The Daily Comic Book Coffee, number three: If you’re going to talk comic books, sooner or later (and probably sooner) you’re going to have to discuss Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Whatever the specific division of labor was (and all these decades it’s almost impossible to determine that precisely) the two of them working together in the 1960s created the majority of the Marvel Universe.

It all started in August 1961 with the Fantastic Four, a group who right from the start were characterized as much by their all-too-human disagreements as their super-powers. And no one was more dysfunctional than the gruff Ben Grimm, aka the Thing, who had been transformed by cosmic radiation into a horribly disfigured monster.

Early on Ben Grimm very much straddled the line between hero and villain, and in those first few issues the rest of the FF found themselves wondering if the Thing, consumed by anger & self-loathing, might violently turn on them. However, the Thing gradually evolved into a character who was both tragic & comedic. We see one of the first hints of that here, in this scene from Fantastic Four #5, cover-dated July 1962. Ben is attempting to enjoy a cup of coffee, only to get razzed by literal hothead the Human Torch.

FF #5 inks are by Joe Sinnott, his first time working on this series. Lee actually wanted Sinnott to become the regular inker, but soon after Sinnott received an assignment of drawing the biography of Pope John XXIII for Treasure Chest. Sinnott had inked about half a page of Kirby’s pencils for FF #6 when he got the Treasure Chest job, and so had to mail the art back to Lee, who then assigned it to Dick Ayers. Sinnott would fortunately have another opportunity to be the FF’s regular inker in 1965, commencing with issue #44, and for the rest of the 1960s did a superb job inking Kirby. Sinnott remained on FF for 15 years, inking / embellishing over several pencilers.

In a case of Early Installment Weirdness, we see the Torch reading an issue of The Incredible Hulk #1, which in the real world had come out two months earlier. It seems at this point in time Lee & Kirby had not quite decided if the Hulk occupied the same fictional universe as the FF.

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The Daily Comic Book Coffee, number three: If you’re going to talk comic books, sooner or later (and probably sooner) you’re going to have to discuss Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Whatever the specific division of labor was (and all these decades it’s almost impossible to determine that precisely)...