One of the biggest questions surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe's future has concerned the introduction of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, who can now be folded into the MCU continuity following Disney's purchase of 20th Century Fox a few years ago. The Fantastic Four, in particular, have already been debated about at length, especially given the several unsuccessful film reboots that previously starred the characters. The Fantastic Four reboot does not currently have a cast, a confirmed release date, or a director (following the exit of Spider-Man: No Way Home helmer Jon Watts), but that hasn't stopped speculation about how the team could be established within the main Earth-616 of the MCU. While the recent appearance of John Krasinski as an alternate-Earth version of Reed Richards / Mister Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness has led some to wonder if the multiverse could play a role in the group's introduction, another possibility still remains — that the team (and their first film) could be rooted in the 1960s.
When the Fantastic Four were initially created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in 1961, they were undoubtedly a product of their era. Arriving smack-dab in the middle of the Silver Age of Comics, legend has it that the team were created as Marvel's answer to the Justice League of America, who were fast becoming DC's premier superhero team. The team's ensemble makeup, combined with overall cultural feelings about the budding Cold War space race, culminated in the Fantastic Four's origin — an eclectic and flawed group of space travelers who develop superpowers after their ill-timed rocket launch into space gets hit by radiation. Throughout the 1960s, the group thrived in adventures that pushed the boundaries of scientific and cosmic possibility, with genre-defining visuals from Kirby and complicated, wise-cracking character dynamics helping scratch an itch that comic readers didn't know they had at the time.
In the decades since, the Fantastic Four's foundation has shifted into something more nebulous — in part thanks to the sliding timescale of Marvel continuity, which has tried to justify how characters do or don't age across decades of individual comic issues. That nebulousness has also carried over to the group's origin story being modernized in live-action, with both the 2005 Fantastic Four and 2015's Fan4stic rooting the team's exploration in a more generic sort of scientific research. While a laundry list of reasons can be made for why the previous Fantastic Four series didn't become defining parts of superhero media, that decision to pull their origin story out of the 1960s could arguably be among them, as it caused the adaptations to lose the cultural and emotional spirit of Kirby and Lee's original run along the way.
Sure, there could be a successful version of Marvel Studios' Fantastic Four reboot that also modernizes the team, starting them at square one in the post-Blip era of the 2020s, and allowing them to come into their own alongside Earth's Mightiest Heroes from that point onward. But that feels like a disservice to what the team has to offer within the MCU — as well as the wide swaths of canon that the overall franchise still has left to explore. (Setting the Fantastic Four's origins in the 2020s would also inevitably draw comparisons to the controversial billionaire-led privatized space race that is currently happening in our real world, but that's a conversation for another day.) At the start, the MCU operated in an incredibly-specific timeline for when superheroes could have existed, with the franchise insinuating for a while that (outside of Captain America), costumed characters weren't really well known prior to Tony Stark publicly announcing he was Iron Man in 2008. More recent MCU installments have stretched through time and space to introduce heroes that existed before the events of Iron Man, whether that be in the 1950s with Isaiah Bradley, the 1970s with Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the 1990s with Carol Danvers, or even 5000 BC with the Eternals. That being said, there's still a lot of years within the MCU that have been left unexplored — with the 1960s being among them. It's incredibly easy to imagine a Fantastic Four film that is at least partially set in that era, allowing for an array of new Easter eggs and connections to MCU history, as well as some distinct retro sartorial flair among its protagonists.
Setting the new Fantastic Four film in the 1960s would not only shade in a largely-unexplored era of the MCU, but it would provide an easy way for the team's decades-long absence to be narratively justified. As fans have theorized for years, there's a chance that the group's space voyage could have led to them being stuck in the Quantum Realm for decades, similarly to their various comic adventures in the Negative Zone. A smaller fraction of time could still pass for the group while in the Quantum Realm, allowing them to become more in control of their superpowers (and maybe even have Reed and Sue's kids, Franklin and Valeria Richards, enter the picture) before they return to the present day and exist around other heroes. This would give the Fantastic Four a chance to thrive within their powers and group dynamics (something that the previous films largely lacked), and also return them to a world chock-full of bizarre costumed characters who rose up in their absence, without inviting the questions of where they were during some of Earth's bigger superhero battles. Along the way, it would theoretically allow Tony Stark to still remain one of the MCU's first public superheroes, as the team's ill-fated voyage would be viewed more as an urban legend or a tragic consequence of the space race.
Outside of Captain America, the Fantastic Four are arguably the Marvel superheroes most distinctly associated with a specific era — and there's no reason why the MCU couldn't lean into that wholeheartedly. Setting the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot in the 1960s would allow for a take on Marvel's First Family that not only honors their comic history, but strengthens MCU history along with it, while setting up a unique brave new world for the team's modern-day emergence. One line in Multiverse of Madness even jokingly teased this possibility, with Doctor Strange being introduced to Reed Richards and immediately asking if the Fantastic Four "charted in the '60s." While that was seemingly a joke about the team's name sounding like a music group, Marvel Studios associating the Fantastic Four with the 1960s doesn't feel like a coincidence — and hopefully, once the film reboot comes together, it won't be.
Do you want Marvel's Fantastic Four reboot to be set in the 1960s? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!