History has often been shaped by famous rivalries. Edison vs Tesla, Coke vs Pepsi, Apple vs Microsoft. One rivalry that has spanned nearly over a decade has been Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) against Warner Bros’ DC Extended Universe (DCEU). A classic story of David against Goliath. A struggling franchise whose been knocked down only come back roaring back again, battling a cultural titan who is hellbent on expanding its kingdom. Look, I get that the truth of the matter is its companies fighting about whose has the better boys and girls in tights. Except for the fact that there is a cultural monopoly worth billions of dollars at stake. This epic rivalry has pushed both companies to take bold leaps and innovations we would have seen 20 years ago. From the groundbreaking cinematic crossover of The Avengers to comic book’s first award-winning arthouse film with Joker.
It goes without saying, the horizon seems far and wide for both franchises right now. One question still eludes our imagination though: Could we ever see a Marvel-DC crossover film? Is such a thing even possible? The answer may be more complicated and interesting than you think.
When Worlds Collide
Let’s make something clear, Marvel and DC comics have collaborated in the past. During the 90s, the comic book industry was in a bit of a rut. Both DC and Marvel were looking to boost sales, so both companies decided to form Amalgam Comics. A joint publishing imprint that saw both Marvel and DC characters meeting each other. It was one of the weirdest, and arguably dumbest comic book runs I have ever read. Where do I even begin? There were multiple contrivances made to accommodate for this crossover. Entire continuities were retconned, and the series ran on the novelty of seeing fan-favourites of both universes interact with one another. All the fan service you could handle. The Avengers facing off the League. Darkseid holding the Infinity Gauntlet.
Things got even weirder, though, when Marvel and DC characters merged to form whole new ridiculous ones. Batman and Wolverine were blended together to form Darkclaw. Iron Man and Green Lantern made the Iron Lantern. Superman and Captain America were merged into Super-Soldier. It was all over the place and honestly, it reeked of desperation. While I like the idea of Marvel and DC characters coming together, I felt like it needed to be done in an organic manner. Not with this, out of the blue nonsense!
Interestingly enough, it seems like Marvel and DC comics are gearing up for yet another comic book crossover event. And this time around, it actually looks quite promising. Both sides have actually been releasing bits and pieces of information that have hinted at the existence of characters from different comic book properties. We first saw this near the end of 2019 with DC’s Doomsday Clock comic book event finale.
In one of the panels of the issue, we see that in the year 2030 of the DC Universe, a “Secret Crisis” occurs. An event that sees Superman battling against Thor and a “Green Behemoth”. There’s a lot to unpack here so let’s simply start with the name of the event itself. For those in the know when it comes to comic books, the term “Secret Crisis” is a giant flashing neon sign for a DC-Marvel crossover event. It’s literally an amalgamation of both companies’ go-to buzzwords for events. Some of Marvel’s most famous events are Secret Wars, Secret Empire and Secret Invasion. DC’s are named Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis and Final Crisis. It doesn’t take the world’s greatest detective to see that “Secret Crisis” is DC’s way of hinting at an inter-comic-book-publication crossover event.
If you’re not convinced, then there’s the little detail about Thor and his green friend, who is clearly the Hulk, meeting Superman. It doesn’t get any more obvious than that! That being said, perhaps, this is just some fun on DC’s part. A silly throwaway line that’s meant to hype up fans for some faraway, future event that’s never going to happen. That would be true except for the fact that Marvel comics seems to be hinting at this as well.
As of January this year, writer Donny Cates dropped a major bombshell in his second issue of Thor. In the story, we learn of a deadly cosmic plague, the Black Winter, that goes about destroying whole universes. One particular universe he witnesses in a vision is protected by “leagues of gods”. They include a “sun god” an obvious allusion to Superman with a red and blue streak and with the character drawing his power from the sun. A “god of emerald light”, that’s Green Lantern. A “god of speed”, which is Flash. I’m sure you get the point. These gods are clearly a thinly veiled hint at the Justice League. They might as well spell it out for us.
