The Great American
                Novel Act 1:
                the danger Act 2: rising action Act 3: the ball Act 4: crisis Act 5: triumph the Franklinverse part 2, act 1:
                the new danger

1992-2010: Chaos... and Valeria

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Summary: from DeFalco to Millar

The period up to 1991 saw the Franklinverse take over from the Marvel Universe, replacing a stretching timescale with a chaotic sliding one. Now in part 2 we see the Franklinverse slide toward chaos (the Great Reboot of 2010-2025, also known as the Chaos War), and how Franklin looks to Doom for help. This period begins with the second the run often considered the second worst in FF history, and ends with the one that beat it to the top spot. Not everyone feels that way of course.

DeFalco's run on the Fantastic Four

DeFalco's run

In "Comic Creators on the Fantastic Four", DeFalco recalls that long time fans called him "The Evil One." Why so much hate? This is what long time fans said (on the FF message board):

  Personally I would say no there are no good issues as I've read his entire run.

  1. Reed and Doom "die"
  2. Susan dresses like a skank and dates Namor
  3. Ben gets disfigured by Wolverine
  4. The Lyja retcon: Johnny's wife turned out to be an alien spy who fakes a pregnancy and then she lies to him again and dates him as Laura Green.
  5. Franklin gets the X-Men treatment and comes back as a teenager with hound scars and what to me looked like a case of Phalanx-itis (and why would he be infected by the transmode virus or be a Hound when he grew up in Elsewhen? The Hound stuff happened to the Franklin from the Days of Future Present storyline). Franklin came back with phalanx-itis who whined about his parents never loved him (so basically they crammed all the crappy things about Cyclops kids together and gave them to Franklin)
  6. Reed gets a new half-brother (Kristoff) and half-sister (Huntarra)
  7. Nathan is annoyingly cryptic the entire's almost like he's trying to string you along so you will buy more issues. Nathan was reintroduced as this manipulative schemer who strung people along with lie after lie. I think he went to the same masters class of obfuscation as Mr. Sinister, Jackal, Elim Garak and Ben Linus.
  8. Paibok and Devos (Devos really sucked IMO)
  9. Malice
  10. The No One Gets Out Alive story...omigod that story was awful.
  11. Susan destroys a Celestial
  12. Hyperstorm (worst character ever...worse than Onslaught, Cousin Oliver, Jar Jar Binks and Wesley Crusher combined)
  13. Sue's powers come from "hyperspace"
  14. Fantastic Force spin off
  15. The FF was probably the worst offender at Marvel when it came to special covers during DeFalco's run. 358, 371, 375, 387, 398, 399, 400. What other title had foil covers 3 months in a row?

It was just so so bad...but at least the art was pretty.

DeFalco should never be praised for his Fantastic Four run. DeFalco's run typifies Marvel at it's absolute worst. Bad storytelling. Stringing readers along with dangling plot lines, Special covers, Killing of cast members to boost sales, angst. Marvel had it's problems at the time but I would say DeFalco's work on the FF was way worse than the Crossing and the clone saga...those disasters just got more attention.

- Reverend Meteor (this combines two posts)

I'd also add very bland, unforgettable attempts at new villains like the lame Occulus and one of the weirdest Doom stories ever with Vic selling drugs to Yancy Streeters. I also got the impression that DeFalco just didn't like Reed as a character and killed him to get rid of him.

- Jim Mc

  1. The most depressing FF era ever. His FF run was me the book has always been a blend of fun and drama...this was just gloomy. It was like 'Family Ties' had transformed into 'Party of Five' overnight, just sad.
  2. Reed and Doom's 'deaths'...okay that WOULD be depressing yes I'll give him that. You cant kill off two major characters such as them without tears. I can understand that impact.
  3. Ben getting scarred by Wolverine. Unnecessary and brutal.
  4. Johnny and all his tribulations [Lyja, getting jailed, burning down the university etc] bit much for me but I did like his Torch's dialog. The last time the Torch ever seemed mature in my opinion.
  5. Sue...God what was he thinking? I loved Malice but this was too extreme. No wonder Ryan had to tone down her costume due to complaints [see his interview].
  6. Ant-Man and his letching over a bereaved Sue five minutes after she lost her hubby. .No thank you.
  7. Namor doing the same. What a letch!
  8. Lyja. Loved her, miss her, wish she had stayed.
  9. gay-dressing villain who wasn't needed [except as a deux ex machine for Reed and Doom's return] A piss-poor Onslaught knockoff!
  10. Nathaniel Rev said he never gave a straight answer. A frustratingly complex character whose motivations were never fully explained.
  11. Older Franklin...possibilities but hated the idea of granddad Nathan kidnapping him and taking him to an alternate future. Unsavory.
  12. Huntara...would've liked to have seen more of this Xena/Red Sonja warrior.
  13. Paibok...bad Super-Skrull wannabe aint never gonna be.
  14. Devos...bad Terminator rip-off. One word...pointless.
  15. Sue destroys a Celestial? Really? Sue dear you're tough but not THAT tough! Even the Watchers would've had trouble with them. Absurd.
  16. Sharon. A perfect chance to end her 'journey' with turning her back human and finally finding some closure, and what does DeFalco do...make her more ugly, more bitter.
  17. NOBODY GETS OUT ALIVE...a dreadful doom-laden depressing storyline which seemed out of sorts with a previously fun family book like the FF.
  18. The Dark Raider. Was he one of the evil Reed's from the COUNCIL OF REED'S? Theres a ret-con story waiting right there!

One good thing DeFalco does is reply to fans. I wrote him after he got the Legion gig and he wrote back a very nice letter, which he did to most fans of that book.

- Karl Disley

In defense of DeFalco

On the plus side, a lot of people did enjoy DeFalco's run: mainly new readers who did not know how the fun stories were either copying old ideas or damaging long term continuity, and without the experience to know that if they could not make sense of Nathan it was not actually their fault. And compared to other comics at the time, DeFalco's (with Ryan's art) were a breath of fresh air for new readers. Other titles were often impenetrable.

besides, that, everyone agrees that DeFalco is a really nice guy, good with fans and fellow workers alike, and most people agree that Paul Ryan's art was good.

So what went wrong?

After seeing what happened to Englehart and Simonson it will come as no surprise that DeFalco was operating under horrendous conditions. But worse than that, he was Editor in Chief at a truly horrible time. He had to deal with impossible demands from above and the resulting chaos from below. Read "Marvel Comics: The Untold Story" for what it was like. DeFalco comes across as quite the hero, defending the workers from the owners from Hell. DeFalco had an impossible task and can be forgiven for not giving the Fantastic Four the attention it deserved.

Take for example the hated "Lyja's baby" story. Paul Ryan (the artist) explains:

"One problem I faced were late plots. I tried for nearly five years to get that book ahead of schedule, turning down other assignments, to no avail. Tom was just too busy with other projects, not to mention his duties as Editor-in-Chief.
Another was changing plots. A story we discussed and which I found very exciting was frequently changed when it reached printed plot stage. I think Tom spent too much time second-guessing himself. Lyja and Johnny were supposed to actually have a child. I was shocked and disappointed when Tom changed the child into an artificial implant housing a monster." (source)

The pressures and chaos continued to the very last issue of DeFalco's run. Ryan again:

"The whole Heroes Reborn situation [how the title was rebooted after FF416] came as an unpleasant surprise to me. I learned through the Internet that I was losing the FF. Tom and I were supposed to work together through issue 416. Yes, we were told to complete our story arc as quickly as possible. The powers-that-be (executive level management) came up with the idea of luring Jim Lee back to Marvel in the hopes of recouping lost sales figures. Jim wanted the FF. Marvel gave it to him over the head of Editorial. Editorial decided to show that they also could do an Image style book without Jim Lee. Therefore I was unceremoniously removed from issues 415 and 416 and they were given to Carlos Pacheco. This whole situation left a bad feeling with me toward Marvel. I was cast adrift after 11 years of loyal exclusivity. I have not followed any of the Marvel titles since then, so I cannot comment on their merits." (source)

The chaos of the 1990s is legendary. Not even DeFalco's Editor in Chief job was safe. This was a recent question to Tom Brevoort on his blog:

"Q I read that during the 90s there was a period in which there were 5 group editors-in-chief of different lines instead of one common editor-in-chief. Since you were around at the time, do you know why they decided to do that and why you think it failed?"
"A That was done to weaken the authority of any single Editor in Chief and give the Sales Department the upper hand, and it failed because it was a moronic idea in the first place." - Brevoort.

