It’s easy to fixate on Avengers: Infinity War as the biggest thing happening to the MCU right now, and while the movie is indeed a colossal event, we can’t forget about the future. The MCU may have some serious changes in store post-Avengers 4 and not just for the characters that will be leaving, but also for the ones who will be joining. The Disney/Fox deal means that the Fantastic Four and the X-Men in the MCU are a real possibility for the first time in… well, ever. How this would affect the still very successful X-Men franchise is unknown, but the Fantastic Four aren’t in that boat and Marvel might already be taking steps to prep audiences for an MCU-ized Fantastic Four.
Last week, Marvel announced that it would be releasing a brand new Fantastic Four comic book after cancelling the series in 2014. Marvel has been building up to this for a while, but rarely does the publisher ever make decisions anymore without considering how the movies have shaped the mainstream perspective of their characters. With this in mind, it’s my opinion that Marvel Comics is doing its part of reintroducing the Fantastic Four to capitalize on the team’s inevitable reboot on the big screen.
Since the end of their series, the Fantastic Four have largely had zero presence in the comics. While the Thing and Human Torch have still been around, the Richards family has been MIA rebuilding the multiverse after the events of Secret Wars. That part is honestly a great ending for the team, but it’s sullied by the rumored corporate pettiness that caused the cancellation in the first place.
Some backstory: it’s long been rumored that Marvel Comics made business decisions to diminish the prescience of X-Men and Fantastic Four characters because those characters’ movie rights were controlled by Fox. Apparently, it even went as far as former Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter banning all Fantastic Four memorabilia from Marvel offices. It’s notable that the Fantastic Four book was cancelled right around the time of the 2015 movie reboot, helping to diminish the characters from the public eye. Jonathan Hickman, the writer of Fantastic Four at the time, said that the series was cancelled because of the movie.
Now the book is coming back right as the characters are going through a lengthy deal to join the MCU. The Disney/Fox deal is not 100% and there’s always the chance that the deal won’t make it through the government. However, there’s also the chance that it will pass and the Fantastic Four are primed for another reboot. It’s far easier to explain the existence of the Fantastic Four in the MCU than it is the X-Men. Four people go to space and get superpowers. Done. Obviously, Marvel would come up with some extra coloring, but there are plenty of ways to convincingly seam the Fantastic Four into the movies.
It could be coincidental that a new book is on the way at this particular time but it’s not exactly unheard of for Marvel to tie in creative changes with what’s happening in the movies. They actually do it quite a lot. Doctor Strange and Black Panther got major pushes before their movies hit theaters, and Marvel will typically capitalize on the movies with certain storylines. For example, running a storyline when The Lizard returns right when the character is the main villain in Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel will also straight up redo characters to match the movies. The Guardians of the Galaxy basically got a facelift to match their movie counterparts, from the lineup of their team to the humor to their costumes. Tony Stark became a bit more like Robert Downey Jr. and Thor got a haircut before Chris Hemsworth did. Even right now Marvel is prepping a big event tied to the hunt for the reborn Infinity Stones, which doesn’t sound familiar or based on anything happening right now at all. They even wrote a sequel to Civil War (it wasn’t very good).
There’s always the likely chance that Marvel is pushing forward with the Fantastic Four now to reinvigorate sales. The book wasn’t exactly a best seller when it left shelves, so it makes sense, to make the team disappear for a few years, make people miss them, and then bring them back with renewed audience interest. On the other hand, the Fantastic Four are the pillar upon which the house was built. You wouldn’t ever see DC cancel Batman or Superman.
It’s great that the Fantastic Four are coming back into the limelight and we can only hope that the same is true for the movies. The potential of the team has never really been captured on film and Marvel has more than proved that it knows how to offer fun and new takes on characters that have been rebooted with Spider-Man: Homecoming. We’ll just have to wait and see whether or not the comic ends up reflecting the movie of Marvel’s First Family.