When a friend shared a fun fact about “The Incredibles” the other day, it seemed like a great jumping-off point for this week’s blog post. The Incredibles are often celebrated and only occasionally criticized for being heavily inspired by another superhero family- one I’ve analyzed in several prior posts. In this post, I’d like to explore some of the symbolism and meaning behind the powers gifted to Pixar’s favorite family and how the characters are fundamentally different from Marvel’s Fantastic Four.
The idea my friend shared was, I believe, based on this video. The theory expressed is that the powers of each member of the family is believed to be based on their role in the traditional family unit.
Mr. Incredible is the father and the man of the house. Traditional family values and stereotypes put pressure on men to support their families and be strong for them. Hence, Mr. Incredible has the power of super strength.
As the matriarch of the family, Elastigirl is expected to be flexible and able to handle everything around the house at once. Elastigirl’s body is stretchy and flexible to the extreme.
Violet is a defensive teenage girl. She puts up boundaries. She simultaneously wants to be invisible and to be seen. She has the powers of invisibility and telekinetic forcefields.
With the endless energy of a typical young boy, Dash has super speed.
Finally, Jack Jack is a baby with unlimited potential to fill any role in life. Therefore, his powers at the time are undefined and infinite.
The Incredibles’ powers are based on the types of people they are. While their abilities are similar to the Fantastic Four’s, I’d like to set forth a theory on the Four and add upon the list of reasons they differ from the Incredibles.
The Fantastic Four
Thinking about the theory that the Incredibles’ powers are based on what the people are, I thought about whether this theory also applies to their Marvel counterparts. Something didn’t seem to add up until it occurred to me that the theory could be applied in reverse. The Fantastic Four’s powers are not representative of the characteristics they have, but rather on the characteristics that they lack. In that sense, they were incomplete people before their life-changing event, and their powers complete them.
Reed Richards is and always has been an almost entirely logic-based man. He’s first and foremost a scientist, and he sees the world in terms of black-and-white. He’s utterly inflexible, and so Mr. Fantastic was given the power to stretch and contort his body, much the same as Elastigirl.
Susan Storm is, as mentioned in a prior post, perhaps the most empathetic character in all of comic literature. She is open with her feelings, she hides nothing, she keeps nobody out. Therefore, the Invisible Woman’s power is (any guesses?) to become invisible and create forcefields, much like the Incredibles’ Violet.
Johnny Storm Is a little bit of an odd-man out here because he’s always been a bit of a hot-head. He has always thought he’s the most popular, hottest thing in the room. There’s the key. He has always THOUGHT. In many portrayals, Johnny is shown to be a bit of a wannabe or poser, if you will. He wants to be popular, well-liked, included, but he’s still something of an outsider a lot of the time. Then, the Human Torch received his power of pyrokinesis, and legitimately became the hottest thing in the room.
Ben Grimm has always put on a tough facade, but underneath, he feels emotions quite deeply and often struggles with a hefty load of inner turmoil. He’s soft on the inside, so his powers made the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing literally hard as a rock on the outside.
While the Incredibles and the Fantastic Four share much in their conception, they are still fundamentally different for a variety of reasons. I hope you’ve enjoyed this additional take on the subject. Viewing both teams from this new point of view, It’ll be quite interesting to observe the subtleties in future installments of these franchises. At the time of writing, and so far as I know, there are no known plans for any more Four films, but “The Incredibles 2” is set to hit theaters in June of 2018. Personally, I can’t wait to see what new challenges face Pixar’s favorite family, and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in that sentiment.
Until next time, all the best. Thanks for reading.