By Tim Stevens
The following is an excerpted transcript of a family therapy session between the team known as the Fantastic Four. Present are Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards), The Invisible Woman (Susan Richards), The Human Torch (Johnny Storm), and The Thing (Benjamin Grimm). There was some discussion of including the Richards’ two children in the session but it was determined that, at this time, it would be preferable for the Four to seek out a therapist especially suited to working with children in an individual and group therapy session to ensure the highest level of care for the children.
|The Fantastic Four|
TIM STEVENS: Just to reiterate, as you have all made each other aware, I have seen all of you for other reasons at various times. However, even though all of you are in session together now, client confidentiality is still in place. So if there is something you discussed with me that you don’t want everyone else to know, don’t worry, I can’t mention it. By the same token, if there’s something you and I talked about that seems germane to what’s being discussed, I urge you to explain what you are referring to the rest of your family rather than just say to me something like, “It’s like what we talked about next week.” Does that make sense to everyone?
All four of them nod in quiet acceptance of his explanation.
TIM STEVENS: Good, then we can get started. Sue, you initiated this session. Would you feel comfortable telling everyone what made you feel it would be helpful to them and to yourself?
INVISIBLE WOMAN: Well, it’s been a really hard bit of time lately. Between—
Takes a moment to gather herself, continues
IW: —the multiple Reeds and the presence of all those villains in our home and Ben picking up that hammer and Johnny dying, I feel as though we’ve begun to grow apart and we don’t even know it yet.
TS: Thank you for sharing that. What I’m wondering now is if you can just tell us how you are feeling right now? If you had to focus purely on your own needs, not just share an assessment of the state your family, what would you or could you tell us?
|The Invisible Woman|
IW: I guess I’d say I feel all over the place. My brother died but now he’s alive again. My husband hid things from me but he did it because he thought he could work with the other Reeds to save the world. And I’ve seen the other Reeds so I know I have the best, most human of the bunch. And Ben…it’s just wonderful to have him back, but…that was very scary.
TS: I’m wondering now if anyone else can relate to what she’s saying? Anyone else feel very…ambivalent about what’s happened recently? Or could just share how they are feeling in general right now?
There’s a long pause as everyone processes what they’ve heard. The Thing looks visibly uncomfortable.
TS: Ben, I can tell something is bothering you right now. Would you tell us all about what’s happening for you right now?
THE THING (rubbing the top of his head): Jeez, Doc…I just…Susie been so great with everything. I feel like she’s the only one who’s been…stable lately.
HUMAN TORCH (interjecting): I’ve been perfectly stable.
TT: You know what I’m saying Hothead. I just feel lousy I’m part of the problem.
TT: No, no. I know. When I was smashing up New York, I know I was…possessed or whatever. But the thoughts. About you guys hating me, about people thinking I was a monster…they were mine, you know?
MISTER FANTASTIC: I’m sorry Ben that you still feel that way all these years later. I wish I—
TT: Come on, Stretch. That’s all ancient history. That’s what makes me mad at myself. Why am I rehashing all that nonsense?
TS: Well, what do you think, Ben? Why might this be happening now?
TT: Isn’t that what we’re paying you for, Doc?
TS (laughs a little): Ok…fair enough. You all wrote a lot about what happened with Johnny and the Negative Zone doorway on your intake forms so I find myself wondering if that incident sparked something for you, Ben. Weren’t you in the middle of a period of not having your strength or durability?
TT: You can say it…I was normal.
TS: As you say. Anyway, that prevented you from taking Johnny’s place, right?
TT: He prevented me from taking his place. But if I was all rocked up…there wouldn’t have been a discussion.
TS: So is it possible that, for once, it wasn’t you being The Thing that made you angry or sad or isolated but the fact that you weren’t? You felt like a monster not because of your appearance but because of what you viewed as an inability to help your friends? Your family?
Things get very quiet again.
TS: I know that’s a lot to hear and to think about so I won’t ask you to really have an answer now. It is something to consider though. That this was not “ancient history” as you put it, but a very fresh, recent pain manifesting itself. Now, Johnny, you’re the focus of a lot of what’s going on with the team and family right now. How are you doing?
|The Human Torch|
HT: Well, I’m glad to be alive and not been killed and resurrected every few hours, for sure.
TS: Is that all?
HT: I feel kind of weird right now, I guess. Like no one seems to know what to do with me.
IW (jumping in): It’s just so strange, Johnny. You’re my brother and I’m so glad you’re back. But it’s like…it’s like you are a different man, too. I think, for me at least, I’m still figuring out what that means.
TT: Yeah, I wonder…are you the type of guy who I can still prank? Or do I just have to pick on Spider-Man.
HT (laughing): I think we should always pick on Pe—err—Spider-Man. But I’m not that different, I promise.
TS: And you, Reed? You’ve been largely quiet.
MF: I have so many questions for Johnny, but Sue’s made me promise not to bombard him with them.
TS: Such as?
MF: Well, for one, what was being dead like?
HT: It’s ok, sis. Honestly, Reed, between the constant resurrections, it’s impossible for me to tell you. I saw lots, but who knows if I was dead or alive when I saw it.
TS: Reed, if we could just stay with you for a moment. How have you been as of late?
MF: It’s been disconcerting. Seeing the Council made me so hopeful; to gather with people who are literally me seemed so promising. But…they were so reckless and arrogant… We could’ve done so much good.
TS: Was it just the missed opportunities?
MF: Of course.
TS: Nothing else?
MF: What else could there be?
TS: Well, you described them as reckless and arrogant, but you also said, in your own words, they were literally you. Does that bother you? Do you see yourself in them? Do you feel responsible for their actions?
MF: I…they’re not me.
TS: No, of course they aren’t. But they look and sound like you. I imagine that’s hard to process.
TS (glancing at clock): Well, I can see we are over on time. And I can tell you all have a lot to consider now, so we should wrap up here. Please consider what we discussed and try to keep the lines of communication open going forward. I will see you all soon.
The Fantastic Four will have their next session with Doctors John Hickman and Barry Kitson for February 22.Please see file FANTASTIC FOUR #603 for further information.
Tim Stevens, MA is a Psy D candidate and practicum trainee at a community mental health center.