The Fantastic Four ushered in modern Marvel Comics through the collaboration of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, forming one of the industry’s greatest creative teams. However, in keeping with the time-honored tradition of comics borrowing from their competition, DC Comics has created its own analog for Marvel’s First Family, The Terrifics. Both teams bring many of the same ideas to the table and their similarities are obvious.
While DC Comics led the way in superhero team comics by introducing the Justice Society and Justice League, Marvel redefined the idea with The Fantastic Four. This title began Marvel’s dominance in superhero comics, and while they were partners, Lee and Kirby continued to show everyone else the best way to write a team book. As the years continued, the comic remained one of the best books on the market and often overshadowed even flagship team titles like Avengers and Justice League of America. However, after their Rebirth era, DC decided to create their very own team of heroes that mirrored The Fantastic Four in almost every way. During the company’s New Age of Heroes imprint, they created The Terrifics. Despite existing in different worlds, they have a lot in common but their differences are equally important.
The Origins Of The Fantastic Four And The Terrifics
The Fantastic Four were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963 to be Marvel’s premier superhero team. As much as people came to think of the X-Men and Avengers as the most important Marvel teams, The Fantastic Four actually had a much better track record in this department. It was through this series that readers got better acquainted with characters like Namor the Submariner, Silver Surfer, Black Panther, and Doctor Doom. It took some time for the Avengers and X-Men to become the best-selling team books they are in modern Marvel, and The Fantastic Four was more representative of the talent of the Kirby/Lee team. Their villains were more epic, their adventures had higher stakes and the team dynamic felt much more natural.
The Terrifics, on the other hand, were the flagship creation of DC’s New Age of Heroes in 2018, a comic book imprint that combined original heroes with rather overt copies of the Marvel style of superheroes. Just as Damage gave DC their own Incredible Hulk, The Terrifics gave them their Fantastic Four, right down to the team dynamic and adventures. These heroes were high-tech multiversal explorers, aided by the ingenuity of Mister Terrific himself. Both teams are known for exploring the multiverse and being led by first-class intellects. The innovative and strategic minds of Michael Holt and Reed Richards were the perfect leaders for these kinds of sci-fi adventures. Both comics shared the same concept, though it was obvious there was no idea too wacky for The Terrifics, whether that meant time-based shenanigans or multiversal creativity.
What The Teams Have In Common
The Fantastic Four and the Terrifics have plenty of differences, but their similarities are self-evident. First, they mirror each other’s powers and personalities. Michael Holt / Mister Terrific is, for all intents and purposes, DC’s answer to Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic. They even basically have the same superhero name. Both teams have a gruff “monster” hero in Ben Grim / The Thing and Rex Mason / Metamorpho, who are trapped in their altered states but yearn for normalcy. In Plastic Man and Johnny Storm, both teams have their fame-chasing, wise-cracking jovial heroes who manage to make light of the worst situations. In Sue Storm / Invisible Woman and Phantom Girl, both teams have an elusive heroine; the former can turn invisible and the latter intangible.
The Fantastic Four and The Terrifics both share the same style of stories, combining science fiction, multiversal exploration, and classic action-adventure. The Terrifics went from homage to obvious copy of The Fantastic Four when the T-Council was introduced. Based rather clearly on Marvel’s multiversal Council of Reeds, the T-Council assembled many of the greatest minds in the DCU to aid Mister Terrific and his team in solving serious threats. The inclusion of heroes like Tom Strong, Blue Beetle, and Man-Bat showed that the series was willing to include a variety of heroes and not just an assortment of Reed Richards variants, but the inspiration was clear and both series toyed with narrative styles and the multiverse in the same ways.
