What a fantastic ride that was

Almost every month on the fourth day, I find myself drawing a circle around the 4 as I start my journal entry. It’s an homage of sorts to the lasting impact that the adventures of Reed Richards, Susan Storm Richards, Johnny Storm and Benjamin J. Grimm have had on my psyche. 

The Fantastic Four were Marvel Comics’ “first family,” and at the time the stories lived up to the boast “The World’s Greatest Comics Magazine” that was audaciously plastered across the top of every cover. They lived, loved, fought off menaces and argued with each other as the family they were, and the adventures grew more entertaining as they became galactic in scope.

Maybe it’s fitting that the Marvel movie empire has never been able to make quite as satisfying a film about the F.F. as it has with Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, the Avengers, and even the Guardians of the Galaxy, which in my era was not a top-of-the-line product by most measures.

Perhaps the Fantastic Four only really succeeds in its original medium and can’t be translated onto the big screen — although fans of The Incredibles may disagree, much as Star Trek fans recognize the best movie in that franchise may very well be Galaxy Quest.

Fantastic Four #1 marked its 60th anniversary late last year, and it will soon be 60 years since I first encountered the team in the summer of 1963. At the outset of our annual Vermont vacation, I had found Spider-Man #4, with its cryptic reference to someone named Mister Fantastic and the Fantastic Four. A few days later at a store in St. Albans, I found not just a Fantastic Four comic book but Fantastic Four Annual #1, with a 37-page epic and a reprint of the group’s origin story, and my father graciously invested the 25 cents required to bring it home to the cabin.

The 37 cents spent on those two comic books launched my life as a Marvel Maniac. All these years later, my ardor for the stories produced in those early years — when Marvel was still the upstart newcomer rather than the top dog — has not cooled.

And every month on the morning of the 4th, I remember those stories with a nostalgic smile. In many ways I am who I am because of them.

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