The Fantastic Four are well-renowned for being the first family of Marvel Comics; it was the title that started the Marvel universe as we know it, and the first to show some major aspects of the Marvel U, such as Subteranea (home of the Mole Man and his Atlas/Timely-era monsters), Atlantis, the Negative Zone, Latveria, Wakanda, the blue area of the moon (where the Watcher lives), and Attilan (home of the Inhumans). The book has always gotten credit, especially from the Lee/Kirby era, for exploring new areas of the universe. But what it doesn’t often get credit for is the great villains it has introduced. Sure, everyone knows Dr. Doom, but there are a ton of great FF villains that don’t normally get their due. It was actually difficult to reduce the list to ten, but here are my votes for the ten greatest FF adversaries.
10. The Frightful Four
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #36 (1965)
Members of Note: The Wizard, Medusa, Sandman, Trapster, Thundra, Hydro-Man, Titania, Klaw, Absorbing Man, Mr. Hyde, She-Thing, Red Ghost, Beetle
One of the first super-villain teams at Marvel, the Frightful Four (like the U-Foes, Wrecking Crew, and Serpent Society) have always been favorites of mine that have never really been given the chance to live up to their potential. Their roster has fluctuated a lot, and never stayed constant for long. They’ve always had at least one D-lister on the team (usually Trapster), which hasn’t helped establish them as a credible threat. But the Wizard and Sandman are great foils for the FF, and if they were given the right teammates (or were replaced themselves, for that matter) they could be a real danger not only to the FF, but to the Marvel universe as a whole.
9. Puppet Master
Real Name: Phillip Masters
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #8 (1962)
Step-daughter to Alicia Masters and owner of the creepiest smile this side of… ever… the Puppet Master is one of the most unsettling villains Marvel has. He’s able to sculpt models of people using a special clay, and once the model is complete he can control the actual person! He’s a total d-bag, and like villains such as Mesmero, the Purple Man, the Controller, or dozens of others, he violates and uses people to get what he wants. Physically he’s about as threatening as a wet piece of paper, but if he’s got a model of you you’re more likely to eat your fingers than you are to lay a hand on him. He’s very possessive of his step-daughter, and has a deep-seated hatred of the Thing due to his and Alicia’s involvement.
8. Mole Man
Real Name: Harvey Elder
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #1 (1961)
The villain that started the Marvel age, the Mole Man was the first foe of the Fantastic Four, and one of their strangest. The FF book was famously going to be Stan’s last gasp effort to do a superhero book that he wanted to read, and I always thought it was interesting that the first villain they fought controlled monsters, specifically the same kind of monsters that Marvel had been doing for over a decade prior in their books. Hell, even the FF are pretty monstrous. It’s just interesting that you can kind of see Stan and Jack hedging their bets early on. The FF didn’t have costumes or secret identities and they fought monsters and weirdos. Anyway, the Mole Man is the ruler of Subterranea, which is a giant, giant, GIANT network of tunnels and caverns existing beneath the surface of the Earth. Some of his pets appear harmless, like the Moloids (read Old Man Logan if you want to see what they’re capable of); others are titanic beasts that would give Godzilla pause. All answer to the whims and commands of the Mole Man.
7. Terrax the Tamer
Real Name: Tyros, AKA Tyros the Terrible
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #211 (1979)
The most overlooked Herald of Galactus, Terrax is every bit as dangerous as any cosmic villain in the Marvel U (he is imbued with the same power cosmic as the Silver Surfer, after all). Armed with a badass axe so sharp it can cut atoms, immense strength, stamina and durability, energy projection and the ability to control stone/earth (plus the freaking power cosmic), the villain formerly known as Tyros the Terrible is someone you definitely don’t want to screw with. Galactus knew he wanted Tyros as his new herald but wanted him humbled. Reed Richards contacted the big G to help them dispose of the villain the Sphinx, which Galactus agreed to do if the FF fought Tyros. They beat him handily and Galactus then turns the freshly humbled Tyros into the herald Terrax. Not one that was used to losing, Terrax has held a deep grudge for the FF ever since.
Real Name: Bently Whittman
First Appearance: Strange Tales #102 (1962)
The Wizard is a weird one. He may very well be the smartest human alive, but he’s more than a little crazy and seems to engineer the means of his own defeat often, which suggests he knows he’s more than a little ‘off’. He’s got one of my favorite villain origins in Marvel: he was a child prodigy, became a famous inventor as an adult, became exceptionally wealthy from his inventions, got really bored, starting a stage show as ‘The Wizard’ and used his inventions to perform ‘magic’ in his act as a stage magician and escape artist. This is fine for a while, but again, he gets bored. Then he sees this new hotshot kid, the Human Torch, showing off on TV, and something in his head snaps. He pretends to be a civilian in distress, and when the Torch rescues him he invites him to his super high-tech state of the art mansion as a thank you. When there he captures the Torch, then proceeds to try to destroy his reputation. Of course the Torch got free and the Wizard went to jail, but this started his vendetta with the FF. A bored stage magician with too much time on his hands became one of the most dangerous men on the planet because he saw the Torch on TV and thought, “Hey, you know what? Fuck THAT guy.”
