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'Fantastic Four': Reports Suggest Marvel's First Family To Be Shelved

Rumors suggest that Marvel Entertainment might put the long-running series on ice prior to the Fox movie reboot of the concept.

Fantastic Four 1 Cover - P 2014
Jack Kirby/Marvel Enterprises

Marvel Entertainment is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a company this year, but it may close out the year without the series that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby used to launch the Marvel Universe as we know it more than five decades ago.

Multiple reports are suggesting that Marvel is preparing to cancel both Fantastic Four and Ultimate Fantastic Four in an attempt to devalue the property ahead of the Fox movie adaptation from director Josh Trank and screenwriter Simon Kinberg next summer.

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Initially, the possibility was raised in a story on BleedingCool.com last Thursday, which cited anonymous sources stating that “the higher echelons of Marvel” believed that “promoting these properties in comics only benefits Fox’s movies at the expense of those from Marvel Studios.” As a result, the story claimed, both current Fantastic Four titles would end, with the characters being used in other titles throughout the Marvel line.

A subsequent story on the same site on Friday revealed a memo given to artists working on licensed Marvel products for the company’s 75th anniversary celebrations stating that “All Marvel characters related to Fantastic Four are now off limits and will be immediately rejected by Marvel.” The memo did not mention Spider-Man or X-Men characters, despite the movie rights for those properties belonging to Sony and Fox, respectively.

To the surprise of many fans, Comic Book Resources apparently backed up the original report with one that stated that the site had “confirmed with multiple industry sources speaking on the condition of anonymity that a hiatus for the property is planned, at least as of recently.”

As these reports have been appearing, Marvel’s Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has been responding to them on Tumblr. Initially dismissing the idea by asking “Does this even seem remotely plausible to people? Does it make any sense?”, he gave a more detailed response Monday morning.

“We are publishing Fantastic Four,” he wrote. “Next month, we will be publishing Fantastic Four. A year from now, assuming that it’s still selling well, we will be publishing Fantastic Four. Given enough time, anything can happen—we went a couple of years, for example, without a Thor series, as well as a year and a half with FF, Avengers, Cap[tain America] and Iron Man not being a part of the Marvel Universe. So anything can happen. But it probably won’t.” In reply to another question about whether or not Fantastic Four would be cancelled, he wrote “In the lifespan of the universe? Yes, at some point. Everything dies. But not this week.” (When contacted by THR, a Marvel spokesman declined to comment on the story.

It’s worth noting that it has become common with Marvel series in particular to “retire” a character or series for a period of time before relaunching them with much fanfare; Fantastic Four has enjoyed this treatment more than once before, with the title “cancelled” in 2011 following the (temporary) death of the Human Torch, only to return a year later. During such temporary cancellations, the characters from any given title may still be in circulation — as in Spider-Man moving to The Superior Spider-Man in the year where The Amazing Spider-Man was off the stands, or the way in which a series titled FF replaced Fantastic Four for the year that title was shelved.

Given that the current storyline in the (recently relaunched) Fantastic Four series has the overall title “The End of the Fantastic Four,” it’s not unreasonable to assume that there is the intent to temporarily end the series to give the storyline more weight amongst the fanbase, only to leave the option open to relaunch it further down the line — in, as Brevoort suggested, “a year from now,” when the Fox movie has opened and, one would hope, raised the profile of the concept amongst mainstream audiences.

Brevoort’s public comments on the subject has notably left enough wiggle room to allow for a future cancellation announcement — note that he never gives a blanket “No, this isn’t happening” response, instead opting for “Does it make sense?”, “A year from now, we will be publishing Fantastic Four” and assuring fans that, when it does happen, it won’t happen this week.

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Marvel is currently promoting a storyline that will kill Wolverine, a character who has died multiple times in the past, and similarly “killed” Peter Parker at the end of 2012 amidst promises that it was a development that would definitely stick; bearing that in mind, the idea that it would choose its 75th anniversary year to “definitively” end the series that launched the company as everyone recognizes it today isn’t unthinkable. In fact, as a publicity stunt intended to build support for Fantastic Four as a series and Marvel as a brand that refuses to be predictable, it’s almost standard operating procedure.

And if it happens, fans shouldn’t worry; in super hero comics, everything comes back eventually.