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A New Fantastic Voyage, Part 2

The House of Ideas sells itself cheap when the Fantastic Four offers up a 9-cent adventure

By Arnold T. Blumberg     August 21, 2002

Your first look at FANTASTIC FOUR #60
© 2002 Marvel Comics
Last time, writer Mark Waid and artist Mike Wieringo began to give us an idea of where the Fantastic Four will be headed in the next year with the new creative team at the helm. And now, the dramatic conclusion!

While Waid will be guiding the new adventures of the venerable team, Wieringo has some input in shaping the stories as well.

"I do provide a full script just because I feel that's how I do my best work," says Waid. "But Mike and I talk often, and he knows full well he can take whatever liberties necessary with that script; I trust him implicitly. He's arguably the best storyteller I've ever worked with, besides just being a damn fine artist, so I consider myself very fortunate to be reunited with him - in fact, that he was already attached to the FF relaunch was a big selling point to getting me on board."

"It is very daunting," adds Wieringo, again echoing Waid's earlier sentiments about taking on the title. "THE FANTASTIC FOUR is one of the titles in the Marvel pantheon that I never thought I would get my hands on. It's the kind of book that I never even considered working on. When I fantasized about working on 'dream books,' the FF wasn't the first one that sprang to mind. Actually, Spider-Man wasn't either. I've never really aspired to working on so-called 'top tier' books, so I've been nothing but surprised and honored to work on these icons. Fortunately, I've worked with really good writers on both titles and that's made it easier. The scripts have been so good that I've had little problem connecting with the characters. But both of them have a certain amount of weight to them with all the continuity and histories behind them, so they both have the same daunting factor to them."

The Torch flies high on the cover of FANTASTIC FOUR #51 (480).

The new team will be introduced via the aforementioned "9 cent issue," an introductory tale that will introduce the group to readers who may know nothing about them, and serve as that fabled "jumping-on" point for the FF fans of the future.

"Exactly, precisely, that was absolutely the goal," says Waid. "Throughout, in every moment behind the keyboard, I thought of it structurally as a TV pilot episode - everything you need to know is there and there's a finale. To try to drag you back to the next issue using a cliffhanger is a cheap stunt; making you so invested in the characters that you want to come back next month - that's the real accomplishment and a better long-term payoff."

As part of the effort to make the FF relevant to a 21st century audience, Waid intends to forge new territory with the team...although a familiar armor-clad foe will naturally turn up at some point.

"'New' is very much the order of the day," says Waid. "We'll see Dr. Doom in the second half of the year, but beyond that, we're striving for new, new, new."

Waid also intends to rehabilitate at least two of the core characters in the hopes of making them more compelling to that hoped-for new crop of readers.

"I love Reed, but there's not a single reader under forty who thinks he's the least bit cool or interesting," says Waid. "So he's my pet project."

And what of Sue Storm Richards, the oft-maligned wife of team leader Reed Richards (and occasional leader herself), who has at times been perceived as either an underpowered "fourth wheel" or a twisted male version of a dark feminist stereotype in her Malice alter ego?


"I don't know, frankly," says Waid. "All I know is that I have what I think is a good handle on her. It's tough to describe here, save to say that she's still a 'mom figure' when she needs to be, but when she doesn't need to be...well, I think you'll be seeing her at those times in a much more playful and vital light."

While Waid intends to tweak only the most minor aspects of the FF's personalities, Wieringo is also shying away from making too many visual alterations.

"The looks of the characters are classic," says Wieringo. "[It's] like Spider-Man and Superman - you don't mess with perfection. The most I've done is give a modern sensibility to Sue and Johnny's hairstyles. That's as far as I'm willing to take it...and probably as far as Marvel would be willing to let me take it."

Ultimately, Waid intends to emphasize the one constant in all the years of cosmic adventuring - the Fantastic Four's sense of family.

"Rather than hide from the 'old-fashioned' notion that they're a family, I'm running with it instead and emphasizing it at every turn," adds Waid. "Wait until you see what Sue does to cure Johnny of his terminal immaturity..."


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