A Growing And Inclusive Family
By 'Jennifer Walters'

I want to thank my good friend Susan Richards for giving me the opportunity to write about the Fantastic Four for this wonderful new web site created by Erik Burnham. When she asked me if I could write a few words of introduction, how could I say "No"? Joining the Fantastic Four was one of the proudest moments of my life, and although I no longer wear a "4" on my uniform I will always be part of the Fantastic Four family.

   That's something which distinguishes the FF from the other superhero group I belong to, the Avengers. The Avengers are professional superheroes whose job is literally to save the world from menaces too big for one hero alone. I've formed close relationships with several Avengers over the years---most notably Janet Van Dyne and Hawkeye---but the dynamics of the team is constantly shifting. It's almost impossible for a team to band together when members are constantly leaving, joining, and re-joining the team, but we do the best that we can. That the Earth is still here shows the success of our efforts.

   The Fantastic Four is a much tighter-knit group. Other superhero groups may talk about being family, but the FF really is one. That's what worried me when I was asked to take Ben's place on the Fantastic Four. I knew I was physically strong enough to do many of the duties Ben performed with the Four, but would I be able to gel with the team? Could the others accept me as a member of the Four, or would I always remind them that I would never be the Thing? But before I knew it, Sue and I were going shopping together and headed for the beauty parlor. Johnny would be teasing me about my green skin, and Reed would be asking me to test some device he had invented. Not only did I fit in as a member, but it almost seemed as if I always was a member.

   What I didn't realize was the Fantastic Four family wasn't limited to four individuals bound by ties of blood, love, and friendship. Over the years, the FF has made many friends and allies across the Marvel Universe. Some of them, like Crystal, Frankie Raye, Sharon Ventura, Medusa, and myself have had the privilege of becoming members of the Four---if only for a little while. Others, like Black Panther and the Inhumans, are just close friends of the family. But it's an inclusive family that grows bigger every year. And we're a family that takes care of our own. That's why I tried so hard to get Ben back my last year on the team. Not because I didn't want to be on the FF or that I didn't belong, but because the FF was where he belonged, and we were all worried about his welfare. Although I felt a little sad leaving the team, I felt good knowing that Ben was back in good hands.

   One more thing I ought to mention about the Fantastic Four before I leave. A lot of people think that because the FF fights bad guys all the time like the Avengers, that they have the same purpose as the Avengers. This isn't the case at all, and as an Avenger I know the difference! The Avengers basically are supercops who save the world every month. The Fantastic Four see themselves as explorers and scientists first, and superheroes second. That doesn't mean they DON'T try to save the world, but saving the world usually comes as a result after figuring out why some weird phenomena is actually a world menace. To oversimplify the case, when monsters attack the Earth from outer space, you call the Avengers first, and the FF usually comes afterward as back-up. If you want to know why a flying saucer has landed in Roswell, N.M., you call the Fantastic Four first and the Avengers stand ready in case things get ugly.

   Well, I've got an amicæ curia that I need to finish before I get to sleep, so I'm going to have to call it quits. But this web site is looking better every time I visit it! (I think the drawings Wolfe made of me in the art section look beautiful! Trish is lucky to have such a talented husband! ^_^ ) And while I don't want to sound vain (well...maybe a little!), I hope everyone visits the GAB! message board here before they leave. Bye, now!