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Could Superman and Spider-Man fight each other? Might Batman and Black Panther bond over their love of fancy gadgets? Or could Aquaman go swimming with Namor, the Sub Mariner?

In the comics, maybe. In the movies, probably not. Crossovers between the Marvel and DC heroes have happened on the printed page, but they’re very unlikely to happen on the big screen or even the small one.

The Avengers stars
The Avengers stars | Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros. are fierce competitors with their cinematic universes. So unless one of the studios buys the other, a la Disney and 20th Century Fox, crossovers will be limited to fans with vivid imaginations.

Crossovers in the comics

According to Nerdist, Marvel, which had not been around nearly as long as DC, referred to their rival as “the Distinguished Competition.” For a long time, DC had Batman and Superman and Marvel had Spider-Man and the X-Men, and never the heroes shall meet.

At least not until 1976, when Spider-Man and Superman got into a fight. After peak sales in the 1960s, comic books had started to decline, no thanks to arcade games and other distractions. So just as the movies fought off TV in the ’50s with innovations like widescreen and 3D, the comic publishers thought a crossover would be a great gimmick to boost sales. They were right.

This was followed up by a sequel, along with Batman Vs. Hulk and other combinations like the X-Men and the Teen Titans. After the ultimate mash-up of the Justice League and The Avengers in 2003 and 2004, the crossovers stopped.

By that time, superhero movies were in full swing, with the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises, and the comic book illustrators must have gotten tired after drawing all those characters together.

DC soundly beat Marvel at first

It’s no secret that Warner Bros/DC seriously envies the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The ironic thing about that was for a long time, DC characters ruled the movie screen, while Marvel characters couldn’t get a movie to save their lives.

The first major superhero movie was the 1978 Superman directed by Richard Donner, which was a massive hit, grossing what would be $517 million in today’s money. Meanwhile, Marvel only seemed to be able to get TV shows with Spider-Man and the Hulk off the ground. While The Incredible Hulk lasted for five seasons, The Amazing Spider-Man only managed two.

DC continued to top Marvel on the big screen with the phenomenal success of Batman in 1989. Meanwhile, Marvel had embarrassments with the cheesy 1990 Captain America movie and a zero-budget 1994 Fantastic Four movie, which was never even released. It wasn’t until X-Men in 2000 that Marvel started to turn their fortunes around, followed by Spider-Man in 2002.

Since then, the proverbial shoe has been on the other foot. Although DC enjoyed success with the Batman Begins reboot in 2005, Marvel topped everyone with their cinematic universe, beginning in 2008. DC/Warners looked on and said, “We were there first, why can’t we do that too?”

The DC universe struggles

After the solid but not overwhelming success of Man of Steel in 2013, DC tried to have their two most iconic characters fight each other in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The result was considered a bloated, heavy-handed disappointment. The noisy, brash Suicide Squad the same year seemed to induce more headaches than anything else.

Wonder Woman saved the day in 2017, but the expensive, troubled Justice League was another botch. DC rebounded with Aquaman last year and Shazam this year, but even those pale in comparison to the Avengers movies. Given all this, Marvel and Disney are probably not willing to help Warner and DC out.

Even if DC and Marvel were to combine Justice League with the Avengers, the result would be so insanely expensive that even a massive gross wouldn’t make it profitable. So for now, the only way to find a Marvel/DC crossover video is to look on YouTube.