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Will We Ever See A Marvel vs. DC Crossover Movie?
A Look At The Many Ways Disney & Warner Bros. Have Crossed Paths
By: Mickael
In 2009, Marvel was purchased by Disney for $4 billion, creating a mega-cartel of entertainment dominance. Since then, the extremely popular films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have displayed that famous Disney logo. Some properties, like Fantastic Four & the X-Men, are still under license to Fox for any film adaptations, which is why in May we’ll see Marvel properties competing with each other at the box office as the Avengers duke it out in Captain America: Civil War and Professor Xavier’s gifted youngsters defend earth in X-Men: Apocalypse. Similarly, DC Comics is a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros. So, a war that started in the early days of animation, and has been argued on playgrounds and living rooms across America for over 85 years, wages on in today’s movie theaters. “Who do you prefer: Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny?” What started as a simple question to determine who you would hang out with after school has now escalated into a billion dollar blood feud.
Audiences may be choosing sides in the fight between Captain America & Iron Man, or placing bets in the battle of Batman vs Superman, but deep down they know that these superhero arguments always end with the protagonists putting their differences aside and teaming up to fight a greater evil. In reality, the war being waged is between multi-billion dollar corporations, who are competing for your hard-earned money 2 hours and 20 minutes at a time. (These movies are way too damn long, more on that some other week.) With the stakes so high and the competition so fierce, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time, these two cartoon conglomerates made the same decision as their super powered properties so often do: they buried the hatchet and teamed up to fight back against their greatest mutual enemy. Ironically, the enemy they were scared of at the time were the special effect-laden live action blockbusters that they would later succumb to. But, for one brief moment in 1988, Disney and Warner Bros. formed an alliance and marched lockstep into battle in operation: Dead Toons Don’t Pay Bills.
This legendary film may seem like hard evidence that Disney & Warner Bros. officially teamed up, though in reality, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is strictly a Disney film that merely got a release from WB to depict their characters. The release wasn’t unconditional, either, as WB insisted that their characters be portrayed as equals with their Disney counterparts. For instance, the piano duel between Daffy & Donald had to end in a draw, lest children forevermore view one pantsless cartoon duck as being a punk-ass little bitch when it comes to piano fights. Even though they agreed to terms and were both able to profit immensely off of this landmark movie, the collaboration was short-lived and both companies promptly returned to their old ways of constantly feuding.
Back in 1996, Marvel Comics was about to file for bankruptcy. They were stubbornly refusing to sign up with a comics distributor, choosing instead to sell their titles independently, which greatly reduced their circulation and inhibited their profitability. On the verge of total collapse, they agreed to a monumental collaboration with DC, pitting icon against icon in the largest inter-company comic crossover event of all time. Together, they formed an imprint called “Amalgam Comics”, under which they not only released the 4-issue DC vs Marvel Comics event, but also dozens of other titles that created a shared history and retconned nearly all of their characters. Though this is their largest official crossover, there actually are many more examples of DC and Marvel universes co-mingling.

This short-lived partnership and the Disney/WB association on Roger Rabbit might be the two most obvious examples of these modern mega-conglomerates sharing space, but they aren’t the only times that their various subsidiaries and corporate interested have intertwined. Since the potential for a DC vs Marvel crossover film is what we’re really exploring, let’s look at a few old school comic book films that have shown in the past that Disney and WB can cross paths, like passing ships in a harbor. We’ll start with...
Doc Savage (1975), The Man Of The Bronze Age
Doc Savage is a fascinating case in comics: created by Street & Smith publications, Doc Savage was originally published as a series of adventure stories in pulp magazines of the 30s and 40s. The first time he appeared in comic book form was as a b-side story in Shadow Comics #1 in 1940, before he received his own title and ultimately was transformed from a pulp adventurer into a full-fledged superhero in 1941. He sporadically appeared in further Street & Smith-published comics until 1948. Street & Smith’s comic books and pulp magazines were among the casualties of entertainment’s transition to television, as they stopped publishing them altogether in 1949.

Later on, Doc Savage was briefly revived by Gold Key Comics for a one-issue movie tie-in of the story The Thousand-Headed Man. The movie never happened, and Doc Savage again faded into obscurity. In the early 1970s, Marvel Comics pushed the Doc Savage character, featuring him in over 20 titles, including 8 black-and-white magazines meant to tie-in with a TV movie of the character. This film, starring Ron Ely as the titular hero, was made by Warner Bros. and released in 1975. By the late 80s, the character’s rights were sold again and this time DC Comics published nearly 40 appearances of the character before he would move on to a brief affair with indie publisher Millennium Publications, followed by 6 more issues with Dark Horse Comics. He briefly returned to DC in 2009, but Doc Savage’s wandering heart still could not be contained and he went to Dynamite Entertainment in late 2013. This makes Doc Savage one of the few characters to have been published by nearly every major comic company of the last 80 years. Currently, Shane Black is working on bringing the character back to the big screen, hopefully with Dwayne Johnson portraying Doc Savage.
Wonder Woman (1974) Is A DC Property Adapted By ABC
Even before Lynda Carter would give most of us our first erections, DC saw the potential of adapting Wonder Woman to live action. In 1974, a TV movie was created as a potential pilot for the Amazonian to star in her own ABC series. Starring Cathy Lee Crosby as the eponymous heroine, the ratings were “not exactly wondrous” and ABC passed. The next year, Warner Bros teamed up with ABC again and created the superior Wonder Woman TV movie and subsequent series that we all love and adore. Later, ABC was acquired by Disney, but by then all distribution rights were again owned by Warner Bros. Still, in a lovelorn moment, the two corporate giants could honestly say that they’ll always have Themyscira.
The Punisher (1989) Can Only Be Broadcast On TV If Warner Bros. Says So
A lot of people remember that the first actor to portray a character on stage was a Greek named Thespis. Not a lot of people remember that the first actor to portray The Punisher on screen was Dolph Lundgren. This is confusing to me, because as far as I can tell, Thespis didn’t know karate and he sure as shit didn’t kill Apollo Creed. As a matter of fact, people like Thespis worshipped Apollo because he played a gay little lyre made of gold. This one was distributed by New World Pictures, which technically still exists under 21st Century Fox, however, it is Warner Bros. that owns the TV distribution rights for their films released between 1984 and 1991. Meaning, if you think you’re going to catch this Marvel movie on cable television, then someone at DC’s parent company has to sign the paperwork. The movie is so reviled by many fans, Warner should just air a 48-hour marathon of it every time Marvel tries to release a new movie.
Verdict: Don't Hold Your Breath
Nearly 3 decades ago, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? earned $350 million worldwide. 20 years ago, The DC vs Marvel crossover was the top selling comic book by over 100,000 copies each. Now that times have changed, both companies have grown, and nerd culture has become the status quo; we all can recognize the profit potential of these superpowered properties. However, if Spielberg’s right and the superhero bubble really is about to burst, then a few huge losses on big budget stinkers is all it would take to inspire a collaboration of epic proportions. Disney’s acquisitions of Marvel Comics, the Star Wars universe, and Pixar weren’t merely attempts at buying out their competition, they were wise decisions made by the elder statesman of children’s entertainment. Disney has been on death’s door before, and so buying out these popular properties while they’re safely on top is really just a way for the company to hedge its bets against future missteps. For now, as long as each and every superhero flick clears a half a billion dollars at the box office, there is no need for either company to tag in a partner, no matter how much the fans want to see it. Trust me, though, if troubled times ever find the house of mouse again, they will reach out to the competition and form a Mega Powers Team, just like Hulk Hogan & Macho Man circa 1988.
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