As summer blockbuster season ramps up, Hollywood studios foist loud, CGI-choked productions onto the marketplace. Twentieth Century Fox enters the fray this weekend with its latest attempt to rejuvenate its comic-book property, “X-Men: Apocalypse.” All the usual elements are in play, from a widescreen rollout to carpet-bombing ad campaigns and extensive cross-promotion licensing. Hanes, for example, is offering X-men-themed adult foundation garments—in case you desire to have a mutant in your pants.
Despite this onslaught, the marketing blitz is somewhat blunted, because the business entity that created and owns most of the rights to the original property is not playing along. Marvel is not just sitting on the sidelines for this particular release. Over the past year, the corporate comic titan’s involvement has ranged from apathy to hostility to outright refusal to acknowledge the existence of some members of its stable of characters.
Over the past decade, Marvel Studios (and its takeover parent company, Disney) have been incapable of delivering a failed movie product. This has actually led to a bit of rancor. These studios now look forlornly at other comic entities over which they have no cinematic control. When eyeing the X-Men and Fantastic Four property rights that lie with Fox, the Marvel-Disney team sees lost profits, and that creates professional contempt.
Marvel is not only not assisting in the cinematic development of its own characters. The company has gone to the length of devaluing those heroic teams in other platforms.
Comic Book Character Assasination
The latest contretemps have been stewing for some time, but there is only one source to blame. The whole reason Marvel does not possess the film rights to characters it created in the 1960s is decisions from Marvel itself. The past 20 years has seen Marvel blessed by the superpower of the golden box-office touch. This has built up the company to where Disney acquired it to the tune of billions of dollars. But there is a darker fiscal backstory.
As Marvel Studios rides a string of heroically successful movie titles, its chief competitor, DC Comics, has struggled in the same arena. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight franchise and the recent “Superman v Batman” are exceptions, as DC has struggled getting its stable of characters translated onto screen. DC has failed to ignite another franchise, while setting up likely box-office bombs involving Green Lantern, Catwoman, and Jonah Hex.
It may be hard to imagine, but back in the 1980s and 1990s that script was flipped. DC Comics saw repeated success with Superman and Batman franchises. Marvel was flailing financially and took an altogether different approach. It shopped various superhero characters to numerous studios hoping that any films released or TV productions developed would boost Marvel properties in other platforms, such as book sales and licensed products.
During this era Marvel hung a price tag on most of its hero creations. This is how an entity like Spider Man came…