As I once said in another feature about X-Men games, the X-Men are one of my all-time favorite things. It’s no secret that Marvel and Capcom have awkwardly avoided anything X-Men or Fantastic Four related in any current content for Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. After the most recent roster leak was all but confirmed at E3, the lack of X-Men in any way shape or form had become more concerning than our original fears thought it to be. For the uninformed, Marvel doesn’t hold the film rights to the X-Men or the Fantastic Four, leading to a strange distancing between these key franchises and their home studio.
It was only after this Gamespot interview with producers Peter Rosas and Michael Evans, however, that I realized this was an issue of both rights and a lack of respect or understanding of these major characters. The most telling quote from the interview comes from Michael Evans. Upon being asked about the X-Men situation, Evans responded:
“Your modern Marvel fan, maybe they don’t even remember some of the X-Men characters, but they know some of the Guardians characters or Black Panther. You know what I mean? Captain Marvel may seem like a strange pick, but she’s fantastic. She fits the gameplay. She fits the story, and they’re gonna be really pushing her as a strong female lead all the way up into the movie. We’re trying to take everything into account and choose the best characters.”
While it’s completely ridiculous to say that any modern Marvel fan, young or old, wouldn’t recognize Wolverine or Magneto, the issue runs deeper than that. This simple answer summarizes everything that is wrong with the developers’ approach to its fans, characters, and the detrimental legacy left by the Fantastic Four, and the X-Men in particular.
Though Evans views Captain Marvel as an odd choice, she, like many on the roster, is one of the safest picks Marvel could make. With an upcoming film in the works and a newfound prominence in major comic events like Secret Wars and Civil War II, Captain Marvel is as strange a pick as Rocket Raccoon, and while she will no doubt appeal to a sect of people, Captain Marvel and other “strange” choices are nowhere near as important to both comics and movies as the X-Men.
Flashback to the 1990’s, Marvel is financially troubled. After purchasing a number of companies, ranging from the trading card makers Fleer to Marvel Legends manufacturer ToyBiz, Marvel found itself in a corner with bankruptcy not far off. Add on the trend of making countless unsold flashy “collector’s” covers for every comic under the sun, and you have a Marvel that’s far different from its current titanic self. Rather, this was the Marvel that had to sell the film rights for its characters to external studios, as irony would have it.
So how did Marvel survive the 90’s? With two of their franchises: Spider-Man, and the X-Men. While characters like Venom and Carnage would go on to become major players in Spider-Man’s rogue gallery, and artists like Todd McFarlane made Spider-Man look gorgeous, no one can deny that the X-Men were largely responsible for keeping Marvel afloat.
Whether it was the Uncanny X-Men, X-Force, Generation X, or one of the many single-character spin-offs, the X-Men were a major factor in keeping Marvel from going under. Characters like Deadpool and Cable emerged and went on to become fan-favorite characters, while storylines like Age of Apocalypse and Weapon X would be known as comic greats. Wolverine and Beast would even go on to join the Avengers at different points in time, with X-Men like Cyclops and Wolverine battling Thanos in the enormous Infinity Gauntlet storyline.
And all this is contained in the 90’s, without even diving into the major role the X-Men played in making comic book movies what they are today, or their importance to the Ultimate Marvel universe. Even from a more political point of view, the X-Men represent acceptance and positive solutions in the face of prejudice, themes that are more prevalent today than they have been in quite some time. To say that Marvel fans, the same fans clamoring for the inclusion of the X-Men, wouldn’t recognize the X-Men, is nothing short of shameful.
Marvel and Capcom seem to have a fundamental misunderstanding at just how much of an impact the X-Men have had on comics and pop culture itself. To say that the X-Men are less recognizable than Black Panther or Captain Marvel is as disrespectful and it is misguided, and almost willfully ignorant. Marvel and Capcom need to realize that the X-Men are important, if not to them, than to their millions of fans across the world.