Everything You Need To Know About The Fantastic Four's Disappearance From Marvel Comics

The End and Return of the Fantastic Four, as seen in the covers of Fantastic Four #645 and new art from the announcement of the team's return.Image: Leonard Kirk and Jesus Aburtov (Marvel Comics), Sara Pichelli (Marvel Comics)

After a few years away, Marvel Comics triumphantly announced that the complete and original Fantastic Four team - Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Ben Grimm, and Johnny Storm - would be reunited in their own ongoing comic series. Confused about how Marvel's First Family actually went away in the first place? Here's what you need to know.

The end began for the Fantastic Four in April 2015, when the final issue of their ongoing comic came to an end with Fantastic Four #645 (after a few years of separate series, the book had returned to the classic numbering of the book that had kicked it all off back in 1961).

Conflicting beliefs about just why the series was finally ending were flung around - at the time Fantastic Four was selling decently, but not particularly lighting the comics world on fire.

Johnny Storm uses his newly-regained powers to light the sky up in the final page of Fantastic Four #645.Image: Leonard Kirk, Karl Kesel, Scott Hanna, Jesus Aburtov, and Israel Silva (Marvel Comics)

The more alluring and dramatic conclusion from fans came from constantly swirling rumours about spats between the company's film arm, Marvel Studios, and 20th Century Fox, which held (and still holds) the movie rights to the Fantastic Four.

At the time, Fox's reboot of the beleaguered FF movie franchise - which it had to keep going to maintain the rights - was on its way to theatres and, if rumours were to be believed, Marvel scrapped the series to avoid giving Fox free advertising through comics.

Whatever ended up being the cause, #645 became the last Fantastic Four comic for a while, but it didn't take the FF out of the picture in the comic book universe.

If anything, it ended as a fond farewell, with Johnny Storm's powers restored and one of the quartet's greatest threats overcome after an exhausting battle with the Quiet Man. Fantastic Four #645 gave signs of a bright future for the team.

But then Secret Wars happened, and the Marvel Universe as fans knew it - alongside the Ultimate Marvel Universe - came to an explosive, destructive end.

Secret Wars opens with the aforementioned universes smashing together in an apocalyptic event known as the Convergence, wiping out both realities and the vast majority of their inhabitants.

A few, including the Fantastic Four, manage to escape on an interstellar ship of Reed's own design, but mid-escape a section of the craft breaks up - to Reed's horror, seemingly taking Sue, Ben, Johnny, and his children Franklin and Valeria with it.

The Fantastic Four seemingly splinters in the pages of Secret Wars #1. Image: Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina (Marvel Comics)

From there, things get a bit weird; the rest of the FF didn't die, thanks to an intervention by none other than the team's greatest rival, Doctor Doom. Secret Wars sees Doom (with the help of the power of Molecule Man, who's vast multiversal power could make Doom omnipotent) forge a new world, the Battleworld, out of the shattered remnants of previously destroyed worlds in the Marvel Multiverse.

And, because he's Doctor Doom, he makes it a world where he is its absolute god ... a god that finally has Reed Richard's family by his side as his own. The creation of Battleworld leads to Sue, Franklin, and Valeria having their memories altered, vaguely aware of who Reed is when he finds them, but still faithful to God Doom.

Of course, this doesn't last. By working with his villainous Ultimate-Universe self, known as the Maker, alongside the remnants of the Marvel Universe left in Battleworld, Reed eventually overcomes Doom's rule, using the help of the imprisoned Molecule Man to rob Doom of his vast powers, and in the process, reforging a new Marvel Multiverse.

That Multiverse is what readers encountered in the late 2015 launch of All-New, All-Different, a familiar-but-not-quite-the-same relaunch of Marvel's comic output that brought a whole bunch of changes for established characters.

Franklin, Valeria, Sue, and Reed reveal their plan to restore the multiverse in Secret Wars #9.Image: Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina (Marvel Comics)

The Fantastic Four weren't part of it, however. Reed sends Johnny and Ben back to the new Marvel Universe, but he, Franklin, Valeria, and Sue, alongside the whiz-kids of the Future Foundation, stay behind with the Molecule Man.

Using Franklin's insanely powerful abilities to dream up new universes, Reed works with Molecule Man to rebuild the alternate realities of the Marvel Multiverse, and then explore them with his family. Not as superheroes, not as the Fantastic Four, but simply as a family of scientists.

Back in the primary Marvel Universe, though, for all intents and purposes Johnny and Ben believe that their beloved family has been shattered - even their former home and base, the Baxter Building, gets bought up by Peter Parker, now the billionaire CEO of his own tech company.

