The Marvel Cinematic Universe in all its glory wouldn’t exist without the ingenuity of its source material – the comics. These are the foundations on which everything in the MCU is built. It may differ from the comics in substantial ways, but the genesis for all the stories we see on screen remains in the comics where these characters first appeared. As brilliant as Feige and his entire Marvel Studios team is at bringing these comics to the silver screen, we’ve got to give credit to those who came up with the original material. This article will highlight those writers and artists who are most responsible for breathing life into the characters on the page – the big bad geniuses whose work has shaped and formed the basis of the MCU.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – Stan “The Man” Lee. He’s appeared in almost every single Marvel movie and he’s the man responsible for the creation and co-creation of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, X-Men, Inhumans, Daredevil, Doctor Strange and many, many more iconic Marvel heroes. While the man may require no introduction, a brief history lesson gives context for why Stan Lee is arguably the most iconic living comics legend.
Lee was originally hired by Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics, as an office assistant back in the late 30’s. Lee made his way up the ladder and soon became an editor. Fast-forward to the 60s, and after going through another name change – Atlas Comics – the company finally settled on the name it is known by today – Marvel Comics. In 1961, Marvel Comics published Fantastic Four #1, written by Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby, and Marvel Comics soon went on to publish a plethora of superhero comics that would form the basis for today’s superhero movie boon. The vast majority of these comics shared one thing in common – “written by Stan Lee.”
Stan Lee is also known for popularizing a writing method that became known as “Marvel Method”. Instead of the commonly used full script method, similar to how screenplays are written, Stan would instead write looser outlines and leave the specifics of action up to the artist’s interpretation. Because of this method, there is some debate whether artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko deserve the lion’s share of the credit for the success of Marvel’s comics. Nevertheless, it is widely accepted that it was Stan’s editorial direction which propelled Marvel Comics to the forefront of mainstream consciousness, and his creative vision that inspired the characters that continue to resonate to this day.
Jack Kirby is the unsung hero of legend and comicdom’s greatest visionary. Responsible for bringing Stan Lee‘s ideas to life on the page, Jack Kirby is considered a god among comic creators. Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, the Inhumans, Ant-Man, Nick Fury, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are but a few of the characters Kirby helped create, all of whom feature prominently within the MCU. He pioneered plotting techniques never before seen and drew with a style unlike any comic book artist before. It was his artistic direction, along with Stan Lee‘s editorial brilliance, that defined the Silver Age of Comics and helped define public opinion on what comics were.
Sadly, Kirby’s incredible contributions were not fully recognized in his own time – at least not financially. As a result of Stan Lee’s position at Marvel comics, Lee was entitled to a share of the profits as his co-creations went on to become billion dollar multimedia properties. But Kirby’s contributions were considered “work for hire,” and as such he received no financial remuneration for his creations successes. Though Kirby died in 1994, his estate fought to ensure the importance of his legacy. In 2014 the Kirby family and Marvel reached a deal that not only entitled the estate to a vast (undisclosed) settlement, but ensured that any comics containing characters created or co-created by Jack Kirby would prominently bear this credit.
In our eyes, the settlement was credit was long overdue. In 2012, the Hollywood worth of Kirby-created characters was said to be 3.1 billion dollars, a figure that can only have increased since. His influence and impact on all of pop culture is immense, and he remains one of greatest comic book creators of all time.
David Michelinie & Bob Layton
Tony Stark becoming an alcoholic, Iron Man’s variant armors, War Machine, Justin Hammer all of these hugely important elements of Iron Man’s mythology were created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, and their influence on the MCU is obvious. The pair are responsible for the iconic Demon in a Bottle and Armor Wars stories, and while Demon in a Bottle’s story of Tony’s battle with alcoholism hasn’t yet made it into the films (though it was originally part of the first draft for Iron Man 3), it’s depiction of Tony’s struggles with his inner demons arguably informs much of Iron Man 3’s portrayal of Stark’s PTSD in the wake of The Avengers, while the fleet of Iron Man armor’s that feature in the climatic scene of Iron Man 3 are clearly inspired by the variety of speciality armors created in Armor Wars.
