Fantastic Foul: Why I Believe the F4 Comic Controversy

If you haven’t heard, the latest rumor circulating the comic book blogosphere is that Marvel plans to put their Fantastic Four comics on hiatus while FOX Studios limps into making their new Fantastic Four reboot. The idea is that Marvel and Disney executives don’t want to give the rival studio any help whatsoever in building a new franchise off of one of Marvel’s properties. The website Bleeding Cool kicked off the rumor mill last week, claiming inside sources at Marvel gave them the tip, and citing evidence from sketch card artists who had been told to steer clear of any F4 related characters.

Marvel Big Wig Editor Tom Brevoort has so far been the only Marvel guy to respond to the controversy, giving it a firm denial.

But here’s the thing: I totally believe Bleeding Cool’s story. I don’t have any special insight, I don’t know any more than anybody else about this whole shebang, I just really think it’s possible that some Marvel/Disney executive might be petty enough to cut off the company’s nose to spite its face.

Executives are the true super-villains

I know I’m just another Internet idiot with a blog, and you’ve got no reason to believe anything I say. But this is turning out to be a pretty big deal, and I figured I had some time to spare to write up my own thoughts. A lot of people seem to be siding against Bleeding Cool and their scoop, and that’s fine. Everybody’s free to their opinion.

But I think Bleeding Cool might be on to something here.

Join me after the jump to find out why. And please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments!

First, a little background a little more explanation of what exactly is going on.

FOX Studios owns the movie licensing rights to both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, which Marvel sold to them years ago to get out of bankruptcy. But since that time, Marvel has started its own movie studio and is currently the hit of Hollywood with their Avengers films. Marvel wants the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four back, but they can’t get them back as long as FOX keeps making movies, no matter how bad or good those movies might be. That’s why FOX is doing a Fantastic Four reboot even though the first two films were pretty much failures: they don’t want to lose the movie rights.

Why they want this to live on is anyone’s guess

So the rumor is that Marvel is pissed at FOX because they won’t give back the rights to the X-Men or the Fantastic Four. There’s nothing Marvel can do to get those rights. But Marvel  has the rights to everything else, including all merchandise rights and, of course, the comics. So if Marvel stops publishing a monthly Fantastic Four comic, that cuts off one avenue of publicity that FOX could have used to promote their movie. Plus, it stops the flow of new ideas in the Fantastic Four franchise. Anything that Marvel prints in a Fantastic Four comic instantly becomes potential story fodder for a FOX movie.

You might not think that’s a big deal, since FOX can just use old Fantastic Four stories. But both the Winter Soldier and the current incarnation of the Guardians of the Galaxy are only a few years old, and Marvel is turning those recent comics into blockbuster movies. There would be no stopping FOX if they wanted to do the same thing with whatever happens next months’ big Fantastic Four comic.

Red costumes? Sold!

Like I said, I don’t know any more about this Fantastic Four controversy than you do. I don’t follow the numbers. I don’t pay attention to the money. And I’m clearly not involved in any way with Marvel or FOX Studios. As far as I know, this is still just a rumor.

But there is one very big, very important reason why I believe Bleeding Cool:

There are no X-Men: Days of Future Past action figures.

Rob Liefeld floated this idea after the controversy broke. There are also no X-Men LEGOs on the shelves. There’s no tie-in video game. There hasn’t been an X-Men cartoon since 2009. Why not? Where are they? There used to be tie-ins of all kinds. The first X-Men movies all had toylines specifically for the movies. And there are probably more Wolverine action figures out there than any other superhero. X-Men: Evolution was on the air, followed shortly thereafter by the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon. And the video game tie-in to X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the best thing to come out of that movie.

The worst thing, obviously

So where are all of the X-Men tie-ins for Days of Future Past, which is currently the #1 movie in the world?

