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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 50

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we look at Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s The Galactus Trilogy from Fantastic Four #48-50.


I figured I had to pick something special for Day 50, and one of the most famous #50s of all-time (that was still part of a larger story) is Fantastic Four #50, which is the final part of the classic storyline where the Fantastic Four drive off Galactus from eating Earth, and also resulting in the Silver Surfer becoming a member of the Marvel Universe proper.

Just look at those covers! They are some of the most iconic Fantastic Four covers ever (outside of the cover for #1, IS there a more iconic Jack Kirby Fantastic Four cover than #49? Maybe #10, perhaps #29 – Kirby even homaged #29, maybe #45 or #51? I still pick #49 as my choice).

This storyline works as the epitome of the epic cosmic adventures Stan Lee and Jack Kirby sent the Fantastic Four on often, with wild technology and astonishing stakes (the fate of the entire planet) but at the same time, real human elements, like Reed Richards’ reaction to having to try to save the Earth from doomsday (he doesn’t deal super well with the enormous pressure, grows a beard and even snaps at Sue)…

or the Silver Surfer’s literal fall to Earth….

And one of the most interesting aspects (and also part of what made the Kirby/Lee FF so great) of the story is how #48 contains the ending of the previous arc and #50 has a story AFTER the Galactus story wraps up (and sets up a story for #51!). At the time, Kirby and Lee were coming up with so many ideas that something as cool as the Galactus trilogy, where basically “God” showed up to destroy the Earth, was not even the SOLE story for the three parts of the trilogy!!!

The 50th issue has some stretches of the imagination, but it also has two extremely iconic moments – Reed Richards threatening Galactus with the Ultimate Nullifier…

and Galactus stripping his former herald, the Silver Surfer, of his abilities to roam the galaxy, as punishment for helping to fight for the people of Earth…

And note that these moments were handled as just one of many panels!!

You could argue that this comic had it all – great story, great art, cosmic problems, earthly problems, action – it was the complete package, and it still stands out today, forty-plus years later!


Something I never got about the Watchers: was it ever explained exactly why they watch?

Recently reread FF 1-60ish in the two Marvel omnibi….and I discovered that I can’t help but hear Reed’s voice as being the same as Stephen Colbert. I blame the Venture Brothers for that…but it does lead to frequent hilarity.

@E. Wilson: You should read EARTH X, in where the Watcher gets top billing and much of his role is explained in detail.

The original story behind the Watchers was that they had interfered with other races, giving them advanced technology and whatnot. Then, one of the planets to whom they had given atomic technology wiped themselves out in a nuclear war, and, after that, the Watchers vowed to never interfere in any other races’ affairs ever again, but only to… well, watch them.

Awesome…just awesome. What I love about Lee’s dialog is how finely it balances brilliance and hilarious bombast. And Kirby’s art speaks for itself.

Kirby’s ability to tell a story with pictures, just awesome.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

February 20, 2010 at 10:03 am

One thing I’ve gotta give the Galactus Trilogy is how much of it creative impact survives the dilution of decades of imitation and repetition. For all the Galactus stuff since, Kirby’s work in #48 is still a masterclass in building up a sense of cosmic import.

I mean, the freakin’ sky is on fire for most of FF #48, an image that I’m surprised no one’s recycled since. That’s how you do pseudo-Biblical, apocalyptic imagery in a superhero comic, dammit. (Now there’s a dream project that never happened: Jack Kirby adapts the Revelation of St. John.)

Also, whatever your opinion of Earth/Universe/Paradise X’s quality, virtually every explanation it floats has been discarded as the “why” of the “regular” Marvel Universe, making it largely useless for continuity-wonk questions.

Oh, this is so cool! Marvel really needs to release this storyline as a stand alone trade. Mostly for people of my income rate who can’t afford the Masterworks!

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

February 20, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Marvel has printed the trilogy as a standalone or as cheap floppies a few times in the past, Tom, though the 1992 trade paperback was the most economical of these.

was hoping to see the Galactus trilogy on the list again.f or loved how Stan and jack went all out in it. from the silver surfer learning about humanity from alicia to lbeing earth bond by Galactus in the end. and to Galactus almost wetting himself when he sees Reed with the Ultimate Nulifier. one of Stan and Jacks best works on fantastic four

Thanks for the heads up, Omar, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere. I DO see, though, that it’s available in Essential FF, Vol. 3. Would that be the right way to go?

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

February 20, 2010 at 4:43 pm

The Essential is a good, cheap format, but it’s not in color. If that’s not a dealbreaker, I say go with the Essential.

If color is a must, well…you can find some used and “new” copies of Silver Surfer: The Coming of Galactus online from used booksellers for around $20-25 via Amazon, AbeBooks, and other such places, but that’s a lot to pay for it, and you’d be as well off buying the FF Masterworkds v.4 at that point. Also, it edits the story to include only the Sufer-centric portions of the stry, emanign you lose the pages that wrap up the prior Inhyumans arc and set up the famous story from FF v.1 #51 with the impostor Thing.

