As The Fantastic Four Returns this week, A challenge is laid down and accepted.
Working at Comic Watch you learn a lot about the industry, artist, writers, publishers, and books. There isn’t a day that we aren’t determined to pick up a new book; I think it is safe to say the workers at Comic Watch have all increased our spending. To paint a picture of how my journey begins, assignments were being posted, random chatter about “did you check out this or that title.” Ross also commonly known as Ross the Boss gives out a number on presales on the return of the Fantastic Four. Up until this point, I only knew one person that was excited about the return of Fantastic Four, I was intrigued.
My history of Fantastic Four was three or four comics I found when I was a kid in back issues pin for 50 cents and the movies. I was never a fan. My opinion has always been boring, tame, for kids, cheesy. I reluctantly asked, “People are actually excited about the return of Fantastic Four?” Fellow writer and journalist John Jack joined the conversation poking fun at me for not knowing my history of Marvel’s first family. I offered the challenge. “Make me a fan, give me titles to read, I will read it.” The challenge was given and accepted.
The real challenge was to figure out what to read, Ross and John helped complete a list to read, I would also like to thank John’s group ‘for the love of comics’ as he put out a call to help create the list. I was going in with an open mind but also convinced my mind will not be changed.
Fantastic Four: 1, 5, 45, 51, 57, 58-60, 112, 232, 251-256, 265. Vol 2: 67-70, 500, 1-14, 642-645, and finally Secret Wars 1-9.
Fantastic Four #1
I could not read Fantastic Four without reading the first issue. I liked that it did not go into a long explanation about how they got their powers, it was a simple explanation, let the action begin. I also found it humorous when Ben Aka The Thing was attempting to shop for clothes in his size. As a person of size, it is completely relatable.
Fantastic Four #51
Issue 51 is possibly my favorite single issue that I read. We start off seeing Ben walking in the rain. He is depressed, he wants to be normal. He falls into a trap by a mad scientist, who takes Ben’s form as the Thing, allowing Ben to have his normal body. The Fake Thing wants to prove that he is better than Reed. During this adventure; Reed and fake Thing get trapped into the Negative Zone. Fake Thing realizes how stupid it was to be jealous of Reed, that Mr. Fantastic is just that, he is ‘fantastic’ and good guy. Fake Thing ends up sacrificing himself in order to save Reed. Fake thing dies, Ben becomes the Thing again and realizes that it’s not so bad being The Thing. Ben realizes the good he does as the Thing outweighs being normal.
There was a part in the book where Johnny was in a diner; a confrontation starts with a football player. Wyatt Wingfoot breaks up an altercation, one of the ladies stated, “oh look at those shoulders.” Which was interesting since it was the 60s I learned having big shoulders equaled hot.
Fantastic Four #57-60
Enter Doctor Doom, Doom steals Silver Surfers powers causes a ruckus for the Fantastic Four seemingly defeating the team. I will admit at first I did not enjoy the story. Sue appeared to always be in Distress, the team was constantly worried if Sue was okay, I can’t worry Sue, and Sue is too weak to go through this battle. However the last issue she redeemed herself. She did the one thing that none of the boys could do, briefly knocked out Dr. Doom. I realize that the book was in 1964. I believe Marvel did what they were able to do with Sue in making her powerful during that time period. Once I looked at it with that in mind, I enjoyed the story much more.
Fantastic Four 232
Wind, Fire, Water, and Earth attach each of the Fantastic Four. Sue was getting hair done while being attacked, Johnny was ready to give up being the human torch for love. It was interesting to read Sue’s story, as she wanted to run for help, but was unable to, fought for herself, and took out a bad guy or two. I bring Sue up again because I believe from issue 57 to now this was a turning point for her becoming more independent and not the damsel in distress character I read in previous issues.
Fantastic Four 251-256
Into the Negative Zone. Reed creates a machine to go into the Negative Zone. The First page is Ben looking down into what seems like an endless pit. I realized the last arc I read that Fantastic Four is very science-oriented which is something I never knew previously. Ben “I don’t get it” Which is an epic for me, I feel like I would say that a lot if I were around the Fantastic Four. There was another point they were talking science and Ben’s reply was “say what” This was an important arc for me to read. As stated before I always pictured this book as soft, and for kids.