On the bright side...

All of this fits perfectly into the bigger picture of the Fantastic Four as metaphor for the Cold War. When the cold war ended the book lost its direction. 

Given that the chaos makes sense on the larger scale, the rest of this page tries to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear: let's tease out what "was really happening."

FF357: Lyja

The first event post Simonson was to get rid of the Alicia marriage. We are told that Johnny in fact married a Skrull called Lyja, disguised as Alicia. However, that contradicts the previous story: it breaks the flow of the 28 year story, it strains credibility that Reed had no Skrull detectors in the Baxter Building, and Lyja contradicted Alicia, for example over whether she was able to create representative sculpture (see the discussion of the different FF) So what is really happening?

We saw that Franklin reversed stuff and injected new memories in the dimension hopping of FF326, FF332 and perhaps FF541 or thereabouts. Alicia's actions triggered Act 5, so Franklin had to particularly reverse her influence. So it appears that Alicia and Lyja were switched at one of these later points (i.e. after FF321) and given new memories. The generally confused state of affairs explains why the Skrulls were so easy to defeat in FF258.

Note the method, how Franklin changes things: he simply shunts people into the nearest reality that has the desired features. There may be highly complex reasons behind why the new reality is different, but Franklin is not be involved at that complex level.

FF358: the first gimmick cover

The 1990s were a period of desperate variant covers, and the FF led the field: FF 358 had double covers and a hole, 395 was in a bag with a free cartoon cell, and 371, 398, 399 and 400 were holographic.And then 416 was he end of the series, ready for the first reboot the next month, and another reboot the year after. The 1990s had it all.

FF369, etc. The different team, and out of character Sue

The page on differences notes the contrast between the original team and the clone team we began following at the end of FF 333. In this and the following issues we see those differences very clearly. The new Sue does something the original Sue would never do: she voluntarily merges with Malice. She also forgets that she can make things invisible. The new Ben, unlike the old Ben in act 5, is plunged into despair again. He says he does not love Alicia, in stark contrast to the original Ben in FF 301.

FF373, etc. It's all about Doom

In this period the only consistent theme is Franklin. And the only consistent part of Franklin's plan is Victor Von Doom. Why do Franklin's plans generally center on Doom? Because deep down, Franklin wants two things: safety, and his father's attention. Both needs are frustrated by one man above all: Victor Von Doom. So Doom has to be neutralized. All of this is of course unconscious. Or rather, it's organized by another version of Franklin: as we saw in FF annual 23, young Franklin is often unaware of what his other avatars are doing.

It may be helpful to see an outline of Doom's activity in this period. Note that before this period Doom's quest reached its natural conclusion in act 5, but then Franklin panicked and upset everything.

The key to understand Doom is to see him as an extreme version of Reed. He has Reed's arrogance multiplied, but he also shows how Reed should put his family first. Doom at his best cares deeply for his people. He is at his strongest with his people behind him. Indeed, the name "doom" comes from the word for "home" - the same root as "domos" or "domestic." We see Doom as the ultimate selfish individual, but he is also the ultimate family man. All his motivation comes from his early family ties, his love for his parents, and his desire to create a better world where nobody will ever suffer again. Doom more than anybody understands how we can rule through others: through his son, through Kristoff, or ultimately through Valeria. Doom's lowest point was when he neglected Latveria in the early 1970s, and his greatest defeat was when he opposed his son in FF200. In the Franklinverse period we see him "adopt" a daughter (Valeria) and she will be his salvation.

Here's a summary of Doom's actions from the start of the Franklinverse to The Great Reboot.

The original plan was to keep Doom busy with an equal and opposite Doom. This was the climax to the original 28 year story: Byrne's plan for a year of Doom Wars, and Englehart's climax in FF annual 20.

The retirement plan didn't work. Franklin was to scared to let Reed explore his powers, so Reed had nowhere to go... and returned to the team. A new, different Doom then appeared and defeated the Kristoff Doom. Why? We can piece together the clues. new Doom said he's been away for a very long time, and had a new costume. But that costume was only very recently obtained in Otherplace (according to one of the Captain Britain titles). Otherplace is the closest thing we have to a representation of Franklin's internal world, and here time breaks down so it's quite possible that this Doom believed he had been away for a very long time. Why would Franklin unconsciously create a stronger Doom? The next few years give us the answer.

Franklin's new strategy seems to be to focus on Doom's nobility. We saw in the original 28 year story that Doom is at his best when caring for his people. Franklin arranges the universe so that Doom has a whole world to care for (the Heroes reborn world).

Here we see the secret to Franklin's plan: Doom has always cared for his family, so the obvious solution is to make the Fantastic Four part of his family. Franklin does this by making Valeria his child: at first literally, then symbolically. (This period as usual involves shunting between different times and realities.)

2003: hell
It all goes horribly wrong. The particular alternate reality Doom used here turns out to be particularly vicious. So the next attempt will begin by checking out all the other alternate reality Dooms.

2005: Reed rules Latveria
Franklin's efforts to unite Reed and Doom continue as Reed takes over Latveria, but of course it doesn't end well.

2006: Doom tries to lift Thor's hammer
Franklin's belief in Doom's basic goodness must be strong: the Doom that returns from Hell does not want the super-evil human skin costume, and even tries to life lift Thor's hammer, but of course he isn't worthy (FF537). This is after Doom and Reed to battle it out in Manhattan (FF535). Franklin no doubt wants them to come to some conclusion, but they never do.

2007: Doom warns of a future Reed
In FF551-3 we see where Reed's desire to fix everything leads - to a future where he controls everything, just like Doom. By the end of the arc we are assured this is a Good Thing, but Hickman's later Council of Reeds story suggests otherwise. The story ends with Doom being sent off to rule an entire world - suggesting that his rule really is benign. The bottom line is that Reed and Doom are so similar that Franklin's unconscious instinct is correct: solving one problem means solving the other.

2009: Doom's rehabilitation continues
In the "Master of Doom" arc Doom appears like an angel compared with his old boss. But these are both alternate reality versions (the real Doom would never kneel before another) indicating that the dimensions that Franklin was supposed to guard are falling apart and being consumed.

The key to this long story is "All hope lies in Doom." Older Franklin is part of a plan in which the new, nobler Doom will merge with Reed Richards. Valeria is central to the plan of course. Doom is brought on the side of the team in the final great push that marks the start of the Chaos War.

A future version of this page will examine the parallels between the Chaos War and Jonathan Hickman's run.

FF356-416: danger to mutants, and parallel worlds (1990-1996)

Marvel's major crossover events may be a guide to Franklin's unconscious fears and actions.

Franklin seems to respond to pressure by creating or accessing parallel worlds and parallel beings, but these usually end up even worse than before.1990-91 saw "The X-Tinction Agenda" and the Infinity Gauntlet: increasing danger to the world, and especially mutants like Franklin. This led to parallel versions of the heroes (in the 1992 Infinity War) and a parallel version of Earth with a demonic invasion (the 1993 Mys-Tech war). Note the presence of Death's Head.

