Happy New Years Eve Eve! Welcome to a special Deconstructed, a celebration of all things Fantastic Four! For Christmas, I received a box of old random comics perfect for Deconstructing (Thanks, Ben!), and this little prize was sitting amongst them. I knew right away that you would be as excited to learn all about this unique issue as I am. So, I did some digging, got to reading, and Deconstructed everything I could about this one-of-a-kind issue.
The Fantastic Four Roast was created as a special tribute to FF’s 20-year run. Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, brought in famous cartoonist of the time, Fred Hembeck, to write and lay-out this project that has almost every artist from the Marvel bullpen at the time. The jokes are terrible, the references worse, and the continuity is all out of whack. Sounds great. Let’s dig in! Oh yeah, this is an advertisement free issue. Sorry to those who come here for the old ads.
This double page comic cover is perfection. Featuring over 70 characters in their memorable 80’ costumes, what’s not to love? There are many little Easter eggs hidden among the massive splash. Like Ice Man cooling his own drink, Ant Man about to be slammed back, or Iron Man sipping on a non-alcoholic cola. Besides the cartoon version of the host, Fred Hembeck, the only one polite enough to wear a suit happens to be Hulk. And, of course, there needs to be someone in the shadows causing a ruckus. But, it won’t be who you guess.
Instead of typing out all the names that had a hand in this issue I will share the credit card from the pages themselves. I think it is worth noting that there is a particular credit for a caterer, Irving Forbush a.k.a. Forbush Man! A long time butt of many Marvel jokes, which I understand was a real Marvel intern at one point.
First up is a quick introduction from Helbeck himself and how Dean Martin wasn’t available.
And we get into a literal splash page of The Thing-
Who Johnny Storm cannot help but prank-
While the team gets ready for their big night, poor Franklin Richards is sick. Fortunately, he has Auntie Alicia Masters to care for him, and they can watch the events from home. This is also one of the only mistakes of continuation with so many artists, as Alicia’s hair goes through a drastic change.
Then, we get our first shot of how big of an event this is, with every Marvel super team making their entrance, including The Legion of Monsters.
Hembeck kicks off the night’s events-
Spider-Man, the long-time friend of Johnny Storm, is the nights first speaker and opens the bad jokes-
But, the humour gets worse-
What would the FF be without their villains, and they are all invited to the party- even Galactus makes an appearance. Note the first appearance of the Red Skrull which is a stupid pun but, they should totally make him a canon villain.
As the first course is about to be served a mysterious villain sets a trap-
Johnny enjoys his “Chunky Soup” (like Campbells Chunky Soup? What kind of caterer is Forbush Man?) but, he finds a surprise.
He disposes of the bomb without making a scene-
The Roast continues on, and Iron Man is up. He may have given up drinking but, he is still a sucker for the ladies-
But, Sue is a woman who loves but one man… or maybe two-
Not only is Hulk the only one wearing a suit, but he is also the only one to bring a real joke-
As the salad course is served, this time Sue gets a surprise-
Which Thing deals with quickly-
Luke Cage and Iron Fist get into a lovers quarrel-
And, The Avengers share a cute little homage-
Thor finally stabs back for all the years of Ben calling him Goldilocks-
While Uatu and Silver Surfer put on a bit of a performance-
Daredevil shares a little insight as the FF’s insurance lawyer-
The X-Men take it a bit far-
Leaving Johnny to stand up and say something-
Dr. Strange goes on a long-winded, monotonous speech, putting everyone to sleep-
When dinner gets served, Reed gets a surprise in his Cornish hen-
Thing takes care of dessert-
Dr. Doom takes offence to being the first one blamed-
Whoever is responsible they need to face off against every Marvel hero in the universe-
The bad guy is… Willie Lumpkin?
Willie was a victim of one of Reed’s old inventions, The Brain Skull!
Everything goes back to normal, and the speeches continue, starting with the Guardians of the Galaxy-
And Brother Voodoo, who was not a prominent character but, I heard Helbeck had a soft spot for him.
Probably the highlight of the evening- Aunt May dressed in the Captain Universe outfit-
Sue Storm creates herself a new catchphrase-
And then, it is the worst joke of the night that makes Black Bolt crack-
Which brings the gala to an abrupt end, with some closing words from Hembeck.
In the end, Hembeck reminds us that Stan and Jack have always had a bit of humour in their work, like this Beatles reference-
And, this piece which made Lumpkin so resentful he almost ruined this roast.
Happy New Year!