One of the disappointing things about the current Marvel Cinematic Universe is that we will not see Wolverine go head to head with Hulk or Captain America. We will not see Reed Richards head the Illuminati and blast Bruce Banner into space. We will not see an Avengers vs. X-Men movie! Why? Because, movie rights.
What does this mean? For the technical definition, let’s look to our favorite source for definitions, Wikipedia:
Film rights are the rights under copyright law to make a derivative work—in this case, a film—derived from an item of intellectual property. Under U.S. law, these belong to the holder of the copyright, who may sell or option them to someone in the film industry (a producer or director or sometimes a specialist broker of such properties) who will then try to gather the other professionals and secure the financial backing needed to convert the property into a film. This is different from the right to exhibit a finished motion picture commercially to an audience; this is usually referred to as “exhibition rights” or “public performance rights”.
That’s enough learning for one day. So, what we have is a situation where the movie rights for certain characters in the Marvel Universe reside with different film companies. Sony currently holds the rights to produce films based on Spider-Man and characters associated with him. FOX holds the rights to produce films associated with both the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. What can be done?
With a recent announcement from Marvel Comics, we know that the Fantastic Four comic book series will be ending, and not just for another reboot, “The End Is Fourever” seems to be more than just a gimmicky storyline. The recent announcement that Disney/Marvel has put the kibosh on any further production of toys for Fantastic Four characters seems to say that they are done making other companies lives easier by providing free promotion when it comes to other companies movies about their characters. Whether this just means that Marvel’s first family will simply be in a hiatus for some time or not, is unclear. We know how prone to reboots and relaunches Marvel has been ever since the Marvel NOW! titles started a couple of years ago.
Some other news to go along with this announcement is that Chris Claremont talked about why the X-Men will not have any new cast members. There also seems to be an embargo on any new X-Men toys. While it may just be a way for Marvel and Disney to focus on promoting the many films they have lined up over the next few years, it also seems like a tool to use against those companies to possibly influence them to relinquish the rights. We shall see what happens on both fronts. For now, we know that Fantastic Four will be reverting to original numbering and ending with issue #645 next year.
One last piece to cement this story. Today, at NYCC, Marvel officially announced that the Fantastic Four series would be “going away for a while, so we can assume that it is not truly “Fourever” but could have some lasting impact on the franchise.