Today I’m going to get deep into nerdville. So if you’re one of those friends on FaceBook or somewhere that isn’t really into geek culture you may find yourself lost when reading this.
Specifically, I’d like to reference a few items of recent discussion amongst fans of comic-books and media tie-ins to those various franchises–to whit, Fantastic Four and X-men.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about how 20th Century Fox Films holds the rights to both Fantastic Four and X-Men. Actually a lot of confusion about this, because what Fox Films holds are the FILM rights to these properties, even though Marvel Entertainment is now a fully owned subsidiary of Disney. So there’s some tension there–you’d figure there would be, right?
So Marvel has now cancelled Fantastic Four as a monthly publication, and has also forbidden the creation of any new characters in X-Men. Which has some people in comics fandom howling, and has apparently rankled more than a few creative’s feelings.
It seems everyone is resolved that Fantastic Four was selling poorly enough that Marvel could stop publishing it for a while.
But what’s so terrible about putting a cap on the number of X-Men? Honestly? There’s only like about 6000 of those mutants bouncing around in the Marvel Universe! And they only use Wolverine in ever X-Men or Mutant title every month.
When I was a much younger man (this is going back to the late 70s and early 80s) there was a constant cry (mostly from Marvel fans) that the DC Universe (Multiverse) was “too complex”. Thinking back to that time there were probably about 6000 members of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and there was the problem of “multiple universes” (Earth-One with the present day superheroes, Earth-Two with the golden age heroes, etc.) that seemed to bug a lot of people. Frankly, at the time I loved the complexity of the Legion of Super-Heroes, I loved the complexity of the “multiple universes”. So I was really disappointed that day when one of my heroes, Mike Grell, announced that he thought they should just scrap the whole DC Multiverse and get back to basics.
Mike must have been in his 40s back then. I’m now in my 50s and you know what? It must be part of growing up–now I’d like to see someone simplify the Marvel Universe, because it has the same problem that DC did back in the 80s: Too many characters, multiple timelines (which is, let’s face it, the SAME thing as multiple universes).
My wife and I went out to see X-Men: Days of Future Past this summer. While I found it an entertaining enough movie, I did not get that the female character that was sending Wolverine into the past was supposed to be Kitty Pride. (For the record, my wife tells me that she did realize it was Kitty–toward the end of the film).
Why the confusion? Could it be the fact that there are myriad X-Men running around in multiple time-lines (or “universes”) confusing the heck out of guys in their 50s who used to read the book, but now are only tangentially aware of what’s going on (you know, enough to be hopefully be able to turn in some sample pages if Marvel should call?)
So I for one am glad that Marvel is putting a cap on new X-Men. I think I may even be glad that they’re letting the FF take a break after 50 years. Those guys have been through the ringer, let them have a respite on the beach somewhere! Who knows? In a few years, when the smoke has cleared, maybe I’ll have a chance to reboot FF–what’s the worst that could happen?
Well–the worst that could happen is that we’d drive the franchise into the ground. Don’t want that to happen–but it’s unlikely to happen if the book has had a chance to cool off for a while and demand has been created. It doesn’t always work out that way, but it has before.
Like when DC and Timely cancelled nearly all their superhero titles in the late 40s, and then began bringing them back in the late 50s and early 60s. It worked great then!
When it has worked lousy was all the times when a bunch of suits at the comics publishers have tried to determine how short a period of time they should keep a title off the shelves, hinting they’d be bringing the title back in no more than 6 months. Because that’s not “taking a break”, that’s “planning a reboot”.
Okay, a bit of ramble for my first blog in months. But to sum up:
Cap on the number of X-Men, good.
Hiatus for Fantastic Four, potentially good.
Suits involved in creative decisions, bad.