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A New Fantastic Voyage, Part 1

The House of Ideas sells itself cheap when the Fantastic Four offers up a 9-cent adventure

By Arnold T. Blumberg     August 17, 2002


Your first look at FANTASTIC FOUR #60
© 2002 Marvel Comics
First the Batman was featured in a 10 cent comic book intended to entice lapsed readers and new fans alike to return to the DC fold, and now Marvel has upped the ante by pricing FANTASTIC FOUR #60 - the "World's Cheapest Comic Magazine" - at a miraculous 9 cents a copy! This issue will also see the debut of new creative team Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, and Karl Kesel. While Waid has tackled some pretty big projects in both superhero universes, he was nevertheless daunted by the prospect of taking on Marvel's First Family. Who wouldn't be?

"Are you kidding?" says Waid. "It's only the most imaginative comic series ever. 'Daunting' doesn't cover it. But I'm trying to stick to [FF co-creator Jack] Kirby's advice: 'Do what you do and do it well.' Rather than ape [FF creators Stan Lee and Kirby], let's go forward - with imagination."

Wieringo echoes Waid's sentiments.

"That's the spirit in which they were created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee for the entire time they worked on the FF, and everything since then has been an attempt by writers and artists to capture that same magic," says Wieringo. "My intention is to just draw the Fantastic Four as I would do them. I'm not looking to channel Jack Kirby's spirit or anything. I'm nowhere in his league, so the most I can do is my best with my own take on the characters and their world."

In fact, Waid balked at tampering with those characters in any significant way - they're fine just the way they are.

Marvel Comics' FANTASTIC FOUR

"There's not a damn thing wrong with any of the main characters that needs 'fixing,'" says Waid. "What I did want to change was the sense that the FF is family in a 1950s sitcom sense, when they need to be a family in a 21st century sense. There's room for a little more friction and a little less cuteness - a little more raw-nerve emotion, both positive and negative. For example, if Ben and Johnny are going to fight and bicker, and they should, then it's time I gave them a really good, contemporary reason - which you'll see in the months to come."

Wieringo, like Waid, doesn't intend to change much but will add his own spin to the existing visual designs.

"The looks of the characters are classic," says Wieringo, "and like Spider-Man and Superman, you don't mess with perfection. The most I've done is give a modern sensibility to Sue and Johnny's hairstyles. That's as far as I'm willing to take it - and probably as far as Marvel would be willing to let me take it. My intention is to just draw the Fantastic Four as I would do them. I'm not looking to channel Jack Kirby's spirit or anything. I'm nowhere in his league, so the most I can do is my best with my own take on the characters and their world."

Obviously, Waid does want to update some of the more stilted aspects of the series, picking up on a general sense that the FF has lost relevance over the years and dropped in popularity as a result. Part of the problem, according to Waid, is a slavish devotion to the title's origins that prevents any progress in its development.

"There's no reason it can't be a flagship series, not with the right amount of imagination and love poured into it," says Waid. "But it's lost a lot of relevance. With all due respect to those creators who have come since Lee and Kirby, many of whom have produced stories better than anything I'll ever be a part of, I have never seen a comic series so eternally reverential to 1967. There's really nothing surprising about these characters anymore, so the trick is to make them exciting and vital. We do that by emphasizing personality traits and personality conflicts that we've not seen before."

Next time, Waid and Wieringo talk details about their plans for the future of Marvel's First Family. Waid reflects on his working relationship with Wieringo and his plans for individual members of the FF, while Wieringo remarks on his place in the industry and the challenge of illustrating one of the great iconic comic book teams of all time.

TO BE CONTINUED

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