Adams on the FF

By | Tuesday, September 08, 2020 Leave a Comment
Fantastic Four: Antithesis #1
I have to believe that whenever Marvel had some initial discussions with Neal Adams about what would eventually become Fantastic Four: Antithesis, everyone at Marvel said, "Neal Adams? Hell, yeah! Whatever he wants to work on!" I totally get that. The man is a wicked talented artist, and has been for decades. And looking through Antithesis #1, it's easy to see he hasn't lost any of that ability over the years!

That being said, though, I don't think he should work on the Fantastic Four. It took me a little while to sort out why, though.

First, what's evident on the cover is that he draws the Thing, to my eye, very awkwardly. In the first place, he shouldn't be drawn with a neck; his head rests right on his shoulders. Adams also draws him with a protruding lower jaw, giving him a more ape-like appeance. More subtle, but still significant, is that he draws his poses and movements as if he's simply a strongman in a bodysuit painted with rock patterns. His whole physicality is "off" as a result.
FF: Antithesis interior spread
Reed Richards is also a problem. Particularly his stretching. There are actually two issues I see here. In the first place, Adams just has Reed stretching all over the place in a seemingly random, uncontrolled fashion. This approach would work for Plastic Man and perhaps Metamorpho, but it comes across as pretty haphazard for Mr. Fantastic. Almost as noteworthy, though, is that Adams drops pretty much all detail from the parts Reed is stretching. That might be fine for artists who are light on details to begin with, but Adams includes a phenomenal amount of detail on the character, right up until the point where he starts stretching. And then it just becomes two lines for as long as the limbs are doing whatever crazed loops Adams seems to arbitrarily fill up space with.

Lastly, Adams draws the entire team's uniforms as if it were just painted on. The uniforms were originally designed by Jack Kirby more like jumpsuits, with folds and wrinkles. And even though artists like George Perez would sometimes make them more skin-tight, they still maintained at least some degree dimensionlity to them, bunching up a little at seams and corners for example. I'm not seeing any of that in Adams' work here.

These would all seem to be pretty superficial issues. But I think they speak to a lack of really understanding the characters. Adams is drawing superheroes here, but the FF -- while super-powered -- are fundamentally NOT superheroes; they're a family of adventurers. That's a different aesthetic. Similar, but different. Now you can certainly pull in different aesthetics if you're deliberately trying to subvert expectations or present a n alternate take on the genre trappings or something, but I don't get that sense here. This feels like it's trying to be a straight-forward Fantastic Four story, but with a visual approach that more befits Superman.
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