With a name like the Fantastic Four, you'd think the superteam would have a fairly static membership. But no, Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing frequently go on sabbatical and/or die, thus requiring awesomely ridiculous replacements.
In Fantastic Four 587 (which comes out January 26), series writer Jonathan Hickman will off one of the Four's core members. Despite the commonality of superhero death (and the fact that F4 members have seemingly taken dirt naps in the past), there's been the quite the media brouhaha over the news. An internet betting site has even tabulated the odds of each member's death (The Thing = 100:1, whereas Sue = 1:1). The book will be cancelled with the release of February's Fantastic Four 588 and rechristened simply as FF (Hickman and artist Steve Epting will stay on board).
It's unclear how permanent this death will be — killing one of the team members is messing with the firmament of the F4 franchise. Back in 2004, The Thing died during Mark Waid's tenure on the book, and the remaining team members transported themselves up to Heaven to rescue him (there they met God, who was the spitting image of Jack Kirby). In 1995, Reed was thought to be dead after his evil future grandson Hyperstorm tossed him thousands of years into the past. Heck, the entire team was dubbed deceased during 1996's way-too-complex-to-describe-here Onslaught Saga. In short, the Fantastic Four and mortality blend like oil and water.
For the foreseeable future, it looks like the Fantastic Four will become the Tremendous Trio. This is a pity, as the group has conferred team membership to a dozen or so other heroes (including Storm, the Black Panther, the Inhumans Crystal and Medusa, She-Hulk, and Reed and Sue's own kids). However, the best and strangest heroes are below. Here are some of the wackiest ex-F4ers.
1.) Luke Cage
Despite the fact that he's one of the few superheroes who we've seen having anal sex, Luke Cage's modern adventures are positively milquetoast compared to his 1970s antics. Back in the day, Luke used to dress in skin-tight polyester and chains, scream insane catchphrases, and request a fee for his superheroics (hence his title Luke Cage, Hero for Hire). In 1973, Luke first encountered the Fantastic Four when Dr. Doom bilked him out of a $200 bill. Doom had hired Cage to destroy some runaway Doombots (who were sick of life in racist Latveria), and when the despot stiffed our hero, Luke stole the Fantastic Four's jet and made a house call to Doom's castle.
Needless to say, Luke got his $200. In 1976, Reed hired Luke to replace The Thing for three issues. Ben Grimm had reverted to his human form, and Reed needed a new powerhouse on the team. Comedy promptly ensued.
This isn't comic book canon, but when The New Fantastic Four cartoon series debuted in 1978, the Human Torch was replaced with H.E.R.B.I.E., a plucky but annoying AI. The Human Torch was being considered for his own live-action TV movie, so he was shelved for the infinitely more toyetic robot.
3.) The New Fantastic Four
I'm just rolling these four recruits into one entry since their tenure as F4 members was such a footnote. During one of those many occasions everyone assumed the Fantastic Four was dead, Wolverine, Ghost Rider, Spider-Man, and the Hulk took over in a ploy shamelessly aimed at boosting sales. A Skrull impersonating the Invisible Woman told Marvel's most marketable heroes that they had to avenge the F4's death, which led the New F4 into conflict with Mole Man. The team didn't last long as three-quarters of them were sociopaths.
In the mid-80s, Sue and Reed found their marriage on the rocks, so Sharon Ventura (a.k.a. the super-powered wrestler Ms. Marvel) joined up in their absence. Unfortunately for Sharon, she was exposed to cosmic rays and became a Thing-like creature, only more manure-like (she didn't take her transformation well).
Sharon and the Thing later had a fling together, which I can only imagine is like having sex with a concrete statue of yourself.