I’m sure you’ve all heard rumours about Marvel taking their current path in the comics to spite those movie studios who hold the screen rights to some of their characters, such as Fox. If not, basically, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the Avengers films) doesn’t include the Fantastic Four and the X-Men because those screen rights are being held by Fox. People claim that the current status of both group in the comics is a direct result of Fox not returning those rights for an exorbitant sum of money. I think that’s rubbish.
Why do I think that’s rubbish?
Well for those who are saying that Marvel are cancelling Fantastic Four, or killing the X-Men simply to remove the characters from the public eye to hurt Fox’s profits with the non Marvel Cinematic Universe movies need only look at Deadpool. He’s everywhere. You can’t walk into a comic shop and not see something Deadpool, whether it’s merchandise or any one of the plethora of comics he’s appeared in lately. Now, at any given time he only seems to feature in two, maybe three, ongoing monthly series, plus at least two mini series a year.
I can’t honestly say with 100% certainty why the Fantastic Four comic was cancelled. However, when Marvel’s first family was selling less per month than the Moon Knight series was (despite Moon Knight being one of the best comics about, it’s still about Moon Knight), then it’s not exactly unexpected.
According to comichron Fantastic Four #1 from 2014 debuted at just under 69,000 sales. Not bad. That dropped off drastically the next month to around 39,000 sales. Although that’s not unexpected for Marvel, the series lost a further 5,000 readers the next month. Hitting a low of just over 23,000 readers in December of 2014, before slowly picking back up to around 39,000 with it’s final issue in April of 2015. What these numbers tell me is that despite being Marvel’s first family and one of their oldest properties the Fantastic Four simply didn’t have the same level of interest that they did in years past. When the comics are struggling to crack the top fifty each month, it’s not that hard to see why Marvel would go the route of cancellation, especially for a property that is performing well under expectations.
Did Fox holding the FF movie rights also have something to do with the comic’s cancellation? I don’t think it was the only reason, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t some truth behind the rumour.
The same can also be said for the X-Men’s current situation.
Yeah, the mutant cancelling M-Pox has effectively stopped any new mutants from being created (although that’s probably temporary), and while it does feel like yet another extinction level threat that the mutants have to face, their post Secret Wars status quo feels more of a reflection back to the post House Of M days and the resultant “No More Mutants” that decimated the mutant population, reducing it from millions down to 198 living mutants.
When it comes to the comics, I’m surprisingly okay with their chosen direction; there’s still numerous X-Men related titles being published every month – more than I can afford to read, so there’s little chance of a moratorium on the X-Books. While I’m sure part of the decision to cease creating new mutants was in part to prevent Fox from getting their hands on new characters, as the rumour mill claims, I’m also just as sure that part of it is because Marvel thinks that fighting against extinction sells the X-Men books.
Personally, I think they’re wrong on that front, but that’s just me.
I’ve always felt the X-Men’s greatest draw was in the outcast nature of the group; with the team fighting to protect a world that hates and fears them. As a child I always took that message to mean that no matter what other people think of you, or what you think of them, you’ve still got a responsibility to do the right thing. I think that message has been lost lately with Marvel’s focus on the extinction level events. The M-Pox, that lovely story device that mimics both the Legacy Virus and 198 Mutants, I honestly believe is an extension of that. I think Marvel’s current direction is predicated less on spiting fox and more on rehashing old X-Men themes that they think are what we want to read as they proceed to give the Inhumans a bigger push to coincide with their introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I mention all this because when you take a look at the upcoming Deadpool movie, a movie that has been rumoured for some time, you could reasonably expect that if Marvel really were trying to hurt Fox’s ability to produce the movies by cancelling the comics that there would be no comics featuring the merc with a mouth being published, but that’s simply not the case.
Deadpool is everywhere.
He’s in solo books, he’s bankrolling an Avengers team… it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that you can buy Deadpool merchandise pretty much anywhere that sells pop culture stuff. Now, I’m not naive enough to think that A + B always equals C, and that just because Deadpool is everywhere that must also mean that Marvel aren’t trying to hinder Fox by cancelling the comics featuring the FF or killing off the X-Men.
The current status of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men comic books has less to do with Fox, and more to do with poor sales and less than brilliant story choices than we may want to admit. After all, when was the last time you actually read a Fantastic Four comic?