Jonathan Hickman, a writer for the Fantastic Four comics, has revealed that Marvel cancelled all of their ongoing Fantastic Four books because of a dispute with Twentieth Century Fox, who own the film rights.
Marvel previously cited poor sales as the reason that that they chose to discontinue their Fantastic Four comics – a reason which was substantiated by data on actual comic book sales, which showed that Marvel’s First Family had seen better days. However, Hickman confirmed in an interview with Newsarama that – as fans suspected – there was an ulterior motive at play:
“I think it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that Marvel isn’t publishing Fantastic Four because of their disagreement with Fox. While it bums me out, I completely understand because, well, it isn’t like they’re not acting out of cause. Fox needs to do a better job there.”
In spite of the cutthroat business practices at play here, it’s not hard to see where Marvel and Hickman alike are coming from – Twentieth Century Fox has infamously refused to agree to share the film rights to the Fantastic Four property with Marvel Studios in spite of diminishing returns and fan outcry for a deal similar to the one Sony Pictures came up with for Spider-Man. Their latest effort was rushed for a 2015 release date – just in time to retain the rights for a bit longer – in spite of notorious production troubles, leading to an embarrassing darker-and-edgier reboot that completely missed the point of the superhero team and outright bombed harder than 2011’s Green Lantern.
However, in spite of Fox’s failure with the property, they still intend to work on more Fantastic Four movies on their own in the hopes that one of them will be a hit. Based on their spotty track record with the property and a fanbase that largely wants to see these characters interact with the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to win fans over even if the planned Doctor Doom movie turns out to be better than anything preceding it. It’s a sad day for comic book fans when the Fantastic Four movie property can be written off as a poor man’s versions of The Incredibles (a movie franchise inspired primarily by comics like the Fantastic Four). Perhaps Fox would be better off making tons of X-Men movies instead.
Hickman respectfully retired Reed and Sue Richards (Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman) – alongside their children Franklin and Valeria – in Marvel’s massive 2015 event Secret Wars as the characters went out on a quest to repair the Multiverse, though Johnny Storm (The Human Torch) and Ben Grimm (The Thing) are still around in the mainstream Marvel Universe. The duo are set to star in a new series called Marvel Two-In-One, which at least suggests that Marvel will be willing to give these characters a shot even though they aren’t the focus of the Marvel Comics Universe anymore.