On August 7, the Fantastic Four will return to theaters after an eight-year absence and almost exactly ten years after 20th Century Fox took its first shot at making Marvel’s iconic heroes into movie stars.
This time, Chronicle helmer Josh Trank is in the director’s chair for Fantastic Four, with Miles Teller as Reed Richards, Kate Mara as Sue Storm, Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm, Jamie Bell as Ben Grimm and Toby Kebbell as Doctor Doom. While the original Fantastic Four comic was created in 1961 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the newest film draws most of its inspiration from the Ultimate Fantastic Four comic book series by writers Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Millar with artist Adam Kubert.
Outside of the comic book world, the Fantastic Four rarely get their due for launching the Marvel Universe as we know it. Several groundbreaking characters were introduced during Lee and Kirby’s FF run, including Black Panther and the Inhumans; both of which will get Marvel Studios films of their own. The Silver Surfer also originated in the Fantastic Four, and he could have gotten his own movie at Fox if Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer hadn’t underperformed at the box office.
Trank’s Fantastic Four will be the third time that the FF have made it to the silver screen, but, as you can read below, it’s actually the fourth feature film. Fox has optimistically put a Fantastic Four sequel on the schedule for 2017, but it’s ultimately going to come down to whether the fan response merits a continuation of the franchise.
Ahead of the latest cinematic outing, ComingSoon.net has compiled a few fun piece of Fantastic Four trivia, covering the comic book franchise and its multimedia adaptations from across the decades.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Birth of the Marvel Universe
Although Marvel traces its roots all the way back to Marvel Comics #1 in 1939, Fantastic Four #1 (released in 1961) is regarded as the true beginning of Marvel’s comic book universe. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby approached the Fantastic Four as superheroes in the real world, complete with character flaws and personal drama. That quickly became the formula for Marvel’s Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men.
The scripts may not entirely hold up to modern scrutiny, but the Fantastic Four comic became the building blocks for the shared Marvel Universe that exists today.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Adventures on the Sliding Timeline
Because the Fantastic Four was originally published in the ‘60s, it was reasonable to assume that Reed Richards and Ben Grimm had served in World War II. This was confirmed in Fantastic Four #11, when it was revealed that Reed was an OSS operative during the war and that Ben was an ace fighter pilot!
Both Reed and Ben even had WWII adventures alongside Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos. That’s right, original model Nick Fury has also been around since WWII. Deal with it!
But because Marvel uses a narrative device known as the “sliding timeline,” all of the current adventures of the Fantastic Four take place in the present, with all of their previous adventures confined to a nebulous period of ten to fifteen years. Although, if you count all of the Fantastic Four Christmas stories, you’d probably get a much higher number than 15.
The point is that it no longer makes sense for Reed and Ben to have fought in WWII, and thus Marvel pretends that it never happened that way.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Avenge This!
The Fantastic Four are considered to be the first family of superheroes in the Marvel Universe, and there have been several other heroes who have joined their team over the decades.
Occasionally, the original FF members quit the team and end up on other superhero teams. During the ‘80s, the Thing flirted with joining the West Coast Avengers before disappearing and later rejoining the FF. Mr. Fantastic (Reed Richards) and Invisible Woman (Susan Richards) joined the Avengers during the Inferno crossover to save their son, Franklin from demons in New York City. The Thing eventually joined the Avengers as a part time member as well, but that was several years later.
The only original member of the FF who hasn’t joined the Avengers yet is Johnny Storm, the Human Torch! But the Avengers have counted a Human Torch among their members. It just happened to be the android Human Torch from Marvel Comics #1, who is definitely not Johnny Storm.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Bill Murray Was The Human Torch!
Amazingly, this is true.
In 1975, there was a Fantastic Four radio show that adapted a few of the early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby stories. A pre-Saturday Night Live Billy Murray was cast as the Human Torch, alongside Bob Maxwell as Reed Richards, Cynthia Adler as Sue Storm, Jim Pappas as Ben Grimm and Jerry Terheyden as Doctor Doom. Lee even narrated the scripts, which largely adapted his comic stories as originally written.
