Unstable Fashion Sense Part 2: The History of the Fantastic Four’s Costumes Onscreen

Fantastic-Four-Trailer-Photo-Team-ShotThe history of the Fantastic Four onscreen isn't nearly as elaborate, and doesn't have nearly as many variations, as in the comic book source material.

Still, with the trailer for Fox's Fantastic 4 making a big splash last week and all-new costumes giving the team a radically different look than many audiences are familiar with, it seemed as good a time as any to look at how outside media have viewed Marvel's First Family over the years.

This one won't be quite as in-depth as the comics installment was, for a number of reasons, but have no fear -- we've still got alternate comics interpretations (like 2099 and Ultimates) ahead of us, and of course the many faces of Ben Grimm.

For shorthand purposes, we're referring to most of these costumes as their comic book counterparts. You can click over to the link above to see our initial analysis of the suits in question.

Did we miss anything?

ff-1967Fantastic Four (1967 Cartoon Series)

ff-1967Character designs by Alex Toth

Costume: The Incredible Shrinking Collar

Variation: Ben Grimm has no belt.

Like most cartoon versions, Ben has few, large stones making up his body rather than a more intricate patchwork. Obviously, this is done for ease of animation.

The stories told in this series were based on early Lee/Kirby comics.

ff-1978The New Fantastic Four (1978 Cartoon Series)

ff-1978This iteration of the series is most recognizable as the one with Humanoid Experimental Robot, B-type, Integrated Electronics (H.E.R.B.I.E.).

H.E.R.B.I.E. was used instead of the Human Torch because the 1978 television rights to use that character were tied up by a proposed television pilot movie in development by Universal Studios that ended up never being produced (so no analysis of that one).

Costume: Honey, I Shrunk the Collar

Variation: None, aside from Ben Grimm’s continued simplification.

The stories in this series are mostly rehashes of older comics, though not necessarily the earliest of Lee/Kirby’s run, and with obvious tweaks to accommodate the missing Human Torch.

the-thing-toonFred and Barney Meet the Thing (1979 Cartoon Series) 

Fred and Barney Meet the Thing

Costume: Ben is a slightly-redesigned version of Hanna-Barbera’s design for the character from the 1967 series wearing the same belt-less blue trunks.

Variation: Ben transforms back and forth from orange rock monster to scrawny kid, Benjy Grimm.

As near as we can tell, these stories based on somebody's acid trip.

This version of Benjy Grimm/The Thing is a designated denizen of Earth-700974 according to the Marvel wiki. Whether Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, who do not actually meet The Thing at any point in the series, are representations of early man on that earth isn't entirely clear, but seems likely.

ff-toon-90s-3Fantastic Four (1994 Cartoon Series)

ff-toon-90sCostume: The Negative Costume

Variation: The show ran for two seasons, the costumes changing from one to the next. In the first season, the costumes were a light blue with white accents. In the second season, the color was dark blue to the point of being near-black with white accents, much more in keeping with the actual comics iteration of the costume.

At least one image online suggests that Ben Grimm also wore full pants and a tank-top style top in at least one episode (see right).

This series is notable for having the WORST THEME SONG EVER!!!

ff29The Fantastic Four (1994 Film) 

small ff18

Costume: Negative Costumes

Variation: Pretty spot-on. Logos are a little large though. Ben Grimm is more muddy brown than orange.

One of the most notorious comic book adaptations ever made, this Roger Corman-produced film has never had an official release, was made on the cheap and only actually produced so that the studio could keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel. Somehow, it still has the best-looking live-action Doctor Doom.

We're kidding.

Kind of.

spider-man-ffSpider-Man (1994 Cartoon Series)

Costume: Heroes Reborn

Variation: Lack of “4” logo on right shoulder. Ben is wearing full pants with an off-center logo rather than shorts with a centered “4.” Costumes are lacking the loose white belts on Sue, Reed, and Johnny (likely to simplify for animation).

To Jim Lee’s consternation, the collars maintain the small “4” logo while losing the V’ed notch popular here and in the New 52 redesigns.

fantastic-four-gameFantastic Four (1997 Video Game)

Costume: Onslaught (on the game cover), Negative Costumes (in-game)

Variation: Difficult to ascertain due to mid-90s graphics.

Fantastic-Four-2005-posterFantastic Four (2005 Film)

Costume: Original, but with a nod to various suits

Fantastic-Four-2005-posterVariation: Ben is wearing long pants with boots and an off-center "4" on his belt. The others are a kind of hybrid of the original costumes, the Jim Lee reinvention with the high collars and the "V" necks and the Ultimate Universe suits with that downward-pointing triangular design that evokes the Ultimate Universe but is monochromatic enough to be more evocative of the 616. The styling and placement of the 4 symbols is definitely Lee, too, except he centered it on Ben's belt...and there's no belts at all on the other members.

It's actually kind of an odd mishmash of features, all told, including the fact that the zippers at the neckline that make it possible to have a cleavage-revealing and non-cleavage-revealing version of Sue's suit.

Weirdly, very uncommon for the movies, they don't seem to have changed anything in between movies.

ff-wghFantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes (2006 Cartoon Series)

Costume: Not drawn from the comics, seemingly inspired by popular anime and animation trends at the time.

Variation: This costume is unique to this cartoon with a blue verging on purple, orange accents, more complicated designs, and an asinine spray-painted “4” on Ben’s chest.

Stories are largely based on early Lee/Kirby comics, some Byrne, Claremont, and a plot device from X-Men vs. Fantastic Four comic as well as that one Marvel Two-In-One annual where Ben takes on the Champion.

ff-squadThe Super Hero Squad Show (2009 Cartoon Series)

Costume: Ultimate Universe

Variation: Ben is wearing pants with a “4” symbol centered on his belt rather than his sleeveless, short bodysuit. The gloves are lacking the square detailing, the suit is lacking the darker sections on the sides, and the boots are simplified.

avengers-emh-ffAvengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010 Cartoon Series) 

Costume: Everything Old Is New Again

Variation: Lacking seams on the shirt, boots extend higher up the thigh, Ben’s “4” belt buckle is now centered.