There are still tons of Avengers action figures in toy aisles across the country. There are Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers LEGOs. Heck, there are still Man of Steel action figures for sale. Not only that, but Marvel/Disney apparently have a great relationship with Sony, which owns the movie rights to Spider-Man, and there are tons of Spider-Man action figures, video games and LEGOs to buy. There are also Avengers and Spider-Man cartoons on the air for kids to watch.

But nothing at all for the X-Men.

Not only that, but where is the comic book tie-in event?

Marvel has always had their comics tie-in to whatever big movie is coming out. The new Amazing Spider-Man #1 relaunch came out the exact same week that Amazing Spider-Man 2 hit theaters. And when Spider-Man 3 came out, which heavily featured Venom, Marvel was publishing their ‘Back in Black’ storyline, where Spider-Man just happened to come up with a reason to wear his black costume again. Or does anybody remember Spider-Man: Reign? The post-apocalyptic Spider-Man tale written and drawn by Kaare Andrews? That was published at around the same time as Spider-Man 3, and it just so happened that the final issue of Reign heavily featured both Venom and Sandman, the stars of Spider-Man 3.

When The Avengers movie came out, Marvel started publishing the new comic series Avengers Assemble, starring the movie roster, and guest-starring Thanos and the new movie versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who now also have their own comics. When the original X-Men movie came out, the comic book X-Men started wearing black leather costumes.

Spandex is for dorks

Yet there was no comic book tie-in for Days of Future Past. Marvel didn’t do anything to connect to the film.

So, you may be asking, what does all of this have to do with Marvel canceling the Fantastic Four comic?

It’s simple: Marvel and Disney have clearly cut off all merchandising tie-ins for the X-Men franchise. That is a horrible business decision. There is a ton of money to be made in merchandising the X-Men. But Marvel and Disney are apparently more than happy to ignore that money in favor of punishing FOX.

Because if kids are buying X-Men toys, playing X-Men video games and watching X-Men cartoons, then there’s a danger that they won’t be buying, playing or watching anything to do with the Avengers or the Guardians of the Galaxy.

And if you don’t think kids and action figures are a big deal, then just look at animation. Green Lantern: The Animated Series was cancelled after only one season because it couldn’t move any toys. Young Justice was cancelled because of toys.

Merchandising is a big deal.

If Marvel and Disney are willing to forgo merchandising on the X-Men films – and they clearly are – then they are more than capable of doing the same thing to the Fantastic Four. 

There won’t be any Fantastic Four action figures, LEGO sets, tooth brushes, video games or anything else in the build-up to the new movie reboot. There were action figures and video games for the first two F4 movies, but there won’t be any more for this one.

And the Fantastic Four comic sold only 37,000 copies in March. Marvel can afford to put that comic on hiatus and not suffer any great loss.

As the Joker said in The Dark Knight:


About Sean Ian Mills

Hello, this is Sean, the Henchman-4-Hire! By day I am a mild-mannered newspaper reporter in Central New York, and by the rest of the day I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to video games, comic books, movies, cartoons and more.

Posted on June 3, 2014, in Avengers, Comics, Marvel, Movies, X-Men and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. As far as getting the movie rights back, what I actually heard was that Marvel wanted to use some specific characters, with Galactus being the one I remember seeing mentioned, in exchange for granting Fox an extension on the Daredevil rights. It’s not that Marvel wanted the FF rights back, it’s that they wanted to share a bit, and Fox refused. Presumably because they decided they didn’t want Daredevil any more anyway.

    On the merchandise, I saw someone point out that a toyline for DoFP would be kinda pointless. There’s already a ton of old stuff that never sold, and there’s toys for most of the previous X-Men movies, so why put out more toys that are going to look a lot like the ones for the original movies?

    As far as the idea that Marvel would cancel Fox to spite Fox: Ridiculous. Just nonsense. Fox couldn’t care less if Marvel keeps publishing the FF. The comic sells less than 35 000 copies a month right now. Tens of millions will go to watch the movie. The comic isn’t doing a damned thing to sell the movie, but the movie may possibly help sell a few extra copies of the book. So it’s a decision that would make negative sense from a spite standpoint.

