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The relationship between #Marvel and Fox has always been tense, to say the least. Back in the 1990s, Marvel sold the rights to the #XMen film franchise over to Fox as part of a desperate attempt to stave off bankruptcy. Fast forward 20 years, though, and Marvel Studios no longer licenses out the film rights to characters; instead, they make their own movies, and as Doctor Strange is proving, they're almost always blockbusters!
But, while many of the character rights are reverting back to Marvel, Fox have stubbornly retained the X-Men and the #FantasticFour. The last five years or so have seen fans convinced that the two companies are locked in a feud, with the Fantastic Four comics cancelled, the X-Men relegated to third-place behind the #Avengers and the #Inhumans, and merchandise related to Fox properties pretty much nonexistent.
There are promising signs, though. Last year's organizational restructure over at Marvel Studios seems to have cleared the air somewhat, and now we've learned that the two companies actually made a deal over #Deadpool and #GuardiansOfTheGalaxy2!
So what was the deal?
Over the weekend, Deadpool writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese revealed that they had to make nice with Marvel in order to get Deadpool made. Although Deadpool was remarkably comic-book-accurate, one character was changed substantially; fan-favorite Negasonic Teenage Warhead. In the comics, the character is a Goth psychic; in the movie, she's an all-action explosive powerhouse.
It seems that this dramatic change in concept forced Fox to the negotiating table, because it actually needed to be cleared by Marvel. Marvel gave the OK, but made one request in return; they wanted the rights back to Ego the Living Planet. Fox gave the OK, and as a result Kurt Russell will play Ego in next year's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In a surprising twist, the character will also be Star-Lord's father!
Over on his personal Facebook page, James Gunn has admitted Fox's deal was a stroke of luck.
“When I first pitched Ego as Quill’s father, I thought we owned the character. After I had worked out a very elaborate story with Ego the Living Planet as a very important part of the Marvel cosmic universe, I learned that we actually didn’t own the character. I had no back up plan, and it would be nearly impossible to just drop another character in. Thank God Fox came to us and wanted to make a trade.”
What does this mean?
This is hardly the 'X-Men returning to Marvel' news that you regularly hear fans wishing for, but it is the latest evidence that relations between Marvel and Fox have improved in the last year or so. We already have the unprecedented delight of not one but two X-Men TV shows in the works, featuring Marvel Entertainment and Fox Television working together, but this is the first hint that the detente extends to the film studios too. It's great news for Marvel fans.
It also offers three fascinating insights, though. First of all, we now know Fox can only make superficial changes to characters and concepts without Marvel signoff; a change on the scale of Negasonic Teenage Warhead needs the go-ahead from the House of Ideas. It suggests that Marvel retain a little bit more creative control over the X-Men franchise than we'd first thought.
Secondly, it also suggests that Fox has the rights to a lot more of the cosmic Marvel pantheon than we thought. Ego first appeared in the pages of The Mighty Thor, and yet had been signed over to Fox with the rights to Fantastic Four. What other cosmic properties did Marvel sell off to Fox? We have no way of knowing, but this does suggest that, if Marvel wish to continue expanding their more cosmic film range, we'll see them forced back to the negotiating table. They can't just cross their fingers and hope Fox will approach them with another deal; they need to be planning ahead.
One third point, though, is that this also suggests that Fox has been guilty of an appalling lack of imagination. In an earlier post, I suggested that — along with the X-Men and the Fantastic Four — Fox already has a wealth of characters they could use for spacefaring adventures. From the Shi'ar to the Starjammers, from the Silver Surfer to the Exiles, Fox clearly has a tremendous number of concepts they could play with.
But those are only characters who are obviously linked to the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises. We'd never even considered the possibility that Ego's film rights sat with Fox; so what other properties is Fox sitting on? What other gold mines have gone untapped? We can only imagine.
This is great news. The success of Guardians of the Galaxy proved to Marvel that there's real potential for spacefaring superheroes, and - with the relationship between Marvel and Fox clearly improving - this should only be the first deal we see. Who knows where this detente could lead?