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Off My Mind: Did Reed Richards Doom the Fantastic Four From the Start?

The creation of Marvel's First Family was an accident but it's possible there was another motive all along.

The Marvel Universe may have had its beginnings with Captain America, Namor and the Invaders in the 1940s but it was in 1961 it had it's official start with the Fantastic Four. The FF were unlike other heroes as they did not have secret identities and were more of a family than a bunch of costumed heroes. With their relationship with each other, they are practically the heart and soul of the heroes of Marvel.

The origin of the team was a simple one. Reed Richards was a brilliant man and had designed an experimental spacecraft to journey to the stars. When funding and the launch was being threatened, Reed had no choice but to act. Enlisting his best friend and ace pilot Ben Grimm, along with his girlfriend Sue Storm and her younger brother Johnny, the four set out to prove the ship's design was sound. When passing through cosmic rays surrounding Earth, the four were forced to land and soon discovered they had been transformed and had gained miraculous superpowers. It was an accident and they made the best out of it by becoming heroes.

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Whether or not this truly was an accident has been brought up before. Is it really possible that Reed Richards, a literal rocket scientist, could have overlooked the possibility and outcome that cosmic rays would have on those exposed to them? Was his ship flawed in not having the proper shielding or was this all part of Reed's plan to create a team of super-powered individuals?

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Reed is man with a heart of gold. He loves his family and best friend. He wants nothing but the best for the world. How could he purposely expose his loved ones to potentially harmful rays? This was one of the topics in 1987's The Fantastic Four Vs. The X-Men.

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Reed Richard's diary (or journal) was discovered and it had some shocking revelations. The idea that the team was accidentally created is hard to believe when considering how extremely intelligent Reed is. His journal stated his concern over the growing number of super-powered people and mutants. Not everyone that gained power would use them with the best intentions. It was Reed's plan to create his own team of super-powered heroes. Knowing that Ben, Sue and Johnny were all good-hearted people, if they gained special abilities, it was a guarantee that they would become a force of good.

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This all is too hard to believe. Could it be that Reed is more deceptive than we thought? The idea that he could simply forget to consider or somehow overlooked shielding required to protect them from the harmful cosmic rays is absurd. Ben will admit he may not be the smartest person around but this was something that even he wondered over the years. We've seen the guilt that Reed has had over the years in attempting to find a cure for Ben. Perhaps this guilt is more because he knew there the chance of something bad happening and played god with the lives of his family.

Even if it was in writing, it's hard to believe. Reed claimed he didn't recall writing those entries. He could have been so overworked in those final days before the launch that he didn't realize he had written it. It's possible that the creation was part of a subconscious plan he set in motion without his rational mind becoming aware. Of course there's also the possibility that someone like Doctor Doom forged the entries in order to make Reed and the Fantastic Four doubt their entire existence.

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Reed purposely taking the risk, even if the potential for good was there, is a hard notion to swallow. Even under extreme stress, Reed has managed to keep things under control. He isn't the type to put his family at risk...although taking them out on mission after mission could be a good argument against that. Reed should have taken the cosmic rays into consideration. He's the type that approaches all tasks and problems from every angle possible. Either he was under heavy stress or he's actually one of the biggest jerks in the Marvel Universe.

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The Fantastic Four have saved world and universe time and time again. Who knows what would have happened if they never existed. Their accidental creation may have been the best thing that happened to their world but would that still excuse the possibility that Reed could have intentionally made the decision to risk transforming them in the hopes for the greater good? Sacrifices are sometimes necessary but the question remains. The 1987 miniseries tries to resolve this question but was it really answered? Is Reed a genius that made a mistake that worked out for the best or is he really one of the most brilliant and devious individuals in the Marvel Universe?