Bringing The X-Men Into The MCU

When Walt Disney Entertainment acquired 20th Century Fox the entertainment giant gained the rights to several Marvel Comics properties, particularly the mutant superheroes, the X-Men. Ever since then fans of the comic book and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have speculated into oblivion over the possibilites of bringing the X-Men into the MCU.

Aside from the logistics of finding and hiring the right people (actors, writers, directors, etc.), there is the hurdle of making the mutants fit logically in the  intricate MCU. Consider the fact that the mutants in the comics and the Fox X-Men films have been a part of their societies for many years and were widely feared and distrusted. When watching an older MCU film, it is clear that mutants are not anywhere to be found (aside from a deleted clip from Iron Man where Nick Fury references mutants). Where are they? The simple answer is that mutants do not exist and the closest thing to the MCU had were the Inhumans who only appeared on TV shows and it’s murky if they are actually part of the MCU. That is a debate for another time, but looking closely at the TV shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. it can be said that most shows are part of the MCU. Otherwise, where were the mutants during the calamitous events of the Avengers films? The heroes could have used their help!

On a related note, the same headache is going on with the Eternals. If they existed in the MCU throughout history why were they MIA during Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame? We’ll find out how this is explained when their film comes out next year.

Now, Marvel Studios is free to bring the X-Men into the MCU, so how can it be done? There are a few options and hopefully, Marvel Studios will find the best one. Here is what can be done:

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Back To The Future: How It Can Return

It has been 35 years since Back to the Future premiered in theaters and 30 years since the final film Back to the Future: Part III last graced fans as Doc Brown’s flying, time-traveling locomotive blasted its way through the screens. In the time since fans of the classic time travel film trilogy have always asked, will there be more? A Back to the Future, Part IV? Sadly, time and time again (no pun intended), the answer from the films’ creators has always been no.

The director of the trilogy, Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale are quite adamant about not continuing the further adventures of Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown. As far as they are concerned, the trilogy was perfect, ended on a great note (which it did) and there was not a need to revisit the time traveling duo. The feeling was, what else could Marty and Emmett do?

With a time traveling DeLorean, there are plenty of stories left! Alas, the DeLorean was destroyed at the end of Back to the Future, Part III, but wait! Doc Brown, thought to have been stranded in Hill Valley in 1885, was able to build a time machine out of a locomotive. Back to the Future: The Animated Series, which aired for two seasons after the trilogy concluded gave fans a glimpse of more time traveling hijinks with Marty and Doc. The DeLorean was rebuilt and used, as well as the time locomotive, to travel to different time periods, where they often wound up encountering some kind of Biff Tannen ancestor. So, we had that nugget. Plus, Christopher Lloyed reprised his role of Doc Brown in the show’s live-action segments, and Thomas F. Wilson and Mary Steenburgen returned to play Biff Tannen (or his ancestor) and Clara Brown. respectively.

More than anyone else, Lloyd has kept the torch burning for Back to the Future with his reprisals in the following years. Not only did he play Doc Brown in the animated series, but he was a prominent character in the simulator attraction Back to the Future: The Ride at the Universal Studios theme parks. Wilson even returned as Biff Tannen in the attraction as the villain you had to chase in your own modified DeLorean. It seriously is a crime that Universal Studios closed the attraction and has not tried to build a new ride since that film has stood the test of time and is still popular.

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Michael Keaton Returns As Batman?

Well this is a big surprise: Michael Keaton is in talks with DC and Warner Bros. Studios to reprise his role as Bruce Wayne aka Batman in the upcoming DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film The Flash. Even more surprising is that this version of Batman will be the same version seen decades ago in the original Tim Burton films, Batman and Batman Returns.

Of course, the big question among fans is how is this possible? There is already a Batman (portrayed by Ben Affleck) in the DCEU that does not mesh with the continuity of the Burton films. The best and most likely answer has to be the appearance of the Keaton Batman must be due to the Flashpoint event shown in the DC comics and The Flash TV show where Barry Allen aka the Flash runs fast enough to time travel and changes history, In this story, Barry Allen prevents his mother’s murder and his reality changes. This event led to last decade’s reboot of the DC Universe, the New 52.

