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Western Animation / The Fantastic Four (1967)

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The Fantastic Four, united in their fight against interplanetary evil. Fantastic!

This action cartoon, produced by Hanna-Barbera for ABC, was among the first of several animated adaptations of the Fantastic Four comic book. Several of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby stories from the early issues were adapted for this program. This series ran for 20 episodes, including two 10-minute shorts, until the Media Watchdogs demanded less violence in children's television.

This series provides examples of:

  • Above Good and Evil: Galactus provides an example that might not have come up too often in '60s children's cartoons.
  • Adaptation Distillation: For instance, the Galactus trilogy got compressed into one episode.
  • Adaptation Species Change: The stand-ins for Namor (who were created because Hanna-Barbera couldn't obtain the rights to the character due to them already being claimed by Grantray-Lawrence Animation for use in The Marvel Super Heroes) are different species from the original character.
    • Prince Triton is a full Homo Mermanus instead of half as indicated by his blue skin and not being able to be outside of water.
    • Dr. Gamma is a fully human scientist who is mutated into some huge purple sea creature with a fin on his head.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: Sometimes Hanna-Barbera would show Sue activating her force fields in episodes adapted from comics set before she learned how to do so.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Ben's girlfriend, Alicia Masters, never appeared in this show.note 
    • Since the episode adapting the Red Ghost's debut only runs 10 minutes, the Fantastic Four do not get to meet The Watcher in it. Instead, "It Started on Yancy Street" marks the first time the Four meet him.
    • Likewise, when Klaw first appears, he mentions a past encounter with the FF where he was thought dead, but the person who nearly killed him, Black Panther, is neither seen nor explicitly mentioned.
    • "The Micro World of Doctor Doom" does not have Ant-Man in it, likely because the studio that made The Marvel Superheroes already secured Hank Pym.
  • All Your Powers Combined: As in the comics, the Super Skrull has the powers of the entire team, plus a few of his own. He's defeated when they manage to cut off the energy feed from the Skrull homeworld, taking away all that power.
  • Antagonist Title: "Klaw", "Diablo", "The Red Ghost", "The Mysterious Molecule Man", "Galactus", "Blast-Starr, the Living Bomb Burst", and "Rama-Tut" all have titles consisting simply of the villain's name. Some other episodes also have titles consisting of phrases with the villain's name.
  • Black Bead Eyes: Doctor Doom appears to have these most of the time. In close-ups, his eyes look blue with black pupils.
  • Clip Show: "The Terrible Tribunal" (doubles as a Court Room Episode) and "The Deadly Director" both used footage from older episodes.
  • Damsel in Distress: There's a large number of episodes where you can count on Sue to call out, "Reed, Johnny, Ben! Help!" Though it probably counts as Fair for Its Day, as Sue does get her moments.
  • Death Trap: "The Three Predictions of Doctor Doom" sees Doom trap Sue in a room where The Walls Are Closing In, suffocate Johnny in a room that quickly rotates to extinguish his flames, and leave Reed Locked in a Freezer until he shatters like a rubber ball.
  • Diplomatic Impunity: In "The Way It All Began", Doctor Doom invokes diplomatic immunity as Latveria's ruler to avoid being arrested upon arriving in New York.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: Johnny tells Ben that they didn't need an explanation behind his crack about waiting until "Doomsday" for their next confrontation with Doctor Doom.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The first episode produced, "Klaw", only lasts 10 minutes. Reruns pair it together with the equally short episode "The Red Ghost".
  • Episode Title Card: Par for the course for Hanna-Barbera's superhero cartoons.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Just about all the villains chew the scenery.
  • Expy: Since the rights to Namor the Sub-Mariner were already claimed by The Marvel Super Heroes, Prince Triton and Gamma-ray were created in his place with the former for Namor the Hero and the latter for Namor the Villain respectively.
  • Film Felons: "The Deadly Director" involves a villainous Master of Disguise impersonating a famous movie director and interviewing the Fantastic Four about their previous adventures under the pretense of digging for ideas for a movie about them, while noting the various ways the villains failed to defeat them and plotting his way around their pitfalls.
  • Foreshadowing: The scene of the cosmic storm in "The Way It All Began" contains some lines that foreshadow the respective abilities that Sue, Johnny, and Ben gained that day: Sue says she feels like she's not really there, Johnny says he can feel himself heating up, and Ben says he feels heavy.
  • Happily Married: Unlike the comics, this cartoon always portrays Reed and Sue Richards as husband and wife, bar the flashbacks set before the founding of the Fantastic Four. However, the show does avoid portraying Reed's and Sue's marriage as 24/7 bliss. "Galactus" begins with Sue lamenting to Ben about how sometimes Reed spends more time with his science experiments than with her, and Ben assuring Sue that Reed still loves her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Silver Surfer turns against Galactus after Suenote  demonstrates human sympathy towards him.
  • Horn Attack: "Invasion of the Super Skrull". While fighting the Thing, the Super Skrull used Reed Richard's elastic power to shape his head into that of a ram and head-butt the Thing with his horns, knocking him off the top of a building.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The Thing, to the extent where he even becomes the lackey of an evil scientist who offers to turn him human.
  • In Medias Res: The first episode produced and the first one aired both take place some time after the team's formation and the marriage of Reed and Sue.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Doctor Doom shrinks the Fantastic Four in "The Micro World of Doctor Doom".
