They're a fractious family with superpowers: one has an elastic body, another's superstrong, another can become invisible at will and project force fields. No, you're not reading last fall's movie preview, and we're not talking about The Incredibles. The movie is Fantastic Four, and the 44-year-old Marvel comic it's based on about four astronaut researchers endowed with special abilities by a cosmic storm is a paradox of a property: Barely known to general audiences, it's beloved by the comics faithful, those cranky, dubious sowers of bad buzz. ''It wasn't about 'Is she going to look exactly like the comic book?''' says Jessica Alba, who plays blond-haired, blue-eyed Sue Storm, a.k.a. the Invisible Woman. ''It was about, 'Is she going to be Sue in spirit?'''
Some of Alba's costars like Chris Evans (Johnny Storm) and Ioan Gruffudd (Reed Richards) aren't ringers for their comic counterparts, but ''Michael Chiklis is the Thing,'' she laughs. ''No arguing that.'' Chiklis does bring a natural, er, flintiness to the part. But he also brings a TV pedigree, as does Nip/Tuck's Julian McMahon, who plays the villainous Dr. Doom. All this may look slight stacked against War of the Worlds, which opens just days earlier, but producer Ralph Winter (X-Men) isn't worried: ''We got a lot of heat over Hugh Jackman being Wolverine. People didn't think Michael Keaton could be Batman.'' In other words, there's nothing stopping this spandex venture from being just as incredi... um, fantastic.