In 1961, Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby changed comics forever with the arrival of the Fantastic Four on newsstands. This family of superheroes—Reed Richards, Susan and Jonny Storm, and pilot Benjamin Grimm—gained powers in a cosmic ray accident in outer space. Returning to Earth forever changed, this bickering quartet became Mister Fantastic, Invisible Girl Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing, the celebrated superheroes known as the Fantastic Four. Running almost continuously since 1961, Fantastic Four pioneered modern superhero comics. In anticipation of their MCU debut, we present to you what we consider the 10 greatest creative team runs of Marvel’s self-proclaimed “ World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”

The Fantasic Four, as illustrated by Salvador Larroca, Alex Ross, and Bryan Hitch.
Marvel Comics

10. Steve Englehart

with John Buscema, Keith Pollard

Marvel Comics

Veteran writer Steve Englehart, who had written some of the best Avengers comics ever, had an unenviable task in 1987. He had to take over the Fantastic Four after a best-selling and critically loved run by John Byrne, who had left to revamp DC’s Superman. Now, Englehart’s two-year stint on the title post-Byrne isn’t anywhere near the former creator’s level. Yet it’s still very enjoyable, and added some fun wrinkles to the series. Reed and Sue left the team to be good parents to Franklin. So Steve Englehart replaced them with the new Ms. Marvel, Sharon Ventura, and Crystal of the Inhumans. Together with Human Torch and the Thing, it created a whole new team dynamic. Especially with “mom and dad” Reed and Sue gone.

Having Johnny’s ex-girlfriend Crystal on the team led to all kinds of romantic tension. Turning Sharon/Ms. Marvel into the She-Thing also ended up being a genius move. Toward the end of his run, Englehart was tasked by editorial to bring back Reed and Sue, which he hated. He made the entire last year’s worth of stories a dream sequence, and he was so unhappy with them that he wrote them under the pen name “John Harkness.” At the time, Keith Pollard’s pencils seemed a little old-fashioned compared to other comics, as was the work of the iconic John Buscema. If you ask us, they’ve aged like fine wine. Is it the greatest Fantastic Four run of them all? No, but it certainly deserves some recognition. If only for its big, weird swings.

Issues in Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.1) #304-333 (1987-1989)

9. Mark Millar

with Bryan Hitch

Marvel Comics

Writer Mark Millar, creator of Kick-Ass and Kingsman, wrote an updated version of the Fantastic Four for Marvel’s Ultimate universe. But the version he did with his Ultimates collaborator Bryan Hitch for the 616 universe is actually better, even if it doesn’t get as much attention. Less bombastic than his Ultimate Fantastic Four run, which leaned into shock value (a Millar trait), this relatively brief run only has 16 issues. Yet it’s still a very enjoyable read, which saw the return of Reed Richards’ old girlfriend Alyssa Moy, a creation from Chris Claremont’s run, and the creation of Nu-World. This is an alternate Earth created by the world’s greatest minds as a home for humanity when the world goes up. The fact that these stories are bolstered by Hitch’s incredible art sure doesn’t hurt. Were this a longer run, we’d likely rank it higher.

Issues in Mark Millar’s Fantastic Four run:

Fantastic Four (vol.1)  #554-569 and Annual #32 (2008-2009)

8. Chris Claremont

with Salvador Larroca

Marvel Comics

Writer Chris Claremont remains most famous today for his epic 16-year run on Uncanny X-Men. But after leaving Marvel and the X-Men comics in the early ‘90s, he returned in 1998 to Marvel’s First Family. This was the comic that got him hooked on Marvel in the first place. His run came at a controversial time for the Fantastic Four brand, after Jim Lee’s brief “Heroes Reborn” stint, which spun the team off into its own universe for a year. The following year, after a poor reception to the Jim Lee version, “Heroes Return” brought the team back to Marvel Universe proper.

Scott Lobdell was the initial writer for Fantastic Four vol. 3, but Marvel quickly replaced him with Claremont with the third issue. Now, Claremont’s run on the team didn’t set the world on fire the same way his X-Men run did. The first year of the comic leaned too heavily on former X-Men plot elements. However, it is worth reading. This was not only because of Claremont’s clever handling of the team’s family dynamics, but also for the stunning art of Salvador Larroca. Claremont introduced Sue and Reed’s daughter (originally thought to be Doom’s) Valeria Von Doom/Valeria Richards in this run, one of the few modern FF characters who has had a long shelf life beyond one creator’s run.

