I hold the extreme minority view that comics, at their best, are the highest form of art.* So I revised and expanded my web site to make that point. If I'm going to be wrong I think it is important to be spectacularly wrong. No half measures here.
or an easier to remember URL: http://enterthestory.com/comics
(and just click the top corner link)
My thesis is that The Fantastic Four, until issue 321 was The Great American Novel. It could be argued that issues since 321 are as well, but that's far more problematic position to take so I'm starting with the "easy" stuff. My central premise is that these stories EVOLVE NATURALLY. They are not planned. So long term structures are just as complex as real life.
My biggest surprise here is that I was totally wrong about Reed Richards. he's always been my favorite member of the FF, and I would angrily dismiss those modern writers who say he's a jerk. After all, look at all the heroic stuff he did! Look at "This Man This Monster!" Yet a closer analysis shows that he is BOTH hero AND jerk. And pretty extreme in both departments. Which is exactly what you'd expect from someone who focuses so intently on one area of his life. Even in FF51 he shows his darker side near the beginning. It's all very rich and layered stuff.
Please note that the commentary is not finished. I finally uploaded it because I realize it will never be finished: I am always finding new stuff. I don't expect everyone to agree with me (mainly because I change my mind so often) but I do want to make the point that these particular comics are rewarding to study.
Highlights (lowlights?) of the site:
* A montage from every issue
(to the end of 1988): even if you disagree with my comments (and feel free to!) you can enjoy reliving the first 321 issues.But note that I focus on character development, and often ignore the villain and surface plot completely.
* Controversial claims, such as...
FF251 was a suicide attempt:
Reed is a superb hero and scientist, but terrible leader (that's a running theme).
* Out-of-left-field observations, such as...
The Thing is genuinely handsome, and only feels ugly because of Reed's comments and actions - see examples in Act 2 and commentary to FF176 (http://enterthestory.com/comics/ff-act4-FF176.html)
what has John F. Kennedy got to do with the early FF?
(See commentary to FF19-22 and thereabouts)
The FF story parallels Hamlet: http://enterthestory.com/comics/ff_shakespeare.html
* Improvements and additions to my existing pages, such as...
"why doesn't Ben jump?" http://enterthestory.com/comics/ff_thing.html#jump
"why does Reed's face change?" http://enterthestory.com/comics/Reed_Richards.html#face
"how exactly did the team get their powers? (it links to Arthur C Clarke and Carl Sagan)
* Highlights from the letters pages
* The simple formula for great comics
And much more. I've completed the first draft for Act 1, Act 2 (up to FF24), Act 5 (from FF304) and numerous individual issues in between. From now on I'll just add an issue or two whenever I get time and feel like throwing that time into a bottomless pit. And my opinions are always evolving, so nothing is set in stone.
Regarding issues after 321, my view on these is changing, and these issues will feature in later updates. My original view is "they are best avoided" because of the lack of continuity, but I was wrong. There's some great stuff after 321, but the continuity is very, very complicated. If FF1-321 is like the Lord of the Rings, then FF322-610 is like the Silmarillion: often hard work to read, with occasional very nice touches, not great for new readers but rewarding for obsessive fans.
Anyway, hope you like the site. Comments are encouraged: it would be great if this could become a hub for deeper analysis of individual issues, including alternate views. But I'm only online about once a week at present, so I apologize if don't respond or fix errors as quickly as I should. I tend to give the site a major revision about once every two years, and that breathless pace is likely to continue.
*Why comics, at their best are the highest form of art: because images are good, text is good, and images plus text are better. More complex formats, such as video and software, either take too long to watch or have high barriers to entry. Plus I like them.