Fantastic (comics)

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Fantastic Summer Special 1968

Fantastic was a weekly British comic published by Odhams Press under the Power Comics imprint. It first appeared on 18 February 1967, and with its 52nd issue on 10 February 1968 it merged with its sister title Terrific. The 89th and final issue of Fantastic appeared on 7 September 1968, after which it was merged into Smash!.

Fantastic was different from the earlier Power Comics such as Smash! and Pow!, which were essentially traditional Beano-style British comic papers supplemented by a small amount of material reprinted from Marvel Comics. In contrast, Fantastic (and later Terrific as well) were more American in appearance, resembling the black-and-white comic anthologies of the time such as Creepy and Eerie. However, they were aimed at a younger audience than such magazines (although an older audience than the Beano-style British fare).

The Launch of Fantastic[edit]

Following the successes of Wham! (1964) and Smash! (1966) Odhams were keen to expand their line of weekly Power Comics in 1967. In January they launched Pow! with 'Spider-Man' as the lead strip, and a month later saw the arrival of a comic that consisted almost entirely of Marvel reprints: Fantastic.

Fantastic No.1, which launched on Saturday February 11, 1967, had a different format to its three predecessors. Slightly smaller in size and on better paper, it featured a whopping 40 pages and a higher cover price (9d, compared to Smash's 7d for 28 pages). This made it three times more expensive than the 3d cover price of D C Thomson's perennials Beano and Dandy. It could not sustain a profit in the increasingly crowded market of 1960s comics, but it did gain a faithful following, and served as an introduction to many of Marvel's superhero characters.

Marvel Superheroes[edit]

To match its more American appearance, the contents of Fantastic were also predominantly American, starting in the first issue with reprints of Marvel's The Mighty Thor and the X-Men, as well as Iron Man stories from Tales of Suspense. The only original content featured a British superhero called Johnny Future, who started out as a prehistoric "Missing Link" (who was, in appearance, very much a Hulk-lookalike), before evolving (literally) into a superman of the future. The Johnny Future stories were drawn by Luis Bermejo.

This line-up continued until issue 51, when Fantastic absorbed Terrific: becoming Fantastic and Terrific, but continuing the sequential numbering from Fantastic. The Thor and X-Men features continued until the end of the comic's run (when Thor then continued in Smash!), but Iron Man and Johnny Future were replaced by reprints of The Avengers and Doctor Strange, both continuing from Terrific.

A distinctive feature of Fantastic was the full-colour pin-up that appeared on the back cover of most issues. Many of these were reprinted from American Marvel comics, but at least some (including a Johnny Future pin-up) were produced by a young Barry Windsor-Smith.

All the Marvel strips inside Fantastic were printed in black-and-white, with colour used only for the front and back covers. The first issue commenced with Thor's origin story from Journey into Mystery #86 ('The Stone Men from Saturn'), plus the first X-Men story (the arrival of Miss Jean Grey) from the original X-Men #1, and the origin of Iron Man ('Iron Man is Born') from Tales of Suspense.

Merger with Terrific and Closure[edit]

Advertisement for Fantastic in the 1968 Fantastic Summer Special

Issue 52 of Fantastic saw the comic relaunched, in effect, as it absorbed companion paper Terrific to form Fantastic and Terrific, featuring Thor and the X-Men (from Fantastic), plus the Avengers and Doctor Strange (from Terrific).

That issue saw the first of several free gifts given away with each issue, as was traditional on the launch of a new comic. The cover numbering was continued from Fantastic.

The merger of the two titles bought Fantastic another nine months of life, but ultimately this was not enough to save it. Issue 89, published in September 1968, was the final issue. The Thor strip was thereafter transferred to Smash, and the others were discontinued.

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