Comics
Published July 11, 2022

Fantastic Farewell: Dan Slott Reflects on ‘Fantastic Four’

Dan Slott prepares to bid goodbye to Marvel’s First Family with a robust retrospective on his four-year run.

This August, FANTASTIC FOUR #46 marks the final stop of a four year odyssey for Dan Slott. In 2018, the writer brought Marvel’s First Family back from a significant period of inactivity following 2015’s SECRET WARS event. In his tenure steering the ship, Slott expanded the cast, married Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters, brought new twists to the team’s origin, and told a story literally decades in the making.

“By now, when people read this, they know where I’m going and they’ll know why. How fast I can write is a big factor,” Slott says of his FF exit, after which he’ll launch a new SPIDER-MAN series. “I would have loved to have stayed on FF longer. I would have loved to write stories about the FF until the end of time. I got to hit the big notes, and on the way, I got to do stories I didn’t even know I wanted to do!”

We had a lengthy chat with Dan about every aspect of his epic experience!

MARVEL.COM: Before we get into your FANTASTIC FOUR run, talk to me about your time as a fan. What got you started with the FF?

DAN SLOTT: When I was a kid, there were five comics I knew I was getting every month: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, MARVEL TEAM-UP, two books from our competition, and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE. I loved team-up books. 

The first comics I ever read were issues of FANTASTIC FOUR that belonged to my cousin, so I knew who The Thing was, and I liked The Thing. I was obsessed with The Thing and MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE was my favorite book. That and MARVEL TEAM-UP were how I met the Marvel Universe, by whoever was teaming up with Spider-Man and The Thing. I also felt really cheated when Human Torch or Invisible Woman or Mr. Fantastic teamed up with Ben in TWO-IN-ONE; I felt like that wasn’t a team-up book, it was just half of the Fantastic Four. [Laughs]

I would also pick up big issues. If I didn’t follow IRON MAN, I would still get issue #100. If I didn’t follow THOR, I would still get issue #300. I knew who the characters were from the team-up books and wanted to see what they were doing in these big issues. So I remember reading FANTASTIC FOUR #200, which was a big Doctor Doom throwdown in Latveria. So I had FF issues that meant a lot to me: the ones my cousin lent me, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE, anniversary issues, annuals. 

Then comes the magic point where you’re a teenager and suddenly you get more money. Your allowance increases, maybe you get a job, who knows. Suddenly, you have more income and you’re allowed to widen your palette. I was getting four or five books a month because they each cost a quarter. Suddenly, I had more money and decided now I would pick up FANTASTIC FOUR. I would see what the FF were doing.

MARVEL.COM: Who were your favorite creators on FANTASTIC FOUR? What runs did you really enjoy?

DAN SLOTT: I was a weird comic book reader, in that most people were into John Byrne on UNCANNY X-MEN, but I was into John Byrne on FANTASTIC FOUR. John Byrne’s run on FF was so important to me growing up, almost more than the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run. It was something I was picking up off the rack wanting to know what was going to happen each month. That made me a regular FANTASTIC FOUR reader. I’d pick up collections or Pocket Comics and get caught up on Lee and Kirby, but it was the John Byrne FF that made me a regular FF reader.

MARVEL.COM: Over the course of your Marvel career, you wrote books like SHE-HULK, THE THING, and SILVER SURFER, all featuring prominent FF members or frequent guest stars. It kind of feels like you were always building to writing FANTASTIC FOUR. Did it feel that way to you?

DAN SLOTT: Oh God, yeah! 

There was a time when Marvel was not publishing a FANTASTIC FOUR book, and I was getting ready to leave AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Two or three times a month on Spidey was kind of burning me out. I loved Spider-Man, but the thing that kept me going on Spidey was milestones. 

It was kind of like running a marathon: you’re looking down the road thinking you can make it to that point. You’re climbing a mountain a little bit at a time, but you can always see what you’re aiming for. The thing that kept me going was knowing if I wrote a certain amount of issues, I had written one fifth of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. There was a point where issue #800 was coming and I wanted to be the guy who wrote #600, #700 and #800. I could keep up the schedule without going crazy because I had my eye on the prize. Once I hit #800, the next milestones were so far in the future that I knew I was done. It was my dream gig, but I couldn’t keep it up.

So I told Marvel that after AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #800, there was one grace note issue I wanted to do, and then I was off Spidey. Around SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, they had given me a blank check to stay on Spider-Man as long as I wanted. I thought I would never leave, but I hit #800 and I was ready. I went to Axel [Alonso], who was editor-in-chief at the time, and told him I was done, but I gave enough advance notice that they asked me what I wanted to do next. 

They offered me some really neat things. At one point, Axel asked me to take over the X-Men franchise. I’ve always been more of a Marvel super heroes guy than an X-Men reader. I knew my X was weak. I hadn’t really religiously read the X-Men in over a decade. I was at the company retreats and picked up issues here and there to know where the characters were or where they were going – “Now they’re in San Francisco!” and so on. I said I would not do a good job, I would totally tank if I tried to do X-Men. [Laughs]

I said no thanks to X-Men and Axel asked me what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to do FANTASTIC FOUR Indiana Jones. Axel said we weren’t doing FANTASTIC FOUR Indiana Jones. Okay. We’d meet up every couple of weeks and he’d pitch me, say, DEADPOOL – eh, I just did Spider-Man, it’s kind of X-adjacent. So he’d ask me what I wanted to do. “I’d like to do FANTASTIC FOUR Indiana Jones.” “We are not doing FANTASTIC FOUR Indiana Jones!” It became a running thing. They’d offer me things and I’d just say I wanted to do FANTASTIC FOUR. Eventually, FANTASTIC FOUR opened up and they gave it to me! Yay!

