Marvel fans were ecstatic to learn recently that Disney was participating in talks to purchase 21st Century Fox. CNBC reported that if this potential deal went through, Disney would buy Fox’s movie and television assets, but would not purchase the Fox broadcast network, Fox News, or the Fox Business channel.
Bloomberg subsequently reported that the talks between Disney and Fox are not currently active, but this doesn’t necessarily contradict CNBC’s report, which mentioned that “the two sides are not currently talking at this very moment, but given the on again, off again nature of the talks, they could be revisited.”
Why would this be such a big deal? Well, Fox currently owns a number of Marvel comic book characters who have not been a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite being critically important in the source material. If Disney buys Fox, Marvel Studios, owned by Disney, would suddenly have access to all of these characters and storylines — potentially completely changing the MCU as we know it.
So for those who have trouble keeping track of which company owns what, these are the characters that Marvel Studios would get back if Disney buys Fox.
1. The Fantastic Four
Fox currently owns the rights to the Fantastic Four aka Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, the Human Torch, and the Thing. In the comics, the Fantastic Four have interacted with plenty of characters from the MCU. The Fantastic Four and the Avengers have also teamed up to take on foes together, and at one point, Reed Richards and Sue Storm were even part of a version of the Avengers.
But in the movies, the Fantastic Four and the Avengers have never interacted. Fox produced three films using the characters — most recently, 2015’s Fantastic Four, one of the worst-reviewed movies of that year. Due to the film’s poor reception, Fox canceled plans for a sequel.
If Disney buys Fox, Marvel would suddenly have access to the group. They probably wouldn’t produce another origin story right away for the same reason they didn’t make a Spider-Man origin story after getting the rights to that character. But they could very well produce a Fantastic Four movie that skips over their origin.
They could also introduce the Fantastic Four via another team-up movie and then spin off from there into a standalone film, similar to how Marvel introduced Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War before giving him his own movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
In addition, Marvel Studios would be gaining access to all of the other characters featured in the Fantastic Four comics, including Silver Surfer.
2. Doctor Doom
Since Fox owns the rights to the Fantastic Four, they also own the rights to Doctor Doom. This would arguably be an even more significant get for Marvel than the Fantastic Four, because, in the comics, Doctor Doom is a hugely significant villain who often appears without the Fantastic Four being present at all.
As Marvel fans speculate about what storylines might be adapted into movies going forward, many inevitably reach a roadblock when they realize a story they want to see on screen relies heavily on Doctor Doom, a character the company doesn’t have access to. For example, there was a theory that Marvel might adapt the 2004 comic series, Avengers Disassembled, for the fourth Avengers film. But the villain of this story is Doctor Doom, making a direct adaptation of it impossible at the moment.
Doctor Doom is such a monumental presence in the comics that if Marvel Studios were to get the rights to him back, he could be the next “big bad” to set up the course of the next decade or so, just as Thanos has been the “big bad” of the first three phases.
Another villain they’d get would be Galactus, who first appeared in a Fantastic Four comic series in 1966. He’s a cosmic being who feeds off planets in order to sustain his power. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest Marvel villains, with IGN ranking him as the fifth greatest comic book villain of all time (and that’s not even just Marvel villains).
Introduced in the Fantastic Four comics, Galactus has also popped up in plenty of other storylines including ones with the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and also had a part in the Infinity War.
As Marvel continues to struggle to introduce villains who are truly menacing and memorable, the biggest upside to this potential sale may be the ability to draw on the Fantastic Four comics after the defeat of Thanos. Other notable Fantastic Four villains include Annihilus, Namor, the Frightful Four, and Moe Man.
Under this potential sale, Marvel Studios would also have the rights to Wolverine, another character that currently belongs to 20th Century Fox (a branch of parent company 21st Century Fox). This acquisition would come just as Fox theoretically said goodbye to Wolverine in Logan, a film that served as the mutant’s swan song and Hugh Jackman’s last time playing the character. Any more Wolverine movies would have to involve another actor, but Fox has not indicated plans to pursue that for the time being.
However, Marvel could theoretically start with a clean slate for the character by introducing Wolverine into the MCU. In the comic books, Wolverine has had plenty of interactions with the broader universe of characters. He was introduced in an Incredible Hulk comic, after all, and he even once became a member of The Avengers.
If Marvel ever does acquire rights to the character, though, it remains to be seen whether they would actually want to bring Wolverine back in the immediate future. Jackman’s performance was so iconic that the studio may want to wait a while and focus on other heroes for now.
