Artwork for the cover of Fantastic Four vol. 3, 52 (Apr, 2002). Art by Mike Wieringo.
|First appearance||Fantastic Four Vol. 1, #1 (Nov. 1961)|
|Created by||Stan Lee and Jack Kirby|
|Alter ego||Reed Richards|
|Team affiliations||Fantastic Four
|Notable aliases||Invincible Man, Reed Benjamin|
Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero and a member of the Fantastic Four. Created by writer Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, he first appeared in Fantastic Four #1 (November 1961).
Richards possesses a mastery of mechanical, aerospace and electrical engineering, chemistry, all levels of physics, and human and alien biology. According to BusinessWeek, Mr. Fantastic is listed as one of the top ten most intelligent fictional characters in American comics. He is the inventor of the spacecraft which was bombarded by cosmic radiation on its maiden voyage, granting the Fantastic Four their powers. Richards gained the ability to stretch his body into any shape he desires.
Richards acts as the leader of the Fantastic Four, although his methodical manner sometimes makes him seem cold and distant to his teammates, particularly his best friend the Thing, who somewhat blames Richards for his transformation into a large, rocky creature. Whenever he is confronted with a scientific challenge, his attention can be so focused that he can neglect even his own family which has caused marital problems between him and Sue and has put his family in danger on rare occasions. He is, however, the husband of Susan Storm, father of son Franklin Richards and daughter Valeria Richards, and mentor of his brother-in-law, the Human Torch.
Born in Central City, California, Reed is the son of Evelyn and Nathaniel Richards. Nathaniel was a scientific genius, and Reed inherited a similar level of intellect and interests. A child prodigy with special aptitude in mathematics, physics, and mechanics, Reed Richards had enrolled in college by the time he was 14, attending such prestigious universities as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University, and the fictional State University. By the tender age of 20, he had several degrees in the sciences under his belt.
It was at State University (not to be confused with Empire State University) that he met Benjamin J. Grimm. Reed had already begun designing a starship capable of traveling in hyperspace. Sharing his plans with his new roommate, Grimm jokingly volunteered to pilot the craft.
When 19-year old Reed continued his education by attending Columbia University in Manhattan, he rented a room in a boarding house owned by the aunt of a young girl named Susan Storm. To his embarrassment, the girl, who was 13, instantly fell in love with him. Even though Reed had to move on, she continued to carry a torch for Richards. Also while at Columbia, he met a brilliant fellow student, Victor Von Doom. In Richards, Doom met the first person who could match him intellectually; regarding Richards as his ultimate rival, Doom became increasingly jealous of Richards. Determined to prove he was better, Doom conducted reckless experiments which eventually scarred his face and would lead him to become Doctor Doom.
Moving on to Harvard, Reed earned Ph.D.s in both physics and electrical engineering while working as a military scientist, all this by the age of 22. He also worked in communications for the Army. Three years later, in his mid-20s, Reed used his inheritance, along with government funding, to finance his research. Determined to go to Mars and beyond, Richards based the fateful project in Central City. Susan Storm, now a young adult, moved into the area, and within a short time, found herself engaged to Reed. Due to her family's lucrative savings and involvement in charitable foundations, she provided more funding when his money ran out. Likewise, Reed's old college roommate, Ben Grimm, now a successful test pilot and astronaut, was indeed slated to pilot the craft.
All seemed well; however, when the government threatened to cut funding and cancel the project, Reed, Ben, Sue, and Sue's younger brother Johnny, agreed to sneak aboard the starship and take it up immediately. They knew they had not completed all the testing that had been planned, but Reed was confident they would be safe. Ben was initially skeptical about the unknown affects of radiation, while Reed theorized that their ship's shielding would be adequate to protect them.
It was on Reed's initiative that the fateful mission which had Susan Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm accompanying him into space took place. When their ship passed through the Van Allen belt they found their cockpit bombarded with nearly lethal doses of cosmic radiation. Reed had neglected to account for the abnormal radiation levels in the belt's atmosphere. The cosmic rays wreaked havoc on the starship's insufficient shielding and they were forced to return to Earth immediately. When they crash-landed they found that their bodies were changed dramatically. Reed's body was elastic and he could reshape any portion of his body at will. At Mister Fantastic's suggestion, they decided to use their new abilities to serve mankind as the Fantastic Four. Mr. Fantastic was chosen to lead the group. He later told his daughter, by way of a bedtime story, that the reason he suggested they become adventurers and gave them such outlandish costumes and names as "Mister Fantastic" and "The Thing" was that he knew they would likely be hated and feared for their powers without such an over-the-top public image.
