After years on the shelf, Marvel’s first family is set to get a relaunch. It’s about time.
Around 2015, the Fantastic Four gradually faded away. The original series, which had been renumbered a couple of times, came to an end with FF #645. Then in Secret Wars, Reed Richards played a large role in reviving the multiverse after its collapse. He even battled an omnipotent Doctor Doom. After that, the Richards family just vanished.
There’s been speculation about why the FF was shelved for so long. Marvel/Disney hasn’t commented on the issue, which leaves fans to ponder for themselves. The most persistent - and plausible - rumor was that Marvel wasn’t happy with Fox for having the film and television rights to the FF. When Fox prepared its big screen reboot of the Fantastic Four, that’s about the time that the Marvel comics division started phasing out the FF. Its long been debated whether or not Marvel would end a comic series with the main purpose being to hurt Fox’s movie. Unless someone close to the situation comes forward with some inside news, we probably will never know the answer. But the fact remains that Marvel did away with the team that got the company off the ground in 1961, and that in itself was a travesty.
Without the Fantastic Four’s success in the silver age, we wouldn’t have the Marvel Universe we know today. Where titles like the X-Men and Incredible Hulk were being repeatedly cancelled and restarted, the FF was the original Marvel cash cow. In the first 100 issues of the FF, you will find the history of Marvel. The first issue is considered the start of the Marvel era, and while DC’s Justice Society of America and the Justice League both predate the FF, they were the first superhero team that interacted like a family. In fact, the X-Men in its original form was considered a cheap imitation of the FF.
Having the Fantastic Four behave as a dysfunctional (and fairly realistic) family ushered in a new wave of Marvel heroes who defied the superhero tropes of the times. Whereas the JSA and JLA tended to always have a mutual respect and camaraderie, the FF held grudges against one another, much like a real family. This break from the typical superhero helped bring about characters like Spider-Man, who dealt with the problems of balancing a normal life with that of a superhero (at this time, most heroes were written as being rich).
When it comes to collecting, the FF featured the debuts of some of the most important moments and enduring characters in Marvel. Aside from FF #1, there’s the first crossover in FF #12 when the Hulk met the FF. This was tied with the Amazing Spider-Man #1 for first crossover, a comic that saw the FF on the cover as well. There’s the first appearance of the Inhumans in issues #45 and #46, the debut of the Black Panther in #52, and the first appearances of the Silver Surfer and Galactus in #48 and #49.
After years of fan outcry, the Fantastic Four will finally get their long-awaited return in August. As awful as the three Fantastic Four movies have been (and I’m not counting the unreleased Roger Corman disaster from the 1994; that monstrosity deserves to stay buried), it’s not likely that we’ll see another FF film reboot anytime soon. However, the first couple of issues of the new FF series should spur excitement for the team, and that will give those FF keys a much-needed kick and a boost in popularity.
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