Years before Rick Sanchez ever made it on television, Marvel’s Mister Fantastic was playing out one of his best-known storylines.
The most iconic antagonist of Rick and Morty came straight from a Marvel Comics story. That antagonist would be the Council of Ricks, the bureaucracy of alternate selves of dimension-hopping inventor Rick Sanchez. Before they were blown apart, they served as a force to amass Ricks and Mortys from every timeline in a place where they could keep each other safe and keep the dangerous Rick outliers under control. But the entire concept of the Council of Ricks happened to the Fantastic Four‘s own Mister Fantastic, Reed Richards, before the binge-drinking Christopher Lloyd lookalike ever made it to Adult Swim’s airtime.
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This isn’t anything out of the ordinary or inappropriate for Rick and Morty storylines. The animated series puts prominent labels on its parody fodder, whether that means naming the episode after the movie the plot’s referencing or calling it out in dialogue, like in One Crew over the Crewcoo’s Morty when Rick tells his coat to “rip off Doctor Strange” by becoming sentient and wrapping around someone’s head. The cartoon doesn’t hide that it’s fueled by riffs on concepts from sci-fi, action movies, and pop culture.
That makes it no surprise that the Council of Ricks started out as the Council of Reeds in the pages of Fantastic Four #570, written by X-Men‘s Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Batman/Superman artist Dave Eaglesham, with colorist Paul Mounts and letters by Rus Wooton. The inciting incident of Hickman’s Fantastic Four makes the influence on Rick and Morty clear: in the beginning, Reed seeks to fix every problem in the world. He starts out by building a portal machine to observe and contact other timelines, hoping to find solutions to big issues by seeing how other worlds handled them. As soon as it’s working, he’s contacted by three other versions of himself, inviting him to a meeting of one particular mind.
The Council of Reeds, naturally, are alternate versions of Reed that transformed their own worlds with their inventions and sought to help other universes do the same. The members don’t hide that they rank with the most powerful and successful beings of their home timelines. One bears the godlike power of the Starbrand. Another three have Infinity Gauntlets. (An Infinity Gauntlet doesn’t work outside of its designated universe, but it’s an undeniable status symbol.)
Like the Council of Ricks, the Council of Reeds is a foil for our main character with similar personalities but different motives. The Council of Ricks had the selfishness and amoral drive to innovate that defines the Rick of Timeline C-137 but used it to create order instead of defying authority. Reed is a brilliant scientist, but one that genuinely considers his family more important than his career; the shared decision that let the Council of Reeds reach their potential was abandoning their relationships and families to the cause of helping as many beings as possible.
In the end, Reed rejects them and becomes a renegade Reed (possibly the Reed-iest Reed?) which led to his Earth nearly getting destroyed by Reeds who consider it necessary for their work. The Council is wiped out in turn by mad Celestials who want the Council’s portal technology, but the survivors latch on to a Reed who is more willing to cooperate: the Maker, the evil Reed of the Ultimate Universe. If Rick Sanchez ever gets rebooted for a younger generation, his classic self had better watch out.
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