Captain America: Civil War is finally out for the whole world to see, and it looks like it’s shaping up to another big success for movie machine Marvel Studios. After almost 10 years and 13 films, Marvel has more than proved the merits of their groundbreaking shared movie universe technique. It’s a model that every studio is trying to emulate, from Warner Bros' DC films to Universal’s classic movie monsters. However, Marvel wouldn’t have had much of a shared universe if it sold away all of its character like it was originally going to do. Marvel used to license their characters to outside studios, and it seems that they almost sold key members of The Avengers: Thor and Captain America. Thankfully, they decided to make their own films, and that decision seems to be credited to producer David Maisel.
David Maisel isn’t a name that comes up often but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, he was one of the driving forces behind Marvel for a time. THR covered Maisel in a larger feature for his work in creating The Angry Birds Movie, but most of the piece was dedicated to his time at Marvel. Maisel worked at Marvel for six years, and he helped orchestrate the deal that sold the company to Disney for $4 billion. Maisel was supposedly responsible for helping Marvel create the model of producing their own films for a shared universe, and was instrumental in getting the financing for their early films. In the article, Maisel talks about how Marvel almost sold the rights to Captain America and Thor, which would have ruined the idea for a film universe.
If I had gotten there three months, six months later, [the Warner Bros. and Sony] deals would have been done. And there would be no chance to bring all these characters together.
Before David Maisel arrived, deals were being done to sell Captain America and Thor to Warner Bros and Sony respectively. Luckily, Maisel was able to talk Marvel Studios out of the deal, and they began work on producing Iron Man. Sony already owned the rights to Spider-Man and seeing what happened to that franchise, it’s probably a good thing they didn’t get Thor.
Cap and Thor had the most "out there" origins of the Avengers and used to be hard sells before their solo films. It’s crazy to think about what studios that didn’t understand the characters would have done with them.
And living in a world without The Avengers is hardly a world worth living in. It’s hard to think of a time where everyone wasn’t trying to make massive franchises, which is what would have happened had the MCU not come along. While Kevin Feige gets a lot of credit as the creative force behind Marvel, there were other people involved in the company, and it’s refreshing to get a different perspective from David Maisel. While the report on who actually came up with the idea for a shared universe is conflicting, Maisel’s contributions to self-production and financing are pivotal in the foundation of the MCU.
David Maisel’s other big movie idea, The Angry Birds Movie, hits theaters this month on May 20.