MARVEL.COM: Like you said, before you came on FANTASTIC FOUR in 2018, the book and some of the characters had been dormant for a few years; it’s not like somebody else was writing them the month before you. How did it feel to bring FF back and write those first few issues?

DAN SLOTT: It was intimidating. It was very intimidating, because they had been left in such a great place. When Jonathan Hickman did SECRET WARS, he really closed the lid on that box, really tightly. You looked at where he left it and it was a really nice happily ever after for everybody. The characters were in such interesting places. It left me with some pretty scary problems, like once you get them all back, they have a son who has the power of God. I had to put an end to that! [Laughs] He could create universes! It was so frustrating.

I knew I was writing FANTASTIC FOUR before anybody else at Marvel did. I remember being in the retreat where it was announced they were coming back and that I was writing them. I said the deal with Franklin was that his power was like a battery that wasn’t recharging; he’s starting at God-level, but within a year or two years he would be a normal boy. He will not have the powers of God. We’re going to watch his descent from godhood to humanity and what it means for him to be normal, to have all that power and then lose it. That’s going to be his story arc. 

There were people in the room who liked Franklin where he was. They didn’t have plans for him because he was off in another universe, but they didn’t like that. I said tough. This is what I want to do. I didn’t want the character to leave the book. He’s their kid! It’s a book about family. But I didn’t want him to have the powers of God. This was the storyline I chose to do. 

But you grow up reading the FF one way. Then Franklin is born. Then they have Valeria. Then Jonathan is doing the book and they get like 12 other kids. I just want to write the Fantastic Four, but you don’t want them to look like jerks. “Hey, all you adopted children – get out!” [Laughs] That’s not fun! That would make me hate Reed and Sue. 

These were the bizarre white elephants and traps. I’ve seen the way other writers at Marvel do things and wish I had the bravery of, like, a Donny Cates. Donny comes in and blows things up and then puts the pieces where he wants. But I want to get there slowly, show how things got where they are, acknowledge the previous run, acknowledge the history.

MARVEL.COM: What plans did you have for Doctor Doom coming in? In many ways, he’s as much a part of the book as the FF themselves.

DAN SLOTT: One of the things working on FANTASTIC FOUR was there were always stories I wanted to do with Doctor Doom. He’s the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe. So many people had written Doctor Doom and taken him to more elevated places. Brian Bendis was right before us and had done this epic redemption run in INFAMOUS IRON MAN for Victor Von Doom. I asked Brian before he wrapped up if he could clean the table with Doom, because if not we were going to. Brian did a story where he put the toy back in the box. His face got scarred again fighting The Hood and he was a recluse by the end of the story. 

Yet for many fans, they wanted a continuation of the story that Brian had set up. That wasn’t the stuff I wanted to play with. I wanted Doom! When I was doing SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN, I made sure to put everything back in the box at the end so other writers could play with the Doc Ock they grew up with. The minute Doom was back to a capital D and a clenched fist, every writer wanted to play with him the minute he was the Doom we all grew up with. 

One of the hardest things with Doctor Doom is his schedule, because every other book wants to use him. I wrapped my head around it by knowing he was a hero, the hero of Latveria, and wanted to save Earth because Latveria was on Earth. In his mind, he’s a good guy. 

MARVEL.COM: Why did you make the call to finally marry Ben and Alicia and then give them their own family?

DAN SLOTT: One of the things I knew I was going to do right out of the gate was to marry Ben and Alicia. When I was working on THE THING, I had a 25-issue plan, and then the book got canceled with issue #8. [Laughs] Issue #25 was going to be Ben proposing to Alicia. For two years, we would do this long term romance of him wooing Alicia back. He was going to turn himself into a man that deserved to be with Alicia. 

I was working with [editor Tom] Brevoort and he told me he’d let me write the proposal, but I would not get to write the wedding. Ben Grimm is a member of the Fantastic Four and, if he’s going to get married, it will be in the pages of FANTASTIC FOUR. I could do the proposal, I could do the bachelor party, I could do the honeymoon, but the wedding would be in FF, which at the time was being written by J. Michael Straczynski. Brevoort asked me if I would be ok with that, and I said yes. When I got FANTASTIC FOUR, I reminded Tom that he was going to let me do the proposal in THE THING and asked if we could marry them now. That was going to be issue #5.

Joe Quesada had this idea about the Kree/Skrull War coming to an end and it coming down to these two kids. There would be two orphans, a Kree and a Skrull, and Reed and Sue would adopt them. I could tell Joe really liked that idea and knew it would be something I would end up incorporating. When I pitched it, I did it with a difference: Ben and Alicia would adopt these children and now they’re the new parents and Reed and Sue are the old hands. Reed and Sue have the teenagers, Ben and Alicia have the kids, and now we don’t just have a book about family, but one about two families. Everybody seemed to like that and it became a north star we were aiming towards.

FANTASTIC FOUR #46, which will conclude Dan Slott's run on Marvel's First Family, releases on Wednesday, August 24th. Stay tuned to learn more about his process and his storytelling decisions as we continue to reflect on his run throughout the week! 

Dan Slott's Fantastic Farewell Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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