“There are more Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

§ October 10th, 2016 § Filed under fantastic four § 7 Comments

So for whatever reason I started spouting off about the Fantastic Four on my Twittererers over the weekend, wondering if the concept is simply just played out and resistant to any form of forthcoming newsstand success. Now…frankly, I’m not sure what put the thought into my head, because:

1) Recent FF comics have been pretty good, actually. The main issue of late with ongoing FF titles, or any ongoing Marvel title, is that given current publishing strategies, a series doesn’t stick around for too long before being given the ol’ reboot/relaunch. And, FF titles of late, when they reach the endpoint of their “current” series, are given fairly definitive endings that wouldn’t naturally flow into a new storyline from a new creative team, thus necessitating reboot-ering.

2) There’s also the thought that Marvel is hesitant to publish comics that would provide grist for other movie studio’s mills, as film rights for the FF are held outside of Marvel Studios, which would explain the lack of a title for them right now. Of course, Marvel is still publishing X-Men comics, also not under the purview of Marvel Studios, but not publishing X-titles maybe a financial hit Marvel can ill afford, compared to the relatively small loss from not having a current FF title. Anyway, I’ve heard both support and debunkings of the “Marvel won’t publish books licensed to other studios” thing, so I have no idea what’s going on there.

Whatever the reason, I shouldn’t be saying that the Fantastic Four idea as a concept is over and done with. Pretty much any comic book just needs the right take from the right people and suddenly it’s viable again. Part of my thought process here may have come from the fact that the Fantastic Four movies have had such a hard time finding traction. I didn’t dislike the film adaptations from the mid-2000s, and even the much-maligned movie from last year had its moments (and I suspect a sequel building on that film could work a lot better). But it feels like if Marvel Studios were to get the FF back under its roof and integrate it into its cinematic universe, then the team might have a better chance of catching on. (One idea I’d heard was to make them “period” characters from the 1960s, and the rocket flight that gave them powers back then also shunted them forward to the modern day, which I think is kind of brilliant.)

There are other points, too, that brought me to the position of thinking the Fantastic Four are past their sell-by date. Chris and Matt on the War Rocket Ajax podcast often mention about the repeating of certain character/plot developments, such as “Johnny has to learn to grow up and be responsible” which has happened a few times in recent memory. And then there’s the idea that if you keep going back to Dr. Doom and Galactus and the Negative Zone and “Is This The End of the Fantastic Four?” you’re just rehashing, but if you try to do different things and switch up characters and whatnot, suddenly “this isn’t the FF.” It strikes me that Fantastic Four probably isn’t the easiest comic book in the world to write.

In the course of my Twitter-babbling (different from my blog-babbling, in that the paragraphs are shorter), I did say that while the Fantastic Four idea may be in need of rest right now, the simple fact of the matter is this:

For support of that statement, I refer you to this piece I wrote long ago as part of an article about a sadly still-forthcoming Thing graphic novel (at the end of the page, in italics). The Thing really is one of the best characters, not just in comics, but in all of fiction. Yeah, that’s right, I’d put him up there with, like, Hamlet. In fact, I bet the Thing could totally take Hamlet in a fight.

That brought me to think about how they could bring back the Fantastic Four in a way that would have a little more staying power (beyond whatever behind-the-scenes movie-stuff wheeling-and-dealings to which we’re not privy), and that gave me an idea reminiscent of my old Legion of Super-Heroes concept:

While that doesn’t remove the family-relationship drama that we may have seen over and over again in the title, presenting it from the Thing’s perspective will at least give us a slightly different angle on it. And by making it Thing-centric, the pressure is off from regularly featuring the other members of the family in the title…while possibly opening it to guest-appearances and other team-ups Marvel Two-in-One-style. Since this book wouldn’t technically be “The Fantastic Four,” that kind of character ‘n’ situation switch-up wouldn’t (hopefully) result in complaints that this isn’t the FF folks are used to.

Plus, everyone loves the Thing, so I feel like this would be one heck of a book if done right.

Oh, and someone remind me to add an “armchair publishing” category to my site. Just came to mind for some reason.

7 Responses to ““There are more Things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.””

  • Pal Cully says:

    I think they should shoot a FF movie set in 1961. Let them be legacy characters in the Marvel movie universe.

  • Chris Wuchte says:

    Couldn’t agree more about The Thing. As someone coming of age in the ’70s and ’80s, it’s actually odd to not see The Thing everywhere, as back then he turned up on so much merchandise. He was basically right up there with Spider-Man, Captain America, etc.

    I have a memory as a kid of standing in Toys-r-Us trying to make up my mind about which Thing puzzle I wanted my parents to buy me. Not which superhero puzzle, but which of the half dozen Thing puzzles I had to choose from. The guy even had his own cartoon for a while.

    FF does seem like it would be a difficult series to write, unless the audience is willing to ignore what came before and pretend stories about Ben resenting Reed for what happened to him, Johnny growing up, etc are fresh again. Between Stan Lee and John Byrne’s later run, I think we saw the FF pretty much grow and evolve as much as they could.

  • philip says:

    You’ve been very Shakespearean of late. That line from Hamlet is one of my favorites and something of a personal motto.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Hickman was doing something pretty interesting in FF, having Reed be a teacher for all the young Marvel super-geniuses. Maybe something like that, or a team with Ben and Johnny, along with teen-aged Valeria and Franklin.

  • Andrew Leal says:

    “Somethin’s rotten in the state of Denmark. It’s clobberin’ time!” *shoves Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s heads together*

  • BK Munn says:

    Of course The Thing was always the star of FF, even when it was being written as an ensemble/team book with Reed as the increasingly heroic-looking leader. He was the “breakout character” almost before there were such things. Many older fans and critics have pitched the retro FF idea, perhaps because it feels so right to longtime readers. Seems perfect to me. I wonder how it would go over? Obviously studios are increasingly scared of it as the recent films show. I liked the few Hickman issues I read and I’m REALLY liking the Allred FF series without the FF now that I’ve finally going back and buying the back issues. Anyway, Benjy is a great character. Clooney as Reed Richards?

  • Daniel Latta says:

    I really enjoyed Walt Simonson’s run on FF. I can’t really speak for anything else that was done with those characters. Doom 2099 was good.