At New York Toy Fair in February, merchandise tied to 2014 Marvel-branded movie releases earned major buzz and plenty of headlines from movie and collector blogs and mainstream press. We saw toy props, Hasbro action figures and LEGO sets - among other goodies - for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. For X-Men: Days of Future Past, there was practically nothing.
The same story holds true for 2011's X-Men: First Class, the previous franchise team-up installment; First Class and its successful followup in Days of Future Past got some Minimates figures from Diamond Select - and that was it. There are Hasbro Marvel Legends X-Men figures coming later this year, but none tied to the latest film.
Perhaps the tonally darker X-Men movies are simply less appealing to kids and merchandisers compared to their Avengers and Spider-Man counterparts, or perhaps it's something more. Go to the official Marvel.com website and click the movies tab. Marvel is promoting its own Marvel Studios projects because they don't own the film rights to the X-Men. Twentieth Century Fox owns that license alongside the Fantastic Four - just like Sony owns Spider-Man.
The odd scattering of properties dates back to the '90s when, during a time of bankruptcy, Marvel sold off film licenses to most of their library. The company has since reacquired most of their properties, aside from the key aforementioned flagship brands. [See a full breakdown of character ownership HERE.]
The Fantastic Four Conspiracy
Because of the reality that key characters are still outside Marvel's cinematic grasp, reports this week are painting a potentially dark picture for the comic books behind these movie franchises. Bleeding Cool reveals that Marvel Comics is planning to end (or put on hiatus) Fantastic Four and its Ultimate Fantastic Four counterpart later this year. The characters can still appear in other books and crossover events, but their two series will not be in print - if insider info proves true.
Why would Marvel do such a thing during the 75th anniversary of Marvel Comics, just as the Fantastic Four movie reboot enters production? Well, the answer is in the question, and it's because Marvel's high-ups may not want to promote the competition; according to Bleeding Cool's insiders, Marvel is attempting to spotlight its own properties that are getting eventual film treatment, like Guardians of the Galaxy and The Inhumans. They claim that when it comes to internal promotion, it's these books getting pushed more than the popular X-titles (which consistently sell well), and as for crossover events, the X-Men will only get some titles if shared with other teams (i.e. AXIS - the upcoming Avengers/X-Men event this fall).
In a followup article, Bleeding Cool added credence to the bigger picture issue this presents. Fantastic Four imagery was apparently taken down at Marvel HQ and an artist claims that they were instructed by Marvel not to use "FF characters or supporting cast such as Dr Doom, Galactus, Surfer, Skrulls etc" when it came to sketches for the 75th anniversary. Another artist backed the claims up, submitting an instruction sheet (check it out here) from Marvel which read, "all Marvel characters related to Fantastic Four are now off limits and will be immediately rejected by Marvel." It even listed the characters that couldn't be used. Even Fantastic Four-related assets have been reportedly been taken down by Marvel, so that promotional partners and licensors can't access them.
So, is Marvel actually attempting to push away the Fantastic Four to minimize promotion of Fox's in-development FF movie reboot?
Comic Book Resources stepped in and confirmed with their own inside sources that indeed, a "hiatus" was/is being planned for Fantastic Four books - but with all this bad buzz resulting from this revelation, these plans could of course change. The timing of such a hiatus is indeed odd, given the summer 2015 release plans for the Fantastic Four movie.
A third report from Bleeding Cool claims from additional multiple sources that all of this may be down to the decisions of Marvel Comics CEO Isaac Perlmutter, who allegedly has an issue with seeing Marvel Comics give free promotion to Fox's work, hence the minimizing of new X-Men characters and promotion, and plans to put a stop to the Fantastic Four.
You can pile together hearsay, rumors and reports from recent years which saw Marvel try to get back Galactus and Silver Surfer in exchange for an extension on Daredevil rights - a case where Fox wouldn't play ball. Some even say that scene-stealer Quicksilver was added to X-Men: Days of Future Past instead of the originally intended Juggernaut character as a shot towards Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron, since it's also attempting to introduce a version of Quicksilver. That's all circumstance and may not mean anything, but the idea that Marvel isn't in the business of promoting Fox properties is absolutely true.
Update: Oddly enough, Fantastic Four's director Josh Trank was just tapped by Disney to helm a standalone Star Wars movie which effectively may remove him from the director's chair of Fantastic Four 2 which is already scheduled for 2017.