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The Fantastic Four and Superman

Fantastic Four and Superman merged timeline

(Take #1)


Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Timelines are a format to present imaginary alternative realities. Since readers are assumed to be already familiar with the places and characters, having events by date lays out how things occur differently in this version of reality. And the chronological format lays out a low-key story.

The following timeline  attempts to meet the following objectives :

  • Insert the Fantastic Four in the DC Universe.
  • This allows Superman to be returned to the Golden Age .
  • Break that silly ten-year timeline. Keep a few date of publication as actual dates for events as long as it is not annoying.
  • Keep well-delineated Golden and Silver Ages.
  • Stay centered on Superman and the FF (as well as the FF’s origin). For instance I’m not touching Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the return of the JSA, etc. here. Although I offer a mini-solution for the Golden Age Batman problem.

Writeups.org has another take on something similar, but with different objectives.


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Timeline

1930 The Shadow appears
1930 Reed Richards is born.
1931 Ben Grimm is born. Victor von Doom is born.
1934-1938 Clark Kent has a low-profile, intermittent career as “Superboy”. Part of it takes place in the XXXth Century, a place not unlike post-Depression America (Bierbaum continuity for the XXXth century).
1937 Doctor Occult dons a special costume given by the Seven, and is thus technically the first costumed adventurer. The events is not generally witnessed, however. Thus it is rare for people to consider that the Golden Age started here.
1937 On May the 6th, a man begins to fly and miraculously saves the passengers of the Hindenburg  airship. He is called “Superman” by the press. Other Superman appearances are infrequent during the rest of the year.
1938 Superman returns in June, fighting against gangsters and sporting the first version of the famous blue and red costume. The Golden Age is generally considered to start here.
1938 In July, Zatarra the Magician uses his power to stop criminals. But he insist on conserving his cover as a stage magician and only acts as a crime fighter when opportunity knocks.
1938 In August, Wesley Dodd returns from Asia. Haunted by strange, prophetic dreams, becomes the Sandman. He is a first believed to be a urban legend, much like the Shadow.
1938 In October, publisher Lee Travis becomes the Crimson Avenger. He has a more public career than the elusive, almost supernatural Sandman. He declares to be directly inspired by the Superman – although several aspects of his work are reminiscent of the Shadow.
1939 Minor heroes such as the Hourman, Doll Man or the Phantom Lady appear. In April, the Crimson Avenger and the Sandman both stop an assassination attempt on Mayor La Guardia at New York’s fair, making them heroes. The Sandman remains a mystery, though.
1940 The JSA is founded – including the Sandman and many heroes that have appeared in the previous year. Two major players do not join the JSA, but remain associates. These are Superman and the shadowy billionaire Lamont Cranston, which has figured in the origin of many superheroes in 1939 and 1940.
1941 Susan Storm is born.
1941-1945 The JSA, Superman and its ilk are prevented from operating in the conventional battlefields by a powerful spell woven by Japanese and German mystics.
1944 Jonathan Storm is born.
1950 Reed Richards and Ben Grimm meet in college and become friends.
1951 1950s Red Scare. The JSA disbands since individual members retires. They have strong divergences as to what should be done about the Red Menace. Superman is attacked and threatened by McCarthy, and retires in Kansas after his love, Lois Lane, mysteriously disappear. Golden Age ends.
1951 Ben Grimm and Reed Richards uncover an amnesiac Skrull at the Empire State University.
1951 Doctor Storm leaves his daughter and son to the care of their aunt Mary and disappear.
1951 Failed experiment in college “disfigures” Doom, who starts hating Richards with a passion.
1951 Reed and Ben enlist and fight in Korea until early 1953. Richards become quite reputed as a combat engineer, while Grimm illustrated himself as one of the finest pilots. He fights first as a Corsair pilot, and then as a pilot for the first Panther jets used in action by the USMC.
1953 Richards becomes a consultant for the USAF, while Grimm becomes a test pilot for the USAF. Richard is quickly transferred to the OSS (even briefly meeting the Howling Commandos), and perform a few missions from them. During one such mission he encounters opposition from Victor von Doom.
1954 Late in that year Richards is transferred from the OSS to the NACA.
