At San Diego Comic-Con on July 20, 2019, Marvel President Kevin Feige confirmed the fate of the much-rumored Fox Marvel properties. He announced, to thunderous applause, that the studio was actively working on bringing Marvel’s First Family to the MCU. The Fantastic Four were coming home.
The Fantastic Four have long been associated with the House of Ideas, and in many ways, they were crucial to the formation of what would become known as the Marvel Universe. Across the initial 102 issues of the Fantastic Four Stan Lee and Jack Kirby defined the shape of the Marvel Universe and created some of their most enduring characters. These characters included the likes of Black Panther, Adam Warlock, the Inhumans, and the Silver Surfer. So, it makes sense that fans were more than pleased with the indication that the team will soon be appearing in the MCU.
This begs the question, however, about how the Fantastic Four should be introduced to the MCU. In my opinion, the FF should be carefully layered across both films and Disney+ shows. By utilizing both aspects of the MCU going forward, Feige and co. can guarantee that the Fantastic Four and their unique perspective can become a major facet of the MCU.
I believe that the Fantastic Four should be introduced through their own solo film. Both of the first films in the Fox Fantastic Four series focused on how the team got their powers and developed into a collective family unit. Much like how they brought Spider-Man into the MCU, Marvel should introduce the FF with their origin story already complete. Or they could provide a quick overview of their origin in the same manner that they depicted Bruce Banner’s origin in The Incredible Hulk (2008) wherein they overlaid it on top of the opening credits. By skipping the team’s origin, Marvel will be able to better focus on the elements that truly define the Fantastic Four, exploration and family.
As for how they should get their powers, there are several possible ways Marvel could go about this. I believe the origin should be closer to their origin in the mainline Fantastic Four books as opposed to the version that drew heavily from the Ultimate Universe in Fantastic Four (2015). But I would also like to have it tied into the other events of the MCU. I think one of the best ways they could do this is by having the team going on a space mission during the events of Avengers: Endgame (2019). The release of energy caused either through Tony Stark’s snap, Bruce Banner’s snap or other time travel shenanigans would release some cosmic rays which would affect the team and give them their powers. I think it would also be a good idea to seed some of the members of the team in future MCU movies before making their debut. Reed Richards talking on a talk show, or something of the sort would make the characters integral to the MCU.
One way they can really hone in on the idea of exploration is by including an expedition into the world of Subterranea in the beginning of the film. Much like the initial invasion of Hydra in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) or the fight against the Abilisk in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017), it would provide a chance to see an underground world and a fight with the Mole Man would emphasize how well the team works together, and would also establish their fighting styles and personalities through a brief battle. Plus providing how they introduce the Deviants in The Eternals (2020), Marvel could highlight the extent of the Deviant’s reach by hinting at the Deviant origins of Subterranea.
After their initial venture, the film should focus on the exploration of the Negative Zone. The Negative Zone is one of those strange cosmic concepts created by Lee and Kirby when they were at the top of their craft. Plus, it would show how the team is uniquely prepared for otherworldly exploration through the development of their powers. Naturally an exploration of the Negative Zone should lead to a conflict with Annihilus and his Annihilation Wave as the main villain of the piece. Annihilus is a unique villain in that his motivations are quite simple, but the power he wields would make him a compelling villain, while also allowing more of a focus on the Fantastic Four than the villain.
By introducing the idea of the Negative Zone and Annihilus and the Annihilation Wave, those concepts and characters can be added to the Marvel Toolbox for future use. I don’t believe that the Fantastic Four should be able to kill Annihilus in his first film because Annihilus is key to one of Marvel’s greatest epics, the amazing Annihilation event. So, by showing the team escape the Negative Zone, the door will be left open for the possible return of the Negative Zone and a much more powerful version of Annihilus.
Another thing that would set this version of the team apart is that it would double down on the family element by having Reed and Sue already married and they would already have had Franklin and Valeria. That way Marvel could play with the relationship between Reed and Sue and make them the Mother and Father of the MCU. Plus, introducing Franklin and Valeria early would allow for more interesting developments for them without having to wait for them to be born.
I believe wholeheartedly in saving Doctor Doom for later. The character is often considered the Fantastic Four’s best villain, and one of the best villains in comics, so he should not be handled lightly. This is especially true since both of the previous film incarnation of the character fell flat. The issue with his depiction in the previous Fantastic Four films is that the powers that be were almost ashamed of the Shakespearean nature of the character and opted to ground him thinking that is what audiences wanted. In order to do Doom justice Marvel should go in the complete opposite direction because if audience reactions to films like Thor: Ragnarok (2017) or even Avengers: Endgame (2019) are any indication, MCU fans want a degree of comic accuracy. So, the best way to introduce Doom is through a Disney+ show.
Kevin Feige has been adamant that the Disney+ shows are completely crucial to the future of the MCU to the point that they were included among the Phase 4 announcements at SDCC. By introducing Doom as a hero of his own story, Marvel can really lean into that promise and carefully construct a narrative that not only introduces Doom but allows him to thrive. This would also help avoid some of the mistakes of the previous adaptations of the character.
