Revisiting and updating a superhero origin can be tricky. Some are iconic and timeless. They can shift and flow with the passage of time. Like Superman or even Batman.

Others get a bit sticky with fixed events. Magneto and Captain America are inextricably enmeshed with World War II. A shifting timeline starts to mess with those events as they get further and further into the past. In some cases, like heroes tied to the Vietnam War, they’ve started inserting wholly fictional skirmishes. To, um, mixed results.

Yet other superhero origins may not be tied to a specific event, but still capture the zeitgeist of a certain period. Like the Fantastic Four and the ’60s space race.

The radiation seems to have affected each of them in wholly unique ways. Quite fascinating, actually.”

Joe Casey, Chris Weston, Gary Erskine, Chris Chuckry, June Chung, and Comicraft took a stab at expanding upon the foursome’s origin in 2006’s Fantastic Four: First Family. And it’s kind of a weird one. Because their approach does two things simultaneously, and I’m not sure if the implications that follow on were intended. This take on their origin both shifts it forward in time and it gives it a bit of realistic flair.

The first point might be a little subtle. I’m sure that military buffs and historians would be able to immediately spot the provenance of the various craft and insignia, but those of us not in the know the specificity of the time period is a little more nebulous. It’s probably the ’90s, given a Seinfeld reference in Joe Casey’s dialogue, though the clothing, cars, and architecture suggest anything from the ’60s onward. It’s interesting how Chris Weston’s designs in a way do evoke an indeterminate time. Shifting timelines can make things weird.

The second point gives a knock on effect from the detail and sense of realism in Weston’s art as it mixes with the more surreal elements of Marvel science fiction. It effectively makes it a horror. It embraces how terrifying the changes were to the Fantastic Four. Especially through the reaction of Ben’s girlfriend to his new rocky appearance. And the new telepathic villain introduced manipulating cosmic rays. Weston, Erskine, Chuckry, and Chung make this look damn good while they’re at it.

…I told you it was time for ultimate evolution.”

I think Fantastic Four: First Family from Casey, Weston, Erskine, Chuckry, Chung, and Comicraft works best as an artifact out of time. On its own. Separate from specifically being part of continuity. Especially as it’s now more than fifteen years removed from when it was timely. That being another tricky part of both a shifting timeline and revisiting an origin story.

But, I do think it works well as an examination of the horror that would ensue from radical genetic reorganization. Even as it still adheres to the family aspect of the four and incorporates the monster from Fantastic Four #1.

Fantastic Four - First Family

CLASSIC COMIC COMPENDIUM: Fantastic Four – First Family

Fantastic Four – First Family
Writer: Joe Casey
Penciller: Chris Weston
Inker: Gary Erskine
Colourist: Chris Chuckry with June Chung (Part 9 & 10)
Letterer: Comicraft
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 8 – August 9 2006 (original issues)

Read past entries in the Classic Comic Compendium!