Category: Comics

Super Hero Movie Proliferation & Crossovers Explained

Strange as it may seem, there is a legal reason  why there are so many super hero movies. No kidding.

Before we dive into the movies, let’s talk about who owns these characters.

Comic character ownership

With the exception of a few franchises like Hellboy, Kick Ass, and Judge Dredd, most comic super heroes are owned by Marvel (a subsidiary of Disney) and DC (a subsidiary of Warner Brothers [which is owned by Time Warner]).

Marvel owns

  • Spider-Man
  • The X-Men
  • The Fantastic Four
  • Captain America
  • Iron Man
  • Thor
  • Hulk
  • Black Widow
  • Hawkeye
  • The rest of the Avengers
  • Daredevil
  • Ghost Rider
  • The Punisher
  • Silver Surfer
  • Nick Fury
  • Blade


And in the comics, all of these characters interact with one another on a regular basis (except for Blade… Marvel loves to forget that he exists because he is way cooler in the movies).

DC owns

  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Green Lantern
  • The Flash
  • Aquaman


And in the comics, all of these characters interact with one another on a regular basis (seriously, DC keeps trying to make people like Aquaman).

Marvel / DC Comics Crossovers

Crossovers between the two companies have happened, but they pretty much take a Constitutional Amendment to make them a reality… And the stories always end up being monuments to creative compromise.

Movie rights

DC movie rights

DC owns the movie rights to all of their characters. Nothing confusing here.

Marvel movie rights

Marvel on the other hand does not.

Back before the boom in super hero movies, Marvel decided to sell off movie rights to production studios which resulted in some hilarious terrible and little known movies such as:

  • Nick Fury: Agent of Shield (1998) starring David Hasselhoff
  • Captain America (1990) with an obviously plastic shield
  • Fantastic Four (1994) which I haven’t seen, but have on good authority sucks badly

This method also produced X-Men (2000) and Spider-Man (2002) staring Toby Maguire. The success of these two movies marks the beginning of the super hero movie boom.

DC produced Batman Begins, and then took a bath in the ocean of cash they made.

Marvel woke up and realized that they were sitting on a gold mine. However they already sold off movie rights for many of their characters.


Sony owns Spider-Man and most important associated characters and villains.


Fox owns The X-Men and the Fantastic Four (including the Silver Surfer & Galactus) and most important associated characters and villains.

Disney / Marvel

The Avengers, SHIELD, and all associated characters and villains… Along with just about all other Marvel characters not listed.

WTF does this all mean?

Disney / Marvel

Disney has built a massive movie-verse where all of their characters live and interact from time-to-time. At the moment it’s helmed by Kevin Feige and Joss Whedon, and culminated in The Avengers.

Clearly they made a good decision.

They have a highly organized and ever-expanding long-term plan to continue pumping out super hero flicks. Their current movie pipeline that goes years into the future, and they are constantly expanding farther.


On the success of The Avengers, Fox has allegedly decided to make their own Marvel movie-verse featuring the X-Men and Fantastic Four. They brought in comic writer Mark Millar who has written successful runs of both franchises in the comics to consult.

They also have to keep putting out movies with these characters, or the rights will revert back to Marvel. So while they don’t have much of an announced pipeline past the next X-Men movie, you can expect Fox to flood the market over the coming years.

If they lose the rights, they will be gone for good. Marvel won’t be selling movie rights again, you can take that to the bank.


Sony is in the same boat as Fox. They own the rights to Spider-Man, but they have to keep putting out movies or the rights revert back to Marvel (which was why a Spidey-reboot came so quickly).

Spider-Man is in a movie ghetto of sorts. It would take a monumental legal arrangement for him to appear in any other comic franchise movie (which is a big disappointment to many fans).


The folks at DC aren’t in a legal rush. They have no expiration dates on their characters, but they do want to make Avengers-level cash. Which is why they plan to create their own movie-verse featuring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and some other Justice League characters.

… So you can expect them to proliferate like crazy as well, beginning with the recently announced Batman vs. Superman (2015).

Some confusion

The strangest pieces of all of this insanity is that there are two characters where the movie rights are owned by both Fox & Disney/ Marvel.

The Scarlet Witch and her brother Quicksilver are Avengers (and will be in The Avengers 2), but they are also the children of Magneto… Making them X-Men characters. Quicksilver (as a different actor) will appear in the upcoming X-Men movie as well.


This chaos also results in disappointments for fans (beyond Spidey).

