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Hey there, true believers, and welcome to our classic comics reading guide for The Fantastic Four!

This is our first guide to Marvel’s first family, covering the magical years of 1961 to 1998. Starting with Jack Kirby & Stan Lee’s fabled first issue (and the first issue for all of Marvel Comics!!), here are our top recommendations for the early stories of Marvel’s quirky quartet:

Classic Fantastic Four Comics Recommendations:

  • Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby & Stan Lee
    • Fantastic Four #1-102, 108, Annual #1-6
  • Fantastic Four by John Byrne
    • Fantastic Four #220-221, 232-295, Annual #17-19
  • Fantastic Four by Walt Simonson
    • Fantastic Four #337-354, Annual #23-24; Marvel Holiday Special 1991

Although these heroes have been around since the dawn of Marvel Comics, keeping track of their recommended runs is actually straightforward! For classic Fantastic Four comic recommendations, the main series to look for is the 1960s run drawn by Jack Kirby and written by Stan Lee, followed by the 1980s run by John Byrne, and the short 1990s run by Walt Simonson. But in between there are many fantastic stories by many fantastic creatives. So put on your space suits because it’s time to blast off into a vast universe of the classic Fantastic Four!

For more related to Fantastic Four comics, check out our other reading guides, including modern Fantastic Four, Namor, and She-Hulk!

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Fantastic Four by Jack Kirby & Stan Lee (1961)

The humble beginnings of The Fantastic Four! The birth of Marvel Comics, from the legendary minds of Jack Kirby & Stan Lee. Featuring heroics and humanity in equal measure, these groundbreaking stories paved the way for the entire Marvel multiverse to come. It all starts here!

Best of all, these historic tales have remained extremely accessible and enjoyable even over time. The collaboration of Kirby & Lee made these classic Fantastic Four comics fun and fast, with each issue bursting with creativity and relevance for everything we love about Marvel universe today.

Marvel Studios director Matt Shakman has called the Kirby/Lee run one of the biggest influences for his upcoming Fantastic Four movie!

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #1-102, Annual #1-6
    • By Jack Kirby & Stan Lee 
    • After #18: Annual #1
    • After #30: Annual #2
    • After #43: Annual #3
    • After #56: Annual #4
    • After #64: Annual #5
    • After #79: Annual #6
    • After #100: World’s Greatest Comics Magazine (2001) #1-12
    • Kirby’s final contributions were published in Fantastic Four #108 and Fantastic Four: The Lost Adventure (2008)

 

Extra reading:

  • Strange Tales (1951) #101-134, 156, 161, Annual #2
    • Features Human Torch & the Thing!
  • Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #1, 5, 8, 18, 60, Annual #1, 5
  • Avengers (1963) #1, 3, 13, 25, 42, 82
  • Daredevil (1964) #2, 38
  • Tales of Suspense (1959) #56 [B Story]
  • Silver Surfer (1968) #5, 15, 17
  • Incredible Hulk (1962) #122-123
  • X-Men (1963) #65
  • Amazing Adventures (1970) #1-2

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Fantastic Four after Kirby (1970s)

After Jack Kirby left, Stan Lee continued writing until #115. The series went through a number of guest writers and artists, which we’ve outlined below. One of the most important details from this era is that #209-221 introduced art by John Byrne, who would soon take over as writer/artist for the new decade. The team roster also went through a number of changes, even including Luke Cage and Medusa from the Inhumans!

Note: Fantastic Four Annuals #7-10 have been omitted because they are only reprints of previous stories.

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #103-231, Giant-Size #1-4, Annual #11-15
    • Written by Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, and Doug Moench
    • Drawn by John Romita Sr., John Buscema, Rich Buckler, George Pérez, Keith Pollard, John Byrne, and Bill Sienkiewicz
    • After #146: Giant-Size Super-Stars #1
    • After #149: Giant-Size Fantastic Four #2
    • After #154: Giant-Size Fantastic Four #3
    • After #157: Giant-Size Fantastic Four #4
    • After #170: Annual #11
    • After #200: Annual #12-13
    • #209 introduces H.E.R.B.I.E.! Originally created to replace Johnny on the 1978 TV show
    • After #217: Annual #14, Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #42
    • After #223: Annual #15

