Marvel Comics traces its history to just before World War II, but its modern era, the one that spawned almost all of the heroes in its popular series of superhero movies, began in late 1961 with the release of the Fantastic Four.
They apparently realized they had started something special, because on the cover of Fantastic Four #3 was a blurb, “The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World!!” From issue #4 onward, the top of the cover was emblazoned with the more concise “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”
For a time, it really was.
For an obscure publisher to put such claim in such a prominent spot was a bold and cheeky act, but wouldn’t you know, the creators took it upon themselves to make it so. In those early days, it was a darn good comic book, but “the greatest”? Maybe, maybe not. Within four or five years, though, holy cow!
The epic scope of the Marvel superhero movies can trace its origins to those Fantastic Four stories of the mid-1960s, a scope that embraced the wide vistas of outer space and cosmic villains. Hidden lands, planet-eating demi-gods, galaxy-spanning adventures, alternate realities in parallel dimensions, they all were there from the start.
The X-Men and Avengers have supplanted the Fantastic Four in prominence in the Marvel universe of heroic adventure, in part because the movie makers have not been able to interpret the F.F. on film as well as those other characters. But make no mistake, Reed and Sue Richards, Johnny Storm and Benjamin J. Grimm are the essential center of it all. If the Fantastic Four had not succeeded, none of the rest would have existed — Tony Stark, Peter Parker, Professor X and company, Thor, the revived Captain America, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, none of it.
They aimed high because the future depended on it — They proclaimed themselves the world’s greatest and then set out to be worthy of the title. It’s a good suggestion for all of us who aim to create: Act as if you’re the best, and you just might grow the idea into reality.
My Fantastic Four and Spider-Man memories travel side by side, although Spider-Man is now more of a household name. If you only had 25 cents a month to spend on comic books, it had to go to those two.
And 12 cents each for THOSE stories? Best bargain ever.