6 Jun 2014

Feature: The Marvel Cinematic Universe.

What is the Marvel Cinematic universe?

D: The Marvel Cinematic Universe - MCU for short - is a collaborative universe featuring a number of Marvel’s comic book heroes in film roles. Essentially, it's your favourite kickass superhero in a kickass live-action movie, not confined by comic book pages.

P: More glory, more guts and more badass on your screens… to say the least. It’s giving superhero lovers the chance to see some of their favourites do amazing things for the greater good while also introducing other characters to those not familiar with them. So you’ve got known heroes, then other heroes, then all the heroes coming together to sell a lot of cans of whoop-ass.

When/Where did it begin?

D: You pretty much nailed it! Let me expand on your point about introducing other characters to those not familiar with them. The MCU helped make characters that were third string heroes become the gold standard A-Listers, case in point the origins of the MCU and the first movie it began with; Iron Man. It began with the first Iron Man in 2008, acting as a standalone movie, but with Nick Fury’s cameo post credits acting to spring board us into a bigger universe

P: That’s right yo. The first Iron Man movie was released in 2008 starring Robert Downing Jr. (who also acted Sherlock Holmes, for movie savvy people) as the playboy billionaire Tony Stark aka Iron Man. With Iron Man, Marvel showed us that the wondrous fireworks we get to read in the comics could come to life on the big screen. And knowing that we would definitely want more of the beauty, Marvel Studios went ahead with the next couple of movies that all came out and met at the focal point ‘Avengers’, but more on that later.

D: Marvel took an interesting approach and consolidated their individual movies into a team up movie, using each movie to hammer in the point to audiences that this is a shared universe. (As Phylix mentioned, more on that later)

What characters belong in the cinematic universe?

P: Oh boy, this one’s a kicker. Let’s see now… We’ve got
Iron Man aka Tony Stark,
Captain America aka Steve Rogers,
The Incredible Hulk (or just Hulk if you want) aka Bruce Banner,
Thor the god of thunder and son of Odin,
Hawkeye aka Clint Barton,
Black Widow aka Natasha Romanov,
Nick Fury;
And so many other characters who are still going to come along for the ride much later (Grooth, Starlord, Rocket Racoon, Gamora, etc.). And then we also have the villains as well, because without them our heroes would have no one to fight.

D: Yup! It's an assortment of who's who from the established Marvel comics. Our venerable heroes and of course their supporting characters and rogues galleries, with a few new characters to boot! Practically majority of our favourite heroes are present and accounted for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But not all of them are. I wonder why that is?

Why aren’t some other characters currently presently?

D: if you're even remotely familiar with the Marvel Comics, you'd know that there are some super iconic characters that are an essential part of the Marvel universe, but don't make it into the MCU. Characters such as the X-Men, Marvel’s poster boy himself, Spider-man are in a different movie universe of their own. Why is that you might wonder?

P: Well, this is where the world of red tapes, bureaucracy and corporate propaganda or something comes in. See, some years back Marvel Studios didn’t exist, and it was just Marvel itself licensing rights to several companies so those companies could use the heroes in their movie appearances. Without plans to enter the movie business, they put up some of their character rights for sale. Bids were made, and money was paid.
But Marvel saw how successful some of their characters were getting with viewers and decided to start up Marvel Studios - this was in 1996 - so they could start independent movies of their own characters. Sadly, because of how successful the sold characters were, they couldn’t get the rights for them back. Specifically; the X-Men, Daredevil and Fantastic Four to 20th Century Fox (along with characters and villains related to them) and Spider-Man and Ghost Rider to Sony (along with characters and villains related to them)

D: You said it, bro! Marvel didn't have a movie division during the 90's (oh, what a wild time, the 90's) and didn't have plans to make movies, so they figured that they might as well sell the rights of their most popular heroes to Fox and Sony, who actually kicked off the modern day superhero craze with the X-men franchise and the Spider-Man franchise. Marvel gets a percentage of money from the rights they sold, but not a whole lot, so a few years later, after seeing the success of the X-men and Spider-man franchises, Marvel decide to open up their own movie studios, and do things the Marvel way. Now that Marvel is one of the most lucrative companies on the face of the planet (and even with Disney’s infinitely deep pockets) thanks to Hollywood and corporate shenanigans, we aren't gonna see a "full" Marvel Universe properly translated to the big screen anytime soon.

What's the difference between the cinematic universe and the comics universe?

P: Well, the first obvious difference is that Marvel owns all rights to its characters in the comic universe and can interchange them anyhow they like. It’s why you can see Spider-Man join the Avengers and then leave; then Wolverine joins the Avengers and then leaves as well; and Storm and Black Panther can get married and Captain America, Black Panther, Namor, Iron Man, Dr. Strange and Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic can all appear in the same room together.
Hell, it’s why the epic Avengers vs. X-Men could even happen (AvX for short). However, as explained earlier, in the cinematic universe Marvel doesn’t own ALL rights and that’s why in a Marvel movie reference can’t be made to mutants or people ‘related’ to mutants. They’d get sued! Yes, that’s how far the bureaucracy goes. Iron Man uttering the word ‘mutant’ could bring up a lawsuit (no really, it can.)

