Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Pre-History Of The Fantastic Four

I'm going to try to pull out some of my old geek cred here. Back in the day, I used to run a Fantastic Four website called FFPlaza.com (now defunct). One of the pieces I put up was a history of the original team before the events that were shown on page one of the first issue. The idea was based something on the Marvel Saga comics, but I wanted mine to be more comprehensive. So I pulled together EVERY relevant comic book panel I could find to try to tell one comprehensive narrative. It was essentially going to be a "complete" origin story.

It didn't work very well as the shifting art styles and panel configurations made the result look pretty clunky. Also, I wasn't really able to show all the instances of a particular scene. I wanted readers who had maybe one or two of the retellings to be able to see precisely how those issues fit in with the broader story.

So I eventually adopted a written narrative approach with annotations. That way, it would come across better as a single storyline and I could cite every comic that was referenced. I last updated this back around 2006/2007, so it's certainly possible that it's missing some stories or retcons published since then, but I figured I'd pull this out to show what used to occupy a lot of my free time...

Annotation Key

ASM2
BTFF:BG&L
BTFF:RR
BTFF:TS
CSLR
FF
FF3
FF@
FFFF
FFWS
FFXM
HT2
IC
MFAN
MK4
M:TLG
MTIO
NW
SGTF
T:FS
TG
WI
W2
Amazing Spider-Man, vol. 2
Before the FF: Ben Grimm & Logan
Before the FF: Reed Richards
Before the FF: The Storms
Captain Savage & his Leatherneck Raiders
Fantastic Four
Fantastic Four vol. 3
Fantastic Four Annual
Fantastic Four: First Family
Fantastic Four: The Wedding Special
Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men
Human Torch vol. 2
Infinity Crusade
Marvel Fanfare
Marvel Knights 4
Marvel: The Lost Generation
Marvel Two-in-One
New Warriors
Sgt. Fury & his Howling Commandos
Thing: Freakshow
The Thing
What If...
Wolverine vol. 2

Ben Grimm grew up at 7135 Yancy Street in New York City, living on his mother's corned beef and cabbage. Although his older brother, Daniel, paid him little heed, favoring to hold meetings with his street gang instead of babysit, Ben still grew quite fond of him. (FF 355.8.4 - 355.8.5) That fondness worked in Ben's favor, as Daniel ended up keeping him out of trouble. (FF3 56.3.2 - 56.3.6, 56.4.2 - 56.4.6) Consequently he grew angry and bitter as he watched Daniel get killed in a "rumble" (TG 1.10.1 - 1.15.2, FF3 56.5.2 - 56.5.6) and his Aunt Sophie die of cancer within the same year. (IC 2.16.2 - 2.16.5) Ben grew into adolesence and soon joined (FF3 56.6.2 - 56.6.6) and eventually became leader of the Yancy Street Gang. (TG 1.15.3) His parents were soon killed (TG 1.15.4 - 1.16.2) and he left to live with his Uncle Jake, who was able to teach Ben discipline and introduce him to football. (TG 1.16.3 - 1.17.8) The other members of the Yancy Street Gang ousted Ben (FF3 56.10.2 - 56.10.5) and he was left to his own mischieveous devices. (T:FS 1.1.1 - 1.4.9)

Meanwhile Reed Richards grew up in a much less turbulent home with his father as a mentor and guide (FF 273.15.1, MK4 17.1.1 - 17.3.5) and his Uncle Ted for the occassional distraction. (ASM2 535.14.3) While Ben became a high school star athlete, Reed earned four college degrees under the auspices of geniuses like Harmon Furmintz (NW 4.10.3) by the time he was 18. Although both were aware of each other's newsworthy accomplishments, neither had heard that Dr. Franklin Storm's wife Mary had been killed in an auto accident. Franklin lapsed into alcoholism and gambling and was eventually forced to relinquish custody of his two children, Susan and Johnny, to their Aunt Mary. (FF 32.8.2 - 32.8.7)

