There have been a lot of rumors swirling around this week in regards to Marvel’s plans for the Fantastic Four, the jist of which is that Marvel plans to cancel the Fantastic Four – save for appearances in other characters books and that this in turn is as a response to Fox’s ownership of their films rights but how much truth is in it?
Bleeding Cool reported on Thursday that the higher ups at Marvel planned to discontinue printing Fantastic Four as this was seen as further promoting a property which onscreen largely benefits Fox. Essentially poisoning the well with the longer term goal of requiring them since the conditions of Fox’s contract mean as long as they keep making those movies they retain those rights — rights that could be potentially lucrative in the hands of Marvel Studios, one of the pieces of evidence for this was the absence of the Fantastic Four from Marvel’s 75th Anniversary magazine.
This seemed almost a case of cutting off the nose to spite the face, since then a further report was made (as a rebuttal to Tom Brevoort – Executive Editor/Senior VP of publishing – who denied those rumors on his Tumblr account, this is the closest to a response from Marvel who have remained silent on the matter) in which an unnamed artist who works for trading card companies Upper Deck and Ritten House claimed he had been told not to use any characters related to the Fantastic Four specifically “FF characters or supporting cast such as Dr Doom, Galactus, Surfer, Skrulls etc” for an upcoming 75th Anniversary line of cards. Another unnamed artist said to be connected to the trading card project had submitted a copy of the memo which reflected the previous allegation — but this letter had no letterhead nor further information again bringing into question its validity — until anything more substantial comes of the trading card brief IE someone goes on record and confirms it, that isn’t a lot to go on. In addition there were claims made that this has been a result of Marvel CEO and Disney Shareholder Ike Perlmutter.
Late on Friday CBR weighed in on the situation by adding that they had heard rumblings of a Fantastic Four cancellation from internal sources and adding that Marvel’s relationship with Sony is better and cited that as cause for the half a million copies that were initially ordered of Amazing Spider-Man #1, they also added that in contrast X-Men hasn’t been pushed as much as other Marvel team books in spite of generally receiving healthy sales through its line. Which there could be an air of truth to, but could be reflective of Marvel giving prominence to titles by way of ‘synergy’ through departments. CBR did stop short of taking a stance on whether or not the claims of dropping Fantastic Four titles were the result of Perlmutter and Marvel seeking to damage Fox’s plans.
But if Fantastic 4 (and Ultimate FF) is pulled and the titles are absorbed into other books as is believed there could be a more straightforward explanation, even in CBR’s article they refer to FF’s flagging sales. Upon closer inspection of figures it is easy to see that despite being one of the pillars of the Marvel universe — Fantastic Fours sales figures are far from those of other main players in Marvel like the Avengers, X-Men or Spider-Man. At times in recent years they have even been comparable to books which were cancelled — the previous Marvel NOW! run of “FF” ended with the last issue selling around 21.5 thousand copies in the month it was released, other books which ended their run despite fan outcries like Venom and Captain Marvel showed roughly similar numbers, the last volume of Fantastic Four was somewhat healthier but not by much with roughly 28 thousand copies sold in its month of sale.
It is also worth noting that even the current run of Fantastic 4 has dropped in sales issue on issue, That isn’t to say that it is a problem with the creative teams involved in Fantastic Four titles but it does show that in spite of almost constant changes to the make up of the team almost yearly that the title just doesn’t seem to sell as great as other titles for prolonged amounts of time which can be seen going back at least a few years.
So is it a case of Marvel deciding to cancel Fantastic Four titles line wide to sabotage movie efforts? or rather the title just reaching a tipping point and in need of a rest?, all unanswered questions which will become clear in the next few months of solicitations. So in other words take it all with a grain of salt but don’t be surprised if they are absent from solicitations some point in the near future.
Fox’s planned reboot of Fantastic Four is scheduled for release on the 19th of June 2015.
The writer of this piece was:
Gary Kane aka (GK)
GK tweets from @Kanoclassic