Humans are probably not the only intelligent life in the universe. Once life develops technology it advances exponentially. Given the age of the universe there must be vastly advanced beings out there: beings that can do anything we can imagine, such as, say, rearranging their own atoms as needed. We can call these unstable molecules.
Self-arranging atoms are so much more useful than ordinary atoms that they would quickly replace them. Much as on our planet human organisation replaces the natural world: even supposedly wild places are heavily influenced by human activity. Note that wild animals still exist on our world, but they are often chipped, culled, hunted, or otherwise managed and mixed with technology. So we should expect less advanced life forms to have elements of highly advanced technology, especially unstable molecules, perhaps without realising it. On Earth, human intervention can have unwanted negative effects: species can be relocated with unexpected destructive effects. So we should expect this on a galactic scale as well. A destructive unstable molecule based race could be called Skrulls.
Objection: the speed of light?
The main objection to any advanced alien theory is that the speed of light prevents them moving between planets, let alone galaxies. But this is less of a problem than we think, even if nobody invents wormholes and warp drives. Life appeared on Earth as soon as it was able to, so life is probably very common. Once life develops technology it quickly (quickly on a galactic time scale that is) becomes super advanced. At that stage it has complete control over the footprint it leaves, and so will only interact with other lifeforms if it wants to. And even then it is unlikely the lower life form would recognise it as another life form: it would just be too different. Like an ant trying to comprehend a human who flies in an airplane overhead. Once at that level there is little need for two way communication: what would they gain that they do not already have? So most travel is one way: even a thousand years to get between galaxies is no problem once you overcome death. Quick two way travel would be virtual: send out a near-omnipotent representative, give it hologram abilities, and program every conceivable interaction into it. Then update it every hundred years or so as you travel back and forth at a relaxed pace.
In short, something like Skrulls is highly likely in the real universe, as a side effect of more advanced beings. And to those beings the speed of light is not a problem.
Look at the issues that show Reed's face before the space flight. (That is, parts of FF 1, 11 and 272.) He could change his face even then: sometimes his hair had a widow's peak, sometimes not. Sometimes he had a cleft chin, sometimes not. And look at his body shape before the space flight: sometimes his chin jutted out in a non-human way, like a Skrull's. Sometimes his shoulders were so far apart that it's like he forgot what a human looked like.
Did the artists just make mistakes? The policy in the silver age (i.e. FF 1-333) is that mistakes should be incorporated into canon using the "No Prize" principle. Sure, the artist maybe didn't intend his face to change, but it did change. So we need to explain it.
Without the Skrull theory nothing makes sense. But with it,
everything falls into place. Almost all powers can be explained in terms
of a subset of Skrull abilities and Skrull technology
About Skrull milk
Skrull molecules can, in theory, do almost anything. What they mainly do is enslave and destroy worlds. In FF annual 17 we learn that a single Skrull can become a cow and give milk to others, turning them into Skrulls as well.
This chain reaction can fill a world with Skrulls, then move to the next planet. So Skrulls are the greatest threat to the universe.
About Skrull hypnotism
Skrulls are warlike, so would naturally destroy each other. To survive this they evolved susceptibility to hypnosis. This allows an alpha Skrull to limit the abilities and ideas of others. E.g. one beta Skrull might think she is cow, and have a cow's memories implanted. Another beta Skrull might have wings and believe he is just a human mutant.
Why cosmic rays, gamma rays, etc?
Every Skrull atom functions like human DNA. So a Skrull body is like a miniature human society: billions of individuals acting as one. When a human society is put under just the right pressure, e.g. by war or some other crisis, the individuals unite and find solutions, becoming stronger. Technological progress is then exponential. The same applies to the individual Skrull. When put under extreme pressure the atoms unite and find ways to become stronger. This is why trauma is needed in order to trigger the greatest skrull powers. Radiation is the most effective form of trauma: radiation knocks atoms around, which would be fatal to ordinary biology. That forces Skrull biology (unstable molecules) to adapt and become far stronger at a molecular level.
