Marvel’s What If…? executive producer Brad Winderbaum opens up about why X-Men and Fantastic Four aren’t featured in the animated series. The latest series in Disney+’s Marvel Cinematic Universe projects explores alternate realities stemming from key moments throughout the franchise, including Peggy Carter becoming the world’s first super soldier known as Captain Carter and T’Challa leading the Guardians of the Galaxy as Star-Lord. The cast features a majority of MCU stars reprising their roles, namely Hayley Atwell as Carter, Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as T’Challa, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.
The X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises first launched at 20th Century Fox in the early aughts, with the former becoming a smash hit and being credited as helping reignite audience interest in the comic book genre alongside Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. However, the Fantastic Four films never gained much traction with critics or audiences despite solid box office numbers with the first two outings. The rights to both comic book properties would ultimately revert back to Marvel Studios following the Disney-Fox acquisition and though there are plans underway to bring them both to the MCU, one project elected not to set them up.
With the first two episodes now streaming on Disney+, Winderbaum spoke with Collider to discuss What If…?. In looking at the realm of properties Marvel Studios owns, Winderbaum explained that the Fantastic Four and X-Men were taken off the table early on though noted it was simply for creative purposes they were left out from the series. See what Winderbaum said below:
“We had very few parameters when we were ideating the show, but that was certainly one of them. We wanted to make sure that the characters were firmly rooted in the MCU. It had nothing to do with rights, it had nothing to do with the future stories we wanted to tell, it had everything to do with what What If…? is, which is a spin on an established storyline, so we looked primarily at the Infinity Saga.”
Ever since Marvel head Kevin Feige announced that a new Fantastic Four film was in development with Spider-Man director Jon Watts attached, fans have been chomping at the bit to see the first superhero team get their proper dues on screen. Following WandaVision‘s seeming tease of one of the four being introduced and inclusion of Evan Peters, known for portraying Quicksilver in Fox’s X-Men films, theories have run progressively more rampant about when either group will begin to appear in the MCU. Given What If…?‘s multiverse formula seeming the perfect establishment for the teams in the MCU, Winderbaum’s explanation as to why they won’t be in the series is a fair one.
When Marvel Studios first announced development on What If…?, the biggest angle for the series was that it would take some of the most iconic moments and characters in the MCU and spin them on their heads. Aside from the already seen Star-Lord T’Challa and Captain Carter, trailers have promised an exploration of King Killmonger saving Tony Stark from the opening moments of the original Iron Man as well as a recreation of the Randy’s Donuts scene in Iron Man 2, amongst others. While the rest of season 1 may not see either the X-Men or Fantastic Four introduced, their impending arrivals in the MCU does leave the door open for appearances in season 2.