Fantastic Voyage: McDuffie Talks "Fantastic Four"

Civil War tore asunder many of the Marvel Universe's premier super teams, but worst of all it almost destroyed a family, The Fantastic Four.   When the conflict ended, the FF endured, but a lot of damage had been done and now a delicate time of healing has begun. Reed and Sue Richards have taken time away from the team to work on their marriage and the Black Panther and his new bride Storm are doing their best to fill in for them, but the actions of certain villains and events might serve to push the members of Marvel's first family further apart. CBR News spoke with Fantastic Four writer Dwayne McDuffie about the book.

When Tom Brevoort called McDuffie to offer him Fantastic Four, the decision had also been made for the Fantastic Four to play a role in the ongoing Black Panther series as well; so McDuffie and Black Panther writer Reginald Hudlin began discussing ways that their books could fit together. The duo decided to structure their stories so that when one adventure wrapped in one title, chronologically the next adventure for the new Fantastic Four would happen in the other title. It was actually a fairly common thing in the kind of '70s Marvel that Reggie and I grew up on, McDuffie told CBR News. You would regularly see characters and books leave spaces in between things.

It was important to McDuffie and Hudlin that their two books fit together in a way that wouldn't force readers to buy an extra book. I think it's only fair. There are 'Fantastic Four' fans who don't read 'Black Panther' and 'Black Panther' fans who don't read 'Fantastic Four,' McDuffie said. This allows each of them to continue reading their book without having to go buy extra stuff but I recommend fans of either to buy both just because it's a little bit richer.

The new Fantastic Four have had a few adventures now both in Fantastic Four and Black Panther and the two long time members of the team, The Thing and the Human Torch, seem to be adjusting nicely to the change in the team's line up. Ben and Johnny are pretty easy going, McDuffie explained. I don't think they have any problems at all with their new team mates. They miss Reed and Sue, obviously, and would prefer to have them back; they're part of their family. That's one thing that I'm pushing really hard in the book; the Fantastic Four aren't really a super team. They really are just a family and right now it's kind of like having visitors at the house or there's a fire in the house so everybody helps with the fire.

The Black Panther and Storm, the FF's two newest members, are also adjusting well to and even sort of enjoying their roles on the team. I think it's not a big adjustment for them, McDuffie stated. It's probably the most time they've spent in one place since getting married. With the world tour they've been running from location to location, so it's probably pretty nice for them to have a place to sort of stop and be at for awhile. Even with that though they haven't had two nights sleep in the Baxter Building since they moved there.

While the Black Panther and Storm may be substituting for Reed and Sue, that doesn't mean Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman aren't appearing in the book. McDuffie has shown the couple on their own trying to work out the problems in their relationship that emerged during Civil War. I think their relationship has fundamentally changed, McDuffie remarked. I think fundamentally Sue was in love with an idealized image of Reed from the very beginning. Under normal circumstances she would never have seen the side to Reed that she saw during 'Civil War.' Now she has. She's still in love with him but now she's in love with a man; she's not in love with a twelve year old girl's idea of what a husband would be like. I think in the long run it's probably healthier for their relationship - if the relationship survives.

When Fantastic Four #547 hits stores on June 27 th , The FF will have just returned from a harrowing adventure which they narrowly survived, a trip to the world of Marvel Zombies (that story is currently unfolding in the pages of Black Panther.) It was a fairly depressing world that they traveled to, McDuffie stated. I think most of the aftermath will be dealt with in 'Black Panther' just because the events were so huge that I didn't feel it would be right to dump people in the middle of their post zombieverse adventure. The Torch and the Panther talk about it a bit but before they can get into it s a much bigger problem arises.

The bigger problem that rears its ugly head in Fantastic Four #547 is very familiar to the FF; his name is Bentley Wittman AKA the Wizard. He's going back to basics, McDuffie explained. He's the smartest guy in the world as far as he's concerned. But everybody thinks that Reed is the smartest and he just can't handle it. So the Wizard has to either outdo Reed or kill him and then he's smartest again. I think he's actually about the 10 th smartest but in his mind that's how the math works.

As usual, the Wizard's latest plan to kill or outdo Reed will involve allies. He's assembled a new incarnation of his longtime villain group, The Frightful Four whose other members include: the Trapster, Hydro-Man, and Titania. Their group dynamic is that they're a group of characters who have one reason or another to follow the Wizard even though they're not super crazy about his plan, McDuffie stated. He's a good guy to work for and he's got something to offer each of them individually. So they're willing to work for him to get something on the other end. For instance the Wizard has promised Titania sufficient power to get revenge on She-Hulk if she helps him. She's not really into beating up on the Fantastic Four but she's really into beating up on She-Hulk.

Those who read solicitation info might think that things go south for the Frightful Four quickly when Reed and Sue join forces with the current Fantastic Four. McDuffie cautions readers against this. I wouldn't one hundred percent trust solicitation text, he said. I'd rather not give out story details, but that will play out pretty quickly.

McDuffie's next story deals with the Wizard, a man who considers Reed Richards his arch-enemy and some readers might be wondering if McDuffie has plans for a story with the man who is considered to be the FF's arch-enemy, Dr. Doom. Doom is busy with the Avengers right now, McDuffie explained. I'd love to get him in there, but I think people should pay attention to what's going on in the Avengers for awhile. Doom will be heard.

Right now the Fantastic Four and the rest of the Marvel Universe are hearing from the Hulk, who recently launched his campaign of revenge in the pages of World War Hulk. Fantastic Four doesn't tie directly into the World War Hulk but McDuffie has plans to address the aftermath of the storyline in the book. It will certainly affect what's going on in the FF, he remarked. Virtually everyone in the Fantastic Four book right now will be involved in 'World War Hulk' in one way or another, although not in the monthly title.

Fans can expect fallout from World War Hulk in upcoming issues of Fantastic Four and they should also expect the team's adventures to continue to take them into far out, mysterious, alien, and unknown locales. It's kind of hard to say where they're going without saying what they're doing, McDuffie explained. I will say this is a book about explorers and they'll continue to explore.

McDuffie is having loads of fun chronicling the adventures of Marvel's premier team of explorers and wants Fantastic Four to be a title that delivers classic Marvel style thrills and drama. It's a book that I've always wanted to write, McDuffie said. I'm having a blast and we've got terrific art. Both Paul Pelletier and I have set out to make the fun Marvel comic book. This is sort of the old school Marvel with characters having bizarre adventures and going places people haven't been and that's what we want to keep it. I love the characters' relationships but this is mostly about having a good time.

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