Marvel’s Deals with the Devil

Blame, blame is such an easy game. Why, with such an incredible universe to draw from, is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. such a bore? There is quite a lot of blame to go around but it lies rooted in Marvel’s financial woes in the 90s. There is a great article on Marvel’s trip from bankruptcy to billions here so I won’t go into too much depth.

The Incredible Hulk

Marvel had a big television hit with The Incredible Hulk. It was a wonderful formula: take a well liked actor (Bill Bixby), add a champion body builder (Lou Ferrigno), and simply retell The Fugitive, a popular television series from fifteen years earlier. It worked great. They then attempted to repeat this success with Captain America (painfully bad), Dr. Strange, and others. They didn’t pan out so Marvel tried to launch a few more from within The Incredible Hulk. The Incredible Hulk Returns featured Thor and The Trial of the Incredible Hulk featured Daredevil.

As part of the recovery from bankruptcy in the 90s, numerous licensing deals were made.  It is great that Marvel was able to climb back out of the hole but many of the terms on the deals were ridiculous.

X-Men

Twentieth Century Fox made a fantastic version of X-Men (2000) and the even better X-Men 2 (2003). Unfortunately, the deal allowed X-Men movies to be owned by Fox in perpetuity as long as the movies kept being made. That would be bad enough but the deal included all of the standard X-Men, their standard villains, and even extended to the term mutant.

Attempts had been made during the 90s to bring Spider-Man, Marvel’s most iconic character, to the big screen and while that failed, the rights were tied up for quite some time. Once the rights were untangled, Columbia (Sony) locked them up again, including a rogue’s gallery of Marvel’s best villains. Once again, a really good blockbuster was made, Spider-Man (2002) followed by an even better sequel, Spider-Man 2 (2004).

Daredevil

Apparently, it took a long time for Marvel to catch on that they were selling the cow instead of the milk. Essentially the same deal was made, again with Twentieth Century Fox, for Daredevil. Daredevil, Elektra, The Kingpin, and even Ben Urich were tied up. Ditto Lionsgate with The Punisher (2004) and The Punisher: War Zone (2008).

Finally, the Fantastic Four rights were locked up, again by Twentieth Century Fox. This wouldn’t be so bad as they were usually self-contained but it also included Doctor Doom and the Silver Surfer. Not just that but Fantastic Four (2005), Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007), and the reboot Fantastic Four (2015) have all been pretty dire.

Not only did Marvel practically give away their entire roster of characters but many others such as Iron Man were locked up in deals where the movie simply never came to fruition.

 

Avengers Assemble! – Netflix Edition – Hulk and The Avengers

Epix may have stolen Netflix’s thunder (by showing Thor naturally as well as Captain America). Netflix is definitely no slouch in the Marvel line. They only have one of the five films leading up to The Avengers (Iron Man 2) but they have a ton of animation featuring Hulk and The Avengers.

Planet Hulk (2009)

“When Earth’s superheroes exile the volatile Incredible Hulk to a distant planet called Sakaar, the muscle-bound green monster is sold into slavery and forced to compete in gladiatorial games for the planet’s despotic Red King. But soon, the Hulk joins forces with his fellow slaves to fight for freedom — and a chance to get revenge on his earthly foes. This animated film is based on the “Planet Hulk” storylines originally featured in Marvel comics.”

Hulk Vs. (Hulk vs. Wolverine, Hulk vs. Thor, 2009)

“Who would win in a battle between Hulk and Wolverine? How about Hulk vs. Thor? Find out in this action-packed animated double feature, which pits the unruly green superhero against two of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful characters.”

The Incredible Hulk (1996-7)

“When research scientist Bruce Banner is blasted with a gamma ray bomb during an experiment gone wrong, he develops a dangerous alter ego — a mean, green monster known as the Incredible Hulk — who emerges when he gets angry.”

The Incredible Hulk (1978-80)

“Adapted from a popular comic book, this story centers on mild-mannered research scientist Dr. David Bruce Banner, who, after being exposed to an overdose of gamma radiation, morphs into a ferocious, gigantic green man when he becomes agitated. As Banner looks for ways to reverse his condition, he travels from town to town helping those in need — even as persistent reporter Jack McGee stalks him.”

This one is not animated – this is the old Bill Bixby/Lou Ferrigno series.

The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010)

“The Avengers, earth’s mightiest heroes, work to bust up nefarious plots set forth by villains such as Loki, HYDRA and the Red Skull. Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, Iron Man and the Wasp are ready to save the day.”

Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2006)

“With an alien force threatening Earth, the military thaws Captain America out of the ice he’s been frozen in for 60 years, whereupon he assembles a dream team of superheroes — Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Wasp and Giant Man — to save the world.”

Ultimate Avengers 2 (2006)

“Unable to protect his isolated kingdom from alien invaders, the Black Panther turns to the legendary heroes known as the Avengers to help save his mysterious jungle homeland in this action-packed animated adventure.”

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008)

“Years after the Avengers made the ultimate sacrifice while battling invincible robo-villain Ultron, the teenage children of Captain America, Black Widow, Thor, Black Panther, Wasp and Hawkeye must band together to locate the missing Hulk.”