Ever since Disney announced its plans to buy out 21st Century Fox for the staggering sum of $71.3 billion, three questions have been on everyone's mind: What will happen to the notoriously right-wing Fox News division? Does this signify a huge step forward in Disney's seemingly inevitable consolidation of all of media under its mouse-eared banner? And does this mean the X-Men and Fantastic Four are coming to the MCU?
Marvel sold the film rights to some of its most popular franchises, including the mutant team and their first family, back in the 1990s after facing bankruptcy. While Sony and Universal seem to be happy to share their rights to characters like the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man, Fox has until now been steadfast in its refusal to sell or share their portion of Marvel's IPs.
And now that the idea of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a definite possibility, fans have been brainstorming how their favorite characters might be included in an already-established world. With most of the theories hinging on the anticipated and untitled Avengers 4, ideas have ranged from time-travel shenanigans to alternate universe displacement.
One recent theory that gained some traction is that the characters we know and love are already in the MCU, but haven't developed their powers yet. In the case of the Fantastic Four, the theory posits that Reed Richards and Susan Storm will appear in Avengers 4 as scientists studying the phenomenon of Thanos's mass murdering snap from Avengers: Infinity War.
The idea is that they believe Thanos's victims are not dead, but rather transported into the recently discovered Negative Zone. They will attempt a rescue mission to the alternate dimension, which will include Ben Grimm as their pilot and Susan's brother Johnny as a stowaway on their ship.
However, in the middle of their mission, Thanos will be defeated by the Avengers and a "reverse-snap" will shock them back to the MCU reality, exposing them to cosmic energy rays and giving them their superpowers in the process. This will turn them into Mr. Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Thing, and the Human Torch, respectively.
The theory's explanation for the existence/nonexistence of the X-Men is equally as plausible but much more convoluted, borrowing slightly from the X-Men's origin via the now-defunct "Ultimate" universe in the Marvel comics. Apparently, in the 1950s and '60s, at the height of the Cold War, the American government was desperate to remake the super soldier serum they'd previously used to create Captain America.
But since they had no viable samples of Dr. Erskine's formula, they resorted to new methods of human enhancements, involving a dirty bomb that was dropped (either intentionally or by accident) on a civilian population. While the bomb thankfully had no visible effect, it did release a surge of invisible, gene-altering radiation across the planet.
Of those affected, only a very small number immediately developed mutant powers, making it easy for them to hide on the fringes of society, undetected by major spy agencies like S.H.I.E.L.D. However, thousands of people across the globe now carry an unactivated X-gene and could give birth to an entire generation with the same potential.
The theorized "reverse-snap" to bring back all those who had died in Infinity War would also release an energy wave which would activate all latent X-genes and reveal the mutant population to the world. This would inspire the appropriate fear and distrust of mutants which has formed the thematic basis of the X-Men since its inception.
In the chaos, mutant leaders like Professor X and Magneto would rise to prominence, having already amassed mutant followers in secret to follow their respective ideologies. Obviously, these theories are unsubstantiated by virtue of being just that—theories—but they are cool little thought experiments about where the franchise could go now that it has virtually unlimited resources, and characters.