X-Men Assemble? What a Possible Disney/Fox Deal Could Mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Avengers vs X-Men #3 Marvel / Jim Cheung

On Monday, news broke that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of studio 20th Century Fox, was in talks to sell much of its media conglomerate to Disney. Soon afterward, Bloomberg reported that discussions had stalled for the time being.

The road to a possible deal is sure to be rocky, but just the hint of it sent shockwaves through the entertainment and business worlds. Of course it did. An agreement that sends intellectual property and franchises from Fox to Disney would mean a monumental shift for American media. Consider just the Marvel cinematic universe: Marvel properties, from the Avengers on the big screen to the Defenders on Netflix, dominate the box office, ratings, and pop culture. But Disney, which owns, Marvel Studios, doesn't control the movie rights to every Marvel character. Fox has the rights to the X-Men, includuing Wolverine, Deadpool and the Fantastic Four.

avengers xmen
The Avengers vs X-Men in a 2012 comic by Brian Michael Bendis. Marvel

The "who owns what?" divide has created several weird disconnects in the Marvel universe. For instance, Disney chose to lean into the "inhuman" storyline, in which ordinary people get powers from exposure to terrigan gas, because it was unable to talk about mutants. Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) is a member of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, but according to the comics she's always been the daughter of Magneto of the X-Men. Similarly, in the comics, Deadpool typically maintains a tumultuous, flirtatious relationship with Spider-Man, but fans won't be able to see that friendship unfold as long as the characters exist in separate, corporate-sanctioned universes.

If Disney and Fox come to a deal, though, it would gather most of Marvel's Hollywood heroes under one roof. (Sony and Paramount still control some rights for Spider-Man and Hulk.) That means the next phase of the MCU could see the Avengers teaming up with the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy running into the Fantastic Four, Captain America butting heads with Deadpool — the possibilities are limitless, especially when you factor in all the TV shows. The Runaways joining the Defenders on an adventure? Sign us up.

Deadpool and his flirtatious bro, Spider-Man, as the two appear in some comic book storylines. Marvel

This fall, all reports out of Fox suggested the company was considering alternative directions for its properties—the long-awaited Venom film began filming, the company released a trailer for New Mutants, and Channing Tatum's Gambit movie shuddered back to life. The studio had been experiencing some turbulence with rebooting its X-Men franchinse. The most recent film, X-Men: Apocalypse, underwhelmed both critics and audiences. But Legion, the X-Men adjacent drama on FX, and Logan, the film that marked Hugh Jackman's last turn as Wolverine, were critical successes for 20th Century Fox.

Now, talk of a deal with Disney shakes things up again. NBC reports that Disney has its eye on Fox's movie studio, as well as networks FX and National Geographic. The moves seem to be in preparation for the launch of Disney's streaming platform, which will tear its animated classics and TV programs off Netflix and Hulu.