Comics
Published August 23, 2019

Tom Scioli on Collecting First Family History for 'Fantastic Four: Grand Design'

Pre-order issue #1 at your local comic shop today!

Legend has it that Stan Lee was ready to take a break from the comic book game when his wife Joan encouraged him to make the kind of book he wanted to read. With that in mind, he got to work with Jack Kirby and the duo debuted FANTASTIC FOUR #1. That was 58 years ago, in 1961—and the series has been running almost completely non-stop ever since.

That's one way of saying that Tom Scioli's got his work cut out for him with FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN!

FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 cover by Tom Scioli
FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 cover by Tom Scioli

The limited series, which launches in October, will take the approach Ed Piskor did with X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN by encapsulating the team's immense history into just a couple of issues! 

Marvel.com talked with Scioli about capturing those 58 years in one grand design.

How did you get involved with the massive undertaking that is FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN?

Chris Robinson contacted me about it around the time the first issue of X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN came out. It was something Marvel editorial was considering, but it wasn’t decided yet. Chris asked for a pitch for a Fantastic Four that was in the vein of Ed’s X-Men.

To me, the main task was to figure out some kind of through line for all those stories that were done on the fly by multiple creative teams over the years. My thought was that the FF possessed a secret knowledge of the secret history of Earth, all the gods and alien invasions and cryptozoology. Their main goal and the main purpose of the Baxter Building was to create a central hub to guard against invasion from outer space, the Microverse, the Negative Zone, Atlantis, etc.

FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli
FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli

The FF is one of the pillars of the Marvel Universe, so how's it been going back through their adventures over the years?

You’re so right about that. What blows me away is just how much of the Marvel Universe, the worlds, the heroes and villains started in the FF. It’s so much more than just the FF themselves. Just going somewhat in order you have Monster Isle, Skrulls, Doom’s Latveria, The Watcher and his blue area on the moon, Inhumans, Silver Surfer, Galactus, the Negative Zone, Black Panther, the Kree with their Supreme Intelligence and their Sentries and Accusers, Adam Warlock, just to name a few.

Fans talk about which comic has the best rogues' gallery. To me the answer hands down is the FF. Their rogues' gallery carry their own books. Silver Surfer started out as a villain in the FF. He came to Earth, caused a bunch of trouble, then did a face turn. Black Panther starts out as an adversary for the FF, then becomes their best friend. You see Adam Warlock created in a lab and crawling out of his cocoon. You think of these characters as their own entities with their own separate histories, but when you read the comics in order, you see how they begin, for one issue at least, as the villain of the week. It’s kind of like the structure of the Arthurian legends where he’d encounter a knight, fight him, and then get him to join his army.

Jack and Stan were just on another level in a way that really hasn’t been equaled. They created an empire, issue by issue.

FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli
FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli

We're talking about nearly 60 years of books here. How do you keep it all organized?

I have digital files of pretty much all of it. I have a couple storage crates full of the FF and other pertinent comics. Not a complete collection, but lots of books. I speed read through it all, making notes and then gave a closer reading to the chapters that stood out to me.

It’s kind of heartbreaking how much you have to leave out. X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN was six issues; this is two issues, so there is a lot left on the cutting room floor. It took teams of people 60 years to create all this, so summarizing it in 80 pages is a Sisyphean task.

What you’re going to get is a very personalized guided tour of the FF mythology. Above all, I want it to read as a complete story, as though every improv, every red herring and dead end that came out of decades of riffing was part of a cohesive pre-planned, grandly-designed whole.

Have there been any stories, issues, or moments that surprised you as you've been making your way through the FF's history? 

The '70s were very anything-goes. They were really trying anything and everything. Alternate universes, parallel Earths. The really dated disco stuff is fun. I think the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee material cast such a long shadow that the creative teams that followed were working like crazy to find some unexplored angle and sometimes failing in spectacularly entertaining fashion.

FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom ScioliFANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli
FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 interiors by Tom Scioli

From the artistic side, were there any specific challenges that came about in bringing all these stories together?

Yes, it’s so hard. There’s a freedom to creating something out of whole cloth. Nobody knows what you left out. For something like this, anybody who wants to compare it to the original, they can. So the main challenge is putting aside all of that when I get to work. I just pretend that there was never any Fantastic Four comic before this one. It’s really hard to do. On a more technical note, the original stories are episodic so there are a lot of incidents and making them build off of each other in an organic way is the key puzzle I’m trying to solve.

What do you think it is about these characters and their dynamics that have made them so popular over the decades? How has it been bringing all of that out in this project? 

I think the team has a great chemistry. You can tell they really care about each other and that’s a rare feat in comics. What I’m trying to do is push that to the limits, really put as much of a strain on those relationships as I can and see if they still hold together. If they do, then the Fantastic Four will really earn the title of "Marvel’s First Family."

To see how Scioli brings it all together, pre-order FANTASTIC FOUR: GRAND DESIGN #1 at your local comic shop now, then pick it up on October 16!

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