The First story of many was the team going into the negative zone, as they leave Annihilus appears chocking the blind girlfriend of Ben, Alicia Masters. I do recommend this arc, there are religious undertones such as science versus religion. There is an entire race that is living on a ship because their homeworld was destroyed. The Captain was lied to believing that their race was reserved until they find a new home. However, his lifemate tells him the truth about his race. They have been dead the whole time, only the crew on the ship that remains. The Captain dies from heartbreak from the news. This arc was pretty brutal, you saw a child getting smacked across the room, a blind woman getting abused and tortured. Never pictured adult themes in Fantastic Four especially in older comics.
By now, I had read every day, sometimes several hours at a time. I missed a day at this point. The following day at work, I remembered thinking about what has happened so far. I had just ended the Negative Zone, how many powerful stories were included in one story arc. It was also very adult oriented. I was excited to go home and read that night.
Fantastic Four Vol 2 67-70 (71 turns into number 500). Unthinkable
All Dr. Doom wants is to find his true love. I was on board, maybe he is not such a jerk, and maybe he was just lonely. He finds his true love Valerie, he admits he has chosen science over her. Once he finds her, he kills her to become more powerful. There was a random scene where Reed and Sue are talking, Reed doesn’t believe in magic, only science. The Arc goes dark quickly, as Dr. Doom kidnaps Valeria (Daughter of Reed and Sue), sends their son Franklin to hell. There was this really dark torture scene that Valeria had to witness. Doom switches everyone’s powers, Sue is crying while she is on fire because she had Johnny’s powers, Johnny is stretched out with Reeds powers, and the Thing is being beaten so badly chunks of rocks were coming off of him. That Random scene about Magic isn’t so random, as Reed uses Dr. Strange to help save his family. This was a great arc. The writers did an amazing job. I had several feelings about Dr. Doom from the start maybe he isn’t such a bad guy, too I literally hate this character.
I wanted to read how it all ended. I read the final run from 1 to 14 (15 was renumbered to 642 -645).
Everything that I have read up until now was the team being a unit, working together, as a family. This run changed everything. Ben goes to jail for murder, Johnny loses his powers. Fantastic Four is on trial. Valeria is living with Dr. Doom because she thinks she can make him into a good man. I remember reading while listening to music. I am not sure if it was the music, or that I literally spent the past 10 days every single night (but one) reading Fantastic Four. I was emotional. It was hard watching everyone go through everything they were going through. There was this one scene where the Avengers are at The Fantastic Four’s home unable to allow them back in because the home contains evidence. Avengers inform Sue not only can she and her family not go into their home, but they also took her kids away. This was a breaking point for Sue, she lost her s**t, she literally leveled the Avengers on her own.
This was cool to see her become this powerful, and who cannot relate to wanting to protect someone or something. It was a powerful moment in this story but also Comic Book history. There are not many families in comics, you get to see a mom torn for her kids and lose it just like any mother would. Everything ends up working out. This directly leads to Secret Wars.
Doctor Doom becomes God, destroys the multi-universe. Most people don’t remember their lives before. Doom has Sue believe Dr. Doom is her husband the kids believe Doom is their Father. Richard makes it to this world finds Sue. There is a really heartbreaking moment when he finds her, and you can literally see the hurt in his eyes because she doesn’t remember him.
At the end of Secret Wars they find a way to save everyone, Dr. Doom is eliminated, everyone remembers. Sounds like a great ending BUT Sue, Reed and their kids, they are stuck in this pocket of the universe where they have been for the past two years assumed to be dead.
The Final Thoughts
The original challenge was to make me a fan of the Fantastic Four, did it? Before I answer that question. What this did was give me a unique crash course on decades of writing, art, and stories. I am truly happy that I took this opportunity to read history, to learn not only about Fantastic Four but the past, which has been forgotten by some. I am happy that I was able to feel emotions and create connections between these characters. I truly believe I barely scratched the surface; there was so much I didn’t get to read. I am proud of how they allowed Sue to grow. Sue was taken from being a character always in crisis to almost killing Doom for her daughters’ return. They developed her perfect I saw her grow just like we grow as a person she grew too. Every stereotype I had of Fantastic Four was quickly dismissed. I have a ton of respect for Fantastic Four and can say I am a fan.
I am looking forward to Fantastic Four Return August 8th, 2018.
Please let us know your favorite Fantastic Four story arcs by commenting below, facebook, or let me know on tweet me on Twitter.
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