Micheline and Layton are also responsible for introducing the Scott Lang iteration of Ant-Man, who will serve as the principal protagonist in this year’s Ant-Man film (the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, will also appear, but in a mentor role).
Their first Ant-Man story, entitled “To Steal an Ant-Man” is said to have been Edgar Wright‘s original screenplay. Based on various information, this still remains to be the blueprint despite Wright’s exit from the project. Certainly Lang’s criminal past, and quite likely his daughter’s health, will be central elements of the film. Both of these components were created by Micheline and Layton, and served as key distinctions between Scott Lang and Hank Pym.
Back in 2005, acclaimed author Warren Ellis & Adi Granov came out with an Iron Man book called Extremis. You might’ve heard of it. It was a total reinvention for Iron Man as a character and established a new status quo for future stories to come. The origin of Iron Man is overhauled and rewritten to fit a more modern audience, replacing the whole Vietnam angle and setting it in the Middle East. The 6-issue arc beautifully depicted and tackled Tony’s transition from an arms dealer to a visionary “test pilot of the future” (Ellis’ own words). Sounds familiar?
A major alteration to the character’s mythology was the Extremis virus. A tech-based serum which upgraded the biological system of the user to superhuman levels, with the addition of other neat feats. As you all know, this story was the core basis of our MCU Iron Man’s origin and it’s threequel.
That is not without differences though. The roles of Aldrich Killian and Maya Hansen were drastically expanded in the film, with the former getting killed early in the comic and the latter being more of an ally to Tony Stark. The Extremis process differed drastically as well. The user would be enveloped in a black cocoon-like substance for several hours and would emerge essentially as an enhanced biological weapon. Stark undergoes this process as well in an attempt to defeat the villain of the story, an Extremis-powered goon named Mallen.
A fun fact not everyone might know: even in a universe populated by Norse gods, gamma-irradiated monsters, and a super soldier from WWII, Iron Man wasn’t always the most realistic character. The ability to fit highly sophisticated weaponized suit of armor into a suitcase – a concept that was of course adapted for Iron Man 2 – was arguably one of the more plausible iterations of Stark’s various Iron Man suits.
So when designing the look of Iron Man for the Extremis book, artist Adi Granov decided that the suit needed a more modern, practical and grounded take on it. Not necessarily “realistic” in terms of current real life technology, but grounded in a way that made it seem plausible for a man to actually fit into and pilot a suit of armor with comfort and mobility. Granov’s redisgned Iron Man armor did exactly this, and his interpretation of the suit both inspired the look of the film’s armor and led Jon Favreau to hire Granov as one of the main concept artists for Iron Man.
Walt Simonson & J. Michael Stranczynski
In general, you don’t see comic book writers pencil their own work, particularly in mainstream titles – usually the penciler and writer are separate roles. So it’s a rare occurrence in mainstream comics when a writer is hired to pencil his own work as well, and an even rarer occurrence when the writer/artist establishes himself as one of the “prime” creators for that title. Walt Simonson is amongst that elite few, known best for his legendary run on Thor. Alongside Jack Kirby and Sal Buschema, Simonson’s pencils are among the most iconic renditions of the character, and he is arguably the most important writer to have worked on the title since his creation by Lee and Kirby in 1963.
One of the most popular and successful writers of Thor in recent years is J. Michael Straczynski. He is a prolific writer with dozens of works across comics, TV and film, including Babylon 5 (where he was creator and showrunner), Changeling (which Clint Eastwood directed and Angelina Jolie starred in) and a six year long run on the Amazing Spider-Man, among many other titles. But it his Eisner nominated run on Thor that has the greatest bearing on the MCU.
