A new Spider-Man movie is coming out this week, leading us to wonder what the hell he was doing back in 2012 when aliens tore apart New York City and the Avengers had to come in and stop them. Why didn't Spidey swing in and crack some fleshy alien skull-domes alongside Tony Stark and Captain America? New York is where he freaking lives. The odds are high that he would've accidentally been in the movie, just running into aliens while skateboarding to Whole Foods.

Sadly, a Spider-Man/Avengers team-up is just one of many things we can pretty much guarantee that you will never, ever see in a Marvel movie ... at least not in your own lifetime.

4
Certain Characters Just Won't Get Their Own Films

Why is it that we've seen five Spider-Man movies, two Hulk reboots, two Ghost Rider movies, two Punisher reboots, a Daredevil movie, and a freaking Ant-Man movie starring two different Ant-Men, and yet plans for a Deadpool movie have been in limbo for half a decade and Marvel's producers continue to tactfully dodge questions about giving Black Widow her own feature?

Marvel Studios
"Hey, we only have things planned out until 2028. Let's not rush into things."

There are of course the obvious answers -- Deadpool is an R-rated character, and Hollywood is nervous about making R-rated superhero movies, and Black Widow is a female character, and Hollywood loves ignoring the fact that people watch films starring women. But there's actually a much simpler deciding factor at work here: whether the character wears a mask.

Check this out: Robert Downey Jr. gets paid all of the money in the universe to play Tony Stark, so much so that his salary for The Avengers broke box office records and forced mathematicians to invent a new decimal point. But any time you see Iron Man on screen, that's not Robert Downey Jr. That's either a digital effect or some stuntman in a costume getting paid less than the cost of the tires on RDJ's trailer. The same thing is true for Spider-Man, the Hulk, and any other character that wears a mask or is a CGI dinosaur Hercules.

It allows Marvel Studios to get away with paying the lead actor substantially less money, because the actor isn't actually on screen all that much. That's why the amount of time Robert Downey Jr. spends inside an Iron Man costume has gotten progressively shorter from film to film as his asking salary has increased, and why three different actors have played Bruce Banner in three different movies ... freaking anyone can be the Hulk.

Marvel Studios
"Mark was great in the role, but we can't wait to show you what Cheaper Late 30s/Vaguely Smart Looking/Mildly Broody Actor #4 does with the character!"

Meanwhile, Black Widow has become popular enough in her supporting appearances to generate fan support for a solo Black Widow movie. But as you may have noticed, Black Widow does not wear a mask. Scarlett Johansson herself would have to be present for most of the filming, and her status as a leading actress has only increased over the years. That means she'd command a substantial salary, and Marvel is simply not willing to pay it. (In Hollywood, money always comes first; sexism and racism are secondary.)

Now look at Deadpool. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Deadpool is a hideously disfigured goofball mercenary who can regenerate his body like Wolverine. Deadpool wears a mask, but the difference here is that he wears the mask all the time. In the rare cases where he removes the mask, his face looks like the Hamburger Helper glove if it got stuffed with minced beef and left in a flaming tire dump for 14 hours.

[inject-module]

He briefly appeared (pre-face mutilation) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine played by Ryan Reynolds, who is still attached to the solo Deadpool movie should it ever get made. So now Hollywood has the opposite problem: a handsome lead actor that the audience never gets to see. Sure, they can still get away with cramming a much less expensive stuntman into the costume for all of the action sequences, but they still need to fork over the cash to hire a good-enough character actor who can connect with an audience through a mask and 3 pounds of prosthetic scabs. Think of it as the "Jonah Hex Problem." It's much more cost effective to have a grunting digital effect smash his way through Times Square than to slap 10 hours of makeup on Ryan Reynolds and his stunt double.

20th Century Fox
"Have you even tried to be not ridiculously good looking all the time? It would really help us out here."

With characters like Captain America and Thor, who are pretty completely visible all of the time, Marvel specifically didn't hire A-list actors so they could sign them to multi-picture deals locked into relatively small salaries. Chris Evans was recognizable but by no means a headliner, and Chris Hemsworth had been in virtually nothing before tying a cape to his back and babbling in Odinspeak like a Shakespearean stroke victim. And as the Marvel release schedule continues to consist of only two films a year, it becomes less likely that they'll ever take a chance on a movie they haven't spent the least amount of money possible to produce.

3
You Can Forget About Seeing Spider-Man or the X-Men Working With the Avengers

Superheroes routinely pop in and out of each other's comics like they're coming over to borrow the lawnmower. Spider-Man has been a member of the Avengers before, and so has Wolverine. There's no reason we shouldn't expect Tony Stark and Thor to come help Spider-Man even the odds against Electro, Green Goblin, and Robo-Paul Giamatti this Friday, right? Heck, there's an entire series about the Avengers fighting the X-Men, and we are not alone in thinking that that would be the craziest fucking movie of all time.

Marvel Comics
There would be like five Oscar nominees in this scene alone.

