Death of the Fantastic Four, Death of My Childhood, and an Accursed Raccoon

May 18, 2017

 Two legends surround the Fantastic Four...

 

Stories are told that DC's bragging about the Justice League's return making them bank sparked Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to come up with Marvel's own super team, the Fantastic Four, first published way back in 1961. See, Marvel and DC weren't really doing much superhero stuff in the 50's. Heck, even Batman was running around fighting aliens. Sci-fi and horror were all the rage, and the FF were a perfect blend of sci-fi weirdness and military adventure comics, both much loved in the fading twilight of the superheroes...

 

The other legend is that a young boy named THE Kurt Broz picked up a Fantastic Four comic from a local drug store sale rack sometime in the mid-80's (roughly around 1987). Though historical records from that time period are spotty at best, rumors swirl around this issue being that all-important first glimpse into comic book madness...

 

Source: Marvel. 

 

For those not in the know, the Fantastic Four is the comic book that really sparked the modern revival of superheroes that has lasted every since, with vibrant art and vivid storytelling, it was something special. If you read most of the pre-FF comics from Marvel, DC, and others, you will find a lot of characters that, while some of them are familiar, have no... soul, no sense of self, and no grounding in reality.

 

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby changed all that. Each member of the FF, and each villain they faced, had a distinctive look, speech pattern, and personality. Stan Lee basically took the people who knew from his life and bent them into the comic world. Then Jack Kirby illustrated the hell out of them. The plotting, it seems, was a bit of both and contention for who gets credit. 

 

For decades, many have argued that the original Lee/Kirby run on FF was THE definitive American story: for 102 issues (and 6 annuals), they penned a complete family adventure tale full of drama, comedy, and bizarre creatures from other worlds. These were heroes without masks, recognized as celebrities and sometimes hated as monsters, doing the best they could as a loving, fighting family unit. They were something special that birthed the Marvel way of comics.

 

Then: TL;DNR...

 

Marvel almost went bankrupt. In in the ensuing years, they sold the FF movie rights to Fox. Fox royally fucked up one of the most important and consistently best written comics in history with one of the best villains in modern literature, and Marvel/Disney fucked over the FF comics (as well as anyone they didn't have the movie rights to).

 

After 645 issues, Marvel canceled - and mostly killed - the franchise that created everything we know and understand that IS Marvel AND the modern comic book story formula. 

 

With it, so went my childhood...

 

 Source: The last known photo of my childhood, attempting to be very 80's.

 

Fuck Marvel. Fuck Fox. Fuck Disney. Fuck all the people who completely screwed up and ruined the greatest comic book of all time, the greatest villain of all time (Dr. Doom), and the best family dynamic in episodic literature.

 

To hell with Hollywood.

 

Ah, but the story does not end there. Their death is only the beginning.

 

Who here as seen, and enjoyed, Guardians of the Galaxy? Or Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2? You have? And remember those awful FF movies? Yeah, well, you were tricked. We were all tricked. Guardians IS the Fantastic Four movie we were all waiting for.

 

Back up: In the comics, the Guardians of the Galaxy really don't act that much like they do in the movies. Or at least they didn't before the movies, which are loosely based off the 2008 team. 

 

So, what are all the FF connections that royally piss me off and make me kind of sad to see in these movies instead of an FF flick?

 

Ronan the Accuser (First appearance: FF 65) started his existence as a Fantastic Four villain and Kree race member. Oh, and the Kree - which should show up again in the Captain Marvel movie - are also from the FF (First appearance: FF 65).

 

Ego the Living Planet (First appearance: Thor 132/133) while originally being a Thor villain, is most closely thought of as a FF character. He's been bouncing around mostly Thor and FF comics, as well as FF and related cartoons. He's so closely allied with the FF that Marvel had to get the rights back from Fox to use him.

 

Ayesha (First appearance: Incredible Hulk Annual 6) and Adam Warlock (First appearance: Fantastic Four 66/67) started existence as a quasi-Jesus allegory from the pages of the FF. I won't go into the long, weird history but... yeah, Adam Warlock came first, and he showed up in an FF comic. They'll be a big part of Guardians, Vol. 3. 

 

Nova Corps (First appearance: FF 204/205) also showed up running around with the Fantastic Four first. The second Marvel character named Nova was also a herald of Galactus, showing up first in... the Fantastic Four. 

 Source: Marvel's quasi-religious phase. 

 

And there's more connections on connections on connections. The thing is, though, that the Guardians movies ARE the Fantastic Four films I will never see. Half of the characters are from the pages of the FF comics I've read so many times, and the family dynamic and silliness are straight ripped from FF comics. Rocket and Groot are kind of a bizarro Thing, Star-Lord is sort of the Human Torch's personality, and they even have a competent and intelligent woman on board like Sue Storm. All they need is a super-scientist and you've got an FF pastiche. 

 

And I hate Marvel for it.

 

 Source: Latveria.

