ComicCon International celebrated the 40-year anniversary of the FANTASTIC FOUR with an all-star panel featuring past FF contributors Len Wein, Paul Ryan, John Buscema, Marv Wolfman, and FF co-creator Stan Lee, as well as current FF writer Jeph Loeb and newly-appointed FF editor Tom Brevoort.
What was meant to be a fond reminiscence was occasionally derailed, though, by the aging memories of some of the creators, as well as the intimidation many of them
felt at following the legendary Lee-Kirby team. Asked how he felt about giving the art chores to John Romita after Kirby’s departure, Lee blurted, “Well, it was probably just because he was available,” though he was quick to add, “Though Johnny’s the best. He can do anything, he’s SO versatile.”
Romita disagreed. “I only did four issues and those were the longest four months of my life,” he admitted. “Following Kirby was… well, all I can say was thank God for John Buscema, who came on after me and probably saved me from a nervous breakdown.”
Asked about his time on the book, Buscema himself first responded, “What’d I do?”
Lee shot back, “Hey, I don’t know. I didn’t even know Romita was uncomfortable doing it. The most frustrating panelists ever,” he added, to much audience laughter.
Asked about future plans for the book, editor Tom Brevoort said, “I don’t feel a weight, but I do feel a responsibility. The history of this book is so rich, it’s easy to produce good solid stories. The challenge is to better that.”
Asked about how the FF fit into the modern comics milieu alongside books like THE AUTHORITY or SIN CITY, Loeb was definite. “I think our job is to tell a good story. Our job is not to get fans of THE AUTHORITY to like us by telling AUTHORITY-type stories featuring the FF. I don’t think readers necessarily respond just because you show a naked girl or somebody’s head being blown off. People respond to good stories. If we do good stories the audience will be there.”
Brevoort added, “We don’t want to jump on the bandwagon and just try to do what’s hot this week. The Fantastic Four has stood the test of time, and our job is to put out the best Fantastic Four book we can.”