Rights issues between Marvel and Universal Studios have stood in the way of a standalone Hulk movie for quite some time now, but Marvel Studios' She-Hulk TV series brings up new questions about the status of Hulk's character rights. Bruce Banner hasn't been featured as the lead character in a movie since he was played by Edward Norton in 2008's The Incredible Hulk, which was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Universal Studios.
With the Fox-Disney deal, it may have looked like Marvel Studios finally had all of its characters under one roof, but this was not so. Marvel was still missing two key properties, the Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner. The rights to both characters are currently tangled up with Universal. Universal owns distribution rights, which means they have the right of "first refusal" to any Hulk film. However, a stipulation with Hulk's rights allows Marvel to use the Hulk in its movies, albeit only in team-ups. For this reason, Hulk has featured prominently in all four Avengers movies, plus Thor: Ragnarok. The only down-side is that Mark Ruffalo's Hulk doesn't get to star in his own MCU movie. This wasn't expected to change.
At least, this is what was thought to be the case. A recent development brings Marvel's Hulk problem back to the forefront. At D23, Marvel announced plans for three more shows to be added to Disney's upcoming streaming service, Disney+: She-Hulk, Moon Knight, and Ms. Marvel. The inclusion of She-Hulk in this lineup understandably raised some eyebrows, considering the situation with Hulks' rights and Universal Studios. She-Hulk, Bruce Banner's cousin, has deep connections to the Hulk for obvious reasons, so it would make sense for the rights to her character to be tied up with Hulk's.
So how can Marvel Studios move forward with a She-Hulk TV series? One possible reason is that Universal's claim to Hulk doesn't extend to TV shows. If this is true, this could open the door for Hulk to get his own series. At the very least, Hulk can be a character on the show, since once again, it would be a team-up and not a solo project. A team-up on She-Hulk may be the best place to take the character, since he may not fit into any of Marvel's Phase 4 movies.
An alternative explanation for how a She-Hulk series can happen could simply be that the Hulk deal with Universal never involved She-Hulk at all, which would mean, that Jennifer Walters has been available all this time, and possibly more Hulk characters as well. Regardless, it appears that the She-Hulk TV series announcement has raised more questions about Hulk's situation with Universal Studios than it's answered.
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- Thor: Love and Thunder (2021) release date: Nov 05, 2021
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