I love this theory because, unlike any other comic book theory, it only requires one element to explain everything, and that element (Skrulls) probably exists in the real world. Occam would be proud.
How Reed Richards did it all
Skrulls visited in the 1930s (see FF 91). This is when a "young" Reed Richards first appeared (he fought in WWII: see FF 11). Reed has Skrull powers (he can change shape), other Skrulls cannot tell him from a Skrull (FF 2) and he suddenly had advanced technology (see FF 272) and knowledge of Skrull ways (e.g. their poor eyesight and susceptibility to hypnotism: FF 2). From that moment in the 1930s, superheroes began to appear: humans with limited body modifications (i.e. semi Skrulls) and Skrull technology. Almost as if Reed was travelling the world in different disguises, creating a secret army ready to repel any alien invasion. Once the technology was out there then of course a super arms race began, and the number of super beings and sophistication of their powers increased.
Example 1: the first Human Torch
One man was given the Skrull flame suit (standard issue on Skrull saucers: see FF 2), and a Skrull's ability to survive wearing it. Reed (calling himself professor Horton) did not get it quite right, it tended to turn on in contact with air. But Skrulls also have the ability to go into harmless suspended animation when buried (see the Super Skrull in FF 19; the Dragon man shows a similar feature). So Horton (Reed) just said "it's not alive, it's an android" and buried it in concrete. Skrulls think nothing of that as they can wake, shrink and escape whenever. Horton's daughter Frankie Ray could change her skin, and was hypnotized to restrict her use of flaming abilities.
Example 2: Captain America
The super soldier serum is Reed's attempt to share a very precise mix of Skrull Milk with the government. He later lost the exact formula.
Example 3: mutants
Mutants are the easiest to explain. Skrull milk means various people have weird DNA in the 1930s. Their children reach puberty around 1963 and forward.
What of the more advanced powers, like reality warpers (omega level mutants)? The jewel in the crown of Skrull tech would be the faster than light engine in the saucer. This would have to be a dimensional warping device, and there would have to be a backup system, so our lone Skrull could steal this. Most Skrulls are notoriously stupid, so we cannot assume the other Skrull would notice. Our rogue Skrull would of course need to be smart. The 1930s saw the sudden appearance of such a dimensional warper, the basis for Nathaniel Richards' time machine. On my site I argue that this tech is the basis for all subsequent high tech: the negative zone portal, and any biological power that seems to rely on distorting reality.
Examples 4 and 5: Thor and Dr Strange
Thor and Dr Strange are explained by dimensions: a faster than light drive is probably based on dimensional warping. That makes it the basis of the time machine and then eventually the sub-space portal (usually known as the negative zone portal, but that's only the entrance). How were Thor and Dr Strange triggered by Reed's dimensional experiments? There are three expert surgeons in the early MU: Don Blake, Stephen Strange, and Franklin Storm. Franklin was of great interest to the Skrulls. I imagine there was some kind of weekly poker game for top surgeons where Franklin discussed his suspicions about Reed with Stephen and Don. I don't think it would be too hard for their curiosity to lead them to the experiments being undertaken by Reed and Victor Von Doom. E.g. Don found that old stick in a similar location to Johnny Storm's fifth dimensional portal, which was presumably near land owned by Reed where he would carry out his experiments. As for Reed and the ancient one in Tibet, see the timeline.
The arms race
Reed of course was keen to improve the technology in any he could, and other soon copied him. Add in dimensional abilities from higher beings (thanks to Dr Strange) and everyone is learning from everyone else, leading to more and more powers. But hey are still the same basic Skrull milk and Skrull technology we saw at the start.
