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Marvel comics can’t use Deadpool’s movie duds because licensing is weird

by Eric Frederiksen | April 17, 2018

Licensing is weird. When it comes to movies, music, TV, and games, it’s always a surprise to find out who owns what – and everyone wants a cut of the profits when they own something. The latest case comes from Marvel’s Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. After a long life as a fan favorite superweirdo, Deadpool hit the big time with his self-titled movie. A sequel is a month away. Deadpool is Marvel’s character, except for the part where he was a riff on DC’s character Deathstroke. Marvel owns the Deadpool comic book. So they should be able to do whatever they want with him, right? Kind of. As long as it doesn’t overlap with Deadpool. I’m talking about Fox’s movie featuring the same character as portrayed by perfect human Ryan Reynolds.

Artist Reilly Brown took to Instagram last week to talk about some hurdles he tripped over in his Merc Work for the comics giant, and it all comes down to Movie Deadpool vs. Comic Deadpool.

Someone asked if I’d ever drawn Deadpool in his movie costume, and I actually did once, for an issue of Spideypool. In this story, Wade got a part in a Deadpool movie playing as the stunt double. For the scenes on set, I thought it would be fun if he wore the actual movie costume, so that’s what I drew. I didn’t think anyone would notice or care, since the difference is just a couple of straps and some knee pads. But they did notice, and made me change it back to his typical character design, because the lawyers wouldn’t allow them to use the movie costume for some reason! So weird. So I had to redraw that Deadpool in all those scenes. I ran into a similar lawyer-induced problem with Marvel a few months ago when they asked me to do an ad for some smart phone drawing software. I was going to draw Deadpool, but it turned out they weren’t allowed to use him for the ad, so we figured Spidey would be safe, and I did a drawing of him. Turned out, they weren’t allowed to use Spidey either! So I had to do it again. This time I used Iron Man, and there was a long conversation and lots of phone calls before we figured out which Iron Man costumes would be safe for me to draw! The moral of the story: study your licensing deals! #dailydeadpool #spideypool #deadpool #costumes #freelancelife #reillybrown

A post shared by Reilly Brown (@reilly_brown) on

Biggest and most important is the costume. “What?” I can already hear you asking. “But his costume is one of the best page-to-screen adaptations we’ve ever seen for a superhero!”

That may be, but the movie version took some key liberties with the design to make it work on a (perfect) human. So when Brown had to draw Deadpool playing himself in a movie in the Deadpool comic, he wanted to give a nod to the movie outfit.

“For the scenes on set, I thought it would be fun if he wore the actual movie costume, so that’s what I drew. I didn’t think anyone would notice or care, since the difference is just a couple straps and some knee pads, but they did notice, and made me change it back… because the lawyers wouldn’t allow them to use the movie costume,” Brown wrote. Deadpool popped up again when Brown went to draw an ad for the company.

“I was going to draw Deadpool, but it turned out they weren’t allowed to us him for the ad, so we figured Spidey would be safe… Turned out, they weren’t allowed to use Spidey either!”

Brown settled on Iron Man. The common point here is that Deadpool’s movie rights are owned by Fox, while Spider-Man’s are owned by Sony. Iron Man is fully owned by Marvel.

Likenesses – images that look like specific peoples’ faces – are complicated, too. In the same project, Brown had to draw the actor playing Deadpool in the Deadpool movie, in which Deadpool was playing a stuntman. He tried to make him look like Ryan Reynolds, but Marvel wasn’t having it. So he did what we’ll call a “reverse Cavill,” and put a mustache on him.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of devouring media, is that licensing is weird. My favorite MTV shows, from back when MTV made good shows, only saw the light of day once all their music had been replaced with placeholder stuff. Games like Grand Theft Auto IV, Alan Wake, and of course all the last-gen Rock Band and Guitar Hero games are either un-buyable or available only in modified form because of music licenses. Marvel still hasn’t reacquired its full cast of characters, and guys like Spidey and Deadpool are still out there in limbo, complicating little stuff like this.

Meanwhile, you’ll be able to get another dose of that costume when Deadpool 2 hits theaters on May 18.

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Eric Frederiksen

Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, pushing him to beg for his own,...


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