Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, is one of the smartest people in the Marvel Universe. He is the leader of the first family in comic book superheroes, the Fantastic Four, which consists of himself, his wife, the Invisible Woman, his brother-in-law, the Human Torch and his best friend, the Thing. Reed has saved the planet on countless occasions. However, that does not mean that he can’t also occasionally be a bit of a jerk.
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the Fantastic Four, they intended for them to be more “human” than typical superheroes (a trademark of the Marvel Universe), so the group argued frequently, but that does not fully explain why Reed acts like such a jerk sometimes. Jonathan Hickman did a wonderful run on “Fantastic Four” where he explained that the love of his family is the only thing keeping him from going past “occasional” jerk to “flat out evil,” like the Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe (now the villain known as the Maker). So we suppose you can thank the love of his family that this list is only 15 entries long.
15. INJECTED HIS SON WITH NANOMACHINES
One of the main faults of Reed is that he comes up with solutions to problems and then just implements them, typically without consulting with others over his decision. This was handled very well in his brief tenure as a member of the Avengers, as Ralph Macchio (who was in the unfortunate position of having to write Reed and Sue out of the book just as soon as they became members of the team) deftly showed how Captain America was not willing to put up with Reed just doing things on his own without consulting anyone else.
Reed means well, of course, but when you do things like inject nanomachines into your son so that you can track him, all without telling your wife (as Reed did in “Fantastic Four and Power Pack” #2 by Fred Van Lente and Gurihiru), then that’s not going to go over well with other people.
14. DIDN’T TELL THE FF THEY WERE DYING
Reed’s decision to hide the fact that the entire team was sick during the 2013 “Fantastic Four” series (by Matt Fraction, Mark Bagley and Mark Farmer) stood out as a particularly egregious screw-up. For years, he had been told by his wife and his friends (his wife, in particular, told him about this all the time) that he has to let them know when something is wrong and that it is a jerk move to think that he knows what’s best for everyone and just keep them in the dark while he conducts his own plans.
Sure enough, when he discovers that the powers of the Fantastic Four were killing them while they were on a journey through time, he waited until it was obvious that something was the matter (like Sue’s invisibility kicking in without her trying to do so) that he finally fessed up about the grave danger they were all in. He wanted to fix things before anyone knew, but that wasn’t his call to make.
13. HE JOINED THE ILLUMINATI
When it comes to Reed’s belief that he always knows what is best for everyone, he at least has some notable company in the Illuminati, a group of major superheroes who, just like Reed, believe that they know what’s best for everyone else. So Reed would meet up with Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt (plus occasionally Black Panther) to discuss various issues relating to the world of superheroes (they all represent a specific side of the superhero world) and trying to resolve them.
It really speaks to Reed’s mindset that it never occurred to him that perhaps it was a jerky thing to do to belong to a secret society of superheroes making decisions that affect the whole world, and never mentioning the existence of the group to his team or, more importantly, his own wife. It’s one thing for Iron Man to keep his Avengers teammates in the dark; with Reed, it’s his actual family that he’s treating like children who cannot keep a secret.
12. FORCED BEN GRIMM TO BECOME THE THING
One of the biggest sources of guilt in Reed’s life (if not the biggest source) is what happened to his best friend, Ben Grimm, when the Fantastic Four gained their powers. While Reed, Sue and Johnny all remained human in appearance when they gained their powers, Ben transformed into, well, a thing, a grotesque monster made up of dinosaur-esque scales (later changing to more of a rocky appearance).
Reed repeatedly vowed to cure his best friend and while he had some temporary successes, he routinely failed at finding a cure. That’s why it was so painful when the Fantastic Four were stripped of their powers before Doctor Doom took over control of their own headquarters! The team (along with Daredevil) fought their way into their own headquarters without their powers, until Reed was able to get a device that would restore them. Ben, though, did not want his powers back, but Reed felt that they needed Ben for the final battle, so he blasted him against his will.
11. TWO WORDS: SKRULL COWS
In just the second issue of their comic book series, the Fantastic Four found themselves fending off an alien invasion from the shapeshifting race known as the Skrulls. The Skrulls sent an advance crew of four Skrulls who tried to turn the people of Earth against the Fantastic Four by impersonating them and committing crimes. The Fantastic Four uncovered their plot and proved their innocence to the rest of the world. They captured the Skrulls and then pretended to be them and went to the Skrull invasion fleet.
