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X-Men: Apocalypse (prelude)

There’s this idea I’ve been working on for a while now. I’m sure it might be considered heresy, and I have no idea whether it’s even feasible, but please bear with me for a while and give this some thought.

First of all, Fox would need to give back the Fantastic Four. They’d also have to give back Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer, Galactus, Kang the Conqueror, and anything else that went along with the package deal. And on top of that, Fox would also probably have to shell out a couple billion dollars.

Because in return, Fox would get the X-Men and all the rest of the Mutant roster. And I’m not just talking about the movie rights in perpetuity. No, I’m talking about movie rights, TV rights, comic rights, video games, merchandising, licensing, the whole chimichanga. For keeps.

The benefits for Fox would be obvious, so how would this work out any better for Marvel or for comic book fans? Well, consider the state of the comic book industry as it is right now. Sales are at an all-time low, and efforts at bringing in new readers through neverending crossovers, retcons, and reboots have failed. And it seems like every week, we get another news story to prove that Marvel and DC are both run by backwards-thinking assholes. There are admittedly a multitude of potential reasons why the comics industry has grown stagnant, but I submit that quite a few of those reasons may have something to do with the fact that Marvel and DC hold an unshakeable dominance over the industry.

There’s no reason for them to substantially change anything or present something new when there’s no real risk of competition. Marvel and DC both have vast stables of characters who’ve been household names for decades, and they’re both backed by some of the most powerful media conglomerates on the planet. There’s just no way for any young upstart comics company — or any of the smaller existing comics companies like Dark Horse or IDW — to compete with that kind of brand recognition or resources.

BUT. What if Fox had the X-Men to dispose of as they see fit? After all, the X-Men franchise is easily recognizable enough, with such a vast width and depth of existing characters and content, that it could easily stand equal to the DCU and the remainder of the Marvel Universe. What’s more, News Corporation (the parent company of Fox) is one of the precious few companies in existence that could survive a direct marketplace competition with both Time Warner and Disney. If Fox were to create its own comic book company, built using the Mutants as its foundation, that would definitely be a big enough splash that DC and Marvel would both have to get off their asses and shake up the industry’s stagnation in a badly needed way.

Then there’s how Marvel would benefit. Put simply, Marvel has had a huge problem figuring out what to do with the X-Men in comics. Maybe it’s the fact that Fox holds the movie rights and Marvel didn’t want to make characters and stories that might profit another company. Maybe it’s the fact that treating superpowered characters as a feared and persecuted minority doesn’t make the least bit of sense in a world that’s already overflowing with superpowered characters. To say nothing of the franchise’s massive popularity in the ’90s, spawning hundreds and hundreds of characters that contributed to an unwieldy and heavily convoluted lore, all of which proved too much for anyone at Marvel to deal with.

The coup de grace came in November of 2015, with Extraordinary X-Men #1. To make a long story short, this is when the world learned that exposure to Terrigen mist turns certain people into superpowered Inhumans (in a process called “Terrigenesis”), and also turns Mutants sterile. That’s right: Mutants can no longer have children. They are officially an endangered species. Terrigenesis, the process that creates more Inhumans, is also the process that prevents the creation of more Mutants. I should also add that while Marvel does not hold the movie rights to the Mutants, they do hold the rights to the Inhumans, and have steadily been introducing the Inhumans into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (see: “Agents of SHIELD”).

Do you seriously think Marvel would have any idea what to do with the Mutants at this point? So much damage has been done in the comics and the movies and the TV shows that even the absolute best case scenario would take some seriously huge fucking retcons. Marvel has plenty of other cash cows, and holding onto this one isn’t doing anyone any favors. Best to let it go.

HOWEVER, with all of that being said, this idea rests on some huge suppositions. For example, while I’m sure Fox has the money and the manpower to create their own comics company to rival DC and Marvel, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether they’d want to put in that kind of effort, or how good they would be at it. Also, I’m basing a lot of this on the successes of X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future Past, and Deadpool, all of which proved that there has to be someone behind the scenes of the movies with the talent and the know-how to craft Mutant films on par with (though admittedly not superior to) what Marvel is cranking out.

But on the other hand, there’s the muddled mess of Fantastic Four (2015), which hardly boosted anyone’s confidence regarding Fox’s stewardship of Marvel’s properties. There’s also the fact that so much of the X-Men film franchise’s success has rested on the shoulders of Hugh Jackman, and that guy’s currently filming his very last go-round as Wolverine. There was talk about shifting the focus of the franchise to Channing Tatum as Gambit (a terrible idea, in my opinion), but that movie has repeatedly failed at coming together and it is currently on indefinite hiatus.

Not counting the soon-to-be defunct Wolverine trilogy, the only proposed spin-off that’s actually gotten off the ground so far is Deadpool. And while that film may have been enjoyable and beautifully respectful to the character, Deadpool ain’t no Iron Man. He’s not exactly the sort of character you build a huge multimedia shared continuity superfranchise off of.

Then we have X-Men: Apocalypse, the capstone of the second X-Men film trilogy (not counting the Wolverine films, which are a trilogy unto themselves). I’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of this film, mostly because I want to see what’s going to happen for the film to come after it. How many key members of the cast and crew will still be around after the end of this latest trilogy? How many from the first X-Men movie will still be around over sixteen years later? If anyone’s leaving (or already left), who’s replacing them?

But before we can gauge the franchise’s viability in the future, we need to see how much gas is in the tank right now. Advance reviews are already coming in, and I’m sorry to say that they are not kind. I guess we’ll all get to see for ourselves when X-Men: Apocalypse bows on May 27th.

One Comment

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