Unless you were living under a rock in the 1940s, you’ll know Namor, but if you aren’t living under a rock you probably aren’t reading this blog, so I can’t judge.
Namor the Sub-Mariner was one of the original Marvel characters, alongside the likes of Captain America and the Human Torch (no, not our Human Torch, a different one that’s a robot whose parts and brain patterns, alongside those of future actor/scientist-villain-turned-hero Wonder Man, were used to build android Avenger Vision – you know what, forget I said anything) back when they were Timely Comics. Namor was the king of undersea empire Atlantis, and frequently came into conflict with both sides of the second World War. He had a few run-ins with the Human Torch and a couple of team-ups with Captain America and the other World War II-era heroes, then faded away until a brief resurgence in the 1950s. There were even hopes and plans for a live-action television series. I kinda want to track down those stories just to see what they were like; I assume he was fighting commies and the like. But he’d been gone from comics for about 7 years in 1962. The company had changed names twice since he was created.
Who cares? Well, he’s back!
May of 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
Note they’ve finalized the “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” slogan. Also, there are notes in the margins throughout this issue about “What is the Hulk?” “Who is the Hulk??” and “The Hulk is Coming!” A little guerrilla house marketing for you to chew on.
Trigger warning: there is a lot of ridiculousness in this issue.
So, back in the ’60s, the comics industry was very different in terms of distribution, obviously. It took months for the publishers to get back any real information on how much a book was selling. They would have no idea that a series was successful until the letters and sales figures rolled in and would just have to tentatively keep publishing until they got confirmation of their hopes or fears.
Well, I think Fantastic Four Issue 3 marked the post-sales figures version of the book. A lot of stuff comes together with this issue.
March of 1962, still Stan and Jack.
The cover alone marks such a drastic difference for the book. Costumes! Gadgets! The lettering for the title is still the same (solid choice there), but they’ve now appended the first-draft version of the “Greatest Comics Magazine” boast. Johnny gets a big visual upgrade to the lined version that will become the definitive version of him for at least a couple decades. Also, the price went up by 2 cents!
Who is the mysterious Miracle Man? And what moment of this issue elicited a literal laugh out loud moment from yours truly?
[UPDATE - I wrote this a few years ago for fun and I've always wanted to revisit this. I still have this CD and I'd love to get around to continue reading. So I'm re-posting this, with a few updates (and I had to re-grab the images after a couple of server moves). My original evaluation was a little harsher than it needed to be, I think, and I added a little more history and analysis to it. I think I'm going to continue this, maybe one a week, unless people just hate it. I think it'll be fun! Enjoy!]
A while back, I nabbed this from a local comic shop out of a clearance bin for practically nothing (it’s $50 holy shit now it’s like $130 there on Amazon, I got it for maybe five or six dollars). It’s an incredible deal, a collection of nearly every issue of Fantastic Four and The Silver Surfer up to just a few years ago.
It’s hard to argue against the Fantastic Four’s boast of being “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” It’s high concept science fiction that perfectly represents the attitudes of the ’60s, and the book revolutionized superhero books at the time. It’s likely the superhero would have faded out long before now if not for Reed’s ill-conceived plan to take his girlfriend into space and get laid beat the Russians into space.
I personally have been reading FF pretty regularly since the Waid/Wieringo run, around 2002, and the foursome has become some of my favorite in comics. As I’m reading this first issue (November, 1961), a lot of things jump out at me, and I was having too much fun not to share. To the jump!
A bit of the old non-genre today! You should head over to Every Day Fiction for an excellent reading of “Monologues” by the (still) incomparable Folly Blaine. (It is entirely possible that I just copy-pasted my last post and changed up the links.) Previous link with a little behind-the-scenes if you missed it before.
I was worried this one wouldn’t work well in audio, but Folly pulls it off, as per standard operating procedure. Any flaws in the work are my own.
Side note: hearing your story read aloud, even by someone else, is exactly like hearing your own voice on an answering machine and is super weird and mildly embarrassing.
In other news – we are about a month or so out from the publication of the next volume of Big Pulp, in which my “Mercier’s Flight” will appear. I’m excited!
Also, I have…I think two stories out looking for homes right now. Hope to have more good news for you guys soon.
Also you should go see Guardians of the Galaxy because it’s great.
That is all.
No yeah, that’s it.
