Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four is frequently pitted against Iron Man in multiple fan circles to determine exactly which Silver-Age superhero is the smartest in the Marvel Universe. Both characters are responsible for fantastic feats of creation; both have invented futuristic devices and have a commanding knowledge of chemistry, mathematics and many other fields of study. But Fantastic Four #542 reveals Mr. Fantastic has an edge over Tony Stark, for he invented an entirely new branch of science - even though he had help from a classic science fiction author.
Reed Richards and Tony Stark are widely regarded as the two smartest superheroes in the Marvel Universe, easily besting the likes of Peter Parker, Moon Girl, and Bruce Banner. The leader of the Fantastic Four's true superpower is not necessarily his elastic body but his mind; he's created such devices as the Forever Gate (a portal to any dimension imaginable), and even the Ultimate Nullifier in 2022's The Trial of the Watcher. The latter story proved that even without the Watcher's help, Richards could have stopped Galactus entirely on his own - a feat once thought unthinkable.
But Richards' intelligence extends beyond the present. In Fantastic Four #542, the leader of the Fantastic Four reveals he has perfected "Psychohistory" - a new branch of science that deals with predicting the future. "I can predict societal trends to an extremely high degree of accuracy," Mr. Fantastic explains to the Thinker. "I've been able to do it for decades." While the branch of study is useless for determining the future actions of individuals, Reed can use a sample size of millions to predict the next few decades or centuries, and potentially beyond. As brilliant as Reed Richards is, he stands on the shoulders of giants; writer Isaac Asimov created the concept decades ago.
Asimov is the creator of multiple series of books including I, Robot, Bicentennial Man, and the Foundation Trilogy. In the latter series, the character Hari Seldon is the founder of Psychohistory, a branch of science that determines the future of humanity by researching trends over the course of many years. Seldon's predictions span thousands of years, and he uses these predictions to guide humanity through an inevitable collapse of social order. Reed Richards admits the idea was taken from Asimov when he read the book at age 12 (though he admits it was quite rare for him to read any fictional material at the time).
Thanks to his mastery of Psychohistory, Reed Richards foresaw the coming of the Civil War conflict. Rather than prevent it, he realized it was inevitable and supported superhuman registration because he realized it was the best course of action for the future. Reed Richards is quite cold at times, but his genius doesn't always account for the human element; Psychohistory, after all, has no room for the individual.
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