Editor's note: We asked Dave Zimmerman, author of Comic Book Character: Unleashing the Hero in Us All (InterVarsity), to write an essay comparing the Fantastic Four to the modern family. Turns out that today's families have much in common with this fabulous foursome—warts and all. We bicker, we reconcile, we love—and we all face our own villains, the things which threaten to destroy any family. But we, like these superheroes, band together for the battle, using whatever powers we have—super or otherwise—in our quest for victory.

The Fantastic Four are the First Family of superheroes. Oh, there have been other families, before and since this one debuted—from the Marvels to the Incredibles. And technically, the Fantastic Four are a team, not a family, since only two of the four are blood-related. Nevertheless, FF fans regard them as family first, teammates second.

As a family, the Fantastic Four—brought to us by Marvel Comics—changed how superhero stories were told. Before them, superheroes were chums at best, trading quips and high fives as they bludgeoned bad guys. Actual blood relationships were effectively cosmetic. But the first battle the Fantastic Four faced was against one another, and the hostility and tension that occasionally flares up among them has trickled down to the rest of the superhero universe, resulting in more fully realized characters and ultimately richer storytelling. The most interesting battles, after all, are those we fight against the ones we love.

And that's the deal: The Fantastic Four do love each other, even though at times they hate one another. More than 40 years since their debut, they're still treating readers to family tales that are cosmic in scope ...

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