I managed to find some original art from the 1990s quarterly series "Fantastic Four Unlimited" recently. Let's take a look!
Fantastic Four Unlimited was part of a line of oversized quarterly books that Marvel published in the mid '90s. Each issue was 64-pages long and cost $3.95 (quaint!). There was a whole line of these titles...Spider-Man Unlimited, X-Men Unlimited, and even weird titles you might not expect like Star Trek Unlimited and 2099 Unlimited. I suspect that they shipped during months that had five Wednesdays, but I'm not sure. Spider-Man and X-Men long outlasted the rest of the titles (X-Men Unlimited ran for 50 issues!), but for a while, we were all treated to bizarre, mostly self-contained, long-format stories that sometimes even had an effect on main titles.
Fantastic Four Unlimited #3 took the FF back to the Negative Zone. For a place that encompasses an entire negatively-charged universe, Annihilus and Blastaar (the Living Bomb-Bust) sure do show up with some regularity. This issue was no different, but it also featured another of my favorite rarely-used villain.
Herb Trimpe ("Trimpe" was autocorrected as "Trump" when I first typed it, so thanks for that, Internets) provided most of the art throughout the series, including this issue. Trimpe is best known for his work on the "Incredible Hulk" title, as well as being the co-creator of Wolverine, but growing up, I knew him for this book.
Trimpe's style on this book is a bit of a departure from his earlier work. A few years ago, I heard that Trimpe wanted to update his art style to something a little more relevant to the hyper-cool 1990s, so he tried his best Liefeld impression for this title. I think it shows, especially in the characters' faces. I probably would have preferred he use his classic style, but I don't blame him for changing it up as this was, of course, 1993/94.
I really enjoy this page for a number of reasons. First, it includes the entire team, even if we only see Sue Storm in a rather awkward pose from behind (in which it looks like her hair might be on fire). Annihilus (what a fantastic comic book name!) and Blastaar (not my favorite comic book name!) are also in on the action!
Second, it includes all of the original word balloons and sound effects, inked directly on the page, something that's probably lost forever to the digital age.
And lastly, the Reed Richards you see in the first two panels of the page is actually...not Reed Richards! Instead, it's the alternate universe Reed imposter, The Brute! I always thought that the Brute had a really cool design (in his purple bad guy form). I don't know if the character has been used more than once or twice since this issue was published about 25 years ago.
This new page goes well with this other item I recently came across - a retailer preview of FF Unlimited's first issue!
Retailer previews today usually consist of a PDF attached to an email (or a link to the same), but back in the '90s, an intern (probably) would spend time and effort photocopying and stapling artwork to mail out to shops across the country.
The paper here is actually magazine sized, for whatever reason, printed on both the front and back of most pages. This preview reproduces the first 34 story pages and then just...ends, as the FF travel to Wakanda to visit the Black Panther and take on, of course, Klaw.
'90s comics could be pretty wild. Look how edgy this one managed to be! Be sure to count every one of Klaw's teeth.