Archive for the ‘Fantastic Four’ Category

Much has been made about the failure and ineptitude of the recent Fantastic Four adaptation. From the public squabbling between the director and studio to the seeming lack of promotion, it sure sounded like the cards were stacked against it from the very beginning. After hearing about its disastrous opening weekend and universally negative reviews, I almost started to believe that there was no way it could be that bad. I mean, even Catwoman was fun to laugh at, right? Then I sat down in the theatre, the movie started and all hope vanished.

Coming soon: FantFourStic

Coming soon: FantFourStic

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**Brian Baer researched one of the earliest adventures of Marvel’s First Family in expanded media. More than that, he actually made it through a whole episode of it before questioning his own sanity. Enjoy!**

The Fantastic Four radio show is something of a pop culture anomaly. Debuting in 1975, the show lasted for a full thirteen weeks and was quickly forgotten. Now, it seems to be “discovered” every two or three years, namely due to the involvement of a pre-Saturday Night Live Bill Murray. The novelty passes, and then it waits to dug up once more.

The show itself was the brainchild of disc jockey Peter B. Lewis. When first dreamed up in the mid-60s, Lewis originally hoped to create a show about the Silver Surfer or a rotating series of Marvel characters. “I chose to lay the foundation and do the first 13 weeks on the FF and see what to do next,” he told an interviewer. A chance meeting with Stan Lee secured the rights, and Lewis began to put the show together.


“Bill, you are WAY off-script, man.”


The National Lampoon Radio Hour was winding down and many of the voice actors, including Bill Murray, were available to join the cast. Longer radio programs had become harder to sell in the mid-70s so each story was split into five minute segments, played five days a week to serialize one full issue’s story.

On scriptwriting, Lewis said, “I tried to follow the exact quotes from the books, then I added visual descriptions of the scene and the action.” The resulting episodes are accurate to a fault. They seem so focused on following the original Lee/Kirby issues to the letter, that once the pictures are removed, the stories would be utterly incomprehensible without the constant narration by Stan Lee.  

“The fiery Human Torch was on
fire. Am I doing it right?
Excelsior!” 

The Fantastic Four’s adventures into other media have always been either overblown trainwrecks or charmingly inept. Their radio show is the latter. In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the 1994 Roger Corman film – It would’ve never worked out, and that seems terribly obvious to everyone but the series’ creators. 

When they could only secure fraction of the funds needed, Peter Lewis and producer Bob Michaelson invested their life savings. They ended up broke. No national advertisers signed on, and Marvel barely seemed aware of the program. It took decades for them to work themselves out of debt.

“Until the past few months, I haven’t really been able to consider the project anything other than a big black evil-time in my life,” Lewis said in 1999, “I now have a better handle on much of it.”

Despite the occasional interest the Fantastic Four radio series generates, Marvel has still declined to formally reissue it. It can’t be found at the typical bootleg convention tables, and it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page. Its latest rediscovery doesn’t seem to be winning its entrance onto the main stage of comic book adaptations, either. Maybe when it pops up again in another two or three years.

One of these days we HAVE to get a good adaptation…right?

 

This poster is crazy rare and worth a fortune now. I’m not joking.

Most people could be forgiven for failing to understand the concept of an ashcan copy. When it comes to film, it’s exponentially more difficult to comprehend or explain. Essentially, it’s something that’s created (usually a comic book) with the soul purpose of retaining or establishing the rights to a name or character. Ashcans are not intended for release and are typically easily tucked away. This is understandable for printed media where a writer and artist can rush something together in a few days in order to meet a contract stipulation. It’s much harder to justify when making a film. You’ve got a director, writers, producers, a dozen cast members, hundreds of crew members and a hundred or so more extras. All of which are putting their time and effort into something that will never actually get to be seen by paying audiences. Why would anyone want to be involved with a project where their talents would never be showcased? Well, if you’re the rights-holder to this film, you simply don’t tell them.
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