BY MATT TUCK
Could an MCU/DCEU crossover be in the works? Despite the latest buzz, it’s not something that will happen anytime soon, but the end-all of cinematic crossovers is eventually going to happen.
Did you catch the latest promotion for The Eternals? It is causing quite the stir in the DC and Marvel fandom with massive implications.
The source of all the intrigue is in the new television spot. Ikaris and Sersi meet Phastos’ son, who points at Ikaris and says, “Dad, that’s Superman! With the cape, and you were shooting laser beams out of your eyes.”
To which Ikaris replies, “I don’t wear a cape.”
Just mentioning the undisputed icon of superhero comics has been enough to crank up the gossip machine that is the internet. It raises a massive question: what does it mean for the future of the MCU and the DCEU?
A WINK AND A NOD
Obviously, this is the first Easter egg on the path to a DC/Marvel interdimensional superhero meeting, right? Probably not, but we may see a Superman or Batman t-shirt pop up now and again.
Over the years, Marvel and DC have enjoyed a friendly rivalry that existed well before the corporations and cinematic universes were ever a thought. There are stories of the legendary creators from both publishers meeting for lunch and sharing ideas. They readily borrowed ideas from one another, and they don’t mind giving winks and nods to the competition to this day. Just last year, Donny Cates alluded to DC characters and events in Thor #2.
One thing that has remained firm in the comics is that while the DC and Marvel heroes and villains have crossed paths in special editions, they don’t exist in each other’s universes. I would imagine that goes for the movies as well. Had a multiversal traveler like Loki, Mobius, or the Watcher made the Superman comparison, this would be a different story. Unless Phastos’ son is secretly traversing the Multiverse, the Man of Steel he is referencing is a fictional character in the MCU, whereas the Avengers and the Eternals are realities in their universe.
Who knows? Maybe the Eternals exist in a universe where the Snyder-verse was never cancelled and that kid saw all three parts of Zack Snyder’s Justice League trilogy. Lucky kid.
THE MYTHOLOGY OF COMICS
Eternals director Chlose Zhao’s recent comments support the idea that DC’s characters are fictional in the MCU context.
As she explained to ComicBook.com, the line is meant to embrace the mythology of heroes, and that includes modern superheroes. “I think we’re in the business of telling stories about mythology, and Superman, for example, comes from an origin of mythology. In many different cultures, there’s a form of Superman,” she said. “And the people that created Superman and the brilliant filmmakers [who] brought Superman to screen, their movies are basically, in my opinion, doing a modern interpretation of that mythology.”
Why, then, did Zhao add a line of dialogue referencing Superman? They’re just having fun. As Zhao put it, “It doesn’t mean we can’t pay tribute and have a good time with these iconic ones that we all love so much. I mean, who doesn’t love Superman and Batman? Clearly our Eternals like them.” That sounds like DC Comics rather than the DCEU exists in the world of the Eternals.
IT ALMOST HAPPENED IN 2016
The closest we came to a Marvel/DC onscreen crossover was in 2016 when Disney was reportedly interested in buying Time Warner.
In May, the New York Times reported that had former Disney CEO Bob Iger been quicker with a phone call, there could have been a corporate merger. The trouble was that AT&T had beaten Disney to the punch, and the telecommunications giant was already in negotiations to purchase Time Warner. That led Iger to making another call, this one to former Fox CEO Rupert Murdoch, and it resulted in the Disney-Fox merger.
Had Iger contacted Timer Warner before AT&T, instead of talking about the arrival of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four in the MCU, we would be discussing the impending clashing of the MCU and DCEU.
A GAME CHANGING CONCEPT
I don’t doubt the chances of Marvel and DC sharing the screen together, at least for a cameo appearance here and there. With the Multiverse being established in both the MCU and the DCEU, the tool to make it happen is at both company’s disposal.
Spider-Man: No Way Home will give wishful thinkers hope. Marvel/Disney has proven it can share its sandbox with others with the Sony cooperative deal in place. However, working out a partnership with WarnerMedia and its parent company, AT&T, would be complicated.
At least with Sony, those are all Disney’s intellectual properties, though Sony has the Spider-verse film and television rights. Incorporating those DC characters would prove to be more complex to navigate because those IPs are not in the House of Mouse, but if there’s any two mega corporations with the assets to make it happen, it’s Disney and AT&T.
The bottom line to bringing together the MCU and DCEU is money. From who pays for what to who gets what percentages of the profits, not to mention the monster deals for the lead actors, it all comes down to finances. A Marvel/DC cinematic crossover would be astronomical and must-see all the way down to non-comic fans. Knowing just how popular a joint venture could be would also mean an MCU/DCEU movie would be one of the most expensive in the history of movies. Despite the billions of dollars both Disney and AT&T are worth, they would likely wince at the price tag on such a movie, and turning a profit on something that expensive would be a challenge even for those two corporate behemoths.
THE MONUMENTAL TASK
From a creative standpoint, it would be a herculean labor. One of the major problems with cross promotions is deciding whose characters get to come out on top and look the strongest. Let’s be honest, no one wants to see the JLA and the Avengers have a playdate. We want to see a battle on an epic scale with clear winners and losers. That’s easy to manage when the characters are all housed under the same corporate banner.
