Tales from the Longbox – Fantastic Four #252 (1983)

Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.

Fantastic Four #252
March 1983
Writer/Artist: John Byrne

You might have read my previous article on John Byrne’s debut on the Fantastic Four and for this blog entry, I wanted to follow up on Byrne’s classic run by taking a look at an issue two years after that debut.

At first glance, you’ll notice that Fantastic Four #252 is a “widescreen” or “sideways” issue. As the title’s caption states, this issue was “the World’s most innovative comic magazine” and indeed it is as this was the first ever sideways issue and there have only been a handful done since.

Fantastic Four #252 kicked off the team’s adventures in the Negative Zone. It’s a great hybrid of the science fiction and superhero genres and reminded us of the role of the Fantastic Four as explorers in the Marvel Universe.

Despite finding the pages a bit awkward to flip, the format allowed Byrne to try a lot of great things, including vividly capturing the alien cityscapes,and playing with the panel assortment and sizes, in particular, the long stretched ones and the wider ones. Interestingly, the widescreen format for this issue makes it perfect for reading on a laptop screen!

The story was a solid, entertaining cautionary tale for our explorers and set the tone for this 4-part adventure into the Negative Zone. It’s also surprising how much Byrne managed to jam into this 22-page comic (two pages of which were an Annihilus sub-plot!).

A fun side note is that the “Free Lakeside Skin Tattooz” was often taken from this issue and placed into the far more expensive Amazing Spider-Man #238 (first appearance of the Hobgoblin) in case that issue was missing the “Tattooz”.

Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.

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