This history has been changed over the years in order to keep it current. In the original comics, Richards was a veteran of World War II who had served behind enemy lines in occupied France, and the goal of his space mission was a manned space flight to the moon before the Communists were able to. This was later changed to getting there before the Chinese Communists and to explore the instellar areas of the red planet and beyond. Also, in the earlier stories, Reed was said to have met Susan when he was 23 and she was 12, but this has been retconned to a six year age difference.
The early career of the Fantastic Four led Mister Fantastic to a number of discoveries, and had their first encounters with many unusual characters. In the team's first appearance, they first battled the Mole Man. They then first battled the Skrulls. Soon after that, the team first encountered the Sub-Mariner. They then first battled Doctor Doom, and Reed and the team time traveled for the first time. They later first journeyed to a subatomic world. Soon after that, they first encountered Rama-Tut. They then battled the Molecule Man.
As the team leader, Mr. Fantastic created numerous exotic devices and vehicles for the team to use such as clothing made of 'unstable molecules' so that it can be used with their powers safely. Furthermore, he often leads the team into daring expeditions such as into the Negative Zone in addition to opposing evil. Also, he has felt personally responsible for Ben Grimm's grotesque change and has labored off and on to reverse it permanently.
Under his guidance, the team went on to become Earth's most celebrated band of heroes. Together, they would save the world countless times. Ever driven by his quest for knowledge, Reed is believed by most to be the Earth's foremost intelligence. There is little he cannot create, fix, or understand given time. The patents and royalties on his inventions alone have funded the group over the years.
However, there are drawbacks to his association with the team. Chief among them is the team's violent encounters with Doctor Doom, who believes that Reed was responsible for the accident that scarred him. Doom has never forgiven Reed and has sworn revenge. Doom has even gone as far as transforming Reed into a monstrous freak, attacking Reed's children and attempting to seduce Sue.
After many adventures as the Fantastic Four, Reed married Sue. Not long after that, the team encountered the Inhumans for the first time. They next encountered Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Reed then opened a portal to the Negative Zone for the first time. Soon, the team first battled the Psycho-Man. Before long Reed and Sue had a baby, young Franklin Richards; the team battled Annihilus right before Franklin's birth. Franklin was a mutant with incredible powers, but, due to the cosmic ray alteration to his parents' DNA, they manifested while he was still very young (in the Marvel world, most mutants like the X-Men get their powers while teenagers). Franklin appears to have power that can rival a member of the Celestials; the power of a living god in the body of a small child. The couple briefly separated, and Reed further alienated Sue by shutting down Franklin's mind in order to prevent his power from causing global catastrophe; Sue Storm initiated divorce proceedings but the couple were reconciled soon after.
Reed also saved Galactus's life during the course of his adventures. He then bought the Baxter Building. Later, he was tried by the Shi'ar for saving Galactus's life. Reed's battle with Gormuu prior to getting his powers was recounted. Just after that, Reed was reunited with his father in an alternate timeline. Some time later, Reed and Sue retired from the Fantastic Four, and then joined the Avengers. Eventually, they did rejoin the Fantastic Four.
In the course of fighting an alien called Hunger, Doctor Doom was seriously injured. The Fantastic Four were also part of the battle against Hunger and Doom asked for his old enemy to take his hand. At that point they both disappeared in a flash, leaving nothing but ashes. It would appear as if the two sworn enemies had fittingly died in each others' hands.
However, unknown to anyone else at the time, Reed and Doom had actually been thrown back into the time of barbarians and onto an alien world by a being called Hyperstorm, Reed's grandchild from an alternate future, the child of Franklin Richards and Rachel Summers, daughter of Scott Summers and Jean Grey. They were so far into the past, and with no technology, that even their brilliant minds couldn't find a way back home. Doom was captured and held prisoner by Hyperstorm. Reed wandered aimlessly for about a year.
Meanwhile the rest of the FF recruited Scott Lang as scientific advisor. They even confronted an insane alternative version of Reed called the Dark Raider who was traveling from reality to reality, destroying all the various versions of himself.
A while later, the remaining members of the FF along with the Sub-Mariner, Lyja and Kristoff Vernard found themselves trapped in the same era as their Reed and Doom. They found Reed but faced a new problem: during his time alone, Reed had resigned himself to the reality that it was impossible for his old friends to stage a rescue and attacked them but soon realized that these truly were his friends. After returning to their own time period, he sought out Galactus as he was the only being in the Universe who could defeat Hyperstorm. Upon Hyperstorm's defeat at the hands of Galactus, the FF returned to the present day where they continued their lives, not only as a team, but as a family.
