In the past decade, Marvel Studios has brought every major character they could to the big screen. Most, like the Avengers, have the cultural relevance and name recognition that is generally required for Hollywood to green light a franchise. Then they released ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ an unknown quantity to the vast majority of filmgoers. This made ‘Guardians’ the first film since Marvel established itself as a blockbuster machine that didn’t feel like a sure thing. Fast forward to both the first Guardians and it’s sequel each making over $300 million, and we’ve learned to stop betting against Marvel.
There are a few factors that can explain the success of Star Lord and crew. There’s the Marvel/Disney marketing machine, the well-made product of James Gunn which inspired positive word-of-mouth and critical acclaim, and then there’s the secret sauce – the Marvel brand. Audiences now trust any film with the red Marvel band to thrill and entertain. I think it’s time for the studio to truly capitalize on that good will.
Imagine the next phase of Marvel movies including “Zandar,” “General Quantum,” or “Prima Donna.” If those names don’t sound familiar it’s because I made them up. Although the names need a little work shopping, they are only slightly more obscure than “Groot” and “Drax” were a few years ago. Marvel has already proven that it could introduce an entirely new, headlining character to box office success. They not only could, but should.
It is notoriously hard for a new character to catch on in comics. Marvel did it with Deadpool in 1991, but since then we only have examples of characters like Miles Morales and Ms. Marvel who have leveraged existing heroes. They tried real hard to launch Superman-ripoff The Sentry who was embedded into the main Avengers title and prominently featured in a series of crossover events, but even that effort ultimately failed. Some have called for The Sentry to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but why rehash a failed experiment when they need not. Most the film goers don’t know The Sentry any more than they know “Prima Donna.” Going big with a new idea would make the MCU unpredictable and no longer reliant on source material. After its a success, they have a new comic book series with a character with mass awareness. Writers could explore a character who has an entire future ahead of him or her with a pre-established audience.
Marvel Studios, you need this. The Avengers are aging out and the actors’ collective contracts are up. The X-Men and Fantastic Four are still out of reach and Spider-Man’s web leads back to Sony. Marvel’s most exciting existing characters have obstacles and baggage. To introduce Ms. Marvel, for example, they first must get the Captain Marvel film out of the way and establish the Inhumans to explain her motivation and power set.
I say start fresh. The future belongs to “Zandar.”