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Official NYCC MU Discussion

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That's all really interesting! Thanks for all the sharing on this. It's hard to imagine with the incredible brand value these characters represent that a guy like Perlmutter is still in charge of this stuff. It sounds like pettiness factors into this as well as everything else. Like others raised on X-men, I'm exceptionally bummed that they're downplaying X-men right now. Not seeing much X_men in the figures is disappointing as well.

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I don't know. I guess this puts pressure on these studios, but as long as Fox has successful X-men movies, are they really going to want to give the rights back? They have a good deal here, it seems, and they've been able to make money off these movies pretty consistently.

 

So is this really working? I have doubts. It seems more harassment than anything, and it only works as long as public opinion is still with Marvel. But once people get sick of not having X-men merchandise, fans could easily decide Marvel is making the situation for itself.

 

In a way, I could see the Fantastic Four rights returning. There is something about Fantastic Four that seems hardly marketable today, though it's full of interesting concepts. But the FF heroes aren't sleek, and sleek is definitely in. The idea of astounding things happening isn't exactly what makes these movies work so far, while it is the engine of the original FF series. And clearly, Fox has no idea how to make this work. But X-men is still a cow that gives rich cream for Fox, isn't it? Those films seem basically on-track, as long as most people are concerned. It seems unlikely that Fox will be so cowed by Marvel that they give up their film rights.

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The next two X-Men movies (Apocalypse and Deadpool) are both likely to do well. It will be several years before there's even a possibility the X-films will start to fail, so in the meantime it seems X-Men fans are SOL. The FF definitely work best in the comics. Fraction's and Hickman's semi-recent runs showed there was still a lot there to work with. Too bad nobody seems capable of translating it to film.

 

Funny how Ike is rumored to be a large part of all this. I read a book several years ago about the Marvel bankruptcy in the '90s, and try as he might (and he certainly did try), the author could not successfully portray Ike in a positive manner. And he was supposed one of the "good" guys of that whole sad era!

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I'm not too familiar with Disney Infinite, but isn't it tied in to films? Isn't it possible that they are not legally allowed to do FF and X-Men characters based on film rights, and less so an outright ban?

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I don't know what to think about the whole Marvel vs Fox thing anymore. I am just going to go watch what I want too and try and have a good time. So far I have been liking the recent X-Men films.

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I'm not too familiar with Disney Infinite, but isn't it tied in to films? Isn't it possible that they are not legally allowed to do FF and X-Men characters based on film rights, and less so an outright ban?

Not exactly. They often have characters in comic style costumes as and not movie style. They could easily have comic style Wolverine and FF. The problem is that Disney uses Infinity to advertise all of their films (not just Marvel, but Star Wars and all Disney stuff too). They see Infinity as a bit of marketing. They will not use Fox-owned characters because they would consider that to be advertising Fox's film properties.

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hope to see some new stuff today.. whats the chances of that happening?

Zero for the whole weekend. Hasbro hasn't done a full NYCC appearance in years. They do the preview night thing that is technically not part of the show, but that is it. The only noteworthy Marvel announcements will be for the Netflix shows at tomorrow's panel. I'm expecting a Jessica Jones trailer and some rough footage from Daredevil season 2.

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That's interesting, to have the decision essentially confirmed like that. I mean, from a branding point of view it makes a certain short-sighted sort of sense. But for the manufacturers exploiting these licenses it's got to be a significant kick to the crotch to have to tamp down on their X-men and FF usage. Collecting is full of people who grew up on the X-men cartoon and the Uncanny X-men's enormously successful print run, and the FF has a collection of most of the best Marvel villains. I wonder if Disney/Marvel's aim is to pressure Fox and Sony to play ball with their creative decisions? Spider-man seems to have avoided this blacklist.

 

 

Yeah I was curious as to why Spider Man was still release able but I guess because his rights are under Sony?

 

 

Spidey is a whole different thing. The short of it from the deals is this:

 

When Disney bought Marvel, Sony shortly after sold back most of the merchandising rights and the tv rights to Marvel. This was to basically keep making the films.

When Fox got Fantastic Four, they got a large portion of the merchandise rights (more than half)

When Fox got X-Men, Marvel got a more equal portion of the rights (probably something like 51/49)

 

What that boils down to is this: Marvel dictates what gets made. Hence no FF movie or X-Men movie figures. Movie figures = split profits. Comic figures = 100% Marvel's. Why does Spidey avoid this? Because something like 75-80% of the profits go to Marvel. That's why AM2 was actually fine for Marvel but a disaster for Sony. Hasbro made a killing in Spidey toy sales but Sony barely saw most of that profit.