Another feature of these crossovers is dystopian futures (e.g. Days of Future Present) and conflict between fathers and sons. In Age of Apocalypse (1995–1996) Legion kills his father, Charles Xavier, creating a dystopian alternative time line in which Apocalypse rules the world.

These cross overs reflect the real world of course. Marvel sought to maximize revenue by linking everything together ever more tightly: but some Marvel titles were a lot less realistic than others, and forcing them together on a regular basis ended any claim to believability.

FF375, etc: Franklin can't cope (1992-1993)

All of this responsibility is too much for one mind.

Franklin can't

FF376: he's about to destroy everything

In his desperate state Franklin is about to destroy everything. For the universe to survive he has to be taken out of this crazy mess (and just read Marvel comics 1991-1994 to see what a crazy mess it had become). 

Franklin can't cope

FF390: all is explained: Franklin is guardian of the time stream

When he gets back we see he spent his time bouncing between the time streams, fighting alongside his grandfather. 

bouncing btween

What was he doing? Trying to protect the time streams (and apparently failing). The key points are in FF390:

all is explained

The key points are:

  1. Nathanial and Reed's sister are "guardians of the sacred time stream." We see elsewhere that Franklin is the uber-powerful one.
  2. They are based somewhere called "Elsewhen" - a place that sounds suspiciously like Otherplace.
  3. This is a family affair: grandpa Nathanial is behind it all, aunt Huntara works with Franklin, and the ultimate enemy is....
    1. Susan Storm, at first. But then we look closer and it's really...
    2. Malice (Susan's dark mental doppelganger). Who then controls...
    3. Franklin himself. Meanwhile they appear to be always fighting...
    4. Nathaniel Richards. While saying that their real enemy is the Dark Raider,.
    5. Reed Richards of another reality. And his goal is the eradication of...
    6. all the Reed Richardses of all realities.

It may look like a confusing mess, but step back and it's really quite simple: 

Everything stems from this conflict:

The only solution is of course for Reed to put Franklin first: then Reed gets access to Franklin's power and Franklin gets access to Reed's intelligence. They'd make a great father-[son team. But teamwork and social relationships are always Reed's weakest points. He's a terrible father and has a terrible relationship with his own father. That's the real story.

The universe reflects Franklin (1989-present)

This is the "pathetic fallacy," an old Shakespearean theme (and far older than Shakespeare: e.g. Arthurian legend and ancient kingship): the state of a nation, and even nature itself, reflects the quality of its ruler. We see this in the Fantastic Four and the wider Marvel Universe in this time. Franklin continually fails to protect his family, seeing alternate reality versions of his parents frequently killed (and sometimes a parallel world Franklin dies). Meanwhile Reed and Sue argue and the team falls apart. In other comics everything is dark and full of personal conflict, especially among mutants (Franklin is a mutant).

FF396: comics are being replace by cartoons

Some time around the 1990s the typical fan was more likely to think of the Fantastic Four as a cartoon than as a comic. Just as these days people see them as movies (if Google searches are any guide). Paper comics, lefd by gimmicks, with sales starting to fall dramatically, were less and less important. The first season of the 1994 FF cartoon is generally regarded as being of poor quality (the second season was better). The timing of And Man's comment was no accident: two issue earlier (FF 394) was a poly-bagged gimmick comic that tried to promote the new cartoon. This page reportedly caused some trouble for the writer, Tom DeFalco. With sales starting to plummet we must not mock the toys and cartoons!

FF403: Franklin's realities are breaking up

The "Fantastic Force" comic records Franklin's attempt, and failure, to be a successful teenage superhero. At one point we see multiple versions of himself, a point confirmed in the main comic (FF403). Franklin is unable to keep everything together. He's desperate, miserable, his powers are going haywire, something is going to break..


FF406-413: Hyperstorm

The chaos reaches a peak: Franklin unconsciously unleashes everything he's got. He creates a son who is a living conduit to hyperspace, just as Franklin is a living conduit to the negative zone (see annual 1998). The two powers are pretty closely related actually.

a living conduit


All the stories from this period build to this point. Nathaniel is trying to protect his family. But like Reed (and we now learn, like Franklin) he is not a very good parent.


Unable to cope with reality, in FF413 Franklin de-ages again in order to hide from reality. He cannot cope, he cannot consciously facing the chaos he has unleashed.

Do not be confused by the apparently different nature of Hyperstorm and Onslaught. Step back and you will see it all as manifestations of the Franklin's power. The pressure in Franklin's head is so great that if you stop one unlimited danger (Hyperstorm) then another is there to replace it (Onslaught). As for how Xavier and Magneto relate to Franklin, that would require several more pages! But basically it all comes down to Phoenix.

FF volume 2: Heroes Reborn (1996-97)

Heroes Reborn is the clearest and best known example of Franklin controlling everything.

Franklin creates a pocket universe where all Marvel comic stories live, with him pulling the strings. The same year sees two of the more interesting fractured universes: the 2099 dystopia (featuring the team from 1996) and Amalgam's "Challengers of the Fantastic." Franklin is trying everything and seeing what sticks.

When the Heroes Reborn experiment fails and the teams return to our reality, we once again see signs of a merge with Limbo. Compare the demonic effects of "The Ruined" with the merging with Limbo in FF322.

Otherplace merging

"The Return" issue 1: Why Franklin matters (1997)

The end of Heroes Reborn (called Heroes Return) finally clarifies why superheroes exist and why Franklin matters. Ashema, a Celestial, explains to Franklin:

"We conduct experiments, too.  And one of them was on this world as life developed.  But we have accomplished all we have set out to do.  To make you, Franklin.   Or someone like you."

For details, see the page on the origin, on the cosmic, and the commentary to FF319. The Celestial then continues

"And now it is time to wipe off the petri dish."

This can be seen as another test: Franklin and co. should be able to pass that test, and they do. Later she says:  

"This is how we knew that humanity had reached its pinnacle in you.  You have created Life.  You produced something from nothing" 

But creating life is never simple, as Franklin discovers. The whole point of life is that you don't control it.

Franklin must come first. Sue understands but Reed does not.

Sue's priorities

FF volume 3: the fractured universe (1997 and after)

With continuity broken there was nothing to do except tell the same stories again and again in different ways. So the original universe fractured into many parallel universes: Ultimate FF, Heroes Reborn, Marvel Adventures, 1603, 2099, Zombies, Apes, Manga, Amalgam, etc., etc.

In the Franklinverse the main title routinely forgets its past: all the themes of the first 28 years are forgotten, along with most of the characterization. Any unpopular story is instantly forgotten, such as Mark Millar's million year old Dr Doom fighting a giant shark with his bare hands: nobody mentions that. With continuity such a low priority the canonical status of different titles is ambiguous. For example, is Marvel Knights in continuity or not? Fans disagree.

Pier Four

To symbolize the chaos, change and division, the team briefly move to a new location: Pier Four, on the Hudson River, just above Stuyvesant High School. Later they return to a rebuilt Baxter Building. For more about the Baxter Building see issue 3.

pier 4

Annual 1998: they know their time is screwed up

The Franklinverse is vaguely aware that they are not the original characters, or if they are then somebody is messing with their heads. In the 1998 Fantastic Four annual the post-continuity Ben visits an alternate reality: the Real Time FF. The story shows what would have happened if real time had continued as it did in the 1960s. Sure enough, Reed and Sue are in "retirement" but doing exciting things, and they're always ready to return when needed. And the team in led by Johnny, who's married to Crystal, and Franklin and Luna are part of the family.

