If I were to ask “Who are The Fantastic Four’s two greatest enemies?” the average fan would likely say Dr. Doom & Galactus. A die hard may even say a variation of Moleman, Annihilus & Blastarr or the Puppetmaster. What if I told you, that the two entities that have come closest to destroying them completely are in fact not from the comic universe at all… But in fact are Fox and Marvel studios.
At one point in the 90s, Marvel was going bankrupt and one of the new ways to make a buck was to license owned properties for film or television. After the dust had settled, Fox purchased the rights to the Fantastic Four among others. They made many animated television series’ we all know and love but for whatever reason, didn’t see the purchased properties as big budget films after previous failed attempts. Not right away that is.
After making the brutal Jessica Alba, Chris Evans Fantastic Four films, Marvel had a window to get the rights back. The way it works, apparently, is that if a studio doesn’t make a film in a certain amount of time, the rights revert back to the original license holder. This is why we’ll never see a Marvel studios helmed X-Men film, unless Marvel and Fox can play nice for a while.
At one point Marvel tried to make a deal where they would get the rights for just The Silver Surfer and Galactus, in exchange, they would give Fox more time to make an R rated Daredevil film by Joe Carnahan . They refused, the rights went back to marvel and the rest is history. Fox made the wretched Fant4stic, while Marvel made the incredibly popular Daredevil series’ for Netflix.
After the aformentioned wretched Fant4stic, Marvel again tried to aquire the rights back. Clearly Fox had no idea what to do with the property to make a good film, but that didn’t stop them from declining Marvel’s offers further. Some speculate that this is why the Fantastic Four are being systematically disassociated from Marvel as a brand, with the eventual goal of erasing them completely from the public eye.
Marvel has recently also cancelled the Fantastic Four series of comics because apparently they “weren’t selling”. Comic writer Brian Hickman then said that of course it’s not because the series is failing. He said “Marvel believes the core concept is somehow broken, which is nonsense… Its pretty common knowledge that marvel isn’t publishing Fantastic Four because of their disagreement with Fox”.
All of this is because nowadays comics are just gateways to the movies. Essentially they’re promotional material so that when a new marvel movie comes out, people know the characters, storylines, designs etc. Marvel knows this and have decided fox will recieve no help from them promoting their predominately terrible fantastic four films. This is just one tactic employed, as they have also refused to let partnered toy companies make figures and have removed them from video games like Marvel Heroes Online and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite.
As a fan, I just want the characters portrayed correctly. Showing respect to the classic creations by the brilliant masters Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Whether or not that means its under the Marvel banner or not, I couldn’t care less at this point. But Marvel is insistent that if Fox won’t cooperate, neither will they. They are “Marvel’s first family” after all.
As of late, Marvel has extended an olive branch and have apparently assisted Fox on developing two television series’ for FX based around the X-Men universe. This has created rumours that the Fantastic four may come home, which makes me incredibly happy. Unfortunately, at SDCC 2017, Noah Hawley teased that he was developing a Doctor Doom movie. As talented as he may be, I find this news disturbing, to say the least. If Fox has shown that they don’t understand who Doom even is and can’t find someone to properly portray him in any of the previous Fantastic Four films, then why do they think this is going to work? At least if the movies were bad but they had gotten Doom right, we’d be more accepting to a spin off/solo film. Instead, we have a studio who has given him metal skin and electricity powers in one iteration, and gave him… I dunno… Green powers(?) in the other.
Maybe this is all just to throw us off the scent, but it seems like just another wrench in the works for the Fantastic Four to come home to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Maybe the worst part of all this, is that Marvel has already diminished the role of the X-Men in standard Marvel continuity and they aren’t included in Marvel vs Capcom Infinite either. If this is what their plan is, us X-Men fans may not have as many ways to enjoy our favorite mutants.
I’d like to have hope that things will turn around soon, but sometimes it just seems impossible. Luckily, Stan “The Man” Lee said something at Wizard World Nashville recently that reinvigorates my almost completely diminished hope. “Sooner or later, they’re going to get the rights back to all our characters,” He said, when asked about the future of Fox, Marvel and their issues. “They’re working on it, and they’re still making X-Men movies and stuff. Don’t worry about it. You’ll get more Marvel superheroes than you’ll have time to look at in the next few years.”