Fantastic Four: A Guide to Their Lineup History

After a three-year hiatus, the Fantastic Four is set to return to their own comic book series this August. The promos for the new series show the four classic members of the Fantastic Four, namely Mister Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Thing and the Human Torch. However, artist Sara Pichelli did note about the upcoming series, “I can’t wait to draw a lot of the characters, but there’s one in particular I can’t reveal yet. You will know why they’re my favorite when you read the book!”

Likely, Pichelli is just talking about a new supporting cast member, but it's interesting to note that the Fantastic Four has a long history of mixing and matching with precisely who the four members of the team are. It is not always the original four in the team's roster (although, the vast majority of Fantastic Four issues have included those four characters as the lineup). So let's take a look at the Fantastic Four's history of different lineups.

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In Fantastic Four #1 (by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), we met the original members of the Fantastic Four. Pilot Ben Grimm is convinced by his best friend, scientist Reed Richards, to steal a spaceship that Reed had been working on, in part because Reed's girlfriend, Sue Storm, essentially called Ben a coward who didn't care that the "Commies" might beat us to the stars. If there's one thing that we know about Ben Grimm, it is that he hates Communists. So he was on board with Reed's whole "two guys steal a spaceship and this somehow makes sense to me" idea. Plus, Reed had missed out on his previous date night with Sue, so he had to agree to let her go with them on their "steal a spaceship" night out. Sue took care of her teenage brother, Johnny Storm, so they all figured, "Hey, if we're already stealing a spaceship and bringing your girlfriend with us for no reason, why not also bring a teenager along?" Shockingly, their plan did not do well and the shielding on the space ship was not, as Reed thought, strong enough to withstand the cosmic rays that penetrated the ship. So their ship crashes and they are all transformed by the cosmic rays. Reed can not stretch his body, Sue can turn invisible, Johnny can become some sort of human torch and Ben transformed into some monstrous thing. They all decide to use their powers to help mankind as the Fantastic Four, with Johnny becoming the Human Torch, Sue becoming the Invisible Girl, Ben becoming the Thing and Reed becoming Mister Fantastic...

Within a couple of issues, they debuted their classic costumes...

This lineup remained the same for seven years. However, once Sue (now Sue Richards, as she and Reed got married) became pregnant with her and Reed's first child, the team realized that Sue probably needed to take a break from being a superhero. So she took some time off and in Fantastic Four #81 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Joe Sinnott), the Human Torch's Inhuman girlfriend, Crystal, who had elemental powers, joined the team in Sue's place...

Interestingly, even when Sue gave birth and returned to the team, Crystal kept hanging out for a while after that, so they were really the Fantastic Five there for a while.

After having their kid, however, Reed and Sue had some problems over the fact that their son, Franklin Richards, was really powerful and villains kept trying to capture/hurt him. Reed was a bit of a jerk to Sue, basically acting like she was a bad mom for still wanting to be a superhero when he thinks that she should spend all of her time being their kid's mom. She gets angry and quits the team and leaves Reed.

A couple of issues later, in Fantastic Four #132 (by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott), Crystal's sister, Medusa, decided to take Sue's place on the team (Crystal had just met and fell in love with the former Avenger, Quicksilver, and she wasn't willing to return to the team herself).

Medusa actually remained on the team even after Reed and Sue got back together in Fantastic Four #149, as Sue didn't immediately return to the team until Fantastic Four #159.

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