I might just admire Reed Richards more than any other superhero.
He’s likable, he’s intelligent on a level few of us can comprehend, he’s loyal to his team, he’s protective of his family, he’s kind – he has an everyday guy sort of vibe despite his talents. He could so easily be arrogant or bitter. It seems like that’s how too many heroes end up; I’m glad that at least in the stories I’ve read that editorial has never tried to inject a “gritty” tone to his character. Everyone has dark times. Everyone faces hard decisions. When you’re a superhero, those decisions can be weighty – like sacrificing a few people to save the world. Reed’s overall optimism still prevails though.
Reed reminds me a bit of the Doctor – as in Doctor Who. He doesn’t carry the long years around like the Doctor, but he definitely has a similar combination of curiosity, compassion, and weariness. I don’t know who would win in a test of wits, but they would be above competing anyways. They both use their brains to resolve fights and to save the day, world, universe, whatever. One thing I love about the Doctor is that he doesn’t carry around any alien weapons that would blow his opponents away. He just has his sonic screwdriver (which is used as a deus ex machina sometimes) and his cleverness.
He could carry dangerous guns, knives, blasters, bombs – goodness knows he has access to them. But it’s kind of like Gandalf and the One Ring – he keeps it away from himself because he knows the power it would wield through him. I don’t remember him saying that directly, but I think it’s implied. You can resist using a weapon, but if you have it, well, you’re likely to turn to it at some point and it can consume you in a heartbeat. So, the Doctor uses his intellect and experience. So does Reed.
The F.F. constantly explore new planets to search for new technology. Note that Reed only looks for devices that help the human race though. They are used in inventions for medicine and research – you know, science! I’m sure some of them involve defensive weapons, but he doesn’t go to other planets to specifically seek out the biggest and most bad nuclear gadget to bring back so he can be all powerful. He thinks of others first.
He doesn’t have super strength or super speed. His ability to stretch and squish his body into any shape undeniably comes in handy when dealing with foes, but it’s not the same. He has quite the team backing him up, but his smarts are often the pushing point to resolve conflicts. This is a man who is capable of literally solving everything. Just imagine the consequence if he were to turn his powers to evil purposes. He’d be more dangerous than Doctor Doom. His children would probably be the only people who are able to defeat him. It’s a scary thought.
He doesn’t even seem tempted by power though, and that impresses me. Sure, he has flaws. We all do. His projects can consume him to the point where he ignores his family and friends. But at the end of the day, he is good to his core and more selfless than any other hero I can think of. I think it says a lot that I don’t often think of him by his superhero identity. It doesn’t occur to me to call him Mr. Fantastic. To me, they’re merged. He’s already a superhero; he doesn’t need the costume.