Before you go any further you need to know that this is 100% an “if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle” kind of feature. I’m fully aware of Fox’s statements of support for the future of the Fantastic Four in the wake of the box office disaster of their latest effort. However, I’m also fully aware of Sony’s plans to push ahead with an entire Spider-verse… right up until they did not. If you had asked me 1 year ago if I thought Marvel Studios might have a chance to get back Spider-Man, I’d have said no and I’d have also sadly said there was a 0% chance of the Fantastic Four rights returning. Now, given the enormity of the financial failure of Josh Trank‘s 2/3 of a Fantastic Four movie, I have moved the % chance above 0. This is not meant to be a guarantee, but a fan’s vision of how a Fox/Marvel deal to return the Fantastic Four and some associated characters could define the MCU in Phase 4 and beyond. I also do not know all the intricacies involved in the film rights (if you know the person who does, send him my way) so I’m operating on the premise that Marvel Studios could reacquire the rights to these characters in some sort of exchange with Fox. In order of how I’d like to see the characters appear in the MCU, here’s how some great Marvel characters can impact the film slate.
While it’s hard to imagine the actual first family making their way into Phase 3 this late it in the game, it’s entirely possible that one of the great Jack Kirby characters to stem from their title could enter the lineup. While Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge hit, any attempt by the studio to expand the Cosmic side of the MCU will be tough given that a good chunk of the film rights to their best characters reside with Fox. We know that the Cosmic heroes will team up with Earth’s Mightiest at some point in Avengers: Infinity War and getting an assist here from the Surfer would really boost their chances. The Silver Surfer has a long comic book history with the Mad Titan Thanos, the antagonist of those upcoming films, and his appearance in the films could mirror the one in Jim Starlin‘s Infinity Gauntlet in which he alerts Earth’s heroes of Thanos’ Cosmic-scale genocide. While a lot of fans might like to see Galactus enter the fray here as well, I very much prefer holding off on the Devourer of Worlds until later as not to overdo it, allowing the Surfer’s appearance to tease what is to come and keep in line with his character.
As Phase 3 wraps up following the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, the Cosmic side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will only have just breached the surface. Marvel Studios seemingly hold the rights to very few of the major Cosmic characters and alien races and have been very liberal in the reinventions of the ones they do. In Guardians of the Galaxy, we learned that the Kree Empire has a longstanding feud with the Xandarians, home of the Nova Corps. In doing so, Marvel Studios understandably, modified one the great alien rivalries in the comics: the Kree-Skrull rivalry.
The film rights to the Skrulls seem to fall in the murky, grey waters between Fox and Marvel Studios. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, it seems Marvel Studios can use the Skrulls generically, but the rights to some more specific Skrulls, like Kl’rt the Super Skrull, reside with Fox. I’ve wondered for a while now if the Skrulls were in Marvel Studios plans at all or if some contractual limitations with Fox (especially those that pertain to merchandising) might keep the green shapeshifters on the sidelines. Well, if there’s ever a time for Marvel to get full control of the Skrulls, it might be before Phase 4.
One of the major recent story arcs that Marvel Studios have yet to explore in the MCU is 2008’s Secret Invasion. The arc spread out among most of Marvel’s major titles and saw Earth’s Mightiest Heroes replaced by Skrull shapeshifters, causing distrust among them and the public.
In the aftermath of the Avengers battling Thanos, it’s possible they may catch the attention of the rest of the Cosmos and maybe the Skrulls could come to Earth and slowly come into play over the course of Phase 4.
The Fantastic Four and Kang the Conqueror
Of all my ideas of how to incorporate the Fantastic Four family of characters into the MCU, I like this one the most and, therefore, expect it to be the least well-received!
In the event the Fantastic Four return to Marvel Studios, I doubt anyone wishes to see another origin story so, much like they are doing with Spider-Man, I’d like to see the story of the Fantastic Four picked up en media res. Given that the Fantastic Four were some of the world’s first super-powered people and explorers of the unknown, I’d like to see Marvel Studios capitalize on those aspects to bring an older, seasoned Fantastic Four to the MCU.
