With the cinematic rights to the Fantastic Four were acquired by Marvel Studios through Disney’s Fox purchase last year, the first step in the inevitable big-screen return of the FF has been completed. While their next film appearance won’t be their first step into theaters, all of the team’s existing cinematic incarnations have failed to capture exactly what’s made the Fantastic Four a fan-favorite comic team for decades.
While it seems almost certain that the Fantastic Four will find their way into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not entirely clear how they’ll get there. In the comic book Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four were Marvel’s first team of adventurers, not the latest in a long line of heroes that have crafted a full and complete saga over a decade.
However, Marvel already has a fantastic way to bring the FF into the MCU without sacrificing the “space race” origins that defined the team in their earliest days while also potentially explaining the FF’s absence from the MCU events we’ve already seen on the big screen.
Led by legendary comic creator John Byrne, an all-star creative team including Jim Novak, Glynis Wein, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby celebrated the 20th anniversary of the team in Fantastic Four #236 with a two-part story that could not only introduce a few of the FF’s most dangerous villains but also effectively explain the team’s absence from the larger Marvel map while exploring the original cosmic event that first created the Fantastic Four.
The issue opens with a familiar scene as four friends secretly board a rocket ship for a test flight into space, with Reed Richards revealing the rush to be the first to accomplish the feat. although we soon learn from pilot Ben Grimm that they have succeeded in reaching space, but remain unaware of the dangers of cosmic rays.
The test flight progresses much like the original tale as the four-person crew is bombarded by these unknown cosmic rays and they each begin to feel the transformative effects, before the ship crashes and explodes in a departure from the origin, waking young Johnny Storm from his latest horrible nightmare.
As Johnny recovers from his dream, we begin to follow him along on his daily routine as he gets ready for work, with other members of the FF going through the same unfamiliar motions as Reed leaves for his stressful job at the local university, Susan Richards raises her son Franklin at home, and Ben Grimm prepares his restaurant for a day of business alongside his wife Alicia Masters in the quiet-yet-ominous town of Liddleville.
When the team realizes that the Puppet Master has trapped them in a fake world, Reed quickly deduces that further resources would be needed with Doctor Doom revealed as the true mastermind when his giant visage appears before them. He reveals that the entire town of Liddleville was a miniature construction built by the Puppet Master, and the Fantastic Four have been trapped in miniature robotic recreations of their bodies.
Once the team has learned the truth, the storyline follows comfortably familiar paths for the characters as Reed is forced to find a way to repower the Fantastic Four, even as he’s tortured with doubt over his inability to cure them of the abilities in the first place. Ben Grimm struggles with his temporary glimpse at a normal life before he chooses to again become the monstrous Thing to save his friends. Sue is also experimenting with her developing powers in new ways, which results in a quick but impressive battle between mini-Invisible Woman and an unmasked Doctor Doom.
This memorable storyline not only perfectly introduces the Fantastic Four and their “space race” origin through a series of nightmarish flashbacks that would look amazing on the big screen, but it also provides a number of avenues to explore the origins of Doctor Doom while giving an actor “face-time” as Doom’s robotic double Vincent Vaughn. All of this could also create a way to organically link the origins of Doctor Doom and the Fantastic Four even more closely together.
Jumping into the story blind along with the Fantastic Four would serve the film well, and certain additions to the story could also help blend in other elements of the MCU, such as Hank Pym‘s miniaturizing tech from Ant-Man, which first explored the idea of a retconned MCU history with the idea of the original Ant-Man and the Wasp. An adaption of this story could retroactively insert the Fantastic Four into practically anywhere in the history of the MCU.
The iconic “space race” origins of the team have yet to be properly adapted to the big screen, and major FF villains like Doctor Doom and the Puppet Master would be the ideal candidates to play roles that help explain the team’s time in stasis. Even the MCU already has a microscopic Quantum Realm, the introduction of Liddleville and its four most famous residents could be a perfect way to bring the FF into the MCU.
Marvel's Fantastic Four celebrated a milestone with a story that would be an ingenious way to bring the team into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.