 

Fox ticked off Ike Perlmutter who controls what gets made and doesn't (most recent rumor being he's the one responsible for so little Black Widow merchandise around AOU's release). So to spite Fox, he killed ALL FF merchandise and drastically reduced the X-Men for leverage. Now that FF has bombed terribly and Feige has been reorganized under a new boss, we'll see if that changes anything. But as far as I know, Ike still controls the merchandise and he'll keep FF and X-Men in limbo until Fox caves (which may be never or may be sooner than we expect given how a major reason for a blockbuster like the FF or X-Men is the merchandise)

So basically, until the X-men movies actually do poorly at the box office and force Fox to release the rights back to Marvel, Ike is jus going to ransom the merchandising? Ruthless!!! Hahahaha!!!

 

Well, if First Class and DoFP are any indications, the next film should be just as good. Which means no new X-Men merchandise. This sort of makes more sense, but every now and then an X-Men figure gets sprinkled in somewhere. There really hasn't been anything new with Wolverine though, who is "Mr. X-Men" when it comes to figures. Which I thought was strange and the FF have been all but forgotten in terms of figures.

 

It's a shame too because there could have been massive amounts of characters made by now! We could've had Darwin, Azael, Sebastian Shaw, Banshee, SunSpot, Blink, Viper, and variations of everyone's else! Like Kitty Pryde! She needs another figure made, so does Mystique, Magneto, Rogue, ....

 

I wonder how long does Fox hold the movie licensing for X-Men and FF?

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I don't know exactly. It seems as if, so long as they keep paying for it and making a movie every X-amount of years, they can keep those rights alive.

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I've wondered if the reason we are seeing some things shuffled around with this relaunch is this issue. Aren't they kind of taking the characters in question and associating them with other properties?

 

What? Kitty? No, she's not an X-Man! She's with the GotG. Thing (or Torch?) too! Ditto on the Thing or Torch: he's an Inhuman (I forget which went where).

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What? Kitty? No, she's not an X-Man! She's with the GotG. Thing (or Torch?) too! Ditto on the Thing or Torch: he's an Inhuman (I forget which went where).

Ben is with the Guardians, and Johnny is with the Inhumans and Uncanny Avengers.

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The whole Fox vs. Marvel thing seems so utterly petty to me. Marvel not making better use of all those great mutant characters and revitalizing the appropriate comics is really doing themselves more harm than Fox, when you consider how well those comics used to perform. And my understanding is that it would be Marvel making money from merchandizing ventures (notably action figures!), not Fox, so again, they are just shooting themselves in the foot. I'm talking about action figures in general, and not movie tie-in lines.

Back on topic, Hasbro's reveal this year was pretty dull. But at least we have a definite wave line-up (and for me what a line-up -- my most wanted figures revealed at SDCC all in one wave!). And I really do like the new packaging. The return of the card art is very welcome, and I think it looks great. Here's hoping it will bring back some of those MOC collectors who lost interest when the card art disappeared.

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The whole Fox vs. Marvel thing seems so utterly petty to me. Marvel not making better use of all those great mutant characters and revitalizing the appropriate comics is really doing themselves more harm than Fox, when you consider how well those comics used to perform. And my understanding is that it would be Marvel making money from merchandizing ventures (notably action figures!), not Fox, so again, they are just shooting themselves in the foot. I'm talking about action figures in general, and not movie tie-in lines.

 

 

It's an interesting issue, though, and it's compounded somewhat by the way the minute Marvel got the rights to Daredevil back they turned around and made something pretty damn awesome with it. So that aspect of the situation goes some way to suggesting that Marvel could do a much better job with the mutants if they got them back. And maybe even with Fantastic Four. On the other hand, Fox seems on much more solid ground with X-men, in a sense. They have a sort–of auteur behind the series in Bryan Singer, a sort-of dependable screenwriter with Kinberg, the ability to attract hot movie stars; and fans seem to appreciate Fox's X-men some part of the time.

 

I think the concept of the Fantastic Four is somewhat hobbled by our notions of modernity. The original series was based in large part on the concept of grand societal menaces, combatted by a team that looks like the American nuclear family. There was a sense of awe in the battles that was essentially a sense of social awe, in that it often consisted of a large public standing out on the street, looking up at something remarkable in the sky. The menaces the Fantastic Four fought in public were threats to our whole society, and in that sense the menaces were the external "other," and the Fantastic Four were "us," 50s American hegemony, financial stability and social success, with solid, yet unexamined moral values (though they originate in the early 60s, the quartet are really agents of Stan Lee's 50s-era social value schema––a male-dominated household, a mother, father, 2.5 children, so long as Ben and Johnny stand in as children along with the actual children to come later).