The Fantastic Four should only be minor characters in this show, if they appear at all. Instead it should be an origin story for the good Doctor. When it comes to inspiration, I believe that Marvel should draw influence from Ed Brubaker and Pablo Raimondi’s excellent Books of Doom miniseries. Doom should be introduced as a young Romani boy who lives among a wandering band in direct opposition to the king of Latveria. Doom’s mother uses dark magic to try and defeat the cruel king and while largely successful she entered a Faustian bargain with Mephisto who, in exchange for power, now owns her soul.
The rest of the series should focus on the young Doom and his attempts to rescue his mother’s soul. He would go to college in the United States where he meets a young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. Reed would warn him of the dangers of his machines, which Doom in his arrogance ignores. This would result in his face being injured. From there it would follow his transformation into a Master of the Mystic Arts (possibly even an interaction with Tilda Swinton’s The Ancient One) and would conclude with him assuming the throne of Latveria with a serious grudge against the Fantastic Four.
Fantastic Four vs Doctor Doom
Now here is where we would finally see the conflict between the Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom. Marvel will have effectively developed both sides of this conflict to the point that their fight should have a great deal of emotional resonance for the audience. Marvel could really lean into the emotional aspect of their fight if they emphasized the connection between Valeria and Doctor Doom. Valeria and Doom have a very friendly relationship in the comics in contrast to her family, and I think developing on this would show another angle to Doom besides simply as a villain or a conqueror.
At the end of the movie, Reed should announce the formation of the Future Foundation. In the comics Reed creates the Future Foundation after feeling discouraged by the attitudes of the older scientific elite. Realizing that children are the future he creates the Future Foundation to help train intelligent children and allow them to shape the world.
This would be the second Disney+ show and would focus on the members of the Future Foundation who were introduced at the end of the Fantastic Four vs Doctor Doom movie. The Fantastic Four would also be characters in this show but they would not be the main focus. They would instead be the teachers or role models for the young geniuses in their charge.
One of the most important members of the Future Foundation in the comics is Bentley-23 a younger clone and effectively the “son” of Bentley Wittman, aka the Wizard. The Wizard is an interesting character in the comics, albeit not one who would lend himself well to a film. But he would make a compelling villain for a Future Foundation show as Bentley-23 has to discover, with the rest of the Future Foundation, whether it is nature or nurture that determines the person you are going to become.
Future Foundation will also be a way to tie in some of the other concepts introduced in the Fantastic Four movies. The Fantastic Four could bring in the Moloids from their initial fight against the Mole Man, and presumably Namor would be introduced to the MCU at this point to allow for some Atlantean representation in the Future Foundation.
The Coming of Galactus
Ideally the third Fantastic Four movie will develop on ideas introduced in the other Fantastic Four movies, or MCU movies more generally which will hopefully have seeded the introduction of Galactus. Galactus is one of the all-time greats. Not quite a villain, but instead a force of nature that would allow for the third FF film to be an event movie akin to Avengers: Endgame (2019).
This film should bring in all the characters introduced throughout the Fantastic Four movies as well as the Doctor Doom show, and the Future Foundation show. It needs to be big to really highlight the threat that the world faces under the shadow of Galactus. Other Marvel heroes from the MCU, by its very definition, would also have to appear in the movie. But the focus should definitely be on the core Fantastic Four.
If the Silver Surfer has not yet been introduced by this point, this would be a great way to introduce both Norrin Radd and Galactus. But if the Surfer or Galactus have appeared prior to this movie, then Galactus should have a different herald. He has had numerous heralds in the comics so bringing in one of them such as Terrax would be a great way to show Galactus’ influence as well as reflect the developments of the Surfer. The Surfer should also appear whether he is Galactus’ active herald or not, it would be a key moment that would create a connection between the FF and the Surfer in order to set up possible future crossovers.
Depending on how big Marvel wants to make this film, it could easily be split into two parts not unlike Infinity War and Endgame. Galactus deserves to be done properly in all his terrible glory and not as an overgrown cloud. The threat of Galactus would really emphasize the ingenuity of the Fantastic Four and help further highlight the differences between the FF and other heroes in the MCU such as the Avengers and the X-Men.
Ideally there could be other Fantastic Four films after the coming of Galactus that could explore other villains and concepts, but if Marvel only chooses to make three films, I believe this is one of the best ways to boil down the history of the FF to three movies and a few Disney+ shows. If, however, they make more than three films, these films and shows would be instrumental in possibly setting up an MCU adaptation of Jonathan Hickman’s excellent run on the title. Reed could be included in a possible incarnation of the Illuminati, and Ben could easily crossover with other characters not unlike in his classic Marvel Two in One series.
The Disney+ shows could also have multiple seasons. I think an adaptation of Roger Stern and Mike Mignola’s Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment would be a great continuation for Doom’s story line whether it be in another season of his series or in a Doctor Strange movie. I would also like to see a continuation of the Future Foundation perhaps introducing the Mad Thinker or other such characters into the fray.
By utilizing both the films and Disney+ Marvel could not only introduce the Fantastic Four to the MCU, but they would also make them a crucial element to the very fabric of the shared universe. The Fantastic Four are, at the very core of their characters, the heart and soul of the Marvel Universe. They are a family who sometimes fight and argue, but truly love each other. They also are uniquely suited to pushing the boundaries of what one can see in a comic. This would allow them to fully explore the crazy ideas and concepts that truly make the Fantastic Four the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!”