Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett continues into the use of space stories in comics today, and discusses the changes made to the Fantastic Four, for better or for worse.

While they have had their share of movies, cartoons, and toys, the Fantastic Four has never been as popular or successful as the X-Men which kind of bites for their big fans, such as myself.  It has been theorized this was because the series was about a family, and that for the young adults that were reading Marvel Comics back in the 80's and 90's characters who were married with children seemed old, stodgy and uncool.  So, it's been gratifying to see the Internet abuzz with stories about the yet to be officially announced Fantastic Four movie.  Even if so far there’s been nothing but unreliable casting rumors, which have ranged from “Yeah, ok, maybe" (Will Smith as Reed Richards) to "Oh dear God please, no" (Jonah Hill as the Thing, no.  Jonah Hill as The Mole Man, maybe).

Better still, the Fantastic Four comic has also been getting some online attention.  And it’s due to its current storyline by Dan Slott and Paco Medina, Point Of Origin, which tweaks their astronaut-oriented origins (see "Confessions of a Comic Books - Supernauts").  Which is something else that some seem to feel make the franchise seem “old.” Because for a while now, some creators have clearly thought of space travel as something your grandpa did because in both the Ultimate Fantastic Four comics and the 2015 Fantastic Four movie the team got their powers via a teleportation mishap.

And they weren’t the only ones.  As you might recall in the 2017 Flash Gordon Syfy series, they had Flash (who, I always like to point out, was living with his Mom, as all great heroes do) commuting to the Planet Mongo (which someone decided looked exactly like the Pine Barrens of Canada) via dimensional rift (see “Confessions of a Comic Book Guy -- Look To The Future”).  The idea that travel via space ship was old-fashioned seems odd, given how many recent movies aimed at kids have been about just that.  There may be more, but after a quick Google search, I found Capture The Flag, Race To Space, The Space Between Us, Space Warriors. Space Dogs, Space Chimps, Space Buddies, and Fly Me To The Moon. Fly Me To The Moon is about astronaut insects; I swear.

The story that got this attention is the multi-part story Points of Origin that starts in Fantastic Four #14, which establishes that their ill-fated rocket (which has retroactively been given the name Marvel-1) had a faster-than-light drive, and before being bombarded by cosmic rays, it was attempting to reach "a habitable planet orbiting a binary star system 44 light-years away".  The plot concerns Reed and Johnny building a duplicate of their original ship ("the hard way" with no superpowers, just for the fun of it) so the team can complete their original mission. 

It’s full of wonderful moments, starting with our heroes attending the opening of the Marvel-1 exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum.  This is where we first learn Johnny Storm was actually qualified to be on that mission after all.  Turns out, he was NASA’s youngest pilot and a flashback of his training establishes that Sue’s kid brother had The Right Stuff in spades.  And we finally get to meet the crew members who were originally supposed to be onboard Marvel-1; instead of Sue and Johnny there was Colonel Duke Duchman and Sandy Captain Sanders. You'd think that they’d be bitter about missing this incredible opportunity but no, they're a pair of total jerks who think they dodged a bullet because one of them could have ended up looking like The Thing. 

I’ve been losing a lot of my favorite Marvel comics lately; Unbeatable Squirrel Squirrel is ending with #50, The Unstoppable Wasp ended in July with #10, and shipping today is Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #47, its final issue, I doubt 9-year old Luna will be gone for long; as the legend on the cover lets us know that the comic is "Soon To Be An Animated Series" on the Disney Channel.  And the story is pretty unfortunate, specifically for Reed Richards, who is not dealing at all well with the fact the smartest person in the Marvel Universe is a little girl. One of the things I like most about the comic is the fact that Luna is a fairly realistic little girl, meaning she can be a real jerk sometimes and often makes bad decisions.  But then, she is a little girl; what's Reeds excuse?

I can’t honestly say it was one of my favorites, but I was still bummed out when I read that after two issues, Marvel was canceling Future Foundation with its fifth and final issue shipping in December.  That’s because the premise, a bunch of Marvel kids (including Alex and Julie Power, Artie, Leech, Bentley-23 and the Moloids) who along with Dragon Man (another of my favorite Lee/Kirby characters) travel on a Starship Enterprise-type research vessel, had so much potential. The cancelation was all about sales, which to me suggests this should have been an original young adult graphic novel instead of a conventional comic book series.  And it would also make a great Disney animated series.

And finally, I’ve repeatedly written about the upcoming Netflix He-Man series, and I genuinely hope it makes the fans of the franchise happy (see “Confessions Of A Comic Book Guy -- Keep Moving Forward”).  Because we know just how hard the fans can complain when they’re made unhappy.  But as for me, I’d like to see the streamer do a do-over of Filmation’s Blackstar, a one-season series from the 80s which only ran for 13 episodes about an astronaut (there’s another one) who ends up in a fantasy adventure world. I missed it when it was first aired, but it’s available on YouTube.  I’ve only seen the first episode, but from what I have seen, it’s surprisingly good with better character designs and animation than the much-beloved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.  Another reason it requires a revival is that the lead character was supposed to be African-American, but back in 1981, CBS didn’t think America was ready for a black action/adventure hero so instead the character was just deeply tanned.  And yes, a black character named Blackstar is a little too on the nose, but this is definitely something I’ve never seen in series animation before.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of