If I were Sue Richards I would have divorced Reed’s ass a long time ago. . .
Way back in 1985 in the pages of Fantastic Four #280 & 281, Psycho-man and Hate-monger had NYC in flames. Angry mobs of people driven by the hate-inducing powers of these villains were tearing the motherfucker down, so to speak, and among their victims was Sue Storm – still the Invisible Girl back then, but soon to take the name Invisible Woman.
Dressed in a revealing black leather dominatrix-like outfit with a mask, Sue took the guise of Malice and began to show the world how powerful a member of the Fantastic Four she really is. . . In fact, some would argue (myself among them), that she is the most powerful member of the group.
So when faced with the fact that they cannot beat her, what does Reed Richards do? He resorts to preying on her insecurities. He plays up the socially-induced weakness of, what for the longest time, was the only woman on the team (at this point in Byrne’s run on title, She-Hulk was covering for the Thing, who was off having adventures in space). I say socially-induced, because while her super-powers are off the charts, Sue has always been the one responsible for keeping the family together, for raising the children (including her younger brother Johnny) and was for a long time more likely to be the damsel in distress than the hero. Her insecurity took the form of worrying that she did not really belong on team compared to her husband’s stretchy super-brain, her combustible kid brother, and their rock-man friend.
Sure, Reed explains that in order to help her get over her Psycho-man-induced hate he has to try to make her “really” hate him, but there is something about how easy it is for him to turn on that belittlement, that level of dismissal. . . It might seem like play-acting if not for the fact that anyone familiar with the Fantastic Four knows that it is just the obvious manifestation of a dismissal common to their relationship. How many times has Reed not told Sue about some danger or possibility that would effect her, the team or the children? How many times has he left her out of his plans? Decided she needed to be shielded from the information because she is too delicate or too stupid to handle it? Even in the most recent series, Reed is once again being written to do the same. . .
And what is this attitude based on? Sue has evolved as a character, written to be strong, capable, compassionate (and sometimes, unfortunately, as the Marvel Universe’s MILF #1). Why would he continue to treat her this way?
The only answer I can come to is that at some level he believes the things he says to her in the panels I included here.
He defeats Sue Richards in her guise as Malice by essentially putting her in her place – Re-establishing her subordinate position to overcome her dominant one. He even smacks her!
I must note however, that one good thing did come of this. . . These events directly led to Sue officially changing her hero name to “The Invisible Woman,” forsaking “girl” and becoming more assertive. I’d argue, however, that whenever writers want to return to the “classic” FF feel they put her back in vulnerable “Mom” or “wife” role. Not that there is anything wrong with being a mom, except when it is used to limit a person, except when it is all she is allowed to be.
And when Sue’s anger and hatred peak, does she smash him with a force-field or choke the life out of him? Or even try to? No. She ineffectively beats her little fists against his chest and sobs, “I hate you! I hate you!” collapsing. Another little womanly emotional outburst – all is back to normal. Misogyny to the rescue!