Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bringing the magic back

What would you think about a 22-page comic extended to 224 pages of a coffee table-sized book? That's what's been done with Maximum FF.

The comic in question is the first issue of Fantastic Four, released in August 1961, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. The story essays the origin of the Fantastic Four and their battle with the Mole Man.

Why this comic in particular? Many consider it to be landmark because it was the first in the modern stable of Marvel Comics, preceding other greats like Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Incredible Hulk. If nothing else, it must have been chosen for sentimental reasons by the book's organizer, Walter Mosley.

Whatever your sentiments, the whole idea of an oversized version of an old comic seems absurd. Here it's taken to extremes. One panel, one entire page, on the average. Some panels were even stretched out to four pages by means of foldouts.

Flipping through the enlarged panels, something clicked in my brain. Given my modern sensibilities, the works of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other early masters already seemed childish in comparison. But now, the magic was back.

Mosley explains it best:
When I saw each frame as a unit I remembered something from my youth: as a young person I could completely concentrate on each frame of the comic book. I could see every line and gesture as if it were part of a sole painting hanging in the center of a blank wall. This, I thought, might be what separates me from my younger self. Now I look at the whole page, read far too quickly, and move on before seeing what Jack Kirby saw when he set down his images forty years ago.

I understood completely what Mosely meant. The oversized panels meant, one to a page, brought my attention to every detail. I was no longer reading the comic in a hurry; I was savoring it.

Perhaps it has something to do with our psychology, a shift in our perceptions. As children, our attention moves panel-by-panel; it is as adults that we begin to view pages as a whole. Neither view is approach is more correct than the other, but it does affect how we read our comics. This oversized comic book brings home that point.

Maximum FF has brought the magic back.

Unfortunately, Maximum FF is priced outside of my budget. I flipped through it at Powerbooks instead. I definitely wouldn't mind getting it as a Christmas present. If you can afford it, get it.

For more analysis, read this review by Derik Badman at Comic Book Galaxy.

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