The debut of the Fantastic Four - widely recognized as Marvel's first family - in 1961 marked the birth of the Marvel Universe as it exists today, which is why it was shocking when the publisher canceled the Fantastic Four comic book in 2015. The cancellation came on the heels of serious tension between Marvel and 21st Century Fox - the company that held the film rights to the characters. However, some comic fans believe Disney's impending purchase of Fox implies that a Fantastic Four/MCU crossover could be around the corner.
The time has come for the FF to return to the pages of Marvel Comics; the story of their comeback may contain important clues about their future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
During one of Marvel's darker financial periods, the publisher sold numerous popular characters' film rights to various media companies. Thus, 21st Century Fox has held the rights to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men ever since.
The birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - along with bad press from several low-quality Fantastic Four films produced by Fox - reportedly increased tensions between the two companies. It wasn't long before the higher-ups at Marvel decided to stop promoting some of the characters they shared with their rivals.
Marvel attempted to raise the profile of the Inhumans as potential X-Men replacements, but the company did something different to the FF - they took the first family out of circulation.
After a series of reboots, renumberings, and being assigned a limited role in the happenings of the Marvel Universe, the Fantastic Four comics got canceled by Marvel in 2015. The series returned to its original numbering for a storyline or two, but then Marvel announced Fantastic Four #645 as the last issue - marking the end of a comic that had run with few interruptions since 1961.
The company cited low sales as the motivation behind its decision, but fans and pundits alike suspected that the film rights were the likely impetus. The characters remained a part of Marvel Comics' continuity, but this would soon change.
Marvel Comics' first major crossover came with 1984's Secret Wars, and the publisher decided to dust off this title for a 2015 plot point intended to restructure the mainstream continuity. The 2015 version of SW serves as a last hurrah for the Fantastic Four, as the team - and Reed Richards, specifically - has to combat Doctor Doom, who has succeeded in saving the Multiverse and designating himself the "God Emperor" of the condensed Marvel Universe.
Thus, the Richards family - Reed, Sue, Franklin, and Valeria - gets tasked with rebuilding the Marvel Multiverse. Franklin's prodigious mutant powers of reality manipulation and Molecule Man's god-like abilities expedite the process. Returning to their roots as a scientific exploration squad, the Richards family sets out to create and explore new universes on the ultimate cosmic family road trip.
Sue and Reed Richards decide to go on their mission to recreate the universe without the Human Torch and the Thing, who both have lives and personal relationships back in the mainstream universe. Though Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm stay home, this doesn't mean the Richards family is alone on their adventure.
Owen Reece's Molecule Man and the entire Future Foundation - a group of genius children mentored by Reed, which includes Alex Powers, Leech, and Wizard's clone - accompany the family on their journey of discovery across the Multiverse.