The very first character in the modern Marvel Universe to display her powers in a comic book was the Invisible Girl in Fantastic Four #1 (1961). Page one of that landmark book shows the silhouette of a man, identified as the leader of the Fantastic Four, firing a signal gun . In the first panel on page two we are introduced to Susan Storm by name, as her “society friend” takes note of the signal in the sky. By the second panel Susan has already turned invisible and is reminding herself of the vow she has taken to answer this call to duty. By panel three, ‘It is time for the world to meet…THE INVISIBLE GIRL!”
Despite the common criticism that the Invisible Girl was too often used by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby as the damsel in distress, little of that can be found in issue one. In fact, it’s Sue that goads the reluctant Ben Grimm into piloting the space voyage that transforms her fiancée, her brother, Grimm and herself into the Fantastic Four.
On inspection there are very few, “Oh, Reed!” moments in the first year of the book, although Sue does manage to get captured by the bad guys in every other issue. I don’t think there was any chauvinistic motive for these storylines; I think the blame lies with Sue’s initial power set. The ability to turn invisible offers more opportunities for escape than assault and Lee and Kirby found themselves having to put Sue in the role of a prisoner to highlight her powers. Many a plot involves Sue getting separated from the rest of the group by circumstance or capture. This gives her the opportunity to learn things about the bad guys that Reed and the others can eventually use to defeat them.
Once Sue’s powers were expanded to include the ability to turn other things/people invisible and to create invisible force fields the character was no longer limited to acting as the group’s spy and was even dubbed the FF’s most powerful member by Dr. Doom. One wonders then, why, over fifty years, the Invisible Girl/Woman has so rarely been seen in the spotlight. Out of 600 or more comics featuring the Fantastic Four, the character has been the focus on the cover of barely twenty issues and (to my knowledge) has never been the solo star of even a single mini-series or one-shot.
Here is a gallery of those rare covers spotlighting the First Lady of the Marvel Universe: