Marvel is at war. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, Marvel film studios alone has earned just over $8 Billion internationally, and those are just box office numbers. Let’s look at it like a meal. The films are your main course, but let’s not forget the action figures, TV / Netflix rights, apparel, amusement park rides, animated children’s programing, and the comic books that make the your appetizer, desert and doggy bag.

Marvel vs Fox

But Marvel Studios, isn’t allowed to cook the main course for every Marvel comic book character. As far as the major Marvel properties go, most of us know that Sony retains the film rights to Spider-Man and 20th Century Fox has the rights to X-Men and Fantastic 4. (Here’s a look at where everything stands in terms of film rights)

Marvel Studios is a massive success by itself. But, when you learn that in the last 15 years, Spide-Man, the X-Men and Fantastic 4 films have grossed $7.6 Billion it’s clear that Marvel is only realizing about half of it’s revenue potential. The good news is, that Spider-Man is back in the fold. Marvel’s struck a deal with Sony to allow them to bring the web-slinger back into the Marvel Cinematic universe (MCU). They won’t be collecting any of the box-office profits from the deal, but in theory, the addition of Spider-Man will make the rest of their properties more valuable.

Spiderman Asa Butterfield

That leaves X-Men and Fantastic 4. Fox’s last Marvel film, X-Men: Days of Future Past was also its most successful. The next X-Men film (X-Men: Apocalypse) is already well into production and is poised to launch its own universe of mutants. Expect to see more X-Men films and solo films featuring mutants like Wolverine, Gambit, Mystique and Magneto. Additionally, we have a brand new cast for this years Fantastic 4 reboot, and a sequel has already been green-lit for a 2017 release. Suffice it to say, Fox won’t be looking to sell of X-Men or Fantastic 4 for a very long time.

If thats clear to you and me, you can bet it’s also clear to the execs at Marvel. So what is Marvel doing about it? Marvel still has control over the X-Men and Fantastic 4 comics and merchandise, so how exactly are they trying to mitigate Fox’s opportunity to profit?

Not Fantastic AnymoreFantastic Fourever

The Fantastic 4 is Marvel’s first family. They mean so much to the history of the comics and their stories branched into the origins of some of most beloved characters; The Inhumans, Black Panther, and the Skrulls all started as side-characters in Fantastic Four. Marvel would never cancel their story just to chip away at Fox’s cinematic aspirations. Right?

Well actually, that’s exactly what they did. Late last year Marvel released F4’s sawn song, Issue #645 – Fantastic Fourever. Bleeding Cool has a good recap of why it happened here. Reportedly, Marvel CEO and Disney’s largest share-holder, Isaac Perlmutter, was furious with Fox after they couldn’t come to terms on a film deal that would bring F4 into the MCU. Things went sour and Perlmutter shut down the power at the Baxter Building.

We should add that towards the end, the Fantastic 4 series was selling about 35k issues a month, which would warrant a cancellation within of itself. So naturally, when deals with Fox fell through, so did F4’s final run.

Exiling the X-MenX-Men Secret Wars

This article is titled after a the latest Marvel comics cross-over event know as “Secret Wars”. In Secret Wars the Marvel universes converge for an epic battle that will result in some “permanent” changes in the comics. After that, Marvel is doing a fair bit of retconning and re-writing to reboot and breathe new life into a number of storylines. (It’s all very standard as far was cross-over events go).

What’s most interesting about Secret Wars is that it gives Marvel an opportunity to put the X-Men on the shelf for a while. The X-Man have alway been a part on the Marvel Universe but they never made a huge Impact outside of their own storylines. We’re hearing from sources at Marvel that the X-mean team will be fully separated from the Marvel universe and given their own continuity.

Marvel Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso: The X-Men office is taking the opportunity of “Secret Wars” to build an entire new world for the characters — to create a shared universe within the X-books that’s set off by a huge event/incident/surprise. At that point, they’re going to introduce a new team that feels unlike anything you’ve seen before. It’ll be… “extraordinary.”

Rumor has it that the Terrigan bomb from the Infinity story line plays a part here. We’re hearing reports that the mist is poisonous to Mutants, which forces them to leave earth and establish a colony on another planet. Damn Marvel, tell us how you really feel.

