It’s that time again! It’s Clobbering Time! No wait, It’s “Versus” time! And this week, we have a great family feud: The Fantastic Four Vs The Incredibles! Some would say they are the same! But there are many differences between them. So read on and find out about each family, and make your own decision on which is the best family super-powered team! And if you can’t decide, download our podcast episode 80, and listen to how we debate which is the better family!
The Fantastic Four is a fictional superhero team appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The group debuted in The Fantastic Four #1 (cover dated Nov. 1961), which helped to usher in a new level of realism in the medium. The Fantastic Four was the first superhero team created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, who developed a collaborative approach to creating comics with this title that they would use from then on.
The four individuals traditionally associated with the Fantastic Four, who gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space, are Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), a scientific genius and the leader of the group, who can stretch his body into incredible lengths and shapes; the Invisible Woman (Susan “Sue” Storm), who eventually married Reed, who can render herself invisible and later project powerful force fields; the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Sue’s younger brother, who can generate flames, surround himself with them and fly; and the monstrous Thing (Ben Grimm), their grumpy but benevolent friend, a former college football star and Reed’s college roommate as well as a good pilot, who possesses superhuman strength and endurance due to the nature of his stone-like flesh.
As the first superhero team title produced by Marvel Comics, it formed a cornerstone of the company’s 1960s rise from a small division of a publishing company to a pop culture conglomerate. The title would go on to showcase the talents of comics creators such as Roy Thomas, John Buscema, George Pérez, John Byrne, Steve Englehart, Walt Simonson, and Tom DeFalco, and is one of several Marvel titles originating in the Silver Age of Comic Books that is still in publication in the 2010s.
Ever since their original 1961 introduction, the Fantastic Four have been portrayed as a somewhat dysfunctional, yet loving, family. Breaking convention with other comic book archetypes of the time, they would squabble and hold grudges both deep and petty, and eschewed anonymity or secret identities in favor of celebrity status. The team is also well known for its recurring encounters with characters such as the villainous monarch Doctor Doom, the planet-devouring Galactus, the sea-dwelling prince Namor, the spacefaring Silver Surfer, and the shape-changing alien Skrulls.
The Fantastic Four have been adapted into other media, including four animated series and four live-action films.
The Fantastic Four is formed when during an outer space test flight in an experimental rocket ship, the four protagonists are bombarded by a storm of cosmic rays.
In the first issue the crew talks about Reed Richards’ rocketship flying to the stars. In Lee’s original synopsis of the comic the original plan is flying to Mars but Stan Lee writes that due to “the rate the Communists are progressing in space, maybe we better make this a flight to the STARS, instead of just to Mars, because by the time this mag goes on sale, the Russians may have already MADE a flight to Mars!”
Upon crash landing back on Earth, the four astronauts find themselves transformed with bizarre new abilities. The four then decide to use their powers for good as superheroes. In a significant departure from preceding superhero conventions, the Fantastic Four make no effort to maintain secret identities or wear super-hero costumes (until issue 3), instead maintaining a high public profile and enjoying celebrity status for scientific and heroic contributions to society. At the same time they are often prone to arguing and even fighting with one another. Despite their bickering, the Fantastic Four consistently prove themselves to be “a cohesive and formidable team in times of crisis.”
While there have been a number of lineup changes to the group, the four characters who debuted in Fantastic Four #1 remain the core and most frequent lineup.
• Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), a scientific genius, can stretch, twist and re-shape his body to inhuman proportions. Mr. Fantastic serves as the father figure of the group, and is “appropriately pragmatic, authoritative, and dull”. Richards blames himself for the failed space mission, particularly because of how the event transformed pilot Ben Grimm. Stan Lee said the stretch powers were inspired by DC’s Plastic Man, which had no equivalent in Marvel.
• Invisible Girl/Invisible Woman (Susan Storm), Reed Richards’ girlfriend (and eventual wife) has the ability to bend and manipulate light to render herself and others invisible. Stan Lee did not want Sue to have superstrength, “to be Wonder Woman and punch people”, so eventually he came to invisibility, inspired by works such as The Invisible Man. She later develops the ability to generate force fields, which she uses for a variety of defensive and offensive effects.
• The Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Sue Storm’s younger brother, possesses the ability to control fire, allowing him to project fire from his body, as well as the power to fly. This character was loosely based on a Human Torch character published by Marvel’s predecessor Timely Comics in the 1940s, an android that could ignite itself. Lee said that when he conceptualized the character, “I thought it was a shame that we didn’t have The Human Torch anymore, and this was a good chance to bring him back”. Unlike the teen sidekicks that preceded him, the Human Torch in the early stories was “a typical adolescent — brash, rebellious, and affectionately obnoxious.” Johnny Storm was killed in the 2011 storyline “Three”, before being brought back and rejoining the reformed Fantastic Four.
