When I was growing up, I was really into comics. My two best friends were into the Stars, both Trek and Wars, and I liked those other nooks and crannies of Nerdery just fine, but Marvel comics was the thing I enjoyed most. I would get up early every Saturday to watch my favorite heroes, The X-Men, blast their way into my life, and my eyes would remain glued to the screen until I had seen every cartoon the Marvel Universe had to offer. That’s where they stayed though. At that point, any attempt to truly bring a comic book to life either ended in camp or disaster; late 80’s action stars like Dolph Lundgren transplanted into actual tights, and that was for The Punisher, essentially the easiest and most adaptable of any character.
I would have killed to be a kid growing up now, without the social stigma that came attached to reading comics. I was made fun of plenty, and being a sensitive and nerdy kid I was a pretty easy target. Kids growing up today reading comics, or playing with Transformers, Lego, or lightsabers, aren’t as likely to find themselves met with ridicule because these things, these wonderful, nerdy things are literally everywhere now.
In 2008, Marvel set something unprecedented in motion with two words, tacked on at the tail end of the movie, in the (now expected) post-credits scene. Samuel L. Jackson, playing Col. Nick Fury, asked Tony Stark if he’s ever heard of something called the ‘Avenger Initiative’ and boom, fandom exploded in excitement, knowing what this must mean. Then, like clockwork, Marvel churned out the rest of their Phase One project, each with a scene teasing the next, hammering in the fact that everything is happening under one umbrella, in one universe. Even James Bond’s movies have only just now begun to follow a specific line of continuity, and for Marvel to take this chance on semi-unknown characters, when their biggest hits were Wolverine over at Fox and Spider-Man over at Sony, all they had left were the Avengers, and telling that story required each character to get their own.
The rest became cinematic history, when Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America all got stand-alone movies, each adding their own building blocks to the mythos of Marvel’s new Cinematic Universe. And then the Godfather of Geekdom, Joss Whedon, led the charge on The Avengers, uniting all the characters on screen together for the first time and I was right there, at midnight opening night, cap shield in hand watching the dawn of a new age of cinema.
Marvel’s success at uniting their universe continues even now with Thor 2 hitting DVDs recently and Captain America: Winter’s Soldier coming in May with Guardians Of The Galaxy to follow, and Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron in 2015. They’ve even started their plans for Phase 3, casting Ant-Man and announcing Doctor Strange as well. There are also plans for four mini-series to be produced with Netflix, giving us Luke Cage, Daredevil and more. This is leaving studios like Warner Bros, owners of all things DC, scrambling to do the same. It’s already been announced that Batman will be in the Man Of Steel sequel, as well as Wonder Woman. They have Green Arrow over on the CW channel, already netting in the wider DC universe with a planned spin-off for Flash. Fox is rolling out the X-Men movies, already focusing on prequels for individual characters without bone/metal claws, this Spring’s Days Of Future Past will unite the “past” and “present” characters of the franchise in a time-traveling epic that will lead into next year’s planned X-Men: Apocalypse. Even Spider-Man is getting into the franchise business, with Sony planning the Amazing Spider-Man series up until 4, and announcing villain spinoffs for Venom and The Sinister Six.
This isn’t even taking into account what effect Marvel’s Cineverse may have on the wider landscape of film. Disney is supposedly planning a lot of Star Wars spin-off movies, including a Han Solo prequel and Boba Fett movie. Star Trek just reset their entire timeline, giving them 50+ years of stories to mine for material. Since Hasbro owns them both, maybe GI-Joe and Transformers will help each other save the day, with spectacular Snake Eyes/Optimus Prime visuals. In a world where people routinely binge-watch a show’s entire run, the idea of movies following an arc over several different installments doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, more like the next natural step.
One thing is for sure though: it’s a damn good time to be a geek.