Week of the Dead

Week of the Dead, Day 1: Thing

We crack open artist Juan Doe's sketchbook for a peek at FANTASTIC FOUR: ISLA DE LA MUERTE

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By Ryan Penagos FANTASTIC FOUR: ISLA DE LA MUERTE sees Marvel's First Family heading to Puerto Rico to tackle both the Mole Man and the chupacabra, courtesy of Tom Beland (True Story, Swear to God) and artist Juan Doe (X-MEN: THE 198 covers)! Check out a bevy of Doe's behind-the-scenes sketches and designs, and see what the creative duo has to say about the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing!
"When I was a kid, my mother worked in the pharmacy department at the local drug store," says Beland. "I would stop by there after school was out and wait for her to get off work and walk home with her. Since they had a HEY KIDS COMICS! spinner rack, I could sit back and read comics until her shift was over. Next to Spider-Man, the FF were my favorite book and I loved reading about them. My first issue

Early FF: Isla
de la Muerte layouts
by Juan Doe

was #134 'A DRAGON STALKS THE SKIES' featuring Dragon Man and Gregory Gideon. There was so much excitement in those books and I soon found myself searching for back issues. It's surreal to be writing words for them all to speak." Surreal or not, Beland's skills on the indie True Story Swear to God helped score him ISLA DE LA MUERTE with Doe, but it's his love for the characters that helps make it shine.

Thing sketch by
Juan Doe

"Ben has always had the voice of my father in my mind," adds Beland. "He was a lot like Ben, very straight forward and he had a temper, but when the chips were down, you could count on him to watch your back. He's the protector of the family, even though the public sees Reed as the father figure. I can relate a little for his need for privacy and doing some things on his own." For artist Juan Doe, there are a few things that immediately come to mind when thinking of Ben Grimm. "Yancy St., 'my Aunt Petunia' and 'whoah iz me.' I always remember sympathizing with him as a kid, out of all the FF, he's the one that got the brunt end of the cosmic radiation. He was so odd looking that the only name that fit him was well...The Thing. Regardless, I'll take him over any chiseled-chin chump any day.

Thing sketch by
Juan Doe

"I literally read almost every single Jack Kirby, Stan Lee FF issue they ever did," says Doe. "In the process of doing so I got to see very specifically how JK evolved him throughout the years until it reached the quintessential Thing we all know and love today. From that point forward many artists have had a chance to add their own little twist to how he looks. I felt that the John Byrne Thing was a wonderful return to his classic roots and most recently, Wieringo did this as well. I think my drawings of him came together quite naturally. I really enjoyed drawing him and his look fleshed itself out real well. One thing I did with him specifically, as opposed to the rest of the team, was to ink him by hand. Everyone else was inked digitally. I wanted the natural line that you could only get with pen and ink."

Early FF: Isla
de la Muerte layouts
by Juan Doe

That kind of personal touch is what Doe emphasizes in drawing and ruminating on Thing. "His face has a lot of character and you can display a wide array of emotions in very simple ways," says the artist. "The rockiness was imperative in that you have to try and imagine how it looks like in different perspectives and draw it accordingly...The more random the rock pattern the better the results. And finally, his bulkiness is very important and I think bulkiness is the appropriate adjective to use for him. I never liked when he was drawn too muscular, he's a stocky powerhouse." Like Doe, Beland finds personal touches and points of reference with Thing. "Sometimes, if my wife goes to Rincon for the weekend—and although I'll miss her when she's gone—there's that secret joy of

Thing sketch by
Juan Doe

knowing you have the place to yourself for the weekend," says Beland. "I can see Ben coming home, finding a note from Sue that reads, 'Gone to Negative Zone. Casserole in the fridge — Sue' and he'd just love having some alone time. So, I don't see him as a depressed loner...I see him as someone who likes his space. Of all the four, Ben could easily live with anonymity. If the fame ended tomorrow, he'd be fine." Beland brings a love for the characters and a firm handle on writing great, fun comics to ISLA DE LA MUERTE, but he's also a bit of a romantic. While you'll have to wait and see if that shines through in this one-shot, he isn't shy about giving a shout-out to his favorite FF lovebirds.

Fantastic Four sketch
by Juan Doe

"The Ben/Alicia relationship is one of the most underrated ones in comics," muses Beland. "I've loved that relationship and there's so much to learn from it. And I always get a kick out of seeing her sculptures."
Join us tomorrow as we spotlight the Invisible Woman!
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