“Fantastic Four” Furlough: Feasible or Flummery?
The rumors that circle through the comics industry span the sublime to the ridiculous. Some, like the death and/or return of major characters turn out to be spot on, but some make the annual spate of April Fools posts seem tame and rational. (How many times has Dan Didio supposed to have been fired by now?)
The latest hot topic, posited by the gang at Bleeding Cool, claims that Marvel Comics has plans to suspend publication of their Fantastic Four titles, both standard and Ultimate, for an indeterminate period of time. Not due to poor sales, or pursuant to a planned relaunch, but because the comics provide too much publicity for 20th Century Fox’s film adaptations, and by shelving the titles, interest in the characters would plummet to the point that the next film would tank, and Fox would finally relinquish the rights to the characters, opening the door to a true Marvel-led reboot.
That sounds like something I’d think up after a long night of playing solitaire HeroClix and drinking Rumple Mintze and Sprite. It’s the kind of “You Know What They Should Do?” scenarios people discuss when they suggest Mikadoesque punishments for heinous crimes. The sort of “Yeah, THAT’d show ’em!” result that would show how the film industry would fall to its knees if the fans stopped seeing their films.
At absolute best, there’s no more than 250,000 truly hardcore comic fans in the US. If every single one of them saw a comic book movie, at an average ticket price of 10 dollars, the film would make 2.5 million dollars, which for today’s movies, would just about cover the budget for seedless grapes at craft services. No movie can stand or fall on the comic fans alone – just ask the folks who made Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Nobody outside of a comic shop would even be aware the books were not in print, unless the media decided to mention it. It’s the general public who makes up the wild majority of those ticket sales, and they know the characters from the cartoons, the licensed merchandise, and most importantly, the avalanche of publicity the movie company puts out before the films’ releases. More people know the Fantastic Four (or nearly any Marvel character) from the films than any year’s worth of issues of the comics.
I’m sure Marvel’s desire to get the rights back is palpable. But I see no way that cancelling (temporarily) the comic would have any substantive effect on the success of the next film. Indeed, it could ONLY hurt Marvel. Over and above the loss of sales of two popular comics, the small but extant bump that comes from a new marvel film to the sales of the comics would be forfeit as well. Plus, there might well be a way Fox could interpret such an action as an attempt to badmouth the property.
While the FF films are (in many minds, anyway) the least successful, comic-fan-critically, of the non-Marvel-made Marvel movies, they’ve both been profitable, more so than even a couple of Marvel’s own cinematic sorties. The second film returned far less than the first film, resulting in its upcoming reboot with a new cast. But the films are still successful enough that Fox sees no reason to give up on them, and a lack of the comic book that inspired them will have as much influence as the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings as it’s sucked into the engine of a 747.
But here’s the rub— as mad as the story seems on its face, Comic Book Resources have stood with Bleeding Cool, relating that their research supports the theory of a hiatus. Now, a hiatus and a hiatus designed to bring a major motion picture are two very different things. The idea that Marvel would choose to suspend publication of their seminal title for anything other than a shortly-following, pre-planned revival (as they’ve already done a couple of times in recent years) is unlikely in the least. To do it to actively and blatantly sabotage the success of a business partner borders on economic suicide.
Nose, say goodbye to face; we never liked it anyway.