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07/30/2015 02:23 pm ET Updated Jul 29, 2016

Are The Fantastic Four Mutants Like The X-Men ?

Why aren't the Fantastic Four considered mutants?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

Answer by Thaddeus Howze, Marvel Comics Expert

The Fantastic Four are not mutants because Marvel has not designated them as such. They have the title of mutates; beings transformed by an outside influence manipulating their genetic structure for a beneficial effect.

Disclaimer:

So we can all be on solid ground, neither superhero group (the Fantastic Four or the X-Men) falls under our current knowledge of genetics, physics, biochemistry, and mathematics. They're not even remotely able to perform any of the feats they have displayed for forty years of comic history under our current knowledge; not even remotely possible.

The difference between the The X-Men who are considered mutants and the Fantastic Four who are not, is based in the explanation Marvel uses to define how superpowers manifest in their universe. Mutants in the Marvel Universe are specifically designated as those humans whose genetic structure have a specific signature designated as the X-gene. This gene is present at birth and usually manifests as a part of puberty.

Part of the problem discussing mutation in the Marvel universe is the pseudo-scientific explanation given for their existence. The explanation is based on a misunderstanding of science and the theory of evolutionary mutation.

  • Mutation in nature is an accidental response to environmental pressures on a species to adapt new physical features to survive the environmental changes over time.
  • Evolution is an incremental, long-term process, normally taking generations to occur. While nature does support the theory of cellular mutation called somatic hyper-mutation, it happens at the cellular level only.
  • Given that mutation is a response to an evolutionary pressure, what threat, pray tell, would drive humanity to develop such dangerous weaponized physical and mental abilities in response?
  • If this were classic mutation, every one of the mutants in the X-Men would have had forebears with similar, but less effective, and less evolved versions of their abilities in earlier generations.

The Fantastic Four's origin, like so many classic Marvel heroes in the sixties, is based on a false concept that radiation can induce spontaneous beneficial mutation in a single life form that results in a transformation other than death from exposure to dangerous levels of radiation — in this case, solar and high energy cosmic radiation.

  • Yes, radiation can and does induce mutation, but this occurs over time and due to slow environmental radiation effects.
  • Radiation exposure such as the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, or the Hulk had received, should have caused them to suffer terrible radiation burns, lose their hair, have their cellular activity significantly disrupted, potentially leading to radiation-induced cancers and eventual death due to acute radiation syndrome or radiation poisoning.

So, does this mean neither hero group COULD exist?

Under the premises their current powers were defined by, not without outside influences. So how does Marvel rationalize this? They use an outside, extraterrestrial species whose mastery of genetic engineering and manipulation allow them to weaponize the genome of humanity to produce both mutants (the X-Men) and mutates (the Fantastic Four).

  • Using the premise of the Celestials, the weaponized forms of all of the X-Men's and Fantastic Four's abilities are not only possible but the frightening conclusion to an experiment that has lasted forty thousand years in the Marvel Universe. These weaponized genes are inherent in a percentage of humans and either they manifest as active genetic structures in the X-gene or wait dormant and become active when exposed to external energies such as deadly radiation.
  • Only with outside extra-terrestrial manipulation could the X-Men tap into energies or matter from parallel realities (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Colossus) manipulate electromagnetic phenomena (Storm, Iceman), tap into the electromagnetic signatures of human minds (Professor X, Jean Grey, Psylocke) or unleash heretofore unreachable physical potentials (Beast, Wolverine), to name just a few. This is the same for the Fantastic Four whose powers also violate physics (the Human Torch), manipulate reality (The Invisible Woman) or test the boundary of human physiology (Mr. Fantastic and the Thing).
  • In this way, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men are very similar in how their abilities are manifested and how they are used, but no explanation using modern science as we know it could otherwise produce such fantastic personalized weapon technology in a human package.
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