Before Marvel ever got into the multi-billion dollar movie business, they just licensed their properties out to other companies. However, in this new post-Avengers landscape some problems have occurred.
Most notable is the fact that Spider Man is under the control of Sony when it comes to film rights, while the X-Men and the Fantastic Four are currently housed at 20th Century Fox. While Marvel has retrieved some of its errant properties over the past few years, snatching Daredevil back into the fold and partnering with Sony to include Spider Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men have remained a closely guarded commodity at Fox.
It’s really the only Marvel franchise that has done well in a movie not made by Marvel; the past few Spider Man films disappointed (which probably softened Sony up in negotiations) and this year’s Fantastic Four reboot can at best be described as a failure and at worst as a potentially career ruining train wreck.
Additionally, Marvel retained control of the television rights for the X-Men, so it seemed unlikely that the mutants would ever hit the small screen until now. Marvel and Fox have revealed (pretty much out of nowhere) that they are partnering to produce two television shows based on X-Men characters, one for free to air and one for cable.
The first is for the Fox Network. Titled Hellfire and set in the 1960s, the show “…follows a young Special Agent who learns that a power-hungry woman with extraordinary abilities is working with a clandestine society of millionaires – known as ‘The Hellfire Club’ – to take over the world,” according to a press release announcing the project. The series is being developed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Evan Katz (24, The Event), Primetime Emmy Award winner Manny Coto (24, Star Trek: Enterprise), Patrick McKay (Star Trek: Beyond) and JD Payne (Star Trek: Beyond), with Katz and Coto set to serve as showrunners should the program be picked up to series.
“We are thrilled to partner with Marvel to bring this world to television and build upon the vibrant mythology that has captivated fans for years,” said David Madden, the Fox Network’s President of Entertainment. “These powerful and dynamic characters are complicated and larger-than-life, the pace and visual imagination are unrelenting, and the story takes place during one of the most explosive eras in recent history. We are so looking forward to working with this incredibly talented team.”
According to Jonathan Davis, President of Creative Affairs at 20th Century Fox Television, the show is a “…unique opportunity to be able to go deeper with some of these extraordinary characters, but to also dramatize new characters and give TV viewers a chance to experience this expanded world in an explosive way that everyone will be talking about. The action at the center of Hellfire will be dynamic and will satisfy the rabid fans, but that said, newcomers will surely be addicted too!”
The second series, Legion, is set at FX and has already received a pilot order. Developed by Primetime Emmy Award winner Noah Hawley (Fargo, Bones), the program follows David Haller.
A press release said: “…since he was a teenager, David has struggled with mental illness. Diagnosed as schizophrenic, David has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals for years. But after a strange encounter with a fellow patient, he’s confronted with the possibility that the voices he hears and the visions he sees might be real.”
“Legion is just the sort of ambitious story that Noah excels at,” said Nick Grad, co-president of original programming at FX. “His adaption of Fargo for television was one of the most acclaimed television events in recent memory. It’s also an honor to partner with Marvel on Legion and to enlist such an accomplished team of Executive Producers to create this pilot.”
It remains unclear as to whether either show would be connected to Marvel’s ever increasing web of projects, but it seems unlikely. Although, connection to the X-Men film franchise is not out of the question now that so many companies are attempting to emulate Marvel’s model.
A variety of executive talent from both companies will produce the shows including four time Primetime Emmy Award nominee Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Jack the Giant Slayer), the director of X-Men, X-Men 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past.