So we were talking about the upcoming Fantastic Four relaunch down at my local funnybook store recently. Which, yeah, if you haven’t heard… They’re relaunching Fantastic Four this summer, in a new series by Dan Slott and Sarah Pichelli. And that…
…was what we were talking about. I made the off-hand comment that I will, of course, be giving it a shot, but that Slott and Pichelli wouldn’t have been my first pick for the creative team. One of my buddies kind of cocked his head at that and, out of curiosity, asked, “Who WOULD you pick?”
And that stopped me in my tracks.
I realized, quite suddenly, that I hadn’t given it much thought. I’m not sure I have an ideal creative team for Fantastic Four. I mean, other than “Jack Kirby.” But since Kirby’s been dead for 20 years, I don’t think that one’s gonna happen. So instead, I just kind of brace for impact anytime a new team is announced, and hope they get it right.
But it did get me thinking. Who, out of every living funnybook creator, would I pick to do my favorite super hero comic? Well… I suppose it depends on what limitations you want to set for it. I’m going to set out a rule, for instance, that I won’t pick anyone who’s already had a substantial run with the FF before. But beyond that, I thought it might be fun to look at a few different scenarios… Four of them, in fact (aren’t I clever?), and see who I can come up with…
SCENARIO 1: PEOPLE CURRENTLY WORKING FOR MARVEL
Given this restriction, my field narrows considerably. There aren’t many writers at Marvel right now whose work I find super-compelling, and even fewer who’ve established a good working relationship with an artist I really like. In fact, considering the challenges inherent in getting the FF right, there’s really only one established team I’d go for. But first, I should probably answer a question that I’m sure is on the minds of some readers:
Why Not Slott and Pichelli?
Sigh. I just don’t like Slott’s stuff very much. And, look. It’s not him. It’s me. I’m a writing snob. My tastes in adventure fiction can be a little high-falutin’ at times. But if this was the 80s, and I was 30 years younger, with less refined tastes, I’m sure I’d like him just fine. I loved me some Roger Stern back then, after all, and I think Slott is probably a writer of a similar caliber. I do find his ideas interesting, for what it’s worth, but his execution of them often leaves me flat. I liked Superior Spider-Man in concept, for instance, but couldn’t really make it through reading the actual comics. And his Silver Surfer… Holy crap, I should have loved that book. But it was too cute for its own good. And as I’ve said many times before… I can’t abide cute. So while I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll do something better here… I’m a bit dubious.
Sara Pichelli is a different matter, though.
Her body language and facial expression are superb, and that kind of character acting is something I’d like to see on FF. The relationships, dysfunctional and otherwise, are really important on this book, and on that front I think she’ll be dynamite. I’m less sold on her for the adventure elements. Her style is more delicate than what I usually think of for this book, and her sense of costume design seems more post-Brian-Hitch than I generally want to see here. In her case, though, I am eager to be proven wrong. A fresh take on the FF’s world could be very exciting, and I’d like to see her pull it off.
So who IS my pick from the Marvel Bullpen, then? That was surprisingly easy:
Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic
These two proved a good team for Thor, and since that’s the other great Lee/Kirby book of the 1960s… Why not? Aaron’s proven that he can do High Concept and Big Ideas, and he has the ability to mix humor and serious drama in a way that suits the book well. Ribic, meanwhile, seems able to handle just about anything. He also did a nice job with the FF characters in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars. So if I had to go with folks currently working for Marvel, they’d be my pick.
But Here’s the Thing: I like Jason Aaron’s Marvel stuff, but not enough to pay full monthly cover price for it. I read his Thor when I find one of the digital trades on sale. I’ll pay 50% of cover, but that’s about it. Hell, I gave his Star Wars a total miss until I could get it for two or three bucks per trade. DIGITAL trade. Because I didn’t really want them cluttering up my house. I’d probably respond better to an FF run (because, again, it’s my favorite super hero comic). But that’s still not a ringing endorsement.
Plus, I’m not overly fond of Ribic’s take on the Thing from his variant cover to issue one:
So this is hardly an ideal choice. Let’s open the field up a bit, though, and see who comes into view…
SCENARIO 2: PEOPLE THEY COULD ACTUALLY GET
I’m talking here about people who are willing to do work-for-hire stuff, and who aren’t, as far as I know, currently on the outs with Marvel Comics. I wouldn’t go for Jim Starlin here, for instance, because he’s ticked off at Marvel right now, even though… now that I think of it… a Starlin-penned FF might be a lot of fun. Reed Richards going on a consciousness-expanding adventure in his own mind… A Sue Storm treatise on what it means to be invisible… Ben Grimm playing poker with Pip the Troll… Damn. Too bad they pissed him off.