  • Ellen Page plays Shadowcat in the X-Men franchise.
  • Shadowcat is Joss Whedon’s favorite character.
  • Page would love to be in a Shadowcat movie written & directed by Whedon.
  • Lots of fans would (myself included) would love to see that movie.
  • It won’t happen for the foreseeable future because Whedon is under contract with Disney/ Marvel while Shadowcat is owned by Fox.
  • Lame.

The bottom-line

Whether you love them or hate them (I have mixed feelings), there will be lots more super hero movies in the coming years. There will be lots more movie crossovers, and TV spinoffs. Get used to it.

Also, Spider-Man fans… Get used to disappointment. You won’t be seeing Spidey crossovers in other franchises anytime soon.

(Images via Marvel & DC)

TGW Review: The Avengers


You know those movies that show all of the best scenes and funniest lines in the trailer? The Avengers is nothing like that.

The Avengers is a funny, action-packed, cohesive love letter to the super hero genre. It also manages to convey a serious sense of danger and urgency, without becoming overwhelmingly dark.

The Basics

Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and Thor must overcome their vast differences and team up to stop Loki and his invading army from conquering the world.

With five years of teasing from Marvel Studios; a huge cast of A-list talent; a collection of characters who shouldn’t be in the same room; and a story too big to tell in a movie, the opportunities for this film to suck were numerous. Fortunately, Joss Whedon & co were up to the challenge.

The Good

Badass Moments All Around!

Every single character has many moments to shine. With a cast this big, it would be easy to push many characters into the scenery. That didn’t happen. I’m hard-pressed to pick a favorite moment because there were so many great moments.

Bringing the Funny

In typical Whedon fashion, this movie is just as humorous as it is intense. In that way it reminds me of my True Lies (one of my all-time favorite action flicks).

Fun with Clichés

One of Whedon’s talents that runs throughout everything he’s ever done is his manipulation of clichés. He is a master of taking what the viewer expects, and then suddenly turning it on its side. Where lesser writers will fallback on “classic” story elements, Whedon works like a magician and always keeps you guessing. That’s one of the things that made Cabin in the Woods (2012) so exceptional.

Nothing is Wasted & Everything is Earned

This story is tight! There’s no fat on it. Every line either establishes a character, or pushes the story forward. Even the post-credit scene is a call-back joke to an earlier line that seemed like an irrelevant throwaway line.


I strongly dislike 3D, but I didn’t mind the 3D in The Avengers. For the most part it added depth like a diorama, instead of flying at the audience like a pop-up book. With the exception of one brief moment, I was cool with the 3D.

Sam Jackson

Mr. Jackson is not known for subtlety. In The Avengers his performance in remarkably understated, and I thought it was exceptional. I’m not sure who made that decision, but whomever made that call deserves a cookie. If I’m remembering correctly, his most badass moment is devoid of dialog (or pretty close to it).

Suspension of Disbelief

The best praise I can give any super hero story (comic, or movie), is that my suspension of disbelief went unbroken throughout. Will that be the case after multiple viewing? I’m not sure. But while I was watching The Avengers, I was completely invested in the story, and it never made me question the narrative.

The Not-So-Good

As much as I loved The Avengers, I do have some minor gripes.

One Big Cliché

I don’t want to give anything away, but there is one big alien movie cliché that Whedon used to wrap up the film, and I found it slightly disappointing… But I also understood why it needed to be that way. I still wish it wasn’t.

3D Serpent Thingie

There was one moment in the third act where the 3D disrupted my viewing experience. That giant metal flying serpent thingie from the trailer flies into the screen (kind of over the camera), and my eyes/ brain were not ok with that at all.

Further Exploring the Idea of Freedom

Early in the film, Loki talks a bit about humans and freedom. It’s a concept that Whedon plays with a lot. In The Avengers, he starts to dig into this idea, but never really does anything with it, other than expand on Loki’s motivation. I think it was a missed opportunity to add extra meaning to the overall story.

The Ugly

Nothing serious to report here…

I Want More!

The DVD is going to have something like 30 minutes of extra footage, and I can’t wait for it.

The Bottom-Line

If you haven’t seen it yet, just go. This is what mainstream comic heroics look like at their very best.

There are two credits scenes.

The mid-credits scene sets up the next film (if you’re interested in who that character is, click here). You have to stay to see this as it explains something that happens in the beginning of the movie.

The post-credits scene isn’t necessary to see, but it is both very funny, and delightfully Whedonesque.

Lastly, if you liked the humor and storytelling in The Avengers, you really ought to watch some of Whedon’s early work. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible & Dollhouse are exceptional shows that are smart, moving, funny, and very entertaining.

I’m taking a victory lap here because this movie went exactly as I predicted over a year ago: Exceptionally well (and for the same reasons I stated).

(Image via Wikipedia)