|In 1994, the original Marvel Comics superheroes returned to the small screen for their third animated series. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961, The Fantastic Four went through considerably fewer cast changes than most superhero teams, and this cartoon version brought back the original foursome.
The Fantastic Four came into being thanks to a rocket designed by ace scientist Reed Richards. Pilot Ben Grimm (Reedís best friend) took the experimental rocket up for a test flight, bringing along Reed, Susan Richards (Reedís wife), and Johnny Storm (Susanís younger brother). When the ship passed through cosmic radiation too strong for its shields to withstand, the passengers were all bombarded with cosmic rays. Crash landing on earth, the four discovered that the radiation had left each of them with a strange, new power.
Reed, soon to be called Mr. Fantastic, became a pliable mass, with limbs that could stretch to seemingly endless limits. Sue gained the power of invisibility, and was thus named The Invisible Woman. Ben became The Thing, an incredibly strong, orange granite behemoth who constantly grumbled about his new lumpy appearance. Johnny gained the ability to "Flame on," encasing his body in fire and giving him the power of flight. The impetuous youth's new powers earned him the nom de superhero The Human Torch.
Unlike previous versions, this Fantastic Four ran storylines adapted straight from the comics, sometimes taking a more serious tone than earlier FF cartoons. Arch-nemesis Dr. Doom made his obligatory appearances, but the FF were also menaced by the planet-eating Galactus and his heralds, the shape-changing Skrulls, and Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who wanted to make the Invisible Woman his undersea bride. Two and three-part stories were commonplace, and romantic flings (such as Johnnyís with the Inhuman Crystal) covered full seasons.
Aired back-to-back with Iron Man, The Fantastic Four formed half of the weekend syndicated Marvel Action Hour. The package ran for two seasons, with 26 episodes apiece for the two components. After its cancellation, The Fantastic Four returned to the comic world, waiting for another shot at the big time.