Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four. Emphasis on FANTASTIC.

A strange thing happened at Cumberland Farms on Loudon Road in Colonie in 1989. 

The Thing no more? Why is Ben Grimm standing there in that Man diaper?! It all happened in the pages of Fantastic Four #327. I was either skating at Guptill’s or on my way back from the Colonie Pool with my Pops when I saw it.

It was an issue I loved. Moreso, the following five issues were golden. I don’t know why, but these particular issues have resonated with me for so long. There’s vitriol to the writing that just extends into the content. And after all this time, today I stumbled upon exactly why.

In summation, the Fantastic Four had been separated for some time, with Reed and Sue Richards, Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman to the undiscerning, taking a leave of absence to attend to their child. The team had consisted of some combination of She-Hulk, The Thing, Ms. Marvel (Sharon Ventura, aka the girl Thing), Crystal, and the Torch. A weird, yet enjoyable run that I have always had a soft spot for. In no small part because I had become a regular reader during this time, but also because the stories had ventured into new territory for the FF, while pulling out all the stops with the villains – Belasco, Dr. Doom, Diablo, Master Pandemonium… WOW!

And then, out of nowhere.. BOOM! They’re Back! Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman return. And one of the strangest FF stories ever unfolds as the Frightful Four are crushed by a decidedly sinister Fantastic Four, who proceed to throw down on some of their heaviest hitters mercilessly.

Steve Englehart was the writer for all of this – and when I was thinking about this post I came across his website. I believe he did some of the best FF writing, and even if I’m in the minority on this (I don’t THINK I am) I would defend this run till the end. Apparently there was some apprehension on his part to bring back Reed and Sue, and his story was a creative way of bringing them back to the fold in a plot twist that paralleled his dissatisfaction. Maybe sometime in the future we can get him to elaborate further, but until then please check out what he’s had to say here.

I only disagree with him on one thing – I LOVE the covers on these issues. The links here provide this seminal run in a very affordable format. Scoop these up for classic Fantastic Four action.

One Comment

  1. Posted December 11, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to say I agree – Englehart’s run is first class. Or at least, insofar as he had control over it. I think there are problems, but those are all directly attributable to editorial interference. I wrote to him about these, and he kindly filled me on on more details, and he was writing under severe constraints, and forced to make changes that made no sense in terms of the bigger story, and forced to add crossovers that make no sense, for marketing purposes, at short notice. A top class writer like Englehart should be left alone to write! The issues with no outside interference (there are only 12) are among the best ever, and I prefer them to Byrne’s – which among FF fans is heresy.

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