THE WORLD’S GREATEST COMIC MAGAZINE – my thoughts on John Byrne’s run on Marvel’s first family

FF PIN UP

In 1981, fresh off a defining run on the X-Men with writer Chris Claremont, Canadian comic book creator John Byrne turned his attention on The Fantastic Four. Once Marvel Comics’ flagship title, The Fantastic Four had become a middling comic book in the 70s, its position usurped by the X-Men due to engaging, tight plotting, well-defined characters, and a strong sense of realism in both the writing and artwork, not to mention powerful, cinematic drama. The Uncanny X-Men was the premier comic book title of the time, and John Byrne was a major component in its rise to prominence. When creative differences with Claremont and editor-in-chief Jim Shooter soured Byrne on The X-Men, he asked for, and was given, full creative rein on The Fantastic Four, beginning with issue 232, with a cover date of July 1981.

These blog entries will give my own personal thoughts and feelings over what I consider a terrific run on the title, easily the greatest since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s legendary 101 issues. While Byrne’s 5-year, 63 issue stint ran out of steam towards the end, his first year and a half remains some of my all time favourite comic book stories, but even after the 250th issue, some other terrific stories followed. While this project seems a little ambitious and self indulgent, some of you might enjoy reading as much as I hope to enjoy writing it. I will review each issue from a critical and personal viewpoint, with the same meandering sprinkles of autobiographical content as my movie reviews – in addition, I will be presenting every issue fully scanned at 600dpi from the original comic books that I purchased off the stands at the time and have kept in my collection since. For anyone that only has collected editions, the full comic books, ads and all. might be fun to view. In some ways this is an extension of a similar project I began around 20 years ago with a friend named Chris Allen. The Sputnik v Modok “duelling reviews” blog planned to review every John Byrne comic, and I think we may have gotten to about 20! This blog will only feature Fantastic Four 232 – 295, and could very well fizzle out before then. We’ll see!

A little bit about me first. I am Andrew Hope, and I have a Marvel Comics credit to my name, having written the Fantomex Max miniseries a few years ago. Marvel Comics was my first love as a child growing up in Scotland through my teenage years, and when the Fantomex gig was offered to me, I jumped at the chance. I’m proud to say that I am now part of Marvel Comics history, even in a tiny way, something that any fan would love to be able to say.

Sitting at the Marvel booth alongside Fantomex artist Shawn Crystal and then-currentSpider-Man writer Dan Slott at the 2013 New York Comic Con, will always be a highlight of my life.

As I write, it’s June 2020, and I’m a prolific horror fiction writer, but not terribly ambitious about publishing. For me, writing is a compulsion, not a goal, and the mere act of writing and telling a story is something I find greatly rewarding. As an adjunct to this blog, I’ll soon throw up some samples of my fiction on other pages here on http://www.atthefoothillsofmadness.com for anyone who’s interested. Comments are always welcomed! My main writing project in 2020 is a novel, which I plan on beginning next month.

And so, without further ado, on to the reviews, beginning with Fantastic Four, 232.

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