Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes (2006)

Fantastic Four: World’s Greatest Heroes is an animated television series based on the Marvel Comics’ Fantastic Four comic book series and the movie itself. The series is the team’s fourth foray into animation, and combines two-dimensional art and three-dimensional computer animation produced by the France-based animation company Moonscoop, and is also produced by Moonscoop division Taffy Entertainment. All in collaboration with Cartoon Network. In the United States, the show suffered an erratic airing schedule on Cartoon Network, having premiered as part of Toonami on September 2, 2006 but only running for 8 of the season’s 26 episodes before being pulled without explanation. It returned to the network starting June 9, 2007, shortly before the release of the film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, but again, only nine further episodes were aired, leaving nine installments unaired in the USA. The show aired on Boomerang for a brief time before moving to the Nicktoons Network to air the final episodes. Episodes unaired in the US began airing on the Nicktoons Network in the winter of 2009.

It is distributed in the USA by 20th Century Fox and 20th Television, and in other countries by Warner Bros. Television Distribution.




PLOT SUMMARY

World’s Greatest Heroes is not directly connected to any of the previous iterations of the Fantastic Four, telling its own version of the team’s origin and meetings with their greatest villains. Additionally, Johnny Storm’s sister is identified as Susan Storm, implying that, like the earliest versions of the story, she is not yet married to Reed Richards but is dating or engaged to him. The series begins with the FF as already-established adventurers, foregoing an actual “origin episode” for the group. When the series was released outside of America, it featured a modified opening sequence with new narration that verbally established the origin of the team, but which did not expand on the mysteries of the origin any further.

Storylines and Influences

In its intended viewing order (reorganized significantly for its errant broadcasting schedule, but presented correctly on DVD), the first half of the series forms a loose story arc that spans thirteen episodes, focusing on the mysteries of the Negative Zone and Doctor Doom’s attempts to exploit its power, in addition to stories pitting the FF against the Mole Man, the Puppet Master and the Impossible Man, with guest-appearances by fellow Marvel Comics heroes Ant-Man and the Incredible Hulk. Significantly, the FF clash with Ronan the Accuser and the alien Skrulls in two separate episodes, whose stories converge in the opening episode of the season’s second half. The second half of the series is less cohesive, featuring only single-episode adventures with villains such as the Frightful Four, Diablo, Terminus, and guest-appearances from superheroes Iron Man, Namor and She-Hulk.

Unlike its 1990s predecessor, which consisted almost entirely of straight or slightly modified re-tellings of classic FF comic book stories, World’s Greatest Heroes features mostly original stories, heavily re-imagining the origins and/or first encounters many supervillains have with the FF. Nonetheless, certain Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comic book stories are drawn upon as the basis for a select few episodes of the series: in “Doomed”, Doctor Doom exchanges minds with Reed, like he did in 1963’s Fantastic Four #10; the Impossible Man is defeated when the FF simply ignore him, just as he was in 1963’s Fantastic Four #11; and in “Doomsday Plus One”, Doom launches the Baxter Building into space, as seen in 1962’s Fantastic Four #6. Later-era comic books, notably those by John Byrne and Chris Claremont, are also drawn upon: in “The Cure”, She-Hulk replaces the Thing on the team, as she did following 1987’s Secret Wars; in “Doomsday”, the FF is thrown into turmoil when Doctor Doom forges a journal that claims Reed intentionally mutated the team, as in the 1987 comic book mini-series, X-Men vs. Fantastic Four; and in “Frightful”, unstable molecules are unleashed and begin destabilizing matter, as seen in Mark Waid’s 2003 Fantastic Four Vol 3 #65-66.

In addition to its influence upon the indistinct origin of the team, the 2005 live-action movie also shaped the Thing’s love interest, Alicia Masters, who is rendered as African-American for the series. While traditionally Caucasian in comic books, this change kept some level of visual continuity with the feature film, in which she was played by African-American actress Kerry Washington. Her Stepfather the villain Philip Masters, the Puppet Master is changed into an African-American, too.

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TELEVISION SUBLIMINALS

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