Reed then successfully bluffed the head of the Skrull invasion fleet that Earth was far too dangerous to invade. The advance crew was now stuck on Earth. Reed couldn’t let them spill the beans, so they had to remain on Earth, but instead of putting them into prison, he instead hypnotized them into becoming cows! That’s messed up enough, but then he lost track of them and they ended up getting slaughtered and turned into burgers!
10. SLAPPING HIS WIFE
One of the most infamous panels of Reed Richards in his comic book history is also very often taken drastically out of context. However, even within the proper context, it’s not one of Reed’s better moments. Sue Richards is manipulated by the villainous Psycho-Man (and his puppet, the new Hate Monger) to turn all of her thoughts of love for her family into hate. She becomes Malice, decked out in a spiked costume with a mask (oddly enough, her brother and her husband don’t recognize her in her costume, despite it not really hiding her appearance all that much).
Reed realizes that if her feelings of love are being turned into hate, he has to make her actually hate him, so he acts like a jerk to her and then even slaps her. It works and she regains control of her personality. The issue, of course, is that it’s debatable whether the plan really needed him to actually hit her. The plan was clearly already working before he went to that level, so it is still a jerky thing to do.
9. USING A COMA-RAY ON HIS SON
Speaking of taking panels out of context, there are some panels from an issue of “What If…?” where Reed and Sue have a daughter and she turns out to be evil that show Reed slapping his son, Franklin Richards. Clearly that doesn’t actually count as Reed being a jerk, since it is out of continuity. However, Reed’s connection with his son has had some strange points over the years.
You see, Franklin Richards is a mutant who has the potential to be one of the most powerful beings on the planet. However, his powers have expressed themselves much sooner than most mutants, and that is a problem, as a little kid cannot handle all of the power that he is dealing with. In “Fantastic Four” #141 (by Gerry Conway, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott), Franklin’s powers began to overload. Reed, not knowing what else to do, blasted his own son and put him into a coma. It might have been the right thing to do, but it was a messed up thing to see a father do to his son (Sue moved out of the Baxter Building in response to Reed’s actions).
8. POST-KREE-SKRULL WAR
The origin of the Illuminati was revealed in “New Avengers: Illuminati” #1 (by Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Reed, Jimmy Cheung and Mark Morales), which showed that the heroes got together when they realized that, individually, Reed, Tony and Black Bolt each had information that could have possibly averted the effects of the Kree-Skrull War on Earth had they checked in with each other.
Once formed, the heroes then traveled to the Skrull homeworld to threaten them never to attack Earth again. This, though, backfired, when they instead were captured, which allowed the Skrulls to find out a way to perfectly duplicate humans, and, in part inspired by the brashness of these humans coming to their planet to tell them what to do, this led to the war on Earth that occurred in “Secret Invasion.” This wasn’t just Reed’s screw-up, of course, but he’s supposed to be smarter than to mess up so badly with a plan like this; but once again, his ego took over and he had to solve everyone else’s problem and ended up causing a bigger one.
7. THE ORIGIN OF THE FANTASTIC FOUR
One of the most impressive aspects of the origins of many of the major characters from the “Marvel Age” of comics in the 1960s is that so many of their origins involved the heroes first doing something stupid and/or selfish before then redeeming themselves by becoming heroes. Think Doctor Strange’s car accident, Spider-Man allowing the burglar to escape and Tony Stark touring Vietnam to see his munitions at work. However, the Fantastic Four’s origin is a special kind of stupid.
Reed Richards planned a mission to the moon. The government felt that the ship was not safe enough. He thinks they’re wrong, so his plan is to steal he ship with his pilot best friend, plus his girlfriend and her teenage brother?! How in the world did this plan make sense to Reed? Then, as it turned out, he was wrong and the ship wasn’t ready for the cosmic rays! They obviously made lemonade out of their lemons, but boy, stealing a rocket with a pair of untrained citizens is a really jerk thing to do.
6. LOOKED DOWN ON HIS TEAMMATES
As we noted before, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby intentionally planned on the Fantastic Four to be like family, and a result of that, they would also sometimes fight like a family. This is most famously demonstrated by the two “kids,” Thing and Human Torch, and the constant pranks and brawls that the two were involved in over the years. That was how things eventually worked out, but early on, everyone was fair game, which came to a head in “Fantastic Four” #23 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and George Roussos).
In the issue, Reed is a total jerk to his teammates, talking down to them like they’re morons. They decide that they then want to have a new leader of the team. Doctor Doom takes this opportunity to attack the team while they are tearing themselves apart. Doom captures them all, but then Reed takes charge and they defeat Doom and they all basically just give Reed a pass on how rude he was to them all as they re-elect Reed as team leader.
