Arguably the first hero of the silver age of comic books Reed Richards was introduced in Fantastic Four Issue number #1 back in 1961. Without the unprecedented success of this first issue there would quite simply be no Marvel Universe.
Richards was a child prodigy who would go on to become the biggest brain in the MU in physics, mathematics, engineering … you name it, he could take you to school.
Reed is the MU’s quintessential learned professor, to the point where every other advanced intellectual on the planet comes to him for advice no matter how brilliant they are.
He has been known to theorise, create and deploy a world saving invention before you can blink an eye.
Among his incredible discoveries are Unstable Molecules, The Negative Zone & The Microverse.
His passion / obsession for science can lead him to get lost in his work (Reed himself has self-identified as being on the autistic spectrum), often losing days and weeks of family time. However, his love for his family and all living beings is unwavering and it is in fact what drives him. To see anyone suffer unnecessarily can lead him into a deep depression.
Reed’s respect for the sanctity of life even goes so far as saving the life of Galactus while the whole universe screamed in condemnation.
Reed isn’t just a plain old scientist. He’s equal parts explorer, adventurer and hero. He’ll willingly throw himself at any threat that comes his way and his bravery knows no bounds.
Couple that with his unusually malleable body (let’s not get into the Mallrats discussion please) and his ability to think in, out and around the box and you see why Reed is the ultimate problem solver and a most versatile physical opponent.
Like I stated in my Invisible Woman article if she is the matriarch of the MU then Reed is without a doubt the patriarch.
I could go on and on but instead I’m going to let one of my favourite artists Alex Ross explain why Mr Fantastic deserves that very name…
“…And Reed Richards, who’s respected as this noble guy behind the team, who ignored anything that had to do with what his super power is… What he does with his mind as an inventor, as a family man, as a guy balancing all the things of the world that adults generally have to do, he’s the responsible one. I actually found that engaging when I was younger, and I find it more so as I get older. So in a way, he’s my favorite Marvel character.”
Without further ado lets get started…
In order to have a reasonable amount of stories on this list, I will only be considering single issues, arcs, annuals & one-shots set in the main 616 Marvel Universe. I won’t be using alternate realities or possible futures and also I have to have physically read the stories.
If there are others 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. All stories featured here are currently available on digital comics subscription service Marvel Unlimited.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #48-50 By Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
If there is any classic Marvel tale everyone needs to read its this, if only because it features the first appearance of two of the most popular Marvel characters of all time; Galactus & The Silver Surfer.
The behind-the-scenes story goes that Stan Lee wanted the FF to battle something other than the typical supervillains and aliens that they had faced so far.
In so doing he and the great Jack Kirby created a God and a Fallen Angel (with Christ-like parallels). This soon becomes the greatest episode of Man Vs Food you’ve ever seen…
After returning from their first meeting with The Inhumans, The FF find the sky ablaze. After dealing with the ensuing riot, they discover that Uatu The Watcher is behind the holographic flame and is trying to hide Earth from The Herald Of The Devourer Of Worlds… Also known as The Silver Surfer.
After a short altercation with The Surfer they are confronted by the sheer cosmic power of Galactus and find themselves woefully ill-prepared for this cataclysmic event.
The Watcher reveals that there is only one thing in the universe that would make this giant pause… The Ultimate Nullifier.
While Johnny journeys through time and space to retrieve it, The Surfer and the rest of the team try to stall Galactus for as long as they can.
When Johnny returns with the Nullifier, Reed looks into the eye of this space God and threatens to undo existence with push of a button. In the ultimate game of intergalactic chicken… Galactus blinked.
Personally I don’t think Reed was bluffing either.
Fantastic Four Special 2005 By Dwayne McDuffie & Casey Jones
In “My Dinner With Doom” an inspired one-shot written by the late-great Dwayne McDuffie, Reed is invited to break bread with his arch-rival Doctor Doom.
Feeling guilty for his link to Doom’s origins, including his scarring and ongoing rivalry, he accepts. The day Reed is invited over for dinner just happens to be The Latverian Reproachment Festivital. This Latverian holiday is in memory of Doom’s mother Cynthia whom Doom was trying contact in the afterlife on the day of his accident.
