X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, Gambit, and Wolverine casts get together for photo | EW.com
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Portrait of an evolving superhero universe: X-Men, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, Gambit and Wolverine

(Sarah Dunn)

Birth is always a bit … messy. Especially when it’s a whole universe being born.

Marvel Studios sat out Comic-Con 2015, but Marvel Comics characters still made a show of force by way of 20th Century Fox, which is beginning to create its own superhero galaxy.

X-Men: Apocalypse, Deadpool, Fantastic FourGambit, and the still-untitled third Wolverine stand-alone film are all licensed by the studio, and although they haven’t all mingled on-screen yet in the style of interlocked movies that are currently all the rage, they are beginning to team-up occasionally in real life – as in this exclusive portrait.

It can get a little confusing, especially to the casual moviegoer who hasn’t been following the ins-and-outs of Hollywood intellectual property contracts, but here’s a quick primer on what Fox is up to:

First, a note. The Marvel Studios movies – which include Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Avengers films (not to mention this week’s Ant-Man) – are all held by the comic book company’s movie studio, so they’ve shared the screen in each other’s stories in  truly unprecedented ways. (And they’re not pictured here. Put them aside for now.)

Fox held the rights to these other individual Marvel characters, beginning 15 years ago with the original X-Men film, and the studio is beginning to reboot some – but not all – of them. How much each of these films will be linked together has yet to be determined. (And here’s where it gets really murky.)

Deadpool, the wiseass assassin, turned up in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine – but fans hated the way the character was handled. The red-masked sword-wielder is getting another shot in a stand-alone movie coming in 2016. They are not related – even though both times the character was played by Ryan Reynolds.

“[Deadpool] was done briefly in Wolverine Origins … which is a movie that was shot,” the actor told Entertainment Weekly Radio. “Deadpool appearing in Origins is not the Deadpool we are representing in this film in any way, shape, or form.”

Similarly, Gambit – who has the power to imbue any object with a dose of explosive power – turned up in the maligned Wolverine Origins movie, and was played by the world’s unluckiest actor, Taylor Kitsch (John Carter, Battleship.)

Now Gambit is in italics with his own stand-alone film, also due in 2016, and Channing Tatum will play the card-slinging mutant.

Then there’s the new Fantastic Four, out Aug. 7, which shares no teammates with X-Men or Wolverine, but is rebooting from two previous films about the super-powered foursome.

The short version: Fox is trying to relaunch the parts of its Marvel properties that didn’t work, while keeping intact the parts that did. As business, this is a smart move. From a continuity standpoint, it’s a bit head-spinning.

Hopefully this clarifies the new family dynamic, and as you can see from this photo, there does seem to be a kind of harmony setting in – provided there are no more false steps.

Here’s Entertainment Weekly’s exclusive portrait of Fox’s evolving superhero universe.

Image Credit: Sarah Dunn

Back row:

• Jamie Bell, who plays The Thing in the new Fantastic Four.

• Michael Fassbender, who is young Magneto in X-Men: Apocalypse.

• Miles Teller, the new, super-stretchy Reed Richards, a.k.a. Mister Fantastic, in Fantastic Four.

• Michael B. Jordon, Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch in Fantastic Four.

• Jennifer Lawrence, the shapeshifter Mystique in X-Men: Apocalypse.

• Ryan Reynolds, in his second try at Deadpool.

• Kate Mara, who is Sue Storm, a.k.a. The Invisible Woman, in Fantastic Four.

• Oscar Isaac, the eponymous villain of X-Men: Apocalypse.

• Nicholas Hoult, blue-furred Beast from X-Men: Apocalypse.

• Olivia Munn, who is the telekinetic Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse.

Front row:

• James McAvoy, with a shaved head for Professor Charles Xavier in X-Men: Apocalypse.

• Channing Tatum, the bayou-bred Gambit.

• Hugh Jackman, sporting the claws again for X-Men: Apocalypse and once more for a third Wolverine film.

• Evan Peters, making a second speedy-delivery as Quicksilver in X-Men: Apocalypse.