 

On another level, in Dr. Doom the Fantastic Four had something of a perfect foil, in that no matter what new facet of his character was revealed––ruler, scientist, sorceror––Doom was essentially a lone operator. What he lacked, and ultimately sort of envied, was the cohesiveness of the Fantastic Four as a family. Doom, by contrast, is out for himself, and can never really prosper except in the pursuit of his own, individual needs––thus he's alone, by himself, as well, and his personality, with its emphasis on verbally reiterating his own superiority ad nauseam, is that of the isolated, lonely individual, desperate to belong and to be valued. Even if he's a decent ruler of Latveria compared to other potential rulers, Doom still makes a fascist cult of himself as ruler, so that the essential struggle in Fantastic Four is still always a cohesive social group against a lone, despotic individual. Galactus and the Silver Surfer are also versions of the lone operator that Doom is, and even characters with large armies, like the Mole Man, are essentially alone in their kingdoms; Mole Man is the single higher intellect that inhabits his underground society. The Fantastic Four contrast this solitude by arguing and acting out their social roles vis-a-vis one another. They are husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child relationships, and in acting out these roles, the Fantastic Four offer a kind of nuclear-family contrast to the sinister machinations of lone, selfish figures.

 

This is a story structure that goes back to ancient times––the contrasting of social cohesion vs. anti-social outsider, and you can find the seeds of it in Beowulf (where Grendel and his mother represent menacing social outcasts and Beowulf is the organizing prosocial force and the hero). But in the contemporary world I think we don't view society as the progressive, protecting force we once did. More popular now is the notion that society is oppressive of our natural rights and freedoms––both in terms of propagating prejudice and in terms of restricting individual action. The X-men actually represent this struggle quite effectively at times––their society wants them gone because they're different. But the change in the way we view our society has, I think changed the way we view formerly prosocial characters like the Fantastic Four. In the contemporary age, they now come across as defenders of a false orthodoxy, fronting their 50s-era, white-bread family values in ways that seem alien and alienating to lots of people. The X-men actually go farther to represent the modern family, in that its members come from all over the place and are considerably dysfunctional together, only uniting over ideological agreement and physical peril. The X-men's enemies are society itself, and those who exploit the conformism inherent in society. The Fantastic Four are, quite by accident, representatives of that very conformism. The Fantastic Four's enemies look less threatening than they once did––Reverend Stryker and the Sentinels are more chilling and real-seeming threats than The Wizard, the Mad Thinker, or even Dr. Doom, in a way. Even Galactus seems less threatening than he once did, because evil now comes more palpably and credibly from our own society than from without. One of the Fantastic Four's chief sub-themes, space travel, is sidelined somewhat as well as we turn our backs on government-funded exploration of space travel.

 

So I guess what I'm saying is that none of the Fantastic Four's principal themes feel as immediate and relevant as they once did. It's harder to get access to the Fantastic Four than it once was. The X-men still seem relevant because so many of us buy into the essential values that series represents. The X-men's suspicion of society as a controlling, conformist force echoes so many peoples feelings today. The Fantastic Four's "let's do this together for the good of us all" mentality seems archaic and even somewhat threatening.

 

For people more interested in superheroes using their powers in cool ways, the Fantastic Four is still perhaps pretty relevant; their powers are wide-ranging and still pretty fascinating, offering so many possibilities for how they might work (the New Mutants, by contrast, feel like they're hitting the edge of what's interesting about their powers about 10 issues into their first volume––it's the personalities of the New Mutants which keep that book interesting as it progresses, not the fights), and so many potential innovations for their use. But I don't think this gets at the essence of the Fantastic Four's story structure––so many times these characters are interesting because their internal story structure is dynamic and resonant. Spider-man's essential story––unlucky, beset on all sides with challenges and the needs of others, wrestling with the choice to do right––is resonant with so many people because it supports and even romanticizes what so many of us feel is our own individual struggle within our social circumstances. Peter Parker is always worried over what he's going to say in this situation or that situation, and that worry is as engrossing as anything he does as Spider-man. The reason, I think, so many people, even outside of comic readers, identify with Spider-man is less about his powers and more about the way he thinks and feels and processes the world around him. As individuals trying to make an impression on the people around us, most of us think and act and feel a bit like Peter Parker. So in a way I think Spider-man will always seem fresh so long as people feel as he does, an individual trying to make it in a society where he only sort of conforms. But is the central idea behind the Fantastic Four as relevant to today as it was relevant when it was first created? I think there's a good case to made that says, essentially, "no."

 

So in a way it seems to me Fox has a sort of a lemon on their hands. Most likely, Marvel could do something better with the Fantastic Four, but I'm not sure it would be something that people identify with or appreciate very much. Breaking up the Fantastic Four in the comics actually seems like a pretty good idea to me. Now, marginalizing the X-men does not seem that way. I wish Disney/Marvel would recognize that Fox doing well with X-men actually helps bolster their brand value more than it does Fox's. Since they're still making money in the venture, and doing great with the properties they still own, this all does seem somewhat petty. And I'm surprised Fox hasn't given back Fantastic Four by this point, because I don't think they will be able to generate the hit with Fantastic Four which they have with X-men. It seems like a drain on their financial resources more than a valuable asset. But then again, making a Fantastic Four movie put a lot of their people to work, so perhaps there's some gain from it.

