The Marvel Cinematic Universe really gives us a novelty that took forever for comic book movies to fully embrace. The idea of superhero properties crossing over and building to a much wider world is something that’s in the DNA of the source material. Outside of the Lou Ferrigno Hulk rubbing elbows with half-realized versions of Thor and Daredevil, it’s something that we never truly got to see until Nick Fury stopped by Tony Stark’s house after the Iron Man credits. Before that, the closest thing we had was J. Jonah Jameson referencing the existence of Doctor Strange. Even their rivals at DC Comics couldn’t give us more than a Superman reference in Batman and Robin or a Batman and Robin reference in Steel.
But we did have some close calls over the decades. Some closer than others. Movies and sequels that would have brought together various heroes from Marvel and even beyond!
Let’s take a look back at some near misses. We’ll be straying away from MCU movies, as we already have an article for that.
Blade vs. Morbius
In the early days of DVDs, Blade was one of the first movies to give us the option to check out an alternate ending. Even those who did watch that ending mainly remember it because of how very different the final boss battle was. Instead of facing Deacon Frost in a one-on-one vampire sword fight, Blade faced a giant blood god, which was something CGI technology had not quite caught up to yet.
After winning, Blade and Dr. Karen Jenson had a conversation on a desert rooftop during daytime. After Blade made it apparent that he did not want to be cured and still wanted to continue the war against vampires, Jenson pointed out a figure on another rooftop. Played by Stephen Norrington, we saw what was supposed to be Morbius, almost completely covered up from the sun.
This stinger did not make the final product, though they did go with another take on the mutated vampire concept in the sequel.
The Dazzler movie is without a doubt the strangest superhero movie to almost exist. Even the inclusion of Spider-Man, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch, and other heroes was going to be the least outlandish part of the whole experiment.
As the story goes, Dazzler was initially created to be a mass media superstar. She would be not just a comic hero, but also get her own album via Casablanca Records, a concert tour, and an animated TV special penned by Jim Shooter. The TV special was then changed into a full-on rock opera movie that would have included a whole bunch of big names who were under contract at Casablanca. Cher was going to be an evil witch, Robin Williams was going to be the love interest, KISS and the Village People were going to be opposite sides of a post-apocalyptic gang war, Rodney Dangerfield was going to play three lawyers who were also Satan, and so on. Even Michael McKean and David Lander would have shown up as Lenny and Squiggy for the hell of it.
At this point, Spider-Man and the Avengers showing up is like that less-adorable lamb that Homer Simpson shoved out of the way because it no longer had his attention.
As for why it didn’t happen, Bo Derek was set to play Dazzler, but insisted that her husband John be the director or else. John Derek was not exactly well-regarded in Hollywood, so that convinced backers to quietly back off.
Ferrigno Hulk vs. Hammond Spider-Man
The Incredible Hulk TV show may well have ended in 1982, but from 1988 to 1990, there were three TV movie follow-ups. One where he teamed up with Thor, one where he teamed up with Daredevil, and one that killed off the character. There was going to be a resurrection movie, but David Banner’s actor Bill Bixby was in bad shape at the time and died soon after. Had things been different, there would have been another crossover in-between the show and the movies.
Back in the late-70s, there was also the lesser-known Amazing Spider-Man show starring Nicholas Hammond as Peter Parker. He and Bixby were good enough friends and back in the mid-80s, they came up with the idea of doing a TV movie that had David Banner wander into Peter Parker’s neck of the woods. Bixby was excited to try and make the project a reality and even direct it. As Secret Wars was going on in the comics at the time, Hammond was pumped that he would get to wear the cool, new black costume for this movie, despite it being made before we knew the true nature of that black costume.
Unfortunately, as this was going to be a Columbia and Universal co-production, Universal pulled out, claiming that Lou Ferrigno was not going to be available due to his busy schedule. Years later, Ferrigno himself called that out as bullshit. Well, thanks for that, Universal. You deserved to get the short end of the stick when the MCU started up.
An alternate ending to Blade Trinity revealed that Blade’s world was not just made up of vampires, but also werewolves. While it was certainly a good idea to close the book on that series after its unfortunate third chapter, that stinger would have been a perfect lead-in for the possible crossover with the Underworld franchise.
The two movie series overlapped with each other, as Blade’s final movie arrived in 2004 while Underworld started up in 2003. Underworld eventually had a decade and a half of vampires, werewolves, and shiny, black outfits to its name. Star Kate Beckinsale did admit that Sony was interested in doing a crossover between the two very similar franchises, and Wesley Snipes was adamant about wanting to play Blade once again.
But the Blade rights had folded back to Marvel and they had their own plans for eventually shoving the Daywalker into the MCU. Plans that would not involve Selene dealing death. In the meantime, the Underworld franchise had also tried making connections with I, Frankenstein and Resident Evil, but neither of those worked out either.