5. BEING SEXIST
It’s important to note that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s idea of what a family of superheroes would look like were based on the idea of the American family in the generation that the comics were taking place in, which was over fifty years ago! Naturally, a lot of the ideas of what was appropriate behavior back in 1967 do not fit with what we see as appropriate behavior in 2017. This is not meant as an excuse of how Reed’s sexist behavior is not treated as all that big of a deal, but just an explanation for why the depiction of Reed was so out of touch with acceptable treatment of women.
There are many examples of Reed’s sexist behavior of Sue, but we only have room for two. Honestly, forget the first image (which is from the previously mentioned “Fantastic Four” #23), the even bigger embarrassment is “Fantastic Four” #65 (by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott), as that’s their idea of Reed apologizing to Sue! Yikes.
4. PUSHING SUE OUT
When Roy Thomas began writing the “Fantastic Four,” he managed to show how Reed’s often sexist behavior towards Sue was not occurring in a vacuum, and that his actions would eventually lead to an opposing reaction from Sue. It all came to a head in “Fantastic Four” #130 (by Thomas and artists John Buscema and Joe Sinnott), where Reed becomes so overly protective of his son that he constantly interrupts the Fantastic Four’s battle with the bad guys to make sure that Sue is being sure to keep their son safe.
Sue was sick of being talked to like she wasn’t an equal member of the team, so she threatens to quit and Reed tells her to go ahead, as at least that way she’ll be devoting herself to their son full time. It was an unbelievably harsh overreaction by Reed to the situation, and it led to Sue leaving the Fantastic Four and being replaced by Medusa for roughly a year.
3. CAUSING PLANET (AND WORLD WAR) HULK
In “The Incredible Hulk” #88-91 (by Daniel Way, Keu Cha and Juan Santacruz), the Hulk is enlisted by Nick Fury to go on a mission to a satellite where he has to destroy a sentient Hydra weapon. When the Hulk succeeded in destroying the weapon, he is shocked to learn that not only is there not a plan for returning him to Earth, but the Illuminati (including Hulk’s old friend, “Dumb Magician,” aka Doctor Strange) has decided on their own that the Hulk is too much of a danger to Earth, so they have tricked him into being transported to another world where he can live out his life in peace.
Even if you don’t think that is such an unreasonable thing for Reed and friends to do, consider the fact that they then never bothered to check whether the Hulk actually landed on the planet that they sent him to! He, of course, was knocked off course and instead landed on a gladiator planet. After he conquered it, the Hulk returned to Earth to cause even more destruction, and all because of the carelessness of Reed and his friends.
2. CREATING NEGATIVE ZONE PRISON
Clearly, when people think of Reed Richards being a jerk, when they’re not thinking of that “Reed slapping Sue” panel, they’re thinking of Reed’s behavior during “Civil War.” Reed came down on the Pro Superhuman Registration Act side of things (despite specifically arguing against that very same concept back in an 1989 storyline in “Fantastic Four”) and then basically acted like a supervillain throughout “Civil War.”
One of his acts of villainy was to help Tony Stark to create a prison in the Negative Zone where they could send superheroes who violated the Superhuman Registration Act. How bad the prison was differed from story to story (in “Civil War: Front Line,” the conditions at the prison were ghastly, while in other comics they were nice for a prison) but the basic gist of it was that Reed was helping to send superheroes to a prison in another dimension without trials as part of a deluded sense of the importance of following an unjust law.
1. CREATED MURDER CLONE OF THOR
Reed’s true turn to villainy came at a different point in “Civil War,” when Reed, Tony and fellow Pro-Superhuman Registration Act hero, Hank Pym (who would later be revealed to be a Skrull, so at least Hank Pym gets out of “Civil War” with a clear conscience) cloned their old friend, Thor, and sent the clone after the Anti-Superhuman Registration Act heroes. That’s jerky enough. However, the clone of Thor went out of control and then murdered the superhero known as Goliath, a friend of Reed and a very close friend of the Thing’s.
This is literal mad scientist territory, and yet somehow, the fact that Reed, Tony and “Hank” created a clone that actually killed a fellow superhero has been mostly glossed over, as really, that’s the only way you could believe that the Fantastic Four would ever get back together again, especially considering how close Ben was to Goliath. This was by far the worst thing that Reed has done… so far.
What do you think is the jerkiest thing that Reed has ever done? Let us know in the comments section!
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