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Silver Age September – The Galactus Trilogy

After a month of spotlighting the strange (if endearingly strange) history of comic books (and especially the Silver Age), I think it is worthwhile to show the comic books of the Silver Age that are simply great stories period. Here is an archive of all the Silver Age comics features so far!

I’ve been sticking to “done-in-one” issues for the most part, but to be honest, doing so limits the Marvel options a bit, as Stan Lee sure loved him his multi-issue stories, and it seems a bit silly to avoid some of the best Silver Age stories just because they were in more than one issues, so I figure if I’m going to start featuring multi-issue Silver Age stories, I have to start with one of the most famous Silver Age arcs period, the Galactus Trilogy from Fantastic Four #48-50, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott!

Enjoy!

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!

26 Comments

One of the best!!!

Also, I never noticed it before… but in the third panel on the fifth page you posted, the G on Galactus’ chest ends up looking more like a C… and a circle with a thick letter C inside that opens on an upper right angle is exactly how Chris Bachalo signs his name nowadays!

I’ve always liked the way that #48 builds and builds, using apocalyptic imagery to really sell the significance and the menace of Galactus. The sky as a sea of fire and New Yorkers rioting in the streets are images that are still resonant today; when Stan (according to legend) told Jack ” the FF fight God,” Jack went to mythic imagery…and crystallized a pattern he’d follow for the rest of his career in comics.

This is, yes, still great.

Though one of the story’s “cute” features which I always like is the fact that it’s scarcely a trilogy; it’s certainly less a three-issue story than a one-and-two-half-issues story. Part one opened up in the climactic scene of the previous story, and part three ends halfway through.

What’s great about this, aside from how “quaint” it seems nowadays, is that I think you can look at this and see the creators holding nothing back. They were just pouring ideas into the comic, and if the resulting stories spilled over into another issue, they did; if they finished one story halfway through an issue they started right in with their next idea rather than padding things out.

Respect that.

nice every time i see the story talked about still gives me chills not to mention how jack and stan made the silver surfer learn what its like to part ot humanity. one of the times jack and stan were really letting their creativity lose with out restraints

The Crazed Spruce

September 8, 2011 at 7:03 am

Definitely one of the greatest stories ever written.

The whole beauty of the Ultimate Nullifier was that the most destructive weapon in the universe fit in the palm of the hand. I remember when the utterly horrible “Marvel Action Hour” cartoons came out, and I was eagerly waiting for the Galactus episodes. The most disappointing part of an otherwise terrible show was that their version of the Ultimate Nullifier was a big-ass shoulder-mounted cannon, instead of a tiny device about the size of a cell phone. Completely ruined the show for me.

“I’ve never seen Reed so grim… so resolute… so unshaven.”

Was this the first appearance of the “things must be really bad because Reed stopped shaving” trope?

Glad to see the Watcher’s lost a lot a weight since then. He looks good these days.

I’ve been sticking to “done-in-one” issues for the most part, but to be honest, doing so limits the Marvel options a bit, as Stan Lee sure loved him his multi-issue stories, and it seems a bit silly to avoid some of the best Silver Age stories just because they were in more than one issues,

I’m a huge Silver Age Marvel fan, but I actually wouldn’t mind if Marvel entries were limited because we hear about Silver Age Marvel greatness all the time, the stories are practically legendary. Spider-Man’s Master Planner saga, the Kirby-Lee-Sinnott FF sagas, Steranko Nick Fury, certain arcs during Roy Thomas’s runs on Avengers and X-Men…they’re good but I see them discussed all over the blogosphere ad nauseum.

Meanwhile Silver Age DC more often gets celebrated more for its goofiness and insanity, similar to Ed Wood movies. So it’s more of a revelation to me, and I imagine others as well, when you show us lesser-discussed but really great Silver Age DC stuff like the Death of Superman and the Return to Krypton stories you just showcased.

I can’t speak for anyone else, so I may be in the extreme minority, but if you were to limit your focus on Marvel and do more about DC and even lesser celebrated companies like Dell, Charlton, etc, I think it would be awesome in terms of shedding like on some underrated gems.

Back to this entry though, has the changing appearance of the Watcher ever been discussed in-story? Is it deliberate that the Watcher looks subtly different in every appearance Kirby drew, or was he just feeling out the Watcher’s final look similar to how it took him time to settle on the Thing’s eventual appearance?

I love that the Thing is taking a bath in the bathroom while Reed shaves. And I don’t mean that in a snarky, “how goofy!” way. I honestly find it awesome. It really reinforces that family vibe visually in a few panels without beating you over the head with it. The two of them sharing the bathroom while a third busts in is truly like a family. It’s true show-don’t-tell storytelling.