They go their separate ways, with Johnny signing up with the Uncanny Avengers' "Unity Squad" promoting joint operations between Inhumans and Mutants (as well as spending more time with the Inhumans in general, including a brief romantic relationship with their queen Medusa).

Ben, meanwhile, headed to space as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. After the team briefly broke up in the wake of the events of Civil War II, he found himself working with SHIELD to investigate Dr. Doom, who since Secret Wars had seemingly turned over a new leaf, eventually taking up the mantle of Iron Man for a time.

Ben and Johnny set out on their mission to reunite the Fantastic Four in Marvel Two-in-One #4.Image: Valerio Schiti and Frank Martin (Marvel Comics)

More recently, Johnny and Ben decided to start working together again, honouring the memory of Reed and Sue in the pages of Marvel Two-In-One late last year.

The series has since seen the two discover that their cosmic-radiation-granted powers are fading away without the presence of Reed and Sue near them, leading to a desperate mission to explore the multiverse, on a hint that Reed and Sue might be out there.

Ben believes the mission is a dead end and that Reed and Sue are gone, so is just humouring Johnny's desire to see the Fantastic Four reunited - but the mission isn't as hopeless as Ben Grimm thinks it is.

Of course, we've always known that Reed, Sue, Franklin, and Valeria were always out there. We've even had teasers beyond Ben and Johnny's mission, with Marvel Legacy offering a window into the team's exploration of the multiverse, as well as Valeria's desire to return to her own universe for some exploration alongside familiar faces. This goal, we now know, is finally going to come to pass in just a few months.

Valeria Richards wants to find her way home in Marvel Legacy and turns out she'll get there soon enough.Image: Marvel Comics


We may never truly know why the Fantastic Four, one of Marvel's most enduring and beloved creations, went away for these past few years. The company itself has remained tight-lipped.

Fans who've long believed that conflicts with the movie division were behind the team's disappearance have been quick to note that the announcement of a new Fantastic Four comic is coming off the heels of Marvel's parent company Disney announcing plans late last year to purchase 20th Century Fox, a deal that would include returning the FF movie rights back to Marvel Studios.

But regardless of the reasons, the First Family will be reunited this August - and one of Marvel's oldest legacies will finally continue.


Comments

    Why mince words, Kotaku? Of course it was that movie that got the series cancelled. Not just fact it was a bad movie either. It wasn’t an MCU movie. That was two strikes.

    The evidence is all there. Look at MVC Infinite. Not an X-Person to be seen.
    Why you being so “We May never know...” about it?
    The answer is money.
    The article is called “Everything you need to know about the FF’s disappearance” and then straight up softcocks on that notion. Marvel were tight lipped because they didn’t have something pretty to tell everyone.
    If you’re a journalist you should know that if it smells like shit it’s probably shit. And this, alongside the X-Men thing, was some dank shit.

      Shhh, Kotaku doesn't want to offend anyone and only wants to praise terrible writing in comics. why would that change here.

        I’m starting to realise that there are a wide array of standards within the Kotaku team. It’s an inconsistent crew.
        You see people like Alex Walker who you can tell pushes himself to master his craft, then you get flimsy apologist BS like the above that vaginas it’s way around obvious truth.

          there is an unfortunate bias of things here particularly prominent with non game related things.

      You need to understand that while it is a plausible theory, it has never been proved and remains speculation. The official reasoning once and again said it wasn't true. Are they lying? Maybe, but in the end it is the words of the creators and publishers of the series against the word of theory conspirators in the Internet.

      A journalist, as you yourself remind them to be, would not take the theory for granted, but simply mention it and admit that the truth is not known.

        But that’s not even remotely how it works! If it were, I’d be reading more articles speculating about Trump’s intentions instead of straight up calling him out. And that’s a much more important concept.
        There is bald faced evidence for the dismantling of two franchises based on where their movie rights lie. To ignore it all (replacing mutants with inhumans, Scarlet With and Quicksilver not being mutants anymore, lack of either franchise in MVC:I) would make you wilfully ignorant. Journalism is a science that’s construes fact from available evidence in order to produce a working theory.
        This stopped at speculation. Like it doesn’t want to upset Disney.

          Journalism is a science that’s construes fact from available evidence in order to produce a working theory.

          I don't really know where you get this, but it is the other way around. Journalism starts with the theories (or hints, rumours, etc), then works hard at finding /evidence/ that supports it (or disproves it. The evidence you speak of is, again while plausible and sound, ultimately circumstantial.

