MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Fox needed Marvel's permission to use Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool.
Yesterday, I did an article about how Negasonic Teenage Warhead's appearance in Deadpool was significant enough that Marvel brought her back to life in the comics and altered her appearance to make her match how she looked in the Deadpool film. However, reader Jason K. wrote in, wondering about a story that made the rounds a year or so ago about how Fox actually had to make a deal with Marvel, trading the the rights to use Ego the Living Planet (somehow classified as a "Fantastic Four" character under the terms of Fox's license with Marvel Comics) in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in exchange for using Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool. Jason's confusion was - didn't Marvel already own the rights to use Negasonic Teenage Warhead in a film since she was part of their license to the X-Men Universe?
First off, a key thing to understand is that every licensing deal is different. Heck, Deadpool himself is not part of the X-Men licensing deal (as I pointed out in an old Movie Legends Revealed). It sounds like the deal Marvel made with the Fantastic Four is a good deal different than their deal with the X-Men. In the case of the Fantastic Four, it appears as though there was a list of characters that Marvel agreed to license as part of the deal. It was not as simple as "Anyone who is primarily a Fantastic Four character" or "Anyone who debuted in an issue of Fantastic Four" since Fox has the rights to Ego the Living Planet (debuted in Thor) and Kang (debuted in the Avengers) while they do not have the rights to Black Panther (who debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four), the Inhumans (who debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four) or Ronan and the Kree (who debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four). With the X-Men, though, it definitely was a broader "Any X-Men character," since it encompasses characters introduced decades after the license deal was initially signed (Darwin, Angel and Azazel to name three).
With that in mind, then, the issue instead seems to be the fact that Negasonic Teenage Warhead is, in effect, a brand new character who just uses the NAME of the character introduced in New X-Men #115 (and killed that that same issue).
Therefore, the license is to use any character from the X-Men comics, but not to just use the name and then invent your own character with that name.
The writers of Deadpool (Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese) explained the situation of how they came up with using Negasonic Teenage Warhead in an article with Playlist:
As for the two X-Men who do appear in “Deadpool,” metal behemoth Colossus was chosen for fairly conventional narrative reasons (“he was the perfect foil,” Wernick stated), while the little-known Negasonic Teenage Warhead (or NTW) was picked for no other reason than that incredible moniker, itself taken from a song by the stoner-rock band Monster Magnet. “We were looking down the list of the 400 [‘X-Men’] characters that Fox owns, and NTW jumped out and we were like, ‘yes,’ ” said Wernick. ” ‘I don’t care what her powers are. She’s gonna be in the movie.’ ”
Owing to their superficial reasons for adding Negasonic Teenage Warhead to the “Deadpool” cast in the first place, Reese and Wernick elected to eschew essentially everything but the character’s name in the film script, even imbuing her with an entirely different set of powers (in the comics, she is psychic as opposed to literally explosive). For that, Fox was forced to get the okay from Marvel Studios, initiating a superhero swap between the studios whose results will next be seen in James Gunn‘s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.” “Kurt Russell [‘s Ego the Living Planet] in the new ‘Guardians’ movie was the character that Fox swapped with Marvel to [change] Negasonic Teenage Warhead powers,” explained Wernick.
Now, obviously, Fox has often played willy nilly with characters in their X-films (Deadpool in Wolverine: Origins, anyone), but those films were obviously pre-Disney owning Marvel (and most of them were pre-Marvel having their own studio, at which point they didn't care at all), but it seems like they do have to give permission for their licensed characters to be altered. We know, for instance, that Marvel has a strict list of things that Sony can't do with Spider-Man, so it is only logical that they have a basic, "You have to ask us permission if you want to change X in a character you're licensing from us" deal with Fox and it just so happened that they were looking to deal to get Ego when Fox came a-calling with the request for Negasonic Teenage Warhead.
Anyhow, that's why Marvel's permission was necessary despite Fox owning the rights to do X-Men movies, Jason!
The legend is...
STATUS: True Enough for a True
Thanks to Jason for the suggestion!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.