Fantastic Four In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four

The changes to the season were noticeable almost immediately. The new designs animated a hell of a lot better than the previous atrocities, the staging of the characters as they fought an army of Doombots and gasp! Actually did something cool with their powers! Even the cast were a much bigger improvement all round – Simon Templeman fits Dr Doom a lot more than Neil Ross, Quinton Flynn was about a million times better than Brian Austin Green as The Human Torch and Lori Alan and Beau Wiever really worked harder now that they something interesting to say.

The show genuinely felt like it was an apology to fans of the Fantastic Four the horror that they watched in the previous season. The episodes were based upon John Bryne’s very popular run on the book and the show was littered with cameos from various other Marvel superheroes and villains. It was really, really cool to see the likes The Scarlet Spider, The Avengers and Daredevil occasionally swing by.

The show wasn’t short on guest stars either! Someone was clearly after my own heart in the second season premiere as well as finally - here comes Daredevil!

Whilst he was clearly based upon the pre-Frank Miller character (and thus, nowhere near as interesting) there was something amazing about seeing The Man Without Fear animated, especially with this great a design. The likes of The Incredible Hulk, The Mighty Thor and The Inhumans would all have episodes that ranged from enjoyable to utterly awesome and to be honest, the only really bad episode is a rather rushed and nonsensical Prey Of The Black Panther, which tried to cram far too much into a single episode without doing any of it especially well. The true highlight of this pretty terrible episode comes in the casting – Keith David was pitch perfect for The Black Panther.

The season actually attempted to develop it’s characters this time around, and the majority of the season was focused on Johnny and his heartache over Crystal who had become trapped inside The Great Refuge because of the negative barrier created by Maximus The Mad. I think the season would’ve have a much better effect had Johnny’s romance not be as rushed as it was, and the fact a lot of it just seemed like Johnny wanted to get in Crystal’s pants. The fact he was hitting on her sister only an episode prior doesn’t really help his cause either. The best romance in the show is easily that of The Thing and Alicia, which was especially highlighted in the first season when Ben reverted to human.

The thing that impressed me most was that they managed to make a show inexcusably poor and really make something great out of it. Even characters whom had received terrible treatment in the first season where now given a complete new coat of paint and make them interesting again. None of the character say this more than Galactus.

Given how terrible a job Ron Friedman did with The Devourer Of Worlds in season one, it’s amazing to see how utterly outstanding they made in season two. They changed everything – except of course for his voice. Galactus was portrayed in both shows by the late, great Tony Jay in what is my personal favourite role of his. In season two, they added a booming sound effect to whenever he spoke, and it gave Galactus a great presence, plus, he had some fantastic dialogue this time around. Truly the show’s finest villain, and centre stage in the show’s best episode When Calls Galactus. In the end, the combined power of the FF, Thor and an astonishing cool cameo from The Ghost Rider made it one of the coolest Marvel episodes of all time.

Oddly enough, the season wraps up in the second to last episode as The Inhumans are finally freed from The Great Refuge and Johnny and Crystal are finally reunited. The final episode is actually quite odd to watch, as it features a story which is pretty much just a rip off of the first season finale, only it’s a hell of a lot more interesting as Doom is actually presented as a threat and The Fantastic Four appear utterly clueless to stop him. Whilst this shows version of Dr Doom isn’t perfect (the design is really, really odd) this episode is one of my favourites and Reed’s plan for defeating Doom was actually quite clever, especially after the nonsensical ending of the first season.

Much like Iron Man, it’s difficult to find stuff to complain about this show. They did the near impossible of making me want to watch a Fantastic Four show again, gave us some great storytelling, some cool fanboy moments (Daredevil, people, Daredevil!) and a pretty nice DVD set a decade later. Much like Iron Man, the only real complaint one can make about this season is that it actually ended – I’d have loved to see this show go for another season or two, even if it didn’t really need it.

This version of the FF also appeared in The Incredible Hulk, mainly focus to the rematch between The Hulk and The Thing from Nightmare in Green. Despite the queasy feeling I got whenever She Hulk hit on The Thing, the episode is especially a good one, as it develops Ben a little further as he has now become that depressed about his appearance that he was driven Alicia away and now realises how much he misses her.

The only other appearance of the Fantastic Four in the 90’s would be their portrayal in Secret Wars over in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. It was clear that Spider-Man looked up to them in the show before he met them, in the first season especially, there was numerous humorous quips about the quartet.

“Why can’t I be one of those galaxy hoping heroes? Why do I end up in a sewer? You don’t find The Fantastic Four in a sewer. Or The Avengers - Never, have I seen The Avengers in a sewer! Or The Defenders! Well, maybe The Hulk.”

“If that explosion was accidental then I’m the Human Torch!”

Spider-Man: Who the heck are you?
Scorpion: A real hero, you freak!
Spider-Man: This is a joke right?
*Gets acid hurled at him*
Spider-Man. This is not a joke. Look, if you wanna join The Fantastic Four you’re in the wrong place!

I hate to steal somebody else's line, but it's cloberin' time!

Which, of course, made it all the more ironic that when Spider-Man did transport him to Battleword, that they immediately began fighting with him. The Four themselves were given designs not remotely similar to those in their own show, and all but Johnny were recast. The Foursome’s costumes looked similar to the ones they were sporting in the comics at the time, specifically the Heroes Reborn outfits. Now, as much as I love this show – I found the group to be far more interesting over in their own show. I think the cast better, I like the designs better and the group appears more likable. However, credit to Spider-Man – it gave us an brilliant version of Dr Doom, much better than any that have ever appeared in a FF cartoon. Tom Kane is probably my favourite voice for Doom so far, and the show features one of my favourite Spider-Man lines.

Spider-Man: Hold on Doom. We’re not your pawns. Under that metal suit, you’re just a very disturbed human being. You can’t possibly control the God like abilities you’ve stolen. You might place us all in great danger if you don’t give that power up!

Dr. Doom: Do you take me for a fool? Who amongst you has ever wanted to give up your superpowers?

Spider-Man: I have. Because I’ve learned, time and time again, that with great power, there must also come great responsibility.

Great villain, not so much on the four themselves.

Believe it or not, the Four have not been animated themselves since. Although there’s been more than a few controversial homage’s towards the group…