Fantastic Four No.1 Panel by Panel

Comparing Panel by Panel with Maximum FF suggests the change in the way that the November 1961 first issue of Fantastic Four seems to be viewed (at least by Marvel).

In 2005, Walter Mosley’s presentation of the issue is as an art object: something that “crystallized an art form that has had an impact on our culture”. Mosley delights in Kirby’s “dynamic motion within a single frame” and the way in which the narrative draws a reader into its fictional world which, he says, expressed the world view of a younger generation and “put words to our suspicions”.

Chip Kidd’s recent presentation is of the issue as historical artifact. Instead of the clean, Pop Art-inspired presentation of the panels in Maximum FF, Panel by Panel presents blown-up images from a photographed copy of the first issue. Kidd presents “vintage comics the way they looked back in the day” and revels in the “glorious Ben-Day dots, the warm texture of the ink-soaked cheap newsprint, the ham-fisted off-register printing.” (I’m sure that the dirty, yellowing colour of the pages and the slightly faded colours wasn’t how the comics looked “back in the day” , though.)

Perhaps this difference speaks to the change in how comics like this are consumed nowadays. Clearly, the growing gap between publication and now means that they are estranged from this generation of youngsters. I first read FF #1 when it was less than 20 years old. The Cold War early Sixties it presents still lingered. Today, Marvel’s presentation of this world is primarily through its movies which are less dazzling and lurid, more shiny and slick. Today we watch – quite passively – the Marvel movies. In the past we participated in the adventures, joining the heroes in their adventures.