Monday, February 17, 2020

Marvel News & Notes

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HN Entertainment reported that Shang-Chi will shoot some scenes in San Francisco, speculating that the location is being used to set-up the Agents of Atlas (specifically the current iteration of the team, which is all-Asian--specifically Chinese, Korean, and one Filipino). All versions of the team are connected to Jimmy Woo, but the Mandarin has recently been injected into its background making it even more of a fit. This story was followed up an exclusive from GWW which said an Agents of Atlas show or movie was being set-up by Shang-Chi (dependent, I'd think, on box office for the film, unless it's a spinoff). I mentioned back when the film was announced that the problem with the IP is that it's very shallow--the roster of characters associated with it is unknown, the character isn't very popular (Agents of Atlas is even less popular), etc. However, using a team can mitigate risk--by putting the IP on the shoulders of an ensemble, it's easier for fans to find something to gravitate to.

Ron Seoul-Oh of POC Culture claims Shang-Chi is hiring a character known as the 'Boss' for a minor role (a Chinese crime boss). No one has disputed the scoop, so it seems credible, but I haven't seen any comic character suggestions for the role (meaning it's likely just a generic crime lord).

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There were a couple of interesting quotes from Taika Waititi about both Thor 4 and the Marvel process. In the first case Taikia strongly hinted that the Jane Foster cancer story has been cut from the film. If that remains the case I won't be surprised--it's hard to imagine there being enough screen time to do it properly along with the rest of the story (Quill's mother in Guardians has also stolen a little thunder from the concept--not that you can't do cancer more than once, but that it's better to avoid repeating yourself). I think Marvel will also cut the anti-religious narrative from Jason Aaron's story. Can Taika have Jane earn becoming worthy, or will she simply be worthy because the plot needs her to be? More importantly, can he get Natalie Portman to emote in a blockbuster? I've never seen it, so that seems like the bigger challenge. I deal with the second interesting thing he said below.

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Daniel posted that Black Knight (Dane Whitman) and Sersi are the leads of The Eternals (as in, the other usual lead, Ikaris, is a supporting character). This has been my expectation for quite some time (and echoes all the rumours about the film since it went into production), but we should address why this choice was made, particularly as Black Knight is not associated with The Eternals in the comics.

A group as weird and unknown as The Eternals needs an 'everyman' for the audience to identify with--a character who can ask all the questions the audience has. Kit Harrington, who plays the role, performed the exact same function in Game of Thrones as he was the 'everyman' for the Night Watch, the Wildlings, and the Others (his casting is so on the nose it's almost painful). In the comics this role was played by archaeologist Margo Damian, but was a trivial love-interest and I don't think the MCU was ever going to use her. What's interesting about this choice is that Marvel hasn't felt the need to push an 'everyman' previously--in both Thor and Guardians they relied on storytelling to fill out the details (with either Jane Foster or Ronan, The Collector, and the Nova Corps serving up exposition here and there). This says to me that Marvel is much more concerned about audience buy-in with the Eternals and this is an understandable fear. The IP has never been popular--it's not even niche (which is undoubtedly why the IP was in the works at ABC for years, cf, until Feige took it back). Despite Kirby (and later Gaiman) having worked on it, not even its characters have resonated outside the group (which is very different than the Guardians, as I mentioned previously).

Big picture it's unclear if Gemma Chan and Harrington can actually carry a blockbuster. The latter's films have all bombed (most of them spectacularly), while the former has only one modest success when she's starred (Crazy Rich Asians)--modest is the word (at 238.5 million it's well behind The Incredible Hulk with just 75% of the gross adjusted for inflation). When it comes to leads Eternals is somewhat similar to Guardians, although Chris Pratt was much more obscure than Harrington. That said, Guardians leaned heavily on well-known actors in support (Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, John C. Reilly, Benicio Del Toro, Glenn Close, Zoe Saldana, etc). It also featured Thanos--someone teased in the Avengers. I think Eternals has tried to mimic the supporting character angle (even if I'm not nearly as familiar with most of them), but it remains to be seen if they'll strike the same chord. Another key difference is that neither Harrington or Chan have shown they can do comedy (the unifying theme within all Marvel films), so can they carry the film the same way Pratt and Saldana did (albeit only Pratt doing the comedic elements)? Of all of Marvel films, this is the biggest toss of the dice.

