On Thursday, Bleeding Cool published a report citing "a Marvel source" that Marvel plans to put current ongoing series "Fantastic Four" and "Ultimate FF" "on hold." The reason for this, according to the article, was that the "high echelons" of Marvel believed that continuing to promote the property would bolster 20th Century Fox's films -- Fox has long held the live-action license to both Fantastic Four and the X-Men -- at the expense of Marvel Studios, owned and operated by Marvel's parent company, Disney.
CBR cannot confirm the exact future of "Fantastic Four" and "Ultimate FF," but has confirmed with multiple industry sources speaking on the condition of anonymity that a hiatus for the property is planned, at least as of recently. Plans can change, something that's potentially more likely now that the situation has been made public. The Fantastic Four characters are said to continue appearing in other Marvel titles, just not in a specifically branded "Fantastic Four" series.
In a second report published on Friday, Bleeding Cool stated the initiative stems from Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter. Additionally, Bleeding Cool published a purported instruction sheet distributed to sketch card artists working on a "Marvel 75th Anniversary" trading card set. The sheet listed the following characters as off-limits: the main Fantastic Four of Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, The Thing and Human Torch; along with associated characters Doctor Doom, Galactus, Silver Surfer, The Watcher and Skrulls.
While Fox also controls the live-action rights to the X-Men -- the latest film in the studio's franchise, "X-Men: Days of Future Past," opened last weekend to $111 million over four days -- Marvel continues to publish a large line of X-titles. The books are still strong sellers -- "All-New X-Men" appeared twice in the Top 20 for April, with "Uncanny X-Men," "Amazing X-Men," "X-Men" and "Wolverine and the X-Men" all in the Top 60 -- so it's possible continued success has spared the line from being specifically targeted. Bleeding Cool's initial report stated that the X-Men comics are "no longer the focus of internal promotion," unless it's in tandem with the Avengers, as in upcoming Marvel event "AXIS."
Spider-Man is also not under Marvel Studios' purview, having long been a live-action Sony Pictures property. Spider-Man does not appear to be affected by these decisions -- just last month, the character starred in the highly touted "Amazing Spider-Man" relaunch, which received more than 500,000 estimated initial retailer orders -- something that's generally credited to a better relationship between Marvel and Sony than Marvel and Fox. Spider-Man also currently stars on the popular Disney XD animated series "Ultimate Spider-Man," produced in-house by Marvel.
The current "Fantastic Four" series launched this past February with a new #1, from the creative team of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. The book debuted at No. 7 in Diamond's monthly estimated sales charts for February 2014, dropping to No. 44 in Marvel and No. 60 in April -- still placing it ahead of Marvel series including "Captain America," "Iron Man," "Avengers World," X-Force" and "All New Ghost Rider."
"Ultimate FF," set in Marvel's 14-year-old Ultimate Universe, debuted in April from the creative team of Joshua Hale Fialkov and Mario Guevara. The series features only one classic Fantastic Four member in its main cast: Sue Storm/Invisible Woman, joined by Tony Stark (Iron Man), Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Machine Man. The first issue of the series ranked at No. 100 in Diamond's April 2014 chart.
The original "Fantastic Four" #1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby debuted in 1961, and is widely considered the start of the current, 50-plus year-old era of Marvel Comics and continuity. If Marvel ultimately ends up not publishing "Fantastic Four" for an extended period of time, history indicates the title's eventual return is nearly inevitable, most likely sooner rather than later. Marvel went nine months without a "Fantastic Four" title in 2011, while the "FF" series took its place. Fox's next "Fantastic Four" film is scheduled for release on June 19, 2015.
Marvel declined comment to CBR on this matter. On Tumblr, Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort responded to a fan inquiry on the issue, writing, "My denying rumors isn't likely to keep anybody who's prone to paranoia from panicking. But really, does this even seem remotely plausible to people? Does it make any sense? Folks have a very strange idea as to the way a business is run."
Stay tuned to CBR News for more on the future of the Fantastic Four.