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Sunday, June 01, 2014 

Would Marvel cancel Fantastic Four out of a row with Fox Studios?

Some odd news has come up, first as a rumor, yet there may be some eyebrow raising steps behind any possible move to cancel the FF:
[...] Recently we ran a piece looking at the absence of comic book characters associated with Fox Studios on the Marvel 75th Anniversary Magazine cover, in favour of the likes of the Inhumans and Captain Marvel.

Well, now I'm being told from a Marvel source that Marvel are intending to put the Fantastic Four comic books on hold, both Marvel Universe and Ultimate.The characters will still appear, but in other folks' books such as Inhuman and Avengers. And that artwork featuring the Fantastic Four is even being taken down in the company offices.

Twentieth Century Fox pretty much has an eternal claim on Fantastic Four and X-Men movies, if they keep making them, after the deal was done during Marvel's bankruptcy days, with very little benefit to Marvel.

The belief inside the higher echelons of Marvel is that promoting these properties in comics only benefits Fox's movies at the expense of those from Marvel Studios. Which is why the Inhumans are being pushed as mutant replacements in the Marvel Universe. And Marvel have been pushing Avengers, Guardians Of The Galaxy and other comics over the X-Men. And while X-Men comics remain solid sellers, they are no longer the focus of internal promotion unless, as with the upcoming AXIS event, the Avengers get equal billing.
Then, CBR followed up with more telling news:
CBR cannot confirm the exact future of "Fantastic Four" and "Ultimate FF," but has confirmed with multiple industry sources speaking on the condition of anonymity that a hiatus for the property is planned, at least as of recently. Plans can change, something that's potentially more likely now that the situation has been made public. The Fantastic Four characters are said to continue appearing in other Marvel titles, just not in a specifically branded "Fantastic Four" series.
Would they really take a peculiar step like this, just to spite Fox Studios? The answer could be yes and no together. I don't think they'd do it despite having buried the FF's potential long ago with so much poor writing and crossovers, because they feel that famous series like these must be kept going at all costs to the bitter end. Yet they might do it, but if they really do, I'd figure it's because of Bob Layton's predictions that, since the comics aren't making much money anymore, owner Disney would see little point in keeping on with the publishing arm.

Even if they did stop publishing comics like FF, I don't think it would hurt Fox's current and upcoming projects, so long as they're written and acted well, so Marvel's staff would only shoot themselves in the foot - what moviegoers are crowding the lines at comic stores to buy their products?

And there's plenty of Marvel fans out there who might agree that, with all the horrible editorial mandates that destroyed the MCU, it wouldn't be so bad if the publishing arm shut down, because that way, we wouldn't have to worry about awful editors, publishers and other contributors insulting people's intellects any more. Besides, James Robinson is a bad lot, as I learned the hard way, and taking away the title would put the kibosh on any dreaded plans he has for how to write the FF.

And I'd estimate that, with the closure of the publishing arm, that could make the scene ripe for a decent business executive with better ideas for how to run a comics company to come along and buy out that part, restructure it for better printing formats, while letting the movie houses keep the rights to the film projects and other merchandise. After all, if I bought the book outfit, what I'd care about is the storytelling opportunities. One day, I suppose it would be possible. For now, it's only a pipe dream.

This isn't the only eyebrow raising news I've found this week. The Escapist has some more:
Complicating matters further, Marvel is currently building toward a (supposedly) major crossover event called "Time Runs Out" in 2015 that some are speculating will lead to a "reboot" of the entire Marvel Universe (and/or a merger with the "Ultimate" Universe) similar to DC's "New 52" initiative. If so, an early ending for series like Fantastic Four (which doesn't sell especially well as a comic, while X-Men does) could also be part of the lead-in for that.

Marvel has not issued an official denial.
At this point, I would not be surprised if they were willing to perform a reboot not unlike DC's, even though that's already proven short-run profits. Since the same people minding the store as before are bound to remain behind the steering wheel, that's exactly why we can be sure no good will come of such a move no matter how awful the current situation is already. And no chance they'll ever restore the Spider-marriage, or undo Kieron Gillen's pointless retcon of Iron Man, nor any other terrible step that was made since the 1990s. And even if they did, the mere presence of Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley and Axel Alonso has since proven a turnoff, hence, there's plenty of Marvelites who'd still keep their distance, for understandable reasons.

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There has also been talk that Marvel wants to cancel Fantastic Four anyway, and not just to spite Fox. Sales are low, but Marvel has been afraid that cancelling what was once their flagship title would be a PR disaster.

Then there is talk of ending the comic because of the legal dispute with Jack Kirby's heirs.

But there are also "use it or lose it" issues. If the characters go unused for too long, the owner could lose the rights to the trademark and/or copyright. Which is probably why the plan seems to be for the FF to appear as guest stars in other series, even if their own self-titled comic is cancelled.

It's no secret that Marvel would like to regain the movie rights to Fantastic Four and X-Men (and Spider-Man). And the FF and X-Men movies have been box office disappointments, so you would think that both companies would be willing to make a buy-back deal.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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