These two Thor writers basically redefined the character in ways fit for their eras. Simonson’s Thor was immensely epic and over the top, while Straczynski’s take on the title gave the character a grounded and Earth-bound conflict. It’s clear both tonal approaches to the character of Thor have made their way into the films. But despite their character-defining runs, none of their stories or arcs have been directly adapted into the films. Yet they continue to influence the MCU in small but meaningful ways.
Simonson introduced several important characters to the Thor mythology such as Malekith, Kurse and Lorelei, all of which have appeared in the MCU. The Casket of Ancient Winters, which appeared in Thor, was also a Simonson creation. A lot of his visual imagery of Asgardian majestic-ness informs the look of the cinematic Asgard.
Straczynski’s 2007 run of Thor – which had Thor awaken from his post-Rangarok slumber – featured a new look for Thor by artist extraordinaire Olivier Coipel. It can be said that this new look for Thor was one of the primary inspirations for the film’s costume. Straczynski brought Thor back to Earth, and gave him a much more relatable human element by re-introducing the Donald Blake persona. It was a fresh and modern take on Thor’s fish out of water introduction to Midgard, which was of course a key element of the first film. Straczynski’s story also involved a small town in rural Oklahoma, very similar to the small town in the New Mexico desert that Thor arrives in during the first movie.
While their stories may not have served as direct as inspiration as comics such as Extremis, there’s no question that the tone and style of both Simonson and Straczynski’s tenures on Thor have deeply influenced the films. The two even had cameos in the Thor movies.
If you had to pick just one person most responsible for influencing the last thirty years of comics, Frank Miller would be a reasonable suspect. He redefined Batman as a character during the 80s, writing one of the most important comic books of our time, The Dark Knight Returns. He followed that up with the equally acclaimed Batman: Year One and continued to garner even more acclaim with creator owned projects like Ronin, 300 and Sin City.
But before Batman and all the rest, it was him and Daredevil. In 1981, he burst onto the scene with his groundbreaking work on the character, introducing permanent changes to the mythology. Miller added an increased focus on street level crime, in contrast to the more colorful pursuits of other superheroes, and introduced prominent martial arts and ninja elements with characters like Elektra, Stick, and the Hand that became a key part of Daredevil’s background.
Miller is also credited with establishing the iconic bleakness that is now forever associated with the character. He established Daredevil as an A-list character with what is considered his crowning achievement, Daredevil: Born Again. Born again told the story of Daredevil’s arch-nemsis Wilson Fisk learning that Daredevil was in fact the blind lawyer Matt Murdock, and how he brutally and systemically set out to destroy his life, temporarily driving Daredevil insane. It is widely considered the greatest Daredevil story of all time, and could well inform future seasons of Daredevil, should they happen.
In 1991, he teamed up with star artist John Romita Jr. and wrote his own take on the Daredevil origin story. Entitled The Man Without Fear, this 5 issue story arc is one of the main inspirations for the very much awaited Daredevil series. The makeshift black suit which Romita designed – before Daredevil donned his iconic red costume – is featured prominently in the series.
Brian Michael Bendis
The name Brian Michael Bendis will go down one as of the biggest in comic history. Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to deny the impact he has had on the industry. He’s arguably one of those most responsible for helping Marvel get back on their feet after their terrible run during the 90’s. Originally a staple in the indie comic scene, he was initially hired by editor-in-chief Joe Quesada to pen Daredevil. That eventually led to his crowning achievement, Ultimate Spider-Man.
That now 14-year continuous run on Ultimate Spider-Man has garnered acclaim and praise from all over the industry and cemented Bendis as one of comics’ finest. It also earned him the title of longest continuing writer on a Marvel comic, beating Stan Lee‘s Fantastic Four run. His Ultimate Spider-Man essentially kickstarted Marvel’s Ultimate line (which the MCU gets a lot of inspiration from) and is considered one of the greatest comics to come out of the modern age.
