The Marvel Unlimited app is a gigantic, messy cache of awesome and terrible old comic books: a library of 13,000 or so back issues of Marvel titles, available on demand for subscribers with tablets or mobile phones. Like any good back-room longbox, it's disorganized and riddled with gaps, but it's also full of forgotten and overlooked jewels, as well as a few stone classics. In Marvel Unlimited Edition, Eisner-winning critic Douglas Wolk dives into the Unlimited archive to find its best, oddest and most intriguing comics.
In today's edition: Who needs Godzilla when you've got Fin Fang Foom? One of the most ridiculous of the many monsters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby dreamed up in the pre-Fantastic Four era, the giant green (or maybe orange) dragon was first revived in 1974, and has shown up on a fairly regular basis over the past couple of decades. Sometimes (as in Kurt Busiek and Sean Chen's Iron Man) he's taken very seriously; sometimes (as in Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's nextwave) he's not. Here are some of his most entertaining appearances in the Unlimited archives.
Fin Fang Four #1-4 (2008-2009)
Scott Gray and Roger Langridge's Fin Fang Four stories, which appeared in various titles between 2005 and 2009, fall squarely into the "not very serious" division -- they're brief, goofy adventures involving Fin and his fellow early-'60s monsters Elektro, Gorgilla and Googam. Langridge is one of the funniest cartoonists alive, and he's got a particular affinity for Fin (who shows up briefly and less goofily in his and Chris Samnee's Thor the Mighty Avenger #6). This series of seven-page shorts, originally released as digital exclusives, gets bonus points for the first issue's cover parody of the original Avengers #4; there's also a FFF special tucked away on the Unlimited app as one of two different comics labeled as Marvel Monsters (2005) #1.
Hulk Vs. Fin Fang Foom #1 (2007)
A one-shot story set early in the Hulk's existence, "The Fin from Outer Space" is writer Peter David's homage to John Carpenter's version of The Thing - -in this case, the alien creature that possesses and kills scientists in Antarctica is a "stupid dragon" with whom Hulk eventually dukes it out. Jorge Lucas and Robert Campanella draw the story's characters in the mode of mid-'70s Jack Kirby, although seeing Kirby's signature style against spacious, empty backgrounds is an odd experience. Irritatingly, the Marvel Unlimited version of Hulk Vs. Fin Fang Foom doesn't include Lee and Kirby's original "Fin Fang Foom" story from Strange Tales #89, which appeared in the print version of this comic.
The big orange monster here isn't really Fin himself -- it's actually Thor's old nemesis the Midgard Serpent in disguise -- and Walter Simonson's story is remarkably plot-heavy (and text-heavy), involving Loki's schemes, a crossover with X-Factor, the dark elf Kurse, and some exceptionally short-sighted frost giants. When the dragon shows up, though, Sal Buscema draws him with wit and vigor, and gives him facial expressions that recall Dr. Seuss's Grinch.