Storm could also be a part of the MCU if Disney buys Fox. So far, she has been limited to the X-Men series of films, being portrayed by Halle Berry in X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, and X-Men: Days of Future Past. She was also portrayed by Alexandra Shipp in X-Men: Apocalypse.
The reason Storm’s potential involvement in the MCU is particularly noteworthy is because of her relationship with Black Panther. In a comic book storyline in the 2000s, Storm actually marries Black Panther, years after she saved him when she was 12 years old. Black Panther and Storm temporarily join the Fantastic Four during this time, as Mister Fantastic and the Invisible Woman take a hiatus from the group.
Black Panther, of course, was introduced into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War, and his solo film, Black Panther, is Marvel’s next release after Thor: Ragnarok. Due to Storm’s relationship with him, Marvel could theoretically introduce her into the movie universe as a love interest without the need to make a full-fledged X-Men film yet.
6. All of the other X-Men
A deal between Fox and Disney would give Marvel access to literally hundreds of characters, as it would gain access to the entire X-Men franchise. That means characters like Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Jean Gray, and many, many others would all have the potential to show up in forthcoming Marvel movies.
Fox already had grand plans for the X-Men on screen, slating X-Men: Dark Phoenix as the next movie in the series, scheduled for release in November 2018. They also began plans on a Gambit film starring Channing Tatum, an X-Force film, and a potential X-23 film. In April 2018, the studio will release The New Mutants, an X-Men horror film.
If the Fox sale to Disney does happen, Marvel could scrap the idea of a separate X-Men universe that explores all kinds of genres in favor of incorporating everything into the MCU. The company could also theoretically decide to keep the X-Men on their own.
Fans seem mixed on what they want to happen. Some feel like the X-Men are best kept separate from the rest of the MCU. Others are dying to see a crossover between the X-Men and the Avengers, including a potential adaptation of the 2012 event Avengers vs. X-Men.
If the sale goes through, it seems very likely that the X-Men would just become a part of the existing Marvel universe. After all, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige previously said he wants the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in the MCU.
The character that fans immediately began worrying about the most after the news of the potential Disney sale is Deadpool. After all, 20th Century Fox owns the character and Fox allowed Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds to do him justice with the R-rated 2016 film Deadpool and a sequel on the way next year. But if the MCU chose to include Deadpool, would he still be as hilariously filthy?
To this day, Marvel Studios has not released an R-rated movie. Although their films do sometimes feature dirty jokes and adult material, it’s nothing close to what’s seen in the Deadpool movies. So fans are concerned that Disney will sanitize Deadpool as the MCU incorporates him, or even worse, will abandon him entirely since he’s too vulgar to fit into Marvel’s vision.
Then again, some more adult content already exists in the Marvel universe with its Netflix shows. Both Daredevil and The Punisher are quite violent, despite existing in the same world as the more family-friendly films. So it’s entirely possible that Marvel will continue releasing Deadpool films that remain true to the character and become the franchise’s first R-rated entries.
It’s also possible that Disney could continue releasing the Deadpool films but under a separate label, only having the character occasionally cross over into the other movies via brief cameos.
8. Virtually every other character that’s not from the Spider-Man series
There are so many other characters that would become available to Marvel Studios under this deal. If it did go through, the company would essentially have access to every single comic book character you can think of except for those owned by Sony.
Sony Pictures still owns the rights to Spider-Man, making three movies in the 2000s and two reboots with Andrew Garfield in 2012 and 2014. After The Amazing Spider-Man 2 disappointed financially, Sony negotiated a deal with Marvel that would allow Spider-Man to appear in the MCU.
Many are under the impression that Sony sold the character to Marvel, which is not the case. Sony still owns Spider-Man, which is why Spider-Man: Homecoming starts off with the Sony logo. However, Sony is allowing the character to appear in Marvel movies. They’re also making Spider-Man films in conjunction with Marvel, with Homecoming their first collaboration. Still, Sony plans to continue making their own films featuring Spider-Man characters, with a Venom movie coming in 2018.
Since Sony still has the rights to Spider-Man, we won’t be seeing Spider-Man characters in the MCU unless Sony specifically allows it. But if Disney buys Fox, Marvel would have access to virtually every other character from their comic books other than Spider-Man and the gang, very nearly reaching the point where the films can emulate exactly what’s on the page.
This is something that Stan Lee himself hinted at in an interview in early 2017. “Sooner or later, they’re going to get the rights back to all our characters,” Lee said. “They’re working on it, and they’re still making X-Men movies and stuff. Don’t worry about it. You’ll get more Marvel superheroes than you’ll have time to look at in the next few years.”
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