1955 Susan Storm, 13, decides she wants to be an actress after watching Seven Years Itch with Marilyn Monroe (with whom she shares some resemblance according the schoolmates) and the death of James Dean.
1956 Tri-Corps (a then important corporation) assembles a team of “heroes” to “inspire the young people of America”. By 1957 they have selected pilot Ace Morgan, wrestler Rocky Davis, mountaineer Red Ryan and diving expert Walter Haley.
1956 Archaeologist Henry Brandeis discover the Amulet of Zarathos, which end up in young Johny Storm’s hands. He, her sister, Brandeis’ daughter and a friend of the family, Max Parrish, prevent Dracula from getting the amulet. Parrish becoming briefly the Ghost Rider to repel the lord of vampires. Johnny’s quick and youthful actions prevent Parrish from permanently becoming the Ghost Rider.
1957 Soviet researcher Ivan Kragoff discover a dim, strange phenomenon occurring periodically between Earth and Mars. These small readings are considered unimportant by everyone saves Kragoff.
Daring American spy King Faraday steals Kragoff’s research, which is handled to Richards – as a NACA expert with strong military credentials. Richards become convinced that this phenomenon could bring much greater understanding of Einstein’s spacetime. But like Kragoff does not manage to turn his interest for the phenomenon in an actual, funded research initiative.
1958 Richards’ childhood friend Sue Storm, who wants to marry him when she grows up, re-enter his life. Young Sue is still working to become an actress, only getting minor roles. Johnny, still a young teenager, becomes a huge fan of the Challengers of the Unknown. He becomes a star in his school when Richards let him meet Kyle “Ace” Morgan, who happens to be a friend of Benjamin Grimm.
1958 USAF Cdr. George C. Watkins is assaulted by Communist agents. They are stopped by Reed Richards and Ben Grimm, but is wounded. Ben Grimm, as Watkins’ alternate, flies a Grumman F11F-1F Super Tiger to world altitude record of 76,828ft during the next week.
1958 Shortly after the Sputnik flight and subsequent shock in America, Tri-corps contact the NACA (soon to become NASA). They want to fund a daring project which would star its team of popular heroes. Richards suggest a flight to a very high altitude to observe the Kragoff phenomenon – based on the technology test-flown by Grimm.
Richards also propose ground-breaking plans for a Low Earth Orbit mission, but NACA decides to scratch it after the Vanguard rocket fails to orbit. Richards demonstrate the Vanguards failure is merely due to malfunction of minor components in the firing circuit of third stage. He feels personally driven to develop technology allowing his project for the Tri-Corps funded operation to become possible.
1959 A special experimental X-15 craft is funded by Tri-Corps. They also fund the procedures for it’s team of heroes to pass Mercury-grade tests. Much to the military’s surprise, the Challengers actually pass the tests. The one-of-a-kind X-15-3C is launched from a B52 bomber in October. However, the jealous and well connected Kragoff has planted a bomb in the X-15-3C plane, using a small Capuchin monkey (and idea inspired from the Murder at the rue morgue classic).
1959 The Challengers miraculously survive the crash of the X-15-3C, completely unharmed. Even their watches have been stopped by the crash. Realizing that they live on borrowed time, they actually start to challenge the unknown instead of just acting as PR experts. The Challs become famed explorers of the unusual, adventurous and seriously weird. Some consider that their debut, nearly ten years after the disbanding of JSA and disappearance of Superman, is the start of the Silver Age.
1960 Susan Storm tries to land the starring role in the movie Sea Devils, about undersea exploration, loosely based on some exploits of the Challengers of the Unknown. But she does not fare well during the casting.
Her young brother Johnny writes to “Prof” Reed of the Challengers, who lend them cutting-edge diving equipment and a few days of instruction so Sue can practice for the role during the summer holidays ; Johnny tag along with her. During a dive they start having problem but are rescued by divers Dane Dorrance (the son of a very famous WWII frogman), and the strong but clumsy Biff Bailey.
The quartet’s initial adventure last for several days – thus preventing Sue Storm from attending a casting session, costing her the role. She proposes that the quartet become known as the Sea Devils. They become popular adventurers in the vein of Cave Carson’s group or the Challengers of the Unknown themselves.
1961-1962 Richards’ technology is instrumental in allowing the space flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.
