Hello, fanboys and fangirls, my given name’s Robert, but to all those dozens of loyal Hold 322 listeners I’m better known as Ultimate Bob. As our show’s “staff of writer” it is my obligation to bring to you a weekly blog containing my ideas and opinions concerning comic books and all other things nerdy / geek. This week’s blog will be about the supposed end of the Fantastic Four comic book series, and my thoughts on the state of Marvel’s first family in general.
This month a fairly significant event in comicdom occurred, but like most people you may not have even noticed, or even more disheartening—at least to my point of view—you might not have even cared. The event I speak of was issue #645 of the Fantastic Four (written by James Robinson, drawn by Leonard Kirk), which gave us not only the conclusion of the iconic team’s most recent—and possibly one of their darkest—storylines, but also what Marvel’s editorial and marketing departments are steadfastly claiming to be the fabled franchise’s final issue ever. I doubt it will actually be the last new issue of the FF ever published, but it’s safe to say it will be the last one we’re going to get anytime soon.
Why, you may ask, has Marvel decided now was the right time to pull the plug (at least temporarily) on the self proclaimed “World’s Great Comic Magazine”? (A claim I strongly agree with and very much endorse.) Was it because of low sales? Well, In part, but not really. Recent sales of Fantastic Four comics are not as high as they should or could be—certainly not like they were in Marvel’s silver-age-hey-days of the early 1960’s when they were not only the company’s bestselling book (made back then by Stan “the man” Lee and Jack “King” Kirby), but were also revolutionizing the way super-hero stories were told and perceived—but what really has compelled Marvel to cancel the series is their longstanding pissing contest with Twentieth Century Fox over the film rights to the fifty plus year old comic book franchise.
As you may be aware, a reboot Fantastic Four film will be released later this summer, and it will once again be produced by Fox, not Marvel Studios, and that fact has Marvel and their parent company Disney so upset that, in protest, they are willing to end actively publishing the comic book that started it all for the House of Ideas. They clearly don’t want a new issue of the monthly Fantastic Four comic on the shelves the same month that the Fox produced film is released, because they want to make it clear that they are not endorsing or promoting the film in any way what-so-ever. They want the film to fail because they want Fox to finally drop the property so they can have it back.
Fox also owns and refuses to relinquish control of the X-Men films, but Marvel has not, nor will not announce plans to cancel all their monthly X-books—though they did kill off Logan (Wolverine) a few months back. You see, unlike Fantastic Four, the X-Men books are usually high selling enough that Marvel comics would sorely miss them, so, much to the chagrin of diehard FF fans like me, they get sacrificed while the mutants don’t.
I can’t blame Marvel for wanting the property back, but I am disappointed that it has to all go down this way. I started collecting monthly comic books back in 2011—after a break from doing so that had lasted almost 16 years—and the Fantastic Four has been a part of that ever since issue 600. Many other books have ebbed and flowed in their quality during these past four years, but for my money at least, the adventures of Marvel’s first family have never failed to disappoint me over that period of time. The Fantastic Four was the one book I always looked forward to reading each and every time it was in my hold box. I guess it will be nice to save an extra $3.99 at the comic book store every month, but I’ll miss the series greatly while it’s gone.
In the meantime, I can read and reread all the FF stories of the past; happily indulging in the team’s high concept and farfetched adventures from over five decades of storytelling given to us from dozens of different creative teams, and furthermore, as a cockeyed young-but-not-so-young optimist who still dreams of one day writing comic books for a living, I can also spend that time fantasizing and even preparing myself for not only the return of the series, but the meager chance I could be given the opportunity to write it. Crazy thought, I know, but a fella can dream, right?
Well, I think that concludes this week’s blog. For more on the Fantastic Four—including JC Carter, Bob Defendi, and Jeff Bell’s insightful thoughts on the series and its cancellation, be sure to listen to this week’s episode of Hold 322, available, of course, elsewhere on this website. Remember also to subscribe to this here blog so you can join us for next week’s awesome bloviation from yours truly. Be sure also to listen to each and every episode of Hold 322, available every Tuesday from iTunes, Stitcher and Hold322.com; and if you wanna be just as cool as all the other cool kids are, you can follow me on the Twitter for all my insightful and zany tweets @Robert_A_Easton. Thanks for reading, friends.
I think a FF reboot should be a period piece similar to what DC did with The New Frontier. FF really is rooted in 1950’s sci-fi and 60’s space race ethos. Rather than trying to modernize them I think Marvel should embrace silver age nostalgia. Tell a classic story that avoids having to deal with multiple title crossover and convoluted entwined plotlines. Strip away most of the established Marvel universe and the extra 50 years of weighty continuity. Make them accidental heroes in a world that doesn’t have a long history of spectacular public battles involving mutants,Inhumans, aliens, etc. and I bet FF could be something unique and special again.