Classify this one as rumor with a capital “R”, but Bleeding Cool has reported that Marvel might actually be canceling the title that started it all for them back in 1961* — The Fantastic Four. The reasons for this apparently have less to do with the comics themselves, and a lot more to do with the movie business. Twentieth Century Fox has the movie rights to both the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, and it has them in perpetuity (that means forever, basically, as long as they keep churning out movies based on these characters. If they don’t, then Marvel Studios gets the characters back, which is what happened recently with Daredevil.)
According to Bleeding Cool, a source within Marvel says that the company is intending to put the Fantastic Four comic books “on hold,” both the 616 regular Marvel Universe version and the Ultimate version of the team. The characters will still appear, only guest starring in other character’s titles. Their sources even said that artwork featuring the Fantastic Four is even being taken down in the company offices. The supposed rationale behind all this is that by Marvel promoting these properties in comics, it only benefits Fox’s movies at the expense of those from Marvel Studios.
So why would canceling Fantastic Four be a big deal? After all, Marvel cancels titles all the time, and Fantastic Four is a mid-range seller at best. Here’s why: Fantastic Four is the original Marvel title, the book the entire Marvel Universe is founded on. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s run on the title changed the way American comic books were done forever. It launched characters and concepts like the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther and Inhumans, to name but a few. It’s one of the founding Silver Age books that has basically never been canceled (or at least not canceled for long.) The others of course being Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, Captain America and The X-Men, although the X-Men were just a reprint book for many years. These books ARE Marvel, and to remove them just to make Fox less money seems petty.
Another reason I think this is baloney? Marvel doesn’t want to lose money, and they would with this move. While Marvel Studios doesn’t control the Fantastic Four or X-Men properties, part of the original deal was that Marvel would get 5% of the grosses from Fox’ Marvel based films. True, 5% isn’t much, but it’s something, so why sabotage Fox? This means that 5% of the grosses for X-Men: Days of Future Past goes to Disney, and 5% of whatever the Fantastic Four reboot brings in. They don’t lift a finger and they still make a profit off those movies, however small. Why ruin that? Expect to hear a confirmation or denial in regards to this one soon.
*Although Marvel is technically celebrating their 75th Anniversary this year, the company was originally called Timely (later Atlas) before becoming Marvel with Fantastic Four #1, which is what really launched the Marvel brand and universe. They eventually incorporated Timely characters like Captain America and Namor into the Marvel Universe, but Marvel as we know it was born in 1961.