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

Read the new book: The Case For Kirby   (web version)   (about)
or continue with this site about the Fantastic Four (1961-1989),
The Great American Novel
Before they were the FF
Challengers of the Unknown

Act 1: The Danger
FF 1: beat the Russians!
FF 2 -5: Susan versus Doom

Act 2 : Rising Action

FF6 -8: Space dangers
FF9 -14: Reed triumphant
FF15 -24: Ben's decline
FF annual 2: Doom
FF25 -43: First defeats.

Act 3: "The Ball"

FF annual3 -FF60: America v. God
FF61 -80: Human or Inhuman?
FF81 -102: Think of the children

Act 4: Crisis

(not as long as it seems: see dates)
breaking up
FF103 -125: Reed v. his family
FF126 -132: the unthinkable
FF133 -149: divorce?
Reed's triumph
FF150 -175: the battle of the sexes
FF176 -200: America's turning point
falling apart
FF201 -218: the IT revolution
FF219 -231: family values?
denial and despair
FF232 -250: back to basics?
FF251 -273: to be or not to be?
FF274 -295: the death of Reed Richards

Act 5: Triumph   

FF296 -303: the turning point
FF304 -321: happily ever after?
FF322-333: the end of the world

The Franklinverse

A different Fantastic Four
FF334-354: the Franklinverse
FF355-569: Valeria Von Doom
FF570-now: The Great Reboot
The future
About this site
Tributes to issue 1

Quick start
Family portraits
Top 10 fan theoriesQuiz

The story:
Susan's story and in her own words [2]
Reed's story: the negative zone
The Skrull milk theory

The cast
Sue   (more)
Reed    (more)
Ben   (more)
Doom, Mole Man, Pete
Lockjaw; (2); the Silver Surfer
Lee and Kirby
Lee and Kirby: who did what?
Lee and Kirby: differences
Where the Marvel Universe came from
The Kirbyverse
Captain Victory

Marvel Comics
The secret of Marvel's success
Marvel and DC sales figures
Marvel in the 1960s: real time
Great art
Letters pages   [2]

What went wrong
The Marvel Universe, 1961-1991
1968: when Marvel "sold out"
Value for money
The sliding timescale
Real time comics
How to make great comics

Other comics
Examples of real time comics
Other comics
Badtime Bedtime Books

Superhero science
Science and superheroes
Reed's technology: realistic?

This web site is a personal voyage of discovery: my lifetime love of the Fantastic Four, and uncovering its mystery:

There are really two different Fantastic Fours. As a child I loved the Marvel Fantastic Four, but now I prefer the Kirby Fantastic Four.

The Marvel Fantastic Four

Most of this site is about the Marvel Comics Fantastic Four. I think the best stories were written between 1961 and 1989 (issues 1-333). On this site I treat them as if they are real. That is, I reject "suspension of disbelief", and I ignore what the writers may have intended, and instead I read the text as if it was a report of actual people in the real world. The result is amazing. Marvel's Fantastic Four becomes a story about survival: An alien soldier realizes he is on the wrong side. While on a mission to Earth he escapes. But he knows that as punishment this whole planet will be destroyed. So he devises a plan to save this world by creating the ultimate weapon.The real hero is the Earth woman he loves, and her attempts to show him that violence is not the answer: Reed needs emotional intelligence instead. But can she persuade him before it is too late?

This story is a metaphor for America in the Cold War. It begins the month when the first man entered space, and ends with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We see the era through the eyes of elite men (Reed), ordinary workers (Ben), youth (Johnny) and women (Susan). On a deeper level this is a metaphor for humans and our discovery of technology: does our future lie in war or peace? The story ends with four possible futures for America: ranging from peace and love to nuclear armageddon. After the story ends (after 1989) we have a child's confused memories of the story, known as the Franklinverse. It features a clone team.

This infographic shows every major event both before and after the story. Click for a high resolution version.


The Kirby Fantastic Four

Fantastic Four issues 1-102 are officially credited to "Stan Lee and Jack Kirby". As a fan I naturally wanted to know how they made the stories. When I looked closer it seemed obvious to me that Jack Kirby created the stories, and then Stan Lee changed the dialog (and sometimes more) to make stories that are easier for children to follow. Now I am more interested in uncovering Kirby's original stories, and this is why:

Kirby's stories have many layers:


Where to buy Fantastic Four 1-333

The Fantastic Four is available in several formats from any good book store:

Marvel Masterworks:
Masterworks are top quality reprints, with introductions by the original writers where possible. Each volume reprints around 14 issues. Volume 15 (up to FF163) is due out September 2013.


Marvel Essentials:

Until 2015 Marvel also published lower priced black and white compilations, taking us to FF207. These are gradually being replaced by full color "Epic Collections".


Digital copies are gradually being made available from


Second hand:

You can buy back issues from eBay, Amazon, comic shops, etc. If you're lucky then your local library can order some collections from other libraries. If you're very lucky you might find a "GIT corp" DVD: an authorized product that has all the comics on one disk, but it's no longer produced.

GIT corp

Please buy from Marvel!

We need Marvel to make money from The Great American Novel. Then they might decide to start time moving forward again: Reed can then remember that he fought in WWII, Franklin can grow up and have his own kids, Johnny and Crystal can marry, and we can find out what happens next! Also, if Marvel sees this site as an ad for their comics they are less likely to shut it down for copyright infringement. (But please note that I am careful to almost never show a complete page, unlike many comic sites.)

Other Fantastic Four related comics

You only have to read one title for the full story: just the Fantastic Four. The 28 year epic story is self contained.

However, there are other titles that may be of interest. Thanks to Modern Alchemy for this time line (click for a more extensive version).


next: the Great American Novel

The Great American Novel