Thursday, April 30, 2015

Down the Road in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Who Should Be Next?

It’s MCU week here as everyone readies for Avengers: Age of Ultron to start raking in more cash at the domestic box office than many small countries have as their total GDP, so we’re looking at the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  I wasn’t sure what to cover though. Anything I rave about has likely been raved to death elsewhere. If you listen to the Earth Station MCU and/or Needless Things podcasts (and if you don’t, you should be) you’ve heard them cover everything I might look at here. So, I’m doing the wish list take. Here’s what I want to see coming down the pike.

Barring a few surprises they may be saving for us, we know what Marvel’s foreseeable big and small screen plans are as they’ve pretty publicly laid out their Marvel Cinematic Universe slate through 2019. That’s not saying that they won’t change things up though. The Spider-Man deal has already cast small ripples that may lead to big waves, and Daredevil’s success has also apparently changed what was originally discussed about the plan to build to The Defenders. All the early talk I’d seen on the Netflix deal was one season of Daredevil, one season of A.K.A. Jessica Jones, one season of Luke Cake, and one season of Iron Fist at 13 episodes a pop leading into one 8 episode season of The Defenders. As of (at the time of this writing) yesterday, the official news on Daredevil is that there’s to be a second season on Netflix. Not sure yet how that will change the timeline for getting to The Defenders.

The success of Daredevil may have also opened the door for Marvel to launch characters for some of the next wave of big screen projects for 2020 and beyond. How would they do that? It’s simple. They could use Netflix to introduce characters, build them up and familiarize them with the audience while they’re still on a lower budget, less pow whiz bang level, and launch them onto the big screen as a team when the time is right. For me at least, one of the most perfect, made to order teams to build and launch like that would be the New Warriors
For those of you who follow the MCU but weren’t big comic book readers back in the day, the New Warriors was a group created for a comic series of the same title that was built out of both established Marvel characters as well as a few new ones. The team was reportedly the brainchild of Tom DeFalco. He wanted to make a team out of teen heroes who were not already known as sidekicks, and they were debuted in the pages of The Mighty Thor in 1989. The team’s established characters were Nova, Firestar, Marvel Boy, Namorita, and Speedball. Rounding out the team as well as acting as its founder was Night Thrasher, a new character to the Marvel Universe. Their own series was launched in 1990 with Fabian Nicieza writing and Mark Bagley on pencils. The series would run through 1996 with Nicieza writing all but the last 22 issues. The team itself would change and grow over time, and the series would launch a number of miniseries and one or two new ongoing series for Marvel. There have been several attempts to relaunch the series since the original ended, but none ever managed to capture the spirit of Nicieza’s take on the team well enough to gain traction with fans.

At first glance you might think that’s a reason a team shouldn’t get the adaptation treatment. I’d point out Guardians of the Galaxy as a rebuttal to that. That was a team so obscure that even some comic book readers were scratching their heads and trying to remember who any of those characters were. Guardians of the Galaxy is also a good example of what can be done with reshaping a team for a big screen launch since the cast of characters used weren’t the original Guardians and some characters that did make it to the big screen (such as team member Yondu Udonta) had EXTREME makeovers in design and character.

Interesting bit of trivia with the two teams: One of the original Guardians in the comics was Major Vance Astro, later called Major Victory. Astro would meet his younger self, Vance Astrovik, in the past, awakening his telekinetic powers and convincing him to not to join the USAF and go down the path that would lead him to where he was in his timeline. Vance Astrovik would eventually become known in the Marvel Universe as Justice, but first he was Marvel Boy and a member of the New Warriors.
The best reason to look at the Warriors as potential characters to build up in a streaming series that builds towards movies would be the characters themselves and what they have to offer the MCU. Some of the characters would simply make excellent next generation replacements as we pass the 2020 mark and likely lose as franchise regulars many of the characters we have up on the big screen now. Others create interesting ties to other aspects of the MCU not yet fully touched upon by the film universe so far.

There are a lot to choose from though. Still, it is kind of easy to eliminate some of them from the early going of a possible introduction into the MCU. Some characters, like Rage, would be redundant entries in the cinematic canon. Rage was at times a cross between a more volatile Luke Cage and a depowered Hulk, and it would be pointless to give him a series on the heels of introducing Cage in his own series. Some of them, such as Hindsight Lad… Well, let’s never speak of him again.