Example 6: the Fantastic Four
Reed could already stretch. Johnny just needed the flame suit and hypnosis to not notice it. Ben was just a monster with afive ton limit (in FF 2 the Skrulls needed a detonator to exert more force than this). Sue could just shrink but believe she was invisible. The holy grail of course was to use technology to improve Skrull abilities beyond what the Skrulls themselves had. This is where the cosmic rays came in. In 1961, after thirty years of research he felt ready to not just give his friends powers, but intelligently mutate the DNA even further. I strongly suspect that in later years, every time Reed "studied" Sue's invisibility, or tried to "cure" Ben he was also finding ways to increase their power. Because that's what happened as a result each time.
Basically, almost every power can be traced to a single Skrull in the 1930s with tech he could steal from the saucer, plus his native milk and hypnotism.
Skrull Reed reflects American history.
Skrull Reed began as an immigrant fleeing for safety, like the first European settlers. He behaved unethically with the native population, but believed he was doing good. He had battles with his old world, like the Americans fighting Britain. He even destroyed its ancient throne, just as WWII saw Americans bombing the old Roman and Germanic empires. (Reed saved Galactus who then destroyed the Skrull throne world). Eventually Reed's old world accepted his values (FF annual 19) just as Europe accepted American values and culture through business and Hollywood. Possibly seeing Reed, the Skrull with the better life, had a Hollywood like effect on the average Skrull, making them dissatisfied with their life. Reed eventually forgot his origins (FF 256 and 272), so he never had to face up to his past actions. In the same way American settlers will never give the land back to the first nations. This is just the new status quo.
The symbolism of milk
The bigger message of the story is the futility of violence (when compared with networking through mutual gain): creating bigger and bigger weapons does more harm than good. Milk is also a feminine thing,a nd the underlying message is that Sue, although invisible, is the real hero pushing the story forwards. Milk is also the symbol of childhood, and the story is all about family and putting the child (Franklin) first. So milk, with its symbolism of passivity, femininity and childhood, and well as growth and strong bones is the perfect metaphor.
The comic should say so.
Good comics use "show, don't tell." part of the enjoyment is solving the mystery of super powers for ourselves.
Writers did not intend this
This web site s about the comics as published. It is not about what writers intended. For more details see the discussion of authorial intent.
Don't superpowers all trace back to the Celestials?
Yes, but how did they do it? I would argue that they used the Skrulls. There may be stories that seem to contradict this, but they do not always reflect reality. We only see what the Celestials want us to see.
Why did Reed not say "I am a Skrull"?
Skrulls are naturally secretive: their main power is to hide and deceive. So in the early days it would not cross his mind to tell anybody. Later, as Reed grew in awareness, he would realize that his acts were highly unethical (changing people without their knowledge). But by the time that idea settled in, his less sued early memories were wiped (see FF 272). From that point Reed would not be aware that he was a Skrull.
Why did the Skrulls not say "Reed is a Skrull"?
Reed's crime was to abandon his Skrull heritage. They would not accept him, but called him a human, a derogatory term to them. It is also possible that in the early days only Morat knew the full story of Reed's origin (see FF 37: in the early days only Morat wanted Reed dead). But as time went on Reed's origin became unimportant they hatred Reed not because they saw him as a traitor, but far worse: they saw him as a threat.
Is there any evidence of Reed giving Skrull milk to anyone?
Yes. Reed was always giving strange liquids to Ben to "cure" him. But the beauty of milk is that it can be given without people realizing. A Skrull could easily slip into a house under the door, replace the milk, then watch and hypnotize as needed. We often see other characters with potions, Terrigen mists, etc. Occam's razor says we should not assume that multiple magical liquids exist when just one will explain everything.
Is there evidence of Reed giving Skrull milk before 1961?
Yes. Although of course, as a Skrull he could look like anyone. On the timeline I suggest that the first super being created by Reed was a girl called Fen, who was given undersea abilities. This may have actually been the second case: we have evidence of what may be the very first test case. Here is a story published two months before Spider-Man appeared, featuring a younger and slimmer Uncle Ben and a younger Aunt May. They keep on sleep walking - evidence of Reed's early experiments with hypnotism. Linda Brown loves the sea but is stuck in wheelchair: she is the perfect candidate for Skrull milk. So Aunt May (obeying her hypnotism) gives her "milk". We then see that the child has grown a mermaid tail and has her dream of living in the ocean. But she thinks she has always been there, so she really feels at home. This has every sign of being Reed's first experiment.
