If you missed Marvel's Inhumans TV series, it may not matter much. Disney's acquisition of Fox brings the X-Men movie rights under the same umbrella as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Marvel Comics is already making moves to switch focus from Inhumans titles to X-Men titles. After spending decades as D-list superheroes in Marvel Comics - barely featured at all in the 1980s and 1990s - the Inhumans enjoyed a resurgence in recent years as Marvel attempted to install them as replacements for the X-Men. In addition to a planned movie (which later became the TV series), the Inhumans were a key feature of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, and proliferated across the comics in both their own titles and crossover events, including Infinity, Inhumanity, Civil War II, All-New Inhumans, Uncanny Inhumans, and Inhumans vs. X-Men.
Despite Marvel's concentrated efforts to push the Inhumans as the race of superpowered beings (in the Inhumans' case, via a Terrigenesis Bomb rather than genetic mutation), the fandom has never really gotten fully onboard with them. While sales of Ms. Marvel (whose status as an Inhuman is somewhat secondary to her story) have been strong, other ongoing Inhumans series have struggled to find a solid readership. And now that the X-Men returning to the fold on the big screen, with the Disney-Fox deal expected to be finalized by summer 2019, Marvel no longer has a clear motive to continue trying to make the Inhumans work.
- This Page: Marvel's Attempt to Replace X-Men With Inhumans
- Page 2: Disney's Fox Buyout and the Death of the Inhumans
Who Are The Inhumans?
If you don't read the comics, skipped over the Inhumans TV series, and stopped watching Agents of SHIELD after season 1, you may not even know who the Inhumans are. They began life as early versions of humans, who were experimented upon by the alien race called the Kree (Guardians of the Galaxy's villain, Ronan the Accuser, was one of the Kree and pretty representative of his species). The Kree eventually abandoned their creations, and the Inhumans formed their own society, separate from regular humans and led by a royal family.
The Inhumans discovered that they could use rare crystals, called Terrigen Crystals, to trigger a process called Terrigenesis that awakens their unique powers and mutations, with no two Inhumans having the exact same abilities. Medusa, a member of the royal family, was the first Inhuman to make an appearance in Marvel Comics (in Fantastic Four #36), debuting as a member of villain team the Frightful Four. Then in Fantastic Four #45 the Inhumans were named for the first time and key members like Crystal and Lockjaw were introduced.
Marvel's Attempt to Replace X-Men With Inhumans
Fox's ownership of the X-Men movie rights didn't really start to cause problems until Marvel Studios began producing their own superhero movies, starting with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008. Marvel Entertainment began the process of phasing out the X-Men and attempting to replace them with the Inhumans. For example, Marvel put a hold on creating any new X-Men characters (since their movie rights would automatically go Fox), and made efforts to eliminate new merchandising featuring the Fantastic Four or the X-Men. In perhaps the most on-the-nose example, the same Terrigen Bomb that granted powers to a new generation of Inhumans in the comics also rendered Mutants sterile. In 2016, acclaimed X-Men writer Chris Claremont explained (via Bleeding Cool) why the X-Men were being slowly suffocated:
That has everything to do with the fact that the film rights are controlled by a rival corporation. I guarantee you that if 10 years ago, when Marvel was approached by Disney, if the X-Men film rights were owned by Marvel Studios and not Fox, the X-Men would probably still be the paramount book in the canon... I think the corporate publishing attitude is: “why would we go out of our way to promote a title that will benefit a rival corporation’s films when we could take that same energy and enthusiasm and focus and do it for our own properties?”
Because the original Inhumans origin story was based around this particular species of superhumans choosing to undergo the Terrigenesis ritual and transform themselves, they were an imperfect replacement for Mutants - a group who were born with genetic mutations, developed their powers organically, and were persecuted for something that they couldn't control (thereby making them an analog for oppressed groups in society). The Terrigenesis Bomb that was detonated during the Infinity storyline in the comics (and replicated in Agents of SHIELD via Terrigen-contaminated fish oil supplements that were distributed around the world) was a means of taking away that element of choice and forcing superpowers on the Inhumans.
This effort to suppress the X-Men is generally attributed to Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, who was also responsible for decisions like vetoing a female villain in Iron Man 3 on the basis that a female character wouldn't sell as many toys. In September 2015 Disney changed the structure of Marvel Entertainment so that Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige would no longer be subject to Perlmutter's whims, and would instead answer directly to Disney. Not long afterwards, Marvel Studios cancelled the planned Inhumans movie - seemingly no longer interested in taking part in the campaign to undermine the X-Men by pushing the Inhumans. Marvel TV (which was still under Perlmutter's control) launched an Inhumans TV show instead, but it was critically-maligned, had poor ratings, and was cancelled after one season.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
- X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019) release date: Jun 07, 2019
- New Mutants (2019) release date: Aug 02, 2019
- Gambit (2020) release date: Mar 13, 2020