Susan Storm never had a proper childhood. Her mother died when she was young, her father blamed himself, turned to drink, and ended up in jail. As a teenager Sue had to raise her "brother" alone. When he finally grew old enough to look after himself, a new and greater responsibility appeared: to protect the world, despite being almost powerless. This is Sue's story.
Show, don't tell
Sue is intensely private, and works by emotion rather than calculating logic. We see her heart from her actions more than her words.
SummaryIn Fantastic Four issue 1 we meet Sue for the first time. Every theme of her life is contained in this first issue:
Details:All Sue ever wanted was to spend some time on herself. But duty always comes first.
She is used to getting things done.
She is brave, and expects bravery in others.
Like I said, she is used to getting things done.
She gained the power of invisibility, reflecting her desire for privacy.
As a power it was little help against the Mole Man, who was used to living in the dark. Which made her the bravest of all.
Here she is ready to jump down a bottomless pit to save the others.
The power means she has a new family and new set of duties: to do anything, at any time, for any person. When will she ever get time to herself?
In general, Sue's role appears to be invisible: she tends to be in the background, saying little. But watch carefully. She sees things, she guides everything.
She wants the team to get along, and thinks everyone should accept their duty as she does. But doesn't yet realize the scale of what Ben has lost: his identity, everything he worked for his whole life, and his chance to win her love.
Sue is about to learn more compassion the hard way. But unlike the others she is a fast learner.
Here we get to know Sue as a person. She is a woman who gets things
done, living in a sexist world. but this year her life is turned upside
down a second time, by the return of Namor. Suddenly nothing is simple
None of them can appreciate the depth of what Ben has lost, and his misery threatens to tear the new family apart.
Like I said, Sue is a woman who gets things done.
She slowly begins to understand Ben's bitterness, but it will take time.
She is feisty and physical.
At this time the team is trying to keep a low profile, but Sue knows that hiding is impossible, and they need a public face.
Sue always has a better grasp of the longer term, and feels like the only adult in the team, playing nursemaid to the boys.
At this point there is tension between the boys and the authorities (because Reed hijacked a rocket, Johnny destroyed planes, and Ben hates everyone).
The boys think they should do everything alone (male pride), but Sue always thinks of alliances with others: they must involve the police commissioner.
Sue's confidence is high. While the Boys wonder what to do and stand around bickering, Sue takes action.
But suddenly her world is turned upside down for the second time in a year: she meets Namor.
Why does Namor, ruler of over half the planet, immediately ask to marry her?
This is our second clue to a deeper hidden story.
Sus is the one with the plan, and Sue has to persuade the others.
Again, Sue is the bravest. She climbs outside, forty stories up, and enters the lion's den.
She save the boys who are helpless without her. Yet she is the one with virtually no power.
She is the first to defeat Dr Doom: a theme we will see again and again.
But all this time Namor is on her mind. Sue is not an immature teenager: for her to feel so deeply for Namor suggests there is more to this story.
Johnny however is an immature teenager, and is afraid Namor will take away his mother figure.
We gradually see a second clue to Sue's secret:
She hides her age, and likes to appear to be in her early 20s, yet she acts much older.
She understands Namor deeply. The others cannot understand it, but somehow she knows him far better than they do.
Sue is the wisest team member. Reed is a genius at physics, but lacks Sue's social intelligence.
And while the boys are sometimes quick to give up, Sue is quick with a solution, putting her life on the line.
She always thinks ahead. So does Reed, but only when it involves physics, and his plans can be ethically questionable.
Meeting Namor has shaken her. When she decided on uniforms she wanted to be a public figure, but now she is not so sure.
And while she is generally the most mature, she is human and not perfect. Here her lack of appreciation for Ben borders on cruelty: she hurts his feelings and then stands by while he is insulted, only reacting when she feels insulted herself.
She slowly learns the depths of Ben's pain and her compassion grows
at the same time. Here she begins to know what it is to be utterly
But in general she is the first to see smother person's point of view.
And she has a confident and gentle sense of humor.
And the most curiosity (outside of Reed's specialty, physics)
But still Namor is on her mind., Finally they meet and talk.
We learn that she was seriously considering his marriage proposal. But she needs a man she can trust.
And even though Namor is far more powerful, with a host of abilities, her mind is more resourceful.
Again and again she shows that she is the mature one who can see both sides of an argument, choose the best action and act proportionately.
As for Namor, his tragedy will become more poignant as we learn more of his and Sue's past.
But first Sue must take another emotional body blow: when she learns that many people don't like her.
Until now, Sue has been strong and capable, but also a little cold.