  • Irony: The rights to the series are currently owned by Warner Bros., who also owns Marvel's biggest competitor DC Comics. Meanwhile Marvel itself is now owned by Disney, who acquired a backlog of animated Marvel adaptations from other companies several years prior to acquiring Marvel themselves, but wouldn't own the Fantastic Four film rights until buying what is now 20th Century Studios in 2019.
  • Lame Pun Reaction: No one laughs at Ben's crack about waiting until "Doomsday" to face Doctor Doom again.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: "Invasion of the Super Skrulls" has an example. After the Fantastic Four stop the Super Skrull from taking over the world, he proclaims that he can not return to his home planet, lest the king of the Skrulls punish him for his failure. Reed allows him to stay on Earth under the condition that he turns himself into a cow, then lets Reed erase his memories of being a Skrull. Note that this differs greatly from the aftermath of the Four's first encounter in the comics with the Super Skrull (but not from their first encounter with Skrulls in general).
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "The Micro World of Doctor Doom" begins with Ben transporting a piano, while muttering to himself about how embarrassed he'd feel if any of his fans saw him.
  • Limited Animation: One particularly obvious example happens in the beginning of "Invasion of the Super Skrulls": The Four are going to get zapped by the Skrulls, yet only Sue moves, waving her hands once to create a deflector shield.
  • Loophole Abuse: In the episode where the Four take on Rama-Tut, he uses a ray that forces them to do his bidding. A burst of cosmic energy briefly turns the Thing back into Ben Grimm, and because Rama-Tut put the Thing under his control, this somehow means Ben's free to do whatever he wants until it wears off and he changes back.
  • Narrating the Obvious: Par for the course in The Silver Age of Comic Books.
  • Never My Fault: Victor Von Doom blames Reed Richards for the accident that ruined his face. Everything Reed did in this case was warning Doom about some miscalculations and Doom decided to ignore the warning.
  • Never Say "Die": Zigzagged; the words "die" and "kill" are used on occasion, but the characters refer to actual demises with such terms as "finished" and "done for".
  • Nonindicative Names:
    • "The Menace of the Mole Man" adapts a comic titled, "The Return of the Mole Man!", while "The Return of the Mole Man" adapts a comic titled, "The Mad Menace of the Macabre Mole Man". The former episode's title doesn't match its comic because Hanna-Barbera had yet to adapt the first Fantastic Four issue. (When they finally did so, they left out Mole Man's scenes to boot.)
    • Namor's heroic stand-in Triton is the ruler of Pacifica, rather than Atlantis. Despite the name change, it is by all appearances still located in the Atlantic rather than the Pacific Ocean.
  • Not Quite Dead: Somehow Doctor Doom manages to survive jumping out of an airplane and crash landing while flying a missile.
  • Origins Episode: "The Way It All Began" contains flashbacks to when Reed first met Ben and Victor Von Doom, the transformation of Victor into Doctor Doom, and the fateful trip that turned Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben into the Fantastic Four.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Due to not having the rights to Namor, Hanna-Barbera replaced him with a pair of Captain Ersatz, known as Gamma-Ray and Prince Triton, the former as Namor as a villain and the latter as Namor as a hero. Triton's domain was likewise changed from Atlantis to Pacifica, even though Atlantis is public domain.
  • Prophecy Twist: "The Three Predictions of Doctor Doom" has Doom threaten that he will remove The Heart of the Fantastic Four, that he will remove the strength of the Fantastic Four, and that the greatest power will conquer all. Doom removes the heart by kidnapping Sue and the strength by turning the Thing back into human Ben, but since the Four ultimately overpowers him, he fails to "conquer all."
  • Race Lift: Prior to mutating in the creature known as Gamma-Ray, Dr. Gamma appears to be an East Asian character. Namor, the character he was adapted from, was white, having been fathered by the white Leonard McKenzie.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Victor Von Doom becomes so disgusted at the sight of his post-explosion scarred face in a mirror, he smashes the mirror with his fist.
  • Sleeping Single: In "The Terrible Tribunal", Reed and Sue are shown sleeping in separate beds in spite of being married.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: In "The Micro World of Doctor Doom", Doom's plan to make the Four slaves to lizard people would apparently result in Reed doing research, Ben working in mines, Johnny burning down enemy cities, and everyone's meals.
  • Team Hand-Stack: Performed in the intro, the end credits, and the flashback of when the Four first practiced their superpowers and created their superhero names.
  • Title Montage: The intro plays one following a depiction of the Four gaining their powers from the cosmic rays.
    • Credits Montage: The end credits reel basically superimposes text over the above intro note .
  • Title Sequence Replacement: Some reruns play the intro with just the visuals and music, no Opening Narration.
  • Truer to the Text: Zigzagged. Coming a year after The Marvel Super Heroes, Namor's heroic stand-in Triton is the ruler of Pacifica rather than Atlantis. On the one hand, Namor's creator Bill Everett never intended for Namor's home to be Atlantis. On the other, Namor's people lived in the Antarctic Ocean, while Pacifica, despite its name, by all appearances is still located in the Atlantic.
  • Villain Team-Up: "The Terrible Tribunal" features a team-up with the villains Klaw, Molecule Man, and Blastaar.
  • The Worf Effect: A subdued example, but they show how powerful Galactus is by having him easily block the Thing's strongest punch.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Galactus has greener skin and a shorter height compared to how he looks in the comics. He also wears blue instead of purple.