You Got Your X-Men in My Avengers!

Fox and Disney are in a legal fight over movie rights to a minor comic book character.

Quicksilver's Studio Split

Marvel film fans are currently abuzz about news that the X-Men and Avengers movie franchises are crossing over. The two studios involved – Fox and Disney -on the other hand, appear to be lawyering up for a potentially epic battle. This crisis of finite film characters is a telling tale of the perils of character licensing.

It all started about a month ago, when Joss Whedon let the following tidbit slip about the first draft of his script for Marvel Studio’s/Disney’s Avengers 2:

 I’ve got these two characters, two of my favorite characters from the [Avengers]; a brother-sister act. They’re in the movie. That’s exciting.

When it comes to the Avengers, there are only two characters that fit this bill: Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, aka the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The two mutants joined the Avengers in Avengers #16 (May 1965). Along with Captain America and Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch were part of the team’s second roster. Together this not-so-fantastic four came to be known as “Cap’s Kooky Quartet,” true believers!

News that the pair—one a speedster and the other one posessing ill-defined deus ex machina probability warping powers—was met with a general “Cool!” from hard-core fans and “Who?!” from anyone who managed to get a date during Jr High (The author definitely falling into the prior category! – Moping Matt).

Then came the tweet re-tweeted round the geek world.

(Singer deleted his first tweet about the casting which read “”Before he was an Avenger, he was just a REALLY fast kid. Thrilled to say Evan Peters is joining X-Men: Days Of Future Past as Quicksilver.” – ‘Nuff Said, Magnanimous Matt!)

That’s right, Bryan Singer, past and future X-Men director, announced that his upcoming Fox Studio’s film X-Men: Days of Future Past would *also* include Quicksilver. And Singer/Fox’s film would be in theaters a year before Avengers 2 hits.

Needless to say, this bombshell was met with a “Oh no he didn’t” from hard-core fans and film geeks, and “Who?! What?! Huh?!” from anyone who had managed to get a date during Jr High.

All joking aside, the back-story of why two separate film studios can use the same copyrighted character in two otherwise unconnected films is pretty interesting.

Long before the success of Marvel Studios, or even the Spider-man and X-Men films, a cash-strapped Marvel licensed the movie rights to its characters to anyone willing to pay. The net result was that Sony ended up with Spider-man and Ghost Rider and Fox bought the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Daredevil. These contracts included language that gave them rights not only to the title characters, but to all related characters, even if those not specifically named in the contracts (for a more in-depth analysis, see this article – Multi-textual Matt).  It’s the “related characters” clause that is at the heart of this story.

You see, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch premiered as members of The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants in 1964’s X-Men #4. The pair would go on to make five appearances in the X-Men book until they left the Brotherhood in X-Men #11, published May 1965 (the same month the pair jumped to the Avengers in the a fore mentioned issue #16!-Meticulous Matt). Since then, the Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch have been regularly reoccurring characters in both the X-Men and Avengers books. Chances are neither character was specifically mentioned by name in the Fox contract. And while they are surely part of the X-Men books, the two are equally part of the Avenger books as well. Hence, they currently belong to both studios. Case closed, right?

Wrong.

While the general understanding of both studios, not to mention their uncanny legal teams, is that both studios can use the characters, the specifics of their use are  more convoluted. While the Fox contract apparently doesn’t specifically grant the studio exclusive license for the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver characters, it does give them sole rights to the character of Magneto and the use of the term mutant. Not only are Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch mutants, but they are the children of Magneto. The net result is that neither of these facts can be referenced in Whedon’s film without the permission of Fox Studios. On the other hand, Fox can’t mention anything about either character’s time in Avengers in their film without permission from Marvel.

It isn’t unheard of for this type of permission to be granted. For example, Sony “loaned” the character of the Kingpin to Fox for their 2003 Daredevil film. And some have suggested Quicksilver showing up in both films is an attempt to “unify” Marvel films. However, the facts of this case point to this being a pissing match between two studios.

First, Marvel has made it clear that it wants the rights to its characters back. However, as long as Sony and Fox keep making films with those characters, they retain the rights. This, by the way, is why you can expect a Spider-man or X-Men film every three years regardless of how poorly the previous one did. If either company halts development for too long, as Fox did with Daredevil, the characters revert to Marvel.

Secondly, Singer’s tweets indicate that Quicksilver was a late edition to his film. X-Men: Days of Future Past began filming on April 15. Whedon dropped his Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch hints, since officially confirmed by the man himself, roughly a week later. Industry insiders point out that films as big as X-Men rarely start shooting without everyone cast. Singer has indicated that Quicksilver will only be in a single action sequence. Given that Quicksilver’s power is rather generic—there are countless Marvel mutants with super-speed—the general opinion is that Fox has requested this character be added to the film to remind Marvel Studio’s they own the mutant half of him.

How Marvel/Disney will react remains to be seen. Like the best of comic-books stories, this one remains to be continued. Excelsior!

(Feature Image courtesy of CHUD).

FILED UNDER: Comic Books, Entertainment, Media, Popular Culture, , , ,
Matt Bernius
About Matt Bernius
Matthew studied Cultural Anthropology at Cornell University, researching the intersection of technology and culture. Prior to Cornell, he earned a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and was a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He started writing at OTB in May 2013. Follow him on twitter @mattbernius.

Comments

  1. The Brotherhood of the Self-Interested strikes!




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  2. CitizenEgg says:

    Heh. Well Josh has a brother/sister mutant team backup for speedster; he’ll just have to borrow them from Alpha Flight instead of the Avengers. LGBT bonus, at least one of them is gay.




