The Fantastic Four is Marvel’s oldest franchise.
Sue Storm, Reed Richards, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm got their start in November 1961 and their book quickly became one of the company’s most popular franchises, ushering in a new era of superhero history. Marvel’s First Family would get several of their own animated TV series, but it wouldn’t be until 1994 that the first Fantastic Four movie was made ... and then never released. Most folks will instead remember the 2005 incarnation starring Chris Evans, Jessica Alba and Michael Chiklis best, and its sequel. The most recent attempt at a Fantastic Four movie, released in 2015, was received so terribly that Fox seemed to have abandoned the franchise all together — as had its cast.
The question that remains is: What’s next for the Fantastic Four? There have been rumors that a new movie could be made, the comic book has been in talks to return for quite some time and with Fox moving more of its big screen characters into the television realm, perhaps even a Fantastic Four TV spinoff.
While much of this is still in the air, recent interviews have provided some answers.
This past weekend at Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, Marvel writers Charles Soule (Daredevil), David Walker (Luke Cage), Dennis Hopeless (Doctor Strange) and Jim Zub (Uncanny Avengers) answered fans’ questions during a panel. One of the questions asked was what the future of the Fantastic Four looked like at Marvel Comics.
In fall 2014, it was revealed that the main Fantastic Four series would be coming to an end, as the Storm-Richards family left our plane of existence to explore the multiverse, which didn’t seem like a good sign for the franchise. Since then, Marvel writers have been trying to find a way to bring the team back to comic book shelves, according to Walker, as reported by Comics Alliance.
“I think that’s a fight every writer at Marvel is having, we all want to bring back the Fantastic Four,” Walker said. “We have some basic ideas of what we would like to happen with the Fantastic Four,” Thomas added. “We don’t have anything concrete. We know we want it to be, we want it to be meaningful, there is an idea of what Reed, and Sue, and the kids are up to. But we don’t want to look at a clock and say, ‘Oh, it’s Fantastic Four o’clock, time to bring them back.’ When they come back, they’re going to come back.”
While the future of the comics is still up in the air, it seems like everyone at Marvel wants to bring the team back in some capacity. Marvel Comics legend and former CEO Stan Lee has always said that the Fantastic Four were his favorite characters — which he created alongside famed Marvel artist Jack Kirby.
It seems likely that the Fantastic Four will make their way back to the front lines of Marvel Comics someday, and certainly that return would be expedited by a successful film franchise. Unfortunately, all Marvel has is 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four franchise.
To call the last Fantastic Four movie a phenomenal flop would be quite the understatement. The film currently has a 9 percent approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes with an audience score — which tends to be more forgiving than critics — sitting at 19 percent. In our review, we called it “a superhero movie without any sense of spectacle,” and that’s putting it nicely.
Fantastic Four is ... willing to take shortcuts that make the story's progression unbelievable, but unwilling to let go of the mundane, gritty, boring reality that rules its plot. It is in no meaningful way fantastic, and I cannot imagine a greater crime against Marvel Comics' founding family.
The movie was so bad that even the actors involved have spoken out against it. In an interview with IGN, Michael B. Jordan — who played the Human Torch — acknowledged that not every movie was going to be a success. He also referred to his time on Fantastic Four as educational.
“I look back at the film as a learning experience,” Jordan said. “Every film isn’t going to be a home run. Everybody involved didn’t set out to make a film that didn’t work ... You can give 110% every day, and the movie still not work out. But that may or may not be on you and you’ve got to be OK with that.”
Despite the negative reception the film received, the future of Fantastic Four movies may not be over just yet. In an interview with Collider, the film’s writer, Simon Kinberg, said they would love to do another movie, but it would be a while before that came to fruition. Like Marvel Comics, they didn’t want to force another Fantastic Four movie onto an audience who may not want it.
And for us, it’s in the past in the sense of lessons learned and we would love to make another Fantastic Four movie. We really believe in that cast, and I think the lessons that we learned would help us make a more consistent movie than we did the first time. I think the truth is we would not make another Fantastic Four movie until it was ready to be made. One of the lessons we learned on that movie is that we want to make sure we get it 100% right, because we will not get another chance with the fans.
In November 2015, Fox officially removed the Fantastic Four sequel from its schedule. The movie only managed to bring in $56 million domestically, and just under $170 million worldwide.
Still, people involved with the movie, including Kinberg, are willing to work on another movie provided the right ingredients were there. There’s no sign of that happening soon, but the film side isn’t entirely dead quite yet.
There have been three Fantastic Four series in the past, and at this time, there is currently no plan to bring the four heroes back to the small screen. That being said, Fox is finding success — both critically and in the ratings — through its newest show, Legion, and is working on another live-action X-Men series. It’s not improbable that the network would use its TV division to test out a Fantastic Four series. The entire process would cost Fox less than ordering another feature-length film and the medium may even work better for fans of the franchise.
The last Fantastic Four video game, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer was released in 2007 to coincide with the release of the sequel to the 2005 Fantastic Four film of the same name. Since then, there hasn’t been another Fantastic Four-centric game, but the characters have appeared in various titles, including 2011’s Marvel vs Capcom 3.
There is a new Marvel vs Capcom game coming out this year, so the best bet of seeing Fantastic Four characters again is in that title. There don’t seem to be any plans to give the Fantastic Four their own game — as Marvel uses the games as tie-ins for films.
Marvel recently announced it was teaming up with developer Square Enix, however, to create a game based on The Avengers. Since Marvel owns the rights to all of its characters for use in video games, there’s no reason the Fantastic Four couldn’t be included in that title, although the company hasn’t said anything at this time. There is currently no estimated launch window for the title, either.
The Fantastic Four isn’t dead, and people from different studios want to see the characters come back to life and thrive again. But which medium will take a chance on the beloved franchise first and which will follow? As it stands, it could be years before anything happens again with The Fantastic Four, but it seems pretty certain that eventually the team will reunite both on the page and on-screen again.