Still, though… This option immediately gives me more options. In fact, I can think of two creative teams I’d like to see out of this wider talent pool. First, the obvious one:
Jeff Lemire and Steve Rude
I know I’ve crapped a bit recently on Lemire’s Terrifics series, but I tend to think a lot of the problems with that book are caused by Ivan Reis’ lack of storytelling skills. Pair him up with an artist who can put together a page like Steve Rude, however…
…and I think you might really have something. Lemire has a real talent for capturing the human element, and I’d love to see what he’d do with the various relationships within the FF. Sue and Johnny as brother and sister, Sue and Reed’s marriage, Reed and Ben’s “Odd Couple” friendship, Johnny and Ben’s friendly rivalry… He could do great stuff with all of that. And Steve Rude… Holy crap. I love to see Rude drawing anything. Like Sara Pichelli, he’s great at character acting. But he’s also a good storyteller and a very inventive character designer. His work with Mike Baron on Nexus still ranks among my very favorite funnybooks ever, and I’d love to see him apply some of that creativity to the world of the Fantastic Four.
But Here’s the Thing: Lemire’s work-for-hire stuff tends to be a bit lackluster. He tends not to do the deep dive on character I love so much in his creator-owned work, and that makes his corporate spandex stuff a bit lame. And much as I love Steve Rude, I’m not sure he’s willing to commit to a monthly work-for-hire gig. He does need the work (his son has a chronic illness), but he does have other income streams, and so still seems more interested in mini-series and one-offs right now when it comes to work-for-hire stuff.
So this isn’t super-ideal, either. But how about…
Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Kindt is one of my current favorites, and he’s got a lot of the skills I think are necessary for writing the FF: he’s good at dysfunctional family dynamics (see: DeptH), and you don’t have to look any further than Mind MGMT to see that he has experience writing characters whose lives have been disrupted by super powers. He also has a talent for grounding sci-fi concepts in a way that enhances the mystery and wonder of them. A Kindt written-and-drawn Fantastic Four comic would be super-weird and great.
But also not very commercial. So instead, I’m going for his artistic partner on Ether, David Rubin.
Rubin’s style is maybe a bit more cartoony than what you usually see on FF, but I’m good with that. He has a gift for drawing weird science and cool monsters, and (like Pichelli and Rude) he’s also good at character acting. It would be a fresh look for the book, anyway, and maybe one that would attract the right kind of attention.
But Here’s the Thing: I don’t know if either Kindt or Rubin is interested in any long-term work-for-hire arrangement. Both have dabbled (Kindt at Marvel and Valiant, and Rubin on the latest arc of Rumble), but their hearts really seem to be in work they own themselves. Plus… Much as I’d love to see them do FF, I think I’d rather see them do more Ether instead. So they wouldn’t be my ultimate pick.
But how about a real long shot?
Brandon Graham and Mike Allred
Now, Mike Allred’s done an FF book before.
But that was the Future Foundation, as written by Matt Fraction. They were just a replacement FF, not the real deal. And I’d like to see him tackle the originals. But not in his current, polished, commercial art style. Nice as some of that stuff looks, it’s also a bit… stiff. Calcified, even. I’d want him to do something more akin to his earlier, weirder, something’s-not-quite-right-here style. The style he used on Madman or X-Statix. It’s not that far off from what he’s doing these days, but it’s a bit looser. Funkier. More strange.
And I’d want him to do that because he’d be working with Brandon Graham, who I’d like to see bring some of that super high weirdness he brought to his run on Prophet a couple of years back. While I’m not sure the world is quite ready for vagina-faced monkeys in their Fantastic Four comics, some of that sense of the utterly alien might be a really good approach.
But Here’s the Thing: If Matt Kindt artwork would be commercial suicide for this book, Graham’s take might be even moreso. I mean… I would dig it. But I don’t know how much mass appeal it would have. So I doubt it would ever happen.
But, hey. As long as we’re talking about weird longshots, I would feel remiss if I didn’t suggest…
The madman behind the recent Transformers vs GI Joe mini-series and the earlier Kirby-drenched Godland…
…Scioli is a guy who gets Jack Kirby better than most. He’s even working on a Kirby biography right now, and it’s a fascinating read that shows his range. But I also think his wild creativity would be right at home on a book whose original success hinged on its unrelenting inventiveness as much as anything else. Granted, Scioli’s stuff tends toward chaos. His stories don’t always make a whole lot of sense in the end. But they’re so much fun that I don’t really care. Plus, you know, he draws like a cracked-out Kirby filtered through Frank Miller, so… I could really dig him doing an FF run.