Issues in Chris Claremont’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.3) #4-32, Annuals 1999 and 2000 (1998-2000)

7. Tom DeFalco

with Paul Ryan

Marvel Comics

This run by writer (and former Marvel EIC) Tom DeFalco doesn’t ever get the credit it deserves. It came at a time when everything gaining attention at Marvel was X-Men, Spider-Man, or Punisher adjacent. In addition, DeFalco’s writing and Paul Ryan’s art was very “old school,” in an era when everything was about being flashy and over the top. But this creative team, while not reinventing any wheels, was very good at classic Marvel Comics soap opera yarn spinning.

For five years, you never knew what was going to happen from issue to issue. As a reader, you always wanted to know what would happen next. Human Torch’s wife might actually be a Skrull agent, or Reed and Dr. Doom might die together (and stay dead for a year). No plot twist was off the table, and the book was just plain fun to read. Yes, there were missteps and desperate attempts to try and stay hip. For example, Sue Storm’s “sexy” costume, or disfiguring the Thing so he had to wear a menacing helmet. Nevertheless, De Falco and Ryan’s tenure remains extremely fun, deserving its place among the best FF runs.

Issues in Tom DeFalco’s Fantastic Four run:

 Fantastic Four (vol.1) #356–416, 645, Annual #25 (1991–1996)

6. Dan Slott

with Sarah Pichelli, Aaron Kuder, Paco Medina, R.B. Silva, Rachael Stott, Francesco Manna.

Marvel Comics

After Marvel’s event series Secret Wars in 2015, the Fantastic Four went on an extended hiatus. The team took off into the Multiverse, perhaps never to be seen again. For the first time since 1961, Marvel would not publish a regular Fantastic Four series. Of course, within a few years, the FF was back. Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott relaunched Fantastic Four in a new volume with a new first issue. For four years, Slott guided the FF through a world that grew accustomed to not having them around.

During his run, Slott finally married Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters after a sixty-year courtship, and the pair became adoptive parents to alien kids. He gave Reed Richards one of the coolest inventions in a long time, the Forever Gate, an artificial nexus of realities owned by the FF. This is the most recent Fantastic Four run on the list, ending only in 2022. While controversial to some, as Slott’s work often it, this run is an extended love letter to the FF, and a highly enjoyable era for the team.

Issues in Dan Slott’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.6) #1-46 (2018-2022)

5. Walter Simonson

with Arthur Adams

Marvel Comics

Steve Englehart’s run on Fantastic Four, which followed up John Byrne’s, was interesting and often bizarre, but not groundbreaking or modern in the way fans wanted. So enter writer/artist Walter Simonson, fresh off a groundbreaking run on The Mighty Thor. Simonson didn’t do away with any of the previous run’s stranger additions, even including the controversial She-Thing from Englehart’s run. Despite the title still having the name Fantastic Four, the team was essentially the Fantastic Five at the time. Simonson brought modern kinetic energy to Fantastic Four that had been missing since Byrne’s run, and fans loved it.

Simonson’s imagination was big, and his art style was often otherworldly and widescreen in scope. During his brief time on the title, he introduced concepts like the Time Variance Authority, now famous thanks to Loki. Simonson also brought a much-needed sense of humor to the usually stodgy team. During his run, he also introduced the “new” Fantastic Four, comically consisting of just super popular heroes like Spider-Man, Hulk, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider. These meta commentary issues came with an art assist from X-Men’s Art Adams. Speaking of art, Simonson’s pencils were never better than in Fantastic Four, celestial and grandiose, truly befitting a family of cosmic explorers.

Issues in Walter Simonson’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.1) #333-354 (1989-1991)

4. Mark Waid

with Mike Wieringo, Karl Kesel, Howard Porter

Marvel Comics

Writer Mark Waid was already one of comics’ brightest stars when he took over writing duties on Fantastic Four in 2002, coming off iconic runs at DC on books like The Flash. Together with his Flash collaborator, the late, great artist Mike Weiringo, they gave the series a nice shot in the arm, embracing the past while forging new territory. For the first time in a long time, the FF felt like cosmic explorers again, or as Waid profered, “Imaginauts.” He also made the series funny, reminiscent in a way of DC’s Justice League International. It’s likely that Waid’s run partially inspired the first Fantastic Four movie’s light tone. Only the comics did it way better.

During this era, the team has to face one of Reed’s mathematic equations that gains sentience, and a new Frightful Four. There’s also a glow-up for Johnny Storm, who becomes the team’s C.F.O, and has to manage their IP. But it wasn’t all goofy fun in Waid’s run. The “Unthinkable” arc is one of the best Doctor Doom stories ever, which sees the Latverian ruler embrace supernatural power over scientific prowess to defeat his rival Reed Richards. Things got pretty out there in this run, with the Human Torch becoming the Herald of Galactus, and the team even meeting God when they need to rescue one of their own from the afterlife. And (spoilers) God looks just like legendary artist Jack Kirby. How can one not love that?

