Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I think Reed Richards is the man. Actually, I didn’t really care much for Reed- or the Fantastic Four- when I was growing up. Something about them, and Mr. Fantastic in particular, just didn’t appeal to me. Maybe it was just that they struck me as a little too perfect. I mean, if you read the comic you know they’re a long way from that. But it always seemed like whenever the F.F. were around, there wasn’t much reason to worry. Okay, maybe if the F.F. was going up against Galactus you should worry. But it just seemed like, for almost everything they encountered, Reed would figure everything out and put an end to whatever problem they were facing in a matter of time. He was too smart and the F.F. was too good at what they did. They seemed invincible. Of course, as you get older and get a little less angsty you actually start to appreciate this kind of comic a little more. I swear, I think reading tons and tons of X-Men comics depressed me growing up. I mean, okay, it gets my award for most pertinent issues addressed in a comic ever, but constantly reading about how human ignorance and prejudice diminishes the quality of life of mutant kind everywhere- as well as the many, many, MANY tragic romances between the various team members- can start to weigh you down after a while. The Fantastic Four aren’t so…put upon. And they are, above all, the GOOD GUYS. And everybody knows it- S.H.I.E.L.D., the X-Men, the Avengers, the Inhumans…even cosmic entities like Uatu who normally barely acknowledge most human beings’ presence will talk with the Fantastic Four. They’re kind of the linchpin that holds the Marvel U. together. It’s very telling to me that the F.F. “broke up” during Civil War, for example. Partly because the comic is all about balance (but I’ll get to that), but also because I think the idea that all of them would rally to one particular side of the issue would have really provided solidarity for that particular cause. I mean, not for nothing with Captain America and Tony Stark as big personalities speaking for one side or the other- but one side might have pulled most Marvel heroes to it just on the basis that the F.F. supported it. So anyway- Mr. Fantastic. Why do I like him? Well, a couple of reasons. 1. Mr. Fantastic isn’t just smart. Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Hank Mccoy are smart. Reed is super-freaking-smart. You could put all of the smart guys in the entire Marvel Universe, including a few of the aliens, demons, and time travelers, and put them in a room together and Reed would school them all. Back in the 80’s, being intelligent seemed like it was kind of…Reed’s personality. Like, if you were going to describe Reed Richards you would answer: smart. But there wasn’t a lot else to him. Maybe absent-minded. I don’t remember exactly where I read this, but I’m pretty sure at some point they established that Reed’s intelligence is actually…a superpower. It’s like the stretching. His consciousness does the same thing- his ability to conceive of a concept, to understand it, to analyze it, to work with it…his mind ‘stretches’ to superhuman proportions. He adapts to anything he comes into contact with, even if it’s completely alien. In fact, Reed is probably capable of understanding a lot of things- and entities- that most of the human race is not. So YES, he’s brilliant, but that’s not all he is. “Visionary” might be a better descriptor. Not only that, he’s committed to bettering the life of his family and the world. He really believes in human potential. 2. He can be cool. Calm, confident, and cool under pressure all describe Reed. Growing up, I always asked myself why Mr. Fantastic’s incredibly hot wife didn’t take off with the Sub-Mariner. Not so much these days. Don’t believe me? Read 4 in the Marvel Knights’ line. I’m disappointed that Ultimate Fantastic Four is getting canned too (along with 80% of the rest of the Ultimate universe). Sometimes I think F.F. is kind of a tough book to make cool. I mean, I love that the title is all about family and yeah, it can be sweet sometimes. But I also think F.F., in the hands of the right writer, is filled with all sorts of bizarre, Dr. Who-style science fiction. I always felt like the ultimate depiction of them got it right. My favorite bit from Ultimate F.F.