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The second thing Taika said regarding the Marvel process that I find fascinating was this:
[We make changes] based on what the audience wants. We test the film. We shot for two weeks on Thor [Ragnarok] with our pickups. There were huge, huge character changes, huge story changes. We reshot entire scenes. I think that’s why they do good work. They’re relentless in their pursuit of just a good movie.
This idea, of pursuing what the audience wants as opposed to following an auteur's vision, runs in contrast to what everyone else making comicbook films does (they are either attempting the auteur approach--the Zach Snyder vision etc--or aiming to please egotistical executives who think they know better than the audience). For film purists this is probably an awful (if obvious) revelation, but the MCU is simply following the dictates of a consumer culture: sell what works. What the MCU misses out on with this approach are radical breakthroughs (we won't get the comic version of Blade Runner, for instance), but in attempting to meet the needs of their audience they also miss out on catastrophic failures. There are no bad MCU films--there's no Fan4stic, no Dark Phoenix, no Justice League. At their worst MCU films are average (Incredible Hulk forming the bedrock of that mediocrity).

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Variety reports Gugu Mbatha-Raw has joined the Loki cast without specifying the role. Daniel claims she's a co-lead who is in all six episodes and plays 'a leader.' Speculation has her as the head of the TVA, which is plausible.

Daniel says the show will set-up Kang the Conqueror, which follows Sutton claiming he was coming just a few days ago (without providing context for when); as I pointed out then, Sutton's rumour is virtually identical to a Reddit post from January (which also lacked original context). Kang would fit Loki's time travelling and the TVA, but that also means it's very easy speculation to make.

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Braxter (TI) reports that Red Dagger and Kamran have been added to the cast of Ms. Marvel. The former is a male, Pakistani hero without powers who serves as a romantic interest for Kamala Khan. The latter is an Inhuman whom Kamala has some interest in, but is called 'morally corrupt.' Both characters were created for and used exclusively by G. Willow Wilson in her run of the comic. On the surface it looks like the show is building up a classic love triangle--a ubiquitous element in IP like this.

Unbeknownst to me, an apparent audition tape for Ms. Marvel was leaked about three months ago, but none of the usual suspects covered it (CM, JC, etc)--why? Looking into it, everyone else did (eg). I don't know if the tape is a real or fake, but if it's real it's pretty clear that the actress did not land the role (cf).

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This is as good a time as any to mention that sometimes scoopers will keep information to themselves or simply not boost the signal of something they think is true. While virtually none of the usual suspects was aware of Roger Wardell until after Endgame, there have been times where after the fact Murphy will reference bits of information he had and never shared or didn't boost at the time (two examples: last January's 4chan leak about WandaVision that he thinks is creditable, is something I hadn't heard him talk about until this February; the recent TI scoop about Kraven the Hunter is based on old information he'd heard, pre-dating the new Sony-Marvel deal in September). I'm not criticizing anyone for doing this, but it does mean that when someone like CM speculates he could be doing so based on information he hasn't shared, making it hard to know what is or isn't actual speculation (other than the failures of course, which, by default, are).

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Braxter says She-Hulk will begin filming in August. If this is correct, it's an adjustment over what Murphy said a few weeks ago (July, having said April previously), a date he has not yet changed in response to this report.

We then got a casting breakdown (of sorts--TI doesn't quote it fully), but here's what was said about it (I've cut down on the superfluous prose):
[L]ooking for an actress with comedic chops in the 26 to 34-year old age range. [C]asting open to all races. ... [Jennifer] Walters’ origin and background in the series will skew very close to the pages of Marvel. The description...cites [her traditional] origin, [as] a lawyer who will gain her abilities after receiving a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner ... after being shot. Additionally, she [will be] a future member of the Avengers.
I'm a bit surprised the role hasn't specifically targeted POC actors, since the makeup/CGI tends to muffle complaints about race swapping (eg Gamora)--the two groups the OG version of the character represents (redheads and tall women) don't matter to diversity proponents, so are of no concern in casting. Braxter goes on to say there's no confirmation that Hulk will appear, but given the origin described above I think he has to.

Dana Schwartz, one of the writers of the show, inexplicably set herself on fire (metaphorically speaking) by attacking South Park. She's not the head writer, and the show is a long way off, so it's probably irrelevant, but you have to wonder why anyone would make this kind of attack (whether you agree with her or not). People inside the entertainment industry live in a bubble and within that bubble she's fine, but there's no way to 'win' these kinds of fights online.