          Real evidence would be an email exchange between interested parties saying as much, or a phone call recording, etc. Taking a guess at intentions of other people is not facts, and even if as a journalist you are fully convinced of your version, if you don't have real evidence to support it, it is irresponsible of you (if not outright malicious - i.e. using your platform to present baseless speculation as fact, in order to increase the number of people who believe it) to publish it as news.

          If you ask me my own opinion, I'll tell you that I believe that the whole Fox enmity weighed to a point in that decision, but it was not the sole or chief fact. Business decisions regarding million-dollar franchises are not made out of spite, which is the only way to describe what you and other theorists propose: "I'm willing to hurt myself in order to diminish the chances of success of another". I'm sure that the fact that sales were barely okay, the popularity of the characters was really low, and that Marvel wanted to experiment with a bunch of new characters all were things that mattered more.

            Let’s just agree that money is the answer. I don’t believe that there was emotion from Disney in the decision; just forward financial thinking.
            I think you’re being too generous with offering a perspective in which Disney had creative integrity in this outcome, as the like-for-like approach to using Inhumans as an X-Men replacement was blatant (and blatantly failed).
            The experimentation was a byproduct.
            I still can’t construe why you are being so generously positive about Marvel’s intent for this period (I’d dub it the “Brown Age”). There’s more evidence for dismantling/limiting two franchises based on film rights than it just being a coincidence. A really, really questionable coincidence.

              It is not me really being generous, just trying to remain as factual as possible. As I've mentioned your theory is not far-fetched, but it is certainly not verifiable. The only reason I was pushing against it was that you used the idea that it is such as an obvious reality that the writer deserved to be chided for not presenting it.

              Speculating is fun and I engage in it a bit too. Just try to remember that no matter how sure you are personally about anything, without real evidence, you shouldn't feel the need to attack those who do not fully buy it.

                I didn’t attack. I just wasn’t polite about it. And I am under no obligation to be. Just because you’re saying im attacking doesn’t make it so.
                I’ve given you multiple reasons for my argument and cited evidence for my it (glaring evidence like MVC:I). You’ve yet to do that.
                Now YOU provide evidence.

                  Well, calling someone's journalistic integrity or capability into question because it didn't align with your theory is an attack, in my eyes, although not especially vicious or anything. You may disagree, but by your own admission you were not polite, so I was not mistaken by calling you out on it.

                  The evidence you present is, again, circumstantial. It is enough to raise suspicions, yes, but without factual proof that shows cause-effect, it is hard to pass judgment. (Not to mention that the MVC thing is only tangentially related to our topic in question, the F4).

                  Moreover, the position I hold needs no defense or evidence because I'm not maintaining that it did NOT happen as you say. All I'm saying is that we don't know for sure, and likely never will. You are perfectly welcome to hold your theory and find out that many others believe it; I won't try to disabuse you because I'd have just as much factual evidence to prove that it did not happen that way as you have that it did, which is to say, not much. So all I can do is to remind you to be courteous towards those who do not agree with you, most especially when you have no verifiable way of knowing that you are on the right.

    Not only was it a terrible move, it was a movie that existed only so Fox could maintain the movie rights to F4. Had it gone started production just one day later they would have lost the rights, which would have reverted back to Marvel/Disney.

    Marvel, being a vengeful God, pulled the plug on the comics.

    This had the benefit of distancing the brand from the dross that was the F4 reboot. Hopefully Disney's Fox takeover will, one day, lead to a decent Fantastic Four movie. Doom is too good a bad guy to waste, and Ben belongs in the MCU.

      Just kind of sucks that it requires Disney creating even more of a monopoly to finally get a really good F4 film.

        While they keep creating quality, entertaining content, which the majority of the MCU movies are (my opinion - other opinions are available), I am quite happy for them to monopolise away.

          I'm in two minds about it. Half of me agrees and the other is terrified.

    @pylgrim so basically you have nothing to back up your defense and just want to defend the author?
    Baaaaaaaaa!!!!

      I have no idea where did you get that, but it certainly was not from my post. However, I am willing to help you walk through it dialectically, even if it costs me another gratuitous downvote from you for merely daring to hold a different perspective.

      So let's start with this: According to you, what is this "defense" of mine that I've failed to back up? What am I defending that should not be the author?

    And the comic book industry wonders why it cant get new readers

    JUST READ THAT INSANE BULLSHIT PLOT! WHERE IS ANYONE SUPPOSED TO START? Like fuck off marvel STOP THE COCAINE ABUSE

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now