But it’s his work on Daredevil that has to be my personal favorite. He took the Daredevil blueprint of Frank Miller and pushed it even further. Bendis wonderfully captures the core essence of Murdock’s battle for Hell’s Kitchen and his relationship with Wilson Fisk. Matt Murdock’s tenacity and will are truly tested when he is dragged down to his lowest lows. Bendis fucks with the life of Murdock in a way not seen since Frank Miller’s seminal “Born Again” run – and its all done brilliantly. Daredevil showrunner Steven DeKnight and Matt Murdock himself, Charlie Cox, cite Bendis and Maleev’s run as one of the core influences of the tone of the Netflix series.
Daredevil is far from Bendis’s only influential work that will likely impact the MCU. In 2005, Bendis disbanded the original Avengers and formed a new one which for the very first time included Wolverine, Luke Cage, Spider-Woman and Spider-Man. Despite what was criticized as a complete sales move, Spider-Man’s inclusion in the Avengers would resonate with audiences everywhere, which of course leads us to where we are today: Spidey is finally in the MCU and the world is awaiting his inclusion in the Avengers.
Bendis also created the first character and story for mature audiences under Marvel’s MAX imprint. Entitled Alias, the comic starred the newly created Jessica Jones, a former teen superhero who is now an alcoholic private investigator with poor judgment suffering from PTSD. The comic was considered remarkable for its use of vulgar language and relatively explicit sexual content (previously unheard of in a Marvel comic), but is notable less for it’s “edgy” content but rather the sophisticated way it explored the psychological dimensions of being a superhero, and the damage it can leave long after the villains have been locked away. Later this year, we will see the very first live-action depiction of Jessica Jones, in the Netflix series AKA Jessica Jones, with Krysten Ritter starring as the titular character. Many other original Bendis creations, such as Maria Hill, Victoria Hand and Quake have already appeared.
For all the great work he has written, Bendis is considered a very polarizing writer among fans. He is often criticized for his style of decompression – stretching a story out over many issues rather than told in a few – his verbose dialogue, and his handling of some major Marvel comics crossover events. Personally, I think Bendis is is a literary genius, but there can be no denying that his work has been hugely influential on the MCU.
Ed Brubaker is an award winning comic creator best known for his crime fiction work. He is undoubtedly one of the best in the genre and in 2005 he took the reins of the Captain America and wrote a story arc called The Winter Soldier along with artist Steve Epting. The two also resurrected Cap’s long dead partner Bucky and rewrote him into one of Marvel’s most skilled assassins. In case you missed it, this was turned into a film of the same name about one year ago, which pretty much changed the game for the entire MCU. He even made a cameo in the film as one of Winter Soldier’s handlers.
Ed Brubaker also had Crossbones assassinate Captain America during the fallout of Civil War and had Bucky take over as the new Captain America, which may or may not happen in the future of the MCU. [Editor’s note: it’s totally going to happen]. Running more than 50 issues, his Captain America run was hailed as one of the best the title has ever had.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
The Cosmic Universe of Marvel wasn’t always the easiest thing to get into. The stories were dense and somewhat over the top, and it often took a fair bit of comics knowledge to fully understand and appreciate what was going on with Cosmic Marvel.. That all changed when Keith Giffen’s event series called Annihilation hit stands. The book was a hit and spawned an equally successful – if not more – spinoff, Guardians of the Galaxy. This is where Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning come in.
This incarnation of the Guardians featured a different line up from their 1969 counterpart. Instead DnA (as the two are known amongst fans) took established characters from the Annihilation fallout – characters from a variety of creators who had previously had little to no interaction with each other – and put them together for this new incarnation. The initial line-up included characters such as Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, and Groot. Sound familiar? As James Gunn has said many times, both the tone and the roster of DnA’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy served as the major inspiration for the group of a-holes we all fell in love with.
If Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning were the poster boys for Marvel’s Cosmic universe in the modern era, then Jim Starlin was the cosmic OG of Marvel. Originally working as an artist for Marvel, he quickly transitioned into writing for them and created future cosmic staples such as Drax the Destroyer, Gamora and a minor villain you may have heard of named Thanos.
