While the ramifications of the Disney buyout of 20th Century Fox’s film and television divisions are far-reaching, Marvel Cinematic Universe fans can rejoice because the Fantastic Four are finally headed back home. It’s been a rough road for Marvel’s First Family, with their very first film never even making it to the screen and subsequent entries being greeted with lukewarm to downright scathing responses.
Despite fears that the team, consisting of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic), Sue Storm/Richards (the Invisible Woman), Johnny Storm (the Human Torch), and Ben Grimm (the Thing), were left out the deal, it was confirmed in the official announcement they would be coming to the ever-growing shared universe. In fact, the iconic organization might already exist in the MCU. Either studio president Kevin Feige was extremely prescient about their return, or he let his Spider-Man: Homecoming’s extensive scriptwriters in on some insider knowledge, which could set up their own homecoming. Either way, it appears Marvel’s Spider-Man reboot also paved the way for the return of the Fantastic Four.
Avengers Tower Has New Owners
One of the most enjoyable, if brief, subplots in Spider-Man: Homecoming was Spidey’s quest for Avengers membership. Mostly, this consisted of trying to ingratiate himself to his de facto mentor, Tony Stark’s. This collided with the main plot when, in the final battle, Adrian Toomes tried to ransack Stark's gear as the team moved from Avengers Tower to the Avengers Facility.
The sale of Stark Tower, in light of the Avengers’ break-up in Captain America: Civil War, is unsurprising. More curious, though, is the mysterious buyer of their former digs. The move seems tailor-made to set up a new batch of tenants in New York City, but whom? Surely Feige wouldn’t leave a loophole (or at least an Easter egg) for the Fantastic Four in a film shot in 2016, in the hopes Marvel would regain their rights? Would he?
That sounds pretty par for the course for the MCU's chief architect. After all, who else owns a massive building full of their own science stuff in the Big Apple? Sure, it could be Oscorp or a new HQ for the Daily Bugle, but neither of those companies is heavily represented in Disney’s current film universe. It’s never explicitly stated in the film, but the absence of the Baxter Building itself implies a shift - or the possibility of one - in the traditional nature of their storyline. That's not to say Feige was operating with information of a potential deal - that's highly unlikely - but the chips have fallen in an advantageous way.
How The Baxter Building Easily Brings The Fantastic Four Into The MCU
Traditionally, the Baxter Building was one of the preeminent sights in Marvel comics' version of the New York skyline, first appearing in Fantastic Four #3 (1962). While the team didn’t technically own the building initially, they bought and/or rented the top five floors for decades, eventually rebuilding the skyscraper outright after it was destroyed (for the second time), likely to the eternal frustration of other tenants. The Baxter Building housed the Four's superhero activities, as well as Reed Richards mind-bending experiments, for the better part of its existence, enjoying several iterations and alternative universe versions.
In the MCU, though, the fragmented nature of their intellectual property rights forced Disney to keep the Fantastic Four’s super-science highrise out of the picture. 20th Century Fox 'built' the Baxter Building two separate times, but now that the team lives under Marvel’s aegis, having them buy some or all of the former Avengers Tower would be a subtle way to announce their arrival without proclaiming it from the rooftops, as it were.
Incorporating the Fantastic Four at this point world would require a few creative leaps, a re-envisioning of their key Silver Age characters, and a convenient, storytelling loophole - avenues the MCU has wide open. Now, the only trick is picking the right means to formally introduce the classic comic foursome.
How Will The Fantastic Four Enter The MCU?
As it turns out, the perfect way to set up the Fantastic Four’s future in the MCU comes from the squad's own distant past: the very first Amazing Spider-Man from 1963 features Peter's interactions with them. Desperate for money, Peter tries to join the Four, who ironically are a non-profit themselves. The 'break-in' turns into an impromptu superpower display. Considering the name-drop in the first film, it wouldn't be out of the question for the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming to have a similar scene, perhaps with Spidey, still looking to win Avengers' brownie points, breaks into the “Baxter Building” to snoop around on the latest tenants. Instead, he gets into a friendly brouhaha with the Four.
Despite their awkward first meet-and-greet, Spidey might finally gain some traction with a superhero crew. There is a precedent in the Marvel Universe since the Human Torch is one of Peter’s oldest and best friends/rivals. He even bequeathed Spider-Man a spot on the team (in Amazing Spider-Man #657 and their reboot book, FF #1 in 2011) after his perceived death. Even if they don’t take an immediate shine to the Web-Head, the encounter could set up a great, Tony Stark-esque collaboration, as occurred in dozens of comics over the years. Also, it’s interesting to note that Reed and company helped Peter deal with a certain obsessive-compulsive symbiote (or Venom before it was called Venom) after he returned from Secret Wars.
Even though the purchase of Fox occurred long after Spider-Man: Homecoming was scripted and shot, Feige is always one to set up opportunistically; 2017's Black Panther was first alluded to in 2010's Iron Man 2. Even with rights issues, he probably had some hope of retrieving many of Marvel’s wayward properties and leaving the door open for the Fantastic Four. While it’s possible someone else bought Avengers Tower, such as Oscorp (owned by future Green Goblin, Norman Osborn) or Alchemax, the timing and prime real estate are suspicious; it would be the perfect places to introduce one of Marvel’s most-famous, cosmically-powered Manhattanites.
If that is the case, Homecoming takes on a prescient and heartwarming double meaning, welcoming not just Peter Parker but Reed, Sue, Ben, and Johnny into the MCU.
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