Every Fantastic Four Costume Ever
Walt Hickey dives into an infographic breakdown of the First Family's uniforms!
While they stand among Marvel Comics' most historic figures, the Fantastic Four's ideology has proven them to be the most forward-looking and aspirational unit at the House of Ideas.
They mean so much to the Marvel Universe; the First Family have personally introduced 8% of all Marvel characters into existence. But they’re not only heroes in the conventional sense, they’re also explorers, inventors, and pioneers. And in a major way, they’re fashion icons.
The Fantastic Four has been around for 50 years, and over the course of that time, they've tweaked and changed their look to adapt to the times and reflect the state of the world that they are so instrumental in building. The team’s had so many iterations and compositions over the years that it’s important to remember that despite the Four’s status as the rock upon which Marvel was built, they’ve always been changing and adapting and growing.
Here's a breakdown of the Fantastic Four's costumes since their start in 1961.
It’s important to point out that while Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben will always be the iconic Fantastic Four, that roster has only been in place for about 63% of 691 in-continuity comic appearances. Historically speaking, the Four’s team composition is actually fairly fluid; She-Hulk has tagged in for Ben Grimm for 31 issues, Scott Lang stepped up to replace Reed for 18, Medusa and Crystal have covered Sue’s shifts when she was out on maternity leave, and so much more.
Heck, 14% of the time, the Fantastic Four doesn’t even have Four members—either holding on to a fifth wheel (like Spider-Man or She-Thing or Crystal), or down a member due to someone quitting the team, or dying, or appearing to die. And not to mention all the possessions and impersonations! About 5% of FF issues involve Reed getting bodysnatched or cloned, or Sue getting possessed by Malice. As the squad that first met up with the Skrulls, the precedent was set early on that anyone can be impersonated; one of them even married that shapeshifter.
But the costumes that they wear have defined the Four; from the iconic cerulean jumpsuits that marked them for a generation, to the Future Foundation digs, to the various stylistic twists and tweaks that the gang has undergone over the decades.
Initially, the Fantastic Four just went about their business in street clothes. In their initial tussles with the Mole Man and the Skrull, they stepped up and fought back in their street clothes. It wasn’t until issue #3 when Sue developed the aesthetic that would define the team for generations: slim-fitting blue jumpsuits, with black secondary colors on the waist, hands, feet, and collar, and a high collar up to the nape of the neck. A full kit—helmet and long-sleeve top—was designed for Ben Grimm, then (as always) self-conscious about his craggy form. This lasted approximately an hour and a half before the Thing ripped off everything north of the belt—an aesthetic he’d abide by for years.
It was a few issues later that some tweaks came in that would carry the Four from 1962 through 1981. The high collar—which later returned—was pared back to a crew neck. The blue and black remained the defining color scheme for that entire run, with just a few tweaks. From 1973 to 1975, Johnny incorporated a red uniform into his wardrobe in an homage to the original Silver Age Human Torch. A recurring problem that has plagued Reed Richards for the course of his life is trying to roll back the disfigurement that afflicts his friend Ben, leading Mister Fantastic to try to cure the Thing. Reed has been successful at times, but the result is invariably a the quick arrival of Super Villain that can now no longer be clobbered into submission. This is why the introduction of Ben’s exosuit—one that looks just like the Thing, and does qualify as a costume.
At the beginning of John Byrne’s run on FANTASTIC FOUR, the squad got a redesign. The team traded their crew neck uniforms for a collar that again rose to the nape of the neck, and they traded their black accent color for a white one. This overhaul opened the door for a number of costume overhauls in the years after.
The possession of Sue Richards by Malice led to some, shall we say, unique costume designs in the mid-80s; designs that are less iconic than they are notorious. The designs of the collar changed at times—sometimes it expanded, sometimes it contracted, at times the Thing wore an odd unitard, sleeves often went missing—and the second possession of Sue Richards by Malice led to another unique design, one that relied more on the creative use of negative space to illustrate her team affiliation.
It wasn't until 1998 where the third definitive costume appeared, one that had a high collar with a return to the black accent color, forming a V-shape of black on the front of the costume on a field of cerulean. That lasted just a few more issues, until another long-running uniform with the triangle motif came along, this time a white accent with a "4" logo built in black in negative space. That latter design choice would continue to appear for quite some time.
Once the FF entered the new millennium, Sue designed a classic homage to their very first costumes, with the high black collars and the black accent color. This motif took them through a tempestuous time in their lives, including the CIVIL WAR that led to the dissolution of the team as well as the temporary sabbatical that Sue and Reed took while T’Challa and Storm filled in.
The Hickman run—a return to roots for the four if there ever were one—brought in form-fitting costumes with short sleeves and a high black collar. The Interdimensional Council of Reeds gave us a look at what could have been for the team but, thankfully, was not in the world of costume design: Ironreeds, Rockreeds, Odinreeds, Captain Mar-reeds, Hercul-reeds, Obese Reeds, Wizard Reeds, and more.
The death of Johnny Storm and the start of the Future Foundation led to easily the most substantial overhaul in the history of the group's uniform design. Gone was the appealing cerulean that fundamentally anchored the Four’s aesthetic for decades; in were trendy, black and white austere aesthetics with a hexagonal motif and a crisp white design. The return of Johnny had them holding on to the Future Foundation unis for a bit, but later hopping towards an eye-popping red design with a black accent.
But it wasn't too long until they were back in blue, a design that took them up to SECRET WARS. The Four spent their time on Battleworld differently; Johnny became a sun, Ben became a wall, Sue became a queen, and Reed became an outcast trying to defeat a divine usurper. After the conclusion, when they were once again back in blue, the team disbanded to rebuild the cosmos.
Now, once again, the Fantastic Four is back, and once again they’ve tweaked their costumes. But not before everyone put on something a little familiar; Ben Grimm got married to Alicia Masters in FANTASTIC FOUR #5. Weddings have been a staple of the Fantastic Four, and are typically perilous ordeals.
When it came to attire, they weren't hard up for something old (see...all of the above). As the most aspirational team in the Marvel Universe, they always find something new. And as long as they managed to grab something borrowed, I guarantee they found something blue.
Stay tuned for more from Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Week on Marvel.com!
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