A Look Back on Fantastic Four (1967)

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None of the Fantastic Four movies have been the greatest for Marvel’s first family. But I’ve already covered those movies so instead I’m going to cover the Fantastic Four TV show in 1967 created by the same people who started them, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and produced by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. It lasted for 20 episodes before getting cancelled due to concerns of TV violence going around the time.

The series adapted many stories from the original comics along with some solely created for the show. However due to time and legal issues there were many character moments and in attempt to be more fast paced and action packed many significant aspects of the character were either reduced or taken out entirely. Reed Richards and Sue Storm were already married at the start of the series outside of a couple of flashbacks. Ben Grimm’s blind girlfriend, Alicia Masters was entirely omitted from the show and Sue replaced her role of connecting the Silver Surfer to humanity causing him to turn on Galactus. The latter in particular is an interesting aspect given that Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer would end up having Sue serve the same role (albeit poorly written).

For the most part the show was rather campy and cartoony but in style of Hanna-Barbera it is still fun. Most of the villains don’t have much depth or development and rather spend the episodes hamming it up. And while there were a couple changes in the story for the most part, in lifting the many stories from the comics they did so quite faithfully. Though the animation looked rather cheap William Hanna and Joseph Barbera did well in lifting the designs of the heroes from the comics and translating them to television.

While there definitely is a lot of talking even when the heroes are fighting the villains, the Fantastic Four genuinely do feel like a family, which is the heart of the original comics. They have their fair share of character flaws but at the end of the day are willing to protect each other. A prime example of this lies in the Dr. Doom episode where Ben becomes human again and is quite happy given that his powers made him a freak of nature (although this was more played for laughs throughout the series) but when Doom places the other members in death traps he decides that having a hideous appearance is worth it if his friends are safe and changes back to normal. Reed in some episodes can be a workaholic but is still has some level of sensitivity. Johnny may be an easy-goer but never to the point where he becomes a jerk.

Perhaps the best episode of the series lies in the Galactus episode. Although it does cram a lot of the Galactus trilogy into one episode it still has some great visuals such as the two suns and the rocks in the sky obscuring the Earth and some good concepts of characterization (albeit small) regarding the Silver Surfer with him being a complete blank slate not able to comprehend humanity but gaining a sense of nobility once he learns emotions.

This Fantastic Four series is quite silly in its execution but much like the 1994 movie (albeit in a different manner) has its own charm to it. Its animation isn’t the best but its story and characters make up for that. Of all the TV representations of Marvel’s first family this can be considered the best.

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