 

Now, Marvel's propping up of the Inhumans as an alternative X-men is just preposterous, and I wish Marvel would abandon this Quixotic notion. The Inhumans' royal quibbles––rendered blandly and not helped by their only intermittent appearances throughout the years––can't really take the place of the X-men's progressive decades of character development. The X-men have to be viewed as essentially richer and more valuable character properties than the Inhumans, and not as equals. Nothing Marvel does in this rather pale era of superhero comics can make up for that lost time, and make the Inhumans as interesting and valuable a property. Jacking with the X-men to boost the Inhumans seems like a strategy that just won't work, and this whole "terrigen mists are suddenly making the X-men sterile" storyline seems like a very desperate ploy on the part of Marvel. But I really don't get why Fox wants to hold on to the Fantastic Four in the midst of all this. They should give it back to Marvel and focus on making X-men more cohesive.

 

 

As for NYCC, it was unexciting, and for us 1:18 collectors, not at all encouraging. I think the Legends Rogue figure was probably the highlight in terms of Marvel figures. The new 1:18 card art is fine––definitely better than what they had been using. It is interesting that they're returning to a layout similar to the one they abandoned when they ended MU and started Infinite. The layout isn't quite as comfortably resolved as it was on the MU cards, to my mind, but it isn't bad. Interesting they're not promoting the artist doing the character art anymore––it seems like Marvel doesn't have as many of those brand-associated artists as they did when MU began. Deodato, Bianchi and Coipel are a lot lower-profile than they had been, and Frank Cho hardly works for Marvel these days. Who is doing the card art for these new ones? It almost looks like Dexter Soy's painting.

 

The continued rebranding of our scale is not reassuring. I wonder if retailers are really beguiled by this tactic? How long before they can do a "Triumphant Return of Marvel Universe Figures," a la the return of Legends? By this time a lot of us feel as used and abused as Legends collectors did before their relaunch. At least we got a closer look at some of the upcoming figures. It would have been nice to see another wave, though, or a special reveal, like the Legends Rogue figure.

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Ulik,Triton and Yondu are the must haves for me in the first wave. The others are either "Don't know too much about" or "I got my favorite version already so don't need".

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What? Kitty? No, she's not an X-Man! She's with the GotG. Thing (or Torch?) too! Ditto on the Thing or Torch: he's an Inhuman (I forget which went where).

Ben is with the Guardians, and Johnny is with the Inhumans and Uncanny Avengers.

And, old news of course, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver are not only no longer Magneto's children but also not mutants. Gotta love it. Thanks Marvel!

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Feihong, as I've stated many times in the past, I love your analysis (and wish I could teach my students to write like you).

 

I have two questions for you (one in multiple parts). Do you think the Fantastic Four could be simultaneously altered to be made more relevant without losing (ruining) the central core of the book, and if so, how would you approach doing so? Also, have you ever considered preparing a collection of essays like the one above for publication? The field needs more comic book scholarship.

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I enjoyed your post, feihong. The FF can't be mutated and updated like the X-Men can because they are a traditionally fixed set. I don't think Marvel wants FF back to update them (more multi-racial? more liberal? less rich, anglo, or whatever else isn't selling these days). I think they just want Galactus for the next MCU phase and use FF as mostly off-screen helpers.

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I think they just want Galactus for the next MCU phase and use FF as mostly off-screen helpers.

Call me a heretic, but I really want to see Annihilus more than any other FF character. Seeing the actual Negative Zone with a war between Annihilus and Blastaar? Yes please.

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I think they just want Galactus for the next MCU phase and use FF as mostly off-screen helpers.

 

Call me a heretic, but I really want to see Annihilus more than any other FF character. Seeing the actual Negative Zone with a war between Annihilus and Blastaar? Yes please.

Agreed. They need to move forward and stop rehashing what we've already seen, regardless of the studio responsible. I personally never need to see another Spider-Man origin story. Ever.

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That one was a real triumph for commercial expediency. That retcon made really zero sense.

 

Yep....and is basically what made me stop caring.

Although I have heard there is a backdoor to reverse all of it or to let people who think its dumb (most readers) to outright ignore it.

 

I think the Fantastic Four absolutely still works in a modern setting...The Incredibles proves that it does.

The problem is it doesn't work that well in the comics today or in the MCU. The FF are largely built around idealism and that is not something that comics of movies cater too.

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