The Marvel Method was created out of necessity. In the early 1960s, Marvel was small, in truth, it was really Stan Lee and a bunch of freelance artists. Stan was also the editor and writer for pretty much everything. Hence, the aforementioned Marvel Method. That method was in short: 1. Plot (sometimes written, often not, as Stan would tell the artists the basic plot, the more comfortable the artist became on the book the more general the plotting became), 2. Art (here is where the story really came to be), 3. Dialogue (where Stan could sort of reclaim the story and guide it, working from both his original plot intentions and going where the art now took him).
The two top artists at Marvel were the gritty Jack Kirby and the funky Steve Ditko. At Retro Reviews we all know Jack really well at this point, however, we haven’t met Steve Ditko. Steve is the ultimate enigma in all of comics. His art was strange, even bizarre, and rarely heroic. Don Heck said in Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics, “Stan wanted Kirby to be Kirby, Ditko to be Ditko… and everyone else to be Kirby.” With all that, we take a look at Fantastic Four no. 13!
Why all that Ditko talk? Well, if you look, the art here is just a bit different, darker, weirder, and it just happens to be inked by Ditko. The art in this issue is firmly Kirby, but with the tweak of a finish from Ditko creates a wonderful hybrid of the two most definitive Marvel artists EVER.
The opening is quite a hook. There’s been an explosion! Reed is missing! The drama quickly diminishes as Reed was working on a goofy new stretch suit. It’s sort of like a stretched out oven mitt or something.
The story then really begins, and it’s actually a pretty good one. Reed is also working on a rocket, he has more projects going at once than I do (that joke is mostly for my wife). Reed’s goal with the rocket? To beat the Reds to space, of course! Reed wants to go alone, to protect the team (the team he already exposed to dangerous cosmic rays and countless other potentially deadly situations), however, the team won’t hear it. The Thing puts the issue to rest.
The FF and the Reds, in the form of Ivan Kragoff and his three apes, race into space in rival rockets. Kragoff, still not quite yet the Red Ghost promised on the cover, intentionally built his shuttle without shields. The result is a Fantastic Four-like bombardment of cosmic rays. And yes, the apes get powers. One is strong, one can transform into anything it wants, and the other is Magneto. In space, Johnny goes to check out Kragoff’s ship, but the apes pummel him.
On the moon, the apes then wallop a lagging Thing. The Red Ghost finally becomes the Red Ghost when he reveals his power, he can make himself invisible! He, therefore, calls himself a Ghost, but really, he’s just Sue.
Then, the Watcher!
Over eons of time, The Watchers only watched, until now. Now that the space race has brought warring mankind to the moon, the Watcher must intervene… sort of. The Watcher says they’ll likely destroy themselves and Earth, so on the moon, only the FF and Red Ghost and the three apes will battle.
Reed is optimistic about potentially working with Kragoff, noting they reached the moon and waxing philosophical about human potential. Ben is a realist. Time for a fight.
The fight goes as one would expect a Fantastic Four fight to go. The team battles, Sue is captured, promptly escapes and sneaks up on the bad guy. The team finds the Red Ghost, however, it is the Watcher who does him in.
The Watcher decides to leave the moon, now that mankind has reached it, he will watch from farther out in the solar system. In yet another EC like ending, the team leaves Kragoff to his apes…
Josiah Golojuh is a writer, sometimes he writes jokes here, sometimes he forgets (find his collection of short stories here), he’s also a YouTube commentator (where, among other things, he does things similar to these Retro Reviews).