Who are the Fantastic Four? Marvel’s First Family explained
After years of silence, Marvel’s Fantastic Four film is finally gaining traction. Here’s everything you need to know about Marvel’s first family before they hit the MCU.
It’s potentially a big moment. Despite being the quartet that kicked off the current era of superhero comics, the Fantastic Four has had poor luck outside of comic books. While some animated series have done well enough, movie outings have ranged from so bad it’s good to so bad it’s just bad.
Ahead of the team’s long-awaited film return, here’s a quick rundown on who the Fantastic Four are and why you should care.
Who are the Fantastic Four?
The Fantastic Four is the first superhero team created by the superstar team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Through the FF, Lee and Kirby ushered in an era of superhero comics at a time when the industry was still reeling from the implementation of the Comics Code.
Fantastic Four #1 turned out to be a runaway success thanks to the decision to focus on the human side of heroes, making them feel like real people who led real lives. This success led to the Marvel Style of comics and the debuts of Spider-Man, The Avengers, The X-Men and more, not to mention the revival of older characters like Namor and Captain America.
These days, the Fantastic Four remain some of Marvel’s most important characters and are behind some of the best comic stories ever told. It helps that their portrayals have remained as human as when they debuted, so the team feels at home whether they’re fighting dinosaurs in the streets or convincing God to resurrect their dead friend.
The original members of the Fantastic Four explained
Reed Richards and Ben Grimm are working on an experimental rocket ship when they take it for a joy ride, taking Reed’s girlfriend, Sue, and her brother, Johnny, along for the ride.
The takeoff is a success, but the trip is a disaster. Cosmic rays bombard the rocket ship, sending the quartet crashing to Earth. They arrive forever changed, with incredible powers and abilities that define them as some of the first superheroes in decades.
Though they continue their lives as scientists and explorers, the team inevitably finds themselves battling monsters and villains. Donning costumes designed by Sue and trained by Reed, the group becomes known as the Fantastic Four, becoming the world’s most respected superhero team.
Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic
The patriarchal figure of the Fantastic Four, Reed Richards is a genius scientist and often hailed as the smartest man in the Marvel Universe. He gains the ability to stretch and elongate his body, originally just as simple shapes but later into more complex figures, or even changing his face for a disguise.
Much like Kang (a potential descendant of Reed from another Earth), Reed is part of a multiversal Council of Reeds. These versions of himself from other universes have gathered together to solve problems on every Earth, though they tend to be much more utilitarian than the real Reed.
Reed is also a founding member of the Illuminati, a group of all-powerful heroes who have made the hard decisions necessary to secretly steer the fate of Earth in its darkest moments.
Sue Richards/Invisible Woman
With the ability to turn herself invisible and project forcefields, Sue declares herself the Invisible Girl. Her story in Marvel starts in a weird place by today’s standards, though.
Sue’s significantly younger than her future husband Reed and is often treated as a hindrance. Early stories have a tendency to make her little more than a doting girlfriend or damsel in distress.
Sue arguably gets the biggest arc of the team, though. Her growth from Invisible Girl to Invisible Woman marked a Sue who was just as smart and perhaps more competent than the others. Her powers followed suit, too; her mastery over forcefields has become so precise that she can place a forcefield in blood vessels with pinpoint accuracy or blot out the entire sun for days to coat a planet in darkness.
Johnny Storm/Human Torch
The accident that gives the team their powers allows Johnny Storm to engulf his body in flame and fly. Over time, Johnny’s powers involve a true mastery over flame, allowing him to absorb and manipulate it.
Though Johnny is a hothead, he’s also one of Marvel’s more earnest characters with a heart of gold. His natural demeanor has made him Spider-Man’s best friend and an easy ally of the Inhumans and Avengers.
He’s also gone through significant personal tragedy, with his first wife being a Skrull double agent and his own ordeal assumed dead in the Negative Zone.
Ben Grimm/The Thing
The pilot of the rocketship that gave the team their powers, Ben Grimm, may have suffered the worst. His body was turned into a horrifying rock monster, and his entire life was ripped apart.
In reality, Ben’s existence is owed to the uncertainty of comics. With horror comics dying and superhero comics untested, a tried-but-true monster character was added to fall back on if the book flopped.
Fortunately, the book took off, and people loved Ben. He’s a down-to-earth guy from the streets of New York who got dealt a rough hand. Though many stories are about the mental and physical strain of Ben’s transformation, just as many focus on how he’s rolled with the punches over the years.
In current books, he’s happily married with two adopted children and arguably the most well-adjusted of the Four – even if his wife is the daughter of a supervillain and their children are orphans from an alien war planet.
That’s everything you need to know for now about the Fantastic Four. To learn more about the film as it develops, be sure to follow all of Dexerto’s coverage.