How Marvel Studios Can Fix The X-Men Films

fox x-men poster

Now that Dark Phoenix is over and done with when it comes to the Fox X-Men films, it is time to turn to Marvel Studios. As the inheritors of the X-Men film franchise, the studio has some work cut out for them. The X-Men films do need some retooling after all, and there are a few fixes that Marvel Studios can implement as they integrate the mutants into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Let the Mutants Rest

Fortunately, Marvel Studios is doing the right thing here, which is hard for some to accept considering the demand for the MCU to feature the X-Men. Marvel Studios head, Kevin Feige, repeatedly stated that there aren’t any plans to introduce the X-Men right away into the MCU and one of the main reasons is that the film studio already has plans for the MCU for the next few years. Trying to force the X-Men into the crowded, but beloved, cinematic universe would be too much.

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Then, after the bad taste that the last two X-Men films left fans with (sans the solo releases of Deadpool 2 and Logan), it is best for now to let the mutants rest. This will enable Feige and others the time to properly retool the franchise and cast its characters. Plus, imagine the built up anticipation for the X-Men. By the time they return, they will have a genuine comeback.

Be Faithful to the Comics and Characters

The X-Men comics from Marvel Comics were at one time among the most popular and revered comic books and for good reason. This was not because of their flashy costumes, and unlike Fox, Marvel Studios should not be afraid to use the comics costumes. Rather, the popularity was due to the wonderfully developed characters and situations. The Fox X-Men films have had a mixed record with the characters. At times they were fairly faithfully represented, other times not so much. Plus, some characters like Wolverine were allowed to hog the highlight and as a result many popular characters like Cyclops or Storm were given scant screen time.

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It is too easy to allow uber favorites like Wolverine dominate a film, but this is a mistake. The comics were successful because they were about a team with diverse characters. In other words, an ensemble. Ample time and issues were devoted to each of the X-Men members, which is why there are so many popular characters. Perhaps, Marvel Studios should do what Fox did with their prequel films and not feature Wolverine (which happened for the most part) and probably Magneto, as well, at least for the beginning. This leads to another fix.

Explore Other Villains

Magneto has played a prominent role in the Fox X-Men films, usually as an adversary, and for good reason. He is one of the greatest and most developed villains in Marvel Comics. To not use him in a major film is unheard of, but necessary at this point. He needs some rest at the moment, and a well thought-out reimagining. For instance, even though his Holocaust/World War II backstory is very powerful, it makes the Master of Magnetism very old today. Just look at the criticism in Dark Phoenix where Magneto still looked youthful in the film’s 1990s setting compared to his first introduction in the 1960s-set X-Men: First Class.  Another more recent real-world conflict or tragedy will have to be used such as the Yugoslav Wars or the Chechen War.

There are so many other worthy foes that the X-Men can face aside from Magneto. Take for example Mr. Sinister, Nimrod, Onslaught, the Marauders or the Freedom Force. Each of them are powerful, menacing foes with fascinating back stories and motives. Marvel Studios could also lean into its successful cosmic side and introduce the Brood or the Shi’Ar Empire. The latter force could then be used to properly adapt the “Dark Phoenix” storyline.

Go Epic and Personal

 

The X-Men are renowned for their epic story arcs like “Dark Phoenix”, “Days of Future Past”, “Age of Apocalypse” and “House of M”. These stories spanned several comics including other non-mutant titles and weren’t afraid to go big and tragic. The Fox X-Men films often felt like they were holding back when they tried to go epic. One exception was X-Men: Days of Future Past. But they dropped the ball on “Dark Phoenix” twice already and truncated the story. When adapting these stories Marvel Studios should not hesitate in going big. Of course, you can adapt them to fit the film and budget like Captain America: Civil War, but the film studio should not hold back.Age of Apocalypse

On the other side of this equation, the X-Men films in the MCU should not forget to make the films personal. Fox did fine with this aspect for many of their films like the first X-Men, where we saw what it felt like for a young person to experience being a mutant for the first time such as with Rogue. Other films that grounded the mutants included Logan, which explored Wolverine facing old age as he was slowly dying, and X-Men: First Class, which showcased several young adults grappling with their newfound powers. However, many of their other films glossed over personal journeys. A good example is X-Men: The Last Stand, which barely examined the ramifications of a mutant cure. But that was just one of that film’s flaws. Many of the comics had outstanding small, personal stories that explored what it was like to be a mutant in today’s world. This is the core concept of the X-Men comics: how to fit into a world where you are feared and hated. As long the future X-men films stick to this, then they will be beloved.

