NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 01: Kevin Bacon attends the 72nd Writers Guild Awards at Edison Ballroom on February 01, 2020 in New York City.

We recently reported that Kevin Bacon is going to play himself in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. It’s not his first time playing a character in a Marvel story. Which is weird. But actors playing more than one Marvel role is more common than you would think.

Why is that? Today, Marvel Studios is one of the most powerful studios in Hollywood, cranking out multiple hit films (and TV shows) each year. But years ago, Marvel was simply a comic book company, and they licensed their characters to various movie studios. Marvel Comics is the home of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers, the X-Men, Daredevil, the Punisher and the Hulk, among others. DC Comics, their main rival, is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Shazam and Aquaman.

Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four live in the same comic book universe and frequently team up in the comics. But that couldn’t happen in the films. Spider-Man is a Sony property, and Fox had the film rights to the Fantastic Four. It gets complicated, but when Marvel Studios (which got bought out by Disney) launched, they had the rights to a lot of iconic characters, including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Ant-Man, Captain Marvel, the Black Widow and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

But Fox had the rights to the Fantastic Four and the X-Men (including Wolverine and Deadpool). Spider-Man, among other characters, was under the Sony umbrella (to this day, every Spider-Man appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe requires a deal between Sony and Disney). Further complicating things, prior to Disney+, Marvel’s movie and TV productions didn’t really work together. So, while Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and the Punisher all had shows on Netflix, they didn’t really interact with the characters in the Marvel films (even though they vaguely referenced events of the movies).

Plus, Marvel had some shows that aired on ABC: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Carter and The Inhumans. Those also reflected storylines from the films. But as with the Netflix properties, nothing that happened on those shows was ever referenced in a movie.

In October of 2019, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige became Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment. He now oversees all of the movie and tv projects. Also in 2019, Disney purchased 20th Centry Fox’s film studio. That’s why we’ve seen Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin in the MCU. Cox appeared as Murdock in 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and more recently in the Disney+ show She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (as both Murdock and Daredevil!). D’Onofrio appeared in the 2021 Disney+ series Hawkeye. Meanwhile, 2022’s Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness had cameos from characters from the Inhumans (Anson Mount’s Black Bolt), the X-Men (Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier) and the Fantastic Four (John Krasinski played Reed Richards, although there’s no indication that he’ll play him in future films).

Here are a few actors who have taken advantage of Marvel’s previously splintered multiverse and got to play more than one Marvel character.

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