As of this moment, the awareness of both Marvel and DC characters of each others’ existence is officially canon! This is not some random imprint made on a whim or poorly written fan-fiction. This is acknowledged within both continuities. Furthermore, both sides have spoken of a multiverse shattering event that places all worlds in jeopardy. Whether it’s called “The Black Winter” or “Secret Crisis”, it’s well on its way and I cannot wait. For years, both companies have hinted in their books of a greater omniverse existing in their respective works. A multiverse of multiverse if you will. And within this omniverse, exist other multiverses filled with different heroes and villains.
Comic book theorists have hinted for years that other comic book and media properties share the same omniverse with their own franchise. Now, we know this for a fact. So, following this omniverse logic, it is technically possible for there to be a Marvel-DC comic book film. Seeing that both properties exist within the same omniverse and each respective comic book companies have acknowledged the others’ characters. Now, that we’ve gotten that out of the way, how likely are we to see a Marvel-DC crossover film come to reality?
A Conflict of Interest
Don’t count on it happening anytime soon. While there are conceivable ways in which the DCEU and MCU could meet, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will come to fruition. Simply put, there isn’t a good reason to do so. Before any of you hazard a guess, the answer is no, it’s not because Disney and Warner Bros have a longstanding rivalry. Bob Iger isn’t sitting around waving his fist at Warner CEO Ann Sarnoff. For the most part, both companies are on fairly good terms with each other. MCU Creative Director Kevin Feige and DCEU mastermind Geoff Johns are actually good friends in real life. Frankly, Feige feels that this whole rivalry between comic book film franchises is stupid and that the industry is wide enough to accommodate for more than one franchise in the industry. There’s plenty of box office returns to go around.
In spite of the amicable relations between both creative directors, I do not foresee a DC-Marvel crossover film happening. As Feige said, there’s plenty of profit to go around. An inter-franchise crossover film is the kind of publicity stunt a dying industry would pull to gain some relevance, much like what happened with Amalgam. So until the world starts showing some major signs of comic book film fatigue, I don’t think box office sales is going to be a motivating factor. Well, what about the fans then? If enough people push for a DC-Marvel film, surely the company will budge. Unfortunately, I don’t think fans are exactly clamouring for that either.
There are so many bankable characters and fantastic angles that both companies have yet to explore in their respective properties. The MCU is still working on expanding their cosmic landscape with films like The Eternals and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The DCEU hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of its potential. They’re working with Ava DuVernay in creating an epic war film starring divine gods from another world in New Gods. Warners is collaborating with director Matt Reeves in setting up a standalone Batman universe with films and TV shows. Hell, they’re even trying to sell you Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League, which could apparently spin out into its own universe!
If we’re talking about the full breadth and length of DC and Marvel’s comic book roster, there’s plenty of material to work with for decades. With both franchises so busy trying to adapt their already existing comic book source material and fans thoroughly engaged with either, or both, franchises, the idea of a DC-Marvel crossover isn’t really on anyone’s mind. Even if Disney bought all the rights to DC, there’s still no guarantee that you’ll see a crossover film happening in this decade. They bought over Fox’s X-Men assets and have yet to announce any plans of even using them! The characters aren’t even in their Phase 4 roster. They could buy over Warner Bros tomorrow and you’d still not see a DC-Marvel film by 2030.
Let’s recap. Is it technically possible for our DC and Marvel characters to appear in the same film together? The answer is yes, the omniverse explanation would do the trick. How likely will we ever see a DC-Marvel film? Unless both companies have properly exhausted all conceivable comic book assets, barring Disney buys DC over, and there are billions of fans pining for a crossover film, I don’t think you’ll see it in this lifetime. There’s still the matter of Disney and Warners even wanting to work together. Perhaps, when the stars are aligned and right before we witness the heat death of the universe, we could finally see Captain America shake Superman’s hand on the big screen.