As you may have heard, there are rumors going around that Marvel, pissed off at Fox Studios, will be canceling both its Fantastic Four and Ultimate Fantastic Four comics in order to deny support for Fox's upcoming FF movie. It's completely insane and totally implausible... and yet it might be true.
Bleeding Cool originated the rumor last week; yesterday, Comic Book Resources said they had confirmation that the FF and Ultimate FF comics would be taking a hiatus. So that much appears true. As for Bleeding Cool's assertion that this move was made in order to deny Fox's upcoming FF movie comic support, they published a note, supposedly to sketch card artists, that they could no longer do Fantastic Four characters or their main cast, including Doctor Doom, Galactus, and more. To be fair, the note looks somewhat less than official, but if true it does indicate a company-wide ban on the Fantastic Four.
Long-time Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, who was clearly more than a little annoyed, addressed the issue on his Tumblr and heartily denied the hiatus at all. He also said this:
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.
Maybe the two FF comics really are going on hiatus, and maybe Brevoort is just denying the truth as part of the company line. But that doesn't make what's he's saying wrong: Marvel canceling both its Fantastic Four comics to spite Fox is completely absurd.
First and foremost, Fox does not give the tiniest shit about what Marvel does with its comics. At all. Okay, maybe if Marvel — in a fit of pure insanity — used Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman to explore the devastating consequences of spousal rape and thus the comic became a major, national controversy, Fox would take notice. But generally, the existence of the Fantastic Four comics doesn't concern them in the slightest, and it doesn't affect their movies in the slightest.
Nor should it! Do you know how many issues the new Fantastic Four #2 sold this past March in comics stores? According to Diamond, the answer is 37, 569. Now, even if we say every single of those readers are planning on seeing the Fantastic Four movie reboot in theaters, in 3D, at $15 a ticket, they would earn Fox $563,535. Half a million dollars isn't nothing, but do you know what Fox is hoping to earn during Fantastic Four's opening weekend? $100 million. Fox could literally take out an ad in the Fantastic Four comics saying "HEY NERDS YOU SUCK AND WE DON'T WANT YOU TO SEE OUR MOVIE" and it would still, for all intents and purposes, not affect their bottom line. Marvel literally hurts no one but themselves by canceling the Fantastic Four comics, and not only would Fox not care, I don't think they'd even notice. There's also the fact that Fox owns the X-Men movie franchise. Bleeding Cool argues that the X-Men comics are too important to Marvel to pull this shit (oh, and that unlike Fox, Marvel has a good relationship with Sony, which is why the Spider-Man comics are also safe). That makes sense... until you realize that if Marvel believes this, then they are playing chicken with comic sales that they themselves do not think matter. How could they possibly convince Fox to do anything by canceling these titles? Answer: They can't. At all.
Putting the FF comics on hiatus is, by itself, not a big deal; as Brevoort points out, pretty much every Marvel series has had a hiatus or two over the years. And Brevoort is also right in that canceling a comic to try and piss off a major film studio is absurd, moronic, and a horrible business decision.
...and yet it still may be true.
Supposedly, the anti-FF decree comes from Marvel CEO and major Disney shareholder Ike Perlmutter, who has the power to make ridiculous decrees and have them enforced. I don't know Perlmutter at all (shocker, I know), but I don't think you get to be the majority shareholder in one of the largest entertainment companies in the world's without having a decent head on your shoulders, and I have a hard time imagining Perlmutter being so deluded that he thinks canceling a comic or two would make Fox quake in their boots (I imagine Perlmutter cares about Marvel's actual comics only marginally more than Fox does).
But I'd be lying to you if I said I hadn't seen executives in the nerd industry give equally insane and counterproductive orders. In my professional nerd career, I've seen it all the time, especially when they're pissed; they get emotional and then make kneejerk reactions instead of using their business acumen and the rest of the company has to somehow make do. Could Perlmutter, in a fit of madness or drunken rage, have given such a ridiculous order? Yes. Is it plausible? Not even slightly. But possible? Unfortunately, yes.
If it is true, then this should be far more worrying than any Edgar Wright/Ant-Man situation, because if the comics begin to exist at the mercy of Hollywood politics, then comics as you knew them are over. But for now, I'm going with Brevoort: Trying to piss off Fox by canceling comics is just bad business for Marvel. And if Marvel has proven anything over the last decade, business is something they're pretty darned good at.