Owned by: 20th Century Fox
Back in 2009, we saw our first ever film appearance from Deadpool, the iconic fourth-wall-breaking merc with a mouth. He was played by Ryan Reynolds, and in the end gave us a version of the character that only served to anger fans when he ended up as a mouthless mutant zombie. However, fans were pleased when the popular character was recently given a much-needed redemption in a standalone movie. The positive buzz around the reboot has even led Fox to confirm that a Deadpool sequel is already in the works. But as a character at least loosely affiliated with the X-Men, his rights belong solely to Fox for the foreseeable future. Sorry, Marvel.
Owned by: Universal (maybe?) Marvel
Namor is one of the oldest characters in the Marvel universe, created way back in 1939 when the publishing house was bankrupt and selling off property like candy. Known as “The Sub-Mariner,” he’s the Marvel equivalent to DC’s Aquaman, often finding himself crossing paths with the X-Men and the Avengers. But neither Universal nor Marvel (allegedly) completely own the rights to his character.
Comicbook.com details the long, strange saga, where, despite owning some form of rights to Namor, Marvel still can’t greenlight a movie thanks to legal complications with Universal. That same article cites a quote from Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, saying that while they technically retain rights, “there are older contracts that still involve other parties that mean we need to work things out before we move forward on it.” Whatever that means, there’s one thing that’s certain: We won’t be seeing the Sub-Mariner in theaters any time soon.
[Update, 6/3/16: Marvel Chief Joe Quesada recently came out and clarified Marvel’s ownership of the Sub-Mariner, stating that the rights currently belong to Marvel Studios. When pressed on whether Namor would be appearing in the MCU anytime soon, he cryptically teased that he “cannot confirm or deny.”]
- The Silver Surfer
Owned by: 20th Century Fox
We saw the Silver Surfer show up in the second Fantastic Four movie, but since then he hasn’t been seen or heard from again. As an iconic character that really could hold his own franchise, it’s baffling to say the least to see him sidelined the way he has been in the cinematic universe. Maybe it’s the fact that Fox doesn’t predict a silver space alien will connect with audiences, or perhaps they intend to reintegrate him back into the upcoming Fantastic Four sequel. Whatever the reason, the Surfer has remained curiously absent.
Marvel Studios likely saw the same franchise opportunity, in an alleged proposal by Marvel Studios reported by Collider back in 2012, where they would have sent the rights to Daredevil over to Fox in exchange for the Silver Surfer (and by extension the rights to the galaxy-crushing super-villain Galactus as well). Alas, the trade never came to fruition, leaving the Surfer in the hands of Fox.