Later we see Aunt May giving Spider-Man milk, and he develops powers
then feels a need to try to join the Fantastic Four (see Spider-Man
annual 1). His powers are really not much like a Spider's. A spider of
human size would barely be able to walk, due to size considerations, and
which spiders have "spider senses"? But the spider memory keeps Peter
from suspecting the truth.
Why is Reed's hypnotism so good? And is he hypnotized as well?
The only thing we know for sure about Reed in the 1930s is that his mentor is called Nathaniel, and claims to be his father. This could be Nathaniel Essex, Mr Sinister. If all powers begin with Reed then Essex was simply: an expert on hypnotism and genetics from the nineteenth century. By the 1930s he would be old, and desperate to extend his life: exactly the kind of person who might spot a Skrull, see his potential, manage to deprogram him, then teach him to be a better hypnotist. Nathaniel Essex also provides us with a perfect link between Reed and what we call magic: that is, he has the time and experience to make the best possible use of dimensional technology, such as the units Reed would have taken from the Skrull saucer. A tenacious Essex could find a way to scratch a weak point in the dimensions, attracting the interest of higher dimensional beings (those who have evolved past the singularity). The rest is what we call magic, and it all traces to Reed's arrival.
Some powers arose before the 1930s?
We only see superpowers after the 1930s. What is more likely? That multiple different super powers existed for thousands of years, and nobody ever noticed? Or there was only one super power (Skrull power) which appeared exactly when people noticed it: that power included hypnotism to give false memories. And of course if you believe you have a long history then cognitive bias means you will interpret the evidence to fit. "See that underwater rock formation? That must be an ancient Atlantean city!"
Example: how could Reed create the Inhumans when Thor 146 says they are created by the Kree in 25,000 BC?
Attilan was ancient. Its first reference is from 50,000 years ago (Captain America comic issue 1, in 1941). Back then the Inhumans had no powers. According to the account in Thor 146, the mutations began 25,000 years ago when Terrigen mists were given by the Kree. However, the description shows Dinosaurs, and Pterodactyls flying freely over the Atlantic ocean. Any good theory must be based on realism and probabilities, and putting dinosaurs just 25,000 years ago is a no-go. Clearly this is a belief and not reality: a result of mistranslation or symbolic. In any discussion of the Fantastic Four, other comics cannot be considered primary sources.
What we know from the FF is that Inhumans had powers in 1964 when Medusa appeared, and that the Kree Sentry was here thousands of years ago. It is perfectly reasonable that a group of humans on Attilan were worth the Kree's attention back then, but there is no need to assume advanced technology. it is easy for later generations to wrongly assume their technology is ancient, much as Eric Von Daniken retrofitted spacemen onto the ancient Egyptians. So the simplest explanation is that yes, the Kree watched Attilan 25,000 years ago, but high technology did not arise until Reed delivered Skrull milk (in vapor form: cows are not the only animal). reed's hypnotism would very easily fit with their existing belief in a heroic past linked to the Kree. A false back story is essential for them to have a strong reason to defend Earth. Otherwise, when the Skrulls attack, those with powers could just leave.
This all fits with the idea of the Kree experimenting on humans.
Recall in FF 65 that Ronin thought it was stupid to waste time on Earth,
yet the Supreme Intelligence took an interest. She is not called the
Supreme Intelligence for nothing. She must have known that Skrull Reed
was creating his secret army. We know from FF 65 that she has access to
dreams. She no doubt guided Reed back in the 1930s, in the same way that
she must have guided Ben's dart to "randomly" land on the Kree sentry
island on the map. So yes, the creation of the Inhumans, and the
Deviants, was all a Kree experiment even though Reed was the tool they
used. Yet at the same time Earth is still a remote backwater, just as
Ronin said. It all fits.
