First Family Fill-Ins: FANTASTIC FOUR's Substitute Members

<i>By George Marston, Newsarama Contributor</i> <p>In Matt Fraction's upcoming relaunch of both <b>Fantastic Four</b> and <b>FF</b> as part of the Marvel NOW! revamp, the Fantastic Four find themselves occupied off-world, and a team of substitute members must step in to take their place. <p>Though this is the first time the team has been replaced wholesale as part of an ongoing story, it's not the first time the roster has fluctuated, or even the first time four new heroes have stepped in to take the team's place on a temporary basis. <p>Here are the 10 best replacements for members of the Fantastic Four over the years. And sorry, H.E.R.B.I.E. fans, he didn't make the cut. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p> <p>

WOLVERINE/HULK/GHOST RIDER

Maybe it's cheating to start out with a three-way tie, but Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider have only served together, as three fourths of the so-called "New Fantastic Four." <p>Along with Spider-Man (we'll get to him later), these three have taken the place of the Fantastic Four at several points over the years. First brought together as a ploy by a Skrull who had impersonated the Invisible Woman and captured the original team, this new, more ruthless version of the FF has also reunited at the behest of Dr. Strange, in lieu of a new group of Defenders, and have been shown as the full-time Fantastic Four in numerous alternate realities. <p>While it seems unlikely that these four characters will permanently fill the role of the FF outside of alternate worlds and <i>What If?</i> style tales in the foreseeable future, their stories are fan-favorites, so anything is possible.

LUKE CAGE

His tenure may have lasted only a couple of issues, but Luke Cage's participation in the Fantastic Four was an important milestone for numerous reasons. <p>First, he was the first person of color ever to join the Fantastic Four and there have only been three and second, he was also the first in a long line of super-strong characters to replace the Thing over the years. Hired by Mr. Fantastic to replace the Thing after he finally shed his rocky exterior and returned to his life as plain old Ben Grimm. Needless to say, there was more than a little tension between Cage and Grimm, with the latter even nearly breaking his hand trying to punch the former in the stomach. <p>Cage's tenure with the team ended when the Puppet Master turned him against his teammates, and Ben, in a special exo-suit designed to restore his powers, re-joined the FF to hunt him down.

MEDUSA

Though she first encountered the Fantastic Four as a member of the villainous Frightful Four, it was quickly revealed that she was actually a member of the Inhumans, a race of super-powered beings from a remote, hidden city. Medusa had amnesia brought on by a plane crash, and had been brainwashed by the Wizard into joining his team. <p>Over the years, Medusa has joined the team several times during the Invisible Woman's absences. Even when she's not on the team, she remains a faithful ally through the Inhumans long-standing association with the team. Most recently, the Inhumans took part in the FF's conflict with the Kree, while Medusa herself has been announced to take the place of Sue Richards on the substitute team appearing in the relaunch of <b>FF</b>.

BLACK PANTHER & STORM

During <i>Civil War</I>, Reed and Sue Richards found themselves in the unenviable position of being on opposite sides of the conflict. While this was hardly the first time the pair had been through a rough patch, the strain of opposing each other on such a fundamental level pushed the two to the breaking point. <p>When the conflict finally ended, Reed and Sue took a leave of absence from the Fantastic Four, entrusting the reins of the team to the recently married Black Panther and Storm. Along with the Human Torch and Thing, the Panther and Storm lead the team for a year, encountering numerous FF foes along the way, including Dr. Doom, the Frightful Four, and even Galactus; in stories written by the late Dwayne McDuffie. <p>The two remained on the team briefly even after Reed and Sue returned, but soon returned to Wakanda. With their own marriage recently dissolving due to another superhero conflict (<i>Avengers vs. X-Men</i>), it is unlikely that Black Panther and Storm will ever fill that role again, but T'Challa did recently spiritually bond with Reed Richards, so his continued involvement with the team is almost guaranteed.

MS. MARVEL

No, not Carol Danvers. Sharon Ventura, the second Ms. Marvel, started out as the Thing's love interest in his solo series, joining the team alongside Crystal when Reed and Sue Richards took a leave of absence. <p>First standing with the team against Diablo, things quickly took a turn for the strange as she and Thing were caught in a blast of cosmic rays while returning from space. The Thing mutated further, resulting in a new, spiky look for Ben Grimm, and Sharon Ventura found herself encased in a rocky exterior just like the Thing. <p>Although she never officially changed her alias, she became known as "She-Thing," and stayed with the team longer than most substitute members, even retaining her association with the team after Reed and Sue returned. Although her story took another tragic turn when Dr. Doom mutated her further, driving her insane and leading her to join the Frightful Four, she eventually regained her sanity and retired from heroism.