Shortly after their return, the FF were confronted by a being called Onslaught. Onslaught took control of an army of Sentinels and invaded New York City, hunting down every mutant being he could find. Onslaught wished to add the abilities of the godlike Franklin Richards to his own. Only through the apparent sacrifice of the Fantastic Four's own lives and that of many of the heroes in the Marvel universe was Onslaught finally vanquished. The heroes would have died then and there if not for Franklin, who created an alternate reality for them to reside in. Completely oblivious to what had taken place, Reed and his compatriots relived most of their lives. In their absence the Fantastic Four's headquarters, Four Freedoms Plaza, was annihilated by a super villain group called the Masters of Evil, posing as heroes, The Thunderbolts. One year later, Franklin returned with his family along with the other heroes from the parallel reality. Reed was overjoyed to see his son again, but he and the rest of the FF found themselves without a home, moving into Reed's storage warehouse on Pier 4, overlooking the East River. Making this their home, the Fantastic Four continued with their lives, eventually managing to move back into the Baxter Building.
In Marvel's Civil War miniseries and crossover event, Reed Richards is one of the leading figures, along with Iron Man, on the side which is in favor of the Superhuman Registration Act. He speculates that this will lead to conflict with his wife, which came true in issue #4 of the miniseries when a clone of Thor, created by him and Tony Stark, went out of control and killed Goliath and nearly killed all the rest of the Secret Avengers until Sue Storm stepped in and saved them. Soon after, Sue left Reed, along with Johnny, to join the Secret Avengers in hopes that it would drive Reed to end the conflict quickly.
In Amazing Spider-Man #535, which takes place shortly before the events of Civil War #5, Peter Parker demands to see the conditions inside the detention facility designed by Reed to hold unregistered superhumans. After being escorted to and from the prison by Iron Man, Parker returns with more doubts than ever about whether he is on the right side and asks Reed why he supports the Superhuman Registration Act, a question Reed answers by telling the story of his paternal uncle, Ted. A professional writer, Reed remembers his uncle as "funny", "colorful" and "accepting." As a boy, Reed loved spending time with Ted. Unfortunately, Ted was also "an eccentric" and "stubborn." Because he had a career in the arts and because he stood out, Ted was called before HUAC, imprisoned on contempt of Congress charges for six months, and was unable to find work after he'd served his sentence. He was even shunned by Reed's father. Ted lost everything, which Reed says finally "killed him" without going into greater detail. Richards opines that his uncle was wrong to take such a stand, to pick a fight he couldn't win, and to fail to respect the law.
However Fantastic Four #542 reveals that the real reason for supporting the registration act is due to his development of a working version of Isaac Asimov's fictional psychohistory concept. His application of this science indicates to him that billions will die in escalating conflicts without the presence of the act. In the final battle of the war, he is shot by Taskmaster, saving Sue Storm's life. With Reed on the brink of death, a furious Susan strikes Taskmaster with a telekinetic field. Reed survives, however, and Sue returns to him in the aftermath of the battle, having been granted amnesty. Seeking to repair the damage done to their marriage as a result of the war, Sue and Reed take time off from the Fantastic Four, but ask Storm and the Black Panther to take their places in the meantime.
Within the midst of Civil War, Reed Richards learned from a brief conversation with Mastermind Excello that the Hulk isn't on the planet where the Illuminati had intended to exile him. After a conversation over the good the Hulk has done for humanity, Reed tells Iron Man of what happened to the Hulk and also states that the Hulk has friends and "may God help us if they find him before we do."
Within the aftermath of Civil War, Reed Richards had been keeping tabs on Mastermind Excello and when the She-Hulk found out about the Hulk's exile, Reed Richards sends out Doc Samson to confront her when he sees her meeting with Mastermind Excello.
In issue #1 of World War Hulk, Reed is shown with Tony Stark, as Iron Man. Both men were trying to convince the Sentry into fighting the Hulk, thinking that the calm aura that the Sentry produces may be able to stop the Hulk's rampage.
In issue #2 of World War Hulk, with the aid of the rest of the Fantastic Four, Storm, and the Black Panther, Reed was able to create a machine that projects an image of the Sentry and recreates the hero's aura of calm. He uses the machine on the Hulk just as he is about to defeat the Thing, but the Hulk knows that that wasn't the real Sentry and destroys the machine. In a last line of defense, Sue Storm tries to protect her husband by encapsulating Bruce in an energy field while pleading with him to spare Reed. The Hulk doesn't listen and is able to easily exert enough strength against her force field to cause Susan to collapse and experience a nosebleed from the stress, before she dooms Reed to the Hulk's wrath.
