Jonathan Hickman has officially confirmed Marvel Comics stopped publishing X-Men books because of Fox – one of its most absurd decisions.
Comic book writer Jonathan Hickman, the man behind the latest X-Men relaunch in the comics, has confirmed Marvel stopped major X-Men stories being told because of Fox. The X-Men have long been considered one of Marvel’s biggest franchises, but in the comics at least that seemed to change after 2010. Coming out of their latest near-genocide plot, Marvel’s merry mutants increasingly felt sidelined by readers, and for a time even merchandise seemed to dry up.
Readers began to believe the problem was an absurd one, with Marvel choosing not to promote the X-Men simply because a rival studio – Fox – owned the film rights. The idea seemed to be an odd one, because it made absolutely no business sense at all; Marvel really should have gone by the principle of “a rising tide raises all boats,” taking advantage of Fox’s movies to boost its own comics. But the evidence built up over the years, and was supported as revelations emerged of just how petty Marvel Entertainment’s CEO Ike Perlmutter seems willing to be. The crisis in X-Men comics is long over now, of course; Disney purchased the film rights to the X-Men when it acquired the bulk of Fox’s film and TV empire, while Perlmutter’s influence has diminished radically due to his ill-advised conflict with Kevin Feige. Superstar comic book writer Jonathan Hickman headed up a popular relaunch of the X-Men comics in 2019, revolutionizing the entire range, and they’re almost as big as they were during the ’90s again.
As Hickman departs following X-Men: Inferno, he conducted an end-of-run interview with the podcast Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men. In it, he explains he’d been a lifelong X-Men fan – they were the one book he followed throughout his childhood, drawn into their complexity and deep characterization. When he joined Marvel, he hoped to write the X-Men, and continually pitched for the chance to take over the franchise – but was regularly turned down. He actually left Marvel for a time, disappointed that he’d never written X-Men, but upon his return he realized things had changed. “The Fox deal had been done,” he recalled in a matter-of-fact manner, “so we could do X-stuff again.” This is the first real time there’s been official confirmation that the Fox movies led to Marvel sidelining the X-Men – coming from the man who’s been heading the entire line for two years, no less.
Perlmutter began his career working in toy companies, and his focus was always upon trying to find opportunities to merchandize franchises. This was one major reason Marvel sold its film rights to different companies in the ’90s in the first place, and it planned to synergize the release of Fox’s first X-Men film with a number of action figures. Fox changed the release date late in the day, though, meaning Marvel lost that chance to create a synergy; according to film historian Ben Fritz, Perlmutter never forgot this, and indeed it was one major reason he decided to greenlight the idea of Marvel making its own movies. Marvel decided to focus on Iron Man after convening focus groups of children to ask which superhero action figures they’d be most interested in – and the rest is history. Unfortunately the emphasis on synergy appears to have worked against the X-Men line, in what feels like a shockingly petty approach to business.
Ironically, Perlmutter’s obsession with synergy seems to have been flawed, because there are only indirect links between comic book sales and the latest MCU releases; sales figures are inconsistent, meaning synergy shouldn’t really be depended upon as a general business strategy. Marvel effectively sidelined the X-Men because Fox had annoyed it, focusing on a strategy that didn’t consistently work out. X-Men fans will be delighted these absurd problems can be consigned to the past, paving the way for writers like Jonathan Hickman to tell big new stories focused on Marvel’s mutant heroes.
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Source: Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men
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