Inspired by DC’s very own Darkseid, Thanos was quickly elevated as one of the most dangerous and powerful villains in all of comics with Starlin’s story The Infinity Gauntlet. Two sequel series followed Gauntlet, namely Infinity War and Infinity Crusade, which were both written by Starlin as well. Informative guessing dictates that Avengers: Infinity War may be very well be primarily based off Infinity Gauntlet, with War and Crusade as possible secondary inspirations.
The character of Adam Warlock – whom everyone is speculating to be a major character in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 – began as a pseudo-biblical-esque character until he was rewritten by Starlin into a more cosmic-centered player. If Adam Warlock is indeed making an appearance in the MCU, chances are that its based off the work of DnA and Starlin’s.
Jim Starlin is also an example of those cases wherein creators aren’t always given their due. His relationship with Marvel had soured over the years, with him at one point going on the record saying that he wasn’t even informed on the inclusion of Thanos in the MCU, nor given an invitation to a screening of The Avengers.
… this is the second film that had something I created for Marvel in it — the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor being the other – and both films I had to pay for my own ticket to see them. Financial compensation to the creators of these characters doesn’t appear to be part of the equation.
Fortunately, Starlin and Marvel seemed to have mended issues since then. Drax and Gamora are with the Guardians and Starlin is now back at Marvel continuing his good work on the cosmic side of things. Regardless on how sour things were at one point, it goes without saying that the influence of Jim Starlin‘s work is evident all across the MCU.
Even more than Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar is a polarizing writer – you either hate him or love him. In my case, it’s both – I love his Marvel work but I dislike his creator owned work (with the exception of Kick-Ass). In my opinion, most of his creator owned work is rooted in heavy violence and shock value just for the hell of it. His Marvel work on the other hand, is a thing to behold. Of course, that’s just my opinion. What’s pure fact is how much Millar’s work has influenced the MCU.
In 2002, Mark Millar & artist Bryan Hitch were asked to reimagine the Avengers for the modern age. The result was called The Ultimates. The duo combined relevant real-world politics with larger than life superheroism. Hulk was born out of an attempt to recreate the super-soldier serum, the alien Chitauri invaded Earth, Bucky and Cap were childhood friends (in the original comics, Bucky met Cap during World War II), Cap’s suit was designed to be more militaristic, SHIELD had the Triskelion (seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier) as its central command, and Nick Fury was depicted as Sam Jackson – something that directly led to Jackson being cast in the role. And those are just a few of the things Millar introduced in The Ultimates that the MCU draws from.
Another Millar creation which is about the change the game for the MCU is Civil War. Despite it being highly polarizing among fans, it is highest selling Marvel comic of the last 18 years and still manages to remain popular to this date. So when it was announced that the third Captain America film would be a loose adaptation of this event series, everyone understandably lost their minds. Whether you like the comic book or not, the possibility of seeing Iron Man & Cap go toe to toe with each other is too good not to watch.
Interestingly, Millar’s work on the second volume of The Ultimates tackled themes of anti-American superhero sentiments, continued fear of more worldwide catastrophe from said superheroes and just the overall idea that superheroes are bad for everyone, all of which may be tackled a little bit in the MCU’s Civil War adaptation.
FUTURE OF THE MCU
The MCU is about to have its second big bang event in the following years as we move into Phase Three, so let’s take a look at those writers that may or may not influence that direction of the MCU (based on informed speculation).
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Back in October of last year when Marvel made their big Phase Three announcements, one of the most screamed at and talked about was the announcement of a Captain Marvel film and everyone fucking lost it all the more when Feige confirmed that it was Carol Danvers who would be leading it.
Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel has been a huge hit among fans, and a lot of the credit goes to writer Kelly Sue DeConnick. Through the urging of her then-editor Steve Wacker, Kelly Sue DeConnick rebranded a dwindling character and turned her into one of Marvel’s recent big successes.
