Conspiracy theories are circulating again that Marvel is sabotaging the Fantastic Four and X-Men to starve Fox Studios of revenue, since Fox continues to hold the movie rights to those characters.
But this time, the conspiracy theorists may be right.
The rumors have been around for as long as the X-Men have been fading in popularity (ten years). Marvel’s de-emphasizing of X-Men in comics and merchandising was mostly dismissed as coincidental until a Tumblr exchange with Marvel editor Tom Brevoort in July 2014:
Comicbookguy1: “Why isn’t there any X-Men cartoons? Why wasn’t there any licensing for DOFP. WHY isn’t there Goldball toys or any new X-Men toys? Oh and of course No real X-News at the Cup o Joe panel. Thanks foe your time”
Brevoort’s answer (in part): “…If you had two things, and on one you earned 100% of the revenues from the efforts that you put into making it, and the other you earned a much smaller percentage for the same amount of time and effort, you’d be more likely to concentrate more heavily on the first, wouldn’t you?”
Even then, it was uncertain that Marvel was deliberately acting against Fox. Until now.
A number of Marvel actions over the past year was capped off earlier today when Marvel released preview pages of the All-New All-Different relaunch comic title Extraordinary X-Men; those pages showed Marvel’s other genetically-enhanced characters (the Inhumans) basically decimating the mutant population and forcing the survivors to leave Earth. The X-Men have been pushed out of the playground enjoyed by all the Marvel Studios characters. They probably found the Fantastic Four out there in space with them.
Is Disney/Marvel guilty of deliberately sidelining these fan-favorite characters? Let’s look at the recent string of evidence and judge them.
The Fantastic Four movie debacle: The Fantastic Four comic was cancelled several months before the movie came out, and there’s no Fantastic Four title in the new line-up. True, every other title at Marvel was cancelled a few months later for their big Secret Wars event. The struggle between Reed Richards and Doctor Doom is at the heart of Secret Wars. Plus, both the Torch and the Thing are in other high-profile books (Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively). Since both those books are tied to the movies, it’s a strange place to “disappear” two of the Fantastic Four.
Verdict: Uncertain. That movie sucked, and maybe Marvel was hiding the comic characters from the backlash.
The X-Men Murder Spree: The pages released today clearly show the Inhumans (stars of the SHIELD TV series and upcoming 2019 movie) massacring the Earth’s mutant population, effectively replacing them. The core X-Men aren’t actually being killed off– the survivors flee to a colony elsewhere in the solar system. You could make the case that the discrimination/persecution storyline that has defined the X-Men for 40 years is played out and tired, and something new was needed. The verdict: Highly suspicious.
Merchandise Blacklisting: Over the past year, the FF and X-Men have been systematically removed from the Marvel merchandise machine. Companies like XM Studios who produce expensive busts and collectibles had to tell fans that several highly awaited productions were cancelled “for reasons that cannot be disclosed.” But FF and X-Men characters were the victims. But most in-your-face was the annual Marvel character line-up poster from Trends International that removed members of the disputed characters as if they didn’t exist in the Marvel Universe. Shown below is the 2013 poster prominently featuring Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men and Avengers:
And here is the 2014 poster where X-Men and fantastic Four are completely erased:
The same thing has happened on everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs.
The verdict: Guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty.
Featured image source: thedailysuperhero.com