The Fantastic Four is a fictional superhero team appearing in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The group debuted in The Fantastic Four #1 (Nov. 1961), which helped to usher in a new naturalism in the medium. They were the first superhero team created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby.
There are four core individuals traditionally associated with the Fantastic Four, who gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space. Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) is a scientific genius and the leader of the group who can stretch his body into incredible lengths and shapes. The Invisible Woman (Susan "Sue" Storm) is Reed's wife; she can render herself invisible and project powerful force fields. The Human Torch (Johnny Storm) is Sue's younger brother, who can generate flames, surround himself with them and fly. The final member is the monstrous Thing (Ben Grimm), their grumpy but benevolent friend, who possesses superhuman strength and endurance. Since the original four's 1961 introduction, the Fantastic Four have been portrayed as a somewhat dysfunctional yet loving family. Breaking convention with other comic-book archetypes of the time, they would squabble and hold grudges both deep and petty, and eschew anonymity or secret identities in favor of celebrity status.
The Fantastic Four have been adapted into other media, including four animated television series, an aborted 1990s low-budget film, the major motion picture Fantastic Four (2005), and its sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007).
The release of The Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961) was an unexpected success. The title began to receive fan mail, and Lee started printing the letters in a letter column with issue three. Also with the third issue, Lee created the slogan "The Greatest Comics Magazine in the World!!" (soon changed to "The World's Greatest Comic Magazine", which was a fixture on the issue covers into the 1990s.
Issue four reintroduced Namor the Sub-Mariner, one of the Golden Age Timely characters, who was placed into battle against the new Human Torch (Lee explained, "I always loved the old characters"). Issue five introduced the team's most frequent nemesis, Doctor Doom. While the early stories were complete narratives, the frequent appearances of these antagonists in subsequent issues indicated the creation of a long narrative by Lee and Kirby that extended over months. Ultimately, according to comics historian Les Daniels, "only narratives that ran to several issues would be able to contain their increasingly complex ideas."  During its creators' lengthy run, the series produced many acclaimed storylines and characters that have become central to Marvel, including the Inhumans, the Black Panther, the rival alien races of Kree and Skrull, Him (who would become Adam Warlock), the Negative Zone and unstable molecules. The story frequently cited as "the finest achievement" of the collaboration is the three-part "Galactus Trilogy" that began in Fantastic Four #48 (March 1966), about the arrival of Galactus, a cosmic being who wanted to devour the planet. Daniels noted, "The mystical and metaphysical elements that took over the sage were perfectly suited to the tastes of young readers in the 1960s", and Lee soon discovered that the story was a favorite on college campuses.
After Kirby's departure from Marvel in 1970, Fantastic Four continued with Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway and Marv Wolfman as its consecutive regular writers, working with artists such as John Romita, Sr., John Buscema, Rich Buckler and George Pérez, with longtime inker Joe Sinnott adding some visual continuity. v contributed a few covers as well.
"Heroes Reborn" and renumbered
The ongoing series was canceled with issue #416 (Aug. 1996) and relaunched with vol. 2, #1 (Nov. 1996) as part of the multi-series "Heroes Reborn" crossover story arc. The year-long volume retold the team's first adventures in a more contemporary setting in a parallel universe. Following the end of that year-long experiment, Fantastic Four was relaunched with vol. 3, #1 (Jan,. 1998). Initially by the team of writer Scott Lobdell and penciller Alan Davis, it went after three issues to writer Chris Claremont (co-writing with Lobell for #4-5) and penciller Salvador Larroca; this team enjoyed a long run through issue #32 (Aug. 2000). Carlos Pacheco then took over as penciller and co-writer, first with Rafael Marín, then with Marín and Jeph Loeb.
This series began using dual numbering, as if the original Fantastic Four series had continued unbroken, with issue #42 / #471 (June 2001). (At the time, the Marvel Comics series begun in the 1960s, such as Thor and The Amazing Spider-Man, were given such dual numbering on the front cover, with the present-day volume's numbering alongside the numbering from the original series.) The title reverted to its original numbering with issue #509 (March 2004).
Karl Kesel succeeded Loeb as co-writer with issue #51 / 480 (March 2002), and after a few issues with temporary teams, Mark Waid took over as writer with #60 / 489 (Oct. 2002), working with pencillers Mike Wieringo, Mark Buckingham, Casey Jones, and Howard Porter variously through #524 (May 2005), with a handful of issues by other teams during that time. Writer J. Michael Straczynski and penciller Mike McKone did issues #527-541 (July 2005 - Nov. 2006), with Dwayne McDuffie taking over as writer the following issue, and Paul Pelletier succeeding McKone beginning with #544 (May 2007).
