For better or worse, this is an important year for the Fantastic Four. Firstly there’s a movie coming out which, my personal thoughts on that aside, will undoubtedly bring attention to Marvel’s first family. A new movie is usually a good thing for the comics industry because, while there may not be much evidence to prove that new superhero movies bring in a tide of new readers, it does provide a chance to shine a light on the specific books that inspired the latest cinematic effort. Whether in the form of reboots, relaunches or mini-series, the characters committed to celluloid (or whatever the modern equivalent of that phrase would be) usually benefit from the boost in attention (organic webshooters being an exception).
However. That’s not happening with the Fantastic Four. For reasons best left for others to speculate, the second reason 2015 is a big year for the FF is that Marvel are cancelling the book that started the modern Marvel universe as we know it way back in 1961. That’s Fantastic Four, in case you were unsure.
See that image above? That’s the cover to Fantastic Four #1. Not the first one, the third #1, from 1998. That up there is the first American Marvel comic book I bought. I’d read a whole bunch of Marvel comics before this one of course, in trades or in UK reprints, but this was the first American single issue I owned, and regardless of whether it’s actually any good or not (I still contest that, all nostalgia aside it still stands up as a great first issue), the Fantastic Four were the superhero team that brought me into the world of Marvel. For that reason alone they will always hold a special place in my heart, but they’re so much more than that.
As I stated above, Fantastic Four #1 (the first one this time, from 1961), created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, kick-started the universe that we know and love today (a universe that is also, ironically, ending this year). For years they were the spiritual centre of Marvel comics. Nowadays it’s the Avengers or even Spider-Man, but that wasn’t always the case. The FF is the book that introduced Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Inhumans, the Skrulls, Annihilus, the Negative Zone and all manner of cosmic Marvel staples. They were the very epitome of both family values and out of this world adventure.
I could go on about how awesome the Fantastic Four are, but actions speak louder than words. This year, to both commiserate their end and to celebrate the series, I will be reading EVERY single issue of Fantastic Four. From #1 that came out 54 years ago through to the final issue #645 coming out this year.
On top of that I’ll be posting a panel from each issue as I read it and throwing it up on my Twitter (@mattlune) with the hashtag #AllTheF4 so follow along and add your comments and thoughts. Better yet, read along with me!