"You think you're the only superhero out there?" Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury asked Marvel legend Tony Stark back in 2008's Iron Man. At the time, it seemed unimaginable a film studio could maintain the kind of consistency and intricacy required to jam four separate superheroes from their own movies into one big event tentpole film, but Disney and Marvel pulled it off, and 2012's Avengers kicked off a whole new wave of crossover comic-book mania—for better and for worse.
Avengers wasn't the first time a band of bickering heroes teamed up to fight a caped metrosexual villain in an onscreen blockbuster. In fact, Fox's X-Men franchise predated Earth's mightiest heroes by a good decade, spinning off into new franchises and timelines that confusingly continue today, too.
But now it's 2020, and, quite frankly, things have gotten intricately complicated. You might have heard of Sony's upcoming Morbius movie starring Jared Leto, not to be confused with Birds of Prey, a sequel to a comic book movie that also starred Jared Leto. Then there's the likes of New Mutants, which has seen multiple reshoots and a change in ownership result in delay after delay (this thing was filmed in early 2017!). With all that in mind, let's dive into all these overlapping superhero universes (univ...i?) and try to make a little more sense of things.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe, the box office granddaddy of them all, started in 2008 with Iron Man, and most recently released Spider-Man: Far From Home. The next film on the slate is Black Widow, set for May 1; it's a prequel to most of the events in the MCU since Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff bit the dust in Avengers: Endgame. Disney+ will also soon start streaming shows that directly tie into the MCU, a feat first attempted in 2013 with ABC's Agents of Shield, an experiment that was ultimately abandoned. But the MCU is where most of Marvel's "core" gang operates on the big screen: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Captain Marvel. It's also a home-away-from-home for Tom Holland's Spider-Man—for now. Let's talk about that.
Sony is in the fledgling stages of developing its own comic book cinematic universe based around Spider-Man and his roster of pals and enemies. While this iteration shows up in the MCU, he is still property of Sony, essentially loaned out thanks to a unique deal. Venom, starring Tom Hardy, is under the Sony umbrella, as is the upcoming Morbius. Expect Holland to start pulling double duty in both these franchises sooner rather than later. Right now it's currently unclear just how much Sony and Marvel are going to allow their visions to interact, but the appearance of Michael Keaton's Adrian Toomes from Spider-Man: Homecoming in the trailer for Morbius suggests things are going to get murkier before they get more clear. My advice? Try not to think about it too hard, and don't expect, like, Ant-Man to show up to help fight the Green Goblin any time soon!
Also, none of those should be confused with the excellent, animated Sony movie Into The Spider-Verse which, as far as I can tell, is entirely standalone right now. Given the gleeful reality-hopping madness that was the first movie, that may soon change, though.
This whole section would have been a lot easier if Disney hadn't just bought 20th Century Fox's (now just 20th Century Studios) assets. Thanks, guys. Basically, the X-Men universe you know and love (Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, those newer horny ones with Michael Fassbender) is almost certainly dead. A lot of the increasingly convoluted narrative came to a natural conclusion in the awful Dark Phoenix, and 2017's spectacular Logan already helped us say goodbye to easily the franchise's most valuable asset: Wolverine. There are three main points to address with the X-Men, as I see it.
- We'll almost certainly get word of a reboot/slow introduction of famous mutants into the MCU within the next couple of years. That's money on the table, and Disney isn't going to let it lie there for long.
- Don't put too much thought into the Deadpool franchise, now also technically owned by Disney. These are fourth-wall-breaking R-rated comedy movies produced by Fox that make a boatload of cash. He'll be just fine and has a whole new roster of heroes to slyly reference. He's not going to show up in Avengers any time soon, and that's fine.
- Poor New Mutants, which seems like it's getting a polite brush-off. It'll be released by Fox, but it hardly seems like the natural starting point for a whole new franchise, unless it does bananas numbers. I don't think Disney/Marvel much mind how this one is received.
This one's a little easier: Ever since 2013's Man of Steel, most of the major DC Comics players (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman) have been utilized in the DC Universe, overseen by Warner Bros—with a, let's say, mixed reaction so far to this interpretation of some of the most beloved superheroes in all of fandom, Warner Bros. is still tinkering with the formula, retconning characters and resetting timelines with abandon. Zack Snyder's vision for Justice League looks like it's been put on the back burner in favor of smaller, fun movies at the moment. The future looks bright, though: R-rated Birds of Prey is around the corner and looks like a blast; Wonder Woman 1984 will make a ton of money, and the upcoming Aquaman sequel should be a good time. That's in addition to Matt Reeve's The Batman starring Robert Pattinson, a sentence I never thought I'd type. Oh, there's also James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, which is also a sequel to Suicide Squad, but will probably undo a few of the decisions made in Suicide Squad. Man, this thing's a mess.
What about the Oscar-nominated Joker?
As it stands, Jared Leto remains the DCEU's Joker until further notice. Todd Phillips's and Joaquin Phoenix's Joker is a standalone vision.
Isn't Supergirl flying around somewhere?
The CW has its own incredibly convoluted superhero universe based on DC characters, too, yes. It's called the Arrowverse, since it started with 2012's Arrow. Since then, The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman have all joined the fray, too. The shows just completed a major crossover event that included Brandon Routh's iteration of Superman from Superman Returns (2007) and even a flashback to Tim Burton's 1989 movie Batman. These are fun, frivolous shows, and have no connection whatsoever to any of the DC properties currently appearing in movie theaters.
Originally Appeared on GQ