The Fantastic Four is a superhero team appearing in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The team debuted in The Fantastic Four #1 (cover dated November 1961), helping usher in a new level of realism in the medium. It was the first superhero team created by artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby and editor/co-scripter Stan Lee, and through this title that the "Marvel method" style of production came into prominence.
The four characters traditionally associated with the Fantastic Four, who gained superpowers after exposure to cosmic rays during a scientific mission to outer space, are: Mister Fantastic (Reed Richards), a scientific genius and the leader of the group, who can stretch his body into incredible lengths and shapes; the Invisible Woman (Susan "Sue" Storm-Richards), Reed's girlfriend and later wife, who can render herself invisible and project powerful invisible force fields and blasts; the Human Torch (Johnny Storm), Sue's younger brother, who can generate flames, surround himself with them and fly; and the monstrous Thing (Ben Grimm), their grumpy but benevolent friend, a former college football star, Reed's college roommate and a skilled pilot, who possesses tremendous superhuman strength, durability and endurance due to his stone-like flesh.
Since their 1961 introduction, the Fantastic Four has been portrayed as a somewhat dysfunctional, yet loving, family. Breaking convention with other comic archetypes, the members squabbled, held grudges both deep and petty, and eschewed anonymity or secret identities in favor of celebrity status. They are also well known for their recurring encounters with characters such as the villainous monarch Doctor Doom; the planet-devouring Galactus; the Kree Empire's ruthless and tyrannical enforcer Ronan the Accuser; the Negative Zone's ruler Annihilus; the sea-dwelling prince Namor; the spacefaring Silver Surfer; and the Skrull warrior Kl'rt.
The Fantastic Four have been adapted into other media, including several video games, animated series, and live-action films.