This isn't exactly the same as the new FF discussed on this page: the 1998 FF diverged from our continuity in 1973. In this version Ben never got over his insecurity, and as a result he never married Alicia. So Johnny never fully matured, and is still emotionally a teenager, but in most other ways this is a fair approximation to what the future would hold if Fantastic Four continuity had continued. It's also a fan favorite, based on comments on the comicboards forum. And when Tom Brevoort was asked which never reprinted comic was the best, his reply was "Dan Slott would say Fantastic Four Annual 1998."

The hugely underrated Karl Kesel

Incidentally, Karl Kesel wrote the 1998 annual. He also wrote the much loved issue where we see the Thing and his Jewish roots (volume 3, 56). And he wrote the first five issues of Fantastic Four 2099 until he and the rest of the team resigned on a point of honor. If Marvel wants a good established comics writer to take on the FF they could do a lot worse than Kesel. According to all the interviews I've seen he would love the job. He's a pretty good artist as well. (He's also a fantastic human being, adopting a baby who was addicted to heroin and selling his comics to pay the medical bills, but that's a little off topic.)

Discussions on the FF message board indicate that long term fans usually rate him their first choice as a new writer. But for some reason The Powers That Be will only ever give him the occasional issue (such as writing dialog for Matt Fraction's last four issues) and then only use him as an inker. Nobody knows why.

FF 3:8-34: a brief return of the original team? (Claremont's run, 1998-2000)

For a couple of years Franklin sees to have been hopeful. Franklin seems almost happy, and for this brief period the original team seem to return. 

Why the team returns
They original team seems to appear when Franklin powers the team up in volume 3 issue 8. Why was Franklin suddenly hopeful? He gets to save his family, and then gets himself a dimension jumping friend (Puppy) and a dimension jumping (or "time dancing") sister, Valeria. Note that Valeria's age (13) is very close to her real time age (the apparent miscarriage was in 1984, and Valeria appears in 1999). 

Why the team disappears again
Franklin seems to have engineered a chaos storm (unconsciously). It builds over many issues. It's the kind of event that can reboot a universe, and only Franklin can save it. This is the perfect opportunity for Reed to admit his limitations, focus on Franklin, and have a great bonding moment where Franklin assumes his rightful place in the team. But instead, once again, Reed fails spectacularly. In issue 24 he sends Franklin away!!!!!!! The one being who could have saved them!

The Chaos storm is caused by the dreaming Celestial seen in Simonson's run: yes, this is seems to be part of that chaos war. It is finally resolved by Reed and Doom working together. This was presumably Franklin's plan all along: the friendlier Doom was how Valeria appeared, but without Franklin being present the merging of Reed and Doom fails. (As with the Kristoff method in annual 20, this could have ended the Doom problem forever.) With the strategy failed, and Franklin not present, the original team cannot stay. We see multiple versions of the team in issue 34 and it appears that the comic ends up following the wrong team again. In issue 35 the Franklinverse team are back.

Not everyone liked Chris Claremont's run

Claremont arrived almost by accident, so his first issues can be forgiven for being a little rough:

"It’s clear that Claremont and Larocca’s arrival wasn’t particularly planned – Lobdell had previously stated an intention to stay on board the title for a 50-issue run, and his plots were used for two issues following his departure. Claremont, for his sins, had recently returned to Marvel to work as an “editorial director”, and was presumably just in the right place at the right time to take over at short notice when relations between Marvel and Lobdell/Davis broke down, for whatever reason." (Bronze Tiger, on the FF message board)

The main criticism of Claremont's run is it was too much like the X-men. As one fan wrote, "Alyssa Moy could be Psylocke, Caledonia from Excaliber, Valeria could be Rachel". People who do not like Excaliber generally do not like Claremont's run. But in his defense it was probably the best established way to make sense of the crazy parallel realities that sprang up since FF322, when Franklin went haywire. Excaliber specialize in such things.

Claremont is also blamed for reintroducing Valeria, which is probably unfair. Most people quite like his teen Val, but the later de-aged Val is so toxic that to some fans anybody connected with the character is stained. For the record, the most hated part of the character is her absurd intelligence,a  creation of Mark Millar (who else?): "Millar threw this wrinkle into the book during his much loathed run and Hickman chose to nurture it without analyzing the concept. It's ridiculous. Much like million year old Doom battling mortality with the strength of hate.. it's a poorly conceived and pathetic concept.. MM's short attention spanned trademark." - Karl Disley

Another plus is that Claremont's books take more than five minutes to read. Whatever else can be said, you get your money's worth, and that's a rare thing these days.

Franklin has another idea: the Sentry (2000)

Was the Sentry Franklin Richards? That would explain a lot. This would be a way for Franklin to gain the respect of his father, and thus get his attention, and so be let into the team as a full member as Reed promised but never delivered. But Reed doesn't seem to pick up on the clues that the sentry is Franklin, and the experiment fails, so Sentry finally gives up his desire to live.

Also in 2000, Apocalypse emerges once more, along with a mysterious prophecy of 12 powerful mutants capable of destroying him. One of them is of course Franklin.

FF 3:47-49: Another big reboot: Abraxas (2002)

The Franklinverse is based on zero changes, and so it cannot work (stories imply change: no change means no story). The Franklinverse periodically falls apart into continuity chaos: the different worlds merge, the major powers get involved (Galactus level and above). 2001 is a good example. Other examples were 1989-91, 1996, and the mother of all reboots, 2010-2025.

continuity chaos

Unlike the DC comic reboots these are claimed to be the same people with the same history, so officially nothing has changed. But like in FF344 we must look closely to see the differences. Make no mistake, these are major events that reboot the entire Marvel Universe, and Franklin is the one who hits the reset button each time. In the 1991 reset we see Franklin's role very clearly, and even see Franklin inside his own "elsewhere" world.

the universe
        seends a reset

The Abraxas story ends with a reboot, and Valeria is born. Ah yes, Valeria. On the surface this is just bad writing - take a moving and well told story (how Sue lost a baby) and ruin it, then make the baby the most irritating child ever. But look below the surface: there is logic to this. All is not as it seems...

2002-2013: Valeria: what's that all about?


Sue had a miscarriage in FF267. That child was later born as Valeria, and claims to have been raised by Dr Doom, married to Sue. Here's a brief time line:

  • FF250: Reed abandons his son and sets off to die in the negative zone.
  • FF254: Val is conceived in the Negative Zone. Val will one day become Reed's salvation from despair.
  • FF266: Sue has radiation sickness that threatens the child. This can probably be traced to Reed taking Sue to the negative zone. There are no events that indicate Franklin's direct involvement: this is all due to Reed.
  • FF267: Franklin, guided by Roma (see below) removes the unborn child before she dies.
  • FF volume 3, 15: Valeria is seen as daughter of Sue and Reed-Doom. Valeria Von Doom later appeared in the main time line by suddenly materializing in the Fantastic Four's headquarters, professing to be from the future, as well as being the daughter of Doctor Doom (Victor Von Doom) and the Invisible Woman.
  • #3 24 they send Franklin away (Valeria supposed to go with him but stays behind)
  • #3 25 Doom is back. While defeating the dreaming Celestial (an obvious reflection of Franklin) Reed and Doom merge. Doom's spirit sent to limbo.
  • #3 26 Val leaves to be with Franklin in "Haven" - safe house at end of universe. She later comes back. Dimension hopping seems to come easily to her, though not as easily as to Franklin.
  • #3 49: the big Ultimate Nullifier Abraxas reboot. The Val and Franklin combo was well known even then. Franklin revealed that Roma had taught him for an unknown period of time and that Valeria and himself would be needed in resurrecting Galactus. They did, and the reboot returns Sue to her pregnancy before FF267.
  • Once again the pregnancy is difficult. This time Doom steps in to help, putting the family first. This establishes a permanent link between Doom and Valeria.
  • When Valeria is three years old Doom unexpectedly loses half of his mind. The Ovoid mind saving trick seems to have kicked in, automatically transferring some of it to Valerie. Valeria now has the combined intellect and cunning of Reed and Doom (see below).
  • As part of the Great Reboot, future Franklin returns and impresses on Val that "all hope lies in Doom."
  • Doom helps the family. In the Great Reboot story that climaxes in FF600 Future Franklin and Future Valeria save the universe.
  • Chronologically we should then expect Reed, in his Doom form, to raise young Valeria until she is teen aged.
  • Marvel Now Fantastic Four 7: Valeria and Franklin are familiar faces as the end of the universe.

