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Known internationally as Earth's first family of super heroes, the members of the Fantastic Four owe their amazing abilities to their elastic leader: scientific stalwart Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mr. Fantastic. As a starry-eyed student at State University, Reed already had set his sights on interstellar travel. His roommate and best friend, Ben Grimm, jokingly promised to pilot the craft. Working years later as an aeronautical engineer, Reed finally realized his lifelong dream. Exhausting the majority of his vast inheritance, he funded the construction and launch of a starship. Reed recruited Ben, who had become a successful test pilot and astronaut, to fly the vessel. Reed's longtime sweetheart and fiance, Sue Storm, joined him at the launch site.
When the government threatened to cut off its partial funding of the project, Reed elected to embark on an immediate test flight. Ben opposed the idea, warning that the ship's shielding might prove inadequate against intense forms of cosmic radiation. Nevertheless, Reed persuaded his old friend to serve as pilot. Sue and her adolescent brother, Johnny, insisted on accompanying the would-be history-makers. The four stole into the launch facility, boarded the starship and blasted off in pursuit of scientific glory. They intended to travel to another star system and back, but a solar flare temporarily boosted the intensity of the ionizing radiation in Earth's Van Allen belt. Cosmic rays bombarded the ship's cabin, irradiating the four passengers and slagging the controls. Ben was forced to abort the flight and return to Earth.
Back on terra firma, the four discovered that the radiation had triggered mutagenic changes in their bodies. Reed could become malleable, Sue could turn invisible, and Johnny could generate fiery plasma. Ben stood transformed into an orange-colored, thick-skinned, heavily muscled, superhumanly strong "thing." It was Reed who convinced his friends that they should use their newfound powers for humanity's benefit.
Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, the Human Torch and Invisible Girl established their base atop the Baxter Building in midtown Manhattan. Financed by profits from the patents on Reed's inventions, the Fantastic Four set out to safeguard the world from any and all threats beyond the purview of conventional peacekeeping forces. Some time after the freak accident that granted the foursome its powers, Sue married Reed. Like all couples, the super-powered duo has experienced its share of problems -- thanks, in large part, to Reed's devotion to his work. However, they always return to one another. The two have one son, Franklin, who possesses latent mutant abilities.
The team first put its abilities on public display when the subterranean Mole Man attempted to take revenge on the surface world by destroying Earth's power plants and unleashing an army of gigantic monsters to annihilate the human race. The Fantastic Four turned back the Mole Man's threat, unaware that greater menaces awaited. As fate would have it, Reed again encountered his college rival, Victor Von Doom, whose face had been hideously scarred during an experiment gone awry. The newly christened Dr. Doom now ruled his homeland of Latveria with an iron fist -- his ghastly countenance cloaked beneath a metal faceplate, his body sheathed in nigh-impenetrable armor. Doom kidnapped Sue to draw her teammates to his castle. The would-be conqueror had created a time machine, and he demanded that Reed, Ben and Johnny travel into the past to retrieve a magical stone. Upon their return, the team defeated Doom.
The greatest squad of superhuman adventurers ever assembled, the Fantastic Four continued to push the bounds of human exploration. Challenging the unknown, the intrepid heroes discovered the parallel dimension known as the Negative Zone; initiated human contact with alien races such as the Skrulls and Kree; unearthed the hidden civilization of the Inhumans, a genetic offshoot of mankind; and located the secret African nation of Wakanda, ruled by the noble Black Panther. Perhaps the finest of the Fantastic Four's early victories came in the face of the fundamental force of nature known as Galactus. Only able to satiate his awesome hunger by depleting a planet's life-sustaining energies, Galactus had come to consume Earth. The FF repelled the ravager of worlds under the threat of an extraterrestrial device called the Ultimate Nullifier, powerful enough to eradicate even Galactus. In the process, the heroes liberated the alien's herald, the Silver Surfer.
Following their supposed deaths at the hands of the sentient psionic menace called Onslaught, the Fantastic Four and a number of Earth's other great champions were shunted into an alternate dimension created by young Franklin Richards. The team returned to its proper place and time only to discover that its headquarters had been destroyed by the Thunderbolts, a collection of villains posing as heroes. Consequently, the FF was forced to relocate to a warehouse on a Manhattan pier. But with the help of Noah Baxter, his friend and fellow inventor, Reed managed to rebuild the team's Baxter Building headquarters and return the Fantastic Four to its former glory.