In this feature we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.
Today, in honor of the Fantastic Four’s new film, let’s take a look at the complicated back story of Reed Richards and Sue Storm Richards, otherwise known as Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman!
The timeline of the Marvel Universe has always been an intriguing one, because obviously while it was originally based in “real” time, as it has aged, it has condensed a lot of events in a much shorter time frame than the fifty-four years the Marvel Universe has been around. However, while we don’t connect to the SPECIFIC historic events of the Marvel Universe, there tends to be a sort of general following of the time frame, just without the specific historic dates. To wit, if Reed says something like “I met this guy in the Korean War” in a 1961 comic, then while the Korean War reference would be forgotten over the years (I don’t even know if I’d call obvious stuff like Reed and Ben Grimm no longer being World War II veterans as being “retcons” as they are almost necessities) the fact that he met this person 8-11 years earlier would still be part of Reed’s back story.
So that’s why Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers caused a whole lot of confusion by specifically having it that Reed knew Sue Storm BEFORE he went to fight in World War II in 1962’s Fantastic Four #11…
Lee made it pretty clear that Reed was at least ten years older than Sue (at one point in the letter column, he specifically said that Reed and Ben were in their late 30s while Sue was still in her 20s), so him saying that he knew her BEFORE the war sure seemed a bit odd.
John Byrne played with this by having it be that Sue first KNEW Reed when she was young but they didn’t get together until later. He first discussed this in the super-clever Fantastic Four #271, where Byrne writes and draws a flashback story as if it was a pre-FF story by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko…
In Fantastic Four #291, Byrne goes even further and SHOWS their first meeting, and it is awfully odd looking…
There’s nothing wrong at all with a ten-year age gap. I don’t even think there’s anything necessarily wrong about dating a woman you first met when she was 12 and you were in your 20s, but it’s still a weird visual.
Matt Fraction obviously had a bit of a problem with it, so in his run on Fantastic Four, he decided to abandoned and forsake that first meeting and drop the whole big age gap thing period. In Fantastic Four (Volume 4) #4 (art by Marks Bagley and Farmer), we get the new first meeting between a much-closer-in-age Reed and Sue (as well as a couple of other interactions between the two in a series of adorable flashbacks)…
Editor Tom Brevoort later explained their reasoning in the letter column of a later issue:
So there ya go, a nice, easy, breezy retcon.
Okay, that’s it for this installment! If you have a suggestion for a notable comic book retcon, drop me a line at email@example.com
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