Issues in Mark Waid’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.3) ##60-70, (vol.1) #500-524 (2002-2005)

3. Jonathan Hickman

with Dale Eaglesham, Steve Epting, Barry Kitson, Ron Garney, Neil Edwards, Nick Dragotta, Mark Brooks, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Ryan Stegman

Marvel Comics

Before writer Jonathan Hickman had groundbreaking runs on X-Men and Avengers, he tackled Marvel’s First Family. Under Hickman’s watch, he focused on redeeming Reed Richards, as Mr. Fantastic had suffered the most in recent years for his role in Civil War. This Mr. Fantastic dedicated his mind to solving everything. Literally, everything that is broken in existence. What could go wrong? Reed faced many Multiversal (and smarter) versions of himself known as the Council of Reeds, and the team got a big expansion of their mythos with the addition of the Future Foundation, a team of young geniuses operating out of the Baxter Building. Spider-Man even became a member for a time, finally joining after trying out in Amazing Spider-Man #1 in 1963.

Hickman’s Fantastic Four, and its companion series simply titled FF, also featured incredible artwork from artists like Dale Eaglesham, Steve Epting, and others, which was the perfect compliment to Hickman’s big-brained concepts. Perhaps most importantly, the Hickman run was ground zero for  the 2015 Secret Wars event, one of the best sagas in modern Marvel history, and perhaps the greatest Reed Richards/Dr. Doom story of all time. When Hickman first took over the title, it flew under the radar. By his exit, it stood as one of the all-time best Fantastic Four runs.

Issues in Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four Run:

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #1-5, Fantastic Four #570-611, FF #1-23 (2009-2012)

2. John Byrne

Marvel Comics

When writer/artist John Byrne took over the Fantastic Four in 1981, he was coming off a legendary run on Uncanny X-Men. Although FF was still selling well, every creative team since Lee and Kirby left a decade earlier played it relatively safe with the concept of the Fantastic Four. Not Byrne however. In Byrne’s five-year run, he shook up the status quo that existed for years. For the first time in their history, he gave the team new costumes. He broke up the Thing and his longtime girlfriend Alicia Masters, and actually had Alicia start dating Johnny Storm. Absolutely nothing was sacred. Fantastic Four felt fresh again, and sales soared.

Byrne upgraded Sue Storm from the timid Invisible Girl into the Invisible Woman, now the most powerful member. Speaking of powerful women, he had She-Hulk replace Ben Grimm on the team for a long time, changing the dynamic of the group by adding someone outside the family for an extended period. And his “Trial of Galactus” story still stands as one of the best FF sagas ever. That story is really the trial of Reed Richards, who the galaxy holds accountable for letting Galactus live. Byrne’s art was at its peak during this era, and his strengths in telling cosmic soap operas were never stronger. For the first time since Lee and Kirby left, under Byrne Fantastic Four truly was “the World’s Greatest Comic Magazine” once more.

Issues in John Byrne’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.1) #232-294 (1981-1986)

1. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Marvel Comics

Much like Chris Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men was the only choice for “best X-Men run ever,” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s seminal run on Fantastic Four is the only choice for the best FF run. It’s not even up for debate. When Lee and Kirby created the FF in 1961, they didn’t only change comics, they essentially created the Marvel Universe as we know it. During their nine-year, 102-issue run, Lee and Kirby emphasized flawed characters in a way superhero comics had never done before. Kirby’s pencil work expanded the limits of comic book art and storytelling at the time, and suddenly comics weren’t just for little kids anymore. Every single Marvel comic that came after owes a debt to Fantastic Four in some way.

How important was the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four? During their near decade-long collaboration, readers were introduced to Doctor Doom, the Negative Zone, Black Panther, Adam Warlock, the Inhumans, Galactus, and the Silver Surfer. That’s just naming a few by the way. Sure, some of it is very “of its time” in a big way. Particularly the sexist treatment of Invisible Girl. These comics are 60 years old now after all. Regardless of dated flaws, this run is the bedrock of everything Marvel is built on. It will always be the greatest Fantastic Four run of all time. No matter how good anyone else’s work on the book is, they stand on the shoulders of Lee and Kirby.

Issues in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Run:

Fantastic Four (vol.1) #1-102 (1961-1970)