She was upper class, beautiful and highly capable, and dealt a tough hand
by fate. So she didn't always have sympathy for those who didn't have
her high standards. This was
seem most clearly with her attitude to Ben. But this year everything
changed. She discovered that a lot of people didn't like her. She also finally realized
the depths of Ben's misery. She also saw that Reed can make progress
emotionally, whereas Namor (the exciting bad boy) came with a lot of serious baggage.
So nobody is perfect, not even herself.
So Sue matured as a person, and gained her greatest powers: deep compassion and intuition. She saw Reed in a new light, and was ready to accept a life with him. She was happy at last.Details:
Sue worries about Reed. He pushes himself too hard. This will become a far more serious problem in future years.
Sue is growing ever more compassionate, as her experience increases.
But she still values her independence. Eventually she will sacrifice this to Reed... for a time.
It's been two years now since Ben changed, and finally Sue
understands. She has matured as well. No more attacking him. From now on
her weapon is love.
And now the emotional body blow. Despite all her attempts to do the right thing, to show compassion, to reach out to others... she gets hate mail.
Putting it all together we begin to see her loneliness. Namor loves
her but is arrogant. Reed loves her but lacks emotional skills. Ben
but has his own issues, plus this would break Reed's heart. And she has
to stay with the team: it's her family, her duty. Is she doomed to
always be a lonely mother figure, driven by duty?
She is genuinely shocked that they even remembered her birthday. This is well beyond what she has come to expect of them. It shows her loneliness: she need friends, people who understand, not people for whom simply remembering their best friend's birthday is an achievement.
because the fact is: these men are incredibly sexist and condescending and don't even realize it.
Yet some people do notice her compassion. The people of true ability
and wisdom, like the Watcher. As a non violent advanced being her
compassion for her enemies must have touched his heart.
Sue's deepening maturity leads to the development of her greatest
power: her intuition. From this point on her intuition will never be
Her inner peace only increases her outward beauty. As the team's fame increases it's Sue that everyone wants.
Yet still the men around her are emotionally stunted chauvinists.
But karma is real. Reed wants Sue more than anything, yet he cannot win her heart and lacks the emotional insight to know why.
But Namor is so driven by emotion that he is not always responsible
for his actions. Sometimes she finds himself led by others. So Sue is
torn: does she go with the man who is all brain and lacking emotion or
the one who is all emotion but sometimes lacks brain?
So once again she must return to her duty with Reed. but look at her face; she is weary.
Namor is also a tragic character. he has no home no friends. But he
is a man of action. He will not mope or complain, he will find his
Now confident, Namor begins to show his true priorities: a wife will always come second to his job.
Sue also learns that she would always be an outsider and secretly hated among Namor's people. And it almost costs her life.
Sue sees Reed in a new light. She makes her decision.
While Namor's tragedy is absolute. As half human and half Atlantean, living under the sea but in love with a girl he can never have, he is the loneliest of all.
Sue is making a very big decision. Her place to think is always the hairdresser. Where she can just sit and be pampered, and her mind is free.
But even here she is always a slave to duty.
So she tries to get away. She takes a job as an actress.
She tries movies. But a job isn't what she needs. What she really needs is peace and quiet.
Just as she thinks she has settled on Reed, she is reminded that other men do exist: strong, handsome men with social skills.
So she finds a little time for herself. She turns her work into a hobby, finding an excuse to be with perfume and pets.
Relaxing is good for the brain and soul. Now Sue is starting to feel good. Yes, she can live like this. Life with Reed will be OK. The new more relaxed Sue is now able to focus on other things.
She still compares the other team members to children, with herself as mother, but in a loving way.
Sue is not just emotionally
intelligent. She can sometimes solve a scientific problem before Reed does.
Now at her peak, Sue once again defeats their most capable enemy, Doctor Doom
her fame and confidence grows. Compare this scene to the earlier one where she was afraid to attend a social function.
And takes her out shopping. Reed, you're learning! But it is clear that Sue is in charge: Reed would never do this on his own.
And through it all Sue is always the bravest...
and despite the men around her being less reliable
Because Sue cares. She takes her work and the happiness of those around her very, very personally.
Her less-violent methods are more successful. here for example she thinks the alien ball does not fight because it cannot see her, but in reality it is from the Watcher: he can easily see her, but he belies in non-violence. Sue succeeds where the others fail because she is more gentle.
And still she has to persuade Reed to let her do things her way. As Reed's feelings toward her grow he becomes more protective, and in the future this will become stifling.
Twice now Sue has been able to spend a little time on herself. Things are looking up! We are glimpsing the childhood she never had!