He is later seen among the various heroes that the Hulk defeated so far, within the depths of the Hulk's Gladiator arena located within Madison Square Garden. He and all of the Heroes are implanted with "obedience disks" that are used to suppress their powers. These disks are the same that were used upon the Hulk during his time on Sakaar. With the disks Hulk orders Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic to face off in battle. Richards, after having the upper hand on Stark is then given the thumbs down by Hulk to kill him.
However the Hulk spares their lives, showing them that he proved his point to the world. They survived the encounter by Hulk's mercy and the timely intervention of the Sentry. The Illuminati are partially cleared from the responsibility of Sakaar's destruction when Miek, one of the Hulk's alien allies, admits he saw the Red King forces breach the ship's warp core. Miek kept quiet to initiate what he felt was Hulk's destiny as the "Worldbreaker".
Mister Fantastic was at the Illuminati's meeting discussing the threat of the Skrulls when the Black Bolt with them was revealed to be a Skrull in disguise.
Mister Fantastic and Hank Pym autopsy the body of the Skrull who impersonated Elektra (with Reed pretending to be seeing the corpse for the first time, thus keeping the secret of the Illuminati). After completing the dissection, Reed claims to have discovered the secret of how the Skrulls have been able to conceal their identities. Before he can elaborate, "Hank Pym" reveals himself to be a Skrull and shoots Richards with a weapon that violently leaves his elastic body in a state of chaotic disarray similar to Silly String. In Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1, it is shown that a Skrull assumed Reed's form in order to successfully ambush and capture Sue Richards, to facilitate an attack on the Fantastic Four's headquarters.
A conscious but still mostly shapeless Reed Richards is seen being forcibly stretched in all directions to cover the floor of a medium-sized arena aboard a Skrull ship, with all of the seats filled by Skrull onlookers. He is freed by Abigail Brand, and then travels with her to the Savage Land and uses a device to reveal all the Skrull invaders present.. After helping the Avengers to defeat the imposters and return to New York, Reed aids the heroes and villains of Earth in their battle against the Skrulls. He blows up the Fantastic Four's headquarters after the battle to keep it from falling into the wrong hands.
Mister Fantastic aids the New Avengers in the search for the daughter of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones. He and the rest of the Fantastic Four are magically reduced to television signals by the chaotic activities of the Elder God Chthon, to prevent them from intervening, though after Chthon is defeated, he and the other three are turned back.  Norman Osborn has sent H.A.M.M.E.R. agents to shut down the Fantastic Four and capture them, expelling them from the Initiative and stripping them all their rights. Taking place a week from the Secret Invasion, which has caused Richards to seriously reevaluate his own life and the life he has built for his family, resulting in turbulent internal conflicts. Richards, as he takes a long, hard look at the life, is prompted to construct a machine that is capable of bending reality itself, to do so. Agents from H.A.M.M.E.R. (sent by Norman Osborn, a man well aware Reed is one of the few that has intellect exceeding even his own and thus pose a great threat to his carefully constructed shadow world) arrive just as Reed activates the machine, interfacing with the Baxter Building's power supply, resulting in an energy flactuation that sends Sue, Ben and Johnny back to the prehistoric era, fraught with dangers, which manifest in the form of the First Celestial Host. Reed searches for answers which can only be found in alternate timelines as the three find themselves in a super hero Hyborian-age civil war; Franklin and Valeria are the only ones available to confront the agents Osborn sent. Richards studies other parallel Earths to see if any found a peaceful solution to the Civil War, which resulted from the Superhuman Registration Act. Reed peers into different worlds, some more bizarre than our own, to see what they did differently. This is an insightful look into where the Marvel Universe has gone in the past “year” (in Marvel time) and to see who was at fault, if anyone. Reed meets with the other five Illuminati to handle the problem. Ultimately, after seeing about a million alternate Earths, he had concluded that there was no way for the Civil War to be resolved but that he, as the cleverest man in the Marvel Universe, had a responsibility to put things right. But before turning the machine off, he searches for other realities where they have the same machines he is using; the machine locates them and the people he finds tell him that they can help him.