The rebrand instantly won the hearts of female fans everywhere, gave the character the prominence among casual and diehards alike and even kickstarted a fan movement called the Carol Corps, all of which undoubtedly played a huge part in the development leading to this film. Deconnick herself is incredibly excited for the film, saying:
“I feel so proud of her, like Carol is this person who lives in my head, and ‘look what you did, girl!’ It feels like a friend just got a promotion.”
Matt Fraction is a beloved oddity in comics. Maybe it’s the beard or how he goes about in social media but the man is awesomely zany. He also happens to be a literary genius that puts out the best comics today. He is an Eisner award winning writer but is perhaps best known for being the husband of Kelly Sue DeConnick.
Like any successful creator he began in the independent comic circuit, churning out underrated gems such as Casanova and The Five Fists of Science. He then made his transition to Marvel, books such as Punisher and Iron Fist. The Iron Fist run saw him partnering with Ed Brubaker and David Aja and garnered a shit-ton of acclaim from the industry. The Immortal Iron Fist is now considered by fans to be the defining run for the character. It’s only proper that this becomes the blueprint for the Netflix show.
He also wrote an Eisner-winning Iron Man series titled Invincible Iron Man which hopefully becomes the primary inspiration for future Iron Man films post-Phase 3. And just to add this here, his hugely popular run on Hawkeye should be turned into a Netflix show. Everyone loves it and all the fans have been clamoring for it. Hawkguy, Kate Bishop and Pizza Dog need to be together on the screen. Jeremy Renner is almost certainly too big a star, but with possible recasting happening after Avengers: Infinity War, it would be great to see this incarnation of the character appear in the MCU.
Christopher Priest & Reginald Hudlin
There are a ton of great Black Panther stories out there so it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where in the comics the Black Panther film will draw inspiration from, so I’m going to highlight the writers of what is considered the best Black Panther run and the most accessible Black Panther origin story.
Christopher Priest‘s take on the title is considered to be the best among fans. Just like what Simonson and Miller did to Thor and Daredevil respectively, Priest gave the title great characterization and depth which essentially modernized who Black Panther was. He introduced fan favorite comic relief Everett K. Ross and defined what Black Panther’s role was as a master strategist and a king of a nation.
Reginald Hudlin is a filmmaker who penned a modern take on Black Panther’s origin. It was revamped for contemporary audiences and was turned into an animated series. While it isn’t as exactly as beloved by diehard Black Panther fans, many still consider it to be a great jumping-on point for non-fans. The accessibility of its origin story would be a great influence on the film. Hudlin is also one of those names being tossed around by fans as a possible director for the film.
Don McGregor gets a shout out as well. He is notable for setting the majority of Black Panther’s stories within Africa – which seems obvious for a character from Africa, but was rare at the time – and creating the classic Black Panther villain Killmonger. He also wrote the controversial “Black Panther vs. The Klan!” arc, now considered to be one of the best Black Panther stories ever told (though it probably won’t be a major inspiration for the film). What he did with the character continues to echo throughout the characters publication history and gave writers Priest and Hudlin solid material as foundation.
Walt Simonson & J. Michael Straczynski & Michael Avon Oeming
These guys get another mention because a lot of what they’ve written strongly set up or revolved around the crucial Thor event Ragnarok, which of course will form the basis of the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok, and is said to be as pivotal and transformative to the future of the MCU as Captain America: The Winter Soldier was. While his run didn’t actually depict Ragnarok, Walt Simonson perfectly sets up one of Ragnarok’s key players, the fire demon Surtur,and his plan to wreak havoc on Asgard. Simonson spends an entire year hyping up Surtur and his forging of the Twilight Sword and it all finally culminates in his invasion of Asgard, which may very well appear in the film.
