“How are the numbers for the astronaut training program?”
'WandaVision' Easter egg may confirm the Fantastic Four exist in the MCU
In 'WandaVision' episode 4, an astronaut training program may be the origin story for the Fantastic Four in the MCU.
Even after the "Blip," there are still those unaccounted for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A tiny little clue in the latest episode of WandaVision has fans speculating: Have the Fantastic Four arrived in the MCU?
While this exciting new theory seems to misremember the exact line in dialogue in question, there's still enough wiggle room to believe that WandaVision just set up Marvel's First Family to finally form up.
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What Happened? — In the fourth episode of WandaVision, "We Interrupt This Program," Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) takes point as the episode's main character when the "reality" of Wanda's sitcom is revealed. With the help of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Jane Foster's former intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings), Monica infiltrates — and is thrown out of — the town of Westfield, New Jersey, which seems to be under the control of a distraught Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen).
An exchange between Monica and acting S.W.O.R.D. director Tyler Hayward (Josh Stamberg) has fans buzzing over the fact the new organization may have sent four fantastic individuals to space — and lost them. Did the MCU just lay the groundwork for the Fantastic Four?
Actually, maybe not. But it's still possible. Here's why.
"Half of those remaining lost their nerve" — In a sort of Berenstain Bears moment, fans on Reddit, YouTube, and Twitter are collectively misremembering the exact wording of Monica and Tyler's exchange. Here is Monica and Tyler's exact words from the episode:
Monica Rambeau: "How are the numbers for the astronaut training program?"
Tyler Hayward: Dismal. "Lost half my personnel in The Blip, and half of those remaining have lost their nerve. The program hasn't been the same since you've been up there, Rambeau."
The way many fans are interpreting the exchange is that S.W.O.R.D. lost half of its personnel in the Blip, and lost even more from a space mission gone wrong — which might not even be related to the Blip. Some fans believe that the "missing" astronauts could be the Fantastic Four, the first superhero team in Marvel Comics who gained their superpowers from a space mission gone awry.
However, looking at the exchange closely, and it's clear that is not the case. What Hayward is telling Rambeau is that half the personnel were gone in the Blip and that the other half "lost their nerve." While a vague description, it nevertheless confirms that they're not missing, they're just not suited for any active missions.
A fantastic theory — However, the MCU may still have set up an origin for the Fantastic Four through WandaVision. It's unknown how the Blip affected any S.W.O.R.D. missions in space at the time. It is possible that the Blip caused something wrong that might have left four S.W.O.R.D. astronauts — whose names could be Reed Richards, Ben Grimm, and the siblings Sue and Johnny Storm — vulnerable to cosmic rays.
Similarly, the absence of qualified trainees means Monica may have to do some serious recruiting post-WandaVision. That's another way Reed, Ben, Johnny, and Sue can come within orbit of the MCU: With no one left to turn to, S.W.O.R.D. recruits inexperienced scientists only for that to go wrong too, resulting in them getting superpowers.
A third possibility is that the astronauts Hayward said "lost their nerve" might be the Fantastic Four themselves. Perhaps somewhere in a secluded section of S.W.O.R.D. headquarters, there are four astronauts just discovering that they came back from space completely changed.
Whatever the case, all that matters is that while fans are accidentally paraphrasing a small but compelling line of dialogue in WandaVision, it doesn't invalidate speculation. There must be a reason why the MCU implemented a "space force" (originating from Joss Whedon's Astonishing X-Men) in the same Phase Four roll out in which Marvel Studios will produce Fantastic Four.
Getting Caught Up — Marvel fans who are new to the Fantastic Four don't have to buy up Fantastic Four paperbacks or hunt eBay for old comics. (Although if you want, definitely pick up Jonathan Hickman and Dan Slott's comics if you're new.)
There are not one but two movies, 2005's Fantastic Four (starring Chris Evans as Johnny Storm) and the 2015 disaster Fant4stic Four (starring Michael B. Jordan as Johnny Storm), not to mention two separate animated shows streaming on Disney+. The sequel to the 2005 movie, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, is streaming for Starz cable subscribers.
Also streaming on Tubi and Prime Video is the must-see 2016 documentary Doomed!: The Untold Story of Roger Corman's Fantastic Four. In 1994, B-movie icon Roger Corman produced a low-budget film adaptation of Marvel's Fantastic Four that was completed but never released.
As detailed in the documentary, the movie was vaporware for producer Bernd Eichinger to keep the film rights. Stan Lee himself disowned the film and told fans at a convention not to watch it. Avi Arad, at the time a Marvel executive and later producer on the Spider-Man films, purchased the movie for an undisclosed amount and had all prints of the movie destroyed.
But who knows with WandaVision? With the multiverse soon to play a role in the MCU, it's not impossible to think we'll not only see the proper MCU's Fantastic Four but any one of these other universes too.
WandaVisioni streams new episodes Friday on Disney+.