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.

 

The Dark Knight, Punisher, Luke Cage and YouTube

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of fan-made stuff on YouTube.

* Try The Dark Knight & 60s Robin for a funnier approach to The Dark Knight Rises. The same people also put out a mumblemouth version of Bane but since that’s what we get in The Dark Knight Rises, it isn’t much of a parody. Yes they cleared up a lot of Bane’s dialogue (in The Dark Knight Rises) but I missed quite a bit of what he said on my first viewing. Maybe it was all a plan for repeat business.

* Try Batman: Dead End for a much more serious fan film. This was released at ComiCon in 2003 and was so well received that the creator (Sandy Collora) created another fan short, World’s Finest as well as directing an interesting feature film, Hunter Prey.

* So you say you enjoyed Thomas Jane as The Punisher but liked the grittiness of Punisher: War Zone? Try the short Dirty Laundry on Youtube.

* Isaiah Mustafa (The Old Spice guy) cut a serious albeit fake trailer for Luke Cage. I think he looks good in it but I’d really like to see Michael Jai White as Luke Cage (or T’Challa).

* I do have to give Isaiah props though for he also cut this silly video combining his Luke Cage persona with his Old Spice commercials.

* I also got to enjoy watching an old Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing film that I hadn’t seen since I was a child. Night of the Big Heat (Island of the Burning Damned here in the U.S.) turned out to be nowhere near as good as I remembered it being but was still fun.

I noticed Youtube had a number of other ‘abandoned’ films (Island of Terror, The Legend of the Werewolf, The Uncanny, Blood Beach, etc.). I cannot imagine that they are out of copyright or Mill Creek and all the other public domain moviehouses would have cranked out DVDs but no one appears to be defending the rights and there has never been a U.S. DVD release for any of those films.