Michael Avon Oeming is best known for his work on Powers with Brian Michael Bendis. Originally a comic book artist, he has since made his transition to scripting for various comic books as well. He wrote a version of Ragnarok which may very well be a huge influence on the MCU. Ragnarok is said to be the end of all things, but the Marvel comics version (which had happened or been suggested in various forms throughout the series run) had a catch. Rather than a definitive end, Rangarok instead was part of a perpetual cycle that was bound to repeat for all eternity.
In the final act of Oeming’s story, Thor decides to end that cycle once and for all. He meets up with several divine beings and bargains to end Ragnarok. They decline and a pissed off Thor gives them the middle finger and cuts off the metaphorical thread perpetuating that cycle. Ragnarok is no more and it sends the Asgardians to a long slumber. It’s very likely that the MCU Ragnarok will be closer to this “definitive” one and will have major repercussions for Thor.
Which leads us to Straczynski’s post-Ragnarok Thor story. Thor awakens from that slumber and decides to rebuild Asgard in Oklahoma. Now how does this all make sense? It’s simple. You have Simonson’s epic influence paving the way for the imagery and scale for Thor: Ragnarok, you have Oeming’s story as the main blueprint, and you have Straczynski’s run to book end that story, with Thor returned to life – once again sharing the body of his alter-ego Donald Blake – and pledging to rebuild Asgard, not in the heavenly realms as it once was, but instead on earth, in the skies above sleepy Oklahoma.
Feige has stated that Thor: Ragnarok will fundamentally reshape the MCU. Could that lead to a Donald Blake version of Thor (and a perfect opportunity to recast), or an Asgard that is on earth? It remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if these writer’s takes on Ragnarok end up inspiring the future of the MCU.
Hickman’s so hot right now. He’s killing it with his crazy Avengers and New Avengers run and is about to get even crazier with what is being described as Marvel’s biggest event ever, this summer’s Secret Wars. He’s going to have all of Marvel multiverses colliding into this one giant superhero mashup event and it looks like its going to fundamentally alter the course of the comic universe many number of years to come. It’s pretty high concept, which something Hickman is well known for.
But a couple of years ago before all that high-concept multiverse stuff, Jonathan Hickman was writing a Bendis co-created espionage title called Secret Warriors. The book basically had Fury fight the good fight behind the shadows with the help of his handpicked superhuman team. The Secret Warriors went up against HYDRA – who had infiltrated SHIELD – and fought supervillains such as Daniel Whitehall. Sound familiar? It was a clear (and very secret!) inspiration for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Secret Warriors has been cited by Agents of SHIELD showrunners Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen as one of their favorites and inspirations for the show.
While it’s unlikely Secret War will spill into the MCU anytime soon, a previous Hickman series may have clues for the future. 2012 saw Hickman create one of Marvel’s biggest cosmic events called Infinity. It was a sci-fi epic spanning the entire Marvel Universe and in a way it sort of felt like an homage to Starlin’s Infinity series in name and the fact that Thanos played a huge part in that story.
In Infinity, Hickman ties the mythology of the Inhumans to the legacy of Thanos himself. Thanos invades Earth with an army of his own in the hopes of acquiring what he’s been looking for. One of the biggest action pieces of Infinity was Black Bolt going face to face with Thanos. I can imagine this aspect being included in Avengers: Infinity War. Furthermore, Black Bolt unleashed a Terrigen Bomb that transformed people all across the world into Inhumans. With the Inhumans acting as the MCU’s version of mutants, this would be a perfect way to introduce a huge number of super powered beings to the universe simultaneously, and could easily serve as a kick-off to Phase Four when the Inhumans receive their own film in 2019.
A renowned award winning writer most known for his creator-owned work Astro City, Kurt Busiek and his creative partner Alex Ross first made their mark on the industry when they wrote a limited series called Marvels. The comic beautifully chronicled the history of the Marvel universe and it was known for its distinct painted artwork its slice-of-life take on the superhero genre. Soon after that Busiek started work on the even more acclaimed Astro City and began his run on the Avengers.