So, anyone reading this have their own ideas of how to fix the X-Men films? Drop a comment and share your thoughts.

 

 

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The Fox X-Men Films Ranked

All X-Men

Now that Dark Phoenix is out in theaters and ending the Fox X-Men film series, it’s time to quickly look back at the franchise and rank the films. This obviously will not include The New Mutants because it is not out yet and frankly, after the way Dark Phoenix did so poorly in the box office, it’s doubtful The New Mutants will ever get released. Expect it to pop up in a streaming service like Hulu and given what is known about the film, it doesn’t seem like it is part of the Fox X-Men films.

It is easy for some superhero film fans to look down upon the Fox X-Men films and they are thrilled that Disney owns the film rights now. But keep in mind that many of these films are bonafide classics that rank among the best superhero films ever made. Also, it goes without saying that starting in 2000, the X-Men films ushered in the modern era of superhero films that were dramatic improvements over what came before.

With that, let’s get to the films and see how they rank.

Wolverine and deadpool

12. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009):

Oh, boy, not only is this worst X-Men film but among the worst superhero films ever made. How could 20th Century Fox executives botch this one? A film exploring the origins of the most popular X-Man should have been great. Instead, we got bad CG, poor storytelling, limp action, and butchered characters. Exhibit A: Deadpool. His appearance in the film was so awful that it nearly prevented him from ever appearing again on film. At least, Deadpool 2 rectified this film during its post credits!

11. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006):

While the first two X-Men films were expertly guided by director Bryan Singer, this one was not, and it shows. After Singer left the project, Fox ultimately gave the directing job to Hollywood hack, Brett Ratner, who turned in a by-the-numbers superhero film. Not only was it crowded with too many undeveloped, new characters, but the story was all over the place. What could have been a great plot about a mutant cure was rushed. Plus, the famous “Dark Phoenix” story from the Marvel Comics was reduced to a subplot. One would think that when it came to retell the story, Fox would have learned its lesson…

10. Dark Phoenix (2019):

Despite the vitriol from some parts of the Internet, the final Fox X-Men film is not a complete disaster. Rather it is a disappointing adaptation of the classic story that defined the X-Men comic books. It sorely lacked the grand epic scale of the comic book story and came off as pedestrian. It has its moments, such as strong performances from many of the actors, and it covered some interesting ideas such as the hubris of Charles Xavier and Jean Grey’s struggle to control her new powers. However, under the tutelage of a rookie director, Dark Phoenix did not approach the intensity and visual punch demanded by the original story.

9. The Wolverine (2013):

Thankfully the Wolverine films recovered after the disastrous X-Men Origins: Wolverine with this effort that took Logan/Wolverine on a solo adventure in Japan. For the most part, The Wolverine is a well-executed superhero film that focused on the angst felt by the main character as he grappled with his past and the fact that he lost his healing ability. For the first time, Logan is actually vulnerable, which added a much-needed sense of danger during his fight scenes. The film loses some of its magic with its final act that did not match the grounded tone of the rest of The Wolverine.

8. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016):

Bryan Singer is a talented director, but by the time he helmed his fourth X-Men film, it was easy to tell he was checked out. This was evident with the way the chief villain Apocalypse was presented. A larger-than-life presence in the comic books, here Apocalypse is a rather mundane foe with little presence and poor motivation. Still, X-Men: Apocalypse has some spectacular segments such as Quicksilver’s rescue of Xavier’s students and a no-holds-barred final confrontation. During the climatic battle, the X-Men and their opponents get their moment to shine utilizing their unique powers, especially Jean Grey and Charles Xavier.