- as Reed gets ready to walk into a zombie infested Baxter Building, a soldier asks him something like “You really think you can pull of everything you said that you were gonna do?” To which Reed replies: “Of course- my name is Mr. Fantastic, not Mr. Mediocre.” Reed isn’t beyond making intuitive leaps of faith when he needs to either. I’m ashamed to say that I missed The Trial of Reed Richards, the now somewhat famous F.F. story from John Bryne’s run in the 80s. Basically, it boils down to this- Reed saves Galactus’ life. Later, the Skrull, the Kree, and the Shi’ar arrest Reed Richards and put him on trial. The reason? Accomplice to genocide. Galactus has destroyed many planets inhabited by the species holding the trial. When Reed explains his reasoning for saving Galactus’ life, it goes like this- a long time ago, the Watcher told Reed that Galactus was not more ‘evil’ than a hurricane or an earthquake. Reed goes on to explain that he DOES believe that Galactus’ actions constitute evil. But if Galactus is truly neutral than Reed has got to take it on faith that somewhere in the cosmic scheme of things, Galactus’ actions must serve some kind of greater good. All he can do is have faith that he did the right thing. P.S. I was pretty bummed out with that weak-ass Galactus scene at the end of the second Fantastic Four movie. There should have been a ‘to be continued’ and a third film, re-telling the story that put Marvel comics on the map- the F.F. vs. Galactus. I mean, WHAT were they THINKING? Even with a Silver Surfer spinoff…come ON. 3. Reed is a lot like Doom. Yeah, you read that right. Remember when I mentioned that the F.F. wasn’t perfect? Reed isn’t power hungry and an egocentric megalomaniac necessarily. But I will say this- when Reed sets a goal, he will use almost any methods to reach it. In his own way, he can be ruthless. If he really believes that he’s doing the right thing- serving the greater good- he can be just as controlling, manipulative, and detached as his archenemy. The problem is that he’s TOO smart- a lot of the time, Reed really DOES know what’s best for the people around him. How couldn’t he, with an I.Q. off the scale? But he doesn’t always let them learn for themselves. The other problem with Reed is basically this- knowledge isn’t always wonderful. Sometimes, knowledge leads to terrible things. How many things has Reed built that might be turned into a weapon? How many places have the F.F. gone, only to unwittingly endanger all of mankind? I mean, sure, they fix the problem, but is it just as ‘blind’ as Doom seeking power? Is knowledge for knowledge’s sake a valid goal? Doom got scarred because of a science experiment that he misjudged. But didn’t the F.F. get their whole lives turned upside down because of the same thing? Because of Reed? 4. Reed’s a great guy. Just because he can be calculating doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel anything. He loves his kids and his wife and he’d do anything for them. I feel like monogamy is ‘out’ these days. When was the last time you saw a happy, successful marriage in the media these days? On the news, in the movies or a book, in a magazine…or even in comic books, for that matter. Scott Summers and Emma Frost, for example. I’ve really loved everything they’ve done with Alyssa Moy in that comic lately. Alyssa was Reed’s old flame from college. She’s actually been referred to as Mrs. Fantastic. One of the leading scientists on the planet, Alyssa has as many doctoral degrees as her counterpart. But she was never into him in school- at least, not to a point where she wanted to commit. So, as Alyssa puts it, she’s the only one Reed can talk to with the “childlock on.” The thing is? She’s also totally boundary-less. It’s subtle, but if you read the comic you see it. She walks into the building and tells Susan “I need to talk to Reed.” She hangs all over him, talks just to him, and seems to constantly bring up her deep, intimate past with him. It’s like Susan doesn’t exist (or that she’s invisible…I know, I know, they lay it on thick don’t they?). Alyssa’s passive aggressive with her every time they meet. Eventually, Alyssa throws herself at Reed- I think she even says something like “Susan is nice to look at it, but you know you and I are a better couple than you two will ever be.” To which Reed promptly tells Alyssa he can’t see her anymore. In fact, he doesn’t even really seem tempted. And Susan tells him later that she wasn't even really worried about it. The whole arc kind of plays around with your expectations about fidelity. I liked it. Anyway, like I said before, F.F. is sort of a tough book to write. I’m going off here about how I think Reed is the man, but really, Fantastic Four isn’t a book with four main characters. It’s kind of like the four of them, together, ARE the main character of the book. And you know, there’s the whole thing with the four elements- Susan is air, Ben is earth, Reed is water and Human Torch is-wait for it-fire. So the way they get along kind of incorporates those themes. Fire burns earth up, you don’t always see or feel air, but when it’s finally stirred to action- be careful…you know what I mean. It’s tricky, but when it’s done right, it’s excellent. So ultimately, he’s just one part of the puzzle. I just love seeing the whole thing come together.