Fantastic Four: Happy Birthday, Franklin

Jonathan Hickman throws the party of the year to celebrate Franklin Richards’ big day

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FANTASTIC FOUR #574 preview art by Neil Edwards
By Kevin Mahadeo

When it comes to Marvel's First Family's firstborn, Franklin Richards, FANTASTIC FOUR writer Jonathan Hickman puts on his party planner hat with pizzazz.

"It's Franklin's birthday party," exclaims Hickman. "Let's get everybody together and have a good time and some cake."

The party issue-#574, hitting stores on January 6 with art by Neil Edwards-harkens back to the older days of comic books storytelling, which often featured one-off slice-of-life stories, such as the occasional Kitty's Bedtime Stories or the X-Men playing a game of baseball. Hickman says those stories allowed for interesting characterizations and interactions, creating an emotional connection between the characters and the reader. With his current run on FANTASTIC FOUR, the writer looks to bring back these fun, slightly whimsical tales.

"I think what we're trying to do with the FF in general is tell modern stories with a little slice of romanticism, kind of a 'better days past' kind of thing," explains Hickman. "I think one of the tricks that we're trying to use to do that is the structure of the format."

Like with any birthday party, expects guests galore. As the oldest super hero team in the Marvel Universe, the members of the FF have made their fair share of friends throughout the years. However, Franklin gets a special

FANTASTIC FOUR #574 preview art by Neil Edwards
surprise when a few of his old Power Pack pals show up. Considering Franklin's status as a former member of that group, Hickman says it only seemed natural that a few of the kids would show up for the party. And despite being older than its members while reading POWER PACK growing up, he admits to being a fan of the first-ever kid-only super hero team.

"It's all-ages good fun," says Hickman. "There's nothing wrong with that. There's a reason people remember [POWER PACK] and MICRONAUTS and ROM and all that stuff fondly. Some of it was very bad, but some of it was very, very good. Are there any Power Pack haters out there? I don't know."

Part of the Pack's appeal came from their dynamic, which Hickman describes as "completely dysfunctional because they're children." He also singles out Jack as his favorite member, calling him the "Johnny Storm of Power Pack." For the upcoming issue, however, the writer points out that the kids have grown up a little since their adventuring days.

"Now they're supposed to be a little bit older and I try to write them older," he says. "Alex is obviously the most adult-like now. He's supposed to be 19 and he and Reed have a conversation that's pretty interesting."

Along with Power Pack, two other characters from Franklin's past show up: Artie and Leech. Both these characters hold a special emotional bond with the young Richards as they kept him company when his parents

FANTASTIC FOUR #574 preview art by Neil Edwards
seemingly died during Marvel's Onslaught crossover event. Despite being a problem for many writers, Hickman says writing child characters comes rather easy for him as he just steals a lot of lines from his own children.

"That's a pretty solid way to go," he laughs. "There's a certain sense of humor that kids have that adults are too cynical to have. I think it's important to try and capture that. I think sentence structure is a big deal when you're writing kids. You got to screw it up a little every now and then because it just reads better as a kid [talking]. And they have funny adjectives that they use. Kids are easy if you got kids. Kids are probably really, really hard if you don't have them."

As for other characters making an appearance, Hickman mentions that Spider-Man "allegedly shows up." Back in FANTASTIC FOUR #571, Franklin asked his parents if they could convince the high-swinging hero to stop by the party, something that didn't sit too well with Franklin's Uncle Johnny.

"It's what Franklin wanted for his birthday and Johnny thinks that's ridiculous when a much cooler super hero lives in the same house as Franklin does," explains Hickman. "Johnny doesn't like that other super heroes are more popular than he is. Why should they be? Especially Spider-Man, who is basically the opposite of Johnny in that Spider-Man is kind of a loser and Johnny is not. Why in the world would he be more popular? It doesn't make sense. Hilarity ensues."

FANTASTIC FOUR #574 preview art by Neil Edwards
However, Hickman also makes note that there's more to the issue than just simple fun and games.