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Murphy says Hawkeye will begin filming in September (rather than the originally scheduled July; this was subsequently confirmed by TI, link above). This is a very small delay--just two months--and likely won't impact its release date. His scoop is a direct rebuttal to someone at Disney who claimed the production date had not changed. It also debunks Conrad's theory (same link) that Jeremy Renner's legal issues were impacting the show.

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I've mentioned that I didn't used to pay much attention to what Marvel Comics was doing as a reflection of the MCU because Feige had no direct involvement with it. Now that he does I pay more attention and some potentially interesting news came out. Marvel Entertainment's Twitter has announced The Union, a group of British Superheroes lead by Union Jack. Why does that matter? It's a sudden announcement, it's coming soon, and the leader of the team is a character MCU producer Nate Moore has been trying to put on film for years. I have no idea why Moore is so attached to Joseph Chapman, as he's not a particularly popular character, but all that matters is his interest. The question about the project becomes: is Marvel simply testing the waters to see the response to the character (and the team), or is it teasing an eventual appearance by the character (ala Moon Knight randomly appearing in a Conan comic prior to his show announcement)? The other alternative is that it has been in the works all along and will mean nothing--time will tell.

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I previously went over the recent Spider-Woman rumour on Reddit that has now been echoed by Daniel (who apparently said it was in the works two months ago). He claims it might be the 2021 Sony film announced. This was followed by TI's Brandon saying Sony is indeed moving ahead with the film and eyeing Michelle McLaren to direct. The article keeps confusing Sony Marvel films with the MCU, but towards the end makes it clear that this is a Sony film. After this story dropped GWW (Thomas Polito) speculated this is actually the Madame Web project (passim), who had writers hired in September. The reasoning for his surmise is that Sony doesn't exclusively own Jessica Drew, but they do own Julia Carpenter, who was both Spider-Woman and Madame WebbMurphy weighed in on the issue (specifically referencing the GWW and TI version of this story) and said this is an Amy Pascal project (none of whose Sony-exclusive live action properties have seen the light of day), which is being overseen by executive producer Rachel O'Connor, who (like Pascal) has only been involved in the MCU-Spidey films. Murphy finds this suggestive. He then reported that Sony is looking to cast an actress in the 25-35 range, which essentially confirms the story that Sony is pushing forward with the film. Prior to that I'd included a note via ComicTom101 that a dealer has been selling huge quantities of Spider-Woman #1 since November, with me making the inference that a rumour like this would boost prices, but given CM's confirmation I consider my cynical idea debunked.

What do I think? If there's a Jessica Drew Spider-Woman film coming it's either an abomination from Sony including only the elements they control, or there are more parts to the short deal struck with Marvel that we don't know about (if Marvel surrendered her rights--making a trade perhaps--Feige may not be involved and if he isn't, worry--lest we forget the films Pascal's actually had hand in have all bombed: Ghostbusters, Molly's Game, The Girl in the Spider's Web, and Charlie's Angels--she's not listed as a producer for the latter, but she approved the film and its creative lead, Elizabeth Banks).

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LotLB expanded on the Sutton scoop laid out in my previous post:
  • The Alejandra Jones version of Ghost Rider will be trained by one of the older iterations (either Johnny Blaze or Daniel Ketch)
  • Sutton repeats the old Murphy rumour from November, 2018, that a Rocket and Groot series is coming, claiming Blackjack O'Hare will be the villain
The problem with the latter (as I pointed out at the time) is the cost, although with a shorter episode count and run-time it would be feasible (animated always seemed the easiest way to go with that, even if it's not what I'd want). As for the former, it's still not clear to me if Feige wants to use Ghost Rider or not.

Speaking of Tim, he said something I think is worth repeating:
Marvel TV Studios has a lot of things being planned. Its hard to pin point what platform (Disney+/Hulu) but as collectors we just care about the characters since that affects back issue market.
This is the main reason, I think, why LotLB's scoops are all over the place. Sometimes the general idea within the scoop is correct, but so often the specifics are not (a great example of this is US Agent appearing in the MCU--they were the first to suggest this, but completely wrong about where he'd appear and who would play him).

