Sixty years ago, on August 8, 1961, The Fantastic Four #1 launched! (While cover dated November 1961, Marvel’s First Family’s debut comicbook hit newsstands that summer.)
Stan’s story behind the creation of the Fantastic Four is one of legend. On the brink of quitting the comicbook industry because he felt stifled creatively, Stan’s wife Joan urged him to go out on his terms. Craft a book that way he wanted to, she insisted, something he’d enjoy reading himself. And if it failed? Well, he wanted to quit already, so no harm done!
With that mindset, Stan and Jack Kirby unleashed the Fantastic Four upon the world. Devoted yet dysfunctional, Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), Invisible Girl (Sue Storm, later Sue Richards), the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) and the Thing (Ben Grimm) felt real to readers, like a true family. These relatable types of characters – heroes, no less! – and stories made The Fantastic Four #1 an unanticipated hit. The fan mail started rolling in, the comicbook industry was changed forever – and the rest is history!
In honor of their 60th anniversary, we present you with four very random, very fun Fantastic Four facts! (Of course, there are a lot more but we’re keeping it to four because, well, it should be obvious.) And since this is TheRealStanLee.com, all of them directly involve Stan The Man in some way.
Stan Infused Mr. Fantastic With A Bit of His Own Character
Shocking, we know! Stan shared how he imbued the character with shades of his own persona in a 2016 Hollywood Reporter interview:
“I modeled the leader of the group a little after myself. He was the world’s greatest scientist. That is not after me. But he also talked so much that he would bore the hell out of you. That was me. And he used big words. And I liked doing that because that gave the Thing, the other character, the opportunity to always be insulting him. The ‘Gee, does the man never shut up?’”
Sounds exactly like Stan’s self-deprecating humor, that’s for sure!
Stan Started His Famous Letters Pages in The Fantastic Four
Stan always loved hearing from his fans and staying in touch with them. In the decades before social media, he did so in various letters pages in Marvel Comics.
The first such page appeared in 1962 in The Fantastic Four #3, complete with Stan’s signature humor. The idea came about quite quickly; the success of The Fantastic Four #1 prompted so much mail that Stan just had to do something about it! Not only were these bulletins, which underwent many permutations over the years, a place to engage with fans, but Stan also ingeniously used the space to market other Marvel titles and keep readers up to date with the latest Marvel news. In no time at all, these pages made their way into many of Marvel’s comicbooks, and the cross-promotion was endless.
Fun fact: Future Marvel figureheads like Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway had letters printed over the years, as well as future household names like George R. R. Martin!
Stan Cameoed in The Fantastic Four – A Few Times!
Stan fans of course know and love his cornucopia of cameos on both the big and small screens. But did you know long before that he appeared in the pages of his own comicbooks? It’s true! Stan actually made several appearances in The Fantastic Four issues, and we’re sharing two of our favorites, which also rank among his earliest comic cameos, below. (Stan first popped up in print way back in 1943, as Third Assistant Office Boy in Terry-Toons Comics #12.)
The panels of The Fantastic Four #10 find Doctor Doom dropping in on Stan and Jack Kirby in the Marvel offices, less than two years after the title debuted.
They upped the ante in 1965’s Fantastic Four Annual #3, as Stan and Jack invade the panels once again, this time in formalwear. In the issue, they find themselves turned away from Reed and Sue’s wedding because they don’t have invitations. How rude – especially since none of those characters would be there if it weren’t for Stan and Jack!
This cameo earns special recognition because it jumped from page to screen decades later. Yes, fans saw Stan denied entrance to the same wedding (not by Nick Fury this time, though), in the 2007 movie Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Bill Murray Starred in The Fantastic Four Radio Show, Which Stan Narrated
We bet you didn’t know that, did you? Don’t worry; we didn’t either until recently! This radio drama hit the airwaves in 1975. Each of the show’s 13 episodes were based on early issues of The Fantastic Four.
If you take a look at the voice cast, one name jumps out: Bill Murray as the Human Torch. However, the 25-year old actor would not have been familiar to fans at that point. Murray would soon, though, as he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live a mere two years later.
Another name fans recognize is, of course, Stan The Man himself. Though he didn’t portray any of his characters in the radio series, Stan provided narration for the show. We get a hint of his theatrical ability here, which is something he continued honing through animated TV show narrations in the 1980s and of course, his famous cameos of the 21st century!