I think it’s a fair assessment that as a whole, we really like comic book movies. As we get more and more of the well-recognized characters with blockbuster movies and sequel and reboot upon sequel and reboot, we are getting to the point where we want team-ups, more obscure characters, and famous story arcs done as movies. Amitright?
I hear comic and movie fans saying things like “I wonder if We’ll get Spidey in Avengers 2 or 3?” “Will they make a World War Hulk movie with Silver Surfer?” “Will we see a Nova spin-off from Guardians of the Galaxy?” And as fans, we want to see these types of things. However, we live in a world where these characters are big money and studios do not like to play nice with one another. Let’s explain a little more.
For those of you with a standard adult memory and are over age 10, you know that a short time ago Marvel was just a comic book company. Before they became a movie juggernaut backed by the endless resources of Disney, in order to see their characters hit the big screen and reap the benefits, they needed to sell rights to characters to other people. Spider-man to Sony. X-men to Fox. Blade to New Line Cinema. Etc etc. But now that Marvel makes their own movies and their own characters are some of their biggest box office competition, the waters have gotten quite murky. Let’s take a look at who owns what.
In simplest terms, Fox owns the rights to Fantastic Four and X-men. But it isn’t that simple. They also own the rights to all of the characters heavily associated with those properties (including team members, enemies, frequent cross-overs) and even characters that are mutants. So here’s a representation of who/what they own:
They own anything Spiderman. Green Goblin? Yep. Vulture? Yep. Kraven? Uh huh. Not Carnage, too? Oh yeah. Here’s who Sony owns:
A while back they purchased the rights to Namor. They never did anything with it. The rumor mill says that the rights will revert back to Marvel in the not-so-distant future and Universal is trying to facilitate that faster by offering the rights now in exchange for distribution rights on the film.
New Line Cinema:
New Line really only still has the rights to Man-Thing. They’re no longer a major player. However, like how Fox has the rights to mutants, New Line used to have the rights to Marvel Vampires. They put out 3 Blade films. In the time since Blade 3, though, all rights have reverted back to Marvel.
Marvel owns anything that other companies don’t. Howard The Duck? Marvel. Iron Fist? Marvel. They’ve even had a few characters that have reverted back to their stable because the previous owner lapsed on continuing their renewal. This includes the following characters:
So then we get to murky waters and legal wranglings. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were the children of Magneto. They fought against the X-Men until they became good and joined The Avengers. So who owns the rights to these two? Fox and Marvel both own them. In fact, they will both appear in Avengers 2 and the new X-Men movie.
There’s also the curious case of Galactus and Silver Surfer. The rumor mill said that Marvel wanted them back. They are owned (as part of the Fantastic Four rights) by Fox. Marvel was apparently planning to offer extended use of the Daredevil rights for getting Galactus/Silver Surfer back. But Fox backed out of that. As for now, Daredevil/Elektra have since reverted back to Marvel and we’ll have to wait on the fate of Silver Surfer and Galactus.
But my favorite game of “what will happen” is the case of Morbius. In the Amazing Spiderman film, there is a screen shot showing a file for Morbius, dropping an Easter Egg about his eventual appearance. Sam Raimi has even said he’d love to do a Morbius movie. Morbius was a character associated with Spiderman, so Sony should have the rights, correct? Hmmm….Not so fast. Just how Fox owns the rights to mutants. New Line Cinema owned the rights to Marvel’s vampires (which A) came before Sony’s Spiderman deal and B) includes Morbius). They even included Morbius in the alternate ending to Blade. The thinking was he would be a Blade villain, but never manifested. After Wesley Snipes legal troubles and inactivity on the part of New Line, Blade/Vampire rights have reverted back to Marvel. So, by my estimation, Marvel owns the rights to Morbius. With bad blood between Sony and Marvel, I highly doubt there will be an amicable ending to this should Sony press the issue.
So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about Marvel characters and who owns the rights. So reference back when you want to know if Marvel can do a Defenders film or a Heroes For Hire film.
Until then, let’s just count down the days till Guardians of the Galaxy.