In November, the Fantastic Four–Marvel Comics' first family–turns 50 years old. To celebrate, Dan Merritt, owner of Dearborn's Green Brain Comics, organized a team of artists to redraw the entire first issue of the comic for display in the store's Headspace Gallery.
"I wanted to have a tribute for the anniversary," Merritt said. "From the original issue, there’s 25 interior pages and the cover, so my idea was to round up 26 artists to recreate those original pages in their own style, but do it in a manner that is respectful and pays tribute to the original material.”
Created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, Fantastic Four debuted in November 1961 and told the stories of a team of scientists gifted with incredible powers after being exposed to cosmic rays during a trip to outer space.
Earlier this year, the team lost a member when Johnny Storm, also known as The Human Torch, appeared to sacrifice himself to stop a monster invasion from another dimension. The comic book series ceased publication with issue 588 and was re-launched as FF. This November, it returns to its original title for issue 600, a quadruple-sized issue that teases the Torch's return.
"What makes (Fantastic Four) timeless is the writing," said Justin Rose, 36, a contributor to the upcoming gallery.
"Stan Lee is a legend," Rose added. "He created characters that really stood the test of time … iconic, classic characters. He was into making stories that were believable and unbelievable at the same time."
Rose, a life-long comic book fan, is the design director for Detroit publication Metro Times, and studied illustration at the Kendall College of Art & Design. A fan of the title, he was excited to participate in the gallery–joining other local artists like Dave Acosta and John Nagridge–and redraw the book's final page.
"I was really happy to do an action-packed page like the last page, sort of the climax of the book," he said. "It was fun–a lot of monsters, very colorful. I wanted to stay retro, I wanted to stay colorful, so with those couple simple concepts in mind I just went about the business of redrawing that page."
When the FF 50th Anniversary Group Exhibit opens, visitors will see 26 different interpretations of a single classic story, told page-by-page in wildly different styles ranging from odes to the Peanuts comic strip and 50s-era B-horror movies to colorful pop art.
For Merritt, the Headspace Gallery provides an opportunity to showcase the work of local artists while also presenting "comic art as a displayable art form–something that can be read and enjoyed while you’re sitting in your La-Z-Boy, but also something that you can see on a wall, step back from, and appreciate it for its artistic value.”
The Fantastic Four tribute gallery opens Wednesday with a reception from 7-10 p.m and will be on display until December 31. Admission to the reception is free, however Merritt will be accepting donations for the non-profit arts and literary advocacy group Kids Read Comics.
The Headspace Gallery is located inside Green Brain Comics at 13210 Michigan Avenue in East Downtown Dearborn. For more information, call 313-582-9444.