How 'Incredibles 2' Baby Builds on Team's Marvel Legacy
[This story contains minor spoilers for Disney and Pixar's Incredibles 2.]
In Incredibles 2, the Parr family finally learns what the audience (and the family's poor, well-intention babysitter) have known for the last 14 years: baby Jack-Jack, previously thought to be a normal, non-powered human, is in fact extremely powered. He's so powered, in fact, he's got basically every superpower you could imagine, and they're all manifesting out of control. From bursting into flames to transforming into a baby Hulk-like demon, Jack-Jack is easily the most powerful person in the family — maybe even in the entire Incredibles universe, all before he's out of diapers. (Among his other powers: trans-dimensional teleportation, laser eyes, creating duplicates of himself, copying someone else's appearance and floating.)
This Week In Heat Vision breakdown
This is not a completely unusual turn for Jack-Jack's story to take. In terms of comic book inspiration, the Parr family is most obviously a twist on the classic Fantastic Four mold — a slightly dysfunctional yet loving group of endearing heroes with an assortment of alienating powers used for good. The roles and abilities are swapped around, but Elastigirl takes on the Mr. Fantastic power set, Mr. Incredible does his best impersonation of The Thing and Violet steps in for the Invisible Woman. Dash isn't the Human Torch, but his personality archetype can be easily read as an adolescent stab at Johnny Storm. Jack-Jack is the odd duck out in this formula, at least until you take a closer look at some slightly more obscure areas of Fantastic Four history.
In 1968 with Fantastic Four Annual No. 6, Sue and Reed Richards had a son named Franklin. Officially, he was a mutant, but thanks to Sue and Reed's radiation-altered physiology, Franklin's abilities didn't follow the standard Marvel mutant mold of manifesting or activating during puberty. Instead, Franklin's abilities seemed to manifest somewhat sporadically before they were ultimately "unlocked" in a villainous plot by Annihilus in the 1970s.
What did that mean, exactly? Well, in the most basic terms, it sparked Franklin's emergence as one of the most powerful mutants on the planet. He could, effectively, warp and manipulate reality, which is exactly as fluid (and as potentially dangerous) as you might expect. Fearing for their son's safety in the face of such insurmountable abilities, Reed wound up first inducing a sort of coma in his son and later entrusting him in the care of a kind-hearted witch (no, really) named Agatha Harkness. (Edna Mode would probably resent being called a kind-hearted witch, but the similarities are kind of hard to ignore here, too, as she ultimately designs a suit that helps the Parr family care for Jack-Jack.)
Over the years, Franklin popped in and out of varying stages of obscurity. He joined teams, reunited with his family, traveled in time, went to pocket universes — typical superhero fair — but never quite managed to make too much of a name for himself outside of hardcore Marvel fan circles. All the while, his power set continued to expand and adapt, going from reality warping to full-on cosmic galaxy creation and virtually everything in between. Franklin became a sight of anxiety both in fiction and outside of it -— after all, it's tricky to write kids in the perpetually violent world of superheroes to begin with, but where do you take a kid who can unmake reality with the snap of his fingers?
Obviously, baby Jack-Jack obviously isn't quite as omnipotent as Franklin, at least as far as we know, but the two occupy the same niche in their respective narratives. Sure, Jack-Jack may be considerablyless dramatic or dire — he doesn't have a threatening bone in his body (unless you're a raccoon) and his family is never fearful or anxious of what he might become — but he's still asking the same "what if?" question that Franklin posed back in the '60s. What if a family of superheroes had to deal with a baby that is, in fact, more super than all of them? What if an infant were somehow godlike? What happens to a story when you introduce that specific brand of lovable chaos?
Apparently, if you're Incredibles 2, the answers are pure, unbridled comedy gold. And it turns out, that's more than enough. The Parr family might be borrowing a lot from the Fantastic Four's long history, but they're also actively modifying it. Jack-Jack's Incredibles 2 story may have solidified him as the Franklin of the franchise, but, just like his parents and siblings before him, he's putting his own spin on the role that's been made for him by decades of comics before him.
by Richard Newby
by Patrick Shanley
by Aaron Couch, Alex Ritman