Plans for the Fantastic Four movie sequel are dead, and so to are plans for any Fantastic Four Marvel Comics. For the first time in five decades, there are not only no Fantastic Four comics in the works, but there are no plans for any either. It’s a bittersweet day for Marvel’s founding family – the original superheroes that gave birth to what we know as Marvel Entertainment.
But they didn’t go out without a bang. Marvel Comics’ biggest event ever – the modern Secret Wars – featured Fantastic Four characters at the center of it, namely Reed Richards (actually, two versions of him) and Doctor Doom. But there’s a very clear reason that when Marvel began promoting its post-Secret Wars “All-New, All-Different Marvel” books the Fantastic Four team was not among them.
NOTE: The following post contains SPOILERS for Marvel’s Secret Wars
The new Secret Wars (not to be mistaken with the two series of the same title from the ’80s) has been in the works for years and is largely the creation of writer Jonathan Hickman who plotted out an incredible three years worth of intertwining stories between his Marvel NOW! Avengers and New Avengers comics running from 2012 to April 2015. That led directly into May 2015’s launch of Secret Wars.
In the background of those Avengers stories the seemingly infinite amount of different Marvel universes were collapsing in on one another, with Earth being the incursion point and worlds literally colliding (unless one destroyed the other) until there were only two remaining: the mainstay 616 universe and the Ultimate universe. Secret Wars began when the final Incursion occured and out of it came Battleworld, an amalgamation of bits of different Marvel universes, saved by “God” who we learn is Doctor Doom. His right hand and Sheriff is Doctor Strange. His police force are an army of Thors.
Everything was intensely different and certainly as weird as it sounds, but this event allowed Marvel’s writers to explore a bunch of classic comic arcs, from the Age of Apocalypse and Marvel Zombies, to another Civil War and Old Man Logan. It let them throw away continuity and rules and bring back whoever they wanted, changing characters at will. Wolverine didn’t need to be dead anymore and Peter Parker and Miles Morales could web-sling side by side. It was the ultimate gimmick, but it also meant nothing was relatable. This Battleword and everything in it – literally replacing every Marvel Comics line – was ultimately something unlike anything in real-life. It was Marvel superheroes taken to the most extreme of fantasies, for better or worse.
It didn’t help that it was heavily delayed too. The All-New, All-Different Marvel universe began before Secret Wars had even ended, made even more confusing by the announcement of 2016’s big crossover event, Civil War II. But yesterday, on the second comic book release day of 2016, Secret Wars #9, the conclusion to Marvel’s biggest event finally arrived. It ends with original Reed – with the help of Molecule Man, Peter Parker, Miles Morales, Black Panther, and Namor, defeating Doom. Reed takes over the God-like powers of the universe and restores Earth, now known as The Prime Earth (R.I.P. “616”). And then he, Susan, their kids, and the Future Foundation use their powers to start crafting other universes, building the multiverse anew. They call themselves a “family” instead of superheroes now, and Reed calls himself “just dad” instead of Mr. Fantastic.
Their conclusion was a smart tactic to keep them alive but not involved in Marvel Comics. At least for now. This is the end of the Fantastic Four and the old Marvel Universe for the time being, but like all Marvel characters, there’s never really a true end.
The Last Fantastic Four Story
CBR spoke with Jonathan Hickman and Marvel Executive Editor and Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort about the conclusion of Secret Wars and what it means for the Fantastic Four. They say while crafting the story, it developed into what they consider the “last Fantastic Four story.”
Hickman: There are things that have not changed since the beginning of me working on this stuff, and I think those bits are kind of obvious. The thing that organically happened, which worked to our benefit, was the fact that it was advantageous to be writing what was essentially the last Fantastic Four story.
Hickman continues, explaining that the FF conclusion was really the only major change of the story early on. Brevoort confirms what Hickman says, following up with how they played with fan expectations a little.
Brevoort: …At a certain point, we set out here to do the last Fantastic Four story, at least for the time being. We didn’t necessarily start with that as the original goal way back even with “Avengers” #1. That having been said, it’s such a natural end point because a lot of this stuff organically grows out of Jonathan’s “Fantastic Four” run. It seems like a fitting capstone to all of that.
Getting back to the “Secret Wars” #9 is unspoilable of it all, despite the fact that people have been walking around going, “Oh yeah, Reed dies. They all die in ‘Secret Wars.'” In point of fact, none of those characters are dead. So once again, you thought you knew what was going to happen, but you didn’t! Unspoilable.
Hickman, continues, adding that they had conversations about killing of the Fantastic Four but he didn’t want to do that.
Hickman: Yeah, and that was a conversation in the room. Something that was absolutely talked about was should they die? I had absolutely zero interest in telling that story. [Laughs] Because it runs completely contrary to everything that I feel about that franchise and everything that I feel about those characters. So we got to where we wanted to get to.
Obviously, there’s the reality that the Fantastic Four – as a film property – are owned by a rival studio in Twentieth Century Fox who burned the brand with the failed 2015 Josh Trank directed reboot. It had a sequel scheduled for 2017 that was removed off the slate as Fox instead focuses on its X-Men properties. The FF became the subject of speculation and rumors however when Marvel and Fox entered a partnership to co-produce a pair of X-Men television series for the Fox and FX networks, proving that the two can work together.
For some, this meant Marvel and Fox likely had made some sort of arrangement over the Fantastic Four rights as well given the current status of the film brand, knowing Fox just can’t make it work on their own and without the rest of the MCU. Of course, these happenings occurred around the same time Marvel Studios had set multiple additional film release dates for 2020 leading to the belief that one of them could be a Marvel-produced reboot of the Fantastic Four set within Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a plan of action that similarly became a reality for Sony’s Spider-Man.
And while Marvel continues to hold back on FF licensing, meaning no toys, clothes, books, art, etc. alongside no new Fantastic Four books, its characters are not at all dead. In fact, the Human Torch and The Thing are alive and active in other books with the former appearing in Uncanny Avengers and Uncanny Inhumans and the latter serving among the Guardians of the Galaxy. As for Reed, Sue and the kids, they’re building a universe of universes behind-the-scenes, a nice homage to their origins as the beginning of the Marvel Comics universe in the ’60s.
It may take some time, but they’ll be back. The Fantastic Four will reunite one day, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll get a good movie too by then.