When I was a kid, there were a few unbreakable pillars that held up the Marvel Universe. There was the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk, the Avengers, and then everything else.
And then the movies came along, and thanks to a shatteringly stupid set of deals made by a foundering Marvel in the 1990s, desperate for Hollywood cash, these crown jewels of Marvel’s legacy are now spread between several different movie studios, and in a classic case of the cart leading the horse, Marvel has in recent months been displaying what can only be seen as a dismaying case of self-hatred, diminishing and in some cases abandoning some of the characters and concepts that made them great in the first place. With the X-Men and Fantastic Four locked into deals at 20th Century Fox for the foreseeable future, and Marvel cut off from that stream of income both from movie tickets and merchandise, Marvel has decided to give those characters an unmistakable icing down when it comes to publishing.
The X-Men books have clearly taken a back seat promotionally and conceptually, with their customary role of “outsiders” more lately being given to perennial third-stringers The Inhumans, who although they bear the same Stan Lee/Jack Kirby birthright as the X-Men, don’t have anywhere near the dramatic weight or gravitas. To put it another way, they’ve always been a little too weird, too removed from society for readers to really connect with. Have you ever cared about Black Bolt and Medusa the way you cared about Scott Summers and Jean Grey?
The Fantastic Four has fared even worse, with their long-running series, the first Marvel Comic to bear the name, being outright cancelled, and the characters reportedly to be scattered around various other series in guest appearances and secondary roles.
Now, it’s folly to ever get too upset about anything when it comes to comics. Everyone dead comes back and everything eventually comes around again. And part of me understands it. If Marvel’s not making a dime off this new Fantastic Four movie, why promote it? Business is business. But still, when the kid inside me who bought this off the spinner rack back in the day…
Well, I have to admit, it does sting a little. It’s one thing to try and make new history, and another to boldly and none too neatly rewrite it.