And should you doubt that this actually exists, here’s an example straight from YouTube!
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Meet H.E.R.B.I.E.
Now it’s time to introduce the most pivotal member of the Fantastic Four, H.E.R.B.I.E.!
Surely you remember the greatness that is the Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics, right? H.E.R.B.I.E. was specifically created to be the fourth member of the team for the second Fantastic Four animated series in 1978. Both Stan Lee and Jack Kirby share credit for its creation.
It was often rumored that H.E.R.B.I.E. replaced the Human Torch because the network was afraid that kids would attempt to emulate Johnny Storm’s superpowers by lighting themselves on fire. More recent accounts have contended that the Human Torch was optioned as a solo film, which kept his character rights from being available at the time.
H.E.R.B.I.E. eventually made its way into the Fantastic Four comics. The original H.E.R.B.I.E. sacrificed itself to protect the team from the villainous Dr. Sun, but H.E.R.B.I.E. robots have occasionally appeared in the comics ever since.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: The First Fantastic Four Movie
Marvel Studios and 20th Century Fox would probably prefer it if everyone forgot about the very first Fantastic Four film that was produced by Roger Corman. German film producer Bernd Eichinger picked up the Fantastic Four movie rights in 1983, and he wasn’t able to get a major studio on board to make big budget film.
By 1992, Eichinger’s FF option was about to run out, so he hired Corman to make a low-budget ($1 million) version of the Fantastic Four with Alex Hyde-White as Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic; Rebecca Staab as Sue Storm / Invisible Woman; Jay Underwood as Johnny Storm / Human Torch; Michael Bailey Smith as Ben Grimm; Carl Ciarfalio as the Thing, and Joseph Culp as Dr. Victor Von Doom.
The film was completed, but never released in theaters. Marvel’s Avi Arad reportedly paid millions to acquire Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four and bury it. That movie has since become a regular on the bootleg market, and the general consensus is that it’s pretty terrible.
What nobody ever talks about is the fact that Eichinger’s Fantastic Four gamble worked. Even after Arad paid him off, Eichinger’s company, Constantin Film remained attached to the franchise all the way up to and including the first two Fantastic Four movies at Fox.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Tales of Columbus
Shortly after the deal to bury Corman’s Fantastic Four, Chris Columbus was attached to bring Marvel’s first family to the big screen at 20th Century Fox. Reportedly, Columbus wanted to use real-life couple Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan as Reed Richards and Sue Storm.
Eventual Fantastic Four director Tim Story has recalled that Columbus wanted the movie to resemble the “Batman ‘66” TV series in terms of tone and comedy. However, Story said that he used Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man as a successful example of how to add humor to a superhero story without undermining it.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: Silver Surfer Quarters
To promote the sequel, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Fox and the Franklin Mint planned to create 40,000 quarters with the Silver Surfer on the back.
The US Mint was not amused, and vetoed the idea.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: So Eager To Be Invisible
Saoirse Ronan, Allison Williams, Emmy Rossum and Margot Robbie (pictured above) were the leading contenders to play Susan Storm/The Invisible Woman before Kate Mara got the part. Strangely enough, Mara had already provided the voice of Sue Storm in a Robot Chicken sketch several years earlier!
For Reed Richards, Miles Teller beat out Kit Harington, Anton Yelchin, Richard Madden and Jack O’Connell. Eddie Redmayne, Jack Huston, Domhnall Gleeson and Sam Riley were up for the role of Doctor Doom, which Toby Kebbell was eventually chosen for.
Fantastic Four Trivia and Fun Facts: American Reed
Miles Teller also has the distinction of being the first American actor to portray Reed Richards in a live-action film. Both of his predecessors, Alex Hyde-White and Ioan Gruffudd hail from the United Kingdom.
Conversely, Jamie Bell is the first British actor to play the Thing. Michael Bailey Smith and Michael Chiklis were both American.
Fantastic Four will hit theaters on Friday, August 7.