But we're never going to see it, just like the only way Iron Man is going to show up in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is if you bring an action figure into the theater. This is because Marvel spent the previous four decades selling their characters' film rights off piecemeal like Michael Douglas in Wall Street. The X-Men and Spider-Man are owned by Fox and Sony, respectively, and as long as they keep making movies with those characters, the film rights will never revert back to Marvel Studios. It's like three kids playing with toys in separate corners of a sandbox, and they all refuse to share.

Marvel Comics
"There! Hulk make two Wolverines! Now problem solved."

The rights are so restrictive that even though Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, the mutant children of Magneto, are appearing in the next Avengers movie, they can't be referred to as "Scarlet Witch" or "Quicksilver," nor can the word "mutant" be used to describe their characters in any way (because Fox owns the rights to their superhero code names, as well as the word "mutant" in the context of a superhero film). Quicksilver is also showing up in the upcoming X-Men movie Days of Future Past, which takes place in the 1970s (40 years before The Avengers 2), just to make everything extra confusing for Marvel movie fans.

2
The Avengers Will Never Help Each Other (Unless It's in an Avengers Movie)

OK, fine, so Spider-Man isn't going to swing into battle against the next big threat to New York City that doesn't exclusively involve him. But how come Steve Rogers didn't immediately call Iron Man in Captain America: The Winter Soldier when S.H.I.E.L.D. turned evil and tried to kill 20 million people?

We know from the endings of The Avengers and Iron Man 3 that Bruce Banner, aka Hulkamania, works in the same freaking building as Tony Stark -- they're probably four floors away from each other at any given moment. You'd think a call to that front desk would be #1 on Captain America's speed dial. Same problem with Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3: Wouldn't the rest of the Avengers just kind of show up on their own to an alien invasion on live television or Tony Stark's Malibu estate when it gets demolished by helicopters in the middle of the afternoon?

Marvel Studios
"Fuck that. I'm not helping him move."

Well, no, because the primary cast of The Avengers has only signed on for six films apiece: three of their own, and three Avengers movies. That leaves precisely zero room for Chris Hemsworth to show up as Thor in an Iron Man movie or for Robert Downey Jr. to come zooming in and render the second half of The Winter Soldier completely unnecessary.

Think about it -- in addition to being maybe the greatest superhero movie ever made, The Avengers simultaneously ruined all future movies involving any of those characters. It's like when you were a kid and only had three of the four Ninja Turtle action figures, so you had to keep pretending Leonardo was on vacation.

1
The Stories Will Never Resolve

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the second Spider-Man 2 we've seen in 10 years. Big deal -- the first Spider-Man trilogy is over, and now we're moving on with the next generation of the character.

Well, let's think back on how that first trilogy ended. Was Spider-Man 3 a satisfying conclusion to that storyline? No, not at all. It ended more or less on a cliffhanger that never got resolved, sort of like the last episode of ALF. Plans for a Spider-Man 4 were scrapped in favor of a total reboot of the series, because apparently all of us had forgotten Peter Parker's origin story and needed to be reminded of it.

Columbia Pictures
"This time he's not bitten by a radioactive k.d. lang."

Meanwhile, the current slate of Marvel Studios films (the ones starring all the different Avengers) are absolutely being developed with the idea that the stories will never end. Unlike Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, wherein the story of Bruce Wayne came to an unequivocal conclusion, Tony Stark is just going to keep shape-shifting like a Time Lord as different actors step in to play the part over the coming decades. He's never going to conquer his alcoholism or retire peacefully to some tropical island. He's just going to keep turbo-punching supervillains in his rocket suit until the end of time, and that is completely according to Marvel's plan.

Marvel Studios
"Please, cruel universe, just let me nail Anne Hathaway in France."

You see, they have a very strict set of guidelines that they impose on each director they hire, which is why (with the exception of Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon) no director has made more than a single movie for Marvel Studios. Marvel is noticeably unwilling to talk about whether they expect Whedon to return for Avengers 3, which kind of makes it seem like they don't have any idea how much time he's going to log into Avengers 2 before he gets sick of their bullshit and goes back to making shows about witty conversations in science fiction universes. Marvel doesn't allow directors to take artistic license with their characters the way Christopher Nolan did with his Batman trilogy.

Meanwhile, Fox is trying its luck with the Fantastic Four again. Their new Fantastic Four reboot hasn't even started filming yet, and they've already set a release date for the sequel. Pretty soon they're going to set a release date for a second Fantastic Four reboot before this reboot even comes out. Meanwhile, Fox is slowly rebooting the X-Men series before our very eyes with Days of Future Past, which combines the original X-Men cast with the new X-Men cast. Days will lead directly into the sequel X-Men Apocalypse, which is set to feature precisely none of the original cast.

20th Century Fox
Not that it's a bad idea in all cases.

All of this adds up to each superhero getting a new series with a new set of actors and directors every few years, leaving a trail of vague, abrupt endings to incomplete stories in their wake. Yes, true believers, the future is a steamy coiled pile of Spider-Man 3's.


Tom takes Spider-Man very seriously. Read his novel Stitches and follow him on Twitter and Tumblr.

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