An updated visual guide to Marvel's live-action character rights has been released after Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox, who formerly possessed the rights to the X-Men, Deadpool, and Fantastic Four franchises. Those characters have since been folded into the Disney-owned Marvel Studios banner, under the purview of president and Marvel Cinematic Universe architect Kevin Feige.
The only remaining top-tier characters not fully owned by Marvel Studios include Spider-Man and most of his supporting players and rogues gallery, many of which are retained by Sony Pictures for preferred appearances in its own "Sony's Universe of Marvel Characters," already home to Venom (Tom Hardy) and soon Morbius (Jared Leto).
Rights for Spider-Man (Tom Holland) — and villains Vulture (Michael Keaton) and Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) — are controlled by Sony, who allows the characters to exist and operate within the MCU through a multi-picture deal struck in 2015, giving Marvel Studios creative power on the Sony-distributed Spider-Man franchise and the ability to utilize Spider-Man in its two-part Avengers sequels.
Other characters not yet fully reclaimed by Marvel include Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and yet-to-debut supporting players She-Hulk and the Leader, whose rights fall under the Hulk family banner claimed by Universal Pictures. Though Marvel is free to use Hulk elsewhere — he's a main player in the Avengers franchise and acted as support in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok — Universal retains the right to distribute a solo Hulk picture, prohibiting a follow-up solo film. Universal previously distributed 2003's Hulk and Marvel Studios' sophomore effort, 2008's Edward Norton-led Incredible Hulk.
The rights to aquatic superhero Namor are similarly tied up at Universal, but messy legal entanglements make ownership of his rights "not as a clean or clear as the majority of the other characters," Feige said in 2018.
"The truth is, I'm excited for all of them. I'm excited, and it's not just the marquee names you know — there are hundreds of names on those documents, on those agreements," Feige told MTV News in January as Disney neared its $71.3 billion acquisition of Fox. "And the fact that Marvel is as close as we may ever get now to having access to all of the characters, is something I've been dreaming about for my almost 20 years at Marvel. And it's very exciting."
A recent report penned by The Hollywood Reporter anticipates 2021 as the earliest possible release date for the first X-Men movie produced and distributed by Disney. Marvel was legally prohibited from initiating development on any Fox-controlled properties until the deal officially closed Wednesday, March 20.
Marvel next releases Avengers: Endgame, out April 26.
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