We’re smack dab in the middle of phase two of Marvel Studios’ cinematic universe and things are beginning to really pick up if you hadn’t noticed. Phase one was obviously anchored by the build up and introduction of each member of The Avengers, a deal with paid off huge with one of the highest grossing comic book films of all time.
If phase two has been anchored by anything, it’s taking risks and keeping mum on the big picture. We’re only a short amount of time away from the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and months from Guardians of The Galaxy, the biggest gambit since Howard The Duck quacked into theaters and ruined our lives. So far we’ve had Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World to keep us company, but the direction we’re heading is no clearer than it was at the end of The Avengers.
That’s not turning out to be a problem though, with money pouring in and fan response through the roof. Folks are hungry for any information on projects coming down the chute for Marvel, including Avengers: Age Of Ultron, and there seems to be no end in sight.
That’s what got me thinking about the future of Marvel Studios a bit. What’s really going to be worth a look and what’s going to take some convincing? Without Spider-Man, The X-Men or Fantastic Four at your side, you need some creative juggling to garner mega-interest. But which of the fresh faced ideas coming from Marvel Studios have the backing from their source material to truly warrant a popular film series.
I thought I’d take a look and rank from weakest to strongest in terms of the original comic book material and how well it could translate to the big screen. It’s a list made with love, care and guts that throws science to the wayside. If you have your own personal opinion or additions, feel free to add them. Enjoy the list either way:
The other Steve Ditko work from the early Marvel days, Dr. Strange has always been the most important lame character in all of the Marvel Universe. He’s always the link with the spirit realm, helping other, more interesting characters connect with demons and other entities that transcend the real world.
In my entire time reading comics, I’ve only read one Dr. Strange story that didn’t rely on other characters to make it work and I can only count two Dr. Strange stories that I would ever pick up again to read, particularly Dr. Strange/Dr. Doom: Triumph And Torment. It’s a short read, but a great one with some quality work from Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame.
There’s also Spider-Man: Fever, a unique work from Brendan McCarthy that calls back to the pair’s Steve Ditko origins with a wild, surrealist story. Both are well worth a read, but I can’t account for much else.
That’s why I have to rank the property last. How can Dr. Strange command his own movie? Thor and Captain America were stretches at first, I’ll admit, but they also had The Avengers to help boost their credentials. What does Dr. Strange have? A man servant? Some cool villains? Magic? Not enough for me. I would go out and say that Dr. Strange is a bigger gamble than both Guardians and Ant-Man based on the source material alone.
If you take the film aside from the origins on the page, I would say you have an interesting film with one hell of a creative team attached. Edgar Wright and Paul Rudd could make a movie about the phone book and I’d be half interested.
But go back in time to the point when an Ant-Man movie was first announced and you’d meet a very different young fool, one who couldn’t believe that Ant-Man would get a movie. And a solo movie on top of that.
Go head and name some of the great solo Ant-Man stories from comics lore. I’ll wait right here. Oh you’re back already? An empty room you say? That’s right. Aside from a few random tales, there are no memorable Ant-Man tales to goad over. The most memorable for Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, involved the creation of a psychotic robot and spousal abuse.
Scott Lang at least has the ability to be charming and fun. He’s a reformed thief, reluctant hero, and pretty interesting fellow that’s been an Avenger, died, and currently finds second life as a member of the new Fantastic Four/ Future Foundation. If it wasn’t for FF, Wright and Rudd though, I don’t think I’d have him above Dr. Strange.
Guardians Of The Galaxy
I keep calling the biggest gamble of the summer because it truly is the biggest since the return of The Lone Ranger. And poor comparisons aside, it’s got a lot riding on it in terms of introducing characters you never thought you’d see on the screen.
The real credit for The Guardians making it to film isn’t on the amazing cast or James Gunn in the directors chair, it belongs more to the 2008 series that spun out of the cosmic Annihilation event. If you ever get a chance to find the 2008 series, pick it up and read it immediately. It’s fun and features some of the best artwork at the time.
