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History of the Fantastic Four

History of the Fantastic Four Part Two

The FF explores new horizons under fresh creators, making unique friends and facing deadly foes

By Jim Beard

On November 23, the World’s Greatest Comics Magazine reaches an historic milestone as FANTASTIC FOUR #600 arrives in stores. In anticipation of this giant-sized issue written by Jonathan Hickman and featuring the artistic talents of Steve Epting, Leinil Yu, Farel Dalrymple and more, we’ll be recapping the full saga of Marvel’s First Family in a special six-part retrospective series.

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!

part one of the History of the Fantastic Four 

The 1970’s brought change to “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” as artist Jack Kirby left Marvel and writer-editor Stan Lee moved forward to work with new artists and eventually relinquish FANTASTIC FOUR to other creators. For the characters themselves, FANTASTIC FOUR #101-200 would represent change within their own ranks and ever-increasing challenges from old and new adversaries alike.

After a home invasion by the Maggia in FANTASTIC FOUR #101, Kirby penciled his last regular issue, FANTASTIC FOUR #102, and kicked off a wild saga involving the X-Men’s nemesis Magneto, the savage Sub-Mariner—and President Richard Nixon? A strange creature called simply the “Monster” rounded out 1970 and guest-artist John Romita handed the reins over to John Buscema for a long run. Lee wasted no time inaugurating his new illustrator, throwing Annihilus, The Hulk, the Over-Mind, Diablo and Doctor Doom himself at Buscema in FANTASTIC FOUR #109-117.

1972 showed us the strange, not-quite-right world of Earth-A in FANTASTIC FOUR #118, and then opened up both barrels for a new Galactus-Silver Surfer saga in FANTASTIC FOUR #120-123, which also heralded the return of Richard Nixon to the book. The President didn’t end up joining the team, but he paved the way for both a new logo on the title and a new writer: Roy Thomas. After a re-telling of the group’s origin in FANTASTIC FOUR #126, Thomas quickly introduced a new cast member, the fighting female called Thundra, and Ben Grimm’s life would never be the same.

Thundra, the Frightful Four and the Inhumans brought about a rocky start for 1973 in FANTASTIC FOUR #130-133, but writer Gerry Conway kicked things into even higher gear for Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben with challenges from Dragon Man, The Shaper of Worlds, and The Miracle Man. Then, Conway played his ace with a singular story that rocked the Fantastic Four and their multitude of fans; FANTASTIC FOUR #140-141 told of a gambit of the Negative Zone’s evil Annihilus to subjugate the power that coursed through the body of little Franklin Richards. When the toddler’s energies threatened to destroy the world, Reed Richards felt his only course of action would be to effectively shut down his son’s brain—and in doing so brought about the disbanding of the Fantastic Four.

1974 opened with Doctor Doom once again rearing his armored head and causing problems in FANTASTIC FOUR #142-144. The year also saw the team struggling to stay together and welcoming the Inhumans’ Medusa as a replacement for the Invisible Girl. Sue and Reed’s marriage tumbled and stumbled until a scheme by Namor the Sub-Mariner nudged the famous couple back together in FANTASTIC FOUR #147-148. Year’s end allowed readers to witness the wedding of Johnny’s ex-girlfriend Crystal to the mutant Quicksilver in FANTASTIC FOUR #150, and the advances of alpha-male chauvinist Mahkizmo in FANTASTIC FOUR #151-153.

What did 1975 bring? Only the latest, and potentially greatest, throw-down between Doctor Doom and the FF in FANTASTIC FOUR #155-157, and then a proliferation of major stories for the team, and yet another new logo. They consisted of Xemu’s attack from the 5th Dimension, a lightning-fast strike from the other-worldly Arkon and alternate Johnny Storm from Earth-A, and then the return of a Golden Age great in the form of FANTASTIC FOUR #164-165’s Crusader, formally known as “Marvel Boy.”

Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny kept right on fighting thru 1976, with a visit from The Hulk to kick off the year. Then, Ben regained normalcy and watched as none other than Luke Cage took his place in FANTASTIC FOUR #168-170. One rocky orange exo-skeleton later and he once again operated as The Thing; good “thing,” too, because Galactus and The High Evolutionary squabbled throughout FANTASTIC FOUR #171-175, and The Impossible Man returned for hijinxs in FANTASTIC FOUR #176.

Perhaps one of Reed Richards’ greatest challenges came in the form of his doppelganger, the Reed of the High Evolutionary’s Counter-Earth. Called The Brute, Counter-Reed joined forces with the Frightful Four in FANTASTIC FOUR #177-179, and then attempted a coup in the Negative Zone in FANTASTIC FOUR #181-183. Reed just couldn’t catch a break in 1977, as he then faced mind-subjugation by The Molecule Man in FANTASTIC FOUR #187-188. And then he lost his powers.

To begin to round out the decade and their second one-hundred issues, the Fantastic Four got down to some serious adventuring. After an over-view of their career by new FF writer Marv Wolfman in FANTASTIC FOUR #190, they met the challenge of The Texas Twister in FANTASTIC FOUR #197, Darkoth the Death Demon and his diabolic master Diablo FANTASTIC FOUR #193-194, and then a lengthy story wherein Doctor Doom made an incredible leap forward as a villain when he first gave Reed his powers back, pitted him and the team against The Red Ghost, created a clone of himself whom he called “son,” and then squared off against Reed in “final” battle. Don’t believe us? Well, then, you must check out 1978’s FANTASTIC FOUR #196-200—it’ll be worth it.
Read part three of the History of the Fantastic Four 

Check out FANTASTIC FOUR on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited!

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