Is Marvel cutting back on X-Men and Fantastic Four comics to set up an INHUMANS movie?

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While we often find ourselves writing about movies based on comic books around here, we generally don’t walk the comic book news beat. However there’s a story that’s been brewing for a while now in the comic book world, and which just got it’s biggest jolt over the weekend, which is related quite a bit to the world of movies.

This story begins months ago, when Bleeding Cool started reported rumblings that they’ve heard from artists commissioned to do work for Marvel Comics to stop drawing certain characters in promo artwork. There was water-cooler talk of posters of these characters being taken down all over the Marvel Comics offices so that they people who worked there wouldn’t have to look at them. There were even rumours (subsequently shut down) that Marvel was planning on cancelling the comic book titles containing these characters.

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And just who are “these characters”? None other than the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, two of the comic publisher’s longest running and most popular lines. So why all the animosity towards some of their most beloved and successful creations? One word: Fox.

When Marvel was facing bankruptcy in the 1990’s, they staved off the bread line by selling the film rights to several of their highest profile characters. Little did they know at the time that not only would their comic book publishing fortunes turn around significantly, but they themselves would go on to become the most reliable blockbuster producing studio in the world, with one of their films going on to be one of the most profitable productions in history.

And since the runaway success of Kevin Feige’s Marvel Studios that kicked off with the first Iron Man film in 2008, the company has actually managed to reacquire a number of their film rights to characters like Daredevil, Ghost Rider, The Punisher, etc. But there were still 3 major properties out in the wild: Spider-Man at Sony Pictures, and X-Men and Fantastic Four at 20th Century Fox.

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Marvel has since renegotiated their contract with Sony, and while chances of the ol’ webhead showing up in The Avengers 3 is still slimmer than a runway model’s neck, they have a very favourable relationship that allows both parties to profit from any movies featuring Spidey. But despite several attempts in the the past, the same rosier relationship has not materialized with Fox, which still own not only the film and TV rights, but also profit from any other merchandise. And this has apparently rankled the Marvel higher ups to the point that they’re ready to marginalize their own best sellers to spite them.

If you read even a portion of the comics I do, you would probably have noticed that Marvel has been pushing their Inhumans characters to the forefront dramatically, while the X-Men, who had received big event after big event have slowly been getting dialed back. With the Inhumans being a marginalized, genetically tweaked, human-like race who go through a process when they hit puberty that allows them to manifest diverse powers, it’s quite clear that Marvel are positioning them as replacements to the X-Men. A recent big crossover event even saw the typically sequestered Inhumans engage in a war on Earth that ended with Terrigenesis – the process that gives Inhumans their abilities – occurring all over the world, bestowing thousands of normal humans with these abilities, just like mutants.

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But just because something seems obvious, doesn’t make it true. And up until now, every probing question directed at the appropriate people seems to have been met with an obligatory “Move along. Nothing to see here”. That was until this weekend, when senior Marvel editor Tom Brevoort was asked by a fan about the current lack of X-Men cartoons, new merchandise or even any tie-ins at all to recent blockbuster X-Men: Days of Future Past. And while Brevoort doesn’t mention any names specifically in his response, he doesn’t have to.

“You’re talking about issues involving licensing and animation, and those are questions you’d need to ask to our people that oversee those areas.

I will say two things, though, both of which are pretty self-evident, I think.

1) There are only so many hours in the day, and so many initiatives you can have going at once. So you need to pick and choose where you want to spend your time and your efforts.

2) If you had two things, and on one you earned 100% of the revenues from the efforts that you put into making it, and the other you earned a much smaller percentage for the same amount of time and effort, you’d be more likely to concentrate more heavily on the first, wouldn’t you?”

In other words, stop doing what is essentially free promotion for “rival” companies like Fox.

Last year, Stan Lee let slip that Marvel have some Phase 3 plans involving the Inhumans, following Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Black Panther movies. Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are already in development and Black Panther is now heavily rumoured (with Attack the Block and Star Wars: Episode VII star John Boyega partitioning for the role on Twitter), which means it’s very likely that Inhumans are one of those movies Marvel recently dated.

Marvel fully own the film rights to the Inhumans and this weekend actually saw the studio take the first step to making a movie about them happen. The previous genetic tweaking I mentioned were performed on primitive Homo-Sapiens by the Kree, the same race as Guardians of the Galaxy villain Ronan the Accuser. In fact, Ronan plays quite a huge role in a number of the Inhumans’ stories (though – slight spoiler alert –  his involvement might be a bit difficult due to his status at the end of that film) along with a certain purple jawed baddie named Thanos.

These genetic experiments of the Kree were done after they discovered that the Celestials, an ancient race of space gods, had noted that humans have the potential to develop super-human abilities. You may remember the Celestials from – further slight spoiler alert – the giant head of one being mined in Guardians as well the giant being that destroys an entire planet in the video shown to the Guardians by the Collector.

And while the Inhumans’ flying city of Attilan was housed on the Moon for the longest time, they’ve also seen several adventures out in deep space. The same deep space that we just got our first taste of with Guardians of the Galaxy.

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So what does this all mean for now? Well, for one thing all the bread crumbs are definitely leading to an Inhumans movie appearing in the next few years (if I had to hazard a guess, I would say spinning out of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for that November 3, 2017 slot on Marvel’s calendar), and for another, expect your Marvel comic book reading to suddenly start becoming much lighter in the X-Men and Fantastic Four department. We’ve already seen some rejiggering on the comic book side to better align with Marvel’s Cinematic Universe – like creating a new Avengers team that have the exact same roster as the movie version – but this could be the biggest case of influence seen yet, and could lead to quite a few changes.

Bonus crazy, out of left field, zero evidence to support this fan theory: The father of the movie version of Guardians’ Starlord is not King J’Son of the Spartax Empire, as in the comics, but actually Black Bolt, ruler of the Inhumans.

Last Updated: August 5, 2014

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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