When you think of a team of explorers created in the 1960s, known for their colorful costumes and compelling interpersonal dynamics, who comes to mind? You might say the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, created by Gene Roddenberry and introduced in the first episode of Star Trek in 1966. But if you wanted to go back a few years further, you might think of the Fantastic Four, the quartet from Stan Lee and Jack Kirby who kicked off the Marvel age of heroes with Fantastic Four #1 in 1961.
While the original Enterprise crew hasn’t had the spotlight for a while now, and the Fantastic Four haven’t quite enjoyed the pop culture saturation of their Marvelous counterparts, the two teams are primed for a comeback. The Kelvin Universe movies starring Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock may be in limbo at the moment, but these characters remain going concerns in Strange New Worlds, the most well-received of the five currently on-going Trek series.
Likewise, Marvel’s first family may have been taken off the board for a few months following 2015’s Secret Wars, but the team has been coming back. Their latest ongoing launched with an audacious run from writer Dan Slott and MCU head Kevin Feige plans a big budget Fantastic Four movie as the launching point for Phase Six of the franchise.
And the guy at the center of both is Matt Shakman. After directing the much-loved Disney+ series WandaVision, Shakman was recruited by Paramount to helm the fourth movie in the Kelvin Franchise. The fellow up to 2013’s (severely underrated) Star Trek: Beyond would have reuinited Kirk with his father George Kirk, played by Chris Hemsworth. But when Feige offered him the chance to direct Fantastic Four, Shakman couldn’t resist — partially because it was a lateral move, creatively speaking.
“You know, the reason I love Star Trek, I’m sure, is a big part of why I love the Fantastic Four,” Shakman told Collider. “They share a great sense of optimism, the idea of looking to the stars, and technology can save everything, and coming together as a family, either a real family in the case of [Fantastic Four], or the family that you find in the case of the Enterprise.”
To be sure, there’s no doubting that the two teams were born from the Kennedy-era optimism that tied the space race to social improvements, events that made Americans believe that humanity could achieve anything, on Earth and beyond. Even as the two franchises have certainly sometimes embraced more cynical viewpoints, they always come back to that central idea.
Shakman is hardly alone in seeing connections between Star Trek and superheroes. In the comics world, numerous members of the capes and tights set have visited the Enterprise, including several team-ups between Kirk/Picard and the Uncanny X-Men. More recently, DC heroes have been the ones to boldly go, with Green Lantern and the Legion of Superheroes crossing over.
Projects like these show that creatives are always ready to tell stories about the Fantastic Four and Kirk and his crew, even if their ideals are sometimes passé.