Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ten that made them Fantastic

The Fantastic Four couldn't do it alone. Through the years they required outside help to make them fantastic. Some they even met in real life. These are the people that brought their tales to the masses. Through stunning storytelling and emotional visuals, their adventures were brought to life on the page for all ages to enjoy. Here is a top 10 of those that made them fantastic.

1. John Byrne circa 1980
Doom gets the job done
He started it for me and brought memorable stories to the canon that others after him were able to build on. He helped Doom reclaim Latveria and also gave him a ward named Kristoff. He put Reed on trial for helping Galactus. He put Thing on his own in his own series, allowing She-Hulk to take his place on the team. He showed Johnny what it means to be a hero. He allowed Susan to grow as a woman. During this time, Reed and Sue also lost their second child (don't worry she comes back about 20 years later). Byrne’s run on the Fantastic Four is held in the highest regard and for some even surpasses Kirby and Lee.

2.  Kirby/Lee circa 1960s

They started it all and brought so much to the Marvel Universe. Everything has already been said, so I’ll just leave it at that.

3. Tom Defalco / Paul Ryan circa 1991-1996
"Doom is back," again
Tom and Paul make up a large part of my collection. They had a great handle on the family dynamic and portrayed this through a comic book story. Having such a lengthy run allowed them to bring much to the F4 canon. I don't think their run gets enough credit though and usually is not critically acclaimed. They took big chances with their tales and tugged at the hearts of the characters and readers. Some key highlights included turning Alicia into a skrull thus breaking up the Torch’s marriage, disfigured Thing even more thanks to Wolverine, caused marital tension between Reed and Sue, “killed” Reed and Doom, and introduced a teenage Franklin from the future who went on to lead the “seemed like a good idea at the time” Fantastic Force. They also created an uber super villain, named Hyperstorm (very 90’s), who was the son of Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers. This was also the time for gimmick covers galore: the first die-cut Marvel cover, embossed melting cover, numerous prismatic covers, a very nice Doom headshot (that became my tattoo). Defalco managed to stick around until the first series ending and was joined by Carlos Pacheco for the final two issues (ending was due to Onslaught/Heroes Reborn and poor sales).

4. Jonathan Hickman/Dale Eaglesham circa 2009-2012
Stay classy Valeria
Very in-depth storytelling and heavily plotted far in advance, but I was a little turned off by Eaglesham’s art. Hickman really had a control on the family dynamic and seemed to bring in aspects from Defalco’s run, like Nathaniel Richards and an older Franklin. One of the coolest moments of his run happened in the very first issue. We were introduced to the Council of Reeds, which was a council made up of Reeds from different realities and were led by three Reeds wielding the Infinity Gauntlet. There is one gripe I have with Hickman’s run and that had to do with the marketing of Human Torch’s death. It was an off panel implied death, and any like-minded reader knew it was not his end. When the news leaked/released, it seemed to take away from the very emotional scene showing Johnny’s sacrifice. There also seemed to be a lot of wheels turning throughout this run, which at times could get confusing.

5. Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo circa 2002-2004
The one word that best describes the run of Waid and Wieringo is ‘Unthinkable‘. They supped up Doom’s power and really brought focus to his mystical talents. Then the Unthinkable happened,  Ben died. Comics being what they are, the Thing couldn't stay dead for long. This brought a journey to the heavens above and a meeting with the ”creator” who bore an uncanny resemblance to the one true “King”. Doom was also taken off the board for a while and trapped in hell.  With Doom gone, the F4 defied international authority and took over Latveria all for the purpose of revealing the true atrocities that had been occurring there. Then just as things were settling down, Johnny went and became a temporary herald of Galactus. Overall a good run that made comic book reading fun.

6. Walter Simonson circa 1989-1991
Simonson introduced The New Fantastic Four: Spider-man, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and Hulk (the gray one). The original four thought dead, so these popular characters came in to raise sales. My first subscription also started towards the end of this run. Simonson started his run with a bang with a three parter Acts of Vengeance crossover story. She-Thing was also still a big part of team. There were also a lot of time jumping stories involving the Time Variance Authority (where were they during Age of Ultron, 60’s X-men coming to the present, or any other time disrupting event/occurrence). Kang and Thor became regulars, the latter of which had a much hyped battle with Gladiator. Reed and Doom had an intriguing time battle where they kept time jumping within the span of a couple minutes.

7. Chris Claremont/Larroca circa 1998-2000

Freshly returned from Heroes Reborn, Scott Lobdell and Alan Davis brought the F4 back into the regular Marvel Universe, but by issue #4 Chris Claremont stepped in to assist Lobdell and soon became its regular writer alongside Salvador Larroca as the new artist. This new creative team lasted about 30 issues or so. Claremont is known for molding some of the most recognizable X-Men stories in the 80’s and early 90’s and it was now in his hands to do the same to the Fantastic Four. He also brought in elements from his Excalibur run. Things didn't quite work out for this, what some call lackluster moment for the Fantastic Four but some interesting concepts were created. Enter in Valeria Von Doom, daughter of the Invisible Woman and Dr. Doom (or was it Mr. Fantastic in Doom’s armor?). Of course she was from the future or some alternative timeline. She also took the name Marvel Girl, because why not. That was the highlight of Claremont’s run, and he was not able to wrap up the true origin of Valeria. That was left up to Jeph Loeb and Carlos Pacheco, who ended up turning her back into a fetus and put her back in Susan’s belly, ready to give birth. The joys of comics.

8. Roy Thomas/ Rich Buckler and John Buscema circa 1970s

I’m not too familiar with this run, but coming after Lee and Kirby's lengthy run was a lot of pressure. Thomas kept with what was known and focused stories on the Frightful Four and Inhumans. This in turn led to Medusa joining the team to replace Sue. Tension was building between Reed and Sue, which was fracturing the family dynamic. Sue was becoming more outspoken and finally got fed up with Reed so she left with Franklin. When she finally came back, it was the Thing's turn to be replaced. He had lost his powers so Power Man (Luke Cage) was hired for some extra muscle on the team. Human Torch also thought about quitting, so that seemed to be the trend. The seed was also planted for Byrne at this time to make Sue grow as a woman.

9. Dwayne McDuffie/ Paul Pelletier circa 2002

Well, the Wizard is not heartless.

A short run from McDuffie brought a big change to the team. Coming after Civil War, Reed and Sue took some time off, so another power couple was asked to take their place, Black Panther and Storm. This led to some adventures in space and a confrontation with Galactus. The Frightful Four also showed up and Sue had a heart to heart conversation with the Wizard. 

"That's okay Spidey, you just watch."
10. Roger Stern/ John Buscema circa mid 1980s

Stern had a short run following Byrne, but he had dabbled in just about every main character in the Marvel Universe (even a few for the Distinguished Competition). He is best known for his Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom story Triumph and Torment. Buscema on the other hand was a veteran artist for the FF and had originally took over drawing duties from Jack Kirby. A couple highlights from this combo include a wonderful fight between She-Hulk and Thing, and they also handled the Human Torch's marriage to Alicia Masters, as well as Thing's feelings towards that.