This event could be used to allow the Flash to travel through different realities or the multiverse as shown in the Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, which aired earlier this year and where the TV version of the Flash met the DCEU incarnation played by Ezra Miller. There are already rumors the film will show that encounter from the viewpoint of the Miller version of the Flash. In fact, the Burton Batman universe was briefly seen in the crossover event during a montage in the first episode. Perhaps the Flash will be visiting other multiverses in a much higher scale *meaning a larger production budget that can afford cameos by A-list actors) than seen in the TV event. It is unknown what will be the extent of Keaton’s appearance but it’s unlikely he will have a huge role but will hopefully be more than a glorified cameo. This also gives validity to the fan theory that The Flash will be used to rewrite the DCEU and replace certain actors and retcon what has happened in previous DCEU films, just as Flashpoint rebooted the DC Universe in the comic books.  However, there are also rumors that the Keaton Batman will appear in other DCEU films in a similar connecting fashion as Agent Coulson or Nick Fury did for the MCU films. Exactly how this will pan out if this Batman will be the original Keaton Batman remains to be seen.

On the other hand, this may not come to pass and either the Keaton Batman will play a small role in an altered reality that mentors the Flash or Michael Keaton may change his mind or someone else will be tapped to fill in the role. Is Christian Bale willing to talk to Warner Bros. about this? Even seeing George Clooney as Bruce Wayne for a cameo would be awesome! It would be terrific if other big name actors who played DC heroes in the past could appear in The Flash. This would be perfect for Ryan Reynolds to come back as Green Lantern and leave a better impression with the role or if the film could somehow incorporate elements from the Christopher Reeve Superman films. 

The important thing to remember is that this is supposed to be a film about the Flash, not the DC multiverse. As long as director Andy Muschietti keeps the focus on Barry Allen and his story (and if the film actually gets made) then the film will be a phonemenal presentation of the Scarlet Speedster as he meets the other wondrous characters in the DC multiverse.

 

Pining For New Superhero Films & TV Shows!

OK, let’s be honest, we need our superhero film and TV fix! By this time, during normal circumstances the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) drought we’re experiencing would have been quenched by the May release of Black Widow and we would have been going wild over the release of Wonder Woman 1984, which would have been yesterday. But nope, a deadly coronavirus had to ruin everyone’s year. *Disclaimer time* This by no means is meant to make light of the pandemic our world is suffering through. No matter what, our lives and well being are more important than being inconvenienced with social distancing, self quarantines, and no new superhero films. We all should continue do our part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus until a viable treatment or vaccine is available.

MCU Backed Up

We have not had a new MCU film since last July’s Spider-Man: Far From Home and we are certainly overdue. It is hard to believe that soon it will be a year since any new MCU material has come out. Sure, there were the Marvel TV shows that came out in the time period such as Runaways and currently Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But they are treated as non-entities by the powers that run Marvel Studios to the point that fair arguments can be made that these TV shows are not part of the MCU and can be ignored. But that is an argument for another day.

Anyway, it is hard to accept that for over a year no MCU film has been released. The last time this happened was in 2009 when the MCU was in its infancy and we had plenty of films that year to keep us occupied!

We also would have had the Disney+ TV show The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to look forward to in a couple of months. Originally the program was to stream in August of this year, but that show along with Disney+’s other MCU show for this year, WandaVision, have been delayed because filming stopped earlier this year. The safety of the cast and crew are more important than a schedule but it just plain sucks they could not have finished by the time the pandemic ravaged us. Rumor has it that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier needs to be rewritten and reshot because it supposedly had a storyline about a pandemic and that would not go over well today.

One flaw about the interconnected nature of the MCU is that the films (and soon TV shows) cannot be shown out of order. For example, WandaVision directly leads to the upcoming film Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It would have been awkward if that film was ready to go before WandaVision was completed but in this case it worked out because the Doctor Strange film has not even begun filming (and its release date has been changed from next year to March 2022). In other words, even though it is a prequel film, Black Widow probably has to be released first before we can see The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and so on. Black Widow has been rescheduled for November 6, 2020. But given the impatient deniers who won’t wear masks or keep social distancing and the ongoing protests it is quite possible that a second wave of the coronavirus will come with a vengeance. So, Black Widow’s new release date is not a guarantee.