Why are all Skrulls little green humanoids?
I think they adapt to look like us because that is how we expect to see them. Higher dimensional beings who control everything. They arrange things for us so they get what they want from us. It is like school science, where experiments are highly artificial and controlled. School children then think "science" means test tubes two hours a week They might wonder why science is test tube shaped. It is because the higher powers (schools, nations) find that is the best way to teach children, to mold them into a form that will serve the nation's goals. This is the same with every form of government or business Why is McDonalds clown shaped, or burger shaped? The real McDonalds is the market forces and distribution chains and rental agreements. We only see the part that is designed to interact with us.
If the team have Skrull powers, why don't they notice?
If Reed is a Skrull in disguise then we should expect him to hypnotize those around him to not notice. Skrulls rely on hiding their true nature, and use hypnotism routinely (see FF 19, 91-93, etc.).
Reed would not hypnotize his own team?
In FF 245 we see Reed putting a mental block into his son Franklin, to prevent him using his powers. In the same issue we see that Ben should be able to change to human form at will, but has a mental block preventing him doing so. Three issues later we learn that Frankie's human torch power was hidden through hypnotism: she even had a special suit that she absorbs into her skin, and she was hypnotized not to notice. In FF236 the team were hypnotized to live normal lives, completely unaware that they had hidden potential. So hypnotism is standard procedure for limiting powers.
Skrull Sue shrinks, she does not turn invisible
In FF1 we see that Reed himself planted the idea in her head that she was invisible rather than very small. But being very small fits the evidence better. In FF 205 for example she is able to avoid being hit by ray guns by turning invisible: the shots seem to pass through her and hit the person on the other side. She could only be confident of this if, unconsciously, she knew that she was small rather than invisible. Of course, Reed was always experimenting with ways to increase the team's power (see FF 22 for example, how he worked out how Sue could project force fields). So in later years Sue may have been actually invisible. We see him experimenting with an invisibility suit in FF 39 when the team temporarily lose their powers. For him to have a ready to use suit suggests he as working on it for some time. Note that in Frankie Ray's case she can absorb a suit into her skin, and be hypnotised into not realising. So possible both Sue and Johnny wear costumes without realising it. That would explain why Sue has never ever made just her clothes invisible without realising.
If all powers are Skrull based, why didn't everyone's powers disappear after Skrull DNA was neutralised in FF annual 19?
In FF annual 19 the hyperwave bomb stabilized Skrull DNA. It worked by targeting what was unique about Skrulls. But reed had hypnotized his new Skrulls to only use a subset of their powers (and presumably thereby enhance that limited subset). Other abilities would therefore atrophy, like an unused muscle or unused memory. So a bomb that targets what makes a Skrull unique (the ability to change molecules in any way) would not affect superheroes. Thus the events of annual 19 are doubly sweet: not only does Reed neutralize all Skrull power, but his own specialized Skrulls keep their powers, becoming the de facto greatest powers in the universe, and Earth is safe at last.
Nathaniel is Reed's mentor, the one who makes Reed stay. He sounds
suspiciously like Nathaniel Essex, a major character in the X-Men
series. If so then this fills in the details for Reed's life when he
arrived on Earth.
Exhibit A. the official history of Nathaniel Essex (source)
Exhibit B. my revised history: the same but tweaked.
Nathan tells the official timeline but he knows better: Nathan is a notorious liar.
|14 billion years ago:||Big Bang
|(10 million years later):
||First organic molecules
|10 billion years ago:
|10 billion years ago:
||First life. (Life appeared on Earth as soon as it was possible to do so. This is our only guide to how easily life appears.)
||First intelligent life. Intelligence advances exponentially, so...
||First singularity (= life with apparently no limits). We can call them Celestials.
||First slave singularity (=
singularity that controls others: gives them physical but not
mental abilities). We can call them Skrulls.