It’s a little convoluted considering the events of the cosmic Marvel Universe at the time, but the characters are there and what you see in the trailer is what you got on the page, give or take a few characters. The current run from Brian Michael Bendis is a worthy successor, but you really need to pick this up to get the full experience. Hopefully they’ll make it available once the movie hits this summer.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier / Captain America 3
I included these together because there is very little information on Captain America 3 at this point and because The Winter Soldier really kicked off an important chunk of Captain America stories in the comic series. There has to be some sort of pour over into the third movie, much there’s already some in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
The work Ed Brubaker put into his run on Captain America is some of the best and I’ll hit on him again in my next choice. But before the late 80s, I would dare you to pick out a memorable Cap solo tale. Ever since the John Byrne days on the book, it’s been a steady climb that lead to The Winter Soldier and the pinnacle of Captain America’s potential as a protagonist.
I mean sh*t, this is the story that helped kick Cap off into the mainstream when he was killed off shortly after. I think it’s been watered down since with the mega crossovers and return of Steve Rogers, but Winter Soldier is a meaningful story and perfect for the film series.
Daredevil/Luke Cage/ Iron Fist/ The Defenders
The Netflix entries are going to be the kind of show everyone wanted out of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that’s a very good thing. Luke Cage and Iron Fist both featured a renaissance of sorts at the hands of Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis, going from jokey 70s parodies of kung fu and exploitation films to characters that can hold a scene with The Avengers without a second thought.
But the main attraction here is Daredevil, a character basically begging for a chance to truly shine. Ben Affleck did his best to destroy those chances near the end of the last big comics boon in film, when anything and everything was being made. Luckily Marvel got the rights back and they are including him in their cinematic plans.
If I look at my collection, Daredevil is only rivaled by Batman for classic stories. There is a wealth and it’s a crime that so many were cannibalized for the terrible film adaptation from before. Frank Miller’s work on the series is legendary and took it from a silly crime fighting tale to a gritty noir. Kevin Smith of all people reinvigorated that feeling into the character in the late-90s and it has been a must read series ever since via the work of Brian Bendis, Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid.
If this set of series screws the pooch, I’m calling them un-filmable. There’s no way. I almost feel like Alec Baldwin in Glengary GlenRoss, yelling about the leads being good. The stories are good, dammit!
Avengers: Age Of Ultron
If we were going with surefire greats that we knew were coming to the screen, this is a winner no matter how you look at it. The success of The Avengers really sells the success of this one outright, but when coupled with the source material, you get the possibility of something legendary. If you don’t believe me, listen to Robert Downey. From Slashfilm:
This one is a very ambitious sequel. If you read it, it’s dense, it’s smart. Joss [Whedon] is a really smart guy. My 2-year-old is crazy about Hawkeye, and I think Jeremy [Renner] has a lot to do with the plot. There’s always so many plates to spin to get these things half-right, and I’m really excited about this one.
Now of course he’s paid to say those things, but he’s not blowing smoke either. And to prove it, look no further than the source material.
And when I say source material, forget the Age of Ultron event-series we were just graced with because it has little to do with Ultron and Avengers 2 past the title. Instead, go back to 1998 and Ultron Unlimited. It’s a fantastic story where Ultron returns to slaughter an entire nation, kidnap key members of The Avengers and pretty much raise holy hell until finally being stopped after one of the toughest battles the team ever faces.
I doubt you’d find a better duo than Kurt Buseik and George Perez during this run and it shows with this short four issue storyline. The team is pushed to its limits and it carries the kind of feel you’d expect to see on the big screen. Throw the other classic Ultron stories into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for greatness. But not the greatest upcoming adaptation.
This would be the crowning achievement for Marvel in my opinion. It would allow two things to happen: first, we’d finally have a great Hulk movie to watch in theaters and second, it would bring the best superhero story I’ve read to life. There’s a wealth of great Hulk stories, probably more than any other Marvel hero. This one stands above the rest though.
Getting to Planet Hulk is uncertain at this point, but it is certainly possible. Rumors are always floating around with how the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy are going to get together in time for the end of phase three. And we know that Planet Hulk was kicked around as possible adaptation a while back.
I think the main problem here is that no one really ever knows what to do with the Hulk as a character. Even Joss Whedon is on record calling it “the toughest property to film.” If this story provides anything, it is hope. A direct adaptation makes little sense, but throwing Hulk on another planet where he’s less monster and more survivalist is a winning combo. And heck, if it’s the Avengers actually exiling the green goliath like in the source material, you have a whole redemption element to use for the third Avengers film.
Make this happen. If anything, so we can finally wash the taste of Ang Lee’s Hulk out our mouths.