Reed enrolled at Empire State University (FF 416/2.2.3 - 416/2.2.5) and quickly met Victor Von Doom. (FF@ 2.8.4 ~ FF 416/2.2.2) Reed noticed Doom's notes on parallel dimensions (FF 416/2.2.3 - 416/2.2.5) and Doom, after berating his believed advesary (FF@ 2.8.5 ~ FF 200.19.6 ~ FF 416/2.3.1), elaborated on some of his theories. (FF 416/2.2. - 416/2.5.1) Reed tried to lighten the mood with a joke (FF@ 2.8.6 ~ FF 416/2.5.2), but Doom got quite irate and stormed out (FF@ 2.8.7 ~ FF 416/2.5.3) bumping into Ben Grimm in the process. (FF 416/2.5.4 - 416/2.7.2) Ben asked Doom about Reed's identity (FF@ 2.9.1 ~ TG 1.18.1 ~ FFXM 4.7.7) and proceeded into Reed's room (TG 1.18.2) to introduce himself. (FF 11/2.6.2 ~ FF@ 2.9.2 ~ TG 1.18.3 ~ FF 416/2.7.3) Reed mentioned that he had already attended four colleges (TG 1.18.4 line 1) to which Ben snapped back at him. (FF 11/2.6.3) After calming his new roommate, Reed then explained his dream of creating a new starship and Ben jokingly offered to fly it. (TG 1.18.4 line 2 - 1.18.5)

Over the next year, Reed and Doom met in several of the same classrooms and argued about various theories and scientific pursuits. (FFXM 4.8.1 - 4.8.4) Reed later stopped by Doom's open dorm room (FF@ 2.9.4) to discover Doom's notes. Doom soon returned, found him (FF@ 2.9.5 ~ FFXM 4.8.6) and demanded Reed's absence (FF 278.7.3) as Reed tried to point out an error in Victor's calculations. (FF@ 2.9.6 ~ FF 200.19.8 ~ FF 278.7.4) Doom ushered Reed out of the room (FF 278.7.5) and the two wouldn't see each other again until many years later.

Ben soon became one of ESU's star football players. (FF 11/2.6.4) Although Reed was a good friend, Ben often found himself dragging him out of the lab to football games. (TG 2.10.1 - 2.11.6) Ben's girlfriend Alynn Chambers also attended all of his games until she suddenly broke up with him, dropped out of school to pursue an acting career; which threw oFF his game. (TG 2.12.1 - 2.15.6) Ben eventually found her and proposed, to which she declined. (TG 2.16.1 - 2.17.5) They, too, wouldn't meet again until many years later.

Near the end of their lives at ESU, Ben had a chance encounter with an amnesiac Skrull. (M:TLG 11.17.1 - 11.17.3) Not being able to see through the Skrull's disguise, Ben directed the alien to Reed (M:TLG 11.17.4 - 11.17.5) who quickly deduced the ruse and captured him. (M:TLG 11.18.1 - 11.18.5; 11.20.4 - 11.21.2) Reed turned the spy over to the First Line (M:TLG 11.21.3 - 11.22.2) who were able to use his information to help thwart a Skrull invasion.

Meanwhile, Johnny and Susan lived a relatively uneventful childhood with their aunt until a local archeologist by the name of Professor Henry Brandeis discovered the Amulet of Zarathos. (BTFF:TS 1.1.1 - 1.1.5) The Amulet soon fell into the hands of Johnny (BTFF:TS 1.2.1 - 1.12.4) who -- with the aid of his sister, Brandeis' daughter Cam, and friend of the family Max Parrish -- was able to prevent it from falling into the hands of the lengendary vampire Dracula. (BTFF:TS 1.13.1 - 3.12.6) Max, utilizing the Amulet's power, became the Ghost Rider and helped destroy Dracula's henchmen (BTFF:TS 3.13.1 - 3.19.6) but it was Johnny who saved Max from becoming permanently bonded to the spirit of Zarathos. (BTFF:TS 3.20.1 - 3.23.4)