The always cautious Reed leaves the rest of the FF to guard an artefact that he suspects Doom to have his sights set on.
Lo and behold, as Doom escorts Reed around Castle Doom all the while playing a mental game of chess, Doombots attack the rest of the quartet.
Reed reveals that after the accident that scarred Doom, he recovered his notes and parts of the machine and deduced that Victor was trying rescue his mothers soul.
After defeating Von Doom in their mental chess game, in a touching moment he gives Doom exactly what he’s been after, and returns the one part of Doom’s machine that was irreplaceable…His mother’s locket.
This just goes to show that Reed, no matter what, will never become as cold or calculating as Doom because he has the one thing that Doom lacks… a heart.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #27 By Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
While tinkering with a mental projection device Reed finds his thoughts preoccupied with Susan Storm and resolves (with a little help from Ben and Johnny) to finally pop the question!
However, Namor The Sub-Mariner has the very same idea and while Reed is out shopping for a ring, he kidnaps Sue (and they say romance is dead).
Upon learning of Sue’s capture this usually calm and learned man spirals into an insecure jealous rage and goes off to face The Avenging Son all by himself. Justifiably worried Ben and Johnny aren’t far behind him with an assist from Doctor Strange.
In the ensuing battle Mr. Fantastic proves himself worthy of the name as he matches Namor (one of the strongest characters in the MU) blow for blow and manages to outwit him every step of the way.
Namor even shows fear upon realising that he has profoundly underestimated his opponent. In the end, the battle is ended by Sue declaring her love for Reed.
Still suffering from his bout of insecurity Reed believes she only said this to spare The Prince Of The Deep. This issue brings home how capable Reed is solo and shows his relatively unseen dark side, all in the classic Marvel Manner!
Fantastic Four Vol. 2 #570-572 By Jonathan Hickman & Dale Eaglesham
After seeing disturbing similarities between himself and mad genius The Wizard, Reed accepts an invite from a multiversal group known as The Council Of Reeds (yup, Rick and Morty ripped them off), a collective of Reed Richards’ from various parallel Earths.
He joins them on the proviso that they will help him “Solve Everything”… No small feat even for a legion of super geniuses.
In this story we see Reed and The Council save a dying star, feed a starving planet and lobotomise multiple Dr. Dooms among other incredible feats. His successes here are diametrically opposed to his failing family life (wow Rick Sanchez is clearly influenced by a lot more than Doc Brown).
During a Celestial attack, Reed realises that if he is to fully commit to The Council he will lose everything and everyone else in his life… but is he willing to make that sacrifice for countless worlds?
Jonathan Hickman nails every facet of Mr. Fantastic’s character in these issues, showcasing his intelligence, drive, fascination, and morality while also creating some astounding visuals and laying the groundwork for the rest of his incredible run on The First Family.
If you don’t know anything about Reed Richards, this would be a great place to start.
Fantastic Four Vol. 1 #196-200 By Marv Wolfman & Keith Pollard
A mysterious benefactor restores Reed’s lost super powers while taking the rest of the four captive.
Reed soon deduces that there is only one man with the intelligence to do both… Victor Von Doom.
In response to The UN’s call for Doom to step down as monarch of Latveria because of his crimes against the Latverian people, Doom decides to abdicate the throne to his son.
Doom’s plan is to use him as a puppet dictator while also attempting to transfer the abilities of his greatest enemies into his son prior to his coronation.
Teaming up with Zorba, the true heir to the throne, Reed breaks into Castle Doom discovering that Doom’s son is actually a clone!
This leads to possibly the greatest ever physical confrontation between the two.
This rivalry is one of the great core concepts of what makes this book The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine and in these issues we are treated to Reed’s physical prowess and his more gung-ho attitude which is often underplayed in more modern stories.
I feel that between the cancellation of the FF comic and poor performance of the recent film, Reed has been judged as boring or too straight laced not unlike other more wholesome leaders like Superman or Cyclops.
I hope this list has shown how truly fantastic Reed can be. I can also wholeheartedly recommend 2015’s “Secret Wars” which brings closure to Reed and Victor’s story.
Until next time, true believers!!