On the comics side, Marvel and DC have cooperated with each other for decades, and they have co-published comics since the 1970s.To get around deciding on winners and losers, the two publishers let the fans vote for the outcomes in 1996. Things would be far less simple for multi-billion dollar franchises like the MCU and the DCEU. Sure, these are all fictional characters, but no one wants their franchise to appear to be the weaker of the two in any sense. That’s why most of their character confrontations end in a draw and the heroes come together to face the real threat. That wouldn’t work on the big screen, especially not with the scope of the MCU and DCEU. Fans would want winners and losers, and there is so much at stake even in a make-believe world.
THE MARVEL/DC CROSSOVER HISTORY
In the comics, Marvel and DC’s characters have met plenty of times. Batman has crossed paths with the likes of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the Punisher, to name a few. Bringing the two franchises together benefits both publishers, so we are likely to see more clashes of universes going forward. Of course, putting these comic icons together on paper is much easier than having them meet on a movie screen, I would assume. Still, it could someday happen, and on that day, the internet will cease to exist.
While we cross our fingers and imagine the worlds of the MCU and DCEU coming together, let’s explore the early days of the two publishing giants matching their heavy hitters in the comics.
MGM’S MARVELOUS WIZARD OF OZ (1975)
Oddly enough, the first time DC and Marvel worked together on a comic had nothing to do with superheroes. Instead, the rival publishers collaborated on MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz in 1975. How did this happen? As the story goes, both DC and Marvel were independently creating Wizard of Oz adaptations. Instead of competing with one another, Stan Lee reached out to DC publisher Carmine Infantino, and a deal was made to put both versions of Oz in a massive, 82-page special. It would lay the groundwork for a year later when the two company’s premiere superheroes would finally meet.
Despite this being a milestone conglomerate between the titans of the industry, collectors don’t seem to put much stock into a Wizard of Oz adaptation no matter who publishes it. There are no graded sales on record, and the raw copies typically sell anywhere from $20-$40.
SUPERMAN VERSUS THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (1976)
The first time characters from DC and Marvel shared a comic together was in 1976. Like most of the DC/Marvel matchups, this issue doesn’t command much respect among collectors. If the two companies ever combine their efforts in a movie, this would be the first issue to get a boost. As it stands, the raw copies generally stay in the $50-$70 range, though one copy brought $124.50 in August.
MARVEL TREASURY EDITION #28: SUPERMAN AND SPIDER-MAN (1981)
Five years after the success of the Superman/Spider-Man team up, the two publishers reunited the characters for another special issue. Since this was the second meeting between the giants of the industry, the story didn’t particularly give readers anything they hadn’t already seen. Still, it was another monumental occasion for the characters to once again cross paths.
While a popular item among collectors, Marvel Treasury Edition #28 doesn’t haul in the same values as the original Superman/Spider-Man battle. MTE #28 tends to stay in the neighborhood of $20-$50.
DC SPECIAL SERIES #27: BATMAN VS. THE INCREDIBLE HULK (1981)
This is one of the most debated DC/Marvel battles in the history of either company. This issue saw the unlikely pairing of Batman and the Hulk. Since this was under the DC banner, naturally the Caped Crusader got the win. The trouble for Hulk fans is the manner of the defeat. Batman used a well-placed kick to the gut to force the Green Goliath to inhale the fumes from a convenient pellet of knockout gas. Hulk breathed in the fumes, and down he went.
This may be the most valuable of all the DC/Marvel crossovers. Although there is no sales data for graded copies, a raw copy brought as much as $180 in August, but that was for a higher grade.
THE UNCANNY X-MEN AND THE NEW TEEN TITANS (1982)
Over the years, this has become one of the favorite Marvel/DC crossovers ever printed. In some ways, the two factions were mirrors of one another. After being reinvented in 1974, the X-Men were still the popular “new kids” some eight years following their overhaul in Giant-Size X-Men #1. On the DC side of things, George Perez had breathed new life into the Teen Titans and given them a top-tier villain, Deathstroke. It didn’t hurt that this issue had the all-star creative talent of Chris Claremont and Walt Simonson at the helm.
What could prove to be interesting here is the debut of the Source Wall. This handy plot device was used to connect the two Multiverses, and it could easily be used again, especially on a movie screen.
There has been plenty of action for the UXM/TT crossover. Graded at a 9.8, one sale netted a record high $267 on September 30. Looking to save a few dollars? The last 9.6 to trade hands online sold for just $35 on October 3.
THE END-ALL OF CROSSOVERS
Ignoring all the legal and financial hurdles, there’s one major problem with an onscreen DCEU/MCU cross promotion: it is the end-all of superhero crossovers.
As exciting as it is to see the likes of the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Silver Surfer, Doctor Doom, and even Galactus to step foot into the MCU sandbox, it would pale beside the day Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman meet Spider-Man, Thor, and Doctor Strange. The trouble is that it would be such a major moment that nothing would ever compare to it. It truly would be the end-all of crossovers. Once fans see that happen on a grand stage, what else is there?
Think of it like this. Both hardcore comic and mainstream fans are losing their minds over No Way Home and the inclusion of the Sony-verse villains (and maybe the Sony Spider-Men). Multiply that excitement to the tenth exponent, and you will understand how spectacular a DC/Marvel cinematic meeting would be. After that, what else is there?
One day, it will happen, of that I am certain. Once it does, that may raise fan expectations to a point of no return (not that we aren’t rapidly approaching that already).
Matt Tuck is the author of the novel, Lost Bones of the Dead. He is a professional writer, avid comic collector, former teacher, and an international man of mystery. You can follow him on his Facebook page, The Comic Blog.