We’ve been covering Avengers news for over a year now, changing this feature from a regular piece leading up to the release of The Avengers to a broader examination of Marvel’s “Phase Two” as they build toward the Avengers sequel. “Phase Two” includes sequels (Iron Man 3, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World) and new properties (Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy) which will all lay the groundwork for the eventual Avengers 2 (slated for May 2015). In fact, there’s been such a steady stream of news from Marvel Studios that it’s barely left any room for this fanboy to speculate about what Marvel is planning next.
So, please indulge us this week as we take a step back from the official news and daydream about what Marvel’s “Phase 3” might look like. It’s probably safe to assume that post-Avengers 2 we’ll see another pair of Captain America and Thor sequels (and possibly first sequels for Ant-Man or Guardians), but what characters might be brought to life before the eventual third Avengers film?
Black Panther is the fan favorite, and rumors from a few months ago had it pegged as the “secret” film that eventually turned out to be Guardians of the Galaxy. T’Challa, king of the technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda, is granted the identity of the Black Panther from an ancient deity and gains enhanced strength, stamina and senses that he uses to fight crime in his home continent and abroad. Black Panther has been an on-again/off-again member of the Avengers, so he’s a natural fit for a team leading up to Avengers 3.
The character has been circled by Hollywood for years now, but no one has pulled the trigger on a Panther solo film. Wesley Snipes tried to develop it for himself during the '90s, eventually opting to play Marvel’s Blade when a Black Panther film couldn’t come together. More recently, director John Singleton flirted with the material, but development on the film stalled out for whatever reason. There’s a perception that Marvel is unsure how to market a black superhero to a white audience, and although Blade was successful, it wasn’t Iron Man successful ($70 million to Iron Man’s $318 million). Marvel may not settle for any of their films grossing less than $200 million at this point in the game, but they shouldn’t let race become their deciding factor.
They also shouldn’t let gender affect their decision making. The Avengers have a long history of strong female characters in their ranks, but we only got one woman on the team on the last go-round. There’s nothing planned in “Phase Two” that leads us to believe that they’re adding anyone before Avengers 2 either (unless Wasp shows up in Ant-Man, fingers crossed). What about a Captain Marvel solo film?
Carol Danvers has only recently adopted the Captain Marvel name; for most of her career she was known as Ms. Marvel (with brief stints as Binary and Warbird). There’s been a continuous push in the past 10 years to make Danvers the premiere female superhero at Marvel Comics -- their version of Wonder Woman, if you will. While she hasn’t quite become as instantly recognizable as Wonder Woman, she has built a substantial following and could easily carry a film on her own.
Danvers is an Air Force security chief who gains powers when exposed to energies from an accident involving alien (Kree) technology. Her physiology is actually changed into a half-human/half-Kree hybrid, and she gains superstrength, flight and can force energy blasts from her hands. Under the hand of writer Kelly Sue McCormick, Danvers received a relaunched solo comic book, with Danvers dropping the Ms. Marvel name for the more authoritative Captain Marvel (and it reflects her military rank). In that title, McCormick has played up Danvers’ gleeful obsession with aviation as a defining character trait, and her early adventures in that book have spun off from her military background.
A Captain Marvel solo film is a great place to introduce the alien races of the Kree and their lifelong enemies, the Skrull. If that happens, could Avengers 3 be a cinematic adaptation of the classic “Kree-Skrull War” storyline? In it, the Avengers finds themselves drawn into a deadly war between two intergalactic races when the Earth is threatened by their battle. Captain Marvel, the movie, would be a fantastic place to lay the groundwork, if so.
Though the character had a stint in the New Avengers comic, Dr. Strange is considered more of a solo character, and he’s one that fans have been clamoring for in a movie of his own for quite some time. Marvel did a lousy Dr. Strange TV movie back in 1978, but special effects have come so far, the weird world of the Master of the Mystic Arts would be fully realized today.
Stephen Strange was a skilled surgeon who damaged his hands in a car accident and pursued a cure through mysticism to restore his abilities. With the blessing of the mystic Tibetan Ancient One, Strange was educated in the ways of the arcane, and returned to the States not as a surgeon, but as the Sorcerer Supreme. Out of the three characters mentioned here, Strange might just be the hardest sell to mass audiences. His world is horror-tinged and unapologetically weird. It would make for exciting cinema, but he’s definitely the least traditional superhero out of the three.
There’s no telling what else Marvel might do between Avengers 2 and Avengers 3. Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge curveball - the comics publisher doesn’t even have a monthly Guardians comic on the stand. Daredevil might be coming back to the studio in October (wrested away from 20th Century Fox), and Marvel has any number of characters who might fit between the Avengers sequels (personally, my fingers are crossed for a She-Hulk film).
What projects would you like to see as part of Marvel’s third phase of films?
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 & 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.