 

As comic books and superheroes become a bigger, more vibrant genre - as with anything becoming bigger in the public consciousness - they lose some of their essance that made them important, cool, and counter-culture. The stories we see on screen are formulaic and contrived in a way that the comic books are not and cannot be. For every single issue where a hero must stop a villain while learning a lesson about himself and deciding to choose his his hero identity or his real identity, there are 50 stories that fall in all other genres and archetypes. Want a space western? Want to see a horror story with Captain America? Want to see a crime drama starring Spider-Man? What about a buddy comedy with Wolverine and Hulk in Vegas? The thing is, all of these stories have or could happen in the comics and they'd flow organically. These characters have decades of stories with long and complicated histories. Just like real life, Peter Parker has good days and bad days. Steve Rogers sometimes just needs to solve a crime or bring down a corrupt president instead of pining for Bucky. But that isn't how the giant conglomerate works.

 

They spit out the same basic story 100 times and you go see it. And their best ideas are stolen... sometimes from themselves, and sometimes from the Fantastic Four... which is fine because these companies own these ideas, characters, and stories. They have the ability to do what they want with them. But do they have the right?

 

 Source: Marvel. 

 

There was a time in recent memory when Marvel was almost bankrupt. Not just Marvel, either. Warner Brothers once considered selling DC to Marvel. See, comic books have ups and downs, like any industry. Just because Marvel and DC are making bank today, that doesn't mean they will in 5 or 10 years. It also doesn't mean that because their films are a successful money maker, that the comic books will be...

 

The Fantastic Four are dead (well, Thing and Human Torch are running around but the Richards family are off creating new realities... but effectively dead). Wolverine? The original one is dead. The Hulk? The original one is dead? The X-Men? Thrown onto the back-burner. Thor? He's not really Thor anymore, but he is, and so is Jane Foster. Captain America? We've got 2 (sort of 3) of them and the original one may have been a secret Hydra agent/Nazi all along.

 

If you don't like it, wait 2 years until everything gets reset again. In a reset where they throw that last 2, 4, or 40 years of stories out the window to try and get 7 new readers, hoping they don't lose 7 in the process. Because progress! Unless you're Spider-Man. You can hang around and probably just become single again (sorry, wife and kids). Although there are also 2 Spider-Men running around... Or more than 2 if you count the alternative versions and... ARGH!

 

I get that Marvel doesn't give a shit if they upset me and my childhood.

 Source: Not a Hydra sleeper agent, dammit.

 

I understand that Disney doesn't give a shit about the Fantastic Four because they can't make money off of the movies. The same goes with the X-Men.

 

It doesn't hurt any less. In their quest to modernize and diversify, they've alienated a lot of the core fans or are working on alienating them. It's not that I don't want to see new and interesting stories, new characters, and stories that better represent everything; it's that I don't want to see these things while losing the ones that were important to me.

 

The Fantastic Four WAS my childhood. They were the reason I became a comic book nerd and probably a big part of why I became a scientist. As a kid, I could identify with Thing. I was a fat, nerdy kid without many friends. I was, at times, feeling an awful lot like a lonely monster who tried to do the right thing but couldn't find love or friendship. I wanted to travel to space and meeting aliens. I wanted to find a woman like the Invisible Woman, smart and strong while being feminine and beautiful. I envied Namor the Submariner (also dead in the comics because Disney can't use him, heroically killed by C-list characters tearing his head off), worthy anti-hero and royalty. I loved Dr. Doom, the most complex and interesting villain in comicdom, perhaps only rivaled by the Joker and Magneto.

 

Now, I have a childhood dead. There aren't any new FF adventures. I won't ever get to see a decent FF movie that stays true to the comics... unless I call it Guardians of the Galaxy. And I - someone who loves comics so much that he's dreamed of writing them professionally since he was a child - have stopped reading new comics because Marvel and DC keep rebooting/canceling/killing/reviving/and screwing with all the comics I read. Sometimes, even to an insulting degree...

 

Like killing the Fantastic Four. Or Spider-Man's family. 

 

Enjoy the Guardians of the Galaxy. Hell, enjoy the awful DCEU movies if that's what you find entertaining. I can't and won't stop anyone from admiring the art that they want to admire and be a part of. Art is all subjective, but experience is also objective.

 

Objectively, I have started to feel like Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue eyed Thing, again... Lost and out of place in a world where I am part of the societal norms and still left behind by them. For this comic book fan there isn't a Yancy Street anymore, and that kills me a little inside.

 

As silly as it all is, my life was and is comic books. Period. Through my suicide attempt and my darkest hours, there were comics.

 

 

And now? 

 

I guess, well, I'm just feeling a little lost. I'm not reading new comics. It's painful to remember the old ones, sometimes. I keep hoping tomorrow I'll read that, hey, FF is back! The comic is back! Marvel is making a movie! Excelsior! 

 

Until then, though, I won't be making mine Marvel (or DC) for a while. I'll let the childhood die and then figure out where to go... No more dreams of being a comic book writer. No more Franklin Richards. No more Watcher. No more H.E.R.B.I.E...

 

At least not for a while. At least not in this world. Maybe in 2, 3, years or so, maybe then they'll reboot my childhood sense of wonder. I just hope they don't make it extreme or drawn by Rob Liefeld. I couldn't handle an Ultimate THE Kurt Broz this time around. 

 

 

 

 

 

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