5. Super Skrull
Real Name: Kl’rt
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #18 (1963)
Man, the Skrulls REALLY don’t like Reed Richards. After the FF thwarted their invasion attempt in FF issue 2, the Skrull emperor decided they would strike directly at them. His science officers devised a way to give the abilities of all four members of the FF to one Skrull, and that Skrull would use those abilities to kill their hated enemies. Kl’rt was chosen, and given powers even superior to those they were based on: he is stronger than the Thing, has more control over his malleability than Reed, is more precise with his invisibility skills and constructs than Sue, and has more intense control over flame than Johnny. He would have won had Reed not deduced his powers were being transmitted to him continuously, and that if they interrupted that beam his powers would disappear. He has fought the FF and numerous other heroes, eventually falling out of favor with the Skrulls due to his defeats and inability to kill the hated Richards family. After the combination of Galactus and the Annihilation Wave destroyed much of their empire and the Builder army took out most of the rest, a newly focused Skrulls named Kl’rt their new Emperor.
4. Namor, the Sub-Mariner
Real Name: Namor McKenzie
First Appearance: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly (1939)
Marvel’s first character is somewhat complicated but always awesome. Whether being portrayed as a hero or a villain, one thing’s for sure: Namor is never boring. Put him in a room with pretty much any character at Marvel and you’ll get something good. He’s fluctuated so often between wanting to conquer/destroy the surface world that trying to figure out where he stands is kind of a fool’s errand. You know that some things will remain the same: he has great respect and admiration for his old Invaders teammates and that he hates pretty much everyone else. He harbors a not-at-all secret love for Susan Richards, and really, really hates Reed. He’s been an Invader, an Avenger, AND an X-Man, but he’s still thought of by many as a super villain. Part of the reason for that is that he is allies with a lot of villains, including Dr. “that smell is my face” Doom. He’s buddies with Dr. Doom and Captain America, which is weird when you think about it. He’s also one of the most powerful (and arrogant) characters on Earth, and makes for some really great story fodder every single time he shows up, especially in an FF book.
Original Name: Galan
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #48 (1966)
It’s a little bit of a cheat calling Galactus a villain, but I’ve done it in other places so what the hell. Galactus was designed when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided they wanted to FF to go up against ‘God’. Jack envisioned that as a giant dude in funky armor that flew around space eating planets with a tiny silver guy on a surf board. That’s so awesome I think my brain just melted. The big G has had many interactions with many Marvel characters, but Reed Richards is probably the only one that can have a real conversation with him (other than maybe the Surfer). Still, Galactus was played as a foe for a very long time, and almost all of his early appearances are ‘earth is about to get eaten we’re all gonna die’ type stories.
Real Name: Annihilus
First Appearance: Fantastic Four Annual #6 (1968)
The ruler of the Negative Zone and holder of the Cosmic Control Rod, Annihilus controls the incredibly destructive Annihilation Wave: an army of hive-minded giant insectoid creatures that came very close to wiping out the known universe in ‘Annihilation’. But before he was enslaving Galactus and the Silver Surfer and wiping out the Skrull Empire (and nearly the Kree), Annihilus had his hands more than full with the FF. I really can’t think of a better way to show how awesome the FF are than that. They kept this maniac stuck right where he was for years, and when he got out it spelled disaster on a universal scale. Easily the most badass villain the FF have had to face.
Oh, no, wait. There’s still…
1. Dr. Doom
Real Name: Victor Von Doom
First Appearance: Fantastic Four #5 (1962)
Dr. Doom is not only the FF’s greatest threat, but one of the most dangerous men in the Marvel Universe, period. I mean, the guy not only has his own country full of people utterly devoted to him, he also has armies of killer robots, some of the most sophisticated defenses on the planet, a FUNCTIONAL TIME MACHINE, and is as smart as Tony Stark, has armor comparable to the Iron Man, and is a sorcerer nearly on par with Dr. Strange himself. I mean, come on… my feelings on his sheer badassery are summed up pretty well here, but I will reiterate that whether it’s stealing the Beyonder’s power, the power cosmic itself from the Silver Surfer, the Odinforce from Thor, or smacking the Avengers themselves around, nobody can hang with Doom. Well, nobody but Reed Richards.