Last week, DC made waves with a rumor suggesting that Warner Brothers was possibly committing to seven superhero films in their near future, bringing the total of upcoming movies in the genre to 23. But what people forget is that while WB flexes its muscle, Marvel, in addition to its crammed slate for the next few years, still has a ridiculously long list of untapped characters, both over at Disney as well as other studios like Fox, Universal and Sony.
For the time being, Sony’s got four more films in the “Spider-Man” universe planned based on studio announcements. Fox has release dates for the next “Fantastic Four”, “X-Men” and “Wolverine” movies. And Marvel has expanded their “Avengers” world to allow for multiple heroes to thrive in their own movies, and thereby rack up huge box office numbers. Does the marketplace suggest we want to see these films? A superhero film rarely loses money in this filmmaking economy, so clearly people are fans.
But the current well has to dry up soon. Marvel's day players that include Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans are only signed up until "Avengers 3. Similarly, Fox has banked on Hugh Jackman's Wolverine for seven films so far, with reportedly two more on deck, stretching him thin. Sony's already experiencing the growing pains of swapping out Tobey Maguire for Andrew Garfield, as Garfield's films aren't nearly as popular, plus there's a limit to how many existing big-name characters can be rebooted in the same way as Spider-Man: if there's no connective tissue between the films, re-casting is a cinch, but because the expanded universe approach is so popular, it becomes a bigger deal when you have new actors play familiar faces.
Which is why, in addition to finding a smooth way to phase out the more familiar actors in these movies, the studios need to develop new brand names. What lies beyond Professor X and his X-Men? Who will assemble when the Avengers retire? Fortunately, we're dealing with Marvel, that not only still owns a massive library of characters (of some diversity and depth), but has doled out a fair number of properties to the aforementioned Fox, Sony and Universal. The possibilities are endless, depressingly so for anyone who feels like we've already reached critical mass as regards comic book films. With pivotal movies like “The Sinister Six” and “Doctor Strange” on the horizon, what’s left for Marvel? We decided to take a peek and see just who owns the last remaining Marvel properties, and just how viable they might be.
If the rumors are true, Sony could end up giving “Spider-Man” a brief rest, sidelining the universe established in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” that set the stage for the upcoming “Sinister Six” movie. But while postponing “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” means letting certain loose threads dangle, it doesn’t have to mean that the entire mythology is given a break. Of the many franchise hints in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, the one people seem to gloss over is the introduction of rising star Felicity Jones as Felicia Hardy. Fans know this to be the alter ego of criminal Black Cat, who has alternated between hero and villain during her 35-year-old history. Black Cat has had a full comic book career as a cat burglar and occasional superhero, and it would be yet another stab at DC if Marvel was able to grant this character her own adventure film while DC continued to ignore the commercial viability of a well-made “Catwoman” movie.
In the tricky game of rights roulette, Sony actually owns the film rights to all Marvel characters with the prefix “Spider-”. That includes this frequent Avengers member, who rarely, if ever, interacted with Spider-Man in the comics. Bearing little resemblance to her male counterpart, Jessica Drew (the most prominent of several characters bearing the Spider-Woman moniker at Marvel) was in fact a spy who had just uncovered the fact that she had been brainwashed, her past missing, a kind of female arachnid Jason Bourne, then, though the earlier comics featuring her character focussed on supernatural enemies, leaning towards horror and suspense. In recent years she’s represented more of a common costumed crimefighter, potentially enough to convince Sony that this is a character worth using, and not just a dumb brand extension.
In the comics’ “Ultimate” storylines, Marvel made the bold choice of definitively killing Peter Parker. But his actions during his brief career as Spider-Man inspired a young black Hispanic teenager to become the new Spidey, equipped with Parker’s powers due to a because-of-comic-books coincidence. As Morales is basically a child, his character’s adventures have been filled with a joy and enthusiasm the “regular” “Spider-Man” comics have not matched. With the two Andrew Garfield “Spider-Man” offerings suggesting the public may be growing tired of Parker, why not make the bold decision of introducing fan-favorite Morales into the cinematic universe?
OTHER SONY PROPERTIES:
In addition to the considerable rogues in the “Spider-Man” gallery, there’s a subset of occult characters like Man-Wolf and Morbius that could conceivably carry their own films, though Morbius might also be a part of the "Blade" package. The rights issues to these characters gets fairly confusing.