With the positive reception of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and two more Marvel Studios films coming this year, Phase Three is in full swing for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seems we are in a gold standard of Marvel movies, as the franchise has set its own pace that has come to a general critical and commercial success. The movies and television adaptions have also been able to draw more directly from the comics as fans see more of, Civil War, Oath, Infinity War, Planet Hulk, Age of Ultron and much more.
Things are all looking pretty great for Marvel, however, with a general sameness and parallels being drawn within the film plots, the franchise is in a dire need of a shake-up. With Phase Three coming to an end in two years part of this shake-up might be coming sooner than you think. We’re diving deep into the comics now so buckle up.
1. It Comes from Outer Space
*SPOILERS AHEAD ON THIS ONE*
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 did what every good Marvel sequel does, it built on the old whilst giving us a glimpse at new things to come. The most obvious of these comes in a post-credits scene as Starhawk (played by Sylvester Stallone) reunites with the other leaders of the Ravager factions to form the original 1969 comic line-up of The Guardians of the Galaxy.
Their role in future films, as well as what their role would mean to the current Guardians, has yet to be confirmed, however, this line-up gives us a new set of diverse superhero faces. With Ving Rhames as Charlie-27, Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord, Michael Rosenbaum and Miley Cyrus as Mainframe. The new team strays away from the typical boys club found in other arms of the universe.
2. More than a name
The Avengers is a boys club. After Civil War, there are no official female members as Black Widow has been exiled. Scarlet Witch is in hiding with Captain America and Black Panther in Wakanda having presumably formed the Secret Avengers, a group formed by Captain America in the comics aftermath of Civil War. This is not meant to last though, as in next years Avengers Infinity War the whole cinematic universe will come together.
This is significant in a number of ways as some current cast’s contracts don’t last past the next two Avengers films. This opens up the franchise for new and diverse faces. One of the biggest confirmed characters is Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson). In the last few years, Captain Marvel has become a prominent figure in the Marvel Comic Universe.
After being caught in the explosion of an alien device Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel gains the fused genetics of a Human, and Kree offers her superhero powers. With Danvers already set to take the title of Captain rather than Ms. Marvel, as she originally did in the comics, it sounds like the Avengers could be under new management in the future as her debut comes towards the end of Phase Three in her own movie (the first Marvel movie with a female lead).
3. TV is already there
There are some huge changes coming in Marvels TV universes. The Defenders will bring together the characters of Netflix’s previous Marvel shows which have set a good roster of competent female characters with Jessica Jones, Karen Page, Claire Temple, Misty Knight, Elektra and Coleen Wing. The show will also come with Sigourney Weaver playing the mysterious new villain Alexandra. This is just one branch of what Marvel is doing to break up the TV boys clubs.
Marvel is also setting its sights on its younger fans, with a series of shows aimed at a teenage audience. Hulu will be getting The Runaways, about a group of super-powered teenagers who team up against their parents – who form the villainous group of The Pride. The series began shooting in February 2017 due for a 2018 release.
The next of these series to be released will be Cloak & Dagger for Freeform. Cloak and Dagger will focus on a pair of teenagers who gain superpowers, and form a romantic bond as they team up together. Dagger has the ability to form daggers made of light, whereas, cloak has the ability to engulf and conceal others in darkness. This series will certainly set itself apart from many others as the billing is shared by two characters who have not been widely read or portrayed in media other than comics. We’ve already been given a taste of this show with a teaser that gives us something akin to a defined teen drama as opposed to what we have seen from the Marvel TV universes in the past.
The last of these new series will be New Warriors, which has also been ordered as a series for Freeform. Marvel’s first attempt at a comedy series will see a group of six young people with powers living and working together. On the cusp of adulthood, and with powers not up to the standard of characters we’ve met so far, New Warriors will set itself apart. In particular, with the addition of an unusual character as their leader.
4. Heroes like us
Squirrel Girl, the girl who “kicks butts and eats nuts”, will be the leader of the New Warriors. So why does this deserve its own section? You obviously haven’t heard her theme song.
Squirrel Girl is currently featured as a New Avenger and in her own solo comic The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Originating as a joke character penned by Steve Ditko in an Iron Man one-off in 1992, Squirrel Girl has changed a lot over the years. Working as the butt of the joke for years through various comics, even as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s nanny, Squirrel Girl came into her own in the 2015 debut of her first solo comic The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.
Squirrel Girl is like no other female hero in the Marvel Universe. Due to her squirrel features, she has an unconventional body type compared to other more sexualised heroes currently occupying the limelight. Squirrel girl does not look like a movie star, Squirrel girls is just your average girl – albeit with slightly more squirrel qualities.
Through her comics, Doreen Green/Squirrel Girl goes to college and saves the day against some of the Marvel universe’s biggest villains. She has defeated Galactus and Doctor Doom not by just throwing punches but by talking and reasoning with them. Squirrel Girl helps show that problems aren’t resolved by more aggravated conflict as well as to not see yourself as being ‘beatable’.
The MCU needs more characters like Squirrel Girl moving forward if it’s going to fight against it’s current and future issues with diversity.
5. Moving Forward
Recently Marvel’s Vice President David Gabriel blamed the decline in comic sales on the companies increase in diversity and female characters as readers prefer old favourites.
This comes in hand with Marvel teasing their ‘Generations’ event in which they plan to resurrect a series of characters who are currently out of action or deceased within the universe, such as Bruce Banner, Wolverine and Tony Stark. This will also bring a likely end to current more diverse titles, such as Patsy Walker A.K.A Hellcat (as seen in Netflix’s Jessica Jones).
If Marvel does cut more of its roster of female characters to bring back their old, mostly male, favourites, it puts a greater importance of the work in the MCU.
Marvel currently has a strong roster of Super Heroines, it’s about time they were given top billing. Stories don’t have to be purely action focused, there are characters like She-Hulk, Marvel’s best super defendant, who could lead a crime procedural.
Not every hero has to be the strongest, the fastest, or the best fighter. They also don’t all have to be white and male like all of our lead players in the MCU. Comic books make heroes out of everyone and go beyond gender and colour. There’s even a universe where Captain America is a black woman. They can be weird as well as wonderful. They can be part squirrel, they can be green lawyers, and they can be aliens.
From a distance, with the upcoming roster of new faces seen in Guardian of the Galaxy Vol.2 and upcoming movie and tv projects, perhaps in the future Disney will follow in the direction it took with Star Wars by bringing its roster of Heroines to the fore.
Hopefully, this will continue to follow through post-Phase Three as we may say goodbye to old friends and hello to the new.