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  3. @CitizenEgg: Except they debuted in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men as well. ๐Ÿ™‚




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  4. stonetools says:

    I’m OK with this, since this is all intra the Marvel Universe.But there should be no mixing of the universes! Let DC be DC, Marvel be Marvel, Star Wars be Star Wars, and Star Trek be Star Trek! No Jedi mind melds, no Justice League vs. Galactus, no Iron Man vs. Lex Luthor!




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  5. Phillip says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Funny how the only two mutants in Alpha Flight are the brother/sister.




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  6. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Except [Alpha Flight] debuted in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Right. And while they have guest starred in Avengers books, the team is firmly part of the X-Men section of the universe.

    In fact, the particular character @CitizenEgg is thinking about, Northstar, has been a member of the X-Men from time to time. One of Marvel’s first openly “out” gay superheros–appropriate to the medium, Northstar awkwardly came out in the middle of a battle with a ‘roided out super Mountie–, he even got himself gay AND inter-racially married in another X-Men book.

    In other words, he’s firmly the property of Fox. Which helps back up the entire pissing match point…

    Given Singer’s long standing interest in LGBT rights/activism, in many respects Northstar seems like a better go-to choice for use in a single action sequence. Instead, however, he–or more likely Fox execs–choose to go with Quicksilver.

    One has to wonder if Quicksilver is going to survive his brief X-Men cameo. If this is all about asserting rights, it seems like the ultimate insult would be to kill off the character before he’s used by your rival.




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  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @stonetools:
    Batman and Spider-man disagree with you

    Ok, full geek on for a sec… If we’re discussing the craziest inter-company/character crossovers, then the following *very real* books immediately come to mind:
    #1. Archie meets the Punisher/The Punisher meets Archie
    #2. Superman vs Muhammud Ali
    #3. Spider-man teams up with Jim Belushi and the case of SNL

    But none of these hold a candle to the crazy team-ups that take place in foreign cinema. And, when it comes to this, nobody does it better than the Turks. I give you 3 Dev Adam — Captain America and Mexican wrestler Santo team up to take down an evil crime boss who dresses as Spider-man.




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  8. @stonetools:

    But there should be no mixing of the universes! Let DC be DC, Marvel be Marvel

    Too late! In the Marvel Multiverse DC Comics is Earth-0 and in the DC Multiverse Marvel Comics is Earth-7642 so on both sides the other company is part of the same universe in universe. ๐Ÿ˜‰




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  9. Gustopher says:

    (Feature Image courtesy of CHUD).

    You’re getting your images from Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers? Wow.

    (Nope, no dates in Jr. High, unless you count the Boy Scouts camping trips…)




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  10. @Matt Bernius:

    One has to wonder if Quicksilver is going to survive his brief X-Men cameo. If this is all about asserting rights, it seems like the ultimate insult would be to kill off the character before heโ€™s used by your rival.

    The X-Men movies are set on Earth-10005 and the MCU movies are set on Earth-199999, so killing him off in the one wouldn’t do anything to him in the other.




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  11. stonetools says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Batman and Spider-man disagree with youโ€ฆ

    Ok, full geek on for a secโ€ฆ If weโ€™re discussing the craziest inter-company/character crossovers, then the following *very real* books immediately come to mind:
    #1. Archie meets the Punisher/The Punisher meets Archie
    #2. Superman vs Muhammud Ali
    #3. Spider-man teams up with Jim Belushi and the case of SNL

    These abominations must cease!Cursed be those that allow them! May no one ever pardon or acknowledge the mixers! May their names be stricken from all the scrolls and be removed from the obelisks and monuments! May… OK, you get the idea.
    I think there is already enough confusion in the comic world, what with the multiple reboots, to allow mixing of the universes. To forestall chaos, I draw the line at mixing.Separate but equal in the comic world should be the plan.




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  12. stonetools says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Too late! In the Marvel Multiverse DC Comics is Earth-0 and in the DC Multiverse Marvel Comics is Earth-7642 so on both sides the other company is part of the same universe in universe. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    (Space-time Continuum ruptures, and huge black hole engulfs those parallel Earths that allow mixing……)




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  13. @stonetools:

    You’re one of those people who gets pissed when his vegetables are touching each other, aren’t you? ๐Ÿ˜‰




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  14. Phillip says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m one of those people who refuses to eat vegetables that co-mingle. Touching doesn’t just gross me out, it gets you off the menu.




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  15. Jim Henley says:

    I liked the very early DC-Marvel crossovers from the 70s, that assumed the characters were part of the same earth but just hadn’t run into each other before. Peter Parker and Lois Lane were fans of each other’s journalism. Superman, operating out of Metropolis, just didn’t get to New York City much. Bruce Banner’s drifting finally took him to Gotham City where he got a janitor job in a Wayne Enterprises lab to sneak access to some equipment there. It actually worked a lot better than the inter-dimensional throat-clearing that did so much to delay the story in JLA/Avengers.




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  16. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jim Henley:
    Gotta disagree on the 70’s approach — though it’s very Silver Age. I actually like the idea that DC used when it relaunched the Flash in the 60’s — that other universe (or Earth’s) heroes were comic book characters in their world.

    I get what you say about the JLA/Avengers cross-over (I’m guessing you mean the Busiek one). As someone who digs all of the “universe” building stuff — I liked a lot of the inter-dimensional throat cleaning (i.e. learning that the DC earth is actually larger than the marvel one — allowing space for all the extra major cities, or that the Speed Force doesn’t exist in the marvel world).




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