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Fantastic Fathers Week 1 - Prelude

by David HJ on September 01, 2014

My children are going to be raised by comic books.
 
I don’t mean that in the Generation Y, absentee parent “raised by TV” sense. Nor do I mean it in the way I consider myself raised by comics. For me, comic books gave body to concepts I knew I wanted to be true. Nothing drove home what it meant to put the well-being of others before your own like Captain America diving in front of gunfire to shield a couple of kids in the Smithsonian in Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s Captain America vol. 3 #3, the first comic I ever read.
 
Moments like that have proliferated through my comic-reading experience ever since, each of the piling on to the stack of lessons taught to me by comic books that will undoubtedly be passed along to my kids – some of them word for word. The most recent of these is in Fantastic Four #570, the first issue of Jonathan Hickman’s much celebrated run. We see Reed Richards as a young boy standing in a tree house while his father Nathaniel waits below for him to jump. “It’s all right”, Nathaniel says, “I’ll catch you.” Reed remains reluctant – “I don’t think I want to.”
 
That’s when Nathaniel lays down a piece of fatherly wisdom that I know won’t ever leave me: “It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to fail. But to say you’re not even willing to try… …That’s unacceptable, Reed.” In two pages, Hickman already has me reflecting on fatherhood and what it what it means to be a father. More importantly, he’s established the tone for what the next 65 issues are going to tackle: fathers, fatherhood, and what it means to be a father.
 
 Nathaniel Richards takes advantage of a teachable moment (Fantastic Four #1)

Fatherhood is a theme that runs recurrently throughout Hickman’s bibliography (consider this the official plug to read The Red Wing by Hickman with his future Manhattan Projects collaborator Nick Pitarra). But it’s nowhere more prevalent than his FF work, with the first issue laying all the ground work you’d ever need for a four year rumination on the subject. The first issue is replete with fathers and sons – Nathaniel and Reed in those first two pages, the Wizard and his Bentley clones in those following, Reed as a father to Valeria and Franklin, and the crowning jewel that makes Hickman’s exploration of fatherhood an excellent character study of the Fantastic Four as well: the Council of Reeds. In the Council we get a picture of Reed with his fatherhood taken away from him, to see what remains when his family is gone.
 
From the seeds of that first issue, Hickman reaped a generous harvest. The question of what it means to be a father is the defining aspect of Reed’s character under Hickman’s tenure, and a crucial theme to the series as a whole. By going through the series arc by arc, I hope to have a chance to spend some time in fatherhood as told by Hickman, taking an opportunity to celebrate one of the truly great superhero books of the past decade while also digging into its meat.
 
Stick around and join me these next couple of months. It’s a great excuse to reread what will certainly be a definitive run on the Fantastic Four, or to experience it for the first time. Either way, I hope to see you here next week to dig into fatherhood in the first chapter of Hickman’s FF: Solve Everything.

Comments

Comments

stephengervais's picture

Think I'll re-read this run while you are doing your pieces!
spicytoilet's picture

Very nicely done!  I'm going to have to jump on Comixology now and find this.  Thanks!

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