Every now and then we’re asked to point our readers in the direction of some of the best examples of beloved comic book characters doing what they do best… With that in mind we decided to create our new feature, The Greatest Hits.
And who better to start us off than the First Lady of the Marvel Universe?
In order to have a reasonable amount of stories on this list I will only be considering single issues, arcs, annuals and one-shots set in the main 616 Marvel Universe and have excluded alternate realities or possible futures.
Also, as huge a Marvel zombie as I am, even I can’t read everything so if there are stories I’ve missed out on or you think I’m wrong please let me know because I honestly can’t get enough of this stuff and I could always do with more reading material.
You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Susan Richards kick some serious ass! Over the course of her publication history she has gone from a bland token love-interest to one of the most powerful characters on her team (and possibly the universe).
She has some serious notches on her belt, having defeated The Avengers, Hulk and Doctor Doom, on numerous occasions all by herself.
If Reed Richards is the Marvel Universe’s grounded patriarch then Sue is its matriarch and everywoman.
Not that she is so easily defined as merely the mother of The First Family. Her long and distinguished career in comics has allowed her to be far more than that!
She has been a leader, villain, spy, rebel, teacher and ambassador over the decades. She has been around for pretty much as long as the Marvel Universe itself and while she is now one of the most celebrated women in the MU, alas it was not always this way.
In 1963 Stan Lee and the editorial team at Marvel were forced to defended her when fans wrote in to complain that she didn’t contribute enough to the team.
In Fantastic Four #11 the rest of the team break the fantastic fourth wall and tell the fans their feelings on the matter, pointing out to the fans the ways in which she had contributed. It’s a cool moment that encapsulates the relationship between readers and content that Marvel had in those early years.
Sue is a calm and caring character… until she’s backed into a corner. And if you go after her family then, like any mother (certainly like mine), then you’ve got a fight on your hands!
One of my biggest complaints about the most recent Fantastic 4 film is her exclusion from the trip to Planet Zero. For me this borders on sexism as this maiden voyage is reduced to nothing more than a drunken lads’ holiday.
In this classic comic book moment she is regulated to being merely an accidental bystander, this results in her becoming exactly what those fans in the 60s complained about her being… A passive character.
Susan Richards is, and always has been, an equal and vital member of the four. She is certainly far from passive.
As we will see in her greatest hits, she is more than meets the eye…Or doesn’t in this case.
… Because she’s invisible.
All stories featured here are currently available on digital comics subscription service Marvel Unlimited.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #280-284 by John Byrne
Wearing what can only be described as S&M gear, she takes out The Human Torch and She-Hulk in quick succession until Reed saves the day with the power of faux chauvinism (fauxvinism) driving her mad with hate until she reverts back to normal.
Susan vows vengeance on Psycho-Man, whom she considers to have violated in the most terrible way by twisting her soul beyond recognition.
She convinces the rest of the four to take the fight to him into The Microverse. Reluctantly,they agree.
In the finale of this tale Sue catches Psycho-Man unawares, doing something so awful to him it’s only referred to off-panel.
In the aftermath Susan declares that The Invisible Girl (as she was then known) is dead, long live The Invisible Woman.
This is the first instance in which we get to see Sue’s dark side (though it isn’t the last time we see it on this list) and her maturity as a character finally brings about her much needed name change.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #400 by Tom DeFalco & Paul Ryan
The Celestials have come to destroy The Watchers, who they perceive are halting genetic advancement in the universe because of their oath of non-intervention. The Watchers (who are sworn merely to observe and never to interfere) pour their energies and knowledge into a gargantuan being known as The One who is knocked out in the opening salvo, while Exitar The Exterminator is gathering the energy to finish him off.
Uatu (known for breaking his race’s rules and getting involved over 400 times… So not the greatest when it comes to just watching) enlisted Marvel’s First Family to hopefully avert the extinction of his people.
After fighting through Exitar’s massive body (to give you a sense of scale; Arishem The Judge is the leader of The Celestials and is over 1000 feet tall, while Exitar The Celestial that destroys planets is easily a 100 times larger), Sue has a revelation.
She begins to empathise with both races, but deep down she knows that the extermination of any life is something that she will never be able to turn a blind eye to. Thus, she uses her powers to destroy Exitar’s brain, effectively killing him and postponing the war for another 1000 years.
That’s right, she killed a Space God!
Not just any, but the most powerful Space God.
No mean feat!
During this period she also acted as the team’s leader and acquitted herself masterfully, so much so that when Reed returned, he felt he couldn’t lead as well as her.
Fantastic Four Vol 1. #245 by John Byrne
This story opens with Susan on a talk show being interviewed by someone I can only described as a Femi-Nazi who is criticising everything about her; her position on the team, her married life and even her codename.
Sue defends herself admirably against her critic; citing classic moments in FF history such as saving the rest of the four in their first encounter with Dr. Doom.
After completely owning her intolerant interviewer she heads home, little knowing the danger that awaits. She returns home to signs of a battle and her family comatose, at the hands of a bearded mad man in rags, searching for answers to a question Sue can’t understand and demonstrating incredible reality-altering ability. He can see through Sue’s invisibility and overpower her forcefield.
After an explosive fight, She is sent hurtling out of The Baxter Building to the street below exhausted and looking like the end is near, she still tries valiantly to protect the nearby crowd (which includes her horrendous interviewer).
As the battle continues she finally recognises her attacker… Her son Franklin aged to adulthood.
In this story we see Sue’s best character traits; her intellect, indomitable will, her power and her heart.
She also proves to be a force to be reckoned with on her own, without the team for back up due to the versatility of her abilities such as projecting invisibility and using her forcefield as transportation.
S.H.I.E.L.D Vol. 3 #4 By Mark Waid & Chris Sprouse
What job would Sue be best at with her particular skill set? A Spy of course!
It’s a diamond of an idea and a single issue gem (but I expect no less from Mr. Waid) which sees Agent Coulson recruiting Susan to retrieve a valuable hostage who has memorised vital and damning information about his brother’s criminal dealings.
This informant is being held deep underground in a heavily fortified fortress, guarded by around the clock armed Mercenaries and under close-circuit surveillance, as well as having several automated security measures.
It’s a Mission: Impossible by anyone else’s standards but for The Invisible Woman its a piece of cake. But, like every good espionage infiltration story, not everything goes to plan. When a classic FF villain shows up, all Hell breaks loose.
But it is Sue’s quick thinking, focus and cool under pressure that save the day from complete disaster. After reading this it made me want to watch Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. again (if you know me this is something I would very seldom do) which goes to prove just how good this is.
Fantastic Four Vol. 3 #547-549 by Dwayne McDuffie & Paul Pelletier
Sue (bless her) allows him a couple of days on Earth to examine it, before heading back to Titan on her own for some rest and relaxation. Unfortunately there’s nothing relaxing about being taken captive and tortured by The Frightful Four, who blast her space craft to pieces with her in it (fortunately, she’s good with force fields).
Thinking her family are already dead she is seething with rage at every insult The Wizard throws, coming right back at him with promises of pain as she especially hates being anyone’s hostage.
The (miraculously alive) FF turn up and free Susan who mows over 2 members of The Frightful Four in seconds to get to The Wizard. She muses over all the ways she could hurt him and how easy it would be to just kill him.
In the end, she decides to project her invisibility over his chest, showing us his vital organs and describes to him how she is going block his coronary arteries with her forcefield, causing The Wizard to faint in horror.
Afterwards, you’re never really sure whether she was bluffing or not…
Hope you enjoyed the folklore from our fantastic feminist till next time true believers!!