FRYEAN MYTHOS: *adventure*
CAMPBELLIAN FUNCTION: *cosmological, psychological*
Since I grew up with the 1960s Hanna-Barbera FANTASTIC FOUR cartoon, that one will always be my go-to adaptation of this pivotal Marvel comic book. That said, I realize that the limited animation of the company, while it could capture the quirky humor of Lee and Kirby's Early Period, it couldn't quite manage the visual grandeur of the Middle Period. That was the period in which many of the key concepts of the Marvel Universe-- Galactus and the Silver Surfer, the alien Kree, and the Inhumans-- were formulated. Hanna-Barbera did adapt the Galactus Trilogy, but with mixed results at best.
The 1994-96 series makes a concerted effort to adapt the best of Classic Lee-Kirby FF, but also with mixed results. The biggest problem is that the first season suffers from poor animation and character design, as well as very lame humor. Ben "the Thing" Grimm is given the bulk of the supposedly comical dialogue, though there's a new character, the FF's female landlord, who's even worse in the comedy department. The series begins with Reed "Mister Fantastic" Richards and Sue "Invisible Woman" Richards already married, which eliminates a lot of the early tension between the romantic couple (and messes up the chemistry in the show's one Sub-Mariner adaptation). Johnny "Human Torch" Storm has no impressive story-arcs in the first season, but then, he didn't have many in the Early Period of the original comic, either. The scripts often play mix-and-match with different stories, but this isn't always a problem, since even a few of the early FF stories were rather dodgy (particularly FF #2, the introduction of the Skrulls).
Had there only been one season, I would have rated the show as poor. However, the quality of the animation and character design is improved in the second season, possibly thanks to a bigger budget. (Given the awfulness of the first season's theme song, the lyric-less music for the second season is a titanic improvement.) The scripts stick closer than before to their original models, and while this doesn't always lead to greater mythicity, at least one episode, "Prey of the Black Panther" is particularly strong in this department. The Torch gets a lot more attention this time, as the season includes his blazing passion for the Inhuman Crystal, which arc actually receives a modest payoff at the end of the second and last season. Almost all adaptations are from Lee and Kirby, though one episode faithfully adapts John Byrne's arc with Frankie "She-Torch" Raye, while another, "Worlds Within Worlds," melds Lee & Kirby introduction of Psycho-Man with a problematic Byrne story about Sue Richards' metamorphosis into the violent villainess Malice.
On the whole, the 1994 cartoon is watchable, but even the best-animated episodes leave something to be desired.