Movies are big business, and a business deal is going to change the superhero movie landscape. Disney’s purchase of Fox’s movie empire looks certain to go ahead. While the dust won’t settle until mid-to-late 2019, Disney CEO Bob Iger has already promised that the Marvel Cinematic Universe will expand dramatically. We expect the addition of both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four.
How can Marvel bring the Fantastic Four into the MCU? Attention has mostly focused on the potential addition of the X-Men so far. We want to consider Marvel’s First Family, the Fantastic Four. There are two possible routes Marvel could take to integrate the two storylines – here’s how the merger could work.
Root the Fantastic Four In MCU History
“You think you’re the only superhero in town?” With those words, Nick Fury welcomed Tony Stark to a universe of heroes and villains, gods, aliens, and sorcerers. Marvel movies and TV shows stress that these things have always been part of the MCU. Sometimes they’ve just been hidden from view. The Masters of the Mystic Arts have protected reality for generations. Ant-Man and the Wasp served as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents during the Cold War. Ghost was an unseen S.H.I.E.L.D. operative going back to Phase 1.
The Fantastic Four could be woven into MCU history in a way similar to Ghost. They could be lost in the Negative Zone or adventuring in space until the present day. The problem is that, at least in the comics, the FF have always been publicly known as superheroes. Their very first issue saw Reed Richards send up a flare to summon his team, much to the shock of the New York public. The FF lends itself to a spectacle, and they’ve always known it. Not least the Human Torch, who loves both thrills and attention.
Next year’s Captain Marvel will reveal that Carol Danvers suited up as a superhero years before Tony Stark forged his first armor. It’s currently unknown why she didn’t get involved in the Chitauri invasion of 2012, or Ultron’s attempted genocide a couple of years later. Theories suggest she’s either been out in space, fighting on the front lines of the Kree Empire’s wars, or trapped in the Quantum Realm. Would Marvel want to repeat the same approach for the Fantastic Four?
An Origin Story
The second option is to introduce the Fantastic Four in the present day. But should Marvel do an origin story for the FF? Or should they skip the origin altogether, as they did for Spider-Man? Doing an origin story seems prudent since the Four aren’t exactly a small-scale group of heroes. Unlike Spider-Man, the FF won’t bother fighting for the “little guy” in Queens. Their presence will be felt from the first moment they enter the MCU.
An origin story would have to be something fresh and new. Still, inspiration could come from the “Heroes Reborn” relaunch in the ’90s, or the Ultimate Universe initiative in the early 2000s. These imagined how some classic Fantastic Four arcs would play out in the present day. Josh Trank’s 2015 Fantastic Four lifted a lot of ideas from the Ultimate Universe, which is also a major source of inspiration for the MCU. So the better approach would be to look to “Heroes Reborn.”
The Excelsior Project
“Heroes Reborn” imagined Fantastic Four leader Reed Richards as the creator of the Excelsior Project, a next-generation spacecraft. Rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents took control of the launch, attempting to use Excelsior to intercept a cosmic presence about to intrude in the Solar System. That “presence” was the Silver Surfer. Naturally, the operation went catastrophically wrong, and four people were endowed with the Power Cosmic.
The twelve-issue Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four run built up to the arrival of Galactus, the titanic planet-eater. It wouldn’t be difficult to adapt to this storyline as the basis for a movie, or even a series of films.
This is probably the best approach Marvel could take. The studio could tell a story unlike anything we’ve seen on the big screen before, based in the present day of the MCU. While “Heroes Reborn” wasn’t exactly a massive success back in the ’90s, that was more to do with the collapse of the entire comic book industry at the time. The comics are good and the concepts are strong. This Fantastic Four could be a stunning new addition to the MCU.