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One thing I never see brought up is how well Feige navigates the culture war (which you can see exploding around Star Wars and Star Trek each and every day). While Feige himself is a progressive and has an agenda associated with that, thus far he has sidestepped all the nonsense we typically see--fights over casting have been minimal, the gender war never boils over into a fight (despite a hard push against Captain Marvel last year), etc. Feige wants representation, but at no point has he inflamed the old school fans and he always talks about respecting Marvel's past. To handle culture warriors on the one hand and not piss off the fanboys on the other is remarkable.

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A bit of Sony trivia: Amy Pascal's Silver & Black project had a script from Christopher Yost written in 2017 (Yost was a contributing writer for the MCU for Thor 2 and Thor 3). This doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things since that project was cancelled, but I wanted to note it.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Marvel News

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Re-shoots for Black Widow have begun (presumably for routine pick-ups). I'd expect these to last at least a couple of weeks.

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Variety reported that Sam Raimi is in talks to direct Doctor Strange 2 and shortly thereafter he was confirmed in that role. Raimi hasn't directed a feature film in seven years (Oz the Great the Powerful), and hasn't had a hit since 2007's Spider-Man 3 (despite how poorly that film is viewed, it was financially successful). Buried in the article was that Rachel McAdams, Christine Palmer, would not be returning, which lends even more credence that Clea will be the love interest for Strange in the film. It's not clear why McAdams isn't being included (as in, was it a choice by the filmmakers or the actress--I have a feeling the MCU is trying to steer clear of love interests without powers and that may be why she's gone--my idea is wanting to stay away from companions or love interests who require rescuing).

Speaking of changes, the film is getting a re-write, as Loki's Michael Waldron has been given that task. Murphy reported back in January that Scott Derrickson's buddy C. Robert Cargill was writing the script, but Cargill himself has debunked that, adding that he and Derrickson's version of the film was never written, so that the October script by Jade Bartlett was the first stab at the story. Murphy has admitted the error, although he hasn't offered an explanation for how it was made. This re-write is something Marvel has done for every film initially written by a female writer thus far:
  • James Gunn's re-write of Nicole Perlman's Guardians of the Galaxy (she maintained her writing credit)
  • Four of five female writers of Captain Marvel were dropped to just story credits as the co-directors made significant changes (Geneva Robertson-Dworet is the only one whose work remained)
  • Eric Pearson's re-write (the second) of Jac Schaffer's Black Widow script
  • The aforementioned Waldron's re-write of Jade Barlett's script (it's not clear if Barlett will get more than a story credit, although the implication is that's all she'd get)
Re-writes aren't uncommon for Marvel (12 of 25 thus far, or 12 of 20 if you exclude Markus and McFeely), but it's interesting that all the scripts written by women have failed to make it intact to filming. This reminds me of stories from almost a decade ago that Marvel was struggling to find women interested in writing their films (plenty of female film writers were out there, but the genre didn't appeal to them). My guess is we're seeing the early days of Feige giving opportunities that haven't yet hit the mark yet (I think Perlman deserves a lot of credit for the first Guardians film, as the Gunn-only sequel was a marked step down in quality--the comedy remained excellent, the everything else was worse). In time this will change, it just seems to be the growing pains of assembling filmmakers for the task (it's similar, I think, to finding female directors for the films--a struggle that largely seems over).

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Murphy speculates that Super-Midnight will appear in Shang-Chi. If he's correct, that '98% Asian' comment from Feige is starting to look like hyperbole. This also sounds like GWW's story from July that guessed Midnight Sun was coming to the film (the latter is African, the former African-American, but both are from the 70s iteration of the IP and have very similar names).

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Variety reports that Jennifer Kaytin Robinson has joined Thor 4's writing staff. For me this is two bits of news: the announcement itself, and that Taika Waititi wanted a co-writer. I've gone over before how his derision of Kyle/Yost/Pearson script of Ragnarok doesn't hold up if you look at the script, so it will be interesting to see how his (and Robinson's) compares.

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Daniel has echoed Bleeding Cool's claim that a Brian Michael Bendis-based Secret Invasion Disney+ series is coming and will lead into Captain Marvel 2. Rich Johnston's post said 'tie-in,' not 'lead-in,' so I'm not sure if that's Daniel's interpretation or Conrad's (whose link is above). If the language is correct and the show is leading into CM2, then it's coming relatively soon (2022 presumably). There's nothing from Daniel that wasn't in Johnston's original, so he seems to be just repeating it.

