I can sum up John Harkness’ run on Fantastic Four in two panels:

Yes.  It will take a better man than he to straighten out this mess.  The mess that he himself made.

the watcher cries john harknessBut who was John Harkness?  Because doesn’t he look familiar up there?

To answer this question, you have to go back a ways.  Prior to the Harkness run, Steve Englehart had been writing some truly bizarre issues of the series.  They may not have all been my cup of tea, but you can’t fault them for lack of originality.  He made Thing truly ugly, and introduced a female version of Thing, completely changed the team’s lineup, and even went down a Kang-and-Mantis path.  Reed and Sue finally did what they’d been whining and complaining about for decades: Taken time off to actually raise their son.

The year was 1989, and comics were quickly stumbling and crashing from the period of their biggest glory–the late 1970s and early 1980s–to the period of their biggest Liefeld.  Speculation, investment, and corporate capital had replaced innovation.  So Marvel’s editorial board, led by Tom DeFalco, insisted that Steve Englehart reverse everything he’d done and bring back the original FF.

He did it, but he hated what he did.  So he took the pseudonym John Harkness and wrote some of the worst FF issues of all time.  He also made them all a big dream–or at least most of them–and left Ben Grimm cured at the end of the arc.

Seven years later, Marvel declared bankruptcy.

These should be read only by completists or the curious.

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