Fantastic Four Skinned

FF001_CoveraSo we ran a story and a follow-up about plans at Marvel to put the Fantastic Four comics in hiatus for the duration of the Fox movie production, publicity and release.

It was instantly dismissed by all and sundry, until the more staid and conservative CBR – whose News Editor also moonlights writing PR features for Marvel with Tom Brevoort  –  backed up key elements of the story.

And it’s still dismissed by most. Marvel’s Senior VP Brevoort posted “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.”

But Tom knows exactly what’s going on and why, and his words were chosen with care. Because this is not a rational business choice, it is an emotional one.

Isaac Perlmutter, CEO of Marvel Comics and the largest single shareholder of Disney, used to be the guy in charge of Toy Biz. When Marvel bought that company, he successfully negotiated himself onto the Marvel board. And then when the publisher went bankrupt, he was the man who successfully negotiated Marvel Comics out of that situation, becoming Marvel’s largest shareholder  and CEO in the process. He is the man most responsible for Marvel Studios making films themselves. And it was he who decided to sell Marvel to Disney, and made over a billion in the process, to add to his existing billion – he is the richest man in comics by a long way.

Known for his penny pinching at every level, and his rather personal politics when making decisions, the story we first reported about the Fantastic Four titles being cancelled to snub Fox Studios smacked of his decision making. And that’s what we eventually learned. Despite some people’s beliefs about Disney, we have been told by Marvel and close-to-Marvel sources that this is an Ike decision. It’s simply down to Fox putting out the Fantastic Four movie, and him being fed up when he sees the Fantastic Four comic being promoted or even published, even in the Marvel offices and what he sees as giving free publicity to the film.

One might speculate that attempted renegotations with Fox, as had happened with Sony and Spider-Man, didn’t go anywhere and this is a result of that. But that would be just speculation.

Already the creation of new IP, new characters in Fantastic Four and X-Men comics has been discouraged by Ike as all characters associated with each book are instantly accessible for free by Fox, no matter when they were created. I’m told by another close-to-Marvel source that a recent spate of new X-characters from Brian Bendis was snuck through under the Marvel Now relaunch promotion. But this move to dump the Fantastic Four books is a new one, as publicity around the production of the Fox movie begins to rise.

And while Ike wouldn’t be so insane to cancel the high selling X-Men comics, he has seen their promotional use reduced. And the lesser selling Fantastic Four is much less of a problem to cancel. It’s not being cancelled for low sales, many Marvel books sell worse (although more people have now read Bleeding Cool’s initial report than, well, read the Fantastic Four). But the comic has been totemic to the publisher, as it was the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby comic that kicked off the modern Marvel Universe. However it can be cancelled without having too much of a financial impact.

One might be tempted to see the death of The Watcher in Original Sin as part of that, but I think that’s too minor a detail and probably was decided long before this all became as much of an issue. Also, The Watcher probably doesn’t come into it, as Fox aren’t putting out a movie called The Watcher.

But because its so simple and that literal of a decision, books like Silver Surfer should be fine. Because it’s not called The Fantastic Four. And Death Of Wolverine can get acres of publicity simply because Fox don’t have a film called Wolverine out right now.

Which makes me think… couldn’t the Fantastic Four continue in another fashion? The Fantastic Avengers? Maybe they should try it. Maybe they are.

Know that Marvel is in no way going to admit to the decision making process that has led to putting Fantastic Four comics on hiatus for the duration of the movie production and publicity process. Faced with this reality, there will be other story-related reasons given. It’s the way of things. Maybe they’ll try to do what they did to Thor, bring the books back after the movie has been and gone in a massive wave of publicity and sales. And Fantastic Four characters will continue to appear in other books. That’s the plan.

Or at least it was.

Remember, comics is a Schroedinger’s Black Cat of an industry, once observed, things change. As CBR reported,

 Plans can change, something that’s potentially more likely now that the situation has been made public.

You never know. It’s just possible we might have all saved The Fantastic Four. Let’s see what happens… next.

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