1962 The Sea Devils encounter an undersea enclave of creatures strongly reminiscent of the alien uncovered by Grimm and Richards in 1950. Susan Storm asks Grimm and Richards to help them, and the six uncover another Skrull  conspiracy. Richards and Grimm’s exploits from the war and their career since is much glossed about by the media, and they become as famous as the Sea Devils.
1962 Death of Niels Bohr, much to the dismay of his long-time correspondent and admirer, Reed Richards.
1963 End of project Mercury as Cooper goes 22 times around the Earth. Project Gemini starts, but the administrator decides against the highly ambitious Richards plan for Gemini. He prefers a more conservative approach. Another reversal of position will take place five years later under the impetus of Samuel C. Phillips, the manager of the Apollo program and longtime supporter of Richards.
1963 A new King Faraday mission in USSR has its data analyzed by Richards. He thus discovers Ivan Kragoff is going for a launch in 1964 to study the phenomenon between Earth and Mars. Still convinced that a clear analysis of this phenomenon could lead to breakthrough in theoretical physics, Richards is extremely worried. Such advances could allow the Soviet to start a new Project : Manhattan and deploy anti-matter bombs – or perhaps weapons exploring quantum physics concepts.
1963 Richards leaves NASA and start feverishly working on a spacecraft on his own. He sinks a large part of his considerable inheritance in it.
1964 Richards’ spacecraft is ready for the launch. He’s still hoping to beat Kragoff to the phenomenon. He convinces Grimm to pilot it, and extensive training in 0 G movement (done in pools) and life support usage has him recruit Susan Storm and Johnny Storm. The four ultimately decide to be the crew of Richards proto-Apollo spacecraft.
The first stages of the mission go quite well, but as both Richards and Kragoff approach a suitable observation distance, it becomes obvious that the phenomenon is actually vibrating from his central point at speeds that, impossibly enough, seem to be superior to light speed.
One such jump takes the phenomenon *far* closer to their position than they thought possible. Richards’ craft is bathed in strange energies, and only the crews’ willpower and heroism allow them to make it back to Earth. Kragoff’s ship seems to be swallowed by the phenomenon.
1964 Despite Grimm’s heroism, the craft starts burning up on re-entry. It enters a collision course with Central City. Observing the disaster with his super-senses, Superman intervene from his retirement in Kansas. Although his power has been steadily declining since the early 50s, he nevertheless manages to saves the spacecraft and the city from destruction. But he exhausts nearly all of his power doing so.
When the four come back to consciousness, Superman is near death and trapped in the flaming wreckage. In their frantic attempts at rescuing him, they discover that they have fantastic powers.
1964 Superman returns to consciousness, and is recognized by the four. He soon discover that he does not have powers anymore and the four, moved by his heroism and legacy, vow to carry on the struggle for truth and justice in their explorations. To make their legacy clear, Susan Storm fashion garments displaying a “4” symbol clearly based on Superman’s “S” shield.
1964 Sue and Johnny Storm leave the Sea Devils, who go in semi-retirement. The Fantastic Four are born. The second Flash (Barry Allen), the Fastest Man Alive, starts his career just eight days later. This is the second possible date for the birth of the “Silver age”, 13 years after the end of the Golden Age.
1964 The Fantastic Four become active. They act both as explorers of bold new frontiers, and as protectors – in that later role, filling Superman’s shoes with great talent and poise.
1968 Apollo program. After the incredible successes of the first missions, the administrator authorize the launch of the Richards mission, until then shelved, to the Phenomenon – which is expected to manifest this year. Richards and his team are to lead this mission.
One week before the launch, the FF disappear in what Richards calls the “Negative zone” . The replacement crew, headed by George Taylor, is launched instead. They reach the phenomenon on the most stable trajectory – the one that had been used by Kragoff four years earlier. The next few hours see the Taylor craft swallowed by the phenomenon despite all of the extra precautions taken – and Kragoff’s ship emerge from it.
Kragoff will later reveal to Soviet authority that he was sent to a fantastic world much like Earth. But it is inhabited by incredibly man-like Simians, and enslaved humans. Since Kragoff was traveling with two apes and a monkey, and all four of them gained paranormal powers during their journey, negotiating with the local powers and engineering a relaunch for the next opportunity can be done without major difficulty within four years.
