Who Owns The Film Rights To Your Favourite MARVEL/DC Characters

Posted on: August 14th, 2012

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In my eyes, Marvel’s The Avengers was the best comic book movie out there. It mightn’t be considered the best movie based on a comic character out there but it was the closest thing we’ll ever get to a live action comic… well until The Avengers 2 is released and they no doubt up the ante.

One simple reason for this (other than the sometimes cheesy comic dialogue and the massively overblown set pieces) was the fact that it utilised one of the comic industries greatest weapons. The crossover.

Fancy Seeing You Here!


Marvel crossover


Comic characters interact on the pages of our monthly comics all the time and I’d struggle to think of even one character who hasn’t crossed path with another hero at one stage or another.

Even my favorite DC character, the little known Tommy Monaghan (Hitman) has shared panels with Azrael, Resurrection Man, Lobo, Catwoman, The JLA and had solo stories with Batman and Superman. And this is a pretty low key DC character.


hitman/jla crossover

Yep, a smack talking hired killer teaming up with the JLA. Makes sense to me.


But Why Now?



Oh don’t be so cynical! Though I’m sure this helped.


The Avengers was such a hit that you have to wonder why this hasn’t happened before. The reason for this is that The Avengers was a multi million dollar gamble. Firstly, Marvel and Disney started producing their own films using characters they had the film rights to. They then gave these characters their own movies, let us get to know the characters individually whilst always hinting that there was something bigger on the horizon.

By the time they finally meet, Marvel/Disney already had 5 movies to their name and you knew which character you were looking forward to seeing the most. It’s a fantastic undertaking and as The Avengers is the third highest grossing movie of all time, I’d say that it paid off pretty damn well.


Where was “Insert favourite character here”


3d-man marvel

And I know we’re all thinking about 3D man right about now. With the power of 3D..…ness. Somehow, this guy actually existed


Now you might ask yourself why other Marvel characters (and lets face it, most of them have had a brief tenure with the Avengers at one point or another during their long careers) didn’t or can’t appear.

And with the news that Ben Affleck has been looking at (and turned down) the script for The JLA, who owns the DC characters.

Well it’s all down to who owns the film rights for which characters, and here’s my break down of who owns who!


Marvel Characters:


marvel character composit


Let’s start with Marvel first. The problem they face is that don’t own the film rights to all their characters.

Note: It would be too time consuming to list everyone who each studio owns so as a rule of thumb, just take for granted that the rights to anyone who has appeared in a certain character’s movie is owned by the Studio that produced the film.

An example would be Doc Ock from Spider-Man 2. He is owned by Sony Columbia Pictures Century Fox.


Marvel Studios:


the avengers characters


Now I’m not too sure about how this works but as it stands I’ll assume that pretty much every Marvel character who graces our shelves each month (bar the ones I’ve listed as belonging to other Studios) are owned by Marvel Studios.

Here’s the easy ones though:

-The Incredible Hulk.

-Iron Man


-Captain America

-Black Widow


-Nick Fury


They also own these guys who are constantly being rumoured as the next characters to make the jump to the big screen (though so far only Ant Man seems to be heading that direction thanks to Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish)


marvel movies:ant-man?black panther/dr strange


-Black Panther

-Ant Man

-Doc Strange


Also, Marvel made a pretty savvy deal when selling the rights of their characters. Namely, that they hired out their characters. Meaning that if the studio who had bought the rights to a character hadn’t started development on a movie/TV show, etc within a certain time frame then the rights go back to Marvel (who just so happen to now have their own studio with which to make movies…..Like I said, savvy)

So here’s a list of characters who were owned by other people but who’s rights have now reverted to Marvel:

-The Punisher (Previously Lionsgate Entertainment )

-Blade (Previously New Line Cinema)

Now strangely I’m a little worried that these guys are back in Marvel’s hands. I think the Studio could do pretty good adaptations for the two (and lord knows, The Punisher needs at least one good movie to his name) but I’m also worried that Marvel/Disney won’t be able to make appropriate films for them as let’s face it, they’re not very kid friendly characters.



“I should have the bigger body count!”