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Mikey Sutton's latest:
  • Kevin Feige has big plans for Rogue, as she's one of his personal favorite X-Men characters.
  • Rogue will first appear as [an] antagonist, and may first appear as a member of the Brotherhood [of evil Mutants] or Marauders. (No script has been written yet, this is just brainstorming.) While Captain Marvel 2 is being discussed, it's not certain.
  • Kevin Feige wants to put Magneto in [on] the back burner for a little bit, and the Brotherhood's first leader may be someone else. [If this is true we can scratch those rumours about him appearing in WandaVision, which I don't think are credible anyway]
  • Captain Marvel 2 will introduce Nova, and he will be the Richard Rider version.
  • Nova will be an agent of SWORD who is working under Nick Fury.
  • Richard will be set up for a larger role. Marvel is searching for an actor in Tom Holland's age range, as they're interested in a friendship between Nova and Spider-Man.
Rogue is one of my favourite X-Men as well, but I have no idea if Sutton's claim about Feige is true. I've speculated (and hoped) she'd debut as a villain, since it's such a formative part of her background and Fox never used it. The idea of Magneto on the back burner is pretty common speculation (from myself and others), since thus far Feige has steered away from what others have done before (thus Michelle as the love interest for Peter Parker instead of either Gwen Stacey or Mary Jane Watson). Most speculation picks the Richard Rider version of Nova, although I have no idea why a friendship with Spider-Man is relevant so long as Sony controls the character (although associating him with a character who can't appear in Sony films does make life more difficult for Sony).

Sutton then put out another split YT scoop (part one and part two):
  • The Sentry is coming, probably to Disney+
  • Kang is being considered as the next Avengers villain, intended to unite the Fantastic Four with the former; half will be sent to 2099, the other half to the old west where they meet the Two-Gun Kid
We've had two prior Sentry rumours: one from 4chan back last January (as a possible Disney+ show), and then LotLB put him on a long term spec list in September (in essence, Sutton is simply repeating the 4chan rumour 13-months later). The broad idea of Kang is identical to a Reddit post from January (FF+Avengers team-up), but it didn't have the 2099/old west element (the latter echoes LotLB in July as they claimed something Western-themed was coming to Hulu). As someone who has been following Sutton's material for the last six months or so, it's hard not to think that he simply repeats information gleaned from elsewhere.

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LotLB says the Alejandra Jones-version of Ghost Rider is coming to Blade. The idea of this version of the character appearing is something Tim floated back in September (echoing 4chan at the time--same link). LotLB didn't specify where she would appear then, while the 4channer had her in Doctor Strange 2. This runs counter to what their buddy Sutton said less than a month ago (that it would be the Johnny Blaze-iteration). Side note about Sutton: he seems to have cut out Matt Jarbo from his YT scoops (it's not clear if that's due to Jarbo's colourful past or something else).

Speaking of 4chan, the guy who wrote the post referenced above has updated it:
  • As I previously reported, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will feature the first Ghost Rider in the Marvel Cinematic Universe from an alternative universe.
  • Marvel Studios was going to cast for the role of "Ghost Rider" between November or December of last year, and a last minute decision was made by Kevin and his team about actress Bella Thorne playing the role of Alejandra Jones, the female Ghost Rider.
  • Now, that's not to be. I did said [say] that the role was not set in stone.
  • Kevin recently subjected on February a change to the direction of the story, a swap for actress Letitia Wright to play a female version of Black Panther from another universe. A Female Black Panther will take on the role that was going to be played by the female version of Ghost Rider in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness.
  • Daniel Ketch was indeed chosen for a small cameo in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness interpreted by actor Brett Dalton also known for his role as Agent Grant Ward and Hive in the ABC Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.
  • The appearance of Daniel Ketch won't be major for the plot, so don't expect him to flame on. Whether the character will return for future installments is yet to be seen.
This boils down to: they were going to have the female Ghost Rider as a supporting character in Doctor Strange 2, but changed their minds and are having a female Black Panther instead, with a small cameo by a male Ghost Rider. Given how many characters are supposed to be in DS2 I have no idea how much screen time you have for a female Black Panther, which seems like a waste. A cameo for Ghost Rider only makes sense if you are going to do something with him (which the poster assumes they will). I don't buy it, but time will tell.

