How Do You Solve a Problem Like Franklin Richards?

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.

From Fantastic Four #26, art by R.B. Silva

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?

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