Make It So: Disney+ The Invaders by Jerry Whitworth
Recently, NerdfectStrangers.com discussed in “Make It So: Disney+ Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD” the two mystery Marvel Studios television series yet announced for Disney+ with Nick Fury as a candidate for one of them. Noted in the article, these series will likely be used to help generate brands that will branch into the films. With this in mind, another viable candidate could be the Invaders. Created in 1969 by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema, the Invaders were an Avengers-like team of heroes active during the second World War. The prototype for this group was the All-Winners Squad in post-WWII 1946 which featured Timely’s big three heroes (Captain America, Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch), their sidekicks (Bucky Barnes and Toro), and Miss America and the Whizzer (characters likely inspired by Wonder Woman and the Flash, respectively). The Invaders expanded on this roster greatly adding the likes of Union Jack, Blazing Skull, and the Vision. Thomas also created other teams of WWII heroes in the pages of The Invaders in the Liberty Legion which included the Patriot, Red Raven, and Thin Man and the Kid Commandos where Bucky and Toro lead a team of fellow costumed teenagers (prior to the All-Winners Squad, Bucky founded a team of young heroes called the Young Allies in 1941). However, in the time since the creation of the Invaders, a number of legacies of various characters have emerged either placing present day characters in the second World War or their predecessors. With this mind, lets see what a Invaders series for the MCU could mean.
In recent years, the situation Marvel Studios has found itself in has changed in regards to what brands it could use. Part of this comes from an alleged feud between the film and television divisions where Marvel TV brands would reference the films but generally the films would disregard the television properties (Edwin Jarvis, played by James D’Arcy, transitioning from Agent Carter to 2019’s Avengers: Endgame perhaps the sole example of such a move). However today, all divisions of Marvel are now under Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige which has largely lead to the Marvel television shows emerging on Disney+. This is notable for two reasons, the first being the subject of Black Widow. For the first season of ABC’s series Agent Carter, one of the primary antagonists was Dottie Underwood (portrayed by Bridget Regan), a graduate of the Red Room and operative of Leviathan (a Soviet intelligence agency). As part of Underwood’s graduation, she had to kill her fellow student and friend Anya whose name is likely a reference to Anya Derevkova in the comics. Derevkova was Russia’s Black Widow during Word War II and frenemy of the Howling Commandos (as well as a lover to Nick Fury) in the 2009 one-shot Sgt. Fury & his Howling Commandos. Another notable mantle retroactively placed in World War II whose concept was tied up in the television division was Iron Fist.
When you mention the biggest flops of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television division, undoubtedly the top two are Inhumans and Iron Fist (both series rushed through production and run by Scott Buck). The latter made reference to an earlier Iron Fist in its series finale in Orson Randall. In the comics, Randall was an Iron Fist who fought in the first World War alongside the Freedom’s Five (which included Union Jack) before abandoning his duties to K’un-Lun and formed his own team in the Confederates of the Curious (becoming an enemy to the Nazi-aligned terrorist organization Hydra). Thanks to his training and power of the Iron Fist, Randall not only managed to survive for over a century but was in remarkable condition for his advanced years. The television/film division was not the only challenging issue recently resolved, but so was ownership of various characters for film by other studios. One such entity is Universal.
In the 1990s, Universal acquired the film rights for the Hulk and Namor the Sub-Mariner. For the former, this means Marvel is free to use the Hulk but is forced to have Universal distribute a movie which primarily features the character. In the case of Namor, the situation appears to be similar but has been described as more ‘complicated’ but seemingly improving. Still, recent rumors have placed the character as possibly being a part of the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness or Black Panther sequel (with the rumor mill going back and forth from Namor or Dr. Doom being the latter’s antagonist). Being featured in an MCU television series could circumvent the issue until it works itself out while getting fans ready for the brand. The other studio Marvel has resolved its rights issues with is Fox.
Nearly a year ago, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox which saw such intellectual properties as Alien, Predator, Die Hard, Planet of the Apes, Avatar, and the Simpsons come under the company’s umbrella. This also meant Marvel had regained control of the Fantastic Four and X-Men to use as it pleases. In regards to the former, while Marvel has had the rights to use the original Human Torch (who had a cameo in 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger), it’s unlikely there would be a desire to use the character when the better known version of it was owned by another studio. As for the X-Men, Marvel has regained control of one of its most popular characters in Wolverine. In the comics, Wolverine joined the Canadian military during the first World War and fought alongside Captain America for several missions during the second World War. Other X-Men associated characters such as Mr. Sinister, Mystique, Destiny, Ogun, Scalphunter, Crimson Commando, and the Shadow King were involved in World War II. Magneto’s very origins are closely tied to the war as a Jewish boy imprisoned in a concentration camp. As an aside, while Fox lost the rights to Daredevil nearly a decade ago, the character’s mentor Stick was a boy being trained by the Ancient One in Eastern Asia around this time (at one point, Baron Mordo betrayed the Ancient One to the Nazis and his mentor became a prisoner of the Red Skull who tried to wield the Eye of Agamotto). With names such as Black Widow, Iron Fist, Namor, Human Torch, and Wolverine free for Marvel Studios to use as it sees fit, another World War II character it might consider for an Invaders series maybe Black Panther.
The release of 2018’s film Black Panther was something of a cultural phenomenon. While the four Avengers films make up the highest grossing superhero films as of now, Black Panther is fifth and the highest grossing superhero film focused on a single hero. Undoubtedly, Marvel would want to try and capitalize on the success of the brand and featuring a project with an earlier Black Panther could be one way to do just that. Azzuri the Wise (sometimes spelled Azzari) is the grandfather of T’Challa and father of T’Chaka who served as king of Wakanda and as the Black Panther during the second World War. Captain America, Nick Fury, and the Howling Commandos defended Wakanda alongside Azzuri against Baron Strucker and the Red Skull who sought the nation’s Vibranium (Azzuri even later exchanging a piece of Vibranium to Captain America for his original shield). Prior to this, Namor was in Africa fighting the Nazis when he came to blows with Azzuri but the Wakandan royal defused the situation. An earlier version of Azzuri existed named Chanda who was the first Black Panther after Nick Fury’s foe Colonel Fritz Klau (father of Ulysses Klaw) discovered Wakanda and tried to conquer it (this continuity has since been amended).