all.
After the misunderstanding, back at the Baxter Building, General Ross asks the rest of the team to help find the Hulk. A quick interesting note, the team doesn’t seem to believe the Hulk is real. To be fair, Johnny Storm does read Hulk comics, so it must be the stuff of funny books. Reed shares his hypothetical plan, and Ross dismisses Sue as useless other than “keeping morale up.” This moment seems weird, however, Stan and Jack will show you why they’re awesome and why it’s here.
The team gears up and shows Ross the awesome new Fantastic-Car! It is no longer a silly looking boat, but a spectacular futuristic rocket. Goodbye silly boat and hello rocket sled!
Ross is hellbent on getting the Hulk as Hulk broke some kind of tank or cannon. Others disagree, saying, nope, it wasn’t the Hulk, it was a mystery man called The Wrecker. Among those naysayers, Rick Jones (who is annoyed by the showboat Human Torch) and Bruce Banner (totally not the Hulk…weird how he’s always around).
There is lots of planning and science in this issue. I don’t mean that as an insult, this issue is a great example of a slow build to a conclusion. It has as many small twists and turns you can have in a single issue of a comic book.
Karl Kort, a random bald dude that nobody met before today, turns out to be a secret Red! Kort (a.k.a. the afore-mentioned Wrecker) takes Rick. Bruce is forced to become the Hulk to drive the FF away, per the Wrecker’s request. The transformation is interesting as Banner uses a device he built to make himself into the Hulk.
For the first of many classic battles – the Thing and Hulk throwdown. Well, only a handful of them are classic, but this is certainly the first.
The rest of the team joins the battle and Hulk uses a “tornado spin” to escape Reed’s hold. Some of the powers displayed in the early 60s were quite goofy, case in point, tornado Hulk.
Regardless of the silly escape, it comes down to the Thing and Hulk. An underground Ray blasts the Hulk and puts him out of commission. Tracking down the source of the Ray, Thing finds the Red Wrecker, Karl Kort. In the end, redemption for Sue. Remember at the beginning, she was dismissed as nothing but moral support. She saves Thing and the day.
See you next issue, where you’ll meet “The Red Ghost!”