7. Deadpool 2 (2018):

While not as inventive or as fresh as the first Deadpool, this sequel is still a lot of fun. The Merc with a Mouth returns with even more gross-out gags, outrageous stints, and fourth-wall-breaking madness. This time out, Wade Wilson gets involved in a Terminator-inspired plot to protect a future mutant despot while meeting great, new characters from the comic books. These new characters help expand the madcap world of Deadpool and it would be a shame to completely lose it and Deadpool’s outrageousness now that he is in the House of Mouse.

6. X-Men (2000):

The very first X-Men film may feel a bit dated, especially when it comes to its action, but it still holds up. Most of the major players in the Fox X-Men films make their debut in this film and are immediately captivating. Needless to say, the breakout character of X-Men was Wolverine, well portrayed by Hugh Jackman. Unfortunately, his presence didn’t allow for the development of other X-Men like Cyclops. However, other actors were just as charismatic like Patrick Stewart, and Ian McKellan, who both added gravitas. Overall, the film hit the ground running and brought us the modern age of superhero films.

5. Deadpool (2016):

Thankfully, after his debacle of a debut in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the Merc with a Mouth was given another chance and his mouth back. This was the first time a Fox X-Men film was allowed to have an R rating and it earns it well. Irreverent from the very start with its blood-soaked, but exciting scenes and hysterical opening credits, Deadpool did not hold back in terms of gory action, offensive jokes and banter, and lewd innuendo. Thanks for the success of Deadpool, of course, goes to its star Ryan Reynolds, who helped champion the foul-mouthed anti-hero for years until Fox relented and greenlit this classic dark comedy.

4. X-Men: First Class (2011):

After the poor reception of the previous two films, the Fox X-Men film series needed a course correction. X-Men: First Class provided that with this soft reboot/prequel that showcased the early days of Xavier and his uneasy friendship with Erik Lensherr/Magneto. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was caused by evil mutants, the film presented fresh incarnations of established characters while introducing new and intriguing ones. Much of the credit for the success of rebooting the film franchise goes to Matthew Vaughn, who sadly never returned to do another film. He brought an invigorating approach to the characters and their situations and revived the series.

3. X2 (2003):

Often called X2: X-Men United, the first X-Men sequel is considered to this day by many as one of the best superhero films. The mutant superhero team are forced to team up with their mutant enemies to a grave threat: a scheme by a bigoted human to kill all mutants. The action kicks it up a notch as seen in various scenes which showcase the full potential of the mutants’ powers. These include Nightcrawler’s stunning attack in the White House and Wolverine unleashing his inner animal to defend Xavier’s young students. The final moments of X2 tantalize and frustrate us with an epic Dark Phoenix followup that never happened.

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014):

The greatest X-Men epic film unites the original and new cast of X-Men in this time-travel classic. Adapting the comic book story, X-Men: Days of Future Past starts in the future where mutants are nearly extinct and an older Wolverine’s consciousness is sent to the past to prevent this apocalyptic future. What follows is a superb time-travel tale set in the 1970s where he meets many of the First Class characters. As this goes on, the remaining mutants in the future have their last stand against the robotic Sentinels that are hunting them. Seeing the old and new cast interacting was such a blast and everyone involved with the film went all out to properly tell this expansive story. Simply put, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the greatest comic book story adaptations of all time.

logan and x23

1. Logan (2017):

This masterpiece should have been the finale to the Fox X-Men films, because it is the perfect swan song to their saga. Somber, brutal and poignant, Logan follows the last days of the title character as he deals with old age and mortality. With his healing powers fading and striving for a quiet life of retirement, Logan is thrust with a final mission to save mutant children. Reluctant to take up the Wolverine mantle one last time, Logan nevertheless rises to the occasion. Logan is a haunting and heartbreaking film that is part Western, part superhero tale and will leave many in tears. Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart gave their finest performances and it’s a shame neither of them were nominated for Academy Awards. By that count, Logan should have received a Best Picture nomination because it’s that great and one of the best superhero films ever made.

