The Crazy World of Superhero Film Rights

As I was telling someone how Hugh Jackman would have loved to do another movie as Wolverine teaming up with the Avengers they exclaimed: “But Wolverine isn’t Marvel!” This set me off drawing up a map of the different film property rights when it comes to Marvel.

» Jump straight to the infographic.

Because let’s get one thing straight: Wolverine and X-men have always been a part of Marvel comics, and I was reading those comics long before any films with the characters came out. In the comics Wolverine was a member of the Avengers team, operating both with the main Avengers and later New Avengers. That means his friends included Captain America, Iron Man, Spider-man, Spider-woman, Luke Cage, Ronin,  and the Sentry. According to Screenrant he has appeared on at least 13 different Avengers teams.

The source of confusion is when Marvel was having financial difficulties in the 1990s and decided to start selling film rights to the various characters in the Marvel universe. Well, 20th Century Fox happened to buy X-men and to the dismay of all Marvel fans this means a lot of the characters who hang out in the comic books don’t get to hang out on the big screen.

Here is a cursory overview, including the top superhero names, of who owns the rights to what character. The infographic will give you some insight into the complexity of all this, including the fact that character right and distribution right can be owned by different companies.

Hopefully sometime in the not too distant future the characters will find their way home to Marvel… erhm I mean Disney.

[Nerd alert! Yes, I grew up reading superhero comics and I treat the characters as my friends, hence defending them when I feel they have been wronged.]

Per Axbom

Per Axbom


Per Axbom is a Swedish communication theorist born in Liberia. For two decades he has educated digital professionals and helped organizations with digital usability and accessibility. Per makes tech safe and compassionate through design, coaching and teaching. You can hear his voice on UX Podcast.

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Warner Bros ownership doesn’t start to get interesting unless you start introducing bunch of none superhero related things such as MGM – pre 1986 (mainly Tom and Jerry, Droopy), Hanna-Barbera (Yogi, Quick Draw, Johnny Quest, Jetsons, Flinstones, Space Ghost etc).