Marvel Senior Editor Tom Brevoort took to his blog today to defend the company against accusations that it was intentionally downplaying characters whose film and TV rights are tied up with 20th Century Fox. Last night, Bleeding Cool reported that Fantastic Four and Ultimate FF would soon be cancelled, and that promotional material featuring the characters would disappear from Marvel's offices and upcoming publications, as CEO Ike Perlmutter believed that any work to promote the team in comics would serve to elevate the profile of their upcoming, Fox-produced film, presumably at the expense of other superhero properties from Marvel Studios proper. The news and gossip site says that it received an e-mail from an anonymous artist who was given rather strict guidelines for creating Marvel sketch cards.
"I do a number of sketch card projects for Upper Deck and Rittenhouse using Marvel characters," the source wrote. "The most recent projects from both companies, one billed as Marvel 75th Anniversary, gave specific guidelines to NOT use any FF characters or supporting cast such as Dr Doom, Galactus, Surfer, Skrulls etc…" The same post later updated with what's purported to be a photo of the memo in question. "All Marvel characters related to Fantastic Four are now off-limits and will be immediately rejected by Marvel," the document says. Brevoort hasn't responded since the second round of accusations and the purported physical evidence popped up online, but this morning, he was dismissive. When one fan asked Brevoort to deny the rumors and cut them off at the knees, the editor responded, "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." Nevertheless, something seems to be in the air; Comic Book Resources read the BC story and followed up with their own sources, with potentially-alarming results:
CBR cannot confirm the exact future of "Fantastic Four" and "Ultimate FF," but has confirmed with multiple industry sources speaking on the condition of anonymity that a hiatus for the property is planned, at least as of recently. Plans can change, something that's potentially more likely now that the situation has been made public. The Fantastic Four characters are said to continue appearing in other Marvel titles, just not in a specifically branded "Fantastic Four" series.
It sounds on the face of it like, if true, it's another chess move in an ongoing cold war between Disney and Fox, most clearly illustrated by the use of Quicksilver on film. Marvel's The Avengers director Joss Whedon was the first to plant a flag in the character, whose dual role as the son of Magneto and a longtime Avenger makes his film rights murky. Quicksilver and his twin sister Scarlet Witch are mutually-held properties between Marvel and Fox, with each restricted as to what elements of the characters' backstories can be referenced or drawn upon on film. Shortly after they announced that Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch will appear in Avengers: Age of Ultron, though, X-Men: Days of Future Past director Bryan Singer said that Quicksilver would appear in that film. Marvel countered by bowing the characters in a post-credits sequence in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then the only film they had left that would be in theaters before Days of Future Past. It doesn't seem to have dimmed the enthusiasm of the studio or the audience for Quicksilver in X-Men; he was a standout character and writer Simon Kinberg (who is also working on Fantastic Four) has indicated that he'll play a bigger role in X-Men: Apocalypse.
On its face the story, as Brevoort suggests, sounds ludicrous. But the fact that Marvel has resisted the urge to comment and Brevoort's denials are suspiciously short on actual denials is potentially telling. The gut instinct says, too, that for the same reasons Perlmutter reportedly doesn't want to publish a comic -- that is, to enhance the value of the intellectual property held by Fox -- one would think that the Fox deal included a clause that says Marvel cannot cancel while the book is still selling reasonably well. Of course, what "reasonably well" means now compared to fifteen years ago when the comics market was a very different place is anybody's guess, and any assumed clause in the contract may or may not have kept up with the times in that regard. More on this almost certainly as it develops; Bleeding Cool seems to think they've got more information coming tomorrow.