About saving the unborn child

For details of how Franklin saved the child, and its effect on the overall story, see the notes by FF267.


Roma is a daughter of Merlyn, a guardian of the time lines, on Otherworld. Otherworld is Avalon, the place first introduced in FF54 with Prester John.  Merlyn created the Captain Britain Corps. Merilyn claimed to be Merlin: and so did many others. Merlin was so deeply entwined with higher powers that he bordered on the abstract, so it is to be expected that he would have multiple incarnations.

Roma took over control of Otherworld. Note the parallels between Otherworld and Otherplace, where Franklin was raised to be himself a guardian of the time lines. Links are to be expected when dealing with higher dimensions: they are probably aspects of the same place. The whole concept of "place" has a different meaning to pan dimensional beings who can easily step from one to another.

In FF volume 3:6-8, Roma kidnapped Franklin Richards, thinking he was too powerful to stay on Earth and with his family. Johnny Storm was later able to convince her otherwise.


Note the religious imagery throughout these arcs. As the early Christians noted, Roma (Rome) is Amor (love) reversed. Abraxas is the spirit or concept (archon) that rules all the 365 heavens, according to the Gnostics. The Gnostics may have been the original Christians, depending on your view of Valentinus and Marcion, and whether you consider their enemies Irenaeus and Tertullian to be uninfluenced by their desire for power. But that is a whole other topic.

The old and new Valeria

  • When baby Valeria was born, Reed was trapped elsewhere. Johnny had no choice but to get Victor to help deliver the baby. He named her and made her his "familiar" - a mind linked to his.
  • Recall that Doom is still presumably linked to Reed i some way that perhaps neither of them realize. When a Celestial links two beings they stay linked.
  • The next great event is where Doom apparently kills his former lover, the first Valeria (in FF #3 67, the run up to FF500). He does this in order to gain the help of demons for his larger goals. On the surface this looks like Doom's lowest point: he admits failure, renounces science, and behaves dishonorably:
    renounces science
  • After this, young Valeria gradually becomes more intelligent and (fans say) evil. Are these events linked?

Valerie as "Maleria" - what's really happening?

At the time of writing (summer 2013) there is a great mystery: how is Valeria so smart and ruthless? And why does Reed follow her? The situation is so obnoxious that long term fans routinely refer to Valeria as Maleria, the demon child. CyberCoyote sums it up: "is Val basically the brains of the outfit now? Did the disease [Valeria] affect Reed's reasoning ability? He's just following her cues like a humble servant with no insight of his own." Karl Disley expands on this theme:

"I couldn't stand the outrageous way she spoke to her father like that... Considering everything SHE'S done in the past, she is a fine one to talk.

  • The whole '3' storyline involving Johnny's death and the Council Of Reeds coming to our Earth virtually came about because of her meddling
  • [she goes] to DOOM of all people for help."

Jim Mc concludes:

"Yeah, Reed defers to Valeria and follows her around like the student learning from the master."

So Valeria is acting like Doom, and Reed accepts it. On one level Reed is finally putting his children first. He got to that stage in Act 5, but that was reversed after FF322. Is he now trying again, but going too far? Or is something else going on? One constant theme of the Franklinverse is that Reed keeps secrets, most notably in Civil War, the Council of Reeds, the journey into space ("Marvel Now"s first year), and so on. Perhaps the greatest secret is that Reed knows what Doom is doing, and both know the role played by Valeria.

Doom transferred part of his mind to Val?

Some time before FF583 Doom lost part of his mind. This may refer to events in the comic series Doomwar, or perhaps to the lobotomizing procedures that the council of Reeds performed on every Doom they could find.

Normally when Doom sees he is about to be seriously damaged he mind swaps with somebody (e.g. in FF260). In this case something went wrong: perhaps he was caught unprepared. However, he has a permanent mind link with Valeria (surely nobody seriously thinks Reed could remove that). A serious brain injury, with no opportunity to mind link with somebody nearby, would automatically trigger an attempt to mind swap with his familiar, Valeria.

At this point (in Mark Millar's run) Valeria mysteriously became more intelligent and more cunning. Also Reed became more open to the idea of being led by Val. Recall that Reed and Doom are already linked from the days when the Celestial combined them and Reed wore the armor.

When Val and Doom plan together they both act like this is a new idea. But they are both very good at keeping secrets and playing the long game. The take home message at this point is that "All hope lies in Doom." Doom then starts to fight on the side of the team.
                brain damage

Old Valeria transferred to young Valeria?

Finally we have the problem of Doom killing his old lover, the first Valeria. That story appears to create three problems:

  • Why did Doom let the demons dictate terms? Doom is nobody's servant. He let them take something he wanted, and that's not like Doom. Wouldn't he find a way to come out on top?
  • Why did he kill his one true love? He's never shown that level of one dimensional evil before.
  • Why did his Valeria look so old? As if her life was already drained from her?

There is also the question - not a problem, but an odd thing nonetheless - of why Doom wanted Sue's child to be named Valeria. If it was just about ego then why not name her Victoria (the female version of Victor, his own name)?

Jim Mc suggests a solution: Doom was mystically draining young Valeria's life force into young Valeria. That's why old Val looked so old, and why Doom was willing to go through with it - he knew he would win in the end. Doom could have been planning to trick the demons for a long time, since before young Val's birth.

FF3:60 Mark Waid and the 9 cent issue

Mark Waid's first issue cost just 9 cents (a response to DC's 10 cent issues) so it sold in big numbers. It cemented Waid's view of the FF as about family. Let's look at that idea for a minute.


Is the FF really about family?

The Hell story was the centerpiece of Mark Waid's popular run on the title. This was when Franklin and Valeria began to look almost like normal kids in a normal family. So maybe it's time to talk about family. In recent years it has become normal to talk about the FF as being "about family." But that was not true in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, you could argue the opposite:
"It’s sometimes forgotten that the Fantastic Four, for example, often functioned not as a symbol of the family so much of that as the institution’s decline. Reed was often cast as the absent, disconnected company-man father, Sue Storm the bored, frustrated and romantically tempted housewife. Ben Grimm was the fractious, demanding intruder from the extended family, and Johnny Storm the rebellious, alienated youth who put his own ill-considered desires before the communities’ best interest. In its time, this was a fundamental break with how the family was portrayed in the super-book, although in truth the family had rarely been represented at all in the sub-genre." (source)
And of course Sue and Johnny lived elsewhere and commuted in for the first four years, before the wedding. And after that the idea of the best friend and kid brother sharing the marital home is not the narrow definition of the nuclear family. This team is extremely close, sure, but does that mean it should be "about family?" The title sold far more copies back when it was about "incredible exploits and down to earth realism", the definition of success from FF9.

"About family": a bad idea?

Here are some comments from the FF board:

[Valeria] and Franklin, by their existence, turn Reed and Sue into parents. Duh, right? But I don't want Reed and Sue to be parents. I just don't have any interest in reading stories about parenting. I'm a parent. I have two daughters. I have never wanted to watch TV shows or movies, or read novels or comic books, focused on the family dynamic. Family sitcoms? I run screaming.