D: Essentially speaking, due to the rights issues, The Marvel Cinematic Universe can't even allude to things like mutants or the X-men or Spider-Man. It's sad, we know, Spidey will never get to wall-crawl the side of Stark-Avengers Tower. Marvel is already taking steps to 'replace' mutants, so to speak, by introducing another group of superpowers being called The Inhumans, who have been referenced in the Agents of SHIELD TV show (also part of the MCU), but that's a question for another day :). Besides that, there is very little difference between the Marvel comics and the Cinematic Universe. Only differences are adaptation-wise.

What is the progress of the cinematic universe so far?

P: Before I leave the mantle for Detanfy to rip this one apart, I should point out one thing. Spidey may NOT never wall-crawl on the Stark Tower. Storm may NOT never share drinks with Captain America. Here’s the thing… it’s business right? The contract states that if the companies don’t use certain characters for a number of years, the rights go back to Marvel. It’s why Marvel has The Punisher back, because he wasn’t used again. With Spider-Man, there’s a possibility that Marvel and Sony could do some collab (there are hints here and there about it), but that may be till 2018 when the new Spider-Man gets its 4th movie. With X-Men though… the situation isn’t as ‘bright’, but there’s still some sliver of hope. Now, with how far the cinematic universe has gone?

D: I gotta say the MCU has gone far! The universe matured with the release of The Avengers. Marvel studios decided to work with each movie in "phases", essentially each set of movies represents a phase, with a team up or big event movie acting to close the phase and launch the next phase. As you might have deduced now, we are in the middle of Phase 2, which began with Iron man 3, followed up by Thor: The Dark World, which was recently complimented by Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we will be followed up with the upcoming Guardians of The Galaxy, before closing out Phase 2 with Avengers: Age of Ultron. Suffice to say, Marvel has travelled far from the kinda-sorta, but not really humble beginnings of the first Iron Man.

What comic storyline inspires each movie?

D: As a comics fan, one of the things I love most about the MCU is watching the movies and picking up on all the direct influences, winks, nods and references to the comics. It's an extra delight for me. Here's a little confession: I didn't become a serious comics fan until 2008, a few months before the first Iron Man movie came out. In fact, it was the trailer for that movie that inspired me to wanna pick up a comic in the first place.

P: I’ve enjoyed comics for a while now on my end, but I didn’t really go hardcore with them. I’d just see an issue here and there and just pick that up to read and enjoy. It wasn’t till Marvel NOW! that I really stepped into the game, opening with AvX. The movies get inspiration from several comics’ lines, so you can’t really point a finger at any particular one. Example, The Mandarin has appeared in several Iron Man comics, so you can’t say which one was used to feature him in Iron Man 3.

D: Ah, but The Mandarin in Iron Man 3 was a completely different adaptation. As Phylix mentioned, there is no one specific storyline that the movies are based on. They take elements of the characters and amalgamate and distil them into the movies. But if the folks at home reading would like a few directly influential comics, we'd be happy to oblige and recommend some essential reading down below for you!

Reading list:
·        Iron man: Extremis - written by Warreb Ellis/Art by Adi Granov. 6 issues Published from 2005-2006.
·        The Incredible Hulk: no specific storyline.
·        Iron man 2: No specific storyline.
·        Thor: no specific Storyline.
·        Captain America: The First Avenger: No specific storyline.
·        Marvel's The Avengers: The Ultimates Volume 1 and 2, written by Mark Millar/ Art by Brian Hitch. Spanning about 26 issues published from 2000-2006.
·        Iron Man 3: Extremis; the storyline is even more so of an Influence than the first movie.
·        Thor: The Dark World: no specific storyline
·        Captain America: The Winter Soldier: pretty much Ed Brubaker’s entire run on Captain America.
·        Guardians of The Galaxy: We are yet to see. The movie comes out in August!
·        Avengers: Age of Ultron: comes out next year! We are yet to see!

D: So that about covers the absolute basics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I hope this was as informative as it was entertaining for you glorious people out there!

P: Likewise with the hope over here!

D: We are nothing, if not paragons of hope and entertainment and information! And pie! There's that one too sha.

P: Pie… now I’m hungry. From Dancing Silhouettes, see y’all later!

Thanks to our friends Detanfy and Phylix over at Dancil Silhouettes for leading us through the intricacies of the Marvel Cinematic universe, more to come soon. If you love superheroes, comics and all things fun and tech, make sure you check out their uber-cool website here.

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