T,

Yes, the Watcher’s varied appearances were discussed in-story at least once. I believe that Mark Gruenwald tried to rationalize this at one point, though I recall his explanation as being rather unconvincing. (I figure just write it off to artistic license, but bless Gru’s heart, he never saw a possible continuity wrinkle he didn’t want to iron out.)

My favorite part of this story is when the the Watcher takes the Torch to get the Ultimate Nullifier. He has to avoid “dazzling bands of unlife,” and he sees so much crazy stuff that his mind can’t process it. Kirby’s art really sold the cosmic weirdness.

I agree with T. that I wouldn’t mind not having Marvel discussed that much in this group because in many ways that is covered already so well.
But yes, FF of this period is generally one of the best scifi comics ever and this story is a high point in Himalayas.

Eh, the story’s overrated. Too many idiotic (even for Silver Age) things happen. The Watcher, whose entire purpose is to er, “watch” does everything but. The Surfer just happens to fall into Alicia’s apartment. Galactus is defeated by a cardboard gun, etc. The very next issue (“This Man…”) is better.

The art is quite nice. However, it must be noted that this has as much to do w/ Sinnot’s inks as it does with Kirby’s pencils. Just check out the (I believe Colletta) inked issues leading up to this. Kirby’s art looks as if he did it on the bus on the way to work.

I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve always preferred Ditko over Kirby, Feldstein over Kurtzman.

I think “This Man, This Monster” is an excellent story, but I believe it’s a tough sell to suggest that it bests the Galactus Trilogy in terms of having fewer “idiotic” plot elements. I mean, should we start listing them…? :-)

I know I’m in the minority, but I’ve always preferred Ditko over Kirby, Feldstein over Kurtzman.

+1 !

Two of my favorite aspects:

Somebody else saves our heroes and our world. We couldn’t do it! Humans are simply puny pets, toys to the cosmic beings in these stories.

And:

“PUBLISHER CALLS GALACTUS HOAX”

Good idea for a feature!

Is this only gonna be “straight” superhero-ish stuff?

If so, I’m not sure there’s that much great work that isn’t kind of famous – And it’s gonna be really Marvel-heavy.

I shouldn’t take the bait, but…

The Watcher, whose entire purpose is to er, “watch” does everything but.

Honestly, that was sort of the point of the Watcher. He’s bound by oath to be a noninterventionist, but meeting the FF gives him a different purpose — morality in place of amorality. After his first appearance, it’s made very clear that he supports the Fantastic Four and bends the rules to help them. He does this in every Lee/Kirby FF appearance, in fact. That is not a one-off error, a goof of the month, or a mistake. It’s the thematic point of the character’s appearances and actions.

The Surfer just happens to fall into Alicia’s apartment.

I’ll grant that it is a contrived coincidence, but one contrived coincidence in three otherwise clever and innovative issues of story is well below my threshold. Not yours, I suppose.

Galactus is defeated by a cardboard gun, etc.

Nothing remotely resembling this actually occurs in the story. Are you sure you aren’t confusing it with something else?

Just read this, and it is awesome.

I don’t know, T.

I see your point, I know the classic Marvel comics inside out. But it’s always possible that some younger fans will actually not be familiar with those.

Yep, that is it, exactly.

Of what import are brief, nameless lives… to Galactus?

Still one of the greatest lines in contemporary American literature.

I’ll never get over how imaginative the Silver Surfer is. He flies through space on a surf board. This kind of thing is why comics are awesome.

The way he describes his space-riding in these issues is also great. I also really like his backstory, but that comes later. I wonder if this feature will spotlight some issues of his solo series. I know that it has its goofy moments (as we’ve seen in earlier features) but I’m really fond of Silver Surfer #1 and his origin.

Marvel gets cosmic and comic books are forever changed!

I love this story when I read it aged 11 – it was the first time they showed a villian who was above good & evil. Absolutely stunning ideas & perfect execution.
Kirby had grandeur & Ditko had humanity – both excelled when the stories played to their strengths. I love the early FF & Spideys – but if I had to chose, it’d be Ditko’s Spidey. The inventiveness was off the scale, villian after classic villian, brilliant story after brilliant story and the perfect fusion of Ditko’s art and Stan’s wit; no wonder Tom Breevort calls Ditko’s run The Bible.
Back to FF – I also love the follow-up story later on when Doom steals the Surfer’s power – awesome!

Agree with a couple of above people let’s see some non-Marvel love – there must be loads out there.

….first read this storyline when it was reprinted in Marvel’s old treasury edition series. The scale of the action was considerably heightened by the sheer size of the book, making the art seem larger than life. The only omission, in issue 50, was the part of the story where Johnny goes off to college and meets Wyatt Wingfoot. It really did nothing at all.

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