José Soto

X-Men: Days Of Future Past Is A Great Superhero Epic

X posterX-Men: Days Of Future Past is a return to form for the X-Men film franchise and it’s more than that. It rectifies the misfires made with the franchise since the film’s director Bryan Singer left it to do Superman Returns. But more significantly, Singer has delivered the best X-Men film to date, even eclipsing favorites like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: First Class.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The fifth X-Men film (not counting the Wolverine solo efforts) is a loose adaptation of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne comic book story arc in The Uncanny X-Men #141-142 where mutants are facing extinction in the future and one mutant’s consciousness is sent back in time to prevent the mutant holocaust at the hands of giant Sentinel robots. The opening scenes in X-Men: Days Of Future Past take place in the grim, dark future where mutants are being mercilessly hunted down by advanced, adaptive Sentinels. In a desperate move, the consciousness of the fast-healing mutant Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back to the 1970s into the mind of his younger self, which begins a wild ride.

The film switches gears and has the audacity to introduce much-needed humor as Wolverine does a fish-out-of-water routine when adopting to the new timeline. In the 1970s, Bolivar Trask ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????(Peter Dinklage) is a mutant-hating scientist who constructs the Sentinels. According to history, he is assassinated by the shape-shifting mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), which starts the chain reaction leading to the dystopian future seen in the film’s opening act.  Wolverine has to find a younger version of his mentor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and convince the two men to put aside their differences and change history.

quicksilver2

X-Men: Days Of Future Past is genuine epic spanning across time and places with an intricate, but fast-moving story that is never dull. It’s so perfectly paced with exciting and tense sequences interjected with pathos and wry humor. There’s a smile-inducing segment where Wolverine, Xavier and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) recruit the speedster Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to break Magneto out of prison and he just steals the show. The way Singer demonstrated Quicksilver’s super-fast powers was so incredible to behold and fresh. It would’ve been easy to just show him as a streak, but Singer went the extra mile and showed his POV where the world around him slows to a standstill as he speeds up. This shows why Quicksilver is one of the coolest mutants and it’s too bad more time isn’t spent with him. His actions erases any complaints from haters and trolls who moaned about how dumb he looked in publicity shots. Of course, what elevates Quicksilver’s presence is how Peters played him as an ADD-addled, fun-loving type. Hopefully, he’ll pop up again in a future X-Men film and one can only speculate at this point on how Joss Whedon will present him in next year’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron.

X and WolverineAs with Peters, the rest of the cast elevate X-Men: Days Of Future Past by giving deeply emotional and captivating performances. This goes for major cast members like Jackman, McAvoy, Fassbender and Lawrence to those that had minor parts  like Ellen Page, Shawn Ashmore, Fan Bingbing, and Halle Berry. It was great to see the acting greats Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen returning to their roles as the older versions of Xavier and Magneto. Also, there are surprising and most welcome cameo appearances by other mutants, which enrich this film and shows how Singer cares about the franchise and pays attention to its details.

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On the whole, unlike the other films, X-Men: First Class aside, this one felt like a true ensemble film and not just Wolverine And The X-Men. He does have a major part in the film, but he is not the only star, that is because the other actors get their moment to shine and Jackman portrays the famous superhero differently, he’s more in control of himself, more mature.

With this film, Bryan Singer takes firm control of the film series and heads it in a new and hopeful direction. It’s clear from watching the performances, the intricate storyline and all the Easter eggs with nods to other X-Men films that Singer is invested with the franchise. X-Men: Days Of Future Past can be seen as an apology of sorts from Singer for leaving the series. Thanks to his efforts, the film is at the same time a welcome superhero blockbuster that will leave many X-Men fans overjoyed.

José Soto

Trailer For The Wolverine Debuts

wolverineEager fans of Marvel Comics’ favorite mutant superhero have waited for quite some time for a look at the upcoming film The Wolverine. A sequel to the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this new film promises to be better than that one. At least, that is what the people behind The Wolverine are claiming.

One thing going for the film is that it seems to be a loose adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series Wolverine, which takes the title character a.k.a. Logan,  into an adventure in Japan.

