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It’s not a good time for Marvel’s first family. Not only did Fox’s second attempt at the Fantastic Four movie franchise crash and burn at the box office last year, but with the release of the much-delayed final issue of Marvel’s Secret Wars series, the publisher has brought the comic book adventures of the team to a close as well. Spoilers for Secret Wars follow.
By the close of Secret Wars No. 9, Reed Richards, his immediate family — wife Sue, and children Franklin and Valeria — and group of students the Future Foundation end up outside reality, creating new universes in an attempt to repopulate a comic book multiverse decimated by events leading up to the series. A bearded Richards makes a metatextual comment to emphasize his retirement to the reader: “No more superheroes for a while, just science. And no more Mister Fantastic, just Dad. That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?”
In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort said that, “at a certain point, we set out [in Secret Wars] to do the last Fantastic Four story, at least for the time being,” although he admitted that, “we didn’t necessarily start with that as the original goal.”
The end of the Fantastic Four as a comic book property has been a matter of much speculation for months, with the title not being listed among the many relaunches as part of the publisher’s All-New, All-Different Marvel comic book line reboot. The idea that the comic book was a casualty of a struggle between Marvel and Fox was often floated, but Brevoort said that the reason for the decision has more to do with reader and creator apathy toward the concept.
“Fantastic Four has been one of those books that, for a number of years, has been effectively taken for granted,” he told CBR. “It’s been considered stodgy, or old school, or some people see it as a thing that’s there and people are comfortable because it’s there, but they’re not particularly passionate about it. So we’re not going to have that book for a while.”
Fantastic Four was the series that launched Marvel Entertainment as it’s known today, with the success of the book’s 1961 debut leading to the creation of such characters as Iron Man, Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Hulk. A handful of Marvel characters, most notably Captain America, predate the creation of the Fantastic Four, but it was the response to the work of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four that led to those characters being brought back into use, as well as the creation of the shared “Marvel Universe” seen in Marvel Studios movies today. This will be the first time Marvel has not had a Fantastic Four comic in publication or development in more than five decades.
Some of the FF characters will continue to appear in other series — the Thing is part of the Guardians of the Galaxy cast, with the Human Torch appearing in both Uncanny Avengers and Uncanny Inhumans — and Brevoort said that “inevitably and invariably” the rest of the cast will return at some point in time. (An evil alternate universe version of Reed Richards is already appearing in the New Avengers series.)
“We didn’t have a Thor book for a while,” he explained. “For a couple of years, there was absolutely no Thor book, and when Thor came back, it was a huge book. It continues to be a huge book to this day. I think that absence was part of what made people cherish its return, and then it was just having great talent to execute that return. If the same sort of thing happens with Fantastic Four that would not be the worst thing in the world.”
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