The Taylor attempt does not fare as well. They are also sent to this planet, but the female crew member is killed on crash landing, and two others are killed during the first few weeks on the “Planet of the Apes”. Taylor, however, discover what Kragoff didn’t – this planet is actually Earth in the future.
1969 The Challengers of the Unknown disband and go into semi-retirement.
1970 Kragoff first clashes with the Fantastic Four as the Red Ghost.
1974 Batman starts his career in Gotham city. The Shadow from the 1930s and 40s is clearly his main source of inspiration.
1976 Another attempt is made at approaching the phenomenon. But millionaire Simon Utrecht’s goal is not science, but rather gaining powers similar to those of the Fantastic Four due to his thirst for power. They too manage to graze the phenomenon and come back as four superhumans known as the U-Foes, despite serious problems.
1980 Birth of Franklin Richards
1984 Richards has determined that the phenomenon was an odd manifestation of the universe-spanning Silver Twist. But against his advice, the US military launches another attempt at the phenomenon. Quite possibly with the intention of creating superhumans, like Utrecht did.
Again, the phenomenon turned the four crew members into superhumans, respecting the usual pattern (powers having to do with flexibility, with raw strength, mass and durability, with primal energy manipulation and with insubstantiality). But things went wrong, the craft crashed, three members died and survivor Mr. Henshaw was believed lost despite a rescue attempt from the Fantastic Four.
He manages to reappear on Earth, but understand he’s now a monster and flees – finding old Kryptonian tech left in orbit by Superman in 1950. He spends six years assimilating and understanding Kryptonian technology.
1985 Challenger mountain is blown up, killing both Prof and June Robbins (often called the Fifth Challenger). The three remaining Challengers, much older (although their aging has been cut by a factor of two or three due to exposure to Liquid Light in 1964), re-assemble. They discover their varied, tumultuous lives have deeply changed them. Still, they reformed for a few years, older and tougher than before, to again challenge the unknown.
It was quickly discovered that Prof and June, although dead, could indirectly communicate with the still-living Challengers.
1988 A creature known as Doomsday emerges from the Silver Twist (toward which no expedition was launched this time). It crash-lands on Earth after having followed the Kragoff trajectory. No superhuman or human power on Earth can stop its path of sheer destruction until the Fantastic Four make a stand against it in Metropolis.
After a day-long fight, the Four are left for dead at the feet of the unstoppable engine of destruction. Franklin Richards emerges from the wreckage and start hitting and kicking Doomsday until his mental barriers break. He incinerates the creature before falling into a coma.
1989 The retired Superman is contacted by the ghost of Agatha Harkness. She informs him that it is possible to save the Fantastic Four from beyond death. Superman discretely makes his way to the Baxter Building to start assembling the necessary equipment for dimensional travel from Richard’s work.
Harkness warns him that science alone will not be enough, and contact Victor von Doom. Doom, denied his chance to prove himself’s Richards’ superior since Richards’ death, accepts the offer and joins Superman.
Using power stolen from the Beyonder during secret wars four years earlier, Doom manages to give Superman even more power than he had in 1950 – permanently. Both Superman and Doctor Doom disappear into the death dimensions for 77 nights, enduring great trials and overcoming great obstacles.
They do bring the Four back. But the foursome almost immediately sacrifice all of their power, including mystical powers gained since their death and turning them into quasi-elemental creatures, to save Franklin Richards from his coma.
Doom reluctantly admit that his feud with the now powerless Richards is over.
Franklin begs the man of steel not to go back into retirement, and to become a great hero again. Superman, moved by the boy’s plea, accept.
1990 Lois Lane is discovered by Superman during one of his adventures beneath a castle in Spain. She has been kept in suspended animation by Diablo, the Alchimist. Lane returns to life and adapt very quickly to this new era, finding the far greater role of women in society very much to her liking.
1992 Lane and Clark Kent are married. The Challengers of the Unknown, Sea Devils and Fantastic Four are among the guests of honor.
1993 Kyle “Ace” Morgan manages to contact the ghost of Agatha Harkness. He, Red and Rocky embark on a trek through the death dimensions, hoping to bring back Prof and June. They have not been seen since, but there is little doubt they will ultimately succeed.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

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