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Extra reading:

  • Marvel Team-Up (1972) #3, 6, 32, 61, 100, Annual #2, 7
  • Incredible Hulk (1962) #152-153, 250
  • Avengers (1963) #92-94, 118, 127-128
  • Marvel Two-in-One (1974) #2,-4 8-9, 14, 16, 20-23, 27-28, 32, 36, 44-47, 50, 59-60, 64, 67-81, Annual #1-2, 5
  • Super-Villain Team-Up (1975) #5-7
  • Marvel Treasury Edition (1974) #13
  • Marvel Comics Super Special (1977) #1
  • X-Men (1963) #107-108, 135, Annual #5
  • Godzilla (1977) #20-24
  • Doomsday (1979) (novel)
  • Machine Man (1978) #15
  • Shogun Warriors (1979) #19-20
  • Micronauts (1979) #14-17
  • Daredevil (1964) #164
  • Marvel Treasury Edition (1974) #25
  • Dazzler (1981) #2-4
  • Marvel Fanfare (1982) #2 [B Story]
  • Marvel Feature (1971) #11
  • Sub-Mariner (1968) #67
  • Giant-Size Man-Thing (1974) #2
  • Thor (1966) #305

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Fantastic Four by John Byrne (1981)

Starting with #232, John Byrne became the first Fantastic Four creative to write and draw more than two issues. As a matter of fact, he continued to write and draw for over 60 issues, crafting the second-longest Fantastic Four of all time!

While staying true to the classic Fantastic Four ethos, Byrne also pushed the book in bold new directions. One of the biggest and most beloved shifts came in the aftermath of Secret Wars (1984), when She-Hulk joined the team issue in #265.

The John Byrne run is so great that it’s another inspiration for Matt Shakman’s Fantastic Four movie!

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #232-293, Annual #16-19
    • Written and drawn by John Byrne
    • After #233: Annual #16
    • After #257: Annual #17
    • After #270: Annual #18
    • After #285: Annual #19

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Extra reading:

  • Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #215, 258, 300
  • Rom (1979) #23
  • Marvel Graphic Novel (1981) #1, 17, 38, 58
  • Avengers (1963) #216, 227, 233, 249, 264-266, Annual #12, 14
  • Marvel Two-in-One (1974) #83-92, 96-100, Annual #7
  • Micronauts (1979) #40
  • Doctor Strange (1974) #52-53
  • Contest of Champions (1982) #1, 3
  • Iron Man (1968) #159
  • Silver Surfer (1982) #1
  • Dazzler (1981) #18, 21
  • Incredible Hulk (1962) #277-279, 293, 321, Annual #11
  • Uncanny X-Men (1981) #167
  • The Thing (1983) #2, 10, 23-25
  • Marvel Fanfare (1982) #14-15
  • Moon Knight (1980) #35
  • Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man (1976) #89, 97
  • Secret Wars (1984) #1-11; Secret Wars II (1985) #1-9
  • Thor (1966) #351-352
  • Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner (1984) #3
  • Questprobe (1984) #3
  • Defenders (1972) #152
  • Captain America (1968) #314
  • Marvel Age Annual (1985) #1
  • Power Man and Iron Fist (1980) #125

She-Hulk Reading Guide

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Fantastic Four by Steve Englehart, Walt Simonson (1986, 1989)

Steve Englehart took over shortly after Byrne, with a 30-issue run of his own. Art duties were split between John Buscema (#296-309), Keith Pollard (#310-328), and Rich Buckler (#329-335).

But the real showstopper was the legendary Walt Simonson! With only 20 issues, his endearing Fantastic Four run isn’t as lengthy as the other classic recommendations, yet it remains one of the brightest moments in the team’s catalog. Plus, Simonson wrote and drew the comic himself, just like John Byrne!

Simonson’s run starts with Avengers #291-300, which leads directly into his Fantastic Four. Also, #334-336 are part of the Acts of Vengeance crossover event, so treat them as optional; Walt Simonson’s run truly starts with #337.

And for more Walt Simonson, be sure to check out our classic Thor reading guide!

