Movies & TV / Columns

411 Comics Showcase – Marvel vs. Fox Studios

December 9, 2016 | Posted by Aaron Hubbard

Few things anger the comic book fanboy in me more than the pissing contest between Marvel Studios and Fox Studios. If you’re unfamiliar with this, a brief history lesson may be in order. When Marvel Comics was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 1990’s, the company made ends meet by selling the film rights of various characters to different studios. Universal Studios bought the rights to The Hulk, Columbia Pictures (now owned by Sony) got Spider-Man and later Ghost Rider, and Fox purchased the Fantastic Four, Daredevil and the X-Men.

This generally wasn’t much of an issue for the first decade or so. Marvel was happy to make money and feed off the increased notoriety of big screen adaptations. The entire feel of X-Men comics in particular adjusted to more closely resemble Bryan Singer’s films. But when Marvel decided to start producing their own movies, things got a bit messy. While Universal was willing to cooperate and loan Marvel the Hulk for their Avengers project, Fox and Sony decided to keep their characters to themselves. So while Iron Man, Thor and Captain America got to interact with each other, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men were left on lonely islands.

Generally speaking, this separation didn’t cause any big problems in other areas. Everyone got along in the comics (more or less), the Hulk showed up in the Wolverine and the X-Men show, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four guest starred in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. You could still have them team up to fight evil in Earth’s Mightiest Heroes or settle whether Storm or Thor would in a fight in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Unless you were the kind of die hard fan who was always going to lament not seeing Captain America and Wolverine reminisce about World War II on the big screen, it probably didn’t affect your life as a comic book fan that much.

Eventually, that started to change. 2012 seemed to be the turning point; between Disney acquiring Marvel and The Avengers becoming the biggest superhero movie of all time, Marvel Studios had gone from being the little production company that could into a cultural juggernaut. And while negotiations with Sony eventually led to Spider-Man debuting in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fox and Marvel seemed to become more strained. Fox lost the rights to Daredevil, making it even more important for them to make a (distressingly subpar) Fantastic Four movie to retain their rights. There was also an ugly legal battle over who had the rights to use Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, Avengers who were mutants and Magneto’s children

While this battle eventually resulted in two separate Quicksilvers appearing in big budget movies, the tension seemed to cause something to break at Marvel. The Maximoffs were distanced from Magneto, thus robbing them of their mutant status and Pietro’s only genuinely interesting character trait. Marvel decided to throw logic out the window by killing off Wolverine. And when Marvel announced its soft relaunch for 2015, the X-Men were downplayed in advertising and the Fantastic Four all but disappeared from the company. It’s difficult not to see this as a petty move from the executives at Marvel, and I doubt they are really having much effect on Fox’s revenue by not making money off Fantastic Four sales.

“Petty” really seems to be the operative word here. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around Marvel’s mindset here, as they are causing more harm to themselves than to Fox. It’s been a source of bitter amusement for me to watch Marvel trying to push the infinitely less interesting Inhumans as a big deal, not so subtly trying to use them as a replacement for the X-Men. It has failed, of course, since the pencil pushers don’t seem to recognize that X-Men fans care more about the characters behind the powers than the ‘team of ostracized superhumans’ concept. By sabotaging the X-Men in comics, all they are doing is pushing the devoted fanbase away and more towards Fox.

Essentially, what we have here is a bunch of supposed adults bickering like school children over who gets to play with the action figures. And while Fox probably should be sharing with Marvel so that all parties can have more fun, Marvel isn’t exactly coming out of this smelling like a rose. Instead, they seem to be throwing a tantrum about sharing their toys, throwing them on the ground and breaking them. Now, nobody can enjoy them. Which makes me want to roll my eyes. And it seems even more hypocritical when Marvel is willing to milk the Deadpool cash cow for all its worth despite Fox finally producing a genuine smash hit.

I don’t generally mind the fact that both companies are in competition with each other. Having more people in the game is a good thing; if Marvel was the only company producing hit comic book films, I feel they would eventually stagnate. While Fox isn’t nearly as consistent as Marvel Studios, they have shown a willingness to target an older audience with Deadpool and next year’s Logan. While they’ve had a hit or miss record with X-Men films and have failed miserably with the Fantastic Four, I’m not going to demonize Fox and say they can’t make good movies. They can, and while I think they are missing opportunities to make more money by working with Marvel, it isn’t their only option.

What I do mind is when an announcement that should excite me, like Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinity being announced, it’s tempered with annoyance and disappointment. I mean, Marvel finally seems to be trying to get behind the X-Men again with ResureXion campaign. Why can’t MvC 4 have Wolverine, Storm, Magneto and Doctor Doom? I promise, to me and to a lot of other people, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, Loki and Black Panther aren’t going to make up the difference.

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Michael Ornelas and I write weekly on 411, taking turns introducing each other to films the other hasn’t seen. Last week, I finally saw Die Hard and it lived up to all the hype This week, I picked Dredd, a more recent action movie I feel has unfairly flown under the radar.

What annoys you most about the bickering between Fox and Marvel? How would you fix it, if you could?