When asked to write something for this Fantastic Four
Tribute site, I originally declined. The reason being is that I don't read the Fantastic
Four-in fact I've only read two regular issues, and some collected stuff of their first
appearances. Beyond that, I know very little on the characters to the point where you
would have to give me the "Idiots Guide to the Fantastic Four" to figure out
just what the heck is going on.
So I started thinking about it, recalling all of the little tidbits I did know about the
FF: There were four of them, occasional members included She-Hulk, Ant Man, Ms. Marvel,
and a handful more. They had a kid, whose name was Franklin. They lived in a really kick
ass high rise building with a 4 at the top. They rode around in some funky sled that could
disconnect into smaller sleds. They fought Galactus a time or two, and met the Silver
Surfer. They also met the Inhumans, and fought aliens called the Skrulls.
Outside of that, I know nothing about them. But did I really need to know anymore outside
of that to understand these characters who have survived for decades? After all, what
makes them so popular with fans that they can sustain comics, cartoons, and action figures
for over 37 years and still keep on trucking? So I began to reflect upon what I knew of
Was it the super powers? After all, Mr. Fantastic could stretch himself into just about
any shape imaginable. His big bands frequently catching his falling teammates, or giving
them the added boost they needed to catch the evil doer. Or was it The Invisible Woman's
ability to project invisible force fields, protecting her teammates? The Human Torch was
literally a human torch that could fly and hurl fireballs at his opponents. The Thing was
a huge giant orange rock that could kick the snot out of just about anyone they
encountered. All interesting and dynamic powers in there own right. However could this be
the explanation for their continued success after all this time? Was this the core of the
Fantastic Four? Possibly, but often times powers don't make the core of the character(s),
and when they do usually the character doesn't stick around very long. But that wasn't the
case here, as the FF has survived for decades.
So what if it was something else at these four character's core that made them so
enduring. What if it was the fact they were a family? Look at it--back when they were
created in November of 1963 it was the height of the nuclear family. Nuclear families tend
to have four members of their family, and in the case of the Fantastic Four it fit
perfectly to a T. Reed was the father, protecting his family as well as supporting them,
while Sue often times played the mother figure to both Johnny (her brother) and Ben. Then
naturally Reed and Sue had a child-Franklin-- thus continuing with the concept of family.
It's rather funny though if you think about. Some of the most enduring characters of our
time have lost their families in some way: Superman was orphaned when Krypton exploded;
Batman lost both parents to violence as did Spider-Man with his Uncle Ben. These heroes
for which we continue the legacy for all lost a key component in everyone's lives-family.
So here we have a group of people who haven't lost anything, but gained something. They
grew closer, and became more than just a super-hero team but an actual family that looks
out for one another and cares for each other like families do.
In today's world where broke homes, absent parents, and just a break down of family values
and communication is spreading like a virus throughout our nation the Fantastic Four bring
a ray of light to that classic ideal of family. That even through the deaths, births, and
life altering events we all go through family will still be there to support you. It
brings something a lot of folks need-they bring a sense of hope.
I guess I don't need to read all of those stories about this quartet. It's clear to me now
why these characters are so loved. At their core they are a family above all else, and it
is the hope and ideals they carry that makes them so appealing to everyone young and old.
The Fantastic Four is really the Fantastic Family.