Let’s look at some of the characters.

#1- You’ve got to start out with Night Thrasher. This is a character that, even more so than Daredevil, could basically be, if done right and handled well, Marvel’s Batman minus the overuse of dark angst and personal isolation.

Night Thrasher is Dwayne Taylor. As a young child he witnessed the murder of his wealthy parents. In the years following their death, he trained in various martial arts and other physical disciplines. He has a nice bankroll behind him through the Taylor Foundation, and he’s a bit of a tech guy. The first time we see him, his costume is a basic version of the body armor he would later use. He has two guardians. One is a man named Chord. Chord is former military, a former mercenary, and a skilled pilot. He also designed Night Thrasher’s first suit of armor. The second is Tai, an older Asian woman with a long past and many secrets. Chord worked primarily as an advisor, a trainer, and a pilot for the team, and had ties to other parts of the Marvel Universe, including having worked as a merc with Cable. Both Chord and Tai have secrets that affect the team and Thrasher in huge ways, but… well… spoilers.

Night Thrasher and his foundation give an eventual team equipment, multiple resources, a base of operations, and the ability to monitor and gather information. Basically he allows Marvel to create a closer to street level replacement for the Avengers without having a team suffer from actually feeling like they’re simply a fill-in roster for a possibly departed from the MCU Avengers.

He also has an edge as a character that would lend itself well to the tone we saw with Daredevil on Netflix. Beyond that edge, he also has a few readymade story arcs that would work well on a lower budgeted series and set him up nicely for an eventual big screen appearance. One of these would involve another member that I would bring in early, Silhouette, my #1.5 here I suppose, but explaining her would entail a lot of potential spoilers for those who have never read the original run of the series.

Night Thrasher is an interesting character in and of himself, but he’s also a foundation character. Just as was done in the comic series, he’s the guy you use to bring the others together and build the team, and his past supplies a lot of potential story material.

#2- You have to have Nova, and not the crappy red or brown suit Nova, but the proper blue and yellow suit Nova. The only problem is how you give him his origin in the MCU with the continuity that they’ve established so far. Richard Rider is a working class teen who is found by a dying Rhomann Dey, the last surviving member of Xandar’s Nova Corps. Dey selects Rider to replace him, bestowing upon him the powers of a Nova Centurion along with a uniform.
If you’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy film, their Nova Corps is a pale imitation of what the comic book’s versions were. Much like parts of his origin story, Nova and the Nova Corps are a bit like the Green Lanterns of DC Comics. They’re galactic peacekeepers with a distinct uniform, and each member possesses heightened strength and durability as well as the ability to fly. And, no, they’re not dependent on their suits for these powers.

Nova was an attempt by Marv Wolfman to create a bit of a character concept homage to Lee’s Spider-Man, and it actually worked as such fairly well. While the character’s origins are cosmic in nature, his originally stories were set down on Earth. Nova eventually “lost” his powers, but Night Thrasher, taking a guess that they may still be there, reactivated them in their first meeting by throwing Richard off a roof. The near death plunge reactivated the powers and set the tone for their rather interesting relationship.

#3- Namorita Prentiss is the way to go. She’s strong, confidant, and possessing the kind of powers that would make her a solid foundation for any team. Plus, she opens the door to even more corners of the MCU. If the name isn’t a giveaway, she’s the cousin of Namor, ruler (most of the time) of the Marvel Universe’s Atlantis.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune doing FX work for lots of underwater scenes in a Netflix show. When she joined the New Warriors, she was attending college in the air breathing world. As a matter of fact, she spent a lot of time away from the Seven Seas during her time in the series. The only fun question would be how soon you turn her blue.
Coming up with #4 is a little harder. I’m limiting the numbers in the initial introduction of characters since I think that, realistically, there would be limits on what you can do with starting small before heading big. That limits some of the options to go with as well. Many diehard fans of the original series would likely see Speedball as a no-brainer for the introduction of the team into the MCU, and he in fact is in many ways. But the problem is that his power, if done right on film, would be CGI heavy every second that he’s on screen as Speedball, both for when he’s in action and for when he’s standing still but surrounded by the kinetic energy effects from his powers. That might be more properly doable by introducing him in a limited series where the team comes together or by holding off until a big screen debut.