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LotLB re-posted their first second scoop video from May (the original was deleted with the rest of the channel in the summer). I wasn't watching at the time, so thought I'd include what was said to keep tabs on their predictions:
  • His original source ('The Black Knight') verified himself by showing screen shots of him, among other things, predicting Brie Larson as Captain Marvel and that Shang-Chi was coming; he was a writing for a number of magazines in the 1980-1990s, and was now working on a new comicbook (in another video they apparently bonded over a mutual hatred of Grace Randolph) [Echoed in August]
  • Man-Thing for Hulu, who will join Ghost Rider, Helstrom, and Satana as the Spirits of Vengeance (uncertain if he will get his own show) [The former repeated in August and picked up by Daniel in October; the team-up idea is straight out of a Deadline article, which Sutton repeated in October with a plot added, and in January with the name changed to Midnight Sons and an adjusted roster: no Helstrom or Satana, but Blade and Moon Knight added]
  • Villains for the Ghost Rider Hulu show: Scarecrow and Orb [Repeated in August]
  • Dwayne Johnson as Namor, appearing in Black Panther 2 (where Atlantis attacks Wakanda), with this related to difficulties in negotiations with DC over Black Adam [Repeated in June]
  • Peyton Reed in talks to direct Fantastic Four (whose story will pull from Lee, Byrne, and Hickman) [They said Feige rejected his 1960s idea for the team, but that he was still in talks in August]
  • Hercules in Thor 4 (using the recent No Road Home iteration of the character) [Repeated in July]
  • A lot of Hickman for Phase Four and Five generally, specifying his work with the Avengers and Fantastic Four [Repeated in August]
  • The Thunderbolts is not something Feige is that interested in--if it appears it will be on TV [Repeated this in June, but by September had them coming to Disney+]
  • Spiderverse live-action film made by Marvel for Sony [Not repeated as far as I can tell]
  • DC streaming service in trouble (the idea being that it would be folded into the WB's streaming service) [ibid]
Nearly all this information was repeated subsequently. The Johnson-as-Namor rumours never truly go away, but when Black Adam finally got a production date they dried up. Sutton has picked up only one of these ideas (the former Hulu team-up plan that was broken by Deadline and Bleeding Cool back in April).

Redditor had two posts which seem to be slightly re-packaged old rumours:
  • The Midnight Sons are coming to the MCU! My source has told me that, in addition the upcoming Helstrom limited series, Marvel TV Studios is planning miniseries for Werewolf by Night, Man-Thing and Elsa Bloodstone in order to further set up the team.
  • The group's roster will be led by Blade, and also include Moon Knight, Ghost Rider (Danny Ketch), Werewolf by Night, Daimon [Hellstrom] and Ana Helstrom [meaning Satana], Man-Thing, Elsa Bloodstone and The Punisher. Mephisto will be the main antagonist of the movie, and a 2024/2025 release date is likely.
  • Currently, Marvel is negotiating a new deal with Netflix, and things are looking good. With Marvel TV now rebranded, several Defenders-related projects are already in development.
  • The first Defenders-related project is a fourth and likely final season of Daredevil. Kingpin, Elektra and Bullseye will all return, and it will take place in the post-Endgame timeline. It's in very early stages of development, as are the other projects.
  • The second is a Heroes for Hire series, which is being written to have a lighter tone than either of the two previous shows. In order to distance it from the Iron Fist series, Danny Rand will be recast. The first season will feature Luke and Danny protecting a mutant (Marvel is undecided on who that mutant will be) from the main villain.
  • The third is a final season for Punisher, which will feature none other than The Hood as the main villain. It will tie into Marvel's supernatural projects, and set up Punisher to join the Midnight Sons
The Midnight Sons roster is very similar to the Spirits of Vengeance roster from LotLB in May (above), but with Elsa Bloodstone added (via Reddit/Daniel in October). Both LotLB and Conrad have floated the idea of Netflix characters being shifted into the MCU-proper (Hulu etc), but recasting Danny Rand is an LotLB special (I didn't note it at the time, but Sutton repeated it in November).

