ByFergus Coyle, writer at
Movie lover, wannabe director and resident DC nerd. Get more from me at:
Fergus Coyle

With Batman v Superman having finally started the path to Justice League, and Captain America: Civil War almost here it's all about the guys in masks with superpowers. However, I can imagine that people who don't follow every scrap of information about anything adapted from a comic book as religiously as some could have a hell of a lot of questions. What with all of the emphasis on continuity, as well as all the desire to play the "it's all connected" card. So considering that, it might be helpful to know why Daredevil won't be showing up and fighting Batman any time soon.

We'll start at the beginning shall we, and you'll want to be paying close attention in order to make sure you pick up all of this.

There are two titans of superhero comic-books: Marvel and DC. They've been printing stories about men in spandex for decades, and are still going. Other companies print comics too, but none of them have as much traction or publicity. Starting out of the gate with DC because they are slightly simpler on the whole when it comes to their cinematic and television screens. The heroes you may recognise from the DC tent are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and a hell of a lot more. Warner Bros. studios own the rights to the distribution of all characters under the DC banner, and they have made a fair few films, animated ventures and TV shows centring around them over the years. None of that is really relevant to the current slew of adaptations, but I get to decide what goes into these, so you can shut your gob you filthy peasant.


DC/WB are currently building themselves a big interconnected film universe off of the back of Man of Steel. Any movie which came before 2013 is not part of this new world, but is rather in its own pocket of fiction. Batman v Superman is the newest film in that world, and it exploded it out into an Avengers-esque expanded universe. There will be a slew of other films coming out over the next few years including Suicide Squad, which will be about the villains of this new universe, a Justice League team-up film (just think The Avengers with Batman and Superman and you've got it) and a bunch of solo movies for all of the other heroes that you're probably less familiar with.

You still on board with me so far? No? Refresh the page and read the past few paragraphs again so that I get another page view out of this. WB aren't just invested in the silver screen though, they're also juggling a lot of TV ventures to go along with it. However, the TV shows and films are completely separate. In fact, come next year there are going to be two different versions of the Flash running around, one played by Grant Gustin on his TV show and one played by Ezra Miller at the movies. On top of that, the TV shows have been having their own little "everything's connected" party on the CW network, with Arrow, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Constantine all in the same universe, as well as Supergirl being tangentially connected to them via alternate universe. Gotham on the other hand is standing defiantly apart from everyone else, acting as a Batman prequel. Don't worry about it though, because if you ask me, Gotham isn't especially worth watching. But you're not asking me about that, so take it with as much salt as you like.

Now that you're all caught up with DC's end of things, we can move onto the intellectual property joy that is Marvel studios.

Back in the 1990s, Marvel comics went through a rough patch. See, comics as a whole were going through quite the fiasco in the 90s because everyone printed too many copies of each copy due to a massive boost in sales brought on by the notion that you could collect the comics and sell them for a fortune later down the line. When everybody realised that this system didn't work if everyone did it however, Marvel realised that they had spent a tonne of cash on their comics only to have their readership fade away. Being in danger of having the company go bust, Marvel sold the film rights off for their most popular characters in order to keep themselves afloat.

Spider-Man went to Sony pictures, who have to release a film based in the character every three years, 20th Century Fox picked up the X-Men (to the point of owning the term "mutant") and Fantastic Four rights, hence why the Fantastic Four keep getting movies about them, despite how they all keep getting progressively worse to the point where the next one probably needs to have a health and safety warning come up before it. All of the other film rights eventually found their way to Paramount, who kicked off the Marvel universe with Iron Man and kept it going until 2012, when Disney bought up all those rights from Paramount in the wake of having bought Marvel film studios back in 2009. Because Disney has to own everything, don't they.

Here's where it all gets murky. Universal studios managed to grab the rights to the Hulk a while back, but after Ang Lee's Hulk flopped (and was terrible) the rights shifted back to the main pool that now rests with Disney. Recently though, it was revealed that the rights to a solo Hulk film are actually split between Disney and Universal. More than that isn't really known, but Universal definitely get a say in any film which has "Hulk" in the title. Going deeper than that, there are even more split characters. The lines that divide the rights are obscenely watery. For example, Disney own the rights to the Avengers team, but Fox own the X-Men team, but as some heroes have been on both teams meaning that the dozens of characters are actually owned by both companies. That's why there's a Quicksilver in the latest Avengers movie, but also one in the latest X-Men film. Things like that are actually quite common among the Marvel characters, so don't be surprised if you see more things like that in the future.

Still with me? I'm going to assume you are because there isn't much I can do if not. Thankfully Marvel's TV is much simpler than DC's because currently, every show belongs in the Disney expanded universe. In essence that's just Agents of SHIELD and the Netflix series' (currently just Daredevil and Jessica Jones but soon there will be more).

So there you have it, now you know all about the different ongoing superhero universe. Or you're just more confused than ever, in which case I apologise but I got a page hit out of you anyway. Joke's on you mate!


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