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #296-333, Annual #20-22
  • Fantastic Four (1961) #334-354, Annual #23-24; Holiday Special 1991
    • Written and drawn by Walt Simonson
    • Prologue: Avengers #291-300
    • With #334-336: Acts of Vengeance (1989)
    • After #346: Annual #23, Days of Future Present (1990)
    • After #349: Annual #24, The Korvac Saga (1991)
    • After #354: Marvel Holiday Special 1991 [B Story]

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Extra reading:

  • Power Pack (1984) #23-28, 34, 36, 56, 59-62
  • West Coast Avengers (1985) #22-23
  • Comet Man (1987) #4-5
  • Marvel Tales (1964) #198 [B Story]
  • Mephisto VS (1987) #1-3
  • Silver Surfer (1987) #1, 9-10, 15-20, Annual #1
  • Marvel Fanfare (1982) #37, 43
  • Nick Fury vs SHIELD (1988) #2; Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #15, 24-26
  • Fantastic Four vs. The X-Men (1987) #1-4
  • Saga of the Sub-Mariner (1988) #7-10
  • Avengers (1963) #303-308, 327, 332-333, Annual #18
  • She-Hulk Ceremony (1989) #1
  • Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #18 [D Story]
  • Thor (1966) #405
  • Marvel Fanfare (1982) #46
  • Atlantis Attacks (1989)
    • Web of Spider-Man Annual (1985) #5
    • Fantastic Four Annual (1963) #22
    • Avengers Annual (1967) #18
  • Inhumans Special (1990) #1
  • Deaths Head (1988) #9; Deaths Head II (1992) #2
  • Avengers Spotlight (1989) #29 [B Story]
  • Incredible Hulk (1962) #365, 399, 417
  • Namor the Sub-Mariner (1990) #4-5, 12-13, 48-50, Annual #1
  • Days of Future Present (1990)
    • Fantastic Four (1963) Annual #23
    • X-Factor (1986) Annual #5
    • New Mutants (1985) Annual #6
    • X-Men (1979) Annual #14
  • Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #64-68, 94, 164
  • Alpha Flight (1983) #61, 92-94, 111
  • What The–?! (1988) #10
  • Damage Control (1991) #4

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Fantastic Four by Tom DeFalco & Paul Ryan (1991)

Following Simonson, Tom DeFalco returned for a lengthy 60-issue run, superbly illustrated by Paul Ryan. The 90s-extreme edge is controversial among fans, but with new costumes, new characters, and new attitudes, the run is worth checking out for those ready to explore The Fantastic Four in a bold new way.

After the Onslaught event in 1996, the long-lasting, classic Fantastic Four title officially came to a close with #416 by DeFalco. But the team wasn’t gone for long…

  • Fantastic Four (1961) #355-416, Annual #25-27
    • By Tom DeFalco & Paul Ryan
    • After #366: Infinity War (1992)
    • After #370: Annual #25; Citizen Kang (1992); Fantastic Four Unlimited #1-10
    • After #376: Annual #26; Infinity Crusade (1993)
    • After #388: Annual #27
    • After #400: Fantastic Four: Atlantis Rising #1-2; Fantastic Four Unplugged #1-6
    • After #414: Onslaught (1996)

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Extra reading:

  • Avengers West Coast (1989) #75
  • New Warriors (1990) #16-17, 27, 33-34, Annual #3
  • Spider-Man (1990) #23
  • Deathlok (1991) #4-5
  • Slapstick (1992) #1, 4
  • Web of Spider-Man (1985) #73, 76
  • X-Factor (1986) #66
  • Iron Man (1968) #275
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man (1988) #177
  • The Knights of Pendragon (1990) #14
  • Wolverine (1988) #53
  • Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #363
  • Mys-Tech Wars (1993) #1-3
  • Sleepwalker (1991) #14-16
  • Marvel Super-Heroes Annual UK 1992
  • Infinity War (1992) #1-6
    • Wonder Man (1991) #13-15
    • Warlock and the Infinity Watch (1992) #3, 8
    • Quasar (1989) #3, 20, 38-40, 50, 60
    • Silver Sable and the Wild Pack (1992) #5
    • Marc Spector: Moon Knight (1989) #41, 44
  • Sensational She-Hulk (1989) #30, 48, 52, 55
  • Darkhawk (1991) #25, 29-31
  • Infinity Crusade (1993) #1-6
    • Web of Spider-Man (1985) #104-106
    • Warlock and the Infinity Watch (1992) #18-19
  • Marvels (1994) #2-3
  • Marvel Comics Presents (1988) #160-161
  • Spider-Man Team-Up (1995) #3
  • Tales of the Marvels: Inner Demons (1996) #1
  • Marvel: Heroes and Legends (1996) #1
  • Cage (1992) #20
  • X-Men (1991) #25
  • Strange Tales (1994) #1
  • Fantastic Force (1994) #1-18
  • Cosmic Powers Unlimited (1995) #1
  • Onslaught (1996)
    • Avengers (1963) #400
    • Onslaught: X-Men (1996) #1
    • X-Men (1991) #55-56
    • Uncanny X-Men (1981) #336
    • Onslaught: Marvel Universe (1996) #1

Extra Doom, Silver Surfer, and Galactus:

  • Silver Surfer (1987) #51, 67-78, 81-82, 93-97, 104-106, 129-131, Annual #7
  • Infinity Gauntlet (1991) #1-6
  • Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme (1988) #42-45

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Fantastic Four by Jim Lee (1996)

In the aftermath of Onslaught (1996), Marvel Comics attempted to reboot their whole universe to help fight falling sales. With the classic Fantastic Four in the hands of WildStorm hotshots Jim Lee & Brett Booth, what could go wrong? Unfortunately, the relaunch fell apart, and the Heroes Reborn era is remembered in infamy to this day.

  • Fantastic Four (1996) #1-12
    • Written and drawn by Jim Lee, with further writing by Brandon Choi and art by Brett Booth
    • Unsuccessful attempt to reboot the Marvel Universe 

Extra reading:

  • Avengers (1996) #2, 6, 12
  • Iron Man (1996) #3, 6, 9-12
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man 1996, 1997
  • Rise of Apocalypse (1996) #3
  • Code of Honor (1997) #3
  • Incredible Hulk (1962) #450 [B Story]
  • Kingpin (1997) #1
  • Captain America (1996) #12-13
  • Heroes Reborn: The Return (1997) #1-4

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Fantastic Four: Classic Multimedia

Over the years, The Fantastic Four have appeared in a wide range of TV Shows and movies. Here are their highlights from their classic years!

  • Fantastic Four (1967) S1 E1-20
  • Fantastic Four (1978) S1 E1-13
    • Written by Stan Lee, with assistance by Roy Thomas
    • Created the robot H.E.R.B.I.E. to replace Johnny Storm
    • Also known as “The New Fantastic Four”
    • Tie-in comics: Fantastic Four #209, 236
  • Fantastic Four (1994 film)
    • Low-budget live action film. Never officially released.
  • Fantastic Four (1994 series) S1 E1-13; S2 E1-13
    • Incredible Hulk (1996) S1 E8
    • Spider-Man (1994) S5 E9-12
    • Tie-in game: Spider-Man: The Animated Series (video game)

 

Extra watching:

  • Fred and Barney Meet The Thing (1979) S1 E1-13
    • Two Thing stories per episode (26 Thing stories total)
    • Obscure show with loose comic accuracy. Never released on home media
    • “Thing rings, do your thing!”

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And that’s our guide to the first era of Fantastic Four comics! Are you excited for Matt Shakman’s new Marvel Studios film? Have you ever read the classic Fantastic Four stories before? Let me know on X/Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site on social media @MyCosmicCircus for more cosmic comics coming soon!

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Also check out our full list of comics reading guides here, including modern Fantastic Four, Namor, and She-Hulk!

Fantastic Four Reading Guide: 1998-2024

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Wakanda Forever Reading Guide

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Are you new to comics? Try our “How to Get into Comics” guide, and find me on Twitter if you have any questions!

All images courtesy of Marvel.

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Vin

Reviews, reading guides, and crazy theories. Obsessed with the Midnight Sons. Find me on Twitter @vinwriteswords!

Vin has 134 posts and counting. See all posts by Vin