His celebrated Avengers run featured what I think is Ultron’s finest moment. It was a story called Ultron Unlimited which may well be a big inspiration for Age of Ultron. The hinted events of Avengers: Age of Ultron are similar to Ultron Unlimited: Ultron levels a European country with the help of an Ultron Army, the armies of Ultron go up against the Avengers in a robot orgy and its this version of Ultron (Ultron – 15) that is built of adamantium and builds his army with secondary adamantium. Replace that with Wakandan vibranium and you got something close to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Another Busiek creation that I can see appearing in the near future are the Thunderbolts. He took Zemo’s Masters of Evil, gave them new clothes and had them save the world. With the likelihood of Zemo playing a huge part in Captain America: Civil War, an MCU incarnation of the Thunderbolts is definitely on the horizon. An even crazier idea would be using the Thunderbolts name for a possible team formed by General Thunderbolt Ross himself. There are rumors that Thunderbolt Ross will be making a comeback in Civil War as an ally of Stark and this kind of reimagining for the Thunderbolts is tailor made for the MCU. We’ve already seen with Guardians of the Galaxy that a group of criminals can be immensely popular – is it so unlikely that a team of anti-heroes and straight up villains is far behind?
Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee
The popularity of the Inhumans are now at an all-time high with their introduction going on in Agents of SHIELD and a feature film in a few years. Add to that the slow synergizing of the comics with the live-action properties. More comics based on the Inhumans and bigger stories involving them are being made each year.
But before all that popularity, the Inhumans property rarely got a shot at having the spotlight. It only had a handful of comics under the title. The most known and revered of those comics was Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee‘s twelve issue story. Titled simply “Inhumans”, the book shed light on the deep and rich mythology of their race and the socio-political structure of their society. As much a dark family drama as it is a superhero action comic, the story is a brilliant deconstruction of the intricacies of Black Bolt and his Royal Family. If the Inhumans film is likely to draw influence from one Inhumans story, it’s this one. The book is a great introduction to the Inhumans and these two creators just knock it out of the park.
Doctor Strange is one of those characters with an immense and rich mythology that dozens of writers have built upon that there really is no singular defining run. Each take on the character has its own flair and feel, so pinpointing which one gets made into a film is a hard guess. But for the sake of picking, I’m going to go with the fathers of Doctor Strange – the Steve Ditko and Stan Lee run.
Their run not only introduced the character but also incorporated wildest of visuals that no other comic had. It was trippy, surreal, psychedelic and way ahead of its time. The Doctor Strange they had established served as the groundwork for future celebrated runs by Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, and Roger Stern. The most notable Ditko Strange story has to be the epic 17-issue Eternity Saga in which Stephen Strange encounters the embodiment of all the cosmos, a scene so iconic and significant that its a big possibility that we see Benedict Cumberbatch encounter the same on screen.
Make Mine Marvel
There are of course many more influential comics creators who have helped shaped the MCU – Gene Colan, Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, Joe Quesada, Joss Whedon, to name just a few. But rather than being a definitive account of all important Marvel comics creators, this piece is intended to shed light on just how important bold creative voices are to the sucess of comics. Spider-Man is a great character, but with a shitty creative team you’re ultimately going to end up with bad Spider-Man stories. It’s ultimately the creators, more than the characters themselves, that have helped make the marvel superheroes so iconic.
All of these creators have done incredible comics outside of Marvel – to name just a few, Bendis’ Powers, Brubaker’s Criminal, Busiek’s Astro City, Fraction’s Sex Criminals and DeConnick’s Bitch Planet are all must read books, with influences that go beyond your standard superhero fare. If you’re a fan of good storytelling, I highly recommend you check them out and support the creators behind them.
We are having another giveaway on our Twitter account. This time giving away an Daredevil Poster from New York Comic Con. Check the tweet below for more info.
— The MCU Exchange (@TheMCUExchange) March 17, 2015