From looking at the trailer, the film sets up Logan (Hugh Jackman) as being on his own and approached to go to Japan where an old, dying friend offers to cure Logan of his curse of regeneration, which has made him practically immortal. He undergoes medical treatments that makes him mortal, but vulnerable. It couldn’t come at a worse time, since in the film, Logan has to fight an army of ninjas and other killers.

Directed by James Mangold, The Wolverine looks intriguing and exciting. That scene at the end of the trailer where he’s fighting some guy on top of a speeding bullet train is an obvious green screen shot but wildly kinetic. More importantly The Wolverine, at least by looking at the trailer, seems to focus more on Logan and his emotional state. Hopefully it will be better than the last Wolverine solo film, leave out needless cameos of other X-Men characters, and stick to a pure Wolverine adventure.

Waldermann Rivera

Superhero Brand Management 101: One Pure Version Needed

 

Despite the success of the New 52 comic books from DC Entertainment’s DC Comics division, I’m still not seeing an ability by TPTB to consolidate their superhero properties into one source material. I’m a lifelong comic book fan, with a professional background in branding and licensing. I look at superhero properties not only as a fan but also as a brand manager. Here are a few problems I still see superhero companies like Marvel and DC struggling with:

 1) Superhero properties must be cross referenced and cross compatible. There isn’t one clear, solid mass consolidation of the characters across all major media- film, TV, video games, animated series and their related merchandising ventures. This goes for DC, Marvel and, to a certain degree, other comic book companies who overextend their properties. I think they’re taking the wrong approach. This is brand management failure in the making. By that I mean that there are too many versions and variants of characters and their costumes and storylines and it dilutes the core characters. At DC, they have a big problem: Why isn’t Superman’s costume and storyline from the regular comic books seamlessly tied into the 90’s Superman Animated Series, the CW’s Smallvile, DC Universe Online game and the new upcoming Superman movie? BTW, the next Superman movie has no relation with the past films, and is being produced as a relaunch/remake because Superman Returns wasn’t a big hit. Noticing how The Dark Knight made more money, Warner Bros. want the new Superman movie to be “darker.”  Unfortunately, they are all standalone, independent works with no consideration on how any one of these iterations relate to each other.

 Footnote: DC Comics editorial, Superman writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank superbly consolidated elements of the Superman movies and his past comic book iterations. Frank was allowed to illustrate Superman in the likeness of the late Christopher Reeve; the crystalline Krypton- designed for director Richard Donner’s Superman  by brilliant production designer John Barry, was incorporated into comic book Kyptonian architecture. The movie’s three Kryptonian villains (General Zod, Ursa and Non) finally appeared in the comic books. While General Zod originated in the ’50s comics, Ursa and Non were created for the  movies. It was Johns’ inspired idea to suggest they include all Kryptonian costumes designed by all comic book artists from the ’40s to present time, explaining that Krypton’s fashion was as diverse as Earth’s and what Kryptonians wore depended on their guild. Kryptonian fashion illustrated by John Byrne, Curt Swan, Gene Ha and from the films were all finally intermixed successfully. With the relaunch it’s unknown if they’ll keep that Kryptonian integration.

2) Too many %^$#**&$@ iterations of one character. Marvel suffers from this with all their properties. How many Wolverine comics are out there? There’s a title called Dark Wolverine and it’s not even the regular version of the character. And Logan once a proud loner is now in a whole bunch of teams! (Previously, he joined only the X-Men, that was the charm of it!) My question is: How does the comic book relate to the ’90s X-Men animated series, or 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movies, multiple X-Men video games, and other animated series? And now that’s happened with Spider-Man (the underdog loner) and all his different costumes. And let’s not forget there are two different Marvel Universes- the mainstream Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Universe. I know the reason behind it- sales and profits. Spider-Man and Wolverine are fan favorites. Marketing execs must love these infinite variations of the popular Marvel character since they can sell more comic books and toys, but it is confusing and turns away new readers.

3) Cost prohibitive and time prohibitive story lines.  I go across comic book aisles and see special event comics and multiple tie-ins and special issues (Blackest Night, Secret Invasion, DC’s numerous Crisis events and tie ins) and it turns me away. It’s unaffordable! It seems as if the larger companies are targeting upper middle class and upper class readers because the average fan cannot afford to buy so many comics just to get a complete story.

