Posts Tagged Fantastic Four

If you can guess who got a No-Prize…

…you win a No-Prize!

No, I kid. As most of you Cool Jerk readers probably know, a No-Prize is an award given to readers of Marvel Comics. You see, Marvel prides itself on having not only the best comics on the newsstands but also the best readers. If a reader spots a gaffe (continuity error, factual error, etc.) and can offer a reasonable explanation for that gaffe (i.e. giving the editor of the comic a plausible— or implausible— excuse), then he or she might win a No-Prize. I say “might” because they’re not just handed out to any jackball who points out “Hey, there were clouds in the sky and in the next panel there aren’t!” Oh, sure… Marvel used to hand them out by the truckload, but that diminished the importance… the value… of the No-Prize.

The joke is: a No-Prize is an empty envelope. As in “…no prizes will be awarded if you catch a goof.” But I’m telling you, a No-Prize is a frame-worthy trophy— a pop-culture badge of honor.

For several years, Marvel had a moratorium on dispensing No-Prizes. Probably due to the rising costs of postage. But recently, I noticed they were being reinstated.

I’ve been reading/collecting the Fantastic Four monthly since 1978, and over the decades I’ve spotted some mistakes. But when I noticed one on the cover of FF #16, I decided to chime in. I sent an email to Marvel with little hope of receiving a No-Prize. But a couple months after sending the email, I got a note from Marvel Entertainment SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort (whom I worked with years ago on several infographics for the Union-Tribune). He informed me that A) I had indeed won a No-Prize, and B) my letter would be printed in Fantastic Four #608 and FF #20.

It’s a digital No-Prize, but a No-Prize nonetheless.

So I’m pretty stoked. Not only is this my first published letter for Marvel Comics (full disclosure: I think I’ve written maybe four letters total, the last being in the early 1980s), but it’s printed in Fantastic Four AND it earned me a coveted No-Prize. According to late-1960s Marvel propaganda, this makes me a Titanic True Believer AND a Quite ‘Nuff Sayer.

Here’s my letter in its entirety. (Yes, I’m geeking out. What do you expect from a cartoonist??)

Nerd cred

What, this old thing?

Don't worry, folks… it's only a 10-sheet capacity shredder.

Fifty years ago on this exact date, the first issue of The Fantastic Four (above) hit the newsstands. If you were around back then (I wasn’t) and had a couple of nickels, you could’ve ended up buying a comic book that became the most important comic in the last half-century.

That’s not an exaggeration. With Fantastic Four #1, writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby ushered in The Marvel Age of Comics, a.k.a. Marvel Comics. You know… Spider-Man, Hulk, Thor, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America,* Dr. Strange, Avengers, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Punisher, Howard the Duck and Blade (all of which have also been made into motion pictures, or soon will be). The FF started it all.

* “Captain America? But he was around in the 1940s!” Well, it’s like this — With Fantastic Four #4, Lee and Kirby reintroduced Namor the Sub-Mariner, a WWII-era character published by Timely (the predecessor of Marvel Comics). A few months later, the Fantastic Four had become so popular that the Human Torch earned a solo spin-off in the pages of Strange Tales. And a few months after that, Lee and Kirby brought out of the Timely archives another popular character from the 1940s, Captain America (actually, it turned out to be an imposter) to battle the Torch. Reader reaction was tremendous so the “real” Cap was reintroduced into the Marvel Age of Comics in Avengers #4 (March 1964).

Infographic I created for The San Diego Union-Tribune, 2005. Click it to Giant-Size it!

In early summer of 1978, I was riding bikes with my buddy Scott in Haslett, MI. We each had a buck of spending money and I distinctly recall us wandering into Jim’s Party Store (in Michigan at that time, “party” meant “liquor”). We each bought two comic books and a Faygo soda, which I think ran exactly $1.00. My choices were Fantastic Four #197, Avengers #174 and Grape. Scott chose X-Men #112, Defenders #62 and Old-Fashioned Root Beer.

Fantastic Four was the first comic book I ever bought and I liked it so much, I decided to keep getting it each month. For 33 years. I also liked it enough to get the 196 issues that preceded my first purchase (plus annuals, etc.). Ended that quest in 1997. So yeah, I guess you could say I’m a fan.

One of these days, I should take 'em out of the bathroom magazine bin and put 'em into bags.

I’m certain many others are commemorating this anniversary, too. I won’t even try to compete with their prose. I’ll just say that through thick and thin, I’ll be getting this book each month indefinitely.

Happy birthday, Fantastic Four!

(ps I was going to upload another heart-stopping photo of me eating a raspberry-filled powdered donut while flipping though Fantastic Four #1, but I didn’t want to risk getting the camera all sticky.)

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