There’s also the substandard encore presentation in Marvel’s Greatest Comics #35-37, a 1970s FF reprint book that truncated pages to fit the decade’s lower page counts, which really sucks. And worse, even if you can find them issues of the series seem to get priced as Bronze Age comics do, making them incredibly more expensive than the above options despite their much lower quality, mutilated version of the story And you get horribly reimagined covers as an added demerit.

Right now, it appears the Essentials or the Masterworks are your only real options.

I’ve never had a chance to read this one, unfortunately. The library has a few Essentials, but #3 is not one of them.

Are you sure #49 is an iconic cover? I don’t recall ever seeing it before. #48 is the one I always see.

I’m confused by the first page shown here. How is all this apocolyptic stuff happening on Earth if the Surfer is only now arriving in the outer Solar System? Isn’t he the one who finds the planets for Galactus? That’s how it’s always been explained in later stories.
I was surprised to see the Surfer naked in this story. In everything I’d seen before the Englehart series he always had silver shorts on. I assumed the prudishness of the time demanded that, despite his not being anatomically correct. So if the Comics Code permitted it the first time, why did they insist on adding the shorts later? The shorts always looked stupid.

The best part of this are the panels where the Surfer actually falls, dwindling into the crumpled shape we see in the page you posted – first saw them in Les Daniels’s book as a kid and I can’t shake them. Some of Kirby’s best, to be sure.

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

February 20, 2010 at 8:32 pm

The apocalyptic stuff is actually the Watcher’s failed effort to cloak the Earth and make it look, er, inedible.

@ Tom- Essential FF 3 may be the best bang-for-your-buck comics reprint collection in existence. Definitely worth getting- and for more than just the Galactus trilogy.

I found that Kirby doesn’t work for me in Essential format. I can still get a charge out of Ditko’s Spider-Man in B&W, but Kirby’s uncoloured stuff – at least on FF/Thor – seems to lose some of its power and vitality.

I love the Essentials, mostly when you get to the Inhumans’ introduction and you start getting that great Joe Sinnott inking, it really makes the art pop. The other versions are fine too, but for the money you just can’t beat the Essentials.

The Fourth World stuff DC did back in the ’90’s with the gray tones bother me much more than just good old black and white Kirby.

IMHO, the definition of “overrated”. The Galactus Trilogy kicks all kinds of ass, but there are better Lee/Kirby FF stories. For instance “This Man, This Monster” and anything with Doom or The Inhumans.

@ Tom: There’s a British “pocketbook”, published by Panini Publishing a couple of years ago, that reprints FF #44-51, all in full colour, and you should be able to pick a copy up for around five bucks online (We’ve had a whole load of these pocketbooks over here, from the Lee & Kirby FF, to X-Men from Giant-Size #1 onwards, to classic 60s/70s Spidey).

I’ve always loved that panel in which Reed shoves the Ultimate Nullifier in Galactus’ mug, and he seems to be jumping backwards. “How ya like us now, Big G?”

To E. Wilson: If I remember correctly, the explanation for why the Watchers _watch_, as opposed to simply not interfering with other races (which explanation OTL gives and was revealed in Stan’s first “Tales of the Watcher”), appeared in an issue of “Quasar” written by Mark Gruenwald, featuring a group of Watchers besieged by a memetic virus (as well as the Stranger).

In it, Quasar is told that the information the Watchers gather is to be transmitted to the universe which follows ours, so that ours (or the Marvel Universe, more accurately) will be remembered, and so that the beings of the next one don’t have to start from scratch. I’m willing to stand correction on the exact details as I don’t have the actual issue to hand, but I did read it a few months ago, and am pretty sure that it involves passing on some sort of transuniversal legacy.

> the information the Watchers gather is to be transmitted to the universe which follows ours, so that ours (or the Marvel Universe, more accurately) will be remembered, and so that the beings of the next one don’t have to start from scratch.

I think that new universe began in the 1970s. Since then all these classic stories have been recycled, homaged, re-imagined, ripped off, etc. so many times.

I first read this epic in the British black and white Marvels in September and October 1974.Later I did acquire the originals,unfortunately now long gone,having sold them over 30 years ago.

Of course I was bowled over by Lee and Kirby’s brilliance back then.Did it make such an impression on my mind,or is the writing and art still still so organic and potent after first reading it nearly 40 years ago,that I still can’t help being drawn to it?The fact that after so much innovation since being published nearly 50 years ago,it’s light still shines,even against the likes of a one-man-band like Jim Stalin and Swamp Thing in the 1970s and the later sophisticated Watchmen,proves the power held by these two that has survived imitation.

The Watcher also remains one of the great characters created with the so-called genre of comics,without actually doing anything!It was remarkable how Lee[and Kirby?]managed to circumvent the Watcher’s sacred oath without really breaking it.Anyway somebody had to save the Earth from Galactus,and else could do it,with a little help from his friends of course?Sometimes you have to break a few rules for necessity if there’s no other way,provided a few loopholes exist to slip through!

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