In my world, we don’t meet the Fantastic Four until the end of Phase 4 (possibly even at the end of that Phases’ capstone film) when the team emerges from the time stream warning of the threat of Kang. A Phase 5 Fantastic Four film could follow, flashing back to the 1990s and seeing Reed Richards take his team on a classified deep space exploration. The mission takes a turn when Richards decides to investigate a temporal anomaly, pushing the team through spacetime. Traveling through this rift, the team gains their powers and faces off with Kang the Conquerer in a neat twist on his time travel modus operandi.
This version of the Fantastic Four will be a tight-knit crew, hardened by their battles in the timestream, in control of their powers and with Sue as their center (a place where I think both versions Fox has made have failed). To top off the crazy, I’d like to see Jim Carrey take on the role of Reed Richards and Zac Efron as Johnny. I know that leaves a Sue and Ben, but I’m just not sure. Whomever they cast as Sue must become THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT character in the franchise. At any rate, my Fantastic Four will NEVER be mistaken for a Fox film.
Of all the characters Marvel Studios stands to gain in a deal with Fox, Victor Von Doom is the most valuable. You may be familiar with my thoughts about the lack of strong villains in the MCU; the addition of Doctor Doom solves that problem in perpetuity. While always the arch-enemy of the Fantastic Four, Doom is a Cosmic level threat and a character that hasn’t been represented with any sort of comic book veracity.
The MCU Doctor Doom should be genius and a master of both science and magic, on the level of both Reed Richards and Stephen Strange. This Doom, who we will meet in flashbacks in the Fantastic Four film, will have spent the last 20+ years rising to power in his homeland of Latveria. This Doom will reveal himself at full power as an Avenger’s antagonist in Phase 5. What bone will this Doom have to pick with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? His homeland of Latveria experienced some damage when its bordering country, Sokovia, was destroyed. This Doom will be the threat he deserves to be.
The great Annihilus, Lord of the Negative Zone, could make his introduction into the MCU much in the same way he found his way into the comics: as a result of yet another Fantastic Four exploration into new worlds. I like the idea of the family settling in back to Earth and Sue and Reed deciding to have children. Fans of the comics will recall that Sue’s morning sickness was a little worse than normal and that it led to the introduction of the Negative Zone. A Fantastic Four sequel would give us the an intro to Annihilus and the Negative Zone ahead of a Cosmic saga of Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, marking the return of Ultron!
I know we are 20 years ahead at this point, but this is the film I want to see wrap up Phase 6. The Fantastic Four, fully reintegrated on Earth, fighting alongside the Avengers and every other hero to fight Galactus. This film would bring the Silver Surfer back to Earth (though it won’t be the first time we’ve seen him since his arrival in Avengers: Infinity War) and will be the equivalent of Avengers: Infinity War-Part 2. This Galactus will not be a fart cloud, but the Devourer of Worlds, a threat that we will likely have seen built up throughout some of Marvel Studios’ other films.
The Future Foundation
Where are we now? Phase 7? Phase 12? I’m not sure, but in order for Marvel Studios to keep continuity and to stay fresh, they have to keep going. I like to imagine that somewhere along the line we’ve met the Young Avengers along with the Runaways, Power Pack, Miles Morales, Fallon Grey, Sam Alexander and Kamala Khan. The Future Foundation, led by Dragon Man and some leftover Moloids could feature Valeria and Franklin (my choice for the future lead of the MCU). The FF could allow characters such as Reed, Sue, Johnny, Ben, Spider-Man and others to continue to exist while focusing on the next generation. Obviously I see the MCU continuing into the 2030s and beyond, but having Franklin Richards, the most powerful character yet, anchoring the future, nothing can seem too far beyond the imagination.
I can’t say whether or not Marvel Studios and Fox will ever come to an agreement on these characters. This is just a thought piece from a thinker about just how awesome adding this list of incredible characters would be for the MCU. Only time will tell just how far Marvel Studios is willing to go to explore their options with their First Family.