Eventually Ben and Reed went on to Columbia University where Reed began dating Sue Storm, who was also a student there. (WI 42.8.3 - 42.9.1) The trio graduated and Ben and Reed joined the armed forces. (FF 11/2.6.6 - 11/2.7.1) Early on in his stellar military career, Ben fought alongside Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos to secure an enemy base, at the request of Fury himself. (MTIO 77.15.4 - 77.19.7; MTIO 77.22.5 - 77.26.7) Ben was so talented a pilot, in fact, that he was soon specifically targeted by the wartime enemy. (CSLR 7.1.1 - 7.5.6) Fortunately, Captain Simon Savage and his crack squad of Marines, the Leatherneck Raiders, were able to rescue him and fly him back to the States. (CSLR 7.6.1 - 7.20.6) Ben eventually retired from the forces and became a test pilot. (TG 1.19.1)

After Reed's stint with the Office of Strategic Services -- working with Italian partisans to obtain and circumvent Nazi intelligence -- and a brief encounter with the Howling Commandos (SGTF 3.10.6 - 3.12.5) Reed stayed behind in Germany and spent several months with his long-time friend, Alyssa Moy, (FF3 5.11.3 - 5.11.5) who somehow tricked him into travelling to the Himalayas to save Prince Bayan. (FF3 18.6.2 ~ BTFF:RR 1.4.1 - 1.8.7) While distracted briefly by a giant rat in Sumatra, Reed and Alyssa parted company so that he could take up a job with Demarco Laboratories in France. (BTFF:RR 1.9.1 - 1.11.7) His respite was short-lived, however, as he soon found himself engrossed in a search for the Claw of Bast with Professor Francesca Fisher. (BTFF:RR 1.12.1 - 1.21.6) Reed was able to recover the Claw with the help of Francesca and Alyssa, but not without some difficulties from Victor Von Doom. (BTFF:RR 2.1.1 - 3.21.6)

As a test pilot, Ben first flew fairly routine transport missions (W2 -1.3.5 - -1.4.4) before trying more daring manuevers. (TG 1.19.2 - 1.19.4) He became fast friends with Desmond Pitt who saved him more than once. (FF 193.14.3 - 193.14.7) Ben survived other crashes (MFAN 46/2.1.1 - 46/2.2.1) and fell in love with Dr. Linda McGill. (MFAN 46/2.2.2 - 46/2.2.6)

As Ben grew more and more skilled, he attracted the attention of Pentagon officials, who enlisted him for a covert mission to Russia. (BTFF:BG&L 1.1.1 - 1.12.3) Working alongside Logan and Carol Danvers, the team flew into Russia supposedly to evaluate a series of ultra-low frequency radio wave transmitters. (BTFF:BG&L 1.13.1 - 1.22.3) While their aircraft was shot down, the three managed to fight their way through Russian soldiers and Logan was able to complete his secret mission to capture the Russian Project: Red Storm. (BTFF:BG&L 2.1.1 - 3.22.9)

Having received government funding for his project (CONSPIRACY 1.17.1) Reed seriously asked Ben to fly his new starship. (TG 1.19.5) However, the alien Gormuu soon attacked Earth and was soundly defeated. (FF 271.7.3 - 271.11.7; FF 271.15.2; FF 271.12.1 - 271.13.4; FF 271.13.5 ~ CONSPIRACY 1.13.3; FF 271.14.1 - 271.15.1; FF 271.15.3 - 271.15.4) Unfortunately, this convinced the government to cut oFF Reed's funding in favor of more directed defenses against potential alien attacks. (CONSPIRACY 2.12.4)

