In the comic book community, it’s commonly assumed that Marvel has spent the last few years quietly deemphasizing a lot of the characters that it doesn’t own the movie rights to. For example, Fox controls the X-Men movies, so the comic book X-Men were gradually sidelined in favor of the Inhumans. The exception to this was Spider-Man, who is so popular that Marvel won’t touch him, but the biggest casualty of this supposed policy has been the Fantastic Four, who haven’t had their own comic book for several years. As this theory goes, Marvel has been particularly spiteful toward the Fantastic Four because Fox’s movies have been so lousy, with the idea being that the publisher is trying to tank the property so bad in comics and merchandise that it’s worthless to Fox, which will then give up the movie rights—or start making better movies.
Up until now, this has been little more than a interesting theory that explains why Marvel has been so willing to ignore a group of historically important characters, but now former Fantastic Four writer Jonathan Hickman has basically confirmed that it’s true. Speaking with Newsarama, Hickman explained that “it’s pretty common knowledge” that Marvel has stopped publishing Fantastic Four books because of a “disagreement with Fox.” Hickman isn’t a Marvel executive, so he could just be repeating the same rumor everybody else has heard, but he was the writer behind the recent Secret Wars event that gave characters like Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm one last big story together before essentially removing them from the board.
If Marvel really is done with Fantastic Four comics because of the movies, though, Hickman isn’t happy about it. “That kind of thinking runs contrary to everything I believe in as a professional storyteller,” he says. “It comes from a place of manipulation where an attempt is made to make the reader desire something through denial.” He also compares it to “shitty dating advice” and says that Marvel should “write a story that [people] care about” if it wants someone to like Fantastic Four comics.