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Marvel fever hits Stockton as hundreds sign petition to bring 'Fantastic Four' to town

Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee proclaimed Stockton as the birthplace of the 'Fantastic Four' in 1986. Now the city wants the movie to be filmed there.

STOCKTON, Calif. — It's been 37 years since the city of Stockton was first thrust into the Marvel universe and now, the city is coming together in hopes of a long-awaited return.

Visit Stockton announced a new initiative to bring filming of the next 'Fantastic Four' movie to the Port City, Thursday.

In 1985, Al Greco, who owns Stockton's Al's Comics, started a petition to get Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee to visit his shop for Marvel's 25th anniversary. 

After hundreds of fans signed, Stan Lee accepted the invite and set a date to visit. The news of the incoming visit was music to the ears of thousands of residents, including local radio DJ Joe Field.

"Joe wanted to take it another step further," said Wes Rhea, CEO of Visit Stockton. "He worked on petitioning first, the city council to work on getting Marvel to identify Stockton as the birthplace of the Fantastic Four rather than the fictitious city of 'Central City.'"

Field found success in his initiative as well, gaining acknowledgment from Marvel Comics. When Stan Lee came to Stockton in 1986, he presented a proclamation in front of City Hall officially cementing Stockton as the birthplace of the Fantastic Four.

Since the proclamation, Stockton has been mentioned in multiple comic books, but never on film. When Rhea and his team heard Marvel is in the process of producing a new Fantastic Four movie, they saw an opportunity and created a new petition.

"Our goal is to get Marvel Studios' attention and hopefully they'll not only acknowledge Stockton as the birthplace of the Fantastic Four in the new movie, but hopefully come here -- maybe the University of the Pacific or the waterfront or downtown Stockton -- and do some filming," said Rhea. "They can film in New York and film in LA or wherever, it'll just be another day for those kinds of communities, but if a movie of this caliber actually does some filming in Stockton, that'll make a huge difference for us and our community, and we'd be super appreciative."

Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln agrees. Lincoln posted a video to social media in support of the idea shortly after Visit Stockton announced the petition and campaign.

"We here in Stockton think it's only right that Stockton be featured in the film," said Lincoln in the video filmed at Al's Comics. "Stockton, named the most diverse city in the nation, lives up to Marvel's stance. Our community is excited for the opportunity to expand our existence in the Marvel Universe and onto the big screen."

The petition has more than 1,400 signatures in less than 24 hours, thousands shy of Rhea's goal, but a number he considers a good start.

According to Rhea, the campaign was met with messages of support from across the community and from people who don't live in Stockton -- all uniting forces to put the city on the silver screen.

"We're feeling really good about it and I think it's a great time for Stockton to be recognized as this birthplace," said Rhea. "We're going to keep going until we get some acknowledgment from Marvel Studios, that they've heard us loud and clear. We're just getting started."

Watch More from ABC10: How Stockton became the official home of the Fantastic Four

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