Johnny, still in high school (FF 233.8.3 - 233.8.4, HT2 1.1.1 - 1.7.6), visited Reed and Sue in Central City (FF 11/2.7.4) helping out with some of his experiments. Since Reed decided to take the rocket up anyway, Ben tried to get some rest. (MFAN 46/2.3.1 - 46/2.3.3) Having time to think about it, Ben decided not to go through with the flight (FF 11/2.7.5) and Reed tried to explain the dangers of not exploring space. (FF 400/2.3.3) Although Ben continued his refusal (FF 1.9.1 ~ FF 126.12.6 ~ FF 190.2.4 ~ TG 1.20.1 ~ FF@ 24.2.1 ~ FF 400/2.3.4) Sue used his own machismo (FF 1.9.2 ~ FF 11/2.7.6 ~ FF 126.14.1 ~ TG 1.20.2 ~ FF@ 24.2.2 ~ FF 400/2.4.2 line 2) to convince him to go. (FF 1.9.3 ~ FF 126.14.2 ~ FF 400/2.4.2 line 3)

The quartet drove to the spaceport (FF 1.9.4 ~ FF 126.14.3 ~ TG 1.20.3) and donned their flight suits. (FFWS 1.1.1 - 1.3.6, FF3 11.1.1) They snuck past the guard (FF 1.9.5 ~ FF 126.14.4 ~ TG 1.20.4 ~ FF@ 24.2.3 ~ FF 400/2.4.4 ~ CONSPIRACY 1.17.4) and began the launch sequence. (FF3 11.4.1 - 11.4.5) The ship lifted off (FF 220.15.3), flying safely through Earth's atmosphere. (FF 1.9.6 ~ FF 11/2.7.7 ~ FF 126.14.5 ~ FF 190.2.5 ~ TG 1.20.5 ~ FF@ 24.2.4 ~ FF 400/2.4.5 ~ FF 416/2.8.4) The crew waited patiently (FF 1.9.7 ~ FF 126.14.6 ~ FF 190.2.6 ~ TG 1.20.6 ~ FF 220.15.3 ~ FF 296.4.3) for the fuel tank separation. (TG 1.20.7 ~ FF 296.4.4 ~ FF 358.15.1 ~ FF3 11.8.1) As the ship approached the cosmic ray storm (FF 1.10.1 ~ FF 11/2.7.8 ~ FF 126.15.1 ~ FF 296.4.3 ~ FF@ 24.2.5 ~ FF3 11.8.2) Ben became increasingly anxious. (FF 1.10.2 ~ FF 190.2.7 line 1 ~ FF 126.15.2 ~ FF 296.4.4 ~ FF3 11.8.3) The cosmic rays began blanketing the ship (FF 1.10.3 ~ FF 11/2.8.1 ~ FF 126.15.3 ~ FF 190.2.7 lines 2-4 ~ FF 220.16.1~ FF 296.4.5 ~ FF3 50.20.1 - 50.21.1) and penetrated the shielding. (FF 1.10.4 ~ FF 11/2.8.2 ~ FF 126.15.4 ~ TG 1.21.1 ~ FF 220.16.2 ~ FF 296.5.1 ~ FF@ 24.2.6 ~ FF 400/2.4.6 ~ CONSPIRACY 1.17.5 ~ FF 358.15.2 ~ FF3 50.21.2) The rays began to affect the crew (FF3 11.8.4 - 11.8.5) but it was Johnny who first complained about it. (FF 1.10.6 ~ FF 126.15.5 ~ FF 296.5.2 ~ FF3 11.8.5) Ben tried for the autopilot (FF3 11.8.7) but collapsed before he could reach it. (FF 1.10.6 ~ FF 126.15.6 ~ FF 296.5.3) The ship spiraled down (FF 296.5.4 ~ FF3 50.21.3) and crashed in New York (FF 1.11.1 ~ FF 126.17.1 ~ TG 1.21.2 ~ FF 220.16.3 ~ FF 296.5.5 ~ FF@24.2.7 ~ FF 400/2.5.1 ~ FF 358.15.3 ~ FF3 50.22.1)

