Riddle me this: What's big, green, and has spectacular purple-hued fashion sense? (What's that coming over the hill? Is it an archive? Is it an ARCHIVE!?)
221. Fin Fang Foom
Some of you probably thought the answer was "the Hulk." 'Fraid not. No, it's Fin Fang Foom (yes, "Fin," not "Fing"), the greatest comics monster of them all! Groot is brilliant, yes, and more indicative of the Marvel monster comics of old, but Fin Fang Foom is definitely my favorite. He's also proven to be the most popular, and has become completely enveloped by the superhero universe. Also, he has a cool name. Perhaps it is even the coolest of names.
The glorious green Chinese dragon dude first appeared in Strange Tales #89 in a story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It's your standard monster tale-- big beastie wakes up, wreaks havoc, is cleverly defeated by a lowly human. The story takes place in "Red China;" the hero of the piece wakes Fin Fang Foom up in order to defeat a Red invasion force, but the creature becomes unchecked and has to be put back to sleep with magical herbs and stuff. It's a pretty interesting tale that features gorgeous Kirby artwork; Finny is beautifully and intricately brought to life. You can see it above.
The silliest aspect of the story lies in the existence of Foom's pants. It was long ago, you see, and the Comics Code didn't want a naked dragon running around, or so the story goes. Hence, to prevent a draconian super-schlong from flopping about, purple shorts were provided. I think he carries the look well and it adds to his kitschy appeal. Others disagree. What do you think?
Future creators would not forget the great Fin Fang Foom, however, and he made his reappearances. He battled It, the Living Colossus, he found himself swept into Iron Man's rogues gallery (and made it into the Iron Man cartoon), and he was impersonated by the Midgard Serpent in Walt Simonson's Thor run. Good times were had by all. Too bad he never showed up in Marvel's Godzilla series, though.
Foomy's undergone a modern resurgence as well. He appeared in an issue of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man by Peter David and Mike Norton; he got the spotlight in the first two issues of Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's brilliant and irreverent Nextwave series, where the shenanigans were turned up to 11; and he headlined the Fin Fang Four, a one-shot from a recent Marvel Monsters event by Scott Gray and Roger Langridge. That one was warm, funny, and a damn fine read. Seek it out! The creators later reunited for a story in the Marvel Holiday Special from last year. Its title? "How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas." You can read the whole thing here, courtesy of Newsarama. It features Finny and Wong, the right hand man of Dr. Strange, versus Hydra Claus. Yes, it truly is as awesome as it sounds.
One aspect I especially love about Fin Fang Foom is that he totally defies continuity. He often gets killed off, only to return again unexplained. Sometimes he wears purple pants, sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he's green, sometimes he's orange. Sometimes he's an Elder Dragon Lord from ancient times, and sometimes he's a space alien. You can see him shrunk down to a measly seven or eight feet and working as a chef in the Baxter Building, and you can see him as a big dummy who wants to put former members of X-Force into his pants. Creators are able to do whatever they want with him, and that kind of freedom is extremely refreshing, coming from one of the Big Two. But hey, who's going to tell a giant psychic shape-shifting super-strong fire-breathing kung fu dragon what to do, eh?
Forget Puff the Magic Dragon, or Smaug, or that Sean Connery one, or Charizard, or Magellan from Eureka's Castle, or even Lockheed. Fin Fang Foom is the greatest dragon of them all!
Well, okay. Except maybe Trogdor the Burninator. I'll give you that one.
For more on Fin Fang Foom, hie thyself to the Marvel Appendix.