||Skrulls visit Earth to gather data (FF 91)
|Nathaniel Essex is an old human, an expert on
hypnotism and genetics. He finds a Skrull and persuades him to stay,
becoming his mentor: Nathaniel "Richards". He calls the Skrull "Reed".
|Dimensional warp units are the key to faster than light engines. Reed was able to grab the backup unit before the other Skrull left. This was the jewel in the crown of Skrull tech. Nathan hoped to re-purpose it somehow.|
||Reed expects the Skrulls to return and destroy the Earth. So he makes plans. The main plan is to create an army of
other Skrulls, but hypnotize them to refuse any further hypnotism by
other Skrulls. While this means that he himself cannot control them
either, he will give them false and unquestioned histories to make them
fiercely defensive of Earth. As far as these people are concerned they are native races or human mutants.|
||Reed travels the world (mainly the most advanced technological nations, the USA, Britain and Germany) to learn what technology we have.|
|While travelling he takes on various identities, including fisherman Leonard McKenzie. He is attracted to a runaway called Fen.
She loves the sea but has no home to go to. Reed hatches a plan to give
her the power to be ruler of the oceans. Using Skrull milk and hypnosis
he turns Fen and numerous fish into intelligent humanoids with a
(fake) noble history. We call these Atlanteans.
|His attraction to Fen leads to a
romantic liaison: this leads to a son who not only has undersea
abilities but random other Skrull abilities such as winged heels. As a
Skrull he is able to be adult sized from the day of his birth.
Thanks to Reed's greater intelligence he can make better use of his
Skrull abilities: e.g. changing is mass to simulate great strength (or to
be light enough to fly with his tiny wings). We call him Namor.
||Reed travels the world to learn what magic we have. ("Magic" is just links with intelligent singularities: or in other words, higher dimensional beings.). He meets Cynthia Von Doom. In return for telling what she knows she asks him to empower her son with greater intelligence to defend his people. Reluctantly (as this might go badly wrong) Reed empowers and hypnotizes young Victor. Cynthia then tells Reed about the magic in Tibet.|
|While in Tibet, Reed talks to The Ancient One who understands the theory of other dimensions. Reed shows
them the dimensional drives. While they do not do anything obvious
(they lack other supporting tech) they do enable higher dimensional
beings to make limited contact with the ancient one after Reed leaves.
The Ancient One is able to increase the contacts, allowing him to call on these beings for magical help.
|Still in Tibet, Reed speaks to
wise people, and creates another secret army: one in the caves beneath
the Himalayas (he gives them monster power to dig tunnels. They soon spread, and make a base on Monster Island.
|Still in Tibet, Reed creates one
last hidden army in a remote enclave in the mountains. By this point he
is confident enough to give some them a range of powers, including some
with enhanced brains for technology (but not for wars of aggression) .
He even leaves them with Skrull milk in the form of mist, and very
strong rules to prevent its misuse. We call these the Inhumans.
||Over the years various people
come into contact with the three armies, and are convinced (as they are)
that they have long histories. They have no memory of Reed of course,
and sometimes treat him like an enemy, but that is unavoidable if they
are to be passionate defenders of Earth.
||Reed was only a typical grunt
Skrull (albeit more intelligent) so could drive their space craft, but
has no idea how they work. So he enrols in college
to learn what he can. Naturally he picks up physics very quickly and
gains a reputation as a great genius. But a close look at his career
shows that he only ever repurposes alien technology, and makes few if
any discoveries himself.
|Reed's experience lets him gain
money from his "patents". He buys a large house. His reputation as a
scientist allows him extreme
privacy, so nobody notices anything odd.
|Nathaniel is obsessed with using the dimensional warps as
the basis of a subspace portal. His research enables him to travel to just one alien world
(these are, after all, designed for faster than light vehicles). He leaves Reed here. Years later
Reed refers to this as a time machine, but it is not able to travel in
time until later when Victor makes some modifications.
|and so on
and so on.
I could write a hundred times more than this, and defend every claim, quoting chapter and verse. But basically, in the words of Han Solo...