Fantastic Figures

Fantastic Figures: Mr. Fantastic

Mark Bagley talks about visually defining the leader of the Fantastic Four for Marvel NOW!

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Fantastic Four #1 cover by Mark Bagley

By Jim Beard

“It is the first time I have found it necessary to give the signal! I pray it will be the last!”

With those chilling words, an unsuspecting world met not only the Fantastic Four, but also its big-brain leader, Reed Richards. And, as 1961’s FANTASTIC FOUR #1 tells us, “a legend is born!”

Flash forward to the present and the debut of the new FANTASTIC FOUR #1, headed up by writer Matt Fraction and artist Mark Bagley, the latter of whom has got a few things to say about the most famous super hero family’s head man.

“He should always look really smart,” insists the artist. “Sounds like a joke, but I try and draw him looking like he is aware of everything around him at once. He's a guy who misses nothing. It can be something as subtle as the lift of an eye brow or tilt of the head.”

Reed Richards’ much-vaunted intelligence and his signature white-at-the-temples hairdo immediately set him apart from his colorful peers in the Marvel Universe, a role he seems to naturally fill. Bagley intends to reinforce that aura of authority in his art.

“I want to draw him like a mature guy—handsome with a rangy physicality,” he says of his Mr. Fantastic. “Not skinny, but built like a mature man.”

Of course, the character’s greatest strength lies in his unique visual signature, his cosmic-ray-spawned powers. Reed’s malleable form presents a singular artistic challenge to Bagley, as it has for all those through the years who’ve tackled the Fantastic Four and their adventures.

Fantastic Four #1 preview pencils by Mark Bagley

“Still working on [the visuals],” he explains, “But I try and leave him with some semblance of anatomy while stretching, at least until he stretches so far that he becomes just tube like.”

Part of the mission statement of the Marvel NOW! movement places familiar heroes of the Marvel Universe in unfamiliar situations. Mr. Fantastic will be no exception to the rule as readers will learn in November 14’s FANTASTIC FOUR #1; expect Reed’s powers and abilities to be—pun intended—stretched to their ultimate limits as the Fantastic Four’s leader’s resolve will be sorely tested.

To test his own skills when drawing Mr. Fantastic, Mark Bagley conjured up his artistic inspirations to make Reed Richards come alive on the page.

“[Jack] Kirby, of course,” he notes of his prime vision for the character. “Though Jack drew him 10 years or so older than I see him. Alan Davis does a terrific version of Reed—Alan does a terrific version of everything.”

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