As Marvel Studios approaches the start of production on their Untitled Avengers film, a film which is said to unite all the disparate corners of their Cinematic Universe and put a bow on a story that began with Tony Stark making a suit from a box of scraps, our minds, unfortunately, are already pondering what Kevin Feige and his team might have in store beyond May of 2019. While we all have our crazy theories, hopes and dreams, a look back at previous films and a look forward to some that haven’t been made just yet provide us with some compelling evidence that Feige has already sown the seeds for some of Marvel Comics finest stories to be told down the road.

Though Marvel Studios is hardly dependent on adapting major crossover events from the comics for their films, one can hardly argue that they haven’t done a fine job of culling some great material to incorporate into their movies. Infinity, The Infinity Gauntlet, Infinity War, Age of Ultron, Civil War and now Contest of Champions,  Planet Hulk and The Kree-Skrull War can be used to begin putting together a list of events that have, in some way, been used to inspire films or their titles and there is no reason to believe that they’ll stop there when they move beyond Phase 3; in fact, if we think a bit about what we already know, it’s reasonable to speculate about a few events that might be adapted into the MCU. And if we’re being honest, it makes a ton of sense for Marvel to continue to mine these titles for their films, not just because they are great stories, but because the names have a built in audience and can easily generate buzz about a new film. For instance, if they want to do a film about Hulk facing off against the Avengers, calling it World War Hulk preempts about one million questions about what the film might be about if folks just use their Google machines.

Now to be clear, we are not indicating that any of these events are 100% guaranteed to be included in a future MCU film. The best we can hope to do here is point out that some seeds have been planted and remember that doesn’t mean anything will grow from it.

Secret Invasion

As soon as the Skrulls became a part of Captain Marvel, this became a potential reality. The shapeshifting Skrulls are now not only part of the MCU, but with Captain Marvel taking place in the 1990s, they have been for a long time. This fits nicely with the Secret Invasion event series which saw the Skrulls’ long term plan to claim the Earth for themselves come to fruition. Disguised as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the Skrulls systematically turn Avengers and their allies against each other once they realize that some of them have been replaced by the shapeshifters. The events tagline, “Who Do You Trust?” was accompanied by a series of great illustrations which, at the time, truly caused a stir among readers. The repercussions of the event shaped the Marvel Universe for years afterwards.

Adapting the story to the MCU doesn’t take a ton of imagination. With Captain Marvel and the Kree battling the Skrulls in the 90s, it’s possible that Skrulls have had time and means to investigate and infiltrate the Earth over the last 2 decades. All it would take on the part of Marvel Studios to launch fans into a frenzy would be to have one of the heroes set to fall in Avengers 4 slowly turn into a Skrull after they die, a staple of how Marvel Comics’ artists have revealed the deception of the reptillian race over the years. With Captain Marvel taking place just before Avengers 4, it’s possible, indeed likely, that her film will be one that has ties to the events taking place in 2020 and beyond.

Dark Reign

As mentioned above, the fallout from Secret Invasion changed the landscape of the comics universe for years and led to one a year long and nearly total rebranding of the comics known as Dark Reign. The hero of Secret Invasion and the central character of the Dark Reign stories is Norman Osborn. Osborn, who was in charge of the group of reformed criminals known as the Thunderbolts, leveraged his heroics in the Skrull invasion to become the head of H.A.M.M.E.R., a replacement for the Skrull-infested S.H.I.E.L.D. agency, then run by Tony Stark. His “heroes” became the (Dark) Avengers, following Osborn as the Iron Patriot and did some seemingly heroic deeds. Despite his seeming heroics, Osborn hadn’t reformed and eventually, after overstepping his bounds and revealing his true nature, was taken down by a reformed Avengers, leading to what was known as Marvel’s Heroic Age.

How could this story play out in the MCU? We haven’t even seen Osborn yet, much less had enough time to allow him to develop into the power hungry mad man he’d need to be to make this happen. In a lot of ways, Osborn is what Tony Stark might have been, so the parallel drawn by writer Brian Michael Bendis was an interesting one and it’s quite possible that Feige has already laid the foundation for something similar to happen on screen. In Spider-Man: Homecoming we find Happy Hogan, now working in Asset Management, tasked with cleaning out Avengers Tower after it having been sold by Stark. Again, we can’t tell you what might come out of this seed, it could simply have been a convenient plot point to get the plane airborne so they could have the final fight scene; however, we like to think a little bigger and we think Feige does as well.

Buying a building from Tony Stark is probably gonna run a bit on the high side and not many people would have use for a building with some of the significant features of Avengers Tower. The profile of such a buyer fits just a few people from the comics and we can think of none we like better than Osborn. While Feige has said they are staying away from reusing villains in Spidey films for the time being, that doesn’t mean we won’t see Osborn introduced and developed over time. A great Secret Invasion film could be years away yet, putting Dark Reign every further down the line. Surely there’s time to see Osborn make the move to become a power player in the MCU. This would totally diverge from the Osborn seen in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and we might not even see the Goblin right away if at all, but it would show us the scheming, manipulative and totally mad Osborn from the 2000s and that’s not that bad ( Those of us at MCU Exchange that do such things love to talk about the possibility of Denzel Washington stepping into the role of Norman Osborn some time down the line…). Could Avengers Tower eventually house the Dark Avengers? What a great long game payoff that would be.

