If you've been a follower of Marvel comics for any length of time you are quite aware of Marvel's love of storyline crossovers. Sometimes this means a character or two showing up in someone else's book (like Wolverine, who seems to appear in every Marvel title written these days) and sometimes it means a whole new book focusing on a crossover team-up such as the current "Cable and Deadpool" series. Some crossovers are established firmly in the Marvel world -- characters such as the Silver Surfer and Namor (for incredibly obvious reasons) are regularly seen running through the pages of the World's Greatest Comic Magazine (that's the Fantastic Four, for the comic illiterate among us). So my question is, how long until we get some crossover action in our comic book movies?

A problem with the crossover potential of Marvel comic films is the movie licensing rights to the characters which have been granted to several different studios. The Incredible Hulk, for instance, is with Universal; X-Men and the Fantastic Four go with Fox; Spider-Man is famously tied to Sony (as is Ghost Rider, if memory serves); and The Punisher belongs to Lion's Gate. However, this does not spell death to any potential cross-over action thanks to the large deal currently inked between Marvel and Paramount. Paramount has quite a number of Marvel flicks in the works right now -- meaning a good collection of the Marvel pantheon will all fall happily under the same umbrella.

Now I don't know what the details are of each of the deals made between Marvel and the various film studios they've worked with, but one can presume it would be quite the hassle to arrange a crossover between parent companies. However, the lure of the potential profits may entice the studios to work together in a joint effort the likes of which we haven't seen since Winnie the Pooh joined forces with the Ninja Turtles, Huey Duey and Louie, Alf, Bugs Bunny, the Smurfs and others to teach us not to smoke marijuana in Cartoon All Stars to the Rescue. Disregarding any studio unions, we are still left with a few interesting possibilities outside of Paramount, and plenty of interesting possibilities within the Paramount family  -- one great big one in particular.

Ignoring Paramount, we've only got a few titles owned by the same studio; the biggest obviously being Fox's* control of both the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. These are two of the four heavy-hitters within the Marvelverse, and they've worked together plenty of times within the pages of Marvel comic books. Heck, there was even a recent crossover miniseries called X4 which was absolutely glorious. Charles Xavier and Reed Richards are old friends, and their teams have worked together on many occasions. The likelihood of a full-on X-Men/Fantastic Four team-up film is probably quite low; but with several confirmed and rumored spin-offs from the X-Men films there should be plenty of opportunities for a Fantastic guest appearance. Can anyone think of any strong candidates for such an occurrence? I'd love to see Beast consulting Reed (or vice versa) in the future, for one small example.

While we're discussing this, I should point out I don't believe Namor or the Silver Surfer are part of the stable now belonging to Paramount, which of course leaves the doors wide open for Fantastic Four crossover potential. Silver Surfer was last attached to Fox and there have been whispers of the Surfer getting his start in a Fantastic Four movie as the Herald, which is right and proper.

Sony controls Ghost Rider and Spider-Man, although they seem to be afraid of the Ghost Rider film already and the powerhouse of Spider-Man has plenty of other characters available to it, so I'd rate the possibility of a Ghost Rider/Spider-Man crossover at the bottom of the possibility scale.

Lionsgate likewise controls The Punisher and the upcoming Man-Thing. Crossover potential there sounds fun, but is also highly unlikely. Lionsgate would need a lot of convincing before they'd consider this union a money-maker, especially after the disappointing theatrical release of The Punisher (although its DVD sales were quite brisk).

Here's a weird one -- Universal has produced both the Incredible Hulk and Howard the Duck -- although the rights for Howard have probably long departed from Universal.

Now let's talk Paramount. Tops on the slate for the company are two flicks; Captain America and Iron Man. Thor and Ant Man projects are also in early stages of development, and even Hawkeye and Black Panther flicks have been announced. If that line-up doesn't just SCREAM Avengers at you, you've probably never been near a comic book. An Avengers' flick is also part of the Marvel-Paramount deal, so there's no doubt where this current line-up of films is headed. I don't know if bringing all the Avengers together into one film is technically considered a "crossover" since they all exist in the same comic title normally -- but nonetheless we get to see several comic book movies tied together.

Paramount also plans on producing Nick Fury and Dr. Strange films (among others), and either of these two characters could be easily dropped into somebody else's film; they both show up frequently and unexpectedly in all manner of Marvel titles.

And lets not forget that Marvel's pantheon of characters is practically unlimited. Yes, they've signed a big ole deal with Paramount, but the universe has an absurdly large list of superheroes. If the comic book movie craze dies down (a subject I hope to examine in a future Geek Beat) we may not even see all the titles we've heard announced make it to the silver screen; but if the market remains strong the possibilities are almost literally endless.

*It should be noted Fox also controls Daredevil and Elektra -- and did work some crossover action between these two characters, so the crossover idea is at least in somebody's mind over there.