Back to the central substance: there are four unique things above: the Danny Ketch version of Ghost Rider, having the Punisher as part of the team, Mephisto as the enemy of Sons of Midnight, and a new deal with Netflix. I find the latter idea preposterous--what possible benefit could there be for Marvel in that instance? While Feige would retain creative control over the IP, it makes no sense at all to air shows on a competitor instead of Disney-owned Hulu or FX etc.  I think the entire post is a guess based on the merger of Marvel Entertainment with Marvel Studios (I mentioned previously that LotLB's scoop of it all coming together was correct, but they had no idea how it was being implemented, so their various predictions based on that were all over the place and mostly wrong). The poster seems to be suffering from similar confusion, as its been clear for quite some time that the Netflix IP will simply be a footnote of Marvel history.

The Illuminerdi

We got some clarity on where the new scoopers, The Illuminerdi, come from: they are former That Hashtag Show employees (ergo former coworkers of Murphy's, although I don't recall them having specific scoops while he was there).

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Morbius plot leak has hit Reddit from someone who was able to convince the moderators it might be real (that doesn't guarantee that it is, just that they found the idea plausible). I'm not interested in the film so much as what it says happens with Adrian Toomes. According to the post, Toomes is being held in San Quentin State Prison where a riot allows he (and Mac Gargin) to escape--Toomes tells Morbius he's putting a team together (ie, the Sinister Six), but the latter declines. This fits with Sony's long desire to put such a film together (that idea was already teased in Homecoming). The script also features Netflix-like references to the MCU (Toomes mentions the Blip, for example).

Speaking of Sony, they've announced an untitled film for October, 2021. Given how Sony likes their films two years apart (ie the MCU Spider-Man films, 2017-19-21, as well as their own Venom productions, 2018-20), I suspect it's a second Morbius.

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I was not expecting Birds of Prey to open as poorly as it did--33 million is roughly 60% of Shazam's lukewarm opening and on par with Dark Phoenix. The film has no real competition in theaters, but if it lacks legs this could be the second bomb for the DCEU (after Justice League, whose budget ballooned when Whedon reshot most of the film). I have to wonder how much worse it would have been without critical praise (initially 90%, but has pulled it back to 80%).

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Marvel News & Notes

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Murphy removed his predicted dates for both Captain Marvel 2 (July/22) and Guardians 3 (Feb/23) without explanation. His CM2 date always had a question mark next to it, but GotG3 did not, so there's no clarity on why as yet. When I last made my predictions for the upcoming schedule, I had these two films in the opposite positions (Guardians struck me as a summer release, which was its original slot (May, 2020), while CM made its hay in February previously, so why not leave it there?). From my list the biggest question is whether Deadpool 3 is going to 'count' as part of the MCU. There's also a possibility I didn't entertain, which is that Avengers 5 could be in the July, 2022 slot. The reasoning for that would be it's three years after Endgame and we've had those films at three-year intervals. In that time it appears as though the Young Avengers, The Thunderbolts, and all the Phase Four plots will have moved forward, so a crescendo for them isn't out of the question.

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TI's Braxter Timberlake says they've learned that Christian Bale's role in Thor 4, which he hasn't signed for yet, is as the lead villain who is an alien. This doesn't narrow it down very much, or debunk anyone's prior speculation. What it does do is provide a bit more clarity over what kind of character he'd be playing.

Afterwards a Redditor claimed Bale was playing Mangog after Ryan Gosling turned it down (the Gosling idea, not specific to this role, showed up in 4chan posts back in September and October, for whatever that's worth). Mangog is a very old (1968), minor, weird character who certainly has the power to be a threat, but seems a bit far off the beaten track to be a major villain.

Thunderbolts

Kinda Culty thinks John Walker will be the leader of the Thunderbolts rather than Zemo, with the latter forming the MCU-version of the Masters of Evil instead. The reasoning is good because Zemo hates the Avengers and an Avenger-like group isn't likely to appeal to him. The possibility of him joining the group with the purpose of subverting it remains, of course.

KC also indulged in some casting speculation: Noah Mills as Beetle or Atlas; Desmond Chiam as Fixer. Both of these characters were on LotLB's spec list in my previous post, but KC isn't getting the idea from them, instead he's looking at the comic roster of the team and connecting the dots.

