Joss Whedon, Galactus and ‘Avengers 2’

As some online sites are breaking news that Disney has announced that Joss Whedon will be back to direct “The Avengers 2” – and that’s probably not a total surprise – others are pulling back from recent reports that Marvel/Disney is agreeing to a trade with 20th Century Fox that would allow some “cosmic” characters like Galactus and Silver Surfer – currently part of Fox’s “Fantastic Four” film franchise, and thus outside Marvel’s movie sandbox – to appear in Marvel films.

First, some explanation: Before Marvel was making its own films, the company farmed out the rights to its (at the time) biggest characters to other studios. Fantastic Four and X-Men went to Fox, with very mixed results. So did Daredevil, who turned up in a movie starring Ben Affleck that wasn’t bad. Meanwhile, Spider-Man and his supporting characters went to Columbia/Sony.

The separation of characters has been frustrating in small ways. The reporter character in the “Daredevil” movie worked – in the comics at least – for The Daily Bugle, Peter Parker’s employer. But they didn’t use that paper’s name in the movie because all that Spidey stuff was elsewhere.

There’s been some speculation that the movie rights to some of these characters would eventually revert to Marvel and we might see – as was rumored months ago – Spider-Man in an “Avengers” movie. But that’ll happen only if the competing studios stop making new films.

So Fox has ordered up a new “Fantastic Four” movie and hired “Chronicle” director Josh Trank to make it. Similarly, Sony/Columbia rebooted “The Amazing Spider-Man” this summer in part to keep that character from reverting to Marvel’s control.

But when Thanos, Marvel’s death-loving cosmic villain, showed up at the end of “The Avengers” this summer, it was obvious that Marvel had some cosmic-sized plans for its movies. The announcement that Marvel will make a “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie – whose characters are prime foes for Thanos – for 2014 only confirms the space-bound plans for Marvel’s movies.

While I doubt that more than a handful of people know the real truth, reports are now circulating that although Fox might have wanted more time to get its “Daredevil” reboot going, that doesn’t mean that Galactus, the Silver Surfer or other characters overseen by Fox will show up in a future “Avengers” or “Guardians” movie.

Much as we might hope that’s the case.

If anybody knows who’s coming over to whose playhouse, it’s likely to be Joss Whedon. After “The Avengers” made $1.5 billion worldwide, I’m guessing Marvel offered Whedon whatever he wanted for the sequel. And while there’s no doubt a big paycheck in the deal, Whedon – a lifelong geek who has written X-Men comics – would no doubt like to have some of those cosmic characters to play with.

Maybe he’s even expecting it. He ended “The Avengers” with one of those star-spanning baddies, after all.

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