ITEM! Well Fearless Ones, we talked about the history of Spidey’s logo, so it seemed only fair to give Marvel’s First Family the same frankly featured foray into frantic fandom! Simple, you say? After all, wasn’t the Fantastic Four logo simply a reuse of the Amazing Adult Fantasy font? True, true... but there’s much more to tell regarding the 3-4 issue evolution of the FF from un-costumed anonymous adventurers into properly attired super heroes!
Our story starts with a tragic twist. Through a set of decidedly disastrous distribution decisions (better covered in a future blog, but here's some background) Mighty Marvel’s only access to newsstands throughout most of the 1960s was also our primary competition — DC Comics! The bend-over Brand Echh bargain that was brokered went something like this: DC would distribute Marvel’s books, but we could only publish eight titles per month and we were “encouraged” not to publish books that competed directly with DC’s... namely superhero books! Thus, we published mainly monster-of-the-month books along with a handful of westerns and glamor girl comics. When it came time to break the mold and create the Fantastic Four, Yours Truly thought it prudent to position the FF as closely to being just another monster book as perceptually possible. FF’s #1 and #2 therefore featured typical Marvel Monsters on the covers, and our heroes looked about as much like super heroes as Aunt May’s bridge club. Even so, when the books came out we still held our collective breaths waiting for a backlash from the folks at National, and what we finally heard was... absolutely nothing. Not a peep came from our Distinguished Competition.
So by FF #3 your Uncle Stanley was starting to feel a little froggy. I decided to make the Cosmic Quartet over into proper superheroes. That meant costumes, a high-tech headquarters, secret identities... the whole schmeel. Yes, pilgrims, you read that sentence correctly. Jack and I still hadn’t hit on the genre-defying idea of the FF having public identities and becoming media darlings. And so, in Jolly Jack’s original art for FF #3, Sue designs costumes for the team that include masks (see assorted before-and-after pics)! What’s more, the Thing was covered from head-to-toe so as to completely disguise his scaly orange appearance.
As he so often did, King Kirby was the one that actually caused your Uncle Stan to stop and rethink the concept a little. For starters, Jack made their “hideout” the top five stories of a New York skyscraper, complete with it’s own ICBM! It’d be mighty hard for the FF to conceal their real identities if they were launching missiles and pogo planes every other ish! So much for the secret HQ and secret identities! So with a little Sol Brodsky production magic — off came the masks!
And while we were changing things, the Smilin’ One wasn’t too crazy about Jack’s simplified “FF” chest symbol. It just didn’t seem heroic enough. I know, I know... Jolly Jack co-created half the Marvel universe and all of everything cool in it. But let me tell you something he didn’t create... the extruded “4” chest symbol for the FF. Your favorite Silver Age editor - writer - art director -bon vivant noodled out the famous-four symbol on the back of one of Jack’s FF pages (see pic at right).
The last change was to have Jack re-do the cover art to FF #3 (see the original version above). Out went the feature creature and in went the Fantasticared and costumed goodness! And that’s how the Lee-Kirby team finally birthed “The Greatest Comic Magazine in the World!” Hyperbole, thy name is Marvel!