It’s been grinding in the rumor mill since last summer, but over the weekend at New York Comic Con Marvel confirmed that yes, next year the Fantastic Four will be cancelled with issue #642, and just in time for the big screen release of the new Fantastic Four movie, which is not being released by Disney/Marvel Studios. Of course Marvel Comics isn’t spinning it that way, they’re calling this a “closing act” for the super-team, which implies that the long-running comic is coming to some kind of natural conclusion. Still, the stink of competitive corporate sabotage is on this move, even as Marvel assures that this will be ending that fans will enjoy.
According to Comic Book Resources, at the “Axel-in-Charge” panel at NYCC, Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso and FF writer James Robinson discussed the inevitable end of the Fantastic Four. “They’re going to all come back and be the team that you love. Everyone will have their moment, from Sharon Ventura to Wyatt Wingfoot,” Robinson explained after offering praise to past-FF writers like Matt Fraction, Jonathan Hickman and Mark Waid.
“The book is reverting to its original numbers, and the book is going away for a while,” he added. “I’m moving towards the end of ‘Fantastic Four.’ I just want to reassure people that you will not leave this book with a bad taste in your mouth.”
The final Fantastic Four story arc, “The End is Fourever,” begins in issue #642 which will be out in comic book stores this coming January.
Of course, reading between the lines the assumption is that Marvel is making this move not for creative reasons, but to not grant any “free” publicity on their end for Twentieth Century Fox‘s new Fantastic Four movie. The rights for the Fantastic Four, like the X-Men characters are licensed to Fox, and as long as they’re making movies based on the characters, then the license doesn’t revert back to Marvel. There’s been speculation since last summer’s release of X-Men: Days of Future Past that Marvel was going to pull books based on characters whose movie rights they don’t own, but the rumor was waved off by everyone in the know.
Now though, things look different. If the Fantastic Four comic is being cancelled early next year, that’s going to be a long time between the last book on the shelves and the August 4 release date of the movie. You could argue that there’s always back issues and trades available, but no new monthlies is a pretty powerful statement about Marvel’s feelings about others making their movies. I’d say we’re reading too much into it, but the timing is very, very suspicious on this one.
None of that’s to say that Fantastic Four is going away forever in comic books, but I think their return will depend heavily on just how successful the new Josh Trank movie turns out to be.