Wait, oh! I’ve started using Scrivener lately, as a replacement for Word, and it is pretty damned sweet. It is entirely possible that I have put together a project labeled “Chaykin - novel”.
Trivia on this story: this was the last story I wrote before my daughter was born, just a couple weeks prior, written as a story I put into our Christmas cards that year (because obviously I wasn’t busy enough with a baby about to be born). Later (much later, because I had to wait for the season to roll around again), I polished it a bit and sent it in for publication. It’s a fun story, and one that marks the beginning of my somewhat more radical political storytelling voice that would continue in stories like “It Could Be Us” and “For the Empire.”
Way back in 2008, a handful of you may have read the first story I ever sold, “Shades of Red”, in the (web)pages of the sadly defunct A Thousand Faces. It was this big superhero epic that was probably too much story for the 8 or 10 thousand words I crammed it into, but that’s neither here nor there.
One of the characters was Asta, a private detective who happened to be an android. I didn’t really get into his origin much (maybe a hint or two) in the story, but I had it in my head. There are some drafts in my laptop somewhere of his story, a noir detective story featuring Asta’s first case, which was solving the murder of his own creator. Off the top of my head, I remember a disgraced former cop with whom he teams up, a lesbian black widow character, and a climax in which Asta has to battle a giant robot. Set in 1930s Chicago.
Anyway, like a year later Penny Arcade came out with Automata, which is extraordinarily similar. I think there are significant differences (my world isn’t flush with robots, for example, so Asta doesn’t face the animosity Carl does – however, in my story, his human detective pal is Jewish and that was going to be a thing), so I guess if I wanted to every blow the dust off Asta and get his motors firing again I could.
There’s been a resurgence in this sort of pulp sensibility over the past few years, so maybe it’s something I could finish and sell. Still, seeing such a similar concept done so well by Mike and Jerry pretty well eroded my desires to do so.
Anyway, I just happened to come across a link to Automata and it reminded me of all this. Carry on.
Deep, jagged scratches in the pavement. A little blood. There was more police tape than evidence.
“What do you think?” Finley asked, gesturing at the grooves. They were clustered together, overlapping, like someone took a construction digger to the street but gave up when it turned out to be more work than they thought. Five or six feet long, and nearly as wide. Shain ran a gloved finger down the shallow trenches, pebbles scattering before her hand reached them.
“Claws,” she said. “Something big. Made of metal.”
“We didn’t find anything nearby.”
“No body, either?”
She nodded. “It took the victim. We’ve got a kidnapping here. If it were a murder they’d just let the golem collapse after the kill.”
I have a photo and a blurb I wrote about my commute up over at the esteemed Guardian. Check it out!
In other news, the writer’s group critique of my latest story went really well. I have a bit of work to do to polish it up, but I’m looking forward to you guys getting to read this one. It’s a lot of fun.
Other thing I learned from the meeting? Apparently lady-on-dinosaur erotica is a thing that exists. I will not link to any of it for fear of ruining your fragile, delicate minds, and can only recommend that you heed my advice not to look it up. Now it’s on you if you decide to look up “Taken by the Pterodactyl” on Amazon. Perhaps it was naive of me not to assume long ago that it existOH god, oh god, there’s a “Taken by the Minotaur” someone please kill me.
On Wednesday nights I seek out the solitude of my favorite local hit-or-miss-coffee-but-good-wifi-and-plenty-of-wall-outlets joint, and there I toil at this writing business. Of late there has been a group of Magic the Gathering players squatting at one of the tables near the front. This is offensive to me, as I am clearly several levels above them on the unwritten but universally understood hierarchy of nerds. Still, I push past their “tapping” and cries of “land!” or whatever and work. It is thankless work, but I do this for you, my gentle readers. Why they can’t play a proper game like HeroClix or Star Trek Attack Wing is beyond me.
Also, if the coffee is bad that night the beer is exceptionally cheap.
I finished up a rough draft of a new story last night. It is good, and fun, and involves sex with a beautiful alien space man. It’s about 1,200 words or so at the moment, so I’ll need to decide if I can whittle it down to 1k for flash or expand it a bit for short-story size. I will say that when I go back to trim things I keep adding more, so we’ll see.
While I was out I stopped by the greatest used bookstore in north Texas just down the street and nabbed these for a buck. If you ever think you’re writing something too weird or crazy for a broad audience, just remember someone probably got there first, they probably won a Hugo or something for it, and don’t worry about it so much.