It’s no secret that I love bashing Marvel over their movies — well Disney, really. Most of my concerns are rooted in the influence that the films have over the actual comics themselves. While not all of this dynamic is bad, the state of the Fantastic Four and the X-Men titles after the drama with Fox does show how comics can suffer because of box-office relationships. At this point there hasn’t been a smoking gun to indicate that the cinematic universe is a bad influence, but I have my suspicions.
I always put such a disclaimer at the start of my articles about Marvel’s movies. It’s funny how many folk manage to disregard it, getting upset and seeming to forget what I’m about to reiterate. To this point, I have been pleased with how Disney has handled all of the Marvel movies. Sure, there are things that I think should have been different, or deleted, added, etc., but for the most part they are well done.
The most recent rumors floating around, one of which is more than a rumor seeing how it’s a quote from Joe Russo, include one about Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his return as Captain America after Civil War. Joe was quoted as saying:
“I think him dropping that shield is him letting go of that identity. (It’s) him admitting that certainly the identity of Captain America was in conflict with the very personal choice that he was making.”
This unto itself is not a big deal. It might seem like it, and I’m sure there will be some articles saying that it is, but in the comics Steve Rogers has given up the mantle of Captain America at least three times that I can think of off the top of my head. So this could be them embracing part of that lore, or adapting it for a new medium. Either way, they have earned my faith for the moment with how they have handled Captain America up to this point in the MCU.
The other bit of news is that Marvel Studios is no longer working with consultants from Marvel Comics for their films. For one, I find this hard to believe. I mean they will do what they want with the films anyway. It’s not like the consultants will sway them away from any marketing decision. And, despite the changes that are being made in the movies, Disney seems intent on having them connected to the comics and digging into their mythos. So in the end, even if this is true, I think it will have little effect on the movies themselves.
What I’m interested in seeing is what might happen when the contracts of the current actors start running out as the stars age, and who they get to replace them. It won’t be a huge, catastrophic change, rather a gradual one because not everyone’s contract is up at the same time. That being said, a couple of actors are already on a film-by-film basis, and some have only one or two left to make before their contracts are up. Many of the actors are already saying that they are not planning to make any more Marvel movies after these contracts are up, but that remains to be seen.
So, will Marvel go the route of the James Bond franchise, where we will see many actors taking up the roles of our favorite superheroes? I don’t think so, at least not right away, but I do think that we need to start paying attention to the comics for a bit of an idea of where they might be headed. The current trend in Marvel comics is all about shaking up the established characters. Often this is in the name of bringing more diversity but this also means new and different faces under familiar masks.
Take Iron Man, for example. Recently Riri Williams, an African-American teenage girl, has been slated to become the next Iron Man, er, Iron Woman. Is this just part of a trend over at Marvel Comics, or did they introduce this character so that they can set up the change they will need in the movies eventually?
It would make sense to do it this way because a big portion of the fans going to see these films are comic-book geeks (myself included). So by introducing her in the comics first, they give readers a chance to get used to her before her big-screen debut. If this is true, then it would explain why there has been so much upheaval in the comics as of late. They are priming the launch of the next generation of Marvel movies by starting in the comics first. And why shouldn’t they do it this way? It makes a lot of sense.
Now this will likely alienate some of the die-hard purists of the original characters, but this is your new Marvel universe. Marvel is no longer just a comic book publisher that makes occasional movies; they are part of a huge corporation that uses movies to earn billions of dollars. The good old days are gone, when comics were made just for the love of comics. And this is where I start to have a problem.
Sure, Marvel will still produce quality comics — just look at their second-tier titles to see that — but when you get into the top-tier characters, the ones being used in all the movies and TV shows, you’re going to start seeing a lack of uniqueness and creativity. The reason for this is because your comics have to start to mirror the onscreen product, and the onscreen product has to fit the figures and analytics they use in shaping their movies. These are the same analytics that say that every movie has to have a love interest, or at least hint at one, and a number of other Hollywood tropes that are used in making blockbuster cinema.
It’s a safe bet that the changes in Marvel’s books herald what’s to come from the films. The House of Ideas is now so much more than a publisher of comics. All I hope is that the movies do not diminish the comic books, that they do not dilute the rich foundation from which the successes of the cinematic universe originated.