At least one Marvel Comics writer thinks the publisher has purposefully sidelined the First Family as a result of Fox's poorly received Fantastic Four films. Over the years, Marvel has used the success of the MCU to push more comics highlighting the various characters from the films. But they've also been keen to capitalize on new Spider-Man, X-Men, and Deadpool films with various events timed with a movie's release. The one exception, however, has been the Fantastic Four.
Not only was the recent Fantastic Four not met with an uptick in comics related to the characters, but the heroes have been pushed further and further aside over the years. The argument that this move by Marvel is directed at characters they don't own the film rights to doesn't add up, given the various other examples. Furthermore, Marvel still retains the lucrative merchandising rights to all of their characters. So why exactly have the Fantastic Four not been given their own title in years? One writer has a theory.
Jonathan Hickman spoke to Newsarama about Marvel's statement that lack or sales and the failure of the concept of Fantastic Four has led to the characters decline. As someone who's written extensively for Marvel for everything from Secret Warriors to Fantastic Four to Secret Wars, Hickman certainly has insight into the publisher. And he, for one, isn't buying Marvel's explanation.
"Not only because my personal experience is that it's not true, but the idea behind that conceit is that the core concept is somehow broken. Which is nonsense...it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that Marvel isn’t publishing Fantastic Four because of their disagreement with Fox."
It seems that Hickman is saying the poor handling of the property by Fox has led to Marvel pushing the characters out of the comics. Then again, their decline predates the failed Fantastic Four reboot from a few years back. Furthermore, it does seem odd for Marvel to push out so many X-Men and Deadpool titles every year if they really have beef with Fox.
In the end, it could be a mix of both reasons. Marvel takes issue with Fox, but can't deny how popular the X-Men and Deadpool are. Meanwhile, the Fantastic Four likely lack the sales numbers of the mutants and have been handled poorly in the cinema.
It's also important to note that while there's no Fantastic Four comic, the characters do still factor into new stories. Reed Richards and Sue Storm may be AWOL, but Johnny is a key part of the Inhumans in the comics and the Thing is working with the Guardians of the Galaxy. New Avengers has even kept alive the evil Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe, who now operates as the Maker.
Until Marvel releases a new Fantastic Four comic, this debate will likely continue. In the end, we may never now what's real. Still, Fox doesn't seem quite done with their IPs. Word recently emerged that a Doctor Doom solo film is in the works. Meanwhile, a family-friendly film focused on young Franklin Richards has also been rumored. If they perform well, maybe the First Family will return to the comics.