By Jim Beard
On November 23, the World’s Grea
From their first encounter with Doctor Doom to the heroic sacrifice of The Human Torch as well as all points before, after and in between, we present the History of the Fantastic Four!
It’s no stretch of the imagination to believe that FANTASTIC FOUR stands as the foundation from which the entire Marvel Universe grew. In fact, it’s on that title that two men stretched their own imaginations to grow a set of characters and situations that continue to expand and excite to this day.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby almost single-handedly produced the first 100 issues of FANTASTIC FOUR and, in doing so, defined a decade with concept after concept, character after character, and story after story. It’s staggering to look back over those stories and marvel at what they achieved.
The first nine issues of FANTASTIC FOUR alone put most other comics to shame with the long-lasting legends they produced. After Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny gained their fantastic powers in 1961’s FANTASTIC FOUR #1, it remained for 1962’s FANTASTIC FOUR #2-9 to gift us with the evil shape-shifting Skrulls, the FF’s costumes and Fantasticar, the return of the Sub-Mariner, the wily Puppet Master and his blind step-daughter Alicia, and, of course, in FANTASTIC FOUR #5, Doctor Doom.
Doom helped kick off 1963 in FANTASTIC FOUR #10 with his body-switching scheme against Reed Richards, but shortly after that came a monumental happening: the true birth of the Marvel Universe. In FANTASTIC FOUR #12, the team met, for the first time, denizens of another Marvel title and when the Incredible Hulk clashed with the FF, fans saw their first glimpse of the greater world Stan and Jack had in mind. From there, a parade of baddies lined up to match wits and muscle with our heroes: The Red Ghost, The Mad Thinker, The Super-Skrull, Rama-Tut, The Molecule Man and The Hate Monger. What a time for poor Willie Lumpkin, the Baxter Building’s mailman, to join the cast in FANTASTIC FOUR #11!
The Fantastic Four’s abilities became more defined as 1964 dawned, such as in FANTASTIC FOUR #22 when Sue first found other uses for her invisibility powers. But Doctor Doom continued to bedevil them and the Hulk’s rampages in FANTASTIC FOUR #25-26 drew the attention of not only our heroes, but also the mighty Avengers. The FF barely had time to draw another breath when more Marvel characters clamored to be guest-stars, such as Doctor Strange in FANTASTIC FOUR #27 and the young X-Men in FANTASTIC FOUR #28. Namor the Sub-Mariner rounded out the year by joining with the team to confront the awesome Attuma in FANTASTIC FOUR #33.
What could 1965 possibly bring that the previous years didn’t, you may ask? Well, how about the crafty Diablo and Dragon Man in FANTASTIC FOUR #35, a visit from Daredevil in FANTASTIC FOUR #39-40 and one of the most incredible groups Stan and Jack ever inaugurated, the Inhumans? It all began with the mysterious Medusa’s inclusion in the Frightful Four in FANTASTIC FOUR #36, but by FANTASTIC FOUR #44, the full family of Inhumans made themselves known and capped off the year with a slobberknocker of an adventure concerning the hated Maximus, one of their own. Thankfully, the year did produce one truly happy moment, when, in FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #3, Reed and Sue finally tied the knot.
Then came 1966, and the Fantastic Four, their friends, the people of New York City and indeed the entire planet stood humbled before the biggest, most cosmic menace of them all: Galactus.
Stan and Jack pulled out all stops in FANTASTIC FOUR #48-50, telling us the tale of The Silver Surfer, herald to the world-devouring Galactus, and the mind-blowing battle that ensued. As became normal for the team, as soon as that adventure ended, they fought on into the next. The Black Panther came calling in FANTASTIC FOUR #52, the Surfer returned in FANTASTIC FOUR #55 and Doom waited in the wings to attack again in FANTASTIC FOUR #57.
The Surfer became the focus of Doctor Doom’s attentions in 1967’s FANTASTIC FOUR #58-60, the Negative Zone’s Blastaar stirred up tons of trouble in FANTASTIC FOUR #62-63, and the space-faring Kree demanded a bit of the FF’s time in FANTASTIC FOUR #64-65. Then—Him. Yes, Him. Out of a cocoon he came, and with him arrived the future; the golden being would one day be known as Adam Warlock.
FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #6 in 1968 revealed the joyful birth of Franklin Richards, but the Fantastic Four’s happiness dipped when they realized that villains would give them no respite during the year. The Mad Thinker returned, as did Doctor Doom, but perhaps even they paled in comparison to the biggest bad penny of them all to turn up again, Galactus. It happened in FANTASTIC FOUR #74-77, as Stan and Jack began to kick their longer story arcs into gear.
1969 featured four extended storylines: that of the Inhumans and Maximus in FANTASTIC FOUR #82-83, Doctor Doom’s latest tantrum in FANTASTIC FOUR #84-87, the Mole Man’s machinations in FANTASTIC FOUR #88-90 and the amazing Torgo in FANTASTIC FOUR #91-92. Fortunately for the team, a new member helped them through these crises, when Crystal of the Inhumans took Sue’s place during her maternity leave.
As the Fantastic Four wrapped up the 1960’s and raced headlong into the swingin’ 1970’s, they found little time to rest and count their many blessings. Agatha Harkness cast a spell over both the team and the remnants of the Frightful Four in FANTASTIC FOUR #94; The Monocle, The Mad Thinker and the moon all played their parts in FANTASTIC FOUR #95, #96 and #98, respectively. By the time Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben reached the landmark FANTASTIC FOUR #100, they became everyone’s target—and we do mean everyone!
Read part two of the History of the Fantastic Four