The odd jumble of property rights between Disney subsidiary Marvel Studios and Twentieth Century Fox is one of the most convoluted legal situations in modern Hollywood, and leads to plenty of bizarre development scenarios. A handful of characters owned overall by Marvel (mostly mainstays of the X-Men universe) have their film rights controlled by Fox, but when it comes to television the two studios are legally bound to collaborate and sign off on each other’s decisions.
This has led to a lot of odd doings on the small screen, and now it appears that the once-planned X-Men spin-off Hellfire is the latest example.
Originally planned as a drama series based around the intrigue of a secret society of mutant supervillains, Hellfire was meant to have been helmed by Manny Coto and Evan Katz, who departed early in development to instead take over the revival of Fox’s action series 24. The show was subsequently reassigned to Matt Nix, who has now been revealed to be taking the show in an entirely new direction. Explained Fox Television Group president and CEO Dana Walden:
“We did see an early draft of Hellfire and there was a lot of work to be done. Manny and Evan were getting very busy with the new 24. At a certain point we all regrouped, together with Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer and Lauren Shuler Donner and Jeph Loeb at Marvel and really made a decision. I would say if there was anything about Hellfire that was not ideal for us, it felt like a show that wanted to live as a feature rather than really taking advantage of what television does best: exploring relationships and characters and smaller moments. It doesn’t mean it can’t feel like a big show but Hellfire felt more like another installment of the features.”
Walden has also confirmed that the new series, which does not yet have an official title, is in active development and describes its new scenario thusly:
“There will be some iconic characters but mostly this is about a new family. It’s about an average family who encounters this extraordinary world and children who have mutant powers and they end up on the run, so it’s a little bit underground railroad in terms of a storytelling spine.”
It remains to be seen whether or not this new story will still feature (or even involve) the Hellfire Club. Traditionally depicted as a secret society of evil, aristocratic Mutants, the group was introduced as part of the landmark Phoenix Saga storyline and were created largely as an homage to an infamous episode of the 1960s Avengers TV series which in turn was inspired by actual 18th Century secret clubs of the same name. A version of the group appeared in X-Men: First Class, and the Club is sometimes associated with the character(s) being loosely adapted for Fox’s other X-Men series, Legion.