Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Fantastic Four #61 (the Waid/Wieringo one, not the Lee/Kirby one), which was published by Marvel and is cover dated November 2002. Enjoy!
If you’re going to begin a comic with a splash page, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more fun than this one. The sadly-departed Mike Wieringo probably read the Mark Waid’s script, which had to read something like “Ben gets a pie in the face. Go nuts” and smiled. Waid just sat back and counted his money while Ringo did all the work. Man, that Mark Waid – what a slacker! Karl Kesel, who inked this issue, had to do something. Paul Mounts, who colored this issue, had to do something. Richard Starkings and Albert Deschesne had to do a little bit. Not Waid!
This is really a wonderful drawing, and as a first page, it has to entice the reader, doesn’t it? Ben Grimm (we learn his name from two different sources), a.k.a. the Thing (we learn that from one source, plus, you know, popular culture), gets a pie in the face from “the Yancy Street Gang,” and from the ribbon (last place in a beauty contest), we can puzzle out that this is a long-running feud between Ben and the Gang (there’s a big reveal in this issue, but I’m certainly not giving it away here). It’s all very clear!
The details are what make the drawing so marvelous. The spring-loaded pie, the crushed table, the drawings on the refrigerator – these all speak to an elaborate joke, Ben’s strength, and the familial atmosphere that the Fantastic Four have always – sort of – had (I write “sort of” because the Richardses are terrible, terrible parents, but that’s a story for another day!). We don’t even need to see Ben’s face, because Ringo does such a good job with the rest of the drawing that we can easily imagine his look. That’s some good cartooning there!
No matter what you think of the Waid/Wieringo run on FF (some people love it, some people loathe it), you can’t deny that this is a wonderful first page of a single issue. Just try to put this down without turning the page! I dare you!
Next: A graphic novel not many of you have read. Won’t that be fun? For now, though, there are archives. So many archives!