But Here’s the Thing: While Scioli could very much deliver on the wild adventure and such, he’s not exactly what I’d call a great writer of characters. The web of complicated and messed up relationships that makes the FF tick is not something I think he’d be any good at. So while a Tom Scioli FF mini-series would be an awful lot of fun, he’s not someone I would necessarily pick for the book in the long-term.
That said, I suppose it’s time to start looking at…
SCENARIO 3: PEOPLE WHO WOULD NEVER, EVER DO IT
This category is pure fantasy, but here’s two guys I think might be interesting, if you could get them…
I know, I know… Miller’s gone completely insane, and his art’s out of control and weird-looking now. He’s also primarily known for dark, borderline-psychotic noir, which is the furthest thing in the world from a “proper” Fantastic Four comic. But he’s also a huge funnybook nerd who, deep down in his crazy libertarian heart, loves super heroes, and tends to handle them in entertainingly inventive ways. His Flash from DK2 is still my favorite take on the character. And come on! Take one look at Marv…
…and tell me Miller wouldn’t draw the most amazingly kick-ass Thing ever.
Actually, you know what? Forget about Miller on the FF. I want Miller doing a solo Thing comic. If you ever wanted someone to dig down deep into that character’s tortured, messed-up, self-pitying psyche… Frank’s your man.
But Here’s the Thing: Actually, there is no thing. Frank Miller on The Thing would be FUCKING AWESOME, and Marvel is INSANE for not having hired him to do it before now.
Or, you know… Everybody but me hates Miller now, so this would never fly. But fuck it. This is MY fantasy, you bastards! I’ll suggest whatever insanity I want!
But, just to bring us back around to the realm of things that someone other than me might want to see…
That would be pretty great, right? I mean, just look at this old drawing he did back in the Eighties:
But Here’s the Thing: There’s no way in hell Mignola would agree to take on a lengthy work-for-hire job. I mean… Why would he? He’s got his own very successful comics universe to write, one that’s tailored precisely to his interests. And with the money he’s made off the Hellboy movies, I’m sure he has no need to do anything he doesn’t want to do, ever again.
But, man! Think about how cool a Mignola FF run would be! Weird science!
MORE cool monsters!
And artwork that owes a great deal to Jack Kirby, while still being very much its own thing. I can think of few cartoonists I’d rather see on my favorite super hero funnybook.
Few… But not none…
SCENARIO 4: MY ULTIMATE PICK, ALL OTHER CONSIDERATIONS SET ASIDE
Alright. Truth be told, I hit upon this creative team pretty quickly. All the other considerations and flights of fancy came after. But I figured I’d save the best for last. At least, as far as I’m concerned…
Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
This choice was probably not a great surprise to long-time readers. I’ve expounded upon my admiration for Morrison’s work numerous times over the years, and I think Quitely is probably his best and most interesting artistic collaborator. They just work well together, and I’d love to see that weird creative energy brought to bear on the Fantastic Four.
Morrison’s written them before, in the mini-series 1234, which in spite of some really nifty weird ideas…
…is honestly neither my favorite Grant Morrison comic, nor my favorite FF comic. I just re-read it recently, though, and I think it’s aged rather well. It’s a meditation on the various team members’ character flaws, and how Dr. Doom tries to use those flaws to destroy them. The thing that strikes me about it most now, though, is how all of them come off so much like real people. The dialogue is very naturalistic, and that plus the focus on their faults renders the FF human in a way that too few writers manage to pull off. That’s something I could go for, on a monthly basis.
Of course, I’d also want Morrison’s trademark creativity and weirdness here. What would he do with the Negative Zone, for instance? How would he write Doom? How would he wrestle with Galactus? And what kind of new characters would he bring to the table? How cosmic would he go? How weird? How complicated? I don’t know, but I’d love to find out.
And while Quitely is maybe not the kind of artist you normally think of in relation to the FF…
…he also wasn’t the kind of artist you typically associate with Batman, Superman, or the X-Men. And I loved his work on all three. Plus, and this is important to note… You don’t have to do Kirby to do the FF. A fresh artistic approach might be a very good thing for the book, in fact, and I’d love to see Quitely set a new standard.
So there you go. My ultimate, pie-in-the-sky, no-complications-considered pick to write and draw the Fantastic Four. And, sure. I know that Quitely can’t do a monthly book for very long at a stretch. And I also know that Morrison had a falling-out with Marvel over a decade ago, and hasn’t looked back since. His brand of high-concept, high-imagination super hero sci-fi is an ill fit with the realism-obsessed Marvel editorial regime, and he chafed at attempts to make his stories… well… frankly… a lot more BORING in an attempt to hammer his square peg into their corporate round hole.
But, again… This is MY funnybook fantasy here. One dork’s opinion, and all that. You’re welcome to suggest your own picks in the comments. But for now, I’m perfectly happy with mine.