Disney has purchased 21st Century Fox's film and television assets in a landmark deal that will see the Fantastic Four, Deadpool and the X-Men migrate into the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe.
One filmmaker in the Marvel Studios stable is already looking forward to utilizing specific characters acquired in the deal, with the purchase possibly leading towards an R-rated corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen.
The deal now makes it possible for another Marvel supergroup, the Illuminati, to reach the big screen.
In the Marvel Comics, a retcon introduced in 2005's New Avengers #7 revealed a covert think-tank formed in the aftermath of the famous Kree-Skull war (Avengers #89—97).
The group — consisting of original members Iron Man of the Avengers, Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, Black Bolt of the Inhumans, Professor Xavier of the X-Men, Namor, king of Atlantis, and Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, Doctor Strange — each represented significant portions of the Marvel Universe and operated secretly behind the scenes.
Though the superhero powerhouses first came together to prevent another event like the Kree-Skull war from ever happening again, the secret society would continue to meet to discuss the biggest matters facing the universe — including conflicts with the shape-shifting Skrulls and an overpowered and out-of-control superbeing known as the Sentry.
The Illuminati (minus a then-missing Professor Xavier) also made the joint decision to banish a rampaging Hulk into outer space after he destroyed Las Vegas. Namor refused, leaving Iron Man, Reed Richards, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange responsible for sending the Hulk to an uninhabited planet — resulting in the subsequent Planet Hulk storyline (that partially inspired Marvel Studios' Thor: Ragnarok).
A pissed off Hulk would later return to Earth seeking revenge on the heroes responsible for his exile in the World War Hulk storyline.
The behind-the-scenes group would also come together to discuss the cosmically-powered Infinity Gems, with the group having collected all six of the powerful and destructive gems. Richards would then entrust each member of the group with the possession of the Infinity Gems for their concealing and protection.
Over time, the group has included heroes such as Black Panther — ruler of the secluded and technologically-advanced African nation of Wakanda — supergenius Beast of the X-Men, and Hank Pym and Steve Rogers of the Avengers.
Namor's on-screen rights may belong to Marvel — former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada said Marvel Studios is in possession of the aquatic superhero's rights — but should the studio encounter a hiccup over the Submariner, his role could be filled by T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman).
A post-Infinity War and Avengers 4 Marvel Cinematic Universe could see the birth of the Illuminati, especially if it involves the safe-keeping of the Infinity Stones.
The only flaw? The eventual arrival of the MCU's takes on Mister Fantastic and Professor Xavier — and possibly Namor — wouldn't share the history of their comic book counterparts, with the comic book characters having had ongoing relationships and partnerships for years — meaning it's less likely these specific members assemble the group on-screen.
Still, the events of Infinity War could spur Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to assemble a behind-the-scenes collective — likely alongside T'Challa and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) — as a preventive measure against another threat of this scale ever again making it this far to Earth's doorstep.
Avengers: Infinity War opens May 4.