Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Fantastic Four (vol. 3) #15 (as Valeria von Doom); #50 (as Valeria Richards)
Created By: Chris Claremont & Salvador Larroca
For a very little girl, Valeria has gone through some major drama. In fact, when she first showed up, it was a grown adult randomly materializing in the Baxter Building and announcing herself to be the daughter of Invisible Woman and Doctor Doom, the FF’s arch foe. Needless to say, this was incredibly weird, even for a superhero team, especially since Sue was already happily married to Reed. It all made a little more sense when Reed ended up trapped in the Doom armor and pretended to be him, even marrying Sue in this guise. (Though it leads one to wonder—how the hell would Valeria have been conceived while he was trapped?)
Maybe things would have been tied together more neatly if the creative team on the book hadn’t changed then, freeing Reed and changing Valeria’s backstory. It turned out now that she was the fetus that Sue had miscarried years ago, when Franklin was still a toddler. Franklin’s incredible reality-changing powers saved her, and she was raised by Sue and Doom in an alternate reality, where they actually were married.
Eventually, someone realized this was stupidly complicated, and Valeria was regressed to fetus-hood and took up residence in Sue’s tummy. Her subsequent birth was fraught with complications, though, and since Reed was off saving the world, Doom had to deliver her. (He is Doctor Doom, after all.) He also took the opportunity to cast a spell on her and make her his familiar, which was eventually set to rights.
Since her rebirth, Valeria’s mostly been a normal little girl. Except her parents are world-famous superheroes, and she and her brother were nearly taken from them by Child Protective Services for their own safety. Oh, and she has superhuman intellect and is already almost as brilliant as her father. But other than that, she’s normal.
So What’s So Great About Her?
Personally, I’m not much of a fan of the whole “adult kid from the future or alternate universe shows up to fight crime with hero parents” plot, which is unfortunate because it’s, like, one of Marvel’s very favorite things to do. (Besides Valeria 1.0, please see also: Cable, X-Man, Phoenix/Marvel Girl, Franklin Richards…etc. etc.) So I was totally pleased to see Valeria take on a new direction, what with getting born again and all.
And, in general, I like seeing children in comics. Not necessarily fighting as adult-sanctioned sidekicks — in fact, that’s another thing I dislike — but as supporting characters, definitely. Interestingly, when actual prepubescent children show up in comics, they’re girls at least as often as boys. This is my totally unscientific observation, but think Luna Maximoff, Danielle Cage, Lian Harper, Layla Miller, Traya Red Tornado (that’s her real name, right?), Molly Hayes. Why? I think it’s because little girls seem more delicate and vulnerable, especially when contrasted with the ginormous steel-jawed superdudes who are often their daddies.
One thing I love about Valeria Richards is that she’s not cast in that role. Instead, someone came up with an awesome idea and, rather than contrast her with her father, made them similar. They both have incredibly huge, amazing brains. Not only that, but Valeria will probably grow up to be even smarter than her father. And everyone’s okay with that! Reed and Sue are proud of her! Franklin isn’t particularly jealous of her smarts! (It probably helps that he can create entire universes with his brain, but whatevs.) She’s a little girl who’s brilliant and could probably get herself out of most supervillain-related jams if she really needed to.
The Fantastic Four are the First Family of comics, and for a reason — they squabble, tease, and fiercely love each other. But you can’t be a quintessential family without kids. (No offense to my fellow child-free peeps out there…I just mean in an iconic sense.) When you read Valeria Richards, you’re reading a kid who’s essential to the group dynamic without ever having to throw a punch. Her parents couldn’t be prouder.
Fantastic Four #267
Fantastic Four vol.3 #15; 22; 50; 54; 67-70
Fantastic Four #500; 558
Mighty Avengers #24
Secret Invasion Fantastic Four #1-3