A few months back, I was perusing the CBUB of old, when I came across a match labeled "King Kong vs. The Fantastic Four." I entered it, and, to my amazement, King Kong actually had more comments going for him! I could not believe my eyes, how could this big ape (classic as he is) possibly have a chance against the Fantastic Four, a team that has fought against such villains as Annihilus, Dr. Doom, and Galactus? Then it hit me. Hit me HARD. People had no respect for the Fantastic Four as a team, and they had barely enough respect for them as individuals. In most other matches I had seen the team placed in, they were being put down as weaklings and lossers. I didn't understand then, and I really can figure out now, why some people would think like that. Didn't they remember... (Well, I guess they wouldn't )
History lesson, back in '61, good old Timely, AKA Atlas, was going under. Poor Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the only two men left on the company who could put out material. So, Lee published what was supposedly going to be his swan song, a one-shot comic called "The Fantastic Four." After it was out, Lee planned to retire. Instead, he got a HUGELY succesful title, that would be the beginning of the Marvel Universe. Spidey, Iron Man, the Avengers, the cosmic beings, would not exist, if not for Marvel's first family. Later, in the 90's, as Marvel filed for bankruptcy, it was once again the FF, with help from Spidey, that would save Marvel from the brink. Twice did the first family salvage the company. Yet, they still receive no recognition, still are treated as second-rate heroes, proclaimed to lose to King kong, the DC animated universe, and other weaklings they would tromp.
They are proclaimed weak as a group. True, none of them can truly be considered uber-powerful. Yet, when taken as a whole, they have accomplished more than any other super-group from Marvel. They saved the Earth from Galactus. Thrice. They saved the universe from Abraxas. They have saved the world from Doom COUNTLESS times. The won the Civil War (half of them, anyway, the other half lost) They conquered the forces of hell. They participated in the Infinity War. In the Infinity Crusade. These "weaklings" battled against cosmic forces far greater then them, and have won.
Who have the Avengers ever beaten? Kovaks is the worst. The X-Men? A little tougher, but their greatest villain is Magneto, their toughest probably Dark Phoenix. Abraxas and Doom tromp both of them.
Yet, both those teams are considered far more powerful then the FF, but when considered, the FF have far more on their side then either of those two (Ultimate Nullifier and Franklin Richards)
And how can you hate them as characters? Reed Richards, the second smartest man in the world. Due to his arrogance, his ignorance to his own very human stupidity, he risked the lives of his loved ones on a space flight. He gambled, and nearly lost. His thrist and blindness destroyed any chance they might have had for a normal life, especially his best friend. So, he strives to make it better, to make amends for his folly. Yet, his own drive cannot be quenched, his drive for discovery pushes him to risk the lives of not just his friends, but sometimes, whole populations. Reed tries to make everything perfect for everyone, t ries to earn the forgiveness he craves from his loved ones for destroying their normal lives, yet, he also knows his very human flaws may be the death of everything he holds dear.
Susan Storm Richards. She was young, naieve, and in love with Reed. All she wanted was a quiet, peaceful, NORMAL life with the man she loved. Instead, due to Reed's failure, she became a freak, a celebrity, a heroine. And although she still loves Reed, in the back of her mind, she resents him deeply for destroying any hope for her ideal life. She goes along with the super-hero group, partly because she enjoys the fulfillment of helping others, partly because she is just going along with Reed's game for making amends. She sometimes feels she has settled into the new life, but things keep bringing her back. Her marriage, ruined. Her first and second (and third) pregnancies, deadly. Her son, targeted She can find no respite because her life as a super-hero interferes with her life as a mother and wife. She would happily chose the latter, but she does not. She sacrifices for the sake of everyone and for the sake of her husband, the things she has always held most important.
Johnny Storm was an average ordinary teen-ager. Interested in money, girls and fame. Of course, he got it, thanks to Reed. He became the Human Torch, beloved by all New Yorkers. He got the fame, and the money, and, occasionaly, the girls. But their are things that always nag him, in the back of his mind. First, his choice as a super-hero has impacted his desire for a serious relationship. Crystal, Nova, Alicia (Lyja) all came and went, and Johnny feels that, if not for his powers, it would not be. He is constantly juggling the two, love or fame. To top it all off, he must struggle with the daily trial of being a member of the FF, namely, dealing with a planet wide threat in Doom, Annihilus, blah blah blah. Johnny sees past the danger, mocks it occasionaly, laughs at it, but inside, he bears the brunt of responsibility. Incidents have already occured where Johnny has felt his being the Human Torch has endangered the lives of others, and two enjoy life as the Torch while others suffer is something he cannot bear. Ultimately, he is the Torch because he knows he helps people, and he will bear the troubles of it, whilst putting on a happy face and enjoying the pleasures of celebrity.
Ben Grimm was a pilot. He loved to fly. That was why he joined Reed in the first place. Of course, it was a bad move. He ended up turning into a monster. Not embraced by the world as the other three members were. He wanted only one thing, to stop being the Thing. He felt it as a curse to be a hero, not an obligation or an opputunity. He has sacrificed the most. He has sacrificed, what he feels to be his humanity. Small respites, such as a fan club, a love interest, or the satisfaction of clobbering bad guys, are such. They are small. Ben will always feel, to some extent, cursed with his plight. But he does not relent, he puts on a smile (to his capacity) and clobbers the bad guys. He fights evil, because he knows if he does not, he will be nothing more than what he appears. A monster.
Flawed and different personalities. Yet, they are a family, moreso than most related by blood. They live and love and move forward as any family would do. They fight and feud, and make-up. Their personalities mix and blend to create an atmosphere of interlocking sub-plots, switching from main plot involving villain to sub-plot involving internal factors. It is their bond that lets them overcome odds such as Galactus. Their connection that helps them outsmart Doctor Doom, who fails to understand such things. Their bond as a family is what has saved the universe.
That, to me, is far more appealing then an alien who accomplishes great feats solely due to his own invulnerability.
So, what is left to dispespect? Their weakness? Please! Johnny and Ben sure, but the Richards?
Reed is 2nd smartest man. Period. He has outwitted even Dr. Doom on multiple occasions. His body is virtualy indestructable to physical force. He has invented devices that defy imagination, opened gates to other dimensions. He even knows magic, to an extent.
Sue has cracked CELESTIAL ARMOR! THAT IS WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY POWERFUL!!!!! HOW CAN PEOPLE NOT RESPECT THAT!!!!!!?????????? Even without her powers, she has stalemated Iron Fist in single combat. Those are MAJOR SKILLZ!!!!!! Aside from the following members:
Dr. Strange (he was Avenger once)
Hulk, maybe, if his healing factor kicked in
Wolvie, also a maybe
and some other cosmics I may have missed
she could kill every single member of the Avengers with her powers.
See, there is nothing about the FF that deserves disrespect. Not their power, their character, or their history. And yet...
Lose against The Jedi Knights
Tie against Deathstroke
Lose against Doomsday
Lose against X-Men Evolution
And an inumerable number of scratched matches where they were proclaimed lossers against weaklings (King Kong being an example).
I don't understand.
The Fantastic Four need more respect. Respect the tradition please, because it was the FF, NOT Watchmen, that invented the flawed hero archtype.