What Was Intended for FF #51?

By | Monday, March 15, 2021 1 comment
Fantastic Four #51
Fantastic Four #51 is often cited as one Stan and Jack's best issues. The story is a rather quiet one, coming right on the heels of the Galactus Trilogy, and is used to make a powerful statement about strength of characters and heroism generally and Ben Grimm's in particular. Not a personal favorite of mine, but I can totally see why so many people like it.

Anyway, here's how Stan wrote the promotional copy for this dramatic, moody piece. It showed up at the end of the letters page of FF #50...
NEXT ISH: Featuring the Thing, more dramatic, more heroic, more exciting than ever before! We hate to keep telling that each ish is better than the last, but honest to Gorgon, we mean it! F.F. #51 has everything! It present Reed's latest nutty, death-defying scientific miracle -- it brings you a new and completely different arch-villain -- it gives you more of the goofy goings-on at Metro College -- but, most important of all, it proves once again that bashful Benjamin is the greatest single comic strip character ever created! (With apologies to Irving Forbush!) So, don't even consider missing FANTASTIC FOUR #51 -- it's what's happening, tiger!
Not surprisingly, there's a lot of Stan's typical hyperbole. What's strange to me, in retrospect, is that he clearly knew what the story was when he wrote this (Some of his next issue blurbs are pretty generic and still don't match what actually happens in the issue!) but he still tries selling it like there's lots of laughs where there clearly aren't. That "nutty death-defying scientific miracle" really does put Reed closer to death than readers had ever seen him before. Very powerful and dramatic scenes. I'm not sure "nutty" would be an appropriate adjective there. I have no idea what "goofy goings-on" he might be referring to either. Wyatt declines an invitation to join the football team, but that's about it.

He could have tried selling the dramatic angle more, and still conveyed that Stan-style bombastic fervor he cultivated. In fact, just eliminating or changing a couple of adjectives, and it would've side-stepped the whole nutty/goofy thing.

This is the type of thing I love about older comics -- just trying to figure out what the hell people were thinking at the time! I mean, really, what was Stan thinking?
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Matt K said...

Perhaps he was thinking about issue #51 as a change of pace, after a literal end-of-the-world storyline, which at first suggested a notion of comic relief.

The odd transition scenes at the end of issue #50 were not noticeably leading up to a zany story. And issue #51 turned out, by the standards of The Fantastic Four, as a kind of quiet, tense psychological drama. But I don't think Stan Lee ever had a setting for hyping something like that.