Mr. Fantastically Irresponsible? What If the Fantastic Four Leader Stayed Impulsive

Sun, February 14th, 2016 at 10:27am PST

Comic Books
Howard I. Kaplan, Guest Contributor

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Something happened to Reed Richards, and it happened long before he achieved a status akin to godhood in last month's conclusion to "Secret Wars". In his first appearance in 1961's "Fantastic Four" #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Mr. Fantastic was the kind of guy who'd steal a spaceship to impress a girl. The sort of dude who'd make first contact with an alien race, only to turn them into cows and promptly forget all about them. His college roommate blew his face off in their dorm room. He turned his best friend into a rock monster.

In short, Reed was a guy who knew how to party.

But between launching his experimental ship (and the Marvel Universe along with it) and becoming a god, he turned from the mad scientist you'd want to have a beer with into Science Dad, who every Marvel hero seems to keep on speed-dial just for a two-page cameo where he fails to cure some impossible science disease.

The first family of comics has fallen on hard times of late. Last year's "Fantastic Four" movie was an unmitigated financial and creative flop, and the comic itself -- traditionally hailed by Marvel as "The World's Greatest Comics Magazine!" -- isn't even currently being published, making the series and the team as readers know it the only real casualty of "Secret Wars."

The Richards Family's future is in jeopardy, and there's only one person to blame -- Mr. Fantastic himself. Reed Richards is one of the most dynamic and interesting characters in comics, but has also been the most unevenly handled.

What happened to that young, irresponsible Reed Richards? What would the Marvel Universe look like if he'd stuck around? Let's take a "What If?"-esque look at what could have been. [NOTE: The fictional stories described in this event are fictitious. Any resemblance to real Marvel events is purely coincidental.]

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THE COMING OF GALACTUS ("Fantastic Four" #48)

Uatu The Watcher appears in Reed's lab to warn him of the world-eater, as seen in the classic story voted #19 in CBR's list of the Top 100 Comic Book Storylines. But he really should have knocked first, as Reed was using the sky full of space debris as a distraction for a little "alone time" with the Internet. There's no clearing your search history from an all-seeing, omniscient Watcher.

However, when the Silver Surfer lands on the Baxter Building's roof to summon Galactus, Reed's already there having a hella cool rooftop BBQ. Not that he bothered to invite the rest of the Fantastic Four. Before the Surfer can call his master, Reed offers him a beer made in his lab's microbrewery, where Negative Zone yeast and Unstable Molecules hops combined to form a knock-you-on-your-silver-ass brew.

Reed and The Silver Surfer keep drinking, eventually hitting up a few strip clubs and crashing the Fantasticar into a tree. Yggdrasil, to be precise. While the Earth is saved, Sue has enough and permanently leaves Reed for Namor. Though initially heartbroken, Reed eventually moves on with a revolving door of grad students, topless dancers and the occasional burlesque performer.


Don't remember the details of this crossover? Neither does Reed. He locked himself in a dark room with 8 grams of dried Psilocybin mushrooms before the war broke out and missed the whole thing.

The upside is that his hallucinations would later help him make sense of The Clone Saga. He's been seeing multiple Spider-Men for decades.


Still dead.


When decades of Charles Xavier's repressed anger manifest as the psionic being Onslaught, he uses an army of Sentinels to cut Manhattan off from the rest of the world. Onslaught's Sentinels are stopped by Reed's own army of A.I.s, from H.E.R.B.I.E.s to Ultrons to animatronics on loan from Disney World.

Once the smoke clears, Reed turns all the robots into an '80s cover band fronted by the Disney World animatronics called The Hall and Oates of Presidents.



When the Pro-Registration side needs an off-the-books prison to house captured unregistered superheroes, Tony Stark approaches Reed to request access to the Negative Zone. Unfortunately, the only suitable facility is already in use as a grow house where he's producing some primo weed.

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Iron Man attempts to commandeer the grow house, leading Reed to ally with Captain America's Secret Avengers. But Cap rejects him -- apparently, partnering with a serial killing psychopath like The Punisher is OK, but Steve Rogers draws the line at pot-smoking mad scientists. Blame it on being frozen during the ‘60s.

Reed eventually decides to sit out the war in his grow house with some of his favorite customers -- The Impossible Man, Doctor Strange, Moon Knight (by prescription, that dude needs to mellow out) and, of course, Mary Jane Watson.


The news that Skrulls have infiltrated the superhuman community leaves the Marvel heroes reeling, wondering who they can trust. Luckily, Reed's used to dealing with heightened paranoia, and takes an active role leading the fight against the Skrulls.

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Reed's irresponsibility actually helps him in this case -- he's way too much of a loose cannon to be trusted by the other members of The Illuminati, so when the Skrulls infiltrate Earth's superteams, he's an unknown quantity. In the original story, Reed discovers a method to detect Skrulls but is injured by the faux-Hank Pym before he can use it. But no one gets close enough to this Reed to hurt him... no one gets close to him at all, on account of his filling the Baxter Building with hoarded pizza boxes and empty Mountain Dew bottles, and forgetting to shower for weeks at a time.

Reed eventually falls back into old habits and brainwashes all the Skrulls (and a few humans) into thinking they're barnyard animals.


When the Marvel Universe collides with the Ultimate Universe, Doctor Doom's sheer force of will harnesses the power of the Beyonders to hold existence together into a world he rules as a god. Eventually, Reed wrests control from Doom and recreates the universe, but with a few sloppy mistakes. The Earth he creates is a dystopia, where David Bowie and Alan Rickman die within a week of each other and Donald Trump has an actual chance of becoming President. Who'd want to live in a place like that?

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