• The Thing (Ben Grimm), Reed Richards’ college roommate and best friend, has been transformed into a monstrous, craggy humanoid with orange, rock-like skin and super-strength. The Thing is often filled with anger, self-loathing and self-pity over his new existence. He serves as “an uncle figure, a long-term friend of the family with a gruff Brooklyn manner, short temper, and caustic sense of humor”. In the original synopsis Lee gave to Kirby, The Thing was intended as “the heavy”, but over the years, the character has become “the most lovable group member: honest, direct and free of pretension”. Lee said his original pitch to Kirby stated that The Thing was “someone who turned into a monster”, and is bitter because unlike the other three he cannot change back to a normal appearance.
The Fantastic Four has had several different headquarters, most notably the Baxter Building, located at 42nd Street and Madison Avenue in New York City. The Baxter Building was replaced by Four Freedoms Plaza at the same location after its destruction at the hands of Kristoff Vernard, adopted son of the team’s seminal foe Doctor Doom. (Prior to the completion of Four Freedoms Plaza, the team took up temporary residence at Avengers Mansion. Pier 4, a waterfront warehouse, served as a temporary headquarters after Four Freedoms Plaza was destroyed by the ostensible superhero team the Thunderbolts shortly after the revelation that they were actually the supervillain team the Masters of Evil in disguise. Pier 4 was eventually destroyed during a battle with the longtime Fantastic Four supervillain Diablo, after which the team received a new Baxter Building, courtesy of one of team leader Reed Richards’ former professors, Noah Baxter. This second Baxter Building was constructed in Earth’s orbit and teleported into the vacant lot formerly occupied by the original.
The Incredibles is a 2004 American computer-animated comedy superhero film written and directed by Brad Bird and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was the sixth film produced by Pixar Animation Studios. The film’s title is the name of a family of superheroes who are forced to hide their powers and live a quiet suburban life. Mr. Incredible’s desire to help people draws the entire family into a battle with a former fan of his turned enemy and his killer robot.
Bird, who was Pixar’s first outside director, developed the film as an extension of 1960s comic books and spy films from his boyhood and personal family life. He pitched the film to Pixar after the box office disappointment of his first feature, The Iron Giant (1999), and carried over much of its staff to develop The Incredibles. The animation team was tasked with animating an all-human cast, which required creating new technology to animate detailed human anatomy, clothing and realistic skin and hair. Michael Giacchino composed the film’s orchestral score.
The film premiered on October 27, 2004, at the BFI London Film Festival and had its general release in the United States on November 5, 2004. The film performed well at the box office, grossing $631 million worldwide during its original theatrical run. The Incredibles was met with high critical acclaim, garnering high marks from professional critics, and provoking commentary on its themes. The film received the 2004 Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, along with two Academy Awards. It became the first entirely animated film to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. As of May 2015, a sequel is officially in development.
Mr. Incredible – Robert “Bob” Parr (a.k.a. Mr. Incredible) (voiced by Craig T. Nelson), possesses tremendous strength and durability. He also has enhanced senses. He is married to Helen Parr, the superheroine known as Elastigirl, and they have three children together: Violet, Dash, and Jack-Jack. Bob found forced retirement difficult, and often had to cheat his way out of the house on Wednesdays so that he could continue his superheroics. He was shocked to discover that his “Number 1 fan”, Buddy Pine, had reformed himself as the villain Syndrome after Mr. Incredible had squelched Pine’s wish to be his ward in an attempt to protect him, and it was not until Syndrome threatened the family’s lives that Bob realized that his family was his “greatest adventure”. His red superhero suit, designed by Edna Mode, appears to have the same level of durability as Mr. Incredible himself. In his prime, Mr. Incredible drove a gadget-laden car, the Incredibile, not unlike the ones driven by James Bond or Batman. The silhouette of a newer version of the Incredimobile for the entire family is seen in the end credits, and makes a full appearance in the comic series. His face was physically modeled after director Brad Bird. Mr. Incredible bears resemblance to Marvel Comics characters Hulk and Thing, both with superhuman strength. Mr. Incredible was ranked number 5 in IGN’s list of the Top 10 Pixar Characters. Readers of Empire magazine also voted Mr. Incredible number 8 in that magazine’s list of The Top 20 Pixar Characters.