The ship sat smoldering quietly where it landed (FF3 11.10.1 - FF3 11.10.2) until the four emerged. (FF 1.11.2 ~ FF 11/2.8.3 ~ FF 126.17.2 ~ FF 220.16.4 ~ FF@ 24.3.1 ~ FF 400/2.5.2 ~ FF3 50.22.2) As they walked to safer ground (FF 296.6.4), Sue began to feel odd. (FF 1.11.3 ~ FF 126.17.3 ~ FF 296.6.3 - 296.6.4 ~ FF 358.15.4) Without warning Sue gradually became invisible. (FF 1.11.4 ~ FF 11/2.9.1 ~ FF 126.17.4 ~ FF 296.6.7 ~ FF 358.15.5 lines 2-3 ~ FF3 50.22.3) The others looked on in disbelief (FF 1.11.5 ~ FF 126.17.5 ~ FF@ 24.3.2 ~ FF 400/2.5.3 ~ FF 358.15.5 line 4) until she completely disappeared. (FF 296.6.6 ~ FF3 11.10.3 - 11.10.4) Sue quenstioned the duration of the effect (FF 1.11.6 ~ FF 126.17.6 ~ FF 296.7.1) and, as Reed began to answer (FF 1.11.7 ~ FF 126.17.7) and Sue became even more worried (FF 11/2.9.2), she reappeared. (FF 1.11.8 ~ FF 126.17.8 ~ FF 296.7.2)

Ben began yelling at Reed (FF 1.12.1 ~ FF 126.18.1 ~ FF 296.7.2) and Reed got fed up with Ben's mouthing off. (FF 1.12.2 ~ FF 126.18.2 ~ FF 296.7.5) Ben became even more agitated (FF 11/2.8.4 - 11/2.8.5) and started changing into the Thing. (FF 1.12.3 ~ FF 126.18.3 ~ FF 296.7.5 ~ FF@ 24.3.3 ~ FF3 50.22.4) The others continued to shout at him (FF 11/2.8.6) as Ben completed his metamorphasis. (FF 1.12.5 ~ FF 126.18.4 ~ FF 296.7.6) Ben uprooted a dead tree (FF 1.12.5 ~ FF 126.18.5 ~ FF 296.7.7 ~ FF 400/2.5.4 ~ FF 358.15.6 ~ FF3 50.22.5) and took a swing at Reed. (FF 1.12.6 ~ FF 126.18.6 ~ FF 296.8.1) In response, Reed began to entangle his friend with his now-elastic arms. (FF 1.12.7 ~ FF 126.18.7 ~ FF 296.8.2 ~ FF@ 24.3.4) Reed, shocked at his own trasnformation (FF 1.12.8 ~ FF 126.18.8 ~ FF 296.8.3 - 296.8.4 line 1, FF 400/2.5.5 ~ FF 358.15.7 ~ FF3 50.23.1), was knocked wild by the Thing. Sue rushed to Reed and questioned if Ben was still in control of his mind. (FF3 11.10.5 - 11.10.6)

Johnny, fearful of what the others had become (FF 1.13.1 ~ FF 126.19.1 ~ FF 296.8.4 lines 3-4), felt his heart rate skyrocket. (FF3 11.10.7 - 11.10.8) He ran oFF as he realized why he'd been feeling unusally warm. (FF 1.13.2 ~ FF 11/2.8.7 ~ FF 126.19.2 ~ FF3 12.7.4 ~ FF 296.8.5 line 1 ~ FF3 11.10.9 ~ FF 358.16.1 line 2) He exploded in a nova blast (FF3 11.10.9 ~ FF3 12.7.5), sending the others hurling backwards (FF3 12.7.6 - 12.7.7), and flew into the air. (FF 1.13.3 ~ FF 11/2.8.8 ~ FF 126.19.3 ~ TG 1.21.3 ~ TG 10.12.2 ~ FF 296.8.5 line 2 ~ FF@ 24.3.5 ~ FF 400/2.5.6 ~ CONSPIRACY 1.18.1 ~ FF 358.16.6 line 3 ~ FF3 50.23.2) Johnny landed (FF 126.19.4 ~ FF 296.8.6 ~ FF3 50.23.3) and the four watched as the fire he had accidentally started died down. (FF 1.13.4)

