Cross-overs. They've been a part of superhero comics almost since the very beginning. It's hard to imagine a Marvel Universe that didn't include Marvel Team-Up, which usually featured Spider-Man teaming up with one of any number of other Marvel heroes. Similarly, where would DC Comics be without World's Finest or Brave and the Bold?
Books like those, and various superhero team titles, like Justice League of America and The Avengers are what helped the various publishers create superhero universes - instead of a series of stand-alone titles.
Movie PictureSuperheroes in the movies, however, don't ever seem to benefit from this. Part of this is due to licensing restrictions - it's hard to let Spider-Man share a scene with the X-Men when Sony owns the Spider-Man films, while Fox has the rights to X-Men. Over on the DC end of things, the situation remains similarly complicated, since within Warner Bros. there are various licensing restrictions between departments.
Generally speaking, every superhero movie or television show takes the approach that the hero or heroes who are the focus of the show are the only, or at least the first, superheroes to exist within that universe. You occasionally get a nod towards the existence of other characters from the comic books - such as the mention of other Marvel heroes (via their secret identities) in the database of mutants from X2: X-Men United - but generally speaking, each superhero movie features only the title characters and their supporting cast as the sole super-beings in a world that is otherwise much like the normal one.
On the other hand, live-action television heroes have had it a little rougher. Not counting the disastrous guest appearances of Thor and Daredevil with the Hulk (in the forgettable, made-for-television Return of the Incredible Hulk and Trial of the Incredible Hulk), it has only been on the later seasons of Smallville that we've seen the title hero interact with other, pre-existing superheroes. Even on the short-lived Birds of Prey we heard mention of Batman and the Joker, but we only ever saw Huntress, Oracle and Dinah.
We got off to a slow start as we got the format for this column set up, but check back next week - and every Tuesday - for another look at what's happening in superhero film and television that goes beyond the surface. Until then "Excelsior!"
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