My social media feeds blew up on Tuesday in response to a special live “Marvel Studios Event,” at which Kevin Feige unveiled Marvel’s cinematic plans through the summer of 2019.
But as the social media cycle churned, I started to see the old Marvel/DC rivalry flare up. “Marvel just told DC to sit down and watch how the big boys do it,” said a friend of mine on Twitter.
And I thought: well, wait though… all Marvel did was announce a whole bunch of titles…
Which is exactly what DC did a few weeks prior.
And, in fact, even as folks on Twitter were praising Marvel’s inclusion of films led by women and persons of color, it didn’t escape me that DC had announced the same thing with Wonder Woman and Cyborg, respectively.
That said, Marvel’s slate of movies had me far more excited. But why?
It’s all about the track record. It’s all about perception. It’s all about how we, the audience, fill in the gaps.
DC’s film slate is based off of exactly one movie. Man of Steel, the popular-but-divisive-among-comics-fans film is lighting the way. Man of Steel followed on Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but presented a much more Zack Snyder-y view of the world… all gray skies and ash and gritted teeth. From images we’ve seen of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, we can only assume that this trend will continue — at least for the Justice League films springing forth from the upcoming film.
Anything else is a big question mark, though it’s probably fair to assume DC will be doing anything to keep these films from becoming anything remotely resembling Green Lantern.
On the flip side, what has Marvel Studios shown us?
Solo hero films with a similar formula but slightly different tones in Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor.
Those films building into an epic confrontation in The Avengers.
More solo films that pivot off of the Avengers film. Tony Stark’s post-Avengers anxiety takes center stage in Iron Man 3, for example.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier gave us a political thriller that actually managed to alter continuity…
… which was then reflected in the TV show, Agents of SHIELD.
Guardians of the Galaxy gave us an alternative to the epic showdown of the Avengers — a small, character-driven buddy comedy.
So, why are we excited about the slate of Marvel movies? Because we can see the possibilities. These aren’t just names and dates on a slide deck. These names point to stories. In fact, some of these are familiar stories…
Captain America: Civil War points to one of Marvel’s most popular event mini-series—a war between heroes over the concept of government oversight.
Avengers: The Infinity War Parts I and II. Not only does this have a comics pedigree, we’ve already seen the cogs of this machine. We’ve seen the various infinity gems as the MacGuffins in each of the Marvel movies. Marvel has already laid this foundation, and thus it’s much easier for fans to believe they can deliver.
A good start. But what about the lesser known names on the slate? Black Panther and Captain Marvel don’t mean much to the outside world, but I’ve got a couple of thoughts about why these films fire up the fans.
Black Panther – King T’Challa of Wakanda isn’t a household name. In fact, in contrast with Cyborg, who has been a part of a couple of animated Teen Titans series, he’s arguably less of a case for film. But comics fans might see a difference. For one, I cannot think of a single solo Cyborg tale that’s not intertwined with either a Teen Titans or a Justice League storyline. But with Black Panther I can immediately point to the Marvel Knights series by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira, in which T’Challa reigns as the ultra-capable super-hero, political ambassador, and king in exile.
Captain Marvel – OK, so Captain Marvel’s film may be slated to launch after Wonder Woman’s slated film, but you want to know why this one excites me more than Wonder Woman? It’s not just the Snyderiness of that single Wonder Woman image online. It’s, quite frankly, because Wonder Woman is one of the major icons of pop culture. Greenlighting her film shouldn’t be a watershed moment — it should be freakin’ obvious.
But Captain Marvel? Outside of the comics reading community, I doubt many are familiar with the name Carol Danvers. Or Warbird. Or Binary. Or even Ms. Marvel (well, the original one — the new one’s gotten a little bit of well-deserved media attention). And yet, Marvel’s had the tenacity to build up Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, and despite low sales, Carol Danvers is the Captain Marvel to a small but fervently loyal fan-base.
So, she gets a film. Why? Because Marvel thinks she’s marketable? Because Marvel thinks her fan-base points to a larger need for heroes like Carol Danvers? Because they’ve cycled through all other franchise-able properties? Because Marvel just wants to?
It doesn’t really matter. Marvel’s built a movie brand that’s made the world sit up and take notice. And now they’ve just put a new (to the world) hero in the spotlight in the midst of a map full of stories and momentum.
What do you think about Marvel’s movie slate? Am I overly eager? Am I missing the boat on DC’s movies?
(I am admittedly excited about the Suicide Squad movie.)