On History: Big Town #1 Script

By | Tuesday, December 12, 2017 2 comments
For the past couple weeks in my "On History" spot, I've been posting some comic book scripts that I had found floating around in my archives. This week, I've got Steve Englehart's original script for Fantastic Four: Big Town #1 (cover dated December 2000). The basic plot was: what if Reed Richards' and Tony Stark's inventions were given actual social ramifications? Like, if "unstable molecules" were really a thing, how would that impact society beyond just being stretchy fabric for superheroes.

Readers noticed a problem from the first issue, though. Namely, that just before the issue hit stores, Englehart publicly noted that his script had been changed without his consent or even knowledge! Marvel editorial (and I don't recall who specifically) did own up to the changes, citing timing/production issues and they posted Englehart's original script on their site as a sort of mea culpa. (It's since been lost/removed in one of the site redesigns.)

It turns out, though, that part of Englehart's anger at the time came from before that problem even cropped up! Over at his site, Englehart notes...
An almost total disaster.

Conceived as a gift to Marvel - a new franchise with unlimited possibility - it ended up edited by people who couldn't understand it (and it ain't that hard). It was approved as six issues, plotted as six issues, and then cut to four. The first issue was printed with pages out of order and characters dumbed down. The title was changed to FANTASTIC FOUR: BIG TOWN, even though it featured all the major groups. And then #4 had non-sequiturs edited in for no reason anyone's ever been able to explain. (My favorite is a caption, "The very core of the earth," as the Silver Surfer soars into New York.)
The finished product wasn't bad, I didn't think, but certainly not as good as it could have been. Possibly explaining why it's never been collected or reprinted.

In any event, here's Englehart's original script to issue #1 with red highlights noting the portions that were changed.

Fantastic Four: Big Town #1 by Steve Englehart
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Matt K said...

Under the circumstances, Marvel could have at least had the courtesy to credit the series to John Harkness.

I'm not sure if I should laugh or just exclaim, "Rude!" :)