When the Fantastic Four debuted in 1961, they were almost certainly inspired by the success that DC Comics was having with not only its revived line of superhero comics. Batman and Superman were always popular, but by the mid-1950s, there were literally only one or two non-Batman/Superman superhero titles being published by DC. More specifically, the FF was based on DC’s hit new superhero team comic book, Justice League of America. Stan Lee, though, did not just copy what DC was doing. No, he decided to put his own spin on the superhero team book.
Lee and his collaborator, Jack Kirby, came up with the idea of having the Fantastic Four be like real people. They weren’t perfect, but flawed individuals who were nonetheless still very heroic. The Fantastic Four soon settled into what it would be best known for, the most famous “family” in comics. However, just like how real life families sometimes deal with dysfunction, so, too, has the Fantastic Four had its fair share of non-family friendly fare. We’ll spotlight some of the more notable examples of this trend.
15. REED’S PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS
One of the most infamous panels in Fantastic Four history is also one of its most misunderstood. In a storyline towards the tail end of John Byrne’s epic run on the series, Sue Richards (then still going by the name Invisible Girl) was manipulated by the evil Hate-Monger into becoming the villainous Malice. Reed Richards deduced that the nefarious Hate-Monger had reversed Sue’s emotions, so where she once knew love, she now knew hate.
Thus, his solution was to make her actually hate him, which would short circuit the Hate-Monger’s control. So he’s not actually being a jerk to her here, but at the same time, there was also absolutely no reason why he needed to slap her, so it’s still a bad look on Reed.
14. PAGING CERSEI LANNISTER…
When Alicia Master was introduced, we specifically learned that she was basically an exact double for Sue Storm (this is comic books, there is an exact double out there for pretty much every character out there). The Puppet Master even dressed her up in a Sue wig and had her infiltrate the Fantastic Four headquarters and no one else noticed, despite Alicia being blind!
She then became Thing’s girlfriend for many years, but after one of their break-ups (when Thing was on another planet), she ended up in a relationship with the Human Torch instead. Yes, that’s the Human Torch… who is the brother of Sue Storm! That’s right, he hooked up with a woman who is an exact double for his sister. Creepy. Luckily, no one has brought up the resemblance in decades. Also, “Alicia” turned out to be a Skrull, but that’s neither here nor there.
13. THE INNER WORKINGS OF REED’S MIND
Reed Richards is one of the most brilliant people in the world. During the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run on the title, Kirby really cut loose with some interesting inventions created by Reed, utilizing Kirby’s unparalleled imagination to come up with bizarre concepts seemingly every other issue. In one of the earliest issues, Reed invented a machine that projected his thoughts onto some sort of hologram that everyone else could see.
The problem, of course, was that he tested it while thinking about Sue in a bathing suit, and Sue and the others got to see it! That image is, of course, tame nowadays, but at the time this issue came out, it was really pretty racy! After all, Reed and Sue didn’t even kiss in the comic until they were practically married!
12. TROUBLE RIGHT FROM THE START
We should have known that the Fantastic Four were going to be filled with dysfunction right from their famous origin. For whatever reason that somehow made sense to him at the time, Reed Richards thought to test out a rocket that he thought was safe (when the government said otherwise) by stealing it with his test pilot best friend (that makes sense), as well as his civilian girlfriend and her teenage brother (that does not make sense).
Of course, Reed was wrong! The ship wasn’t safe! The Fantastic Four’s origin is based on robbery and incompetence! Not only that, but Ben Grimm only went along with it because Sue Storm called him a coward! Nice motivational speech there, Sue! If that didn’t work, we’d expect her next approach would have been, “All the cool kids steal rocketships.”
11. REED TAKES A WEIRD LESSON FROM HIS CHILDHOOD
When it comes to the worst things that Reed Richards has ever done, oddly enough, most of them did not take place in the actual pages of Fantastic Four. They were either in New Avengers: Illuminati or, most of all, Civil War. You see, during Civil War, despite Reed specifically arguing against a Superhero Registration Act back in the 1990s, he was now on board with the idea during the major Marvel crossover event.
In the pages of the Fantastic Four, Reed explained his reasoning for his actions in Civil War to Peter Parker by telling him about his beloved uncle who refused to name names at Joseph McCarthy’s Anti-Communist Senate hearings. It ruined his uncle’s life and ultimately led to his early death. Reed’s takeaway from that story, bizarrely enough, was that his uncle was wrong to not obey the will of the Senate hearing. Yikes, Reed.
10. SHE-HULK GETS CAUGHT
During her career as a superhero, Jennifer Walters has definitely embraced the fact that she turns from a mousy, petite woman into a statuesque green Amazonian when she transforms into She-Hulk. In fact, even when she had the ability to turn back to her old self, Jen decided to remain in her She-Hulk form all the time.
Naturally, her beauty drew a lot of attention from the rest of the world, including some unsavory exposure when a men’s magazine took photographs of She-Hulk while she was sunbathing on the roof of the Baxter Building. She used her legal skills to try to get the magazine to not be able to use the photos, but she lost. “Luckily” for her, the magazine screwed up the coloring and she looked like just some nondescript topless woman in the magazine.
9. REED AND SUE’S CIVIL WAR
As noted, despite the fact that Reed specifically testified in Congress in opposition of this exact issue in the 1990s, Reed ended up being on the side of the Superhuman Registration Act during Civil War. His wife, though, could not stand to be on Reed’s side. So, after making him a nice dinner and getting intimate (all of this took place in the pages of Civil War), she left Reed to join the resistance against the Act.
She then returned to confront Reed over their disagreement and it got rough. Reed even shockingly made a fist at Sue when the argument really got heated. He tried to explain that he was doing this to protect her, to which she responded by creating an invisible force field column throughout their home. She wanted to show that she did not need his protection and that he shouldn’t use that as a reason to do anything.