Reed Richards will reappear in Mighty Avengers #24 as one of the "major power players" none too pleased with Hank Pym leading the team of Mighty Avengers; in the next issue, Pym's attempting to knock down the Baxter Building (due to Loki's manipulations, likely) sows further displeasure and leads to a direct conflict between the Fantastic Four and Loki's Mighty Avengers, stretching across to Mighty Avengers #26, where his own brains shall clash with those of Hank Pym. This conflict eventually ends in a new base for the Mighty Avengers and a shockingly disturbing alliance of the Dark Reign; the next issue of the Mighty Avengers will show a new character, a ruler known as the Unspoken, one more powerful than any other in the universe, to the point he had to be erased from history, and how his return will impact the planet and the cosmos beyond, in the War of Kings.
After the Secret Invasion and some time into the Dark Reign, in the War of Kings, when Blastaar is about to open the portal to Earth, on the other side in Camp Hammond, Star-Lord and the Guardians is telling Reed Richards and others to never open the portal, or they will face the wrath of Blastaar. Mister Fantastic agrees and says they will not open the portal and then asks who they are. Star-Lord replies, "We're the Guardians of the Galaxy" before leaving. 
Reed Richards gained the power of elasticity from irradiation by cosmic rays. He has the ability to convert his entire body into a highly malleable state at will, allowing him to stretch, deform, and reform himself into virtually any shape. Reed Richards has been observed as being able to utilize his stretching form in a variety of offensive and defensive manners, such as compressing himself into a ball and ricocheting into enemies or flattening himself into a trampoline or a parachute to rescue a teammate. Reed is also able to shape his hands into hammer and mace style weapons, and concentrate his mass into his fist all these feats took extreme concentration however due to mental and physical training he can now perform these feats at will. The most extreme demonstration of Reed's powers is when at one point he was able to increase his size and mass to Thing-like proportions which also increased his physical strength.
Despite this, Richards' strength comes more from the powers of his mind than the powers of his body; indeed, he once told Spider-Man that he considers his stretching powers to be expendable compared to his intellect. Reed Richards is a visionary theoretician and inspired machine smith who has made breakthroughs in such varied fields as space travel, time travel, extra-dimensional travel, biochemistry, robotics, computers, synthetic polymers, communications, mutations, transportation, holography, energy generation, spectral analysis and more. Richards has earned Ph.Ds in mathematics, physics, and engineering. Reed's patents are so valuable that he is able to bankroll the Fantastic Four, Inc., without any undue financial stress. Mind control is rarely effective on him and when it does work, it wears off sooner than it would a normal person, due to what he describes as an "elastic consciousness".
Although the Fantastic Four have numerous devices, crafts, and weapons, there are some items that Reed Richards carries with him at all times.
Fantastiflare: Launches a fiery "4" into the sky that is used during combat situations to let other members of the group know their location.
Uniform Computer: Like all the Fantastic Four's costumes and the rest of Reed's wardrobe, his suit is made of "unstable molecules". This means that the suit is attuned to his powers, which is why Johnny's costume doesn't burn when he "flames on", Sue's costume turns invisible when she does, and Reed's costume stretches with him. The costume also insulates them from electrical assaults. In addition, the team's uniforms are also, in essence, wearable computers. Their costumes have a complete data processing and telemetry system woven into the material of the uniform on a molecular level. This forms a network with the entire team, providing a constant, real-time uplink of everyone's physical condition as well as their location and current situation. The suit is capable of displaying data and touch-pad controls on the gauntlets. Its sensors can track all of the team's uniforms and provide a picture of their immediate vicinity. The suit has an intricate scanner system which can detect things around the wearer, from how many people are in the next room to what dimension or planet they are on. Reed can also up-link the bodysuit to any computer by stretching his fingertips to filament size and plugging them into an I/O data-port. With this, Reed can establish a fairly comprehensive database of any computer's cybernetic protocols and encryption algorithms.
Most recently, Mr. Fantastic has been played by actor Ioan Gruffudd in the 2005 film Fantastic Four and its 2007 sequel Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, alongside Jessica Alba as Invisible Woman, Michael Chiklis as the Thing, Chris Evans as the Human Torch, and Julian McMahon as Doctor Doom. Both movies were directed by Tim Story. In the film continuity, Reed Richards is, initially, a brilliant but timid and pedantic scientist who, despite his genius-level understanding of the sciences and being (as he is described in the second film) "one of the greatest minds of the 21st century", is fiscally incompetent and nearing bankruptcy, forcing him to seek investment from Victor von Doom (in the film continuity a rival scientist and successful businessman) to further his projects. By the events of Rise of the Silver Surfer, Richards is, along with his teammates, an internationally recognized superhero and celebrity. Reed and Sue are now engaged, although Reed has trouble keeping himself from being distracted from his imminent wedding (which is established as the fifth attempt they have made).