Both the FF and The Terrifics also owe a lot to Jack Kirby’s 1950s team, the Challengers of the Unknown. This group was actually eerily similar to Fantastic Four’s designs, origins and style, especially as the team leaned more into Silver Age science fiction. Both teams can, to an extent, trace their lineage back to retro science fiction adventure comics. The Challengers themselves, made up of Ace Morgan, Red Ryan, Rocky Davis, and Prof Haley, went on adventures that very closely mirrored those of Silver Age Reed Richards and his team. Even the New Age of Heroes, which resurrected a new incarnation of the Challengers, showcased how similar The Terrifics themselves were to the modern depiction of Kirby’s ’50s team.
Biggest Differences Between The Terrifics And The FF
At their core, The Fantastic Four are a superhero family in the truest sense possible. Not only are Johnny and Sue siblings and Reed and Sue married, but their friendship goes back years. These heroes were created for the sole purpose of complementing each other in a team dynamic. By contrast, the Terrifics were cobbled together from across the DCU, assembled so they could match their Marvel counterparts. Fortunately for DC, they basically had what they needed in Mister Terrific, Metamorpho, Plastic Man, and Phantom Girl. That said, they failed to establish the same villainous hook that Doctor Doom brings Fantastic Four and their enemies typically felt too easy to defeat. It can be argued Doom is as much a pull for Marvel as the FF themselves.
The Terrifics also don’t have the same familiarity with one another that, for example, Johnny and Sue or Reed and Sue do. The team was formed more by convenience than anything else. However, their stories do a great job of balancing their place in the wider DCU, whereas The Fantastic Four have always excelled in their own adventures. Specifically, having heroes like Alan Moore’s Tom Strong working with The Terrifics gave the team something that Lee and Kirby’s team never had. While the FF’s roster has rotated and they have plenty of allies, they’ve never seen the sheer variety of secondary characters that The Terrifics established readily. In a sense, The Terrrifics created a way of shining a light on the forgotten heroes of the DCU, which isn’t a common theme for The Fantastic Four. Reed Richards and his friends feel quite codified, whereas the Terrifics are still in their infancy.
The Terrifics never quite got their own answer to Doctor Doom, but Bizarro Superman — their arch-enemy in the series — came very close to filling this role, along with the Dreadfuls. Likewise, although they did go on a tour of the DCU, like all the New Age of Heroes characters they felt oddly cut off from the core events in the DCU. This placed a ceiling on their title and its customer base that The Fantastic Four has never had, thanks to their central place in Marvel’s New York narratives. Where many see The Fantastic Four as a Marvel flagship book, fans saw The Terrifics as more of a gimmick, despite its non-stop fun. The Terrifics also suffered from the core issue of a team that was overshadowed by guest characters and big ideas, like the world of Tom Strong, the appearance of Swamp Thing, and the T-Council’s heroes.
How The Terrifics And FF’s Books And Teams Stack Up
The Fantastic Four can basically be credited as the progenitor of the modern Marvel superhero style. The team is responsible for making Stan Lee the writing legend he became, as well as giving Marvel the edge in the Silver Age in superhero teams and science fiction. The importance of the comic cannot be overstated enough, and DC’s Terrifics were clearly an homage more than they were a true rival, like the Justice League and Avengers are. Though both teams are multiversal explorers, at times it felt like The Terrifics, as a series, was a little too preoccupied with this idea. The team showed that the Marvel method of characters was transferrable to the DC method of stories.
That said, it could easily be argued that The Terrifics was, in a sense, the best “Fantastic Four” comic since Hickman left the title in 2012. The great writing of Jeff Lemire and Gene Luen Yang made for a science fiction adventure story that harkened back to the days of Tom DeFalco, Jonathan Hickman, and Lee and Kirby themselves on Fantastic Four. To put it simply, The Terrifics took all the best aspects of Fantastic Four and applied it to the DC Universe, but it never attracted the attention it deserved. In terms of an even match-up, Stan’s team would reign supreme were the two ever to fight. However, the quality of The Terrifics as a comic series surpassed its Marvel counterpart for the years it ran.
DC Comics has a history of borrowing ideas from Marvel and vice versa. In the Terrifics, DC created the perfect analog for the Fantastic Four. Read More