Fantastic Four is a Marvel property that is pretty much in a Schrödinger’s cat situation; that’s to say it’s in a state of being somewhere between new life (via a movie reboot), and death (of the comic book series). With such little official information on either front it’s hard to know what the outcome will be; however, we’re starting to get more and more info both on what’s happening with Josh Trank’s new reboot, and the Marvel Comics series.
One of the more controversial aspects of The Fantastic Four reboot has been the casting – especially African-American actor Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle) taking over the role of Johnny Storm/Human Torch. We’ve gotten hints at how Johnny (black) and Kate Mara’s Sue Storm (white) can be considered family – as well the possible new origin story for how our heroes (and villain Doctor Doom) first gain their powers – but little more than that, really.
Today we have an update on what the new Fantastic Four costumes may look like – but more importantly, it seems that a pretty controversial story about what Marvel might be doing to the Fantastic Four comic book is suddenly looking more true than false. That rumor? Marvel is canceling the Fantastic Four comic book.
Michael B. Jordan has been practically hounded with questions about taking on the role of Johnny Storm – but he continues to be level headed and consistent in his insistence that – when all is said and done – fans are going to be happy with how all the changes to the source material results in an epic F4 movie. Now he’s revealing a bit of detail on what the new Fantastic Four team costumes will look like. Spoilers: don’t expect blue spandex:
It’s a new look. We are all in containment suits. It’s gritty. It’s a gritty film.
The costume process definitely took some time to get in and out of that thing, especially since I was bulking up. It was a little more snug during filming. We got through it man. It was a process, but we did it. It was hard work. I’m really excited about it, everyone is really happy. We worked hard for three months, put a lot of time into it. The script is very grounded and relatable to everybody, as much as you can. You really get a chance to grow with these characters. It’s an origin story. You get to discover these abilities – these disabilities rather – and grow with them.
The 2005 Fantastic Four film dealt with the hardships involved with suddenly gaining superpowers – but it was admittedly tackled in light brushstrokes, in what is arguably a light film. The Fantastic Four reboot is seemingly drawing from the Ultimate continuity, which is indeed a bit different and more modern/practical than the campy/kitschy 1960s original version.
As for the costumes? The term “containment suits” are going to throw some fans off, but the characters have seen several costume changes in the last few years (Future Foundation, Ultimate F4) so that these shouldn’t be all that much different.
Given Jordan’s description of snugness, we’re still expecting something form-fitting – just maybe with added function that simple spandex suits fail to provide. (Honestly, spandex suits fail to support pretty much any logic for an onscreen hero’s dress code.) We don’t expect the F4 to be doing sumo-style battle in hazmat suits or anything like that.
Early on during summer 2014, we covered a story asserting that Marvel Entertainment was sabotaging its Fantastic Four comic book. The short version explanation is that the F4 comic book has been a low earner for the publisher for some time, but that rival movie studio 20th Century Fox could still reap the benefits of the F4 brand to further promote their upcoming movie reboot – which would stand to make a helluva lot more money than the comic book. Marvel execs – now knowing how lucrative these franchise can be – were reportedly refraining from promoting the competition by not including The Fantastic Four in their comic book events – even going so far as to leave Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past characters out of Marvel toy lines.
Of course, Marvel immediately towed the company line, claiming all was well under their roof and online reports were false, But now Bleeding Cool, the originator of this report, is striking back with evidence that further suggests Marvel is indeed planning suppressive measures for the company’s superhero family.
Aside from pointing out how third party distributors like Mondo Posters and Diamond Select Toys have been not-so-curiously prohibited from using any Fantastic Four characters in their merchandising, Bleeding Cool practically cements the claim of in-house sabotage with this preview from a book distributor, which seems to announce that the end of The Fantastic Four comic (at least as we know it), is indeed coming in 2015, via a storyline called “Fantastic Four: The End Is Fourever” by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk:
THE END IS FOUREVER! Witness the closing act on the First Family of the Marvel Universe! THE INVADERS meet the FANTASTIC FOUR as the hunt for REED RICHARDS and the missing kids of the FUTURE FOUNDATION continues. Meanwhile the mastermind behind everything unveils his ultimate plan. But how does FRANKLIN RICHARDS factor in? And how does this all lead to…The END?! Collecting FANTASTIC FOUR #642-644 and the Triple Sized Final Issue 645!
Bleeding Cool speculates that – through some tricky comic book issue numbering – that “The End Is Fourever” (nothing ominous about THAT title) could begin in January 2015 and run through April 2015 – right into a comic book event started in the Avengers and New Avengers books called “Time Runs Out”.
Essentially, in September 2014, the Avengers and New Avengers books jumped eight months into the future (April 2015) and offered readers a much changed picture of the teams; when the actual April 2015 date approaches, we’ll learn more about how we got to those changes (some kind of cosmic thingy) – and what they mean for the future of the Marvel U as a whole.
Part of “Time Runs Out” features Sue Storm hunting for her husband Reed Richards, who is in hiding as part of Marvel’s illuminati cabal. It’s only speculation, but the events of “Fourever” could help explain what led to the new splintered version of the F4 seen in “Time Runs Out.”
On a larger scale, what we’re seeing here is the first serious conflict of Marvel interests when it comes to promoting their brand within this tricky film rights tangle. Marvel infamously sold off the movie rights to major properties and characters during its broke days of the 1990s, and has been acquiring them back ever since (Punisher, Blade, Ghost Rider and Daredevil have all come home to Marvel Studios after being owned by others).
With no signs that Fox is letting go of either X-Men or Fantastic Four, Marvel is indeed in a difficult position of having their merchandise (comics, toys, etc.) help people become more aware of a competitor’s movie. Hardcore fans know the issues of studios owning various Marvel characters – but to the casual viewer, they’re all just Marvel (see Page 1 : a GMA reporter asking Michael B. Jordan if the F4 and Avengers will have a crossover movie. Yeah, that’s how little the general public understands all this…).
But as Marvel is acutely aware: even though it all may look like one Marvel universe, those big profits don’t land in your pocket if it isn’t your studio getting that production credit.
How do you feel about this? Are you a hardcore Fantastic Four and/or Marvel fan? Do you think there’s something broken when the company starts trying to hold down its own characters? Or is this just the natural evolution of the business, now that movie money is involved?
The Fantastic Four will be in theaters on August 7, 2015
Future Foundation artwork (coloring) by RyemSalim @ DeviantART