Galactus (gesturing imperiously), on a 1968 cover. Artist: Jack Kirby.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creator: Stan Lee (writer) and Jack Kirby (artist)
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Any superhero fan who knows beans about the genre will tell you one of its high points — perhaps the high point — is the 1960s …

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Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And that same knowledgeable superhero fan will tell you one of the high points of Fantastic Four — perhaps the high point — occurred in issues 48-50, when they first encountered Galactus, a cosmic entity who survives by consuming the life and energy of entire planets.

Of course, anybody can throw a planet-eating menace into a superhero story, and then top it with a guy that eats galaxies. But Lee and Kirby made Galactus memorable by having the story turn not on super-heroics, but on character interaction. The story was less about the awesome menace, than about attitude changes on the part of Galactus's "herald", The Silver Surfer. In the end, it didn't have to rely on the relative absurdity of four human beings, however powerful, mustering up the strength to defeat such an entity.

Unfortunately, too much of a good thing can be — not so good. The second time Galactus turned up, he seemed less exciting than before, and the third and fourth times, less exciting yet. After a dozen or more go-rounds, he was just another part of the Marvel Universe, and it had become practically impossible to do anything interesting with him.

In fact, the best treatment of Galactus since he first appeared was in a 1978 graphic novel by Lee and Kirby. It did nothing but re-tell the exact same story as the character's first appearance — but it left out The Fantastic Four.


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Text ©2000 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.