Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Fantastic Four Are Awesome....

But what is it about the Fantastic Four that makes them awesome?

It's quite simple really. The Fantastic Four are the most self-contained and versatile property in all of comics. You've got all of the comic-book melodrama and characterisation wrapped up within the four main characters all of whom are on the team and can be lifted wholesale and plonked down into any fantastical situation your fevered little imagination can whip up.

There's no Aunt May in Queens or Lois Lane and her precious Daily Planet to keep these guys tethered to earth. These guys are their own supporting cast. Wherever they go all they take all of their soap-opera shenanigans along with them. So Sue could be bitching at Reed for forgetting her birthday while they battle Annihilus and Blaastar in the Negative Zone. Johnny might be teasing Ben about looking like past their sell-by-date pop rocks while they search for the Ultimate Nullifier on Galactus Worldship.

You name the settings, you name the genre, there is nowhere the magic of the Fantastic Four wont' work.

All of the best FF writers over the years have figured this out and used it to their advantage. From Stan and Jack all the way through to Mark Millar in Ultimate Fantastic Four.

By way of an example let's take a single issue of Mark Millar's Ultimate run. Say for example issue 21.

This issue wastes no time in proving my theory. Mark Millar loves his super-heroes but he also wants to write a comic-book about dinosaurs? No sweat, the FF have got you covered. You want to write about dinosaurs? Just zip Johnny and Ben 150 million years into the past on the very first page and Bob's your uncle. Hell you could have the Thing slugging a Tyrannosaurus Rex right in the chops by page two and nobody would blink an eye. It's just another day at the office for these guys.Of course you have to keep things moving. You can't have the FF hanging around in one place too long. Super-hero versus dinosaur battles don't take too long to get stale and boring especially in these jaded and cynical times.

Need something fresh and different for the FF to do to keep the audience hooked? How about stopping a gang of crooks staging a kidnapping to score some ransom money?

That might be okay for lesser super-hero books like Spider-man or Superman but this is the FF baby, round these parts we crank things up to eleven! Sure we can have terrorists but not ordinary terrorists, they've got to be time-hopping terrorists!

Of course they can stage a kidnapping but we can't have them 'napping some airheaded debutant whose dad has a few bucks. No! They've got to travel 200 million years into the past and snatch the first creature that ever crawled from the sea and hold it to ransom! Derailing evolution before it begins and wiping out 200 million years of human history has got to be worth a few quid hasn't it?

See what I'm saying. You'd be hard pressed to find sci-fi shenanigans more wacky or awesome than that anywhere other than a Fantastic Four book. Mixed in with the Grimm/Storm/Richards family dynamics we all know and love it makes quite the heady comic book brew.

Phew, that's a lot of funky sci-fi stuff to digest before we're even halfway through the issue. For the non-trekkies in the audience if the sci-fi onslaught keeps up like this things might start to get a little hard going.

Luckily this is an FF book. So we can completely shift genres at the drop of a hat. How about a little horror to cleanse the palette? Okey doke, how about we have Reed manipulated into opening a trans-dimensional portal to a neighbouring dimension by an older, parallel version of himself?

"That just sounds like more damned sci-fi to me!"

Oh, did I not mention that this parallel dimension is populated with zombies who have chowed down on the entirety of the human race and are now looking to move their snacking into a neighbouring dimension? No? Well it is. Oh yeah and the zombies....they're all superheroes:

Zombie Super-heroes, lord have mercy. That's the FF for you people. One minute they're Flash Gordoning about in wacky alien dimensions and Robert Patricking it up through time then the next their Ashing the hell out of world full of zombies with their boomsticks. All in the space of one issue! Imagine the awesomeness that could be packed into two issues - or even three - or *gasp* 48 years worth of issues.

Praise you Jack and Stan for blessing us all with the comic book gold that is the Fantastic Four.

Where would we all be without them?
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