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Friday, August 7, 2015

X-Men TV Show in the Works

Edited by Robert Beach

Fox is trying to produce a new X-Men TV show. This is honestly pretty surprising all things considered. Fox has always regarded X-Men at something of an arm’s length, usually unable to see any appeal to the series outside of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. In recent years, the trend seems to have really changed. The success of X-Men: First Class and the proven hit power of team superhero films like The Avengers have made Fox take a much closer look at the X-Men franchise. At the same time, Hugh Jackman’s recent health issues and advancing age are clearly leading him away from the Wolverine part, but it’s starting to look like his departure won’t spell the end of Fox’s X-Men projects. 
It’s currently unclear what this new X-Men show will be: whether it will be a new show, another period piece, or feature a connection to the announced X-Force and New Mutants projects. What is clear is Fox is having trouble getting the show off the ground thanks to the intervention of Marvel, who are making a big deal over whether or not Fox have the rights of a X-Men TV show.

This recent rights dispute is actually just the latest installment in a long-standing beef between Marvel and Fox that lasts well over a decade at this point. What happened was back in the ‘90s Marvel didn’t have any studio of their own, so they agreed to sell Fox TV rights to their characters to make things like X-Men the animate series. That turned out to be a very good decisions as the X-Men show became a big hit and helped spawn Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Fantastic Four, and Silver Surfer animated shows as well.

The success of the X-Men show went hand-in-hand with the growing mega-popularity of the X-Men franchise overall in the ‘90s. This was the decade that saw the X-Men at peak popularity as Marvel’s other cash cow of Spider-Man descended into the quagmire that was the Clone Saga. At the height of this popularity, Marvel decided to team with Fox for an X-Men TV movie called Generation X, a film so bad no one remembers it even exists.  

Fast-forward 4 years to 2000, the X-Men franchise still maintains a decent popularity but has ultimately slowed down a bit in terms of media impact. Additionally, Blade had blown up theaters two years earlier and brought new life to the superhero genre. As a result, Fox decides to revitalize their plans to produce an X-Men feature film that had stalled after the disappointing Generation X. The result is Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film, a solid installment that proved to be good enough to win audiences over.  After 2002’s Spider-Man blowing up the box office even more, Marvel suddenly found themselves with a major foothold in feature films that they’d never enjoyed before. 

Following the standard Marvel approach the company tried to cross promote the hell out of their various properties. One such way in which they did this was a new show called Mutant X that Marvel produced and distributed themselves. This is where things get messy.
 Mutant X wasn’t technically an X-Men show in that it wasn’t an adaptation of any X-Men characters, simply a show that used the concept of mutants as a sci-fi allegory. Fox, who had actually retained the live-action TV rights to the X-Men from Generation X, felt it violated their contract with Marvel and sued them over the issue.  Fox eventually won the lawsuit, ending Mutant X and dismantling the production company Marvel had used to make the show. This all happened around 2004-05, which is why Marvel was so disconnected from Fox installments like X3: Last Stand and broke out on their own as a studio after the debacle that was Fox’s Rise of the Silver Surfer.  

Marvel has never forgiven Fox for how completely they shattered their success with Mutant X. The show had actually been a relative hit for Marvel, lasting a respectable 4 seasons before being forced into cancellation by the lawsuits. On the flipside, Fox has only dug in their heals in response to Marvel’s anger and especially after Marvel went solo. That’s part of why, even now, Fox makes films like Fant4stic, movies that they have no interest in and are certain to lose money on, rather than allow film rights to go back to Marvel.  

That might be changing with this recent new development. This TV news coupled with all the swirling info around Wolverine 3, Gambit, and Deadpool seems to suggest Fox actually might care about the X-Men franchise and really want to keep producing installments of it. A big change from just 4 years ago when X-Men: First Class was made solely to help keep the rights. 

Given Fox’s newfound interest in the X-Men franchise, their desire to branch out into television, combined with the abject failure that Fant4stic is shaping up to be, could lead to a rights trade with Marvel. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fox agreed to trade Marvel the rights to the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, and Galactus in exchange for the X-Men television rights. Only time will tell but a decade is a long time and the end to the Fox/Marvel beef would be a nice change for the better. 

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