I actually cringe when Marvel writers trot out their obligatory motto, "The FF is about family." Blecch. Before the kids, these four heroes were FRIENDS. Yes, Reed and Sue were lovers and eventually spouses. Yes, Sue and Johnny are siblings. But Ben and Johnny are friends. Ben and Sue are friends. Ben and Reed are friends.

Moreover, since Sue and Johnny join Reed in missions of dire jeopardy, they are his fellow adventurers, and this is a bond of deepest friendship.

Friendship is the emotional heart of most great adventure tales. The Three Musketeers. Robin Hood and his Merry Men. The Knights of the Round Table. The Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter. Star Wars. Star Trek. Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. The Silver Age World's Finest pairing of Superman and Batman (and Robin).

I often think in terms of C.S. Lewis's "Four Loves," one of which is Friendship, which he describes as being primarily a side by side relationship. Cue the old song, "Side by Side." I think this is important. It directly impacts the storytelling.

Families tend to look inward. The relationships are more face to face than side by side. They're more about responding to one another's practical and emotional needs, than about doing together the things that define our spirits. My daughters and I are highly responsive to one another's practical and emotional needs. (They're adults.) But neither of my daughters would ever pick up a comic book, or a book on philosophy or science, things that define me. Our relationships are face to face, not side by side. They're inward-looking, insular.

Friendship is outward-looking. The universe beckons with its particular adventures, and friends line up shoulder to shoulder and leap together into the quest for knowledge, or pleasure, or justice. Friendship propels them out of the nest, out into the wild forest, where the good things are, and the bad things too.

A comic that is "about family" will tend to be inward-looking. Insular. A comic that is about friendship, by contrast, will be outward-looking. Exploratory.

Here is what I want Marvel writers to say: "The FF is about friendship and exploration." The storytelling will be different then. The exploration won't seem like Reed's hobby that the others humor because they know he needs to do it, and join him in because they know he needs them or he might die. Rather, the exploration will be the thing that binds them as friends. You see, Ben is an explorer too. Johnny is an explorer. Sue is an explorer. It isn't just Reed. It's all four of them. They all have adventure lust. They all want to seek out new life and new civilizations. All four of them - not just Reed - if stripped of their powers and dropped into Roddenberry's imagined universe, would enter Starfleet Academy. All four of them - not just Reed - if stripped of their powers and dropped into George Lucas's imagined universe, would be traders out on the fringes of the galaxy, risking their necks in the cold vacuum between worlds and stars, doing commerce with beings bizarre and brazen. It isn't just Reed. It's all four of them.

Did we want Han and Luke to be chasing toddlers? Did we want Kirk and Spock to be worrying about babysitters? That's what Franklin and Valeria do to the comic. But they do worse. They make Marvel writers think in terms of family, instead of friendship and exploration. They make Marvel writers think inwardly instead of outwardly, and think of exploration as Reed's hobby, instead of the life's blood of a mutual fourfold friendship, and the thing that no member of the quartet would willingly give up.

But sure, Valeria, in and of herself, represents an interesting concept.

- Bronze Tiger

"About family": too difficult to do right?

The children are [an] acid test [for] how well one can keep Fantastic Four focused on THE F4, not have it be 'The F4 and Children and/or Friends" to the point of absolute nausea. And just as Claremont failed the test with his slight barrage of unnecessary new supporting characters AND especially the introduction of Valeria, Hickman failed it too with his completing the die for the children to play tag-along on nearly all of the F4's adventures.

- Miss Fantastic

I think a lot of writers had that same thought. After Franklin's birth, he's really not seen that much when Stan and Jack were still doing the FF. Later writers dealt with it by putting him in a coma or just kind of ignoring the domestic scenes with a quick panel showing Alicia or someone stepping in as a babysitter and then he was not seen for the rest of the story.

More recently, Claremont shipped Valeria Von Doom and Franklin off to Roma in Haven during the Reed in Doom armor arc. They stayed there until late in the Pacheco/Loeb/Marin run. I think the horse is really out of the barn now that they've taken in so many kids now as part of the Future Foundation.

- Iron Maiden

Yeah I've always hated Franklin for much the same reason. One thing in particular that always annoys me is how Ben gets reduced to this asexual nanny for Reed's brats and he comes off as this pathetic guy who clings to Reed's family. Or how everyone is Franklin's honorary uncle or aunt. For some reason Franklin calling Sharon Aunt Shary after barely knowing her really irked me.

I know no one else but me would like this but I kind of wish Ben and Johnny would get wives and become parents so the world doesn't have to revolve around Reed, Sue and their children.

I don't think I dislike the idea of family dynamics in fiction...I just don't like this one because I can't stand Franklin or how Ben seems like his nanny half the time.

- Reverend Meteor

"About family": destroys Ben Grimm as a character?

If this is a family then Ben, the touch guy adult, become a child. "Spoderman" on the FF message board made the following observations

THE THING represents the oppression of the straight male at the hands of feminists (Sue) nerds (Reed) and effeminate guys (Johnny). Think about it! The THING has been neutered by reed and sue by making him the nanny for their kids which is a feminine role and it also means that hes not allowed to be scary anymore because he has to be kid friendly! That's why hes so goofy and corny now because he's basically a kiddie hero but they took away everything that made him a bad ass! in the old days he was violent and you had no idea what he was gonna do next! Maybe he'd save your life or maybe he'd snap your neck or bash your skull in for talking s*** about him! Now he's so tame that no-one's afraid of him anymore which is why he gets no respect and people make fun of him all the time for being a big ugly freak made of rock! They know they can get away with making fun of him because he's not allowed to hurt anyone anymore!

Also no-one else wants to mention it but the thing was LITERALLY neutered by reed's experiments too! he not only lost his good looks but he lost his manhood too so now hes like a Ken doll! thats not a coincidence! Ben Grimm was a bad ass war hero and a playboy who used to get all the girls... hes a perfect example of old school masculinity and then he gets literally castrated by a nerd! and then if thats not enough he gets forced into a submissive feminine role by Susan the feminist who made him babysit her kids like a teenage girl! It's the perfect metaphor for how nerds and feminists ruined masculinity!

As a male feminist I would maybe temper that a little. I can quite see how this is how Ben feels. (Or at least the clone Ben - see FF 226-333). There is evidence that the original Ben was old fashioned in his views (e.g. see Liddleville, in FF 236). And while there is no proof he is physically neutered, I think he was afraid of hurting Alicia, so it had the same effect. (Once Sharon appeared he didn't hold back, and appeared much more relaxed after.) The Franklinverse Ben seems to be a babysitter Ben, more suited to Franklin's insecurity. "Spoderman" continues:

The 1990s zeitgeist?

The Thing is a perfect example of an old school alpha male who's been neutered and castrated and feminized and forced to be submissive all thanks to Reed the nerd and Sue the feminist! And Johnny is a metrosexual pretty boy hipster who's rewarded for being feminine instead of punished for it because of how everything has flipped! It used to be up to girls to impress men but now it's the opposite because the media says that ugly women need to be respected too but only guys who look pretty and take care of themselves can get girls anymore! Now the only option for straight men is to either be a feminine pretty boy like Johnny or to be sexless like Ben! Before you know it guys will be the ones who have to start wearing makeup instead of girls!

Again I hesitate to go that far, but plenty of people feel that way. The Great American novel always reflects and exaggerates the zeitgeist, so maybe there is some value in this interpretation. And I certainly agree with "Spoderman"'s solution:

How to fix The Thing

If [Ben] was still a bad ass he'd be out there going on adventures with franklin and teaching him how to be a real man not sitting on the couch and watching kiddie cartoons! He should be the kind of uncle who throws them into the pool to teach them to swim and leaves them out into the forest to teach them to survive in the wild! Hell, it'd make the kids a lot more interesting too if they were going out and getting into trouble instead of just sitting at home and being a burden for the adults! [Sitting at home just creates boring stories!] The problem isn't that the thing cares about the kids or watches them it's that he's become too kid friendly and it cost his edge! People see him as a lovable teddy bear or a corny goofball or a sad sack but they never see him as a threat anymore! He seems too harmless now! He's too SAFE!

