There is a conspiracy afoot, some comic fans believe. The theory goes like this:
1. Marvel is rebooting the Marvel (Comics) Universe to align with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is the entire driving force behind Secret Wars and All-New, All-Different Marvel.
2. Marvel is killing off (etc.) the characters whose film rights are tied up in another studio, i.e. X-Men, Fantastic Four, etc. Marvel does not want to promote a competitor’s films.
It really is a simple conspiracy, isn’t it? Does it hold water?
I don’t think so. Let’s look at a few things.
Yes, it appears that Marvel is ending Fantastic Four, the very first heroes created by Lee & Kirby in the new “Marvel Age” debuting in 1961. This must be because Fox owns the rights, right?
Well, unless you consider the sales.
In 2012, Fantastic Four #1 sold 115,300 copies to rank 48th in total sales for the year. Unfortunately the second issue dropped to 58,400, ranking 361st for 2012. In 2013, Fantastic Four #3, the highest-selling issue of the title for that year, sold a mere 52,100 copies, coming in at number 391. In 2014, Fantastic Four #1 (number one!), the highest-selling issue for that year, sold slightly better: 68,963 copies, for a rank of 143. Seventy other single issues published by Marvel sold better than Fantastic Four #1 in 2014. [All sales statistics come from The Comics Chronicles.]
With titles like the Amazing Spider-Man regularly selling around 150,000 copies for average issues (in 2014), why would Marvel want to continue to publish a lackluster performer like the Fantastic Four?
The conspiracy also fails to recognize that though the team may be disappearing, the characters are not. Ben Grimm/The Thing appears to be joining the Guardians of the Galaxy and Johnny Storm/Human Torch will be joining the Inhumans. Both GotG and the Inhumans have movies on the horizon. (Know who else will be joining the Inhumans? X-Men’s Beast. Another character that can’t be used in the movies.)
If it was all about the film rights, why would Marvel have two characters that they cannot use in any film join super-teams with films on the way?
Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver
Some conspiracy theorists have pointed to the removal of Magneto as the father of the Maximoff twins—and their removal as mutants altogether—as further evidence of trying to write 20th Century Fox’s characters out of the Marvel Universe. The conspiracy theorists also believed that they would be made into Inhumans, because Marvel Studios has those rights.
Here’s a few problems with this part of the theory:
1. Yes, Wanda and Pietro have always been mutants. But they had their origins as underlings of Magneto, not as his children. Their origin story as Magneto’s children came as a later retcon.
2. The Maximoff twins, whether mutants or not now, whether Magneto’s children or not now, can still appear in future Fox films. Their rights to use the characters can’t be taken away by a change in the comics in 2015. The rights were sold to them, including the right to use the former Brotherhood of Evil Mutants characters, sometime prior to the 2000 release of Fox’s X-Men. That original licensing contract provided specific details as to who could and couldn’t be used, and why, and that real-life deal cannot be retroactively changed as easily as a comic book origin story.
3. Clearly, judging by their appearance in both X-Men: Days of Future Past and Avengers: Age of Ultron, neither company is hindered in the least by the appearance of the duo in the movies of the other company. Quicksilver played a major role in both films—stealing the show in X-Men and apparently dying in Avengers. (I say “apparently” because Phil Coulson.)
4. And speaking of dying … if Marvel was really trying to minimize Quicksilver’s role, why would he be at the center of one of the last pre-Secret Wars story arcs, in the just-ended Uncanny Avengers. They didn’t kill him off in the comics the way they did in the movie.
Many conspiracy proponents point to the recent Death of Wolverine run as proof of Marvel’s anti-X plot. Except Wolverine is back in Secret Wars. And teasers for the upcoming All-New All-Different Marvel show not one but two Wolverines (X-23 and Old Man Logan).
Could it be that Death of Wolverine was less about the film rights and more about selling comic books? Would Marvel ever exploit the popularity of its characters for sales, with controversial publicity stunts?
The Spider-Man question
Sony still owns the rights to Spider-Man. This presumably extends to his supporting cast as well—a supporting cast that is not only not being undermined but actually extended. The recent “Gwen” cover variants that ran across almost all of Marvel’s titles earlier this month did everything to promote Spider-Man and nothing to promote any Marvel movies.
Beyond that, the teaser images for All-New All-Different Marvel includes not one but two Spider-Men: presumably Peter Parker and definitely Miles Morales, who will be a member of the Avengers when the Secret Wars dust clears.
Again, why would Marvel place a character to whom it has no rights into the ranks of its most popular film property? Avengers movie fans who rush to the comic shop will see Spider-Man, promoting the Sony movie franchise.
If Marvel is really trying to undermine its rival movie studios, does that make sense? In fact, is there any real evidence to show that Marvel is actually making any moves in the comic books to do so?
What do you think?
Updated: After this post was written and scheduled to publish, details about the future of the All-New All-Different Marvel relaunch came to light. So I added the following section.
The biggest part of the conspiracy theory is that Marvel is doing away with the X-Men titles so that they don’t help Fox’s X-Men movie franchise succeed. Another part of it is the lack of merchandising for the X-Men movies, while all of the Marvel films have tons of gear.
Well, currently, during the Secret Wars crossover event, there are seven(!) X-Men tie-in titles: E is for Extinction, Giant-Size Little Marvel: AvX, Inferno, Old Man Logan, X-Men ’92, X-Tinction Agenda, and Years of Future Past. That is far more representation than any other Marvel creation. Could it be that they are simply doing this so that they can kill them all off?
According to the All-New All-Different Marvel Previews, no. This fall, when “AN, AD” (as I am going to start calling it) Marvel debuts, there will be at least six(!) X-Men or mutant-related titles:
“Still hated. Still feared. Still standing.”
Team consists of Storm, Iceman, Colossus, Magik, Nightcrawler, Jean Grey (still young), and Old Man Logan.
“Bigger threats require more threatening X-Men.”
Team consists of Magneto, Psylocke, Sabretooth, Mystique, and Fatomex.
“On a mission to make their own future”
Team consists of Wolverine (X-23) and young Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, and Beast.
Old Man Logan
“Older. Wiser. Sharper.”
“Best there is at what she does”
“More Deadpool than you wanted”
Even more evidence is stacked against the existence of a Marvel conspiracy. Don’t believe everything you read on the Interwebs, kids. Now, onto chem-trails.