By Jim Beard
On November 23, the World’s Grea
Read part four of the History of the Fantastic Four
As the Fantastic Four headed out of the 1990’s and into the new millennium, their title would see not one, but two overall relaunches, aided and abetted by a smorgasbord of top creators. For the heroes themselves, the era brought them into opposition with their strongest foes and tested their resolve as a team like never before. With a few strange sideways steps along the way, this period focused on the core elements of the concept, while strengthening the family aspect with grand stories of not only Franklin, son of Reed and Sue Richards, but also their heretofore unknown daughter, Valeria. So, too, did Ben Grimm feel his stamina tested and Johnny Storm grew up yet a bit more.
The “Atlantis Rising” Marvel Universe saga opened things up, followed by the cataclysmic return of the then-thought-dead Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic in FANTASTIC FOUR #406 and FANTASTIC FOUR #407 respectively. The end of 1995 also saw the introduction of the character called Hyperstorm, the supposed son of the adult Franklin Richards and wielder of strange hyperspace powers.
Ben Grimm’s mutilated face returned to “normal” in 1997’s FANTASTIC FOUR #409, and the team continued to contend with Doom’s heir Kristoff, the Inhumans and Namor the Sub-Mariner. Fortunately, Reed and Sue finally saw their son Franklin returned to them as a child in FANTASTIC FOUR #413, but almost immediately watched in horror as the boy became caught up in the “Onslaught” event in FANTASTIC FOUR #415-416.
Then, everything changed. Tossed into an alternate dimension created by Franklin, the Fantastic Four’s careers essentially began anew as 1997 ended and 1998 began with “Heroes Reborn” and a brand-new FANTASTIC FOUR #1. Artist-writer Jim Lee spearheaded the team’s bold new direction through 13 issues, and pitted them against all their most famous foes, for the first time. As the year counted down, Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny fought the Sub-Mariner, Doctor Doom, The Super-Skrull, Terrax, Galactus and others. Then, when the time to return to their classic, original lives came, another new FANTASTIC FOUR #1 awaited them in the Marvel Universe proper.
Writer Scott Lobdell kicked off the party and volume three of the book in 1998, as the team attempted to make up for lost time and find their place in a world that turned without them for a year. The FF set up shop in one of their dockside warehouses and launched into new adventures. The Red Ghost tried to spook them in FANTASTIC FOUR #3, Terminus and The Mole Man reared their ugly mugs in FANTASTIC FOUR #4 and poor Reed turned a particular shade of red with the return of old flame Alyssa Moy in FANTASTIC FOUR #5.
Ronan the Kree Accuser brought with him a multi-part epic to inaugurate 1999 for the team beginning in FANTASTIC FOUR #13, and Reed and Sue met their adult daughter Valeria in FANTASTIC FOUR #20. She thought Doctor Doom might be her real father, but writer Chris Claremont kept thing moving along through a long storyline involving the Latverian monarch, which culminated in 2000’s FANTASTIC FOUR #32. The year wrapped up with a tasty tale of Diablo in FANTASTIC FOUR #35-36.
Superstar artist Carlos Pacheco joined the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” with 2001’s FANTASTIC FOUR #38--pulling double duty on plots and art with Jeph Loeb providing scripts--gifting The Thing with the ability to switch back and forth to normal Ben Grimm whenever he willed it. He also introduced readers to a 1930’s version of the team, with “Doc Fantastic and his Five for the Future” in FANTASTIC FOUR #47. By the time Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny hit the big FANTASTIC FOUR #50 in 2002, they could barely speak—and joined in on all the “’Nuff Said” fun that spread across the Marvel line.
Valeria found her own childhood again in FANTASTIC FOUR #54, and Ben’s world shattered just a little bit more when the news came through that he’d lost the power to change to his human form in FANTASTIC FOUR #58-59. Stuck forever as The Thing, he sucked it up and accepted his fate like a man, though. Perhaps as a consolation prize, he and the rest of the Fantastic Four received the good news that writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo would be taking over the book with FANTASTIC FOUR #60, which went on sale for a reasonable nine cents, plus tax.
Waid looked to the future while respecting the past when he kicked the title into high gear with a string of fun, fast-aced stories. Reed Richards found a stalker in Modulus, a data storage program that gained sentience in FANTASTIC FOUR #62-64. The Human Torch took over the team’s finances in FANTASTIC FOUR #65-66 and sold Reed’s patent on “unstable molecules.”
Mister Fantastic barely had any time to digest what Johnny had done when he and his family plunged headlong into a new Doctor Doom epic in FANTASTIC FOUR #67-70—the last issue of which just happened to also correspond to FANTASTIC FOUR #499.
The first comic of the Marvel Universe returned to its original numbering with FANTASTIC FOUR #500, as Waid and Wieringo celebrated with the entire FF, including their children, captured by Doctor Doom and Reed scarred from battle with his armored nemesis. Hey, to the First Family of the Marvel Universe, that’s how you celebrate a milestone!