8. SUE HAS HAD ENOUGH
Reed and Sue have had a lot of difficulties over the years with their oldest child, Franklin Richards. Franklin has often had difficulties controlling the unique abilities that he was born with. It has also made him a target for enemies of the Fantastic Four. Reed has made some tough decision about his son over the years. He even put him into an induced coma for a while because Franklin could not control his powers.
One of the worst times, though, came when Reed was distraught that Sue wasn’t doing enough in his mind to protect Franklin. Sue believed that he wasn’t treating her like a full member of the team and he essentially told her she was more valuable taking care of Franklin. A shocked Sue quit the team (and Reed) for over a year, with Medusa filling in for her on the team.
7. REED AND SUE’S STRANGE ORIGIN
When the Fantastic Four debuted, it was evident that there was a noticeable age difference between Reed and Sue. Stan Lee eventually replied in an early letter column that Reed and Ben were in their late 30s, Sue was in her 20s and Johnny had just turned 16. That’s fair enough, of course, as there is nothing weird about people in their late 30s dating someone in their 20s.
The problem, though, came when we learned that Reed and Sue knew each other when Reed was a graduate student. Therefore, the 10-year age difference was suddenly a bit disturbing when they met when she was 11 and he was 21. It’s not like they actually started dating back then, but the connection shown here still seems a bit off-putting. Marvel retconned it years later to make Sue older when she first met Reed.
6. SUE’S FONDEST WISH IS… WHAT?!
During the 1940s, Marvel’s three biggest superheroes were Captain America, Namor and the Human Torch. When the Fantastic Four debuted, Marvel decided to do a new version of the Human Torch (the original one was an android). After Fantastic Four #1 was a huge success, Marvel soon brought back Namor, as well, in Fantastic Four #4. He became obsessed with Sue Storm and tried to kidnap her to make her his queen in Atlantis.
They never got together, but shockingly, during Chris Claremont’s run on Fantastic Four, he revealed Sue’s fondest desire, which turned out to be…becoming Namor’s queen?! This was never resolved/explained. It is flat out said that this was her heart’s desire and yet it was never followed up beyond that. We guess Reed was just okay with him not being her heart’s desire. That’s pretty sad, really.
5. REED IS JUST THE WORST
As mentioned before, what really made Fantastic Four stand out when it debuted was that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tried to make the characters more realistic, specifically giving them notable character conflicts (although some of the personality conflicts, like the Thing’s unrequited love for Sue Storm, were dropped over the years).
However, sometimes Lee and Kirby went a bit overboard, like when Ben, Johnny and Sue began to resent Reed’s authoritarian leadership style and suggested that maybe he shouldn’t be the leader anymore. Reed proceeded to tear them apart, insulting them throughout the issue. The team briefly broke up but in the end, they came crawling back to Reed. Reed is such a jerk and yet he never even seems to suffer any consequences from his behavior!
4. NO, SERIOUSLY, REED IS JUST THE WORST
The notable problem of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s approach to depicting the Fantastic Four as a family is that Lee and Kirby were doing this in the 1960s, and while both men were quite progressive for the era in many ways, one of the areas where they were more “of the time” was their depiction of the relationship between Reed and Sue.
The casual sexism in the early issues of the Fantastic Four was staggering. Seemingly every other issue Reed was making a sexist comment towards Sue. One of the most infamous examples was when Reed apologized to Sue for not paying enough attention to her, but then follows that up by noting that wives should be kissed, not heard. And this was depicted as him being nice to her!!
3. SUE USES HER POWERS ON HER OWN COSTUME
In the aforementioned storyline where Sue fell under the control of the Hate-Monger (taking on the new name of Malice), it seemed as though it was simply a matter of Sue being manipulated by the Hate-Monger. Years later, however, we learned that she actually had been possessed by a being known as Malice. Sue typically was able to keep the entity under control, but during the Infinity War (when the superheroes of Earth were attacked by their doppelgängers), Sue began to lose control a bit.
One of the ways that we could tell that she was losing control was the introduction of a new costume that was barely even a costume due to just how shockingly skimpy it was. It was as if Sue had used her invisible powers on the fabric of her own costume! She actually wore this ridiculous costume for over a year!
2. BEN GRIMM GETS HIS ROCKS OFF
Generally speaking, despite Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters dating for years, we really were never privy to what kind of sexual relationship that they had (if they had one at all). It wouldn’t be until the pages of Thing’s short-lived ongoing series in the mid-2000s that we first saw clear signs that they shared a intimate relationship.
That wasn’t the first time we saw Ben sleep with someone in the series, though. That occurred during Ben’s short-lived tenure as the leader of the Fantastic Four when he and Johnny were joined by Sharon Ventura (originally as Ms. Marvel and then as She-Thing) and Crystal. On a mission where Johnny and Crystal (exes that were now both married to other people) struggled with being close to each other, Ben and Sharon finally spent the night together. They were certainly one of the most unusual bedroom pairings in superhero history.
1. SUE’S PUBLIC SPEAKING ADVICE
As noted, during the early 1990s, Sue Storm was dealing with the effects from her possession by the entity known as Malice. It caused her to wear skimpier clothing and it also made her quite difficult to be around for most people, as she was suddenly very irritable. During the Infinity War crossover, a doppelganger of Reed working for Thanos detonated a thermonuclear device on the top floor of the Fantastic Four’s headquarters. Sue managed to save everyone’s lives by containing it with her force field (while Thor then shunted the energy into outer space).
Their tenants, though, weren’t happy about the explosion at the building where they worked. Sue got tired of their attitude, so she used her powers to make their clothing disappear. The Fantastic Four were not the most popular of landlords.
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