"I will say it would be a mistake to think there is no drama in the issue," he promises. "And it would be a mistake to think that there's no action in the issue and big things don't happen. It is a very important emotional issue and it is a very important thing to do going forward so that people can really, really connect with the character."

As for the most important question of all, the biggest mystery regarding the young son of a genius, the question fans have been asking for years: exactly how old is Franklin Richards? Well, Hickman only teases the possibility of an answer to this age-old Marvel conundrum:

"I will say there is some dialogue related to that in there. And that's as good as an answer as you're going to get."

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      Comments

      7 comments
      HeroxMatt
      HeroxMatt

      [quote@s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n yup I missed a letter. when I singed up all the peter parker names or spider man names I could think of where taken so I got so cough up in the -'s I forgot a letter. :-)[/quote] :lol:Nice one. Welcome to the boards. :mrgreen:

      kreemarvel
      kreemarvel

      [color=seagreen] This should also be about every one of those "kids'" ages, too.I was relieved when I read the article (I had first seen the images, and Jack is so short, as are Frank and Alex, too) because I think the writer does care about the characters (at least enough to know their relationships and Alex's age).This gives me hope as to Frank being given his correct age at last!I think Wieringo (RIP) drew a convincing 10-11 year-old Franklin, but it was in recent years when the 7 (!) year old Franklin is only a couple of inches than his 3 year old (did she age fast compared to him or what) sister Valeria.Artie should be older now, that's for sure, and since Jack is one of my favorite characters ever, I'll say it here: I'd love for him to be taller than his now adult brother Alex. I've lots and lots of cases when the younger brother grows up a lot more than his older bro, and by at 15 he could also be taller than many adults. Just don't let him ever lose the freckles.[/color]

      s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n
      s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n member

      yup I missed a letter. when I singed up all the peter parker names or spider man names I could think of where taken so I got so cough up in the -'s I forgot a letter. :-)

      HeroxMatt
      HeroxMatt

      I think you missed a letter, s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n... :lol:

      s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n
      s-i-d-e-r-m-a-n member

      I'm glad that the peter and johnny relationship is going to be at leat in part in here. It's nice to see them together cuase their not best friends they also don't hate eachother their is a mutal respect/disrespect their. It's an interesting dinamic it's not quite ben grimm and johnny it's not qutie peter and harry osborn but their. It's nice to see they moved on form being just cool/nerd dinamic but at that same times it's nice to know that is sitll their. I view erly torch spidy as kinda like the super hero verson of peter/flash dinamic erly peter flash that. Except when it came to the humen torch spidy could just let it go not have to "hold back' to keep his secreart ideinty or fear of hurting flash. I meean on he held back and so did johnny but they didn' have to "hold back" as much spide could give free raing to his nerd venome and jonny had somebody to pick on that couldn't thowe a bulding on him like benny boy. I just hope they really play it up proper kinda like they did in amazing 600. I guess it's true no matter how much things change they stay the same.[url][/url]

      PaxHouse
      PaxHouse

      Loved the article and it's great that the artist did his research on Franklin's former friends and teammates (from both the original [i] POWER PACK [/i] & [i] GENERATION X [/i] Series).....Still, there's one (or three) questions that need to be asked.....1.) IIRC, Artie's powers were one that was listed among the Collective Storyarc within the [i] NEW AVENGERS [/i] Series; so if he had losted his powers, why does he still looked like he does instead of reverting back to his pre-mutant/human form...??2.) Will the readers learn what Alex (aka ZERO-G) has been doing (especially since it was hinted many times about him being a part of the Initiative Program, due to the fact that most of his former teammates from the New Warriors are mostly shown there within the [i] AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE [/i] Series.)...???3.) And most importantly.....where's Julie (aka LIGHTSPEED)..??

      iceman1906
      iceman1906

      If Alex Power is 19, Franklin must be 11. The Power kids were 12, 10, 8, and 5 with Franklin a year younger than Katie. Also, Franklin looks kind of short for an adolescent. His sister is almost as tall as he is. Anyway, I'm looking forward to the guest appearences. It'll be cool to see Artie, (who was already 11 back in the late '80s) and Leech in their early teens too.