Marvel: Phase Six by Jerry Whitworth
Marvel Studios has become the most dominant brand at the box office and with its phase four across the years of 2020 and 2021, it looks to similarly take over streaming. While movie theaters will feature the Eternals and Shang-Chi and continue the brands of Black Widow, Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, and Thor, Disney+ is going to expand the Falcon, Winter Soldier, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Loki, and Hawkeye while introducing Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight, and She-Hulk (as former Disney CEO Bob Iger let loose two other series have yet been announced). It’s also rumored the various streaming television series will introduce the Young Avengers and Thunderbolts while setting the stage for the multiverse to be the next realm the company will tackle after the Infinity Saga (perhaps even setting up an adaptation of the 2015 Secret Wars comic book crossover). Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige went so far to even tease the Fantastic Four, Blade, and mutants in the future leading to rumors of their forming the basis of phase five (though not named by Feige, rumors persist Nova and Namor the Sub-Mariner will also be adapted). It is also known the yet announced phase five will continue to expand Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Captain Marvel (as it’s likely the next Avengers film will come along as well, with Norman Osborn rumored to be the villain). With what we already know about phase five, it begs the question what a phase six might entail.
Obviously, given how Marvel Studios seemingly has adopted a four year turnover on its films, phase four projects (Eternals, Shang-Chi, Dr. Strange) will undoubtedly be expanded during phase six. Odds are also good that many of the projects adapted for television and canceled will still be in a cool off period, meaning Inhumans, Runaways, and Cloak & Dagger will likely be off-limits. The x-factor in this will be the future of the Marvel series adapted by Netflix. Allegedly, if Marvel wanted to use the actors from those projects, they would all be available by the summer of 2021. Otherwise, they apparently could use them whenever they want so the likes of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and the Punisher could emerge anywhere at any time. However, if they wanted to use the actors, it seems likely in the schedule they could pop-up during the end of phase four or during phase five (Punisher in Spider-Man 3, Heroes for Hire in Moon Knight, Daredevil in She-Hulk, etc). Should Marvel choose to recast, odds are good the characters could be cooled off until around 2030-2031 so people will be able to look at them without thinking of their Netflix actors. Another property in an odd position is Ghost Rider, adapted in 2016 for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with a spin-off television series for Hulu that was recently canceled during its development. Odds are whenever the likes of Daredevil and the Punisher return, so will Ghost Rider. Lets see what new brands could then emerge with phase six.
The introduction of Monica Rambeau in Captain Marvel (2019) and her adult version coming to WandaVision later this year to be portrayed by Teyonah Parris creates an interesting situation. While in the comics, Rambeau became Captain Marvel and joined the Avengers, Carol Danvers predates her in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on both of these counts. While likely Rambeau will put in an appearance in the Captain Marvel sequel, it opens the door for the character to take on a starring role for a possible adaptation of Nextwave. Created by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen, Nextwave was a team formed by the organization H.A.T.E. (Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort) to allegedly combat Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction (U.W.M.D.s). Comprised of Machine Man, Elsa Bloodstone, Tabitha Smith (Boom-Boom/Boomer/Meltdown), and the Captain under the leadership of Rambeau, Nextwave learned its benefactors were malevolent in nature using the group as pawns leading to their revolt against them. What makes the argument for this adaptation may have to do with the group in the comics being pawns of the Beyonders, characters integral to the plot of the 2015 Secret Wars crossover. If Secret Wars is indeed on the horizon, Nextwave could be a significant goal post toward this end. Another possible team for adaptation could be the Power Pack.
Something of the “Little Engine That Could,” the Power Pack is a brand that keeps popping up again and again over the years. Featuring the children of the Power family, Alex, Julie, Jack, and Katie Power were given super powers by the horse-like alien Whitey in order to save their parents from Whitey’s mortal enemy in the reptilian Snarks. Succeeding, the youths decided to become superheroes as the Power Pack where they kept their dual lives from their parents. The group has persisted for nearly four decades and was adapted for a television pilot in 1991 for NBC. While NBC passed on the show, Fox acquired the pilot and infrequently aired it on its Fox Kids programming block during its off-season. Power Pack is interesting in that while the X-Men (built on young heroes) became its own brand with many branches and Avengers acquired youth groups like the Young Avengers and Champions in recent years, the Power Pack is very much its own entity separate from both of those brands that has consistently intermingled with them. In this way, Power Pack could be something of an entry-level property as the phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are becoming more and more interconnected. Something like a Power Pack could certainly integrate into the larger MCU, it can stand on its own that children could gravitate toward. During the fall of 2017, it was announced producer Jonathan Schwartz was developing the property for its own feature film in the MCU. An individual character viable for its own brand is the Man-Thing.
Many attempts over the years were made to recreate the super soldier serum that gave rise to Captain America. One such attempt was Project: Gladiator where scientist Dr. Ted Sallis was forced to inject himself with their version when terrorists from the organization A.I.M. threatened to abscond with it. Finding himself in the swamp, mystical forces intervened transforming Sallis into the Man-Thing, guardian of the Nexus of Realities. Interacting with various heroes across the decades, the character maybe best known today as a supporting character for the Thunderbolts where his ability to open portals across space was an important resource. Man-Thing was adapted as a film in 2005 that was intended to run in theaters but debuted on the Sci-Fi Channel. If the Marvel Cinematic Universe is indeed moving toward the multiverse as the predominant aligning storyline for its brands, Man-Thing could be an integral part of this through line given his role as protector of gateway between universes. Further, as revealed in The Incredible Hulk (2008), the US government was actively looking to recreate the super soldier serum with Bruce Banner unwittingly part of this endeavor as Black Widow (2020) will go into the story behind Russia’s Captain America in the Red Guardian so there’s breadcrumbs for Project: Gladiator. Also, considering Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2021), Moon Knight, and Blade are suppose to be bringing a depth of horror to the MCU, Man-Thing would fit in nicely. Man-Thing has already made several interactions with the MCU. He was mentioned by name on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (though, it’s likely much of that series’ lore will be ignored). His villainous wife Ellen Brandt was a villain in the film Iron Man 3 (2013). Man-Thing’s face was one of those immortalized on the Grandmaster’s Palace as a champion in the Contest of Champions in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). One more singular character that would easily transition to the MCU is Captain Britain.
Created exclusively for the Marvel UK imprint in the United Kingdom, Captain Britain found his way to the United States via a team-up with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up. The character didn’t last long when it was produced primarily by American creators but when British creatives redesigned the concept and appearance, Captain Britain returned in a big way especially when under the direction of Alan Moore and Alan Davis. The story follows Brian Braddock, an aristocratic physicist who nearly died in a motorcycle crash but was saved by the Omniversal Guardian Roma becoming this universe’s Captain Britain, the country’s defender. Transitioning from facing traditional supervillains to mystical foes and forging an alliance with the Black Knight, the Captain’s world expanded when he started to become involved in the multiverse as part of the Captain Britain Corps and aligning with Saturnyne, the Omniversal Majestrix charged with guarding the multiverse. Captain Britain also has strong ties to the X-Men, his sister being longtime member Psylocke (their brother the mad Jamie Braddock) and the Captain leading Excalibur, a group featuring the elemental megamorph Meggan and X-Men stalwarts Nightcrawler, Shadowcat, and Phoenix (Rachel Summers). With Kit Harington cast as the Black Knight in the Eternals (2020), the multiverse allegedly becoming a focal point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and with the X-Men on the horizon, Captain Britain checks a lot of boxes.
Note: two other properties that could see adaptation would be the Agents of Atlas and the Sentry which were speculated upon in detail in “Make It So: Disney+ Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD.”