And so ends Sue's year of confidence. But we end with another clue to her secret. When (in effect) drugged, Sue and Johnny are free to speak their darkest thoughts. What they say is interesting. Sue resents Johnny as an "incorrigible little brat" meaning he literally will not change (incorrigible) from being a child on her apron strings (the literal meaning of "brat"). Sue's duty is to raise Johnny and she wanted to be free by now. meanwhile, Johnny's darkest thought are that Sue is a phony. Once again this is a clue to the secret that will be revealed near the end.
This year is the best and worst year of Sue's life (until the very end). She finally sorts out her life and reaches her greatest potential, on the eve of her greatest tragedy.
Note the joy in her face, her playful posture, and using Reed's
machines as a hairdo: hair styling represents Sue having time to
herself. Combining high tech and hair shows us she is finally complete.
Everyone notices her ability to make force fields, but historically this is trivial: her compassion and intuition, developed in the previous year, are her real powers. Sue uses love, not force.
Her happiness is complete. (Which means, this being a novel, that a tragedy will happen before the year is out.)
Sue may be happy now, but she still considers the boys to be roughnecks who just wreck things.
And while she love and respects Reed (and nobody doubts his heroism or scientific skill) she still sees his weakness as a leader
Unfortunately, the other men behave... like children.
And why? Because Reed likes to treat them like children.
The only person who has a right to treat anyone like a child is Sue to Johnny, because she raised him.
Incidentally, note that Sue's power is much harder to control than the others, hence it took years to master. it almost certainly relies on accurately visualizing every aspect of a shape. This reflects Sue's ability to grasp every aspect of a problem (including wider social and internal emotional aspects) whereas the boys see problems in simplistic terms (e.g. every problem just requires force). The next interaction illustrates this. Reed is arrogant, whereas Sue is humble. Though Reed's behavior was wrong his reasons were correct. Sue can admit this, whereas Reed will almost never admit he was wrong.
Oh and by the way, Sue defeats Doom yet again. You want Doom
defeated? Call Sue. Doom is a symbol of all their problems, so it is is
important to the message of the novel that Sue must usually be the one to
defeat him. And the boys, being sexist, can never admit it.
You can tell Sue is doing a lot of thinking. Reed has just belittled
Ben again, and the car almost crashed (a symbol of the team's
dysfunction), and her first thought is of her hair. She is still getting
used to the idea that Reed is The One. But she still doesn't feel it in
her heart. So the beauty salon is always where she goes to think, her
refuge from the life of danger and duty.
She tries to be romantic, talking of wishes and shooting stars 9the ideal opportunity to say something loving), but Reed is slipping back to his old ways of only caring for his work.
Drugged again, we see her inner fears. Is Reed's coldness because he doesn't really love her? (In reality his poor social skills are not because he secretly loves someone else, but are probably due to autism, but these things were seldom diagnosed in the 1960s)
Her fears are confirmed when Reed is as sexist as ever. She knows in her head that he is the best choice for husband, but how must it feel in her heart?
She will just have to take charge. Sue is not the kind of person to feel sorry for herself. If there is a problem she takes charge and she solves it.
And boy, can she take charge. here she is defeating Dr Doom single handedly yet again (until Reed bursts in and used Doom's own drug against him)
The important thing is that she is now certain. her confidence just accentuates her beauty: now she shines. The press cannot get enough of her, and they ignore the others.
Her methods are non-violent.
And for the first time she thinks she might lose Reed. And she realizes how much she loves him. Before this she knew in her mind that he was "the one". Now at last she feels it with all her heart.
"I never realized how much I love you... need you"
And finally, after two years, he plans to buy a ring. Though he won't summon up the courage to offer it for another eight months! See the silly grin on his face, how he takes Sue literally, and how how Ben and Johnny are far ahead of him socially. I tell you, I am diagnosed autistic, and Reed is one of us.
Namor can't stand it: his loneliness, his despair at losing the woman he believes is his soul mate, the only woman who understands him.
But it gives Reed a chance to finally snap and prove that yes, he does have feelings!
And in the battle Sue realizes that Johnny is not a kid any more: he doesn't need her 24/7: she can be free at last!
They barely escape with their lives. Sue is emotionally battered and exhausted, with so many powerful emotions in turmoil. But Reed has no idea of timing. Literally seconds after Sue pours her heart out, while the team is still trying to escape, Reed wants it all explained.
And then Ben says this, and it's the only clue Reed has. It's all too much for him to process: he can't cope with more.
He's just really, really bad at processing relationships
Autism is like that. I do so feel for him.
But deep down they know it's going to be OK. Reed can't discuss feelings, but he is smart enough to take Sue on holiday again, even if he does get lost. Yet it serves to relieve the tension. They* end up grinning - probably the only time we will ever see Sue grin.
* Apart from Ben, but that's a whole other story.
Make the most of that happiness, Sue: you are about to plunge from your happiest moment to the saddest.*