They began to voice their thoughts (TG 10.12.3 line 1) and Reed even suggested that this had been pre-ordained. (FF 296.8.7) He began to speak on how they must use their powers for the benefit of mankind (FF 1.13.5 ~ FF 126.19.5 lines 1-2 ~ TG 10.12.3 line 2 - 10.12.4 ~ FF 296.9.1 ~ FF@ 24.3.6) but Ben interupted and quickly said that they all understood. (FF 1.13.6 ~ FF 126.19.5 line 3 - 126.19.6 ~ FF 296.9.2 - 296.9.3 ~ FF@ 24.3.7) They resolved to stand united (FF 1.13.7 ~ FF 126.19.7 ~ TG 10.12.6 ~ FF 296.9.4) with Ben hesitantly calling himself the Thing. (FF 1.13.8 ~ FF 126.19.8 ~ TG 10.12.7 ~ FF 296.9.5 ~ FF@ 24.3.8 ~ FF 358.16.2 ~ FF 400/2.6.1 ~ FF3 50.23.4) Reed signaled a passing jet (FF 11/2.9.3) who sent an Air Force helicopter to pick them up. (TG 10.13.1 - 10.16.4, FFFF 1.1.1)

The Air Force took them to a nearby facility where they were each placed under quarantine for observation with some other subjects. (FFFF 1.2.1 - 1.17.4) They began to allow high-level friends, like Linda McGill, in to try to comfort them. (FFFF 1.18.1 - 1.20.5) The quiet was soon interrupted, however, when another "resident" broke free and went on a rampage that the new team was forced to handle. (FFFF 1.21.1 - 2.8.7) Reed convinced the base commander that they could be let go, presumably with the understanding that they would work with the commander. (FFFF 2.9.1 - 2.11.5)

The quartet took some time adjusting to their new powers. Johnny tried going back to school, but he accidentally started a fire in the bathroom playing with his new powers. (FF3 50.14.5 - 50.15.4) Although he was able to save some smoking deliquints who took the blame for the conflagration, Johnny discovered that he would need to be very careful with his powers in the future, lest they get out of control and kill someone. (FF3 50.16.5 - 50.17.6) Susan tried to lose herself in a modelling shoot. (FF3 50.13.4 - 50.14.4) The photographer, however, had some raunchy ideas of his own and she subconsciously defended herself with her force field against his advances. (FF3 50.15.5 - 50.16.4)

Ben wandered the streets of New York for a time and encountered a fearful group of rock-throwing Yancy Street Gang members. Despondant and unsure of himself, he jumped into the sewers for safety. (FF3 50.12.1 - 50.13.3) There he discovered a group of sewer-dwellers living on the refuse of the surface world. Disgusted at how they were living, Ben made a distinct effort to live with himself, despite his appearance. (FF3 50.17.1 - 50.18.6) He returned to his apartment (MFAN 46/2.3.3 - 46/2.4.5) and was visited by his girlfriend, Linda. (MFAN 46/2.4.6 - 46/2.5.1) Having scared her oFF by his new appearance (MFAN 46/2.5.2 - 46/2.5.6) Ben trashed his apartment and went for a walk. (MFAN 46/2.6.1 - 46/2.7.5) Linda returned to comfort him but he scared her away for her own good. (MFAN 46/2.7.6 - 46/2.8.5)

Some time later, reports started leaking out about nuclear military bases being swallowed up by the earth. (FFFF 2.12.1 - 2.13.2) Hearing them, (FFFF 2.13.3 - 2.13.4) Reed fired his new signal flare to summon the three other adventurers for their first official mission. (FF 1.1.1 ~ FFFF 2.13.5 - 2.13.6)

4 comments:

PenguinFish said...

Man I miss FF Plaza!!

Sean Kleefeld said...

Thanks much. I appreciate the sentiment. :)

Jeff said...

Yeah, I used to use the online database to see if I was missing any issues. Many fond memories of the ol' FFPlaza.com.

PenguinFish said...

I really enjoyed the reviews of issues, it was always in depth and interesting to read.