Fantastic Four: Where Do I Start?

With the words “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” emblazoned on each cover, Fantastic Four has shown itself to be a trendsetter and a trailblazer in the world of comics – and we’re not just talking Marvel. Taking the ideas of super heroes from classics like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern and positing it for a new age, creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby dreamt up an extended family of heroes gifted (and cursed) with superpowers that make them stand out from everyone around. This duo gifted these characters with personalities, mannerisms and souls that in many causes out-stripped the specialness of their super powers (although they’re definitely special!) and in a single swoop defined Marvel Comics for decades to come.

But with that awesome inception, Fantastic Four left some big shoes to fill, especially for other creators coming in to write Marvel’s First Family. But just as the first issue bucked trends and created new ideas, the creators who came since and brought their own ideas to Lee & Kirby’s classic characters found new ways to make the Richards family seem real. Although we tried limiting our list to four this week, the immense back catalog of Fantastic Four begged for one more, so here are five FF stories that are great starting points into their world.


Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks): There’s no better place to start than the beginning, and although these stories are almost fifty years old they sit up and demand attention. Its Marvel’s monster formula tried through the lens of super heroes, and not just any super heroes, but real people with real problems. You know the origin so I’m not explaining it here, because reading it and experiencing it the way Lee and Kirby intended is the true gateway into the world of Fantastic Four.

Fantastic Four: Solve Everything: The newest in our five-star line-up today, this inaugural storyline by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Dale Eaglesham set the tone for what’s come since for the current FF writer as he pushes Reed Richard’s true superpower (his mind) to the limit as he attempts to fix every problem, all at once. This duo brought the majesty and the limitless back to Marvel’s first family, and it hasn’t left since.

Essential Fantastic Four, Vol. 3 (Marvel Essentials): This is the second collection by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and with good reason. Although some creative teams seem to peek with their earliest stories with a group of characters, Lee and Kirby continues to rise through the stratosphere and this collection proves that out. Collecting Fantastic Four #41-63 and the two annuals released during the time, it includes the Richards family’s first meetings with Black Panther, the Inhumans, the Negative Zone, and most epically… Silver Surfer and Galactus. Seriously, the two-part “Coming of Galactus” storyline is worth the cover price alone.

Fantastic Four, Vol. 1: The way Marvel has named these collections might be confusing years later, but this collection is the first volume of Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo’s epic run that bucked trends and became a fan favorite. This duo echoed the writer/artist synergy like Lee and Kirby some thirty-plus years prior, taking Marvel’s First Family to their roots and into the modern era. This book truly excelled at the unique concept of the book – a family drama who happen to have super powers.

Fantastic Four Visionaries – John Byrne, Vol. 1: John Byrne is a classic storyteller, and he was at his height in the 80s with his run both writing and drawing Fantastic Four. Considered by many to be the first real high point in the series after creators Lee and Kirby left the series years ago, this book collects Byrne’s first eight issues and sets the tone for a rollicking adventure that takes the FF formula and turns it on its head. Where for other creators it might be a bad thing, John Byrne knew when breaking from tradition is a good thing – and that breaking from tradition is how Fantastic Four began.


  1. man… I miss Wieringo…

  2. The Waid and Wieringo is being reprinted soon. Such great stuff.

  3. The John Byrne issues are really, really, good.  What happened to that guy? 

  4. Man, that first issue of Waid and Ringo’s run ( i believe issue 60?) was just about as awesome a single issue superhero story can be

  5. Waid and Weringo’s run is a modern classic. An amazing run by creators at the top of their game.

    I’d add Millar and Hitch’s as an easy to get into run for people new to the FF, and Hickman’s FF: Dark Reign instead of Solve EVerything as the entire run is built from that point on rather than the first numbered volume.

  6. Marvel just solicited a Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus, Vol. 1, so it looks like they’ll be reprinting his entire run.  First volume is over a thousand pages, so they’re definitely packing it in.  Nice to see them doing that for their classic runs.

  7. Talk about perfect timing! I was just wondering what trades I should pick up for these guys 🙂

  8. Waid and Ringo’s FF is what got me reading comics.

  9. Aw man those Waid/ Ringo books are some of the best modern comics I’ve ever read. They made me fall in love with these characters.

  10. Millar/Hitch’s World’s Greatest and The Master of Doom are what I read to get back into FF after years away.

  11. Since I started my FF Blog, I have really been thinking a lot about this book. There were just so many amazing moments in this series and a ton of terrific runs. The Lee/Kirby run on FF pretty much started the formula for modern comic stories. The John Byrne run is legendary and rightfully so. The Waid/Ringo run is my favorite run on any comic from the last ten years. The current Hickman stuff is terrific. Walter Simonson had a run in the 90s that was a ton of fun. The FF is really th perfect comic book: timeless characters that can do well in any type of story or setting. Fantastic Four is quickly becoming my favorite comic series ever.

  12. Start and end with john byrne

  13. I just ordered “Authoritative Action” from the Waid run (mostly because I adore Howard Porter) and “True Story” by Paul Cornell because…well…Paul Cornell.

  14. It’s not really a good place to “start,” but one of my all-time favorite Fantastic Four stories is the mini series Fantastic Four vs the X-Men. (Or was it X-Men vs the Fantastic Four?) The X-Men are in trouble because Kitty Pryde can’t un-phase do to getting her ass kicked in the Mutant Massacre story line. Reed says he can’t help, so the X-Men turn to Dr. Doom. The FF don’t trust him and it brings them into conflict with the X-Men. There’s this whole story where Doom makes the rest of the FF think that Reed KNEW the cosmic rays would transform him and his friends into the FF, but he did it anyway for the good of mankind. And Doom and Reed have to work together to save Kitty. Plus, some really great Franklin moments. When I read this when i was a little kid, i was completely blown away by it. The story and the art were just stellar at that time. I read it so much the books were falling apart. They reprinted it recently, both in a hardcover edition, and a paperback one that also includes the X-Men vs the Avengers mini from around the same time.

  15. All right Chris, this time you got it right! All excellent choices!