ByKit Simpson Browne, writer at
Writer-at-large. Bad jokes aplenty. Can be gently prodded on Twitter at @kitsb1
Kit Simpson Browne

Now, the news that iconic old-school Marvel hero Namor: The Sub Mariner might just be heading to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after years of complex wrangling of movie rights is inevitably cause for celebration - but it's worth bearing in mind that he isn't the only Marvel hero currently tangled in the jagged netting of the legal system. Y'see, as it turns out, there are a surprisingly large number of Marvel superheroes sitting in a strange sort of limbo - with the proper owners of their movie rights remaining distinctly unclear.

With some of Namor's epic comic-book adventures perhaps set to sail in the MCU's direction in the near future, then, it seemed about time we took a look at...

5 Marvel Superheroes Whose Movie Rights Are Still Stuck In Limbo

And not the fun kind where Colossus' little sister Magik lives in the Marvel Universe. The kind with lawyers.

First up (and ignoring the clearly Fox-owned likes of the X-Men and The Fantastic Four)?

5. The Hulk

Now, of course, Marvel Studios very much does have the right to use Hulk in its movies - seeing as we've already seen him in several of them - but that doesn't mean he isn't still stuck in one heck of a legal quagmire. Y'see, as it turns out, while Marvel Studios holds the rights to use Hulk in its movies, Universal Studios holds the rights to distribute any solo movie they might make - and thus snaffle a chunk of the profits, with no real investment.

Which is of course why we're set to see Hulk - and, it seems, elements of the fan-favorite Planet Hulk story-line - in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok, but no Hulk solo movie. Marvel, it seems, is more than happy to wait until the distribution rights (eventually) revert back to them. Until which time, I wouldn't get too excited at the prospect of a World War Hulk movie...unless it turns up in Avengers: Infinity War.

4. She-Hulk

This same logic is, some have speculated, the basis for Marvel's apparent reluctance to bring She-Hulk into the MCU. With Jennifer 'She-Hulk' Walters being the Hulk's cousin and all, it seems possible - though unconfirmed - that she would be effected by the same rights issue.

Of course, it probably has more to do with the fact that She-Hulk is a tricky character to adapt for the big screen, and has very little name recognition - but it's possible that rights issues are in play too. Or, at least, that's what we're going to keep telling ourselves.

3. Kang The Conqueror (And Several Other Villains)

Now, on the surface, Kang's movie rights actually seem pretty straightforward. According to Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, they're owned by Fox - and Kang is thus off limits to the Marvel Universe. Which, since the character first appeared back in 1963's Fantastic Four #19, and Fox own the movie rights to pretty much all Fantastic Four characters, makes a lot of sense.

The only problem? There's a chance that Fox don't fully own the rights, after all. Y'see, while the time-travelling Kang technically first appeared in a Fantastic Four comic-book, that was as his alter ego Rama-Tut. His first appearance as Kang the Conqueror came a year Avengers #8. Which might just trap him in an odd sort of limbo, where neither Fox nor Marvel feel comfortable using him, for fear of a precedent-setting legal battle. After all, there are several other villains (and supporting heroes) in similar positions...

2. Spider-Woman

Another character who - much like She-Hulk - may simply not have appeared due to a lack of studio interest, Spider-Woman's movie rights are nonetheless also a little foggy, in much the same way as Kang's. Y'see, while she herself isn't technically Spider-Man associated in the comic-books, there has long been a suspicion among fans that the original rights deal that took Spider-Man to Sony may have also taken all Spider-themed characters with him...including Spider-Woman.

In which case, Marvel Studios may have only acquired the rights to use the hero when Spider-Man returned to the MCU fold last year - and may still be reluctant to introduce a hero that the folks over at Sony could then (perhaps) take with them should the current co-production deal fall apart.

And, finally?

1. Namor Himself

Yup, that's right. For all the optimistic headlines we've seen over the past few days, it seems that Namor's movie rights may not actually be quite as clear cut as we've been hoping. Y'see, the recent speculation stems from a couple of quotes from Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, who revealed that "As far as I know, yeah, we do [own the movie rights to Namor]", before adding that the movie rights are "not at Fox, not at Sony."

Which is great and all - except for the fact that we always knew they weren't at Sony - but rather with Universal. Back in 2014, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige - who should know the situation better than anyone - revealed that while Universal couldn't make a Namor movie themselves, the rights weren't fully with Marvel either (catchy potential theme songs be damned).

As Feige put it:

"Let’s put it this way – there are entanglements that make it less easy. There are older contracts that still involve other parties that mean we need to work things out before we move forward on it. As opposed to an Iron Man or any of the Avengers or any of the other Marvel characters where we could just put them in."

Or, in other words, it sounds very much as though Namor's rights are - much like Hulk's - trapped in an unusual distribution-related deal, making him a less appealing commercial prospect to Marvel. Now, that could well have changed - but it's also entirely possible that Joe Quesada could simply have failed to incorporate that complicating factor into his recent comments, thus leaving Namor...pretty much where we last left him: in limbo.

What do you reckon, though?


What would you most like to see in the MCU?


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