When Disney acquired Marvel, they very much wanted to own Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and X-Men. And when it comes to boosting the appeal of characters, the business-savvy end game will always see Marvel's own interests put first. This is why the Guardians of the Galaxy are huge in the books right now, and why they seemingly have an animated series on the way. The same could be said for Doctor Strange and The Inhumans, who are everywhere in the books these days, with rumors suggesting they could be on Marvel Studios' slate of 2016-2017 movie releases (Update: Doctor Strange just got a director). In Marvel's eyes, that makes them more important than the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Just looking at the 75th anniversary magazine cover (below) would make any fan question why there are no Fox-owned characters on it. Really, how does a piece of art celebrating 75 years of Marvel not have Wolverine or the Fantastic Four?
This is not a coincidence. The Fantastic Four, launched by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in 1961, represent the beginnings of the Marvel Comics universe as we know it. They are the founding family, in a way. The X-Men have been a top-selling comics brand for decades, with Wolverine being one of the top characters of all time. For them to not be on a milestone poster - but to see all of the Marvel Studios-owned characters there, fronted by Spider-Man - is again, not a coincidence. The message is simple: What you see above is what Marvel wants you to see as "Marvel."
Marvel issued "no comments" to Bleeding Cool, THR and other media outlets who've asked for clarity on the Fantastic Four issue in the last few days, and on his Tumblr, Senior Vice President of Publishing of Marvel Comics Tom Brevoort has been mostly denying the possibility, without actually denying it.
My denying rumors isn’t likely to keep anybody who’s prone to paranoia from panicking.
But really, does this even seem remotely plausible to people? Does it make any sense?
Folks have a very strange idea as to the way a business is run.
After endless questions about Fantastic Four:
We are publishing FANTASTIC FOUR. Next month, we will be publishing FANTASTIC FOUR. A year from now, assuming that it’s still selling well, we will be publishing FANTASTIC FOUR. Given enough time, anything can happen—we went a couple of years, for example, without a THOR series, as well as a year and a half with FF, AVENGERS, CAP and IRON MAN not being a part of the Marvel Universe. So anything can happen. But it probably won’t.
And for the couple of folks who punctuated their complaints by saying that they were dropping all of their Marvel books, and switching over to DC—well, first off, you must think that I’m a very simple man. But you can, as always, do with your time and money as you will. I will point out that if the purpose of your endeavor is to insure the continuation of FANTASTIC FOUR, then perhaps buying MORE FANTASTIC FOUR would be in better service to that goal than buying less. Just a thought.
Oh, and James Robinson sent me notes for the 75th Anniversary Special story that he is doing this morning. And as you’d expect, the Fantastic Four are at the core of it.
So maybe the two Fantastic Four titles are not being put on hiatus, after all. Maybe plans have changed since news of Marvel potentially snubbing Fox has made major headlines. Maybe it doesn't even matter, because what Marvel Comics does with the characters ultimately has little impact, if any, on Fox's film plans. Maybe this is all some weird personal grudge or an emotionally-driven plan by Isaac Perlmutter.
The idea of Marvel subtlety hindering the Fantastic Four and X-Men, while somewhat understandable, is very bad news for the comics. It means they won't get the love when it comes to licensing agreements for merchandise, or plans for animated television programming, or for future major story arcs in the books. The intentional shift in promotion means that some of Marvel's best characters won't be seen as the best or most cool or most important to the youth of today - those growing up with these properties through various mediums. It hinders potential of new, great X-Men characters - and right now, it's potentially hindering the appeal of the Fantastic Four in a time when that movie can use all the help it can get.
Next: What About Spider-Man?