Fantastic Four: Who is Marvel’s First Family?

All Four One, One Four All

Reed Richards:A few days in space. What’s the worst that could happen?

Fantastic Four (2005)

A monster is rampaging through New York City. The creature raises a fist to kill a child, but something restrains it. Looking back, the monster sees a blue-clad man whose arms have stretched to wrap around its fist. While that distraction is going on, a woman fades into sight and carries the child away from the fight.

The monster frees itself and flings the man away. It rushes at the stretching man, but stops as a wall of fire appears in front of it. More flames are hurled at the monster by a flying man who is enveloped in fire. The monster retreats from the flames only to run into an orange golem who knocks it out with one punch. The Fantastic Four reunite around the prone monster.

Modern superhero fans often ignore the Fantastic Four. They lack the edgy drama of the X-Men, the wit of Spider-Man, and the expanded roster of The Avengers. Too many people forget that The Fantastic Four created many of the tropes that later superheroes ran into the ground.

So who are The Fantastic Four? How did they get their powers? What brought this team together? Let’s find out.

Catching Some Rays: The Fantastic Four’s Backstory

Susan Storm:You don’t want to walk around on fire for the rest of your life, do you?
Johnny Storm:…Is that a trick question?

Fantastic Four (2005)

The Fantastic Four debuted in The Fantastic Four #1 in 1961. They were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, though the two disagreed about who came up with the idea. The only concrete fact is that the Fantastic Four had been created to compete with DC’s Justice League of America.

Reed Richards was a scientist working on an experimental spaceship alongside his engineer girlfriend, Susan Storm. The government pulled funding from their project, thinking it a waste of time. Reed and Susan decided to hijack the mostly complete ship to prove it worked. Reed convinced his pilot friend Ben Grimm to fly the ship while Sue recruited her brother Johnny to man one of the consoles.

Their plan worked until they reached space. Incomplete shielding exposed the crew to cosmic radiation, giving them superpowers based on the classical elements. They returned to Earth and became superheroes, calling themselves The Fantastic Four. But enough about the team, let’s talk about its members.

Mister Fantastic: Stretchy Scientist

Played by Ioan Gruffard and Miles Teller

Mr. Fantastic: My name is Reed Richards… and I’m the one who fixes things.

Secret Wars

Reed Richards is the team’s leader and uses the name Mister Fantastic. Side note: how arrogant is someone who chooses that name? He was inspired by the DC hero Plastic Man.

Reed Richards is the brains behind the mission that created the Fantastic Four. He is considered one of the smartest people in the Marvel universe, with several degrees by the time he turned twenty. Reed felt guilty about the accident and formed the Fantastic Four so people would see his friends as heroes instead of freaks.

The cosmic radiation gave Reed shapeshifting powers. He primarily uses these to stretch his body parts. Stop snickering. Mr. Fantastic uses several tools and weapons he designed when stretching isn’t enough. These include lasers, drones, robots, and the Fantasticar, the team’s primary vehicle.

Mister Fantastic is one of the dumbest geniuses ever written. He can turn toasters into time machines or create portals to Heaven, but has trouble understanding his teammates’ emotions. Despite a sociopathic focus on science, he has shown many times that he loves his friends.

The Invisible Woman: Damsel No Longer In Distress

Played by Jessica Alba and Kate Mara

Invisible Woman:This ends now!
Namor: You dare-!
Invisible Woman:Yes, I do. And now you will listen to me.
The Thing: [as Namor attacks her shield] “And they say I’m the tough one.

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes “Imperius Rex” (Season 1, Episode 16)

Susan Storm is the Fantastic Four’s second in command. She was inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. Stan Lee gave Sue the power to turn invisible to avoid making her a Wonder Woman knockoff.

Susan Storm was the daughter of disgraced scientist Franklin Storm. She fell in love with Reed while still a teenager and rushed through her schooling so she could work alongside him. She was originally thirteen when this happened, but writers later changed the story to make it more believable and less icky.

Sue is the group’s peacemaker who stops members of the team from killing each other. She eventually convinced Reed to marry her. They have two children: reality warper Franklin Richards and super-genius Valeria Richards. Sue is fiercely protective of her family and will kill anything that attacks her children.

