It Can Always Be Worse – Fantastic Four (2015)

H1No, I still haven’t gotten around to seeing the new Fantastic Four movie yet. Between my own schedule and that of my daughter (whom I’m waiting to see it with, since like any good parent, I feel as though if I’m going to have to suffer through this, she should have to also), it just hasn’t worked out.

Nonetheless, despite all of the negative reviews and all of the negative box office reports, I’m still looking for a way to approach the movie with some kind of a positive spin and I think I’ve finally found one that works:

At least we’ve still got the Human Torch in this movie and not H.E.R.B.I.E. the robot.

Yeah, I know, most of you just went “Wha? Hunh?!” and that’s okay, because what that reaction means is that you missed the 1978 Fantastic Four Saturday morning cartoon, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

H2You see, back in 1978, NBC wanted to develop a new Fantastic Four cartoon for their Saturday morning line-up. However, the rights to the Human Torch had been sold by Marvel to Universal who were looking to develop television shows based on various Marvel characters. Yes, this is the same deal that brought about the Bill Bixby -starring Hulk TV show, and the less than terrific Captain America and Dr. Strange TV movies. Since Universal was unwilling to share those rights, this led to a conundrum for NBC: they could either scrap their plans for an FF cartoon, or they could find a character to replace the Torch and move ahead.

Now one might think, given the deep well of characters that Marvel owns, it would be easy to find a replacement for the Human Torch or even for the creators of the cartoon to originate some kind of Torch analogue and simply give him a slightly different name and a different back story.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that’s not the way they chose to go. Instead, the producers of the cartoon decided replace the Torch with a robot named H.E.R.B.I.E. Why go that way? Well, I can only speculate on that, but my guess is that it had something to do with marketing, and the feeling that if the show became a hit, there could be a lot of money made selling H.E.R.B.I.E. toys.

h3Just a couple of extra notes here: The acronym H.E.R.B.I.E. actually stands for Humanoid Experimental Robot B-Type Integrated Electronic, and he was created and named by Stan Lee and designed by Jack Kirby, so it can’t be said that this move was made without the blessing of the creators of the original Four. Also, there was, at the time, a rumor that the reason for the replacement of the Torch was that the producers were afraid that little kids, trying to emulate the flaming hero would wind up setting themselves on fire. This, however, has been thoroughly debunked, particularly by this article over at Comic Book Resources.

Anyway, the point is: No matter how bad the current movie incarnation of the Fantastic Four might be there’s always a way that it could have been worse.

Oh, and here’s a little bonus for you: the first episode of the 1978 cartoon.

And by the way: just a final note for Fox or whoever does the inevitable sequel or reboot of the Fantastic Four (yes, despite the terrible box office for the current movie, I still have no doubt that we will eventually see Hollywood take another swing at these characters – they’re just too irresistible to pass up) – you see how quickly the cartoon version gets past the origin and into the heart of the story, yet manages to tell us all that we need to know? Yeah, you (and anyone else trying to make any superhero movie) sometimes that’s all you need to do. Seriously, by now we all know where the characters are going to wind up, so it’s not like we need an hour or more of yet another origin story. Give your audience some credit, and just get on with entertaining us.


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