20th Century Fox:


dvd marvel heroes




-Fantastic Four




It seems that Marvel may not get some these characters back for a while yet. X-Men: Days of Future Past is confirmed and Chronicle’s Josh Trank has signed on a Fantastic Four reboot so it seems they’ll be outside of the Marvel universe for the foreseeable future. The X-Men is fine because an Avengers/X-Men movie would have way too many characters but the loss of FF isn’t the best as they have been through alot with all of the main Avengers at one stage or another in the comics.

The wild cards are Electra (who I’m assuming won’t get another chance with Fox due to the poor performance of both Daredevil and Electra) and Daredevil. Daredevil is a tricky one to call at the minute. With David Slade apparently walking out on directing duties, we might just see the Man without Fear returning to Marvel’s Roster sooner than we’d thought.


Sony Columbia Pictures:


ghost rider/spiderman




-Ghost Rider


This is the reason we are unlikely to see Spider-Man in future Avengers movies. And I’d not hold my breath for this eventuality even though there has been comments made from both Marvel and Sony execs that a deal may be worked out…… meaning if they can both make shed loads of money out of it.

The fact that Marvel don’t own Venom isn’t too big a deal. The way it stands he can still crossover with Spidey and let’s face it, that’s what we want to see anyway (as long as it’s better than Spider-Man 3)


DC Characters:


dc characters composit


Now DC don’t have their own film making branch but they are owned by Warner Bros. (and they’re both owned by Time Warner) so they’ve managed to keep alot of their characters “in house” so to speak.

It’s easier to start with who Warner Bros. doesn’t own:

-Red (Summit Entertainment)

-The Spirit (Lions Gate Entertainment)

-The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (20th Century Fox)

Can’t say I’m too worried about not seeing anymore of these guys on the big screen again (even though Red is getting a sequel). Plus they’re definitely not integral to the DC universe so you can understand why they were sold on to other studios.


Warner Bro’s


the losers: comic/film

The Losers. A better “A-Team” style movie than the “A-Team”


They own characters who can star in their own individual movies such as:



-Jonah Hex


- John Constantine

-Suicide Squad


-V (For Vendetta)

-The Losers

But more importantly they own all these heavy hitters:


jla characters




-The Flash

-The Green Lantern


-Green Arrow

-Wonder Woman

So pretty much the entire Justice League of America. The main problem they face in trying to combine these characters is that they’ve all been developed individually. Nolan’s Batman is the definitive version of the character, Superman has 2 incarnations already and a third on the way, Green Lantern was just terrible….OK, that might not help me make my point but it still needed mentioning. Combining them into one movie in which they all have their own individual voice, taken from their respective movies, could be a pretty demanding and risky move.

Like I said, The Avengers was a massive undertaking by Marvel that they needed to succeed. Whilst they’ve been hampered by the loss of the film rights to some characters, they’ve used what they had to make something great. Will Warner Brothers be willing to invest the time, resources and, most importantly, money on making a JLA movie.

And there you have it. I’m not going to lie, I mainly started this article because I’m sick to death of not knowing who owns who and why the Hell certain people aren’t cameoing in films they should be. Let me know if this was helpful and if there are any other characters I missed or that you’d like me to try figuring out who they’re owned by.

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Author Info

Dan is just a guy who worked in a video store and took the compliment/insult that he was like “Randal” from “Clerks” a little too literally. Thankfully Bad Haven has given him the chance to blurt out his internal monologues on nerd culture. Proclaiming his love for the things he likes (which include books, movies, games, comics) and utterly destroying the things he doesn’t (pretty much everything else). Dan is an editor, reviewer and feature writer for Bad Haven.

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  • Charlie Oldfield

    Really helpful article, covered near everything. Any idea who owns Deadpool though? I think it’s Fox but aren’t certain.

  • Zachariah Dearing

    I actually heard that Daredevil goes back to Marvel in just a few days.
    Also, I was wondering about the Vision. He’s the only Avenger that I care about that you didn’t mention.

    • Charlie Oldfield

      They own the rights to make a TV show of Daredevil already (as they do every character), so they’re being sneaky and making a Netflix show about him set in the Avengers Universe. Provided he isn’t mentioned in the movies, Marvel are perfectly allowed to do it too.