Rise of the InhumansInhumans Royal Family

The Terrigan bomb event leads us to the next point. We know that in the MCU, Inhumans are Marvel’s replacement for Mutants. Every story of mutants being persecuted as a minority group will now happen to the Inhumans. The Inhumans give marvel two new angles for the the MCU.

First the story of the Royal Family. If you’re unfamiliar with the Inhumans, check out our full recap here. Their primary story takes place in an outer-space fortress called Attilan. Their society is baed upon genetic superiority and an ancient caste systems. This will likely be the focus of the Inhumans film. It gives Marvel the opportunity to explore a more cosmic story line (like Guardians of the Galaxy). Think of the Inhumans film as the story of a a core X-Men team… in space.

The second, and arguably more important role the Inhumans will play is on earth. Inhumans were introduced in Agents of SHIELD in Season 2. Find out where they tie into the show here. The show is setting up a world where we we could have dozens or even hundreds of individuals with super human abilities. We’re already seeing a rift form between those that are sympathetic to the Inhumans, and those that see them as a disease. We’re going to see all kinds of “street-level” super heroes pop up in the MCU, and most likely, they’ll be Inhumans.

Sorry KidsMarvel Action Figures

Marvel has made it clear that we won’t be seeing an X-Men or Fantastic 4 animated TV show any time soon. Today, the MCU films are for mainstream film-going audiences. They’re not relying on kids to beg their parents to take them to the cinema. However, kids are the primary consumers of action figures. Marvel uses their animated TV programs (Avengers Assemble,Ultimate Spider-Man, etc.) as an advertisement for toy lines, kids apparel, halloween costumes, basically anything you can hold in your hands with a Marvel character’s face on it. Bottom line, kids want the toys from the TV shows they love. Animated TV has a bigger impact on the little guys.

Its not just that Marvel would prefer it if kids bought Avengers toys over X-Men toys. No, the studio is taking every measure it can so that Wal-Mart, Target and toy stores stop ordering X-Men and Fantastic 4 products for lack of customer interest. Thinks we’re kidding? Check this out… Marvel has commonly taken classic comic book art and used it for T-shirts. Now, they’re going out of their way to edit the original artwork and remove X-Men and Fantastic 4 characters only to replace them with MCU characters (via Bleeding Cool). Sorry, Cyclops.

Fox vs Marvel Secret Wars

Left: Original Secret Wars Cover – Right: New T-Shirt

Marvel’s thinking long term here. They take a hit profit-wise on the lost sales, but they’re taking the necessary steps to make the remaining Fox film properties attainable.

Do Comics Matter?Do Comics Matter

Marvel is operating a business, and at the end of the day what they’re doing is nothing new. They’re taking the properties they own that are complimentary to their main product (summer block-busters) and optimizing them in a way that creates lock-in, and ultimately earns the studio more money. Ever wonder why the Apple Watch only works with the Apple iPhone? It’s the same concept. Today, the films drive sales of comics and not the other other way around. But what we’re talking about here goes deeper than sales numbers.

This is about world building and storytelling. The comics of today are built upon decades of storytelling and character development. They represent an opportunity for the reader to invest emotionally into the characters in a way that impossible with films, over long periods of time. This is where fans are born and where communities start to form. By mitigating the possibility for communities to exist around X-Men and the Fantastic 4, Marvel is making fandom increasingly in inaccessible.

Hope for the BestThe New New Avengers

Does the success of the Marvel Cinematic universe hurt comics? Yes and no. If your favorite stories have the words “Fantastic 4” or “X-Men” on the cover, then you’re at the mercy of Hollywood. On the other hand the success of the MCU has given Marvel Comics the freedom to experiment with storytelling in way we would never have seen other wise. Stories like Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel and the brand new Avengers shows how confident Marvel is with the weight of the Cinematic Universe at their backs.

Who knows, we could be wrong. We might see Marvel come to an agreement with Fox that brings mutants back into the fold. Marvel themselves are not ruling the X-Men out. Creator, Brain Michael Bendis, has stated that he’s really excited about the future of the X-Men series. We’re hopeful! Prove, us wrong Marvel.

What do you think? Are the comics suffering as a result of the MCU? Let us know by leaving a comment down below, or join the chatter on Twitter and Facebook.

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