Writer Mark Millar and artist Bryan Hitch began a 16-issue run with issue #554.
Ancillary titles and features spun off from the flagship series include the 1970s quarterly Giant-Size Fantastic Four and the 1990s Fantastic Four Unlimited and Fantastic Four Unplugged; Fantastic Force, an 18-issue spinoff (Nov. 1994 - April 1996) featuring an adult Franklin Richards, from a different timeline, as Psilord. A spinoff title Marvel Knights 4 (April 2004 - June 2006) was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Steve McNiven in his first Marvel work. As well, there have been numerous limited series all similarly set in the main universe, designated in Marvel continuity as Earth-616.
The Human Torch solo
The Human Torch was given a solo strip in Strange Tales in 1962 in order to bolster sales of the title. The series began in Strange Tales #101 (Oct. 1962), in 12- to 14-page stories plotted by Lee and initially scripted by his brother, Larry Lieber, and drawn by penciller Kirby and inker Dick Ayers.
Here, Johnny was seen living with his elder sister, Susan, in fictional Glenview, Long Island, New York, where he continued high school and, with youthful naiveté, attempted to maintain a "secret identity". (In Strange Tales #106 (Mar. 1963), Johnny discovered that his friends and neighbors knew of his dual identity all along, from Fantastic Four news reports, but were humoring him.) Supporting characters included Johnny's girlfriend, Doris Evans, usually in consternation as Johnny cheerfully flew off to battle bad guys. (She was seen again in a 1970s issue of Fantastic Four, having become a heavyset but cheerful wife and mother). Ayers took over the penciling after ten issues, later followed by original Golden Age Human Torch creator Carl Burgos and others. The FF made occasional cameo appearances, and the Thing became a co-star with issue #123 (Aug. 1964).
The Human Torch shared the "split book" Strange Tales with fellow feature "Doctor Strange" for the majority of its run, before finally flaming off with issue #134 (July 1965), replaced the following month by "Nick Fury (Agent of SHIELD)". The Silver Age stories were republished in 1974, along with some Golden Age Human Torch stories, in a short-lived ongoing Human Torch series.
A later ongoing solo series in Marvel's manga-influenced "Tsunami" line, Human Torch, ran 12 issues (June 2003 - June 2004), followed by the five-issue limited series Spider-Man/Human Torch (March-July 2005), an "untold tales" team-up arc spanning the course of their friendship.
The Thing solo
The "ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing", as Ben Grimm sometimes refers to himself, appeared in two team-up issues of Marvel Feature (issues 11-12, Sept. - Nov. 1973). Following their success, he was given his own regular team-up title Marvel Two-in-One, co-starring with Marvel heroes not only in the present day but occasionally in other time periods (fighting alongside the Liberty Legion in #20 and Doc Savage in #21, for example) and in alternate realities. The series ran 100 issues (Jan. 1974 - June 1983), with seven summer annuals (1976–1982), and was immediately followed by the solo title The Thing #1-36 (July 1983 - June 1986). Another ongoing solo series, also titled The Thing, ran eight issues (Jan.-Aug. 2006).
Fantastic Four (The End) is a six-issue limited series depicting a possible future in which the members of the Fantastic Four have become estranged after an epic battle with Dr. Doom, resulting in the deaths of Franklin Richards and Valeria Richards, the children of group leader Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) and his wife Susan Storm (the Invisible Woman).
At the end of Exiles #95 a Fantastic Four that consists of Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, Victor von Doom, and the Hulk is revealed. They will appear in Exiles through issue #99, as it is a 5-part story arc.
In the MC2 continuity the group has become the Fantastic Five. The team consists of the Human Torch, Ms. Fantastic (Lyja), Psi-Lord (Franklin Richards), Big Brain (a robot with the mind of Reed Richards), and the Thing when the line and their own short-lived title launched. Through later guest appearances in Spider-Girl, we have seen a team consisting of the twin offspring of the Thing (Grim and Rad), the son of Johnny and Lyja (Torus AKA Super-Storm), Kristoff von Doom, Spider-Girl and Psi-Lord taking the place of Fantastic Five briefly. Eventually Susan Storm and Reed Richards return from the Negative Zone to rejoin the team. The most recent line-up consists of the Torch, Ms. Fantastic, Thing, Grim, and Psi-Lord.
- Marvel.com: Fantastic Four
- Fantastic Four at the Grand Comic-Book Database
- The Unofficial Handbook of Marvel Comics Creators
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