Fin Fang Foom menaces a human on his first cover. Artist: Jack Kirby.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1961
Creators: Larry Lieber or Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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In the very early 1960s, before Marvel Comics hit on the formula of superheroes, superheroes and more superheroes, the company had a brief period during which it specialized in huge monsters with goofy names. Not only did their fantasy titles such as Journey into Mystery and Tales to Astonish become rife with monsters like Pildorr, Gorkill and Kraa — even Kid Colt and The Rawhide Kid came up against guys like Waroo and The Terrible Totem. Since…

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… monsters fit perfectly well into the nascent Marvel Universe, some of these guys, including It, the Living Colossus, found homes there after their stories had long since disappeared into school paper drives and comic book dealers' vaults.

While It actually had his own series, at least briefly, the monster that became best established in the superhero world was probably Fin Fang Foom, who first appeared in Strange Tales #89 (October, 1961). Fin may owe his success to the fact that, in a field that includes Grottu, Zzutak, Rro and Tim Boo Ba, many knowledgeable commentators consider Fin to have the goofiest name of all.

Fin, who was big, scaly, sinuous and green, started out as the eponymous resident of The Valley of the Sleeping Dragon (no relation) in a remote part of China. A youth named Chan Liuchow latched onto a way to wake him up, and that inspired him with a plan to get rid of the Communist army that threatened his home. He put an end to Fin's eons-long slumber, then got the monster to chase him to where the soldiers were preparing their assault. Next thing you know, they weren't a nuisance anymore.

Of course, the only thing worse than having your neighborhood infested with Commies is having it infested with Fin Fang Foom. Fortunately, Chan was able to lure Fin back to where he'd be out of everyone's way, then used a similar technique to put him back under. Then it was on to November's monster, Orrgo the Unconquerable. The story was probably written by Larry Lieber (Spider-Man in the newspapers), tho the scripter might have been his brother, Stan Lee (who gets most of the writing credit for the superheroes of the next couple of years). The artist team was penciller Jack Kirby (Captain America, The Black Panther) and inker Dick Ayers (Human Torch, Ghost Rider).

Fin next turned up in the clutches of The Collector (later associated with a bunch of cosmic beings that includes Galactus), as part of his giant monster collection, which also held such earlier-seen menaces as Groot, Rommbu and Googam, Son of Goom. They got loose, and were defeated by The Thing, The Hulk, The Beast and several other (relatively) good guys, some of whom weren't even monsters themselves. Then he teamed up with It to fend off Gorgolla the Living Gargoyle and others of his species.

Fin's big break came when he got associated with The Mandarin, a Yellow Peril style villain who regularly bedeviled Iron Man. There, he suffered a serious retcon — he became part of an unsuccessful ancient invasion of dragon-like aliens with shape-changing powers that enabled most to be assimilated into Earth's population. Also part of that invasion was Grogg, whose original threat had actually predated Fin's.

Fin has since undergone the usual vicissitudes of a series-less denizen of a superhero universe, who doesn't have much commercial value on his own, such as the revelation that he'd woken up centuries earlier and fought time-traveling monster hunter Ulysses Bloodstone. When last seen, he'd been reduced to human size, and was working as chef in a Chinese restaurant located in The Fantastic Four's office building.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.