Marvel Boy seems like a good fit. Telekinetic powers should be easy to pull off low budget, and you can avoid his costume for a good long while. Still, I’m not sure if his character is linked to the Guardians in the MCU planning or not, and I’d rather see him come in later down the road if at all.

Firestar (later costume) seems like an easy option as well, but I’m not sure where she falls in with the contracts that have different studios holding different characters based on affiliations. She started her fictional life on television with Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. She entered into the Marvel Universe officially in the X-Men. She’s been a member of the X-Men, The Avengers, and the New Warriors, so who knows where she’s at in all those contrasts.

Turbo (in the form of Michiko "Mickey" Musashi) is a character I’d love to see in there at some point, but I’m not sure about her as a Day One character. The origin would have to be completely changed since her suit’s origin is tied into the Rom: Spaceknight series and the Dire Wraiths, but that kind of thing isn’t a problem in the MCU’s already origin bending history. The character could be redone, at least with regards to back-story, to be interesting enough, but the bigger problem is that her powers would basically be duplicating most of what Nova and Namorita bring to the table. As such, I’d only bring her in if one of those two was off the table as doable. Looking over the roster, the character I’m left with that I think would best work is one that I didn’t actually like when I first encountered her.
#4- I’d go with Debrii. No, seriously.

The character would have to be changed a bit since Deborah Fields was (by design of the story) abrasive, snide, and annoying when first introduced, but I think she can be tweaked a bit in order to simply have attitude. As far as her powers go, she’s basically a low level telekinetic magnet, so her powers somewhat mirror Marvel Boy’s. The advantage here though is that they’re not as strong, so the need for higher end FX work is gone.

That doesn’t mean that the powers can’t be made stronger later down the road though. The nice thing about a character like Debrii is that she’s essentially a blank slate. The character now, in 2015, is just hitting a full decade of existence, but it’s not like she’s been in regular use the entire time. He powers can be tweaked, adjusted, and amped up as time goes by every bit as much as her personality can be played with. Successfully introduced, she could basically take the place of Marvel Boy/Justice in every way for the MCU version of the New Warriors.

Now, why would we want this? These are the just above street level Avengers with attitude. Capture the vibe of the original series and Marvel could really have something cool on their hands. Go the Netflix path and build each of the characters up in their own individual series, bring them together in a shorter team series with maybe a few of the others thrown in, and, hey, you could maybe even spin them out onto the big screen down the road. Even if a few characters don’t get over with viewers or the team doesn’t click while a couple of characters get over huge, you have a lot of potential there.

A lot of people I know would love to see the proper Nova get a chance in the MCU, and, honestly, even if most of the rest of the potential team members’ shows fell flat I could see Nova and then Night Thrasher and his immediate supporting characters taking off big on their own. Depending on how contracts rise and fall down the road, Namorita opens the door to Namor and Atlantis at best or simply an Atlantis without Namor at worst. Speedball, if introduced properly in the team show, would probably get a good response and be the perfect character for a fun MCU property on the big screen.

This team was filled with pretty much (mostly) all good characters. As a franchise foundation, there are a lot of possibilities to play with and build on. And, again, if they could capture the tone and spirit of the original series and combine it with the seeming magic touch of the MCU so far? This is a series that could be gold, and one that could play in the areas in between the fantastical adventures of the Avengers and dark and gritty MCU world we’ve see with Daredevil while just as easily fitting into to either of those two worlds.

Plus, damn it, it’s my wish list and I’ve always loved the original series and most the characters from that original series. Nuff said.

Jerry Chandler will be seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron this weekend. However, he probably won’t be discussing here whether or not a cigarette was required afterwards.


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  2. Viora care, you make a lot of sense.

    mmmmm, Luke Cake....

    I had more or less left comics by the time New Warriors was going on but you make a compelling case. Always like Nova and it was one of the few misfires in GUARDIANS that the Nova Corp just basically became guys in ships. (Then again, an army of Nova Centurians would have hardly needed Starlord and crew without some seriously contrived circumstances).