Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Real Relevance: The Fantastic Four


Seriously? Cancelled?
 
Yep, Marvel’s done it again. In a childish bid to shore up nothing but their cinematic properties, Fantastic Four is officially cancelled.

I know, I know; it was selling poorly, Mavel’s a business, it makes sense to the bottom line, blah, blah, blah…

The problem isn’t that Marvel is trying to make a buck; they’re entitled to make a profit. The problem is one of relevance. Something that goes beyond sales; beyond the bottom line. The First Family should matter to Marvel, even if Fox do have the movie rights.

A Matter of Legacy


It's almost hard to believe how many people
lost their minds over this.
If you spoke to newer fans like me, I imagine you’d be hard-pressed to convince them that the only reason Marvel made it off the starting line is because of Fantastic Four, but that’s the fact. Fantastic Four was really the first book of what became known as the Marvel universe.

Yep, you heard right; the reason we have Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man or Guardians of the Galaxy is from what Marvel has, for years, been calling “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”

Despite what the sales figures leads us to believe, despite what Marvel seems to believe, legacy matters. The Fantastic Four are symbolic of Marvel’s success, and to deny what made Marvel successful in the first place is stepping into what, I think, is very dangerous territory.

A Matter of Adventure

But it’s more than just a symbol of Marvel’s success. Fantastic Four, more than any other book in Marvel’s line up, is about adventure- the kind of adventure, moreover, that doesn’t necessitate violence. I read the first volume of Matt Fractions Fantastic Four the other day and was amazed at how much I didn’t mind that the Fantastic Four issues didn’t feature, or need to feature a central villain. It was fine just being about exploring new worlds and getting into trouble- even if that trouble didn’t have a name. Nobody got punched in the face, decapitated, webbed-up or killed and I was more than okay with that.

That’s pretty significant. The world, young men especially, need to know that excitement doesn’t necessitate violence. Think about some of the greatest adventurers in history; Amelia Rinehart, Lewis and Clark, and many others. Who did they punch? Adventure, more often than not is about the triumph of will rather than muscle. That’s important too.

A Matter of Family

Seriously, who hates these guys?
The real reason that Fantastic Four matters though, has to do with family. It’s been a habit in comics for many years to do as much as they can to keep their characters youthful. If they’re married, get them unmarried (Spider-Man) and if they have kids, get rid of them (Ant-Man and Animal Man)- they ruin a character’s youthfulness so.

Not so with Fantastic Four not only are Sue and Reed Richards married, they’ve also had two, so-far-not-dead children. See, Fantastic Four is a family book- family is what it’s about and family is glorified. I’m a teacher by trade and I see too many kids from broken homes enter my classroom. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Fantastic Four will save the family, but anything that puts family in a positive light is more encouraging than the media world that constantly counts family as unimportant unless they’ve died (here’s looking at you, Batman).

The cancelling of Fantastic Four is a sign that Marvel doesn’t understand the power of its own properties. We’ll see them again, no doubt. But for now, it should be a sad day for Marvel fans.