The news that Disney was planning to buy 20th Century Fox may have come out of nowhere, but discussions about the implications quickly began amongst fans and critics. One major topic was the idea that, under Disney's purview, singular and R-Rated films like Deadpool and Logan would never get made. We cautioned that Disney wouldn't ruin Deadpool given their track record of non-family content (The Punisher being a fitting recent example) and the character's continued reign in Marvel Comics. Sure enough, the recent finalization of the deal between Disney and Fox brought with it word from Bob Iger that Deadpool will remain R-Rated.
As we speculated, the Disney CEO hinted that a new banner might be created to house the Merc with a Mouth and other content outside of the House of Mouse's typical tone. Luckily, there's precedent for such a move in the comics world as Marvel has created multiple offshoots for books outside of their standard model. When it comes to R-Rated films, however, the Marvel MAX imprint is the perfect blueprint for darker and more violent superhero movies.
R-Rated Marvel Movies
Without repeating our defense of an R-Rated Deadpool under Disney, it's worth noting that the studio already has an imprint for PG-13 and above films. Touchstone Pictures has been putting out content on Disney's dime for decades, with a number of R-Rated films and plenty that are PG-13. If nothing else, this could be the future home of the Deadpool franchise and things like X-Force that are bound to share a similar tone.
It's also worth repeating that violence alone doesn't make for an R-Rated film and Deadpool's tone in the comics is much closer to something like Guardians of the Galaxy than what's in Fox's film. But with Iger stating Deadpool's R-Rating will remain as long as audiences are aware of what's going on, it seems safe to assume a new banner will be created for more mature superhero content.
In 1982, Marvel created their Epic Comics imprint to explore more adult-oriented content. It continued through the '90s until 2001 saw the birth of MAX. The new imprint debuted with Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos which introduced Jessica Jones to the Marvel Universe. The book dealt with issues of rape, trauma, and violence but also had strong ties to the rest of the Marvel world. In this way, it mirrored DC's Vertigo imprint, which also seems to be getting a film analog with films like Justice League Dark and Sandman.
So far, the Netflix corner of the MCU has been the home to stories like those in the MAX imprint, though the main Marvel Comics lines has certainly featured plenty of mature content in Punisher, Wolverine, and Deadpool books. But the TV side of the MCU can't contain all the characters Marvel will want to use, especially now that the X-Men and Deadpool are coming home.
While the Marvel Comics universe is varied in its output, Marvel Studios has established a much more family-friendly vibe that it's unlikely to tarnish. There's still a chance R-Rated movies could come to the main MCU and just be marketed differently. But the smartest move would be for Disney to create a new Marvel banner where R-Rated films could live outside of the Avengers universe.
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