The Fantastic Four's Chest Emblem

By | Tuesday, June 08, 2021 Leave a Comment
There has been, for many years, a big debate on how much Stan Lee contributed to the early Marvel output versus Jack Kirby. Some say Lee did the bulk of the work and Jack was just a hired hand to illustrate Lee's vision; others think Kirby did everything and Lee was nothing more than a glorified proofreader. The truth likely lies in between somewhere, although it is pretty readily accepted by everyone that Kirby did all the artwork and design. Except when he didn't. One of the pages of original art that has survived is page 16 from Fantastic Four #3. The Thing and the Human Torch get into a fight, and the Torch leaves. More interestingly, though, we have on the back of the art board several sketches for a chest emblem. The was the issue where the FF debuted their team uniform and it would appear that there was some discussion about what the chest emblem should be. And what we can see with this page in particular was that Kirby was not the only one making illustrative contributions to the book. The logo sketches were most likely Lee's work. Some of the other earlier FF pages indeed have rough (i.e. really bad stick figures) "layouts" that are Lee scribbled to help describe what he was envisioning to Kirby. It's possible that someone besides Lee could have done these emblem sketches, but A) it almost certainly wasn't Kirby -- those bear no resemblance to his style of sketching -- and B) not many other people would've had access to the original art.

Now, the other possibility for the logos could be Sol Brodsky. He appears to have done some elaborate re-work on the Human Torch figures throughout that issue, including on that page (at right, circled in red) to bring him more in line with the original Carl Burgos design. So Brodsky would have had access to the art boards, and he did create the "Fantastic Four" logo that shows up on the cover. That said, I'm inclined to say it was still Lee as Brodsky had a fair degree of artisic skill and most of the designs seem to have been drawn by someone with an unsure hand.

But then there's the question of the sketches showing up on page 16 instead of 7, when the costume first appears. That doesn't strike me as particularly odd. Kirby wouldn't have only turned in one or two pages at a time, he turned the art for an entire story at once. So when Lee (or Brodsky) opted to doodle some new logo ideas, he could've grabbed any page from the story at random. Brodsky, already going through the pages to re-work the Torch, would have also been able make other adjustments to the characters' costumes as the same time.

In Pure Images #2, Greg Theakston goes back to the original art and inked some of the pages onto new boards using some of Jack's original pencil lines. Jack's original FF logo was an interlocking "FF" similar to one of the middle ones on the far right of that page. (Circled in red at the left. The final is circled in blue.) Further, the costumes included masks for everyone, hence that really weird close-up on Sue's face when she first steps out in the new costume. (See below.) All that would have been "fixed" by Brodsky along with those Human Torch figures.
The extruded "4" design was eventually simplified to a more flat figure -- probably because Kirby simply forgot about the drop shadow effect somewhere around issue #16. He never rendered it consistently anyway. Had Joe Sinnott been on the book by this point, he may have added it back in for consistency, but the book still had a more-or-less rotating cast of inkers; Chic Stone is the first person to ink more than three consecutive issues starting with #29. The 3D effect on the "4" doesn't return consistently until John Byrne picked up the title many years later.
Newer Post Older Post Home