The only way to fix the thing is to make him DANGEROUS again! And change the way he looks too because he's too smooth and round and safe looking like a fat old grandma and change his color too bc bright orange makes him look like a toy! He should be black and red like molten lava and make him lean and buff so u can see his muscles under his rock hard skin! He should look like he's ready to lunge at you any second!

OK, maybe I wouldn't go quite that far, but I think he has a point. Franklin nees to go on dangerous adventures and Ben should be his dangerous uncle. No danger means no story.

Solutions to the problem:

Three families - the Clan Fantastic?

At the height of the classic era (circa FF50-60), the greatest stories were written around three separate sub-teams: Johnny/Wyatt/Lockjaw, Reed/Sue/Ben, and the Inhumans. A three sub team book could work again:

You know, a Clan Fantastic could work for me. Reed and Sue living in some cool place somewhere. Ben and, I don't know, Namora, living in some other cool place. (Wouldn't it be fun to have Ben and Namor be cousins in law?) Johnny and, I don't know, Venus, living in another cool place. (Notice how I've cleverly tied the FF to the Agents of Atlas?) All three places connected by some sort of teleportation technology. Jimmy Woo, the Atlas Foundation, the Uranian, and of course Gorilla Man, would all be connected to this, because everything cool should eventually find its way to the FF mythos, if it didn't originate there in the first place, and quite often it did. Come on, we all want to see Reed and the Uranian interact, and Ben and Gorilla Man. More importantly, I think we would all be very pleased (eventually if not initially) if Jeff Parker were to take over the writing on the Fantastic Four.

Setting aside the details of the above, I think the driving principle, that of a Clan Fantastic, with three places of residence and three marriages, is excellent.

- Bronze Tiger

Several sub teams also allows flexibility for one or more person to leave without really leaving. This solves the "OMG Reed and Sue cannot leave!" problem of FF307, and also provides the flexibility that keeps the X-Men and Avengers selling more copies than the FF. Marvel Editors? Is anybody listening?

Kids running wild - an old style family?

As for what to do about Frank and Val, here is my own view. This is from the previous discussion, and fits best into a "Clan Fantastic" model.

The problem: family is good because they have extra closeness. But family is bad because, unlike friends who face outwards, families face inwards to protect the kids. Protecting each other is boring. That makes it hard to write good parent and child adventure stories. So Marvel is afraid of characters growing up, and any kids just hang around being annoying. Worst of all possible worlds.

I wonder if the problem is not the family, but the modern version of the family?

Think of the Greek gods and heroes: they often had kids. Think of Biblical epics, or even Tarzan: everyone had kids. The difference is that the kids were kicked out at the earliest opportunity and the parents continued living as they did when dating. Kids were not wrapped in cotton wool. Parents did not see it as their duty to protect kids - they were too busy living their lives. As soon as a kid was three or four years old they were outside all day with the bigger kids.

I'm not saying that was right, but it's how families worked until (say) the second world war. Also there was more respect: maybe less love (beating kids was normal), but kids would see their parents DOING stuff and want to grow up to be like them. Contrast that with today, when kids see parents take safe jobs and say "don't do this" and nobody wants to be like a parent. It was a different world back in the day.

For a story with parents and children to work, I think it has to go back to the old style. Parents and kids must live separate lives. Kids must be out on the street as young as possible.

Look at Harry Potter for example: he is exactly the age that Marvel does not want Frank to become, and it works because he goes off and does his own thing. And Harry Potter's parents are cool because he so seldom sees them (only in flashback or in that special mirror really). Being parents does not stop them being cool! They just have to not have contact with their kids. Contrive some reason.

Or look at Jack Kirby's childhood: running with the street gangs. There is no way a Kirby would live in the Baxter Building and go to school! Kirby was not afraid of old characters with gray hair (Reed Richards, Red Ghost, pretty much everybody else), because he did not see kids as hanging around being boring.

Look at Dickens, or Enid Blyton, or Richmal Crompton, or any popular author before 1960: kids were always on the streets having adventures and parents barely figured at all. Roald Dahl understood it perfectly: the parents in his books were either evil (in which case the kids were on the streets) or loving but encouraged danger and freedom (in which case the kids were on the streets). Every great childrens' author gets the kids out on the street and into real danger as young as possible.

Now look at the Fantastic Four for comparison. Franklin spent his early childhood away at a nanny's house, or the rest of his time being protected. The other kids just tag along or go to school. Boring boring boring! It makes the kids boring! It makes the parents boring! Yes I know that in real life it's good for parents to be safe and protective and spend time with children, but this should be an adventure! Franklin should have some spunk, he should be scaling down the Baxter walls at night and discovering the world! The kids should be kidnapped, and make their own escape because the older guys are too busy with their own disaster (and for gosh sakes scale back Reed's tech so he cannot find the kids to easily)! Whatever happened to adventure? To danger?

And another thing. Drama needs conflict. All the great child heroes have conflict with parents. Either parents are evil, or too strict, or have their own dangers and need to be saved. Do not under any circumstances make the relationship safe. And for the love of all that's holy, don't manufacture some bratty whiny spoiled kid fake teenage conflict or two dimensional villain parent. Make the conflicts real, so we can totally see both points of view. Treat parents and children exactly the same as you treat any other single person: don't let their relationships define them, their relationships and ages should give them fascinating extra layers but otherwise be ignored. Kids should never be stupid and adults should never be boring.

And one more thing. About Bronze Tiger's point about looking forward in the same direction. Totally agree! A fifty year story like the FF should be an epic. Like Greek myths or Japanese historical dramas or the Bible: each generation can defy the previous one and carve its own niche, while respecting the previous generation and earning its own place in the hall of heroes. Youth will typically rebel, leave for their own adventures, and later come back to discover that their parents also rebelled when young, and so the cycle of life continues.

In my opinion safe kids at home make the worst possible adventure story. I'm with Bronze Tiger: let the team get married and live in separate times, and meet every day via teleportation. Let them have kids. But for the love of all that's holy, don't keep the kids at home a second longer than necessary, give them personalities, give them danger, give them conflict with parents, make them fun.

In short, Reed and Franklin should be like Odysseus and Telemachus. Having a child does not make you a stay at home parent, having a child means double the adventures. And if they don't see each other for ten years, that's fine!

At least that's how I see it. Franklin is more than three years old so he's big enough for some terrible tragedy to force him on his own to have his own adventures. He needs to escape, and not in some safe Tattletale way, he should have stowed away on a pirate ship and found and used an abandoned gun by age eight. What's holding him back?

- me

Doom and Reed: all part of the plan to unite them?

FF500: Hell (2003)

The Valeria and Doom arc leads to Franklin being in Hell. But we have seen before (in Byrne's run, or annual 20) that Mephisto is scared of Franklin: how could any version of Hell keep him?

Clearly Franklin at this point is miserable so is in his own private hell: when rescued he still saw himself as there.

But there is another purpose in him going through Hell. Franklin is an unconscious messiah. Like his grandfather and namesake, he may sacrifice himself for his family: by letting himself suffer in hell he eventually places Doom there, and also lets Doom see that he has harmed an innocent. This forces Doom to reevaluate his own failures in hell. Doom as a slave, not  a master. This is an essential step in Doom's recovery.