As something of a prelude to the MCU, there was Lionsgate’s Marvel Animated Features, which spanned from 2006-2011 and gave us eight straight-to-DVD releases. In 2009, they released Hulk Versus, made up of two separate animated stories, Hulk vs. Thor and Hulk vs. Wolverine. The latter is more widely remembered for its fantastic use of Deadpool.
Initially, that release spot was going to go to a double-feature of Thor and Ultimate War. Thor was going to be an adaptation of the Walt Simonson Thor run storyline that introduced Beta Ray Bill. Ultimate War, on the other hand, was going to be an adaptation of a crossover in the Ultimate comic timeline where the Ultimates (Avengers) took on the X-Men over the fate of a captured Magneto.
The comic itself was nothing to write home about. What made this would-be movie interesting was that it would presumably be using two pre-existing superhero teams. There had already been two Ultimate Avengers movies loosely based on the Ultimates comics, as well as Invincible Iron Man. When the Hulk vs. Wolverine movie came out, they made it apparent that it was canon to the short-lived Wolverine and the X-Men animated series. In other words, this could have been another go for that X-Men line-up in the form of rebelling against Captain America.
None of that came into fruition, but at least Beta Ray Bill got to show up in the Planet Hulk animated movie a year later.
Fox Civil War
The closest thing Fox had to their own Infinity War/Endgame was X-Men: Days of Future Past, which brought in cast members from both eras of cinematic X-Men. Back in the early 2010s, Fox was considering something that was going to be a lot bigger. They were going to do a big crossover between X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Deadpool.
The gist of the treatment (written by X-Men: First Class scribes Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz) was that Human Torch was going to cause a supernova during a battle in New York, causing massive collateral damage. This would lead to the Superhero Registration Act, therefore giving us a Civil War adaptation before the MCU had a chance. The main conflict would be the X-Men vs. Fantastic Four, including a scene where Mr. Fantastic would use his stretch abilities to chop off Wolverine’s arms.
Much like the MCU’s take, this superhero war would ultimately leave Earth open for an alien invasion. Here, the next big villain would have been Super-Skrull.
Little is known about the Daredevil and Deadpool aspects of the movie. With Daredevil, it was likely an easy way for Fox to hold onto the movie rights and, had the movie happened, it would have prevented the existence of maybe the entire collection of Marvel shows for Netflix. As for Deadpool, this would be right around when the screenplay for the first Deadpool movie leaked onto the internet, which drummed up enough interest to get the wheels turning. Not as much interest as when the proof-of-concept footage hit the internet, but enough to get him a spot in this crossover.
The whole Chris Evans situation really would have complicated matters, considering he was already in Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011 and Avengers the year after.
Fantastic Four 3 Starring Black Panther
When it comes to being annoyed at superhero movies for not being able to commit, the Tim Story Fantastic Four movies are usually pointed at for their awkward use of Galactus. Had Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer been a bigger hit, we would have surely seen another installment. After all, the main actors all signed three-picture deals.
Tim Story did have an idea for a third movie and it would have been focused on Black Panther and Wakanda. Apparently, the rights were in flux around the time and there was a decent enough shot of getting to use Black Panther considering he made his debut in Fantastic Four #52. Even if they could pull that off, there was not enough financial momentum from the second movie to get a third. It does make one wonder if it would have altered the world’s perception of the MCU Black Panther and the deified nature of Chadwick Boseman’s performance.
As for who would play T’Challa in Fantastic Four 3, the plan was Djimon Hounsou. That makes Korath’s role as an overzealous T’Challa fanboy in What If…? even more hilarious in retrospect.
When Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four reboot died in the box office back in 2015, Fox was not in a rush to disown it. Reed, Sue, and the rest were worth a chunk of change to them because as long as they were making Fantastic Four films, Disney couldn’t. If Fox threw Ben Grimm on the movie screen every several years, then we would never get to see Victor Von Doom in the MCU. Fox didn’t care if the Resistance won, they just wanted Kylo Ren to lose.
Around the time of the movie’s release, regular X-Men series director Bryan Singer made it known that there were indeed talks of doing a crossover between X-Men and Fantastic Four. That probably would have been the best course of action for both parties as nobody was going to want to see a Fan4stic sequel and the X-Men movies were really running out of juice.
Of course, there was one X-Men property that still had gas in the tank. Deadpool 2 was originally going to include the latest live-action version of the Fantastic Four. Back before director Tim Miller walked off the project, he had concept art of the Fantastic Four members drawn up. There was no context, but Thing was specifically redesigned to look more like his comic counterpart, down to having a stogie in his mouth.
Considering the stigma of the first movie, perhaps the Fantastic Four was initially going to suffer the same fate reserved for X-Force. Either way, those four heroes were not going to come out of that movie with their dignity intact.
The possibility of seeing Fox do an X-Men/Fantastic Four crossover was out the window once Disney bought up Fox’s properties. While we’ve yet to see either team in full in the MCU, we have at least seen a pretty major team-up between Reed Richards and Charles Xavier…minutes before they were both torn to pieces by an angry Wanda Maximoff.