Future Avengers/Champions

If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to survive, it’s eventually going to have have an infusion of fresh, young characters much like we’ve seen in the comics over the past several years. Marvel Studios has taken several steps, most noticeably in Spider-Man: Homecoming, to increase representation and it’s very possible that they’ve planted the seeds to have the next generation of Avengers be their most representative group yet.

Currently a trio of potential new Avengers “exist” or could “exist” in the MCU. Cassie Lang, who became the hero known as Stature in the comics, Miles Morales and Amadeus Cho. For several years now, Feige has been playing the long game, so when they made the choice to include Helen Cho in Avengers: Age of Ultron, it was almost certainly so that they could potentially introduce Amadadeus, and possibly his sister Maddy, to the MCU at some point. The role filled by Cho could have been filled by nearly anyone, so choosing Cho was probably done consciously with the future in mind.

Another similar situation came with the inclusion of Aaron Davis in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Spidey has hundreds of rogues (hell, they could have even chosen a different Prowler) that could have filled the role of Davis, played by Donald Glover, but they chose Davis for a reason. We all know that reason was for the single line of dialogue that made the appearance of Miles Morales possible.

We’ve already mentioned Cassie Lang, but there is another young, female hero whose inclusion in a film down the road would really please fans: Kamala Khan. Now we don’t have a lot of details about the 1990’s setting for Captain Marvel, but it’s possible that Carol Danvers was a hero well known on Earth at the time before she, for whatever reason, disappeared. If we accept that possibility for a moment, we can imagine that anyone could easily become a fan of hers, even a young girl like Kamala Khan. Obviously there are a lot of bridges to be crossed there, especially since a Marvel Studios’ film has yet to mention Inhumans (and of course they could just as easily make Kamala’s powers come from any number of other sources) but by moving Captain Marvel to the 1990s, they’ve effectively reduced the timeline required to introduce a young Ms. Marvel into the fray.

At this point you could have a Korean-American, an Afro-Hispanic and a Muslim-American trio alongside Cassie Lang to help start up a team of Avengers or Champions. As Marvel Studios goes about increasing representation among its heroes, it’s hard to imagine them doing a better job than that. Of course we could speculate on any number of other additions to the team as well. We’d like to think that eventually there’s going to be a powered up Nova, especially with the impending doom of Xandar in Avengers: Infinity War or the sequel, and whether you’re a fan of Richard Rider or Sam Alexander, both of them were teens when they became the Human Rocket. With Captain Marvel taking place in the 90s and including both the Kree and the Skrulls, it wouldn’t take much to hint at or flat out include the romance between Mar-Vell and the Skrull princess Anelle that resulted in Hulkling. And, if we’re talking about forbidden romances, we know that Wanda and the Vision will be getting close in Infinity War so whose to say Wiccan couldn’t pop up as well giving Marvel its first gay couple on screen. Beyond that it would take only some simple passing shots to establish a character like Kate Bishop or America Chavez or any number of other heroes that could lead Marvel’s film slate for years to come.

Guardians of the Galaxy

One major group of heroes we know will carry on past Phase 3 that we haven’t mentioned yet are the Guardians of the Galaxy. James Gunn has been clear, repeatedly, that Vol. 3 will be the last story of this version of the Guardians and that it will help set up the next 1o years of Cosmic stories. That leads us to speculate that at the end of Vol. 3, a new group of heroes will be assembled. I would imagine since it will follow the conclusion of the Infinity Stone saga, the stakes for Vol. 3 will either have to be incredibly high, incredibly personal or both. An adaptation of the Annihilation or Annihilation: Conquest events would be fantastic, but would require either a trade be made with Fox or a lot of changes to be made to the source material. One thing that could come out of it without too much of a change, however, could be a new team of Cosmic heroes.

In the comics, Star-Lord had a bit of a dream and a contingency plan that one day the most powerful being of the Cosmos would band together to protect it. That dream became a reality when Cosmo reached out and formed the Annihilators. A team comprised of Gladiator, Silver Surfer, Ronan, Beta Ray Bill, Ikon the Spaceknight and Quasar, the Annihilators went up against foes like Blastaar, Thanos and the Universal Church of Truth. Could the future of the Cosmic MCU see a team of Beta Ray Bill, Ikon and Quasar joined by some other potential big hitters (Adam Warlock?) to form a new team of Guardians? We know Gunn loves the Spaceknights and while Marvel can’t use ROM, it isn’t clear if the other Knights of Galador are off the table (in fact, it’s probably very likely that Marvel can use anything except ROM). I also think that Gunn may secretly be a fan of Beta Ray Bill and with his inclusion in the MCU teased in Thor: Ragnarok, we could well seen him called back to battle.

We still have a lot of time between now and when we might start to find out if any of these seeds produce anything. We probably won’t hear a lot about the 2020 films until 2018 as Marvel Studios usually likes to give a director a 2 year head start on the project (obviously there have been exceptions), but that means SDCC ’18 could be a blast. In the meantime, it’s good for the brain to try to imagine how the minds behind the scenes at Marvel Studios work and it’s also harmless to speculate. With that in mind, let us know what your ideas are about what types of things Feige’s seeds will bring us down the road!