By now, those of you who closely follow news related to comic book movies are well aware of how most Marvel characters fall under Disney’s “Marvel Studios” umbrella when it comes to the world of cinema, with Fox still laying claim to properties like X-Men and Fantastic Four. But what you may not be aware of is the strange saga that’s endured for the past few years that’s seen the publisher sideline some of its most beloved characters due to who’s in charge of film distribution.
At a time when you can walk down a toy aisle at any given retailer and see a myriad of Marvel action figures, odds are you won’t see much of the X-Men or Fantastic Four. Basically, this is a conscious effort to steer consumers of various age groups toward characters appearing in Disney movies. Sure, you may come across Wolverine figures that are part of the Marvel Legends line, but the fact remains that stores have been largely been bereft of certain heroes due to shameful politics.
Likewise, this carried over to the comic book world, with Marvel shifting focus to those making up teams such as the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy for major crossover events. Not only that, but the Fantastic Four – widely referred to as the House of Ideas’ “first family” due to the fact that they kickstarted that Marvel Universe itself – saw their titles cancelled ahead of Fox’s 2015 cinematic reboot. Sure, that may have been a stinker, but it’s not exactly fair.
Now, some may scoff at this notion by citing that we’re now enjoying a mutant renaissance due to the X-Men line of books being more expansive than it’s been for some time, and that what we’re saying is pure poppycock. But to be honest, this resurgence probably has a lot to do with the success of Deadpool and other flicks. Thus, it’s become hard for those on the publishing side to not want a piece of the pie.
Truth be told, Fantastic Four titles weren’t selling that well, something Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort didn’t mind pointing out in an interview with Newsarama in January of 2016:
“Fantastic Four is a title and a concept that has a lot of built in historical importance in the Marvel Universe, but to the readership of today, it doesn’t resonate the same way that X-Men, or Avengers, or even Guardians of the Galaxy does right now. It’s sort of taken for granted. It’s sort of seen as a holdover from another era. Which isn’t to say that the characters aren’t great, or the concepts aren’t important, or that it isn’t a lynchpin of the Marvel Universe, but it’s just the facts of the world, and the zeitgeist of today. Fantastic Four hasn’t been at the forefront.”
While he does make somewhat of a valid point, it’s hard to ignore a bit of spin there. As with any character or characters that originated in another era, they must be made relevant for modern audiences, something writers and artists in the industry do every week. In other words, if it can be done with one book, it can certainly be done with another.
As it turns out, fan favorite author Jonathan Hickman, who has written for Fantastic Four himself, is also in disagreement. Here’s what he had to offer, also speaking with Newsarama:
“Not only because my personal experience is that it’s not true, but the idea behind that conceit is that the core concept is somehow broken. Which is nonsense.
”I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that Marvel isn’t publishing Fantastic Four because of their disagreement with Fox. While it bums me out, I completely understand because, well, it isn’t like they’re not acting out of cause. Fox needs to do a better job there.”
At the end of the day, it’s Marvel’s decision as to what the comic book fate of Fantastic Four may be. While the characters may have drifted off into separate titles, we’re still waiting for them to reunite as a quartet. Perhaps the upcoming Doctor Doom solo movie could play a part in getting things back on track, but Hickman offers a rather blunt solution: “Disney probably needs to buy Fox.”