Hopefully, Black Widow will not suffer the fate of The New Mutants, a film that has been forever rescheduled. Can anyone believe it was supposed to be released back in 2018? The ironic thing about The New Mutants is that many of us had little interest in the film and gave up on it as a last gasp from the defunct Fox X-Men film franchise. Now, with its latest release date being August 28, 2020, it will be the sole Marvel film fix until the MCU films can be released.

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The Current State And Future Of Comic Books, Part II

We looked at the current state of the comic book industry, which had been declining in recent years for many reasons ranging from too many products flooding the market to the obsession with variant comics. The industry suffered a brutal blow with the COVID-19 pandemic which forced most stores and industries to close in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. This weekend, another annual Free Comic Book Day event would have taken place all over. That is gone, along with highly anticipated conventions, especially the San Diego Comic-Con.  But fear not, we will get our geek fixes at some point in the future.  However, as our society looks ahead and to reopening, many fans are wondering where the comic book industry goes from here or if it can survive.  Let’s look further.

The Coming Contraction

To be blunt, there are too many comic book titles flooding the market. Certain popular characters have multiple monthly titles; numerous crossover event books have overtaken the shelves; and every time a fan turns around a title is canceled, relaunched or rebooted just to produce a new number one issue for collectors. The hard truth is that this cannot continue. Once this crisis passes and the stores reopen, the publishers have to entice readers to buy their products. One thing to keep in mind is that too many buyers are now out of work and cannot easily afford comic books, not with current prices. It is not realistic to expect the average fan to buy all of your products as in the past.

Publishers need to determine what books to create. The obvious answer would be to focus their titles on their most popular and recognizable characters. And they should be limited to two or three titles at most. One thing publishers can do is to increase the amount of pages in a popular title and feature back up stories with lesser heroes. This was the norm back in the Golden Age of Comics and would allow for the publishers to keep employing creators as is currently done.

Look at the Downside

While contracting the amount of books published monthly goes against publishers wanting to put out as much product as possible, there are long-term benefits. Limiting the amount of exposure for a character creates demand. At the same time, the quality of the stories will improve as not every story angle will be quickly used up in a short amount of time by writers and artists pumping out dozens of titles per month.

Another benefit for downsizing comics is that it will be easier to coordinate events and continuity. An all-too-common gripe from readers is how they are pressured to buy every single crossover comic book and keeping up with what is going on. Too often, events are contradictory and repetitive. How many times can someone in the Fantastic Four or the Avengers die and come back? Think of how great it was to read the early Valiant comic books. Back when those comics came out in the early 1990s, only a few titles were published monthly and there was a tight continuity between the titles. They were easy to follow, yet for the most part we were not forced to buy every book. This helped create buzz for those Valiant titles. When an event like Unity occurred it was a big deal. Nowadays it seems as if there is some kind of weekly event. Speaking of events, what is the latest Spider-Verse thing going on now? Or is it Spider-Geddon?

Reduced Prices

There are many ways to cut costs aside from limiting output. The easiest way to entice buyers is through sales: BOGOs, discounts, subscription services, etc. Many of these sales tactics are used right now, which is often seen during the holiday season, Free Comic Book Day, or the release of major superhero films.

Still, these sales will only go so far. To keep people coming back and buying comics on a regular basis, prices must be lowered. Expecting loyal readers to fork out $3.99 per title is unrealistic given the state of the economy. One reason why comic books took off when they were first published was because of low prices. Everyday kids could afford to buy them for 10 cents at the beginning. They were even affordable when the prices eventually went up to a dollar or so. But current prices inhibit children from buying them. Publishers must entice new generations of readers to keep the industry alive; although publishers put out inexpensive comics geared towards young children, they are not adequately attracted to more traditional titles.

OK, so how can publishers lower prices besides limiting the amount of books published? One thing that can be tried is to change the paper stock and if worse comes to worse go back to newspaper print. It was only in the past couple of decades that the paper quality in comics took quantum leaps forward. No longer did collectors have to worry about yellowing pages or crumbling paper. But this came at a literal cost. Perhaps it is time to revisit the traditional newsprint, if only for a while.

Another idea is to use less pages per title. This could mean shorter and more serialized stories. But this should be considered along with the actual size of a comic book.

Most fans know that the Golden Age and Silver Age comic books were actually slightly bigger than current comics. The sizes were reduced eventually to diminish the amount of paper needed and therefore cutting costs. Comic books in the future will probably be smaller and look like those Best of DC comic book digests that came out in the 1970s.

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