Comic Book Questions Answered – where I answer whatever questions you folks might have about comic books (feel free to e-mail questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Reader Hayden S. wrote in to ask, "[T]his has vexed me for years: Is Annihilus wearing a mask/helmet? Or is that just what his face looks like? Because it seems to change indiscriminately from artist to artist, with some drawing it as a sort of bug face while others give it a shiny metal texture and metal supports in the mouth like doctor doom's mask."
Great question, Hayden. And it's certainly a tough one.
Annihilus debuted in Fantastic Four Annual #6 by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott, when Mister Fantastic, Human Torch and the Thing travel to the Negative Zone to find a cosmic energy source to save the life of Mister Fantastic's unborn son, as Fantastic's wife, the Invisible Girl, was then currently in labor.
They run into the villainous Annihilus, and he is clearly intended to look like a cockroach, complete with exoskeleton...
However, in certain panels, it sure as heck looks like Annihilus' face is a metal face mask, right?
How much of that, though, is Joe Sinnott's inks and how much of it is what Kirby intended?
The FF get the cosmic power rod from Annihilus but he doesn't change in appearance...
That's the only time that Jack Kirby ever drew Annihilus, so we don't really know for SURE what he was intending for the reasons I just noted. Was the metal effect Kirby's intent or was it a Sinnott idea? Sinnott famously added plenty to Kirby's pencils during their time together. It was Sinnott, after all, who came up with the distinct rock design for the Thing (Kirby's idea for the Thing was that his skin was scaly - it was Sinnott who interpreted the design as rock-like. Kirby eventually just started to draw the Thing like how Sinnott inked him).
John Buscema was now the penciler on the book when we saw Annihilus again in Fantastic Four #107 (Sinnott was still the inker) and it sure wasn't clear what the deal was with Annihius' face...
Annihilus next popped up in Avengers #89 (by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger) and it was again not clear what the deal was with his face...
Annihilus next showed up in Marvel Team-Up #2 (by Gerry Conway, Ross Andru and Jim Mooney), where the Frightful Four accidentally let him into the Baxter Building. His face sure looks like a metallic face mask here, right?
The weird thing is that he's now been around for a long time and no one has ever actually punched him in the face yet, which is how superheroes solve almost all of their problems, so it is still very hard to tell!
Finally, though, the answered showed up in Fantastic Four #140 when we received...the origin of Annihilus!