I came across this news story via a Twitter Moment, the phrase “Fantastic Four writer” instantly triggering the thought of Jonathan Hickman – and being right, in this case!
Since as I’ve said I’ve pretty much stopped reading or keeping up with Marvel comics since the end of Secret Wars, I was surprised to find out that one of the comics that has not come back since then is Fantastic Four. The characters just aren’t there, there’s no title, all that. At this point, it’s been nearly 2 years. Thus the question – where are the Fantastic Four?
There’s been whirling theories about Marvel, their comics, and their movie rights. It’s been going on for a while – here’s a link to an article I wrote about that in 2014. If you look at the comics and merchandizing and things lately – or things like Guardians of the Galaxy getting a theme park ride at Disneyland – the focus has been on the Marvel Studios films. When properties like Spider-Man and the X-Men and all feel like they used to be the premier Marvel characters, and now all of a sudden we all know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are… something is happening.
I’ve pretty much argued before that what’s going on here is mainly business decisions. The interview with Hickman makes this seem the same – business business business. But he points out that we’re seeing something different between, say, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. It’s not just that Marvel lacks the rights to both and is keeping them down – it’s that Fox (which has the movie rights to both teams) hasn’t made a good Fantastic Four movie yet.
Fair enough. For another example, Marvel has been all over Deadpool related stuff, and they don’t have those film rights – and you take a character like Gwenpool and you’ve got a Spider-Man/Deadpool crossover character that nonetheless is getting attention from Marvel, despite the doubly complicated movie rights involved there.
No Fantastic Four because no good movie makes some sense. Again, you could come up with conspiracies – for instance, the thought that you don’t want to produce new ideas for Fox to try to run with in making yet another reboot. However, if they want to try to do another film, I would recommend going with an already established Fantastic Four – skip the origin story – and just do a story like “Solve Everything,” Hickman’s first storyline from his writing run. Have the kids in it. Have travel and exploration and science. You could do something different from standard superhero fare.
Which is also something of the point when it comes to the storytelling side of there being no Fantastic Four comic: what story do you tell with them?
Secret Wars ends with the Fantastic Four (and the kids and all) in an interesting place. They are in some ways the least affected by the events that ended the Marvel Universe; in other ways, they are the most burdened by it. The basic assumption at this point is that they are super busy doing interesting and important things. Honestly, the longer they keep them off the page, the more work they’re going to have to put into figuring out what cool or interesting thing they have been doing with their time.
Really, they’re ripe for imagination work, for interesting ideas and new things. They always have been. There’s a reason I think that they worked so well at the core of Hickman’s storyline. Reed at points functions as the voice of the author, explaining the problem and plot to us in no uncertain terms.
I argued before that the problem they seemed to be running into with the X-Men, more than anything, was that they were dealing with a fundamental societal problem without easy solutions, and if you do actually resolve it, you’re largely done – or at least, they’re no different from other superheroes. If mutants get equal rights, if they end up living in harmony with humans, you’re just done. However, if you show that no progress has ever been made and it’s all been for nothing, well, that’s kind of a stalemate as well.
The Marvel Universe reboot theoretically let them reset that whole tension, but it’s still there. It’s just quite simply harder to write X-Men stories as time goes on. However, it should be easier to write the Fantastic Four – you just need big ideas. You need vision. Or maybe, anthology style, a bunch of smaller or shorter ideas. And maybe they’re lacking that right now, and waiting on it. Maybe they have that, and are waiting for the right time – for a big crossover event or something.
Or maybe, maybe they’re just waiting for a good Fantastic Four movie. Or for the rights to revert back to them. I don’t know, but it’s interesting to get Hickman’s perspective on it!