    Now, it is entirely possible the book will be put on hiatus. But it would be due to the poor sales. But it would definitely be around for the movie, whether it’s cancelled soon and brought back from the movie, or only cancelled after the movie if the comic sees no sales bump. One theory I have is that Robinson’s first “act” will end with the team breaking up and the book being cancelled for, I would say, around 6 months. Long enough that people notice it’s not coming out any more. It would be three months where the Fantastic Four simply don’t exist any more, and then three more months of solicits to build up some anticipation for its return. And the return will probably coincide with the movie’s release.

    Regardless, the idea that it’s being cancelled out of spite is just silly.

    • There is no way I’m going to believe that anyone on the business side of things would think putting out a toyline to a franchise like the X-Men would be pointless.

      • It would be if the previous toylines for the exact same franchise didn’t sell all that well. This post on CBR is what I was talking about:

        The brief version is that the old ones don’t sell even at a discount, and there’s very limited shelf space for new ones. With the additional fact that most of the characters already have toys anyway.

      • Possible, but I still don’t buy it. I don’t see any company willingly letting valuable shelf space go to a competitor when they’ve got a property as hot as the X-Men. But again, I don’t base my opinion on really any facts whatsoever.

      • The thing is, Marvel’s already taking up a lot of that shelfspace. Most retailers would probably have a limited amount of shelfspace they give to each company. So if Marvel puts out DoFP toys, it’s taking shelfspace away from Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy, and Spider-Man, and all their other toys. They’d be competing with themselves.

        Truthfully, I doubt the toys would actually get people to see the movie, either. The toys are designed to profit off the movie, and unless I’m mistaken, the toy profits wouldn’t be going to Fox, they’d be going to Marvel and the toy manufacturer. So it still wouldn’t be much of a snub to Fox not to make toys, and if Marvel thought the toys would be profitable, they’d make them.

      • That’s the point I’m trying to make – the toys would be profitable. They’re toys. Kids buy toys and Marvel has always made X-Men toys in the past. The fact that Marvel didn’t even try this time around is suspicious. And yes, I think it’s because they wanted to promote their own movie’s toys instead of their competitor’s movie’s toys, even if they get the profit from both.

  2. My opinion on this:

    -Usually as long as a comics is above 30K they are usually in “safe territory” so I’m suspicious that they are willing to cancel it just like that when there are comics that sell less, not so famous and not as good as the FF, yet are safe.

    -I don’t particularly care about toys, but the fact that there isn’t an X-men series despite their popularity is pretty weird, but then again this is the company that somehow thinks “Avengers Assemble” and “Ultimate spiderman” is the best thing that happened to animation instead of just really average shows, so maybe that’s for the best.

    -You should follow Liefield on twitter, while I don’t particularly like his art or his writting the guy is hilarious and ocasionally brings points like this that, whether he is right or wrong, makes you think outside the box and see the industry from another point of view.

    -While I wouldn’t mind seeing the FF going back to MARVEL, I’m going to be honest here:
    I don’t think the X-men work in a world where there are others superheroes around, that’s something that always bothered me about the comics, it just losses a lot if they hate someone if they were born with powers but if they get them another way is just fine, it just doesn’t make any sense, my favorite X-men stories are when the rest of the marvel U is not even mentioned.
    I’ll only be okay with it if they decide to make the x-men be in a separate universe and we all know that’s not happening.

    • I definitely agree that I don’t think the X-Men and Avengers should inhabit the same movie-verse. I think Spider-Man, especially the current Amazing Spider-Man, could definitely fit. And maybe even the Fantastic Four. But adding the X-Men to the Avengers franchise would be way too much.

      And I have to imagine kids are eagerly watching those cartoons, so to pass up on a new X-Men cartoon since definitely weird.

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