F*cked Up Four by Corey Hackathorn is an extremely irreverent spoof on the classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Fantastic Four comics, bridging over to parody a few characters of the wider Marvel universe as well. Very minor differences set them apart from their legally-untouchable counterparts, but the raunchy stoner humor and surprising emotional depth make it stand in a league of its own. Let's go over the inspiration for the webcomic and how each character departs from their copyrighted originals.
Originating on Instagram as a daily four-panel funny strip, the comic depicts Jim, Auggie and Cliff, some former superheroes who mope around their high-rise tower and bother each other incessantly. Due to an as-of-yet unexplored plotline, a dimensional rift was opened in the past that devastated the Earth and killed Auggie's sister June, leading the group to spiral into depression. Their powersets are basically identical to the Fantastic Four, with the "4" logo replaced by a sad looking "F." Though the designs are clearly ripped from Kirby, the clean and iconic line art makes the characters pop in a way that's eye-poppingly original.
Replacing the deceased June in the Four's assembly is Doc, a clear spoof of Doctor Octopus. Instead of having four mechanical limbs, he has a full eight— making him more octopus-y than the original— and the legs prop up a single floating head in a jar of liquid. He accompanies Auggie, the Human Toke (a riff on the Human Torch), on drug-dealing benders into neighborhoods that have been sent into poverty by the aforementioned dimensional incident. Auggie's body can create the fumes of any narcotics, which he exploits for financial purposes. Imagine a Jesse Pinkman with super powers: that's Auggie.
In place of the Thing is Cliff. Though his powers and appearance are essentially the exact same as Thing's, the effect it has on his body and psyche is somehow more tragic. His rocky exterior causes him so much agony that he can even feel his eyeballs grinding in their sockets, and only Auggie's synthesized drugs can help him cope with the immense pain of living.
Jim, the comic's version of Mister Fantastic, is the only sober one of the group, but this doesn't make him any happier than his roommates. June was his wife, and though he's not seen crying over her as much as her brother Auggie, he's clearly internalized the pain in an unhealthy way. His stretching abilities allow him to start his daily routine without even getting out of bed, and he's never seen without an exhausted look in his eyes.
We reached out to the strip's creator Corey Hackathorn, who publishes under the moniker of Sh*thead Comix, to get some insight into his creative process. COVID was making him a little crazy, a little bored, so he turned to reading classic comics to fill the time. "I was reading the original Jack and Stan run on FF, Michel Fiffe's COPRA, and binging every Megg and Mogg book I could find."
Inspired by the books, the 1983 movie Meantime (directed by Mike Leigh) as well as the general listlessness and claustrophobia of quarantine, he began to imagine a "Stoner-Roommate Sitcom/Dramedy" that would riff on Kirby's old characters. Hesitant, he began posting the strips to Instagram, where the reception was very positive. As the plot continued, the panel layout and backgrounds grew more dynamic and ambitious, to the point where panels would have entire miniature comic strips inside of them, with even smaller strips filling those panels.
"Getting feedback from readers in real time was a great experience and put me in a great place mentally. It's such a pleasure to make comics, really. The whole process is magical. Looking at notes from the previous day and writing in the morning, penciling and inking the rest of the day, leaving notes for tomorrow's work... It's a wonderful loop." The entire Instagram run has been printed in a 100-page first issue, which is available here on Hackathorn's website.
Moving forward, the series will be print only, dropping the four-panel structure for a more conventional magazine-style format, but some teases and sequences for the upcoming issues will still find their way to Instagram. Obscene, familiar and downright hilarious— F*cked Up Four brings that old-school rudeness and simplicity to modern webcomics, all the while not neglecting to have a clear emotional angle for its characters. Check it out.
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