ANT-MAN

Scott Lang has joined the Fantastic Four numerous times over the years, first joining when Reed Richards was missing and presumed dead. <p>His tenure with the team was spent alongside another substitute member, Kristoff Vernard, the heir to the FF's arch-enemy Doctor Doom. The dynamic between the two was strained, to say the least, though they did work together to improve Lang's Ant-Man technology. <p>Lang found himself most often serving alongside the team in the absence of Reed Richards, and often in opposition to various alternate versions of Richards himself. Ant-Man has remained one of the FF's "go-to" substitutes, and is slated to once again take Reed's spot on the team in the new Marvel NOW! <b>FF</b>.

CRYSTAL

Crystal is notable for being the first substitute member ever to take the place of one of the original teammembers. Having lived with the Fantastic Four for some time as Johnny Storm's girlfriend, it was only natural that Crystal took the spot vacated by Sue Storm when she took a leave of absence to focus on her pregnancy with Franklin Richards. <p>Quickly allaying Reed's trepidation due to her young age by soundly defeating the Wizard, Crystal served with the team through one of their most harrowing encounters with Dr. Doom, and also stood with them against such foes as the Mole Man, Maximus the Mad, and the Skrulls. <p>Continuing to serve with the team even after the birth of Reed and Sue's child, Crystal left the team when Sue was able to return to full-time duty. Her association with the FF continues, as she has often served as a temporary member through the years, and she and the rest of the Inhumans have played a continuous role in the team's recent conflict with the Kree.

DOCTOR DOOM

While it's true that Doctor Doom is unquestionably the Fantastic Four's nemesis, there have also been numerous occasions on which he has aided and even joined the team. Doom even assisted in the birth of the Richards's second child, Valeria, and once cured Ben Grimm of the condition that makes him the Thing. <p>Most prominently, Doom joined the Fantastic Four after the apparent death of Johnny Storm. Suffering from brain damage at the hands of a group of evil scientists known as the Intelligencia, Doom joined the team at the behest of Valeria Richards. <p>The super-intelligent child, working in secret with her grandfather, Reed's time-traveling father Nathaniel Richards, Valeria schemed to restore Doom's intelligence and manipulate him into sacrificing himself to save the Earth. Doom did exactly that, apparently dying at the hands of an attacking Celestial while working with the FF, though he was actually transported to an alternate universe, where he found a version of the Infinity Gauntlet. Since returning home, he's been back to his old ways.

SHE-HULK

When the Thing elected to remain on the alien world where the Beyonder had pitted numerous heroes and villains against each other during Secret Wars, he was replaced as the team's resident powerhouse by She-Hulk. <p>She-Hulk remained with the team longer than any other substitute member, with her tenure lasting for nearly 40 issues, culminating in the return of the Thing in Fantastic Four #300. In her tenure, she faced many of the team's greatest enemies, and was there when Sue Storm suffered a miscarriage, and at the wedding of Johnny Storm, and Lyja, the Skrull. <p>There's no question that She-Hulk is a fan-favorite character, and fan-favorite member of the FF, so it's no wonder she's once again been selected to take Ben Grimm's place on the team with Matt Fraction and mike Allred's new <b>FF</b> series.

SPIDER-MAN

Spider-Man has been associated with the Fantastic Four since his second appearance in comics. In the first issue of his own series, Spider-Man tried out for the Fantastic Four, and was even accepted for membership, though he turned it down when he realized they weren't planning on paying him. <p>Since then, he's remained a close associate of the team, and is one of Johnny Storm's best friends. The association doesn't stop there, however, as the Fantastic Four are some of the only people who know Peter's secret identity. Further, Spider-Man, along with Wolverine, the Hulk, and Ghost Rider, has often served as a member of an entire substitute team. When his friend Johnny Storm was presumed dead after an encounter in the Negative Zone, Spider-Man stepped up and fully joined the team as part of Johnny's last wishes. <p>Even after Johnny returned, Spider-Man has remained with the team, serving alongside the core members as a part of the Future Foundation. While it that membership appears to be ending with the relaunch of both <b>Fantastic Four</b> and <b>FF</b>, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four are too intricately connected to remain apart for long.

First Family Fill-Ins: FANTASTIC FOUR's Substitute Members

Date: 07 September 2012 Time: 08:30 PM ET