Elastigirl – Helen Parr (a.k.a. Elastigirl or Mrs. Incredible) (voiced by Holly Hunter) is Mr. Incredible’s wife. Helen can stretch any part of her body up to 100’ (34 m) and can be 1 mm thin. She can also reshape her body in a variety of ways. In the movie she becomes a parachute and a rubber boat, and has used her arms for swings and a slingshot. In her early years she seemed to be a feminist and had no desire to “settle down”. Since her marriage to Bob, Helen has become a dedicated spouse and mother, although she is frustrated with her husband’s continuing dreams of glory. Helen is also an experienced jet pilot, from having a close friend who flew her around the world when she was a Super. Her sharp wit and superb espionage skills, as well as her experience as a superhero, make her an excellent tactician and leader. Her red superheroine suit, designed by Edna Mode, can stretch as far as she can and still retain its shape. It is virtually indestructible yet it breathes like Egyptian cotton. Elastigirl is a nod to Mister Fantastic, from the Marvel Comics team the Fantastic Four, who can also shape shift like Elastigirl. Gina Bennett, interviewed by Maureen Dowd as part of a group of current and former CIA professionals, said “the Band of Sisters had a favorite crime fighter …. Just think of us as a work force of Elastigirls.
Violet – Violet Parr (voiced by Sarah Vowell) is a junior high school teenager stuck at the crossroads between girl and woman. Violet desperately wants to be like everyone else, to blend in with normal people, and not to stand out. Appropriately, her superpowers allow her to turn instantly invisible, and to generate spherical force fields to protect herself and also to levitate extremely heavy objects; the interiors of the force fields have an anti-gravitational effect, allowing Violet to levitate inside, but she can be stunned temporarily if the field is struck by a sufficiently large force. Her powers are reminiscent of the powers of The Invisible Woman of The Fantastic Four. During the movie, she and Dash combine their powers to create the IncrediBall (named in the video game), a tactic in which Violet generates a force field around herself, and Dash uses his speed power to use the ball like a cannonball or battering ram. Her struggle with her shyness and lack of confidence constitutes a major side story in the movie; she is spurred on by Helen’s encouragement that she has more power than she realizes and that she just has to believe it. In the end, Violet sheds her shyness and ends up at the confident side when her crush Tony Rydinger asks her for a date. Unlike her normal clothes, her red superheroine suit, designed by Edna Mode, also turns invisible when Violet does.
Dash – Dashiell “Dash” Robert Parr (voiced by Spencer Fox) is a speedster, similar to The Flash or Quicksilver. While he is only as strong as the average 10-year-old boy, the film’s official website lists “enhanced durability” amongst Dash’s powers, which is implied in the film by the amount of incidental high-speed collisions and crashes Dash endures without apparent injury. Dash also discovers throughout the course of the movie that his speed allows him to be able to run over water without submerging.
Dash would like to go out for sports, but his mother Helen will not allow it because she thinks that he would show off his superspeed and blow the family’s civilian cover. To vent his frustration, Dash uses his power to play pranks on his teacher, Bernie Kropp, which also threatens their cover. Dash’s reckless and impulsive nature and one-track mind have put him at odds with Violet’s gloomier and more sarcastic nature more often than their parents would like, but when Dash is in battle, he cares deeply about his family; he was willing to attack a fully grown man who was about to kill his sister with an assault rifle.
His red superhero suit, designed by Edna Mode, is resistant to air friction, wear and heat when Dash is running at super speed.
Jack-Jack Parr (voiced by Eli Fucile and Maeve Andrews) is the Parrs’ infant son, the youngest of the Parr children. Initially believed to be the only family member without any powers, he manifests a multitude of superhuman abilities at the end of the film, most of which are types of shapeshifting. More powers are seen in the short film Jack-Jack Attack on the Incredibles DVD, making his powers the most versatile of the family, and according to a collectible poster included with some Incredibles toys, still more powers are undisclosed. Although Edna Mode did not know what powers Jack-Jack might develop, she covered various possibilities by making him a fireproof and bulletproof blanket sleeper-like jumpsuit. Creator Brad Bird explains on the DVD that Jack-Jack’s varied abilities are a metaphor for how young children have infinite possibilities ahead of them in life. In issue #0 of the comic series, it is mentioned that Jack-Jack’s full name is John Jackson Parr. Jack-Jack was ranked number 15 in Empire magazine’s list of the Top 20 Pixar Characters.
And with all that said, who do you think is the best super powered family? If you had to choose, which do you think has the advantage over the other – The Fantastic Four, or The Incredibles? Still can’t decide – listen to what we have to say about it on episode #80 of the Podcast Unlimted podcast! Don’t forget to vote below!