FF536: Civil War - why Reed acted like a jerk (2006)

At this point Reed is routinely keeping secrets,which prevents Sue from moderating his crazier ideas. Saving Ben from heaven would have given Reed's inflated ego one push too far. It is also possible that the machine he used, originally intended to take a man to hell and back, affected his mind for the worse. He may have been especially susceptible after wearing Doom's armor for so long. Another possibility is that he was simply outmaneuvered by Tony Stark, a man with far more skill in manipulating people to think his way. Either way Reed reversed his previous position against registration (from 1991) and made his worst decisions for years, building a prison for innocent people, creating a Thor close who killed people, an generally alienating his entire family. He and Sue had to take a second honeymoon after in an effort to fix things. It seems to have worked, as Reed in Hickman's run (FF570 and on) was beginning to be a little less crazy. Though only a little.

How the descent to chaos played out in Franklin's conscious life

Do not be deceived by the sometimes relaxed surface stories. Many stories at this time seem to be ordinary and not cosmic - most of Waid's run for example. This is because these events are so big that they can barely be comprehended: like bubbles carried on a great tsunami, the bubbles are barely aware of the movement until it all crashes, and even then the individual bubbles are relatively calm: they only see glimpses of what goes on under the surface. But we can see its effects on Franklin's conscious life:

2005: Franklin is almost taken into government care

Reed's neglect of his children is attracting the attention of the government, and they try to take Franklin and Valeria into care. Reed of course believes that he is a good parent, and he is right that the government would do an even worse job, but the fact remains that Reed never keeps his promise to examine Franklin's power, and instead puts dampeners on it wherever possible and puts Franklin in constant danger. The last time Franklin was trapped in hell, for example, was directly because Reed never bothered to pay attention to Valeria's powers either (thus allowing a particularly evil version of Doom to attack).

2006: and it gets worse

The one thing Franklin hates more than anything is when his parents fight. And in Civil War they almost separate (the split becomes obvious in FF538). Whatever Franklin is trying, it isn't working. Then Reed becomes more Doom-like than ever, imprisoning heroes in a purpose built negative zone jail. Why? Because of a psycho-history theory that this is this will be the least-worst future. When will Reed ever learn? If he wants to understand psychology, or the future, or power, or the negative zone, he should ask his own son!!!

FF550: the universe is dying (2007)

FF550 is a story about the sick universe needing surgery. This is all part of the pattern leading up to the Chaos War, as foretold way back in 1990. As usual the team appear to solve everything, and as usual we can be sure that a problem that big will not be so easily solved, despite appearances. 

the dying

F558: the final descent into chaos (2008)

In Mark Millar's 16 issues we see the Fantastic Four at their worst, Completely out of character, with nothing making sense: 

Clearly these are alternate reality versions of the team: parallel dimensions are merging, ready for the Chaos War. The alternative reality (for so he must be) Master of Doom has been traveling through alternate realities, killing whole universes (and parallel Fantastic Four teams).This is just what Franklin, as guardian of the sacred time lines, was supposed to stop. As the blogger Caleb summarizes: "It all comes down to our FF and a few allies trying to hold off armies of infinite, alternate universe versions of themselves while also dealing with a guy who seems like the biggest Big Bad they’ve ever battled."And the final battle is a big car crash of alternate realities - note the dinosaur Captain America!


Once again the team defeats the immediate temporary threat, but the cross-dimensional carnage expands and reaches its climax into Hickman's run.

FF566: The final step in humbling Doom: the Master of Doom arc (2009)

In the pantheon of fan horrors the only crime worse than Reed following bratty Valeria was Doom following anybody. This took place in the Mark Millar "master of Doom" arc. In it, Doom's never before heard of master appears and Doom kneels. This is unthinkable for normal Doom, but his recent activity shows he has become unhinged. He realizes he has failed, but can barely admit it to himself. In Mark Waid's run Doom admitted failure and tried to renounce science. He ended up in Hell. He then lost his mind. He is, in fact, repeating Reed's breakdown from Act 4.

As for Doom following nobody, the irony is that magic involves precisely that: following higher powers. Doom of course sees it as using them, but they will see it differently. Higher powers are all linked: the abstract concept of destruction, seen by Doom as a death like master, is of course the concept seen by others as Galactus. See the cosmic page for details. But Doom's view of destruction is far more personal, loving power for its own sake whereas Galactus is neutral.

Note that the Master of Doom arc is the last chaotic moment before the Great Reboot begins. At this moment of colliding dimensions and falling apart it is impossible to separate reality from illusion The masters of Doom routinely used illusion, and nobody seriously believes that Doom really survived a million years on hate alone, then gained powers he never used again It's a swirling soup of chaos: see below. The cosmic page notes that nothing a destructive higher power does can be taken on face value. Note also that Galactus is the servant of Franklin, in the sense that destruction is a servant of desire. This is all part of a bigger story, though since the end of Act 5 and the decent into the Franklinverse that bigger story is never obvious on the surface.

The Marquis of death

The master of Doom and his sidekick are two versions Clyde Wyncham, best known for the "1985" series. That was about a real world comic reader who brings in fictional villains to his world and almost destroys it. IT symbolizes the triumph of escapism, the retreat from reality that took place as Jim Shooter was pushed out in the mid 1980s.

"During the fight [with Doom], the Marquis and his apprentice created an illusion in which Doom, allied with nearly every hero and villain on Earth, managed to defeat them by imprisoning them in the "Omega Box". For the next five years following their imprisonment, Doom led the world into a new golden age and was married to the Invisible Woman, with whom he was expecting a child. When Sue asked him if he was finally happy, Doom responded that he had never been happier. It was then that "Sue" revealed herself to be the apprentice. The Marquis then stepped out of the Omega Box and revealed to Doom that less than five seconds had actually passed. The Marquis then explained to Doom that by showing him the "perfect life" would make his defeat much more painful. The Marquis then sent out a massive blast of energy, wiping out Latveria's entire capital city and the rest of the country. The Marquis then turned Doom's heart into stone and his blood into acid and had his apprentice to open a time-rift into the Pliocene Age, where he tossed the dying Doom into a primordial ocean, where he appeared to have been consumed by a Megalodon. [...] It was then that his apprentice revealed himself to be Victor Von Doom, having survived his apparent death because of his intense hatred and spent the last several million years mastering the Black Arts as well as many other God-like abilities, transforming his body until not even a molecule remained that could betray his identity to the Marquis when he became his apprentice in preparation for the day when he could finally get revenge on him. Upon learning who his "new" apprentice actually was, the Marquis begged for Doom to spare him but Doom told him to be silent and then swiftly ended his life."

When asked about "million year old Doom," editor Tom Brevoort (on his Formspring account) simply noted that Doom tells lies.

Clearly this is largely illusion and chaos, but it reflects a reality: Doom will indeed finally achieve happiness by merging with the family, where Reed (as Doom) is married to Sue, the Baroness, and raises Valeria in Otherplace. Is this creepy, Doom being somehow inside Reed? No, because Doom's deepest wish has always been power. As we see in the cosmic page, when on becomes powerful enough, one becomes merged with the infinite, almost an abstract concept. By embracing the light Doom will finally get what he wants, absolute power, a perfect world, and even union with the family of Sue.

Doom as the Marquis, yearning for Sue, is also symbolic. Ultimate power to destroy means becoming a reflection of Galactus. The futility of this win-lose approach to life is represented by Sue, who has always taught win-win. It was the Sue lookalike, Alicia, who first defeated Galactus, by inspiring the surfer to better things.

In the final analysis, Mark Millar's final arc was a sea of chaos and colliding realities, but it represented an underlying truth. For twenty years the Franklinverse had been falling apart, and finally it disintegrated completely. It was 2009, time to prepare for The Great Reboot.

2009: FF 570, "solve everything" (2009)

Jonathan Hickman's run began with FF570. Reed Richards decides to "solve everything." Next we'll see how everything is solved.

next: The Great Reboot

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