I’ve always loved Franklin Richards. In fact, I think he’s my favorite member of the Fantastic Four. The reason is pretty simple: he seems like an ordinary kid. While his family are on fire, trapped in rock or being all super genius-y, Franklin has usually seemed to be a lot more like us, just watching all that crazy Fantastic Four stuff unfold. Through him, we become part of the family too.
Of course, Franklin isn’t “just like us.” He’s a mutant with powers so great he puts the “Oh my God” in “Omega.”
Or, he did, until the most recent issue of Fantastic Four (#26), in which Dan Slott (and Charles Xavier) dropped the bombshell that Franklin isn’t a mutant after all. Rather, he’s been unconsciously using his powers to pose as one.
That move has stunned some readers, who neither want to see Franklin turned into some kind of unconscious race and culture thief nor appreciate the idea of stripping a character of their identity and community. For queer readers in particular, the insistence that someone is not who they “think” they are is all too familiar.
But as out of left field as this announcement has seemed, it’s also completely in keeping with Franklin’s history as a character. From the very moment of his birth in Fantastic Four Annual #6 in 1968, his life has been almost entirely a series of crazy story decisions that have nearly always been kind of a disaster. He may not be a mutant (for the moment), but something in his DNA certainly seems to be a honey trap for big, problematic story ideas.
And the bigger question in some ways is not why are they doing this to Franklin now, but why does this keep happening to this character?
Am I the only one who wants Cyclops and Emma to have a daughter who can shoot diamonds out of her one eye?↩
When it comes to Franklin, Reed is a really bad dad, you guys.↩
Usually after finding a way to shut down his powers so he wouldn’t, I don’t know, erase Chicago.↩
From May 1993-June 1996.↩
Also, his costume looks like pajamas, and that is adorable.↩
Does everyone know Matt Murdock is Daredevil again? Are Peter and MJ together again? Who can say? Is it Tuesday?↩
And I am so here for that.↩
Add Molly Hayes and writer Jeremy Whitley and you’ve got a spinoff title I have to read.↩
There is a whole other piece to be written about the Nightmare Parenting of Reed Richards. Usually he has served as the writer’s stand-in, enacting the terrible things they want done to Franklin. If you want to know whether a writer cares about Franklin, watch how Reed treats him.↩
The reveal in #26 is actually presented in a very odd way, a single page in which Charles Xavier appears in the now-depowered Franklin’s mind, tells him he made the whole thing up and bounces. Given the significance of that revelation, one would expect there’s more to come.↩