Marvel Continues Printing Fantastic Four After Letting Movies Die

“Avengers: Infinity War” is slated to be one of the biggest movies of the year, if not the decade. Superhero team-up movies from Marvel Studios have become the Hollywood standard for action movie blockbusters, consistently serving up decent to great movies based on classic comics that people adore.

While other studios have attempted to capitalize on Marvel’s success, the results are typically less than stellar. DC’s movie lineup has fallen flat in both critical reception and box office results, and Fox’s X-Men series has lost steam with bare-bones plots and the retirement of Hugh Jackson’s iconic depiction of Wolverine. However, in a $52.4 billion buyout deal made in Dec. 2017, Marvel is set to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, including the movie rights for the remainder of Marvel Comics’ properties.

While this deal is said to be under investigation by antitrust authorities, Marvel seems to be confident that it will pass, as editor-in-chief C.B. Cebulski announced that the Fantastic 4 will make their comic book comeback in Aug. 2018. This is a big deal for comic fans, movie fans and people who love petty drama, and I’m here for all of it.

The Fantastic 4 is the original superhero team, breaking ground in 1961 and maintaining successful comic sales throughout Marvel’s existence. During a comic crisis in the 1990s, Marvel began licensing out the rights to use their properties to other studios, with Fox acquiring the Fantastic 4. Two movies in 2005 and 2007 failed to hold audiences for a third in the series, although Fox rebooted the movies in 2015 with “Fant4stic.” While all three movies were supremely disappointing, Marvel made sure to play a little dirty during the release of the most recent movie.

The Fantastic 4 comics were discontinued in April 2015, months before the release of “Fant4stic,” leading many to speculate that the studio tried to diminish hype for the movie by depriving people of original comic content. 2015 also marked the premiere of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the second major crossover movie that Marvel Studios had put out. Although their “cinematic universe” was well-established and loved, the discontinuation of the Fantastic 4 comic seemed like a deliberate way for Marvel to push Fox’s movies completely out of their limelight.

Now that Fox’s Fantastic 4 movies are dead in the water and soon to be fished out by Marvel, it is no wonder that they are restarting the comic series to garner hype and a fanbase with readers leading up to their inevitable relaunch of the films. Petty business tactics like these are even more worrisome now that Marvel owns practically all of the film rights to its comics, as they have a lot of material to share but are not the most open to collaborating with Hollywood outsiders.

Marvel Studios has a particular vision for their movies, and it’s hard to not see the similarities in tone and direction that many of their films share. Although bombastic entries in their canon such as “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Thor: Ragnarok” provide colorful, comedy-fueled rampages through their respective universes, many Marvel films end up following a very common format that they do not like to stray from.

“Ant-Man” was set to be directed by Edgar Wright, and I was heartbroken when I learned that he and Marvel separated due to creative differences. He has since explained his departure from the project, stating in a Variety podcast that “I wanted to make a Marvel movie, but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie.”

Wright’s famous lightning-quick cuts punctuate his physical humor and constantly running dialogue, and I wholeheartedly any project that he creates. Replaced by Peyton Reed, “Ant-Man” seemed to show some features of Wright’s directorial and writing trademarks, but ultimately it seemed flat and like yet another cog leading up to the next Avengers flick.

Showing this unwillingness to cooperate with certain directors is concerning, and foreshadows a Marvel Studios that only collaborates with directors who are willing to adhere to their directions. Again, some directors like James Gunn and Taika Waititi are given more leeway with their productions, but this is often attributed to the interstellar nature of their movies and the lack of real influence they have on the cinematic universe at large. With so many more heroes and teams soon to be added into their catalogue, it’s curious to see how long Marvel can keep up their constant schedule of production and tone before people start demanding something fresh.

Marvel will soon regain control of its comic properties, and they will hopefully approach their vast properties and industry influence with an open mind and a willingness to accept ideas from inventive directors. Even if they don’t, at least comic fans will have their favorite characters back in print very soon.

Isaac Espinosa is a third-year electrical engineering major. He can be reached at imespino@uci.edu.