4) DC needs to scale back the amount of comics even more per month. Until the New 52, each month DC put out 52 regular titles, plus many four- and twelve- issue miniseries, and event comics for the tie ins and TBPs. Now they relaunced the DC Universe and cut back the number of monthly comic books to just 52. But it’s still too many comics to afford at $2.99 or $3.99 for each comic book. To read the full interrelaed story, the average buyer needs to spend $150 a month, and that’s for the New 52 comics alone! What about your favorite comics from Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, or Dynamite? But even if the prices were lower the bottom line is that the average fan doesn’t have time to read every single monthly comic book that comes out per month. It’s impossible. We have to pick and choose what we read and often it feels like we aren’t getting the full experience because no one is picking up every single tie-in. This was a problem when the comic book companies flooded the marketplace with too many titles and eventually everything imploded as a backlash from the speculator boom and the industry still hasn’t recovered from that. Back in the ’60s Marvel had a very manageable lineup with about twelve titles per month. It was easy for readers to jump aboard, experience the full Marvel Universe and not feel overwhelmed. Remember the adage, less is more!

5) Superhero costumes need to be consistent to maintain strong branding. Getting back to the New 52, one big example of this problem is the Superman outfit. In Zach Snyder’s upcoming film, the colors are way off; it looks bluish grey with red violet and no red trunks. In the New 52 comic books, the costume has the right red and blue colors, but no red trunks, just a red belt. And a collar, which seems to be a superhero prerequisite in DC’s New 52. Superman’s outfit is still not consistent from one medium to another. Unfortunately the producers of the new Superman movie, and DC Entertainment clearly didn’t want the classic costume meaning the costume differs from the one Supes wears in the New 52. The result is that already many fans aren’t happy. The same thing happened with Green Lantern. They made a choice with the film to have the costume appear organic and that was fine, it worked. But they should’ve used that costume when they rebooted the New 52 Green Lantern comic book. As a matter of fact, many fans expected they would do that, and were disappointed. DC had the perfect chance and pretext last month with the relaunches to do this but they didn’t. They need to realize that the movie medium is the strongest medium and should be the strongest point of reference.

6) Superhero Genre: We need to understand that superheroes aren’t a medium they are a genre that spans several media. This was proven back in the ’40s when Superman became a radio star and ceased to be confined to the comic book medium. What should be done is to just pick the version that is most popular, whether they be the movie version or the comic book version. In other words, all media should be cross-referenced to be compatible, with the highest priority given to the look of the costumes. This doesn’t mean that story isn’t important but comic books are more of a visual medium so the costume and visuals can’t be screwed up.

 

7) Executive-level decision mass consolidation of the characters and stories across all major mediums. This has to come from the top execs of WB and Disney sending  directives to DC Entertainment and Marvel respectively. For example, the likeness of an actor portraying the superhero or villain should be used in the comics, toys, etc. This can be expensive in terms of royalty but it just means they need to better negotiate this when coming up with the contract.

8 )Power to the (fans and consumer) people! Another thing the companies can do is have some kind of fan base council (with power and influence) that report to the big guns as to what is popular and what isn’t based on direct feedback from fans who can provide comments or answer polls. This will help bring about the highest level of consumer satisfaction.

 9) Price and online incentives: The price of a paper copy New 52 comic is the same as it is with the digital copy. The digital copy has no enhanced features. Why not? DC is missing out on a huge online opportunity: Incentives for digital comics could be online content like official character websites, commentary, videos, etc. Senior level direction is needed to map out where everything is in terms of the characters’ bios. Online charts and maps should be provided to help new readers understand what is going on, draw them in and appreciate any character’s rich history. 

Conclusion:

 There has to be one pure version of the property, and looking at this from a branding perspective, the property is still muddled. The standalone, independent business model that superhero companies are following is a bad idea. Their properties must be cross-referenced and cross compatible for all mediums, and whichever company has the guts to carry out this properly will win in the long run.

 

GEO

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