The Invisible Woman’s only original superpower was invisibility, but writers later realized she was too weak and gave her force fields to compensate. Over time, The Invisible Woman has learned to fashion her fields into objects and weapons, turning her into a borderline Green Lantern. Even without constructs, Sue can create force fields inside villains and expand them until their body goes pop. 

There’s a reason Susan Storm is considered the deadliest member of the Fantastic Four.

Human Torch: Hot-Blooded Hero

Played by Chris Evans and Michael B. Jordan

[a heat seeking missile is flying towards the Fantastic Four]
Johnny: “I’ve got an idea”
Sue: “Don’t even think about it !”
Johnny: “Never do! [jumps off a building] Come on. Come on, come on, FLAME ON! ”

Fantastic Four (2005)

The Human Torch is the Fantastic Four’s comedic relief. He is the second Marvel hero to bear the name. The First Human Torch was a flaming android and arguably Marvel’s first superhero.

Johnny Storm is an average fun-loving teenager. Where Susan was a workaholic genius, Johnny is more concerned with fast cars, pretty girls, and enjoying life, and he didn’t change when he became a superhero. He constantly heckles supervillains and plays pranks on the rest of the team. Ironically, this lets him get along great with his rival, Spider-Man.

The Human Torch is able to fly and control fire. Like Sue, he has learned to shape his flames into various weapons, but he usually sticks to fireballs. When the Human Torch gets serious, he unleashes the Nova Blast, a focused stream of fire that is as hot as the sun.

The Thing: Gruff Golem

Played by Michael Chiklis and Jamie Bell

War Machine: “Where are the Fantastic Four?
The Thing:On a diplomatic mission to another dimension. I stayed behind to watch the game, which I’m missing now thanks to this. [beat] Any way you could find out the score with that suit of yours?

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes “New Avengers” (Season 2, Episode 23)

Last but not least is The Thing, the Fantastic Four’s breakout hit. Stan Lee based him on actor Jimmy Durante while Jack Kirby gave him several of Kirby’s own tics.

Ben Grimm was a U.S. Air Force pilot who was Reed Richards’ college roommate. He received a larger dose of the cosmic radiation and became a super strong rock monster. He was disgusted by his new appearance and called himself The Thing.

The Thing suffered from mood swings because he could not adjust to the new form he called hideous. The Fantastic Four helped him with some of his issues, but his biggest supporter and later wife is a blind sculptor named Alicia Masters. The Thing has since conquered most of his image issues and replaced his anger with a boisterous personality.

The Thing is the team’s best fighter. He was trained in hand-to-hand combat in the military and has incorporated several martial arts into his fighting style. The Thing is one of Marvel’s strongest characters, rivaling The Hulk for strongest hero. Recent events have shown that The Thing might be the stronger of the two, as he was able to K.O. The Hulk at the cost of breaking his arm.

The Thing’s greatest power is his allies. He has worked with almost every Marvel hero and several of the villains. If The Thing is ever in danger, it’s widely accepted that the superhero community would drop everything to help him. Captain America is the only other hero to elicit that sort of loyalty. 

At the risk of sounding like a Saturday morning cartoon, don’t mess with the power of friendship.

The Fantastic Four in Film

The Fantastic Four have appeared in four movies. None were good.

The first Fantastic Four movie was made by Roger Coman in 1994 for Constantin Film. It was an ashcan movie, a poorly made product only made so that Constantin Film could retain the film rights. It was never officially released, but bootlegs and leaks have made it widely available online. Not that we condone piracy, yarr.

A Fantastic Four duology was released in the mid 2000’s. The first one didn’t wow audiences. The sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, was more concerned with setting up the title character for an unmade spinoff than being a sequel.

The final film was Fant4stic. It’s one of the few movies that surpasses Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or Adventures of Thunderstorm: Return of Thor in terms of awful superhero movies. It won three Razzies, tying with Fifty Shades of Grey for worst picture of 2015. Some suspect that this was another ashcan movie, made to keep the film rights at Fox.

Now that the film rights are back with Marvel, The Fantastic Four are scheduled to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You know what they say, the fifth time’s the charm.

Didya Get All That?

The Four and only.

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