Marvel Studios Countdown is a biweekly column focusing on all things related to Marvel Studios and their movies, past, present and future.
Last week, Twentieth Century Fox made the announcement that they’d extended an offer to comic creator Mark Millar (The Ultimates, Kick-Ass, Wanted) to come aboard as a creative consultant on its Marvel properties. Fox may have let Daredevil go, but they still have cinematic control of the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. They’re putting together X-Men: Days of Future Past, a film that promises to unite the First Class world with that of the original trilogy (which is already, obviously sort of combined - you can read all about its broken timeline here), as well as a reboot of Fantastic Four from Chronicle director Josh Trank. It sounds like Marvel is in good hands at Fox, so what’s Mark Millar’s role?
Kevin Feige is president of production at Marvel Studios and has been a continual unifying face for the brand ever since the success of Iron Man in 2008. He seems to have a handle on the characters, certainly on their cinematic potential, and acts as Marvel’s best cheerleader when it comes time to make big announcements. Of course, his job is bigger than just being a human pep rally for Marvel’s films, but he provides a face for fans to associate with, and fits the role nicely.
Fox may be looking for their own frontman for the X-Men and Fantastic Four, someone Fox figures fans will see as one of their own. Millar fits that bill, having written both properties during his time at Marvel, and is notoriously gregarious with the press. In fact, that may be Millar’s undoing, as his willingness to tell the press anything, at any time, is not typically the way the studios like to do things.
If his role is as a cheerleader, Fox will need to tighten the leash on Millar, who dishes on rumors and possibilities as if they are hard news. Feige is wise to only make announcements as they are formalized and leave everything else up to teases and conjecture. Guardians of the Galaxy may have been the worst kept rumor from Marvel’s slate, but it wasn’t confirmed until it was confirmed. I half expect Millar to leave internal meetings and spill every detail of the discussions on his Millarworld forums. If Fox can live with that, then Millar is a personable choice.
Joss Whedon tweaked the Avengers script to his liking, and there are rumors that he’s done the same to Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, despite not helming either film. Could Millar be the final word on Fox’s Marvel scripts as they enter production? He launched Ultimate X-Men and had stints on Fantastic Four and Ultimate Fantastic Four, so he knows these characters (despite no screenwriting background). Fox may be looking for someone to create a consistent tone to its Marvel Universe, so it would make sense to have one writer, with a background writing these superheroes, as the gatekeeper.
With the possibility of script doctor in mind, what if Fox was hiring Millar to create connective tissue between their properties? We’ve seen this pay off in spades at Marvel Studios, with characters and Easter eggs appearing in each others’ films, all leading up to Avengers. Millar might be someone who can look at the big picture and figure out ways to make Reed Richards show up in an X-Men film in a way that makes sense, or simply have Wolverine and Ben Grimm share a beer in a post-credits sting.
Beyond that, Fox may be looking to expand their universe with the characters they have on hand. They’ve gotten some mileage out of breaking Wolverine away from the core X-Men franchise, and maybe he’s just the first of many. Would you pay to see a solo film for Storm or the Thing? Millar’s intimacy with the characters will help Fox determine which characters have the potential to break away, spawning their own successful franchises in the process. The studio would love to have their corner of the Marvel Universe feel just as cohesive and as big as the one that Marvel Studios controls. The hiring of Mark Millar just might be the first step in this direction.
John Gholson is a life-long comic book fanboy who has previously covered all manner of superhero news at AOL. After dabbling with comic book self-publishing in the '90s, John moved on to study sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and currently produces a regular Web comic, ‘Appetite for Destruction,’ for Tapsauce.com. You can read his Marvel Studios Countdown here at Movies.com every other week.
Follow him on Twitter at @gholson.