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One interesting thing revealed by IMDB (via stunt credits that are unlikely to be faked) is that the Yakuza will make an appearance in the show. They are little used in Marvel (Hawkeye was hunting them down in Endgame), but where they do appear they are usually connected with Daredevil (who remains locked behind the Netflix wall for another nine months) and Wolverine. The latter connection fits both the Madripoor setting and the Weapons Plus program. The MCU is putting a lot of easter eggs for the premier mutant in this show and I'm curious why that is. I don't expect him to appear or even necessarily be alluded too, but this is a lot of Wolverine-fluff for a seemingly unrelated show.

One of the likely reasons why Madripoor is being used in the show is that it has no extradition treaties with other countries, so if Zemo escapes captivity in Germany he can't legally be removed from Madripoor by SWORD, General Ross, or anyone else.

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Bob Iger has confirmed the show will air in December, long after Falcon and the Winter Soldier airs in August (far longer than it needs to be--perhaps making space for whatever Star Wars offering is on Disney+). I'm unsure if this three month gap between shows is intended to be the norm, although having them debut between films makes sense. I think the minimum number of MCU shows a year is four (matching the films), but there's really no reason they couldn't add more.

The teaser for WandaVision confirmed Wiccan and Speed will appear. Rumours about their inclusion go all the way back to when the show was announced in 2018 (since it was borrowing comic elements that included them).

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The Time Variance Authority (TVA) was confirmed via the Loki teaser. It's an obscure group with a big mission: monitoring realities throughout the multiverse and attempting to keep temporal interference to a minimum. They have no strong association with Loki in the comics, but do with Thor (and, oddly, She-Hulk); they are also connected to Kang the Conqueror (a subject of popular rumour). Justice Peace is the most commonly appearing member of the TVA. The group has not come up in any rumours about Loki, which is a reminder that we've had almost no rumours about the show. In comparative terms, the Disney+ shows have (thus far) featured far fewer leaks than the films.

On a personal note, I don't share the enthusiasm for Kang--in part because he was never in the comics I read so he doesn't touch on the stories I feel attached too. This doesn't mean he can't be a fantastic foe. I'm not (yet) convinced the TVA guarantees his involvement at some point.

Murphy put out a rumour that Angelica Ross was up for a roll in Loki that he thinks was for Sera (passim), although he's uncertain if she landed the role because she's not in Atlanta where the show is filming (the role is thought to be involved in every episode).

Speaking of rumours, a Redditor claims the following about the show:
  • Morgan Le Fay will appear in the series [Echoes KC's speculation in November]
  • Owen Wilson will play TVA agent Justice Peace [See above]
  • Mr. Alternity will be in the series in a minor role [Another TVA member]
  • Kid Thor will appear in the show but will be turned into a frog by 2012 Loki [Echoing the idea of Kid Loki appearing; the transformation that echoes Thor #364 and a line from Ragnarok]
  • Cul Borson will appear as one of the villains
The latter has come up before in speculation about Thor 4 (because of his role in the Jane Foster storyline being adapted, and the Fear Itself storyline that involved time travel), but I apparently did not mention him by name. He is Odin's older brother (now dead in the MCU). The strikes me as someone's speculation.

Speaking of Owen Wilson speculation, I've now seen a rumour that he'll play an older version of Loki (which seems a bit of a stretch to me).

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TI's Braxter Timberlake says Ms. Marvel's filming date is shifting from April to August [the latter date matches a 4chan post from November], but the cast is being locked in for a year of filming even though the show only needs four months of shooting. His surmise is that the cast is being kept for Captain Marvel 2 (the implication being it will begin filming at the beginning of 2021). The other possibility, not brought up by Braxter, is that they need to be available for an unannounced New Avengers show (or film).

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Conrad says Trickshot and the Tracksuit Mafia will appear in Hawkeye (he also reiterates there's no delay in production). The idea of the former goes back to 4chan in January (echoed in May, same link), although both of those posts had the Hood as the main antagonist.

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Conrad claims Rick Jones is coming to the MCU, but he doesn't know in what film or show. His first suggestion is Captain Marvel 2, but I find that very improbable (she's space-based and the IP is trying hard to be very female-centric). I think She-Hulk is a more logical choice, since the character is often attached to the Hulk IP (he was in the original Incredible Hulk script and is referenced in that film, but Edward Norton wrote him out).


Conrad is also floating the idea that Crossbones will return to the MCU. While this is possible (despite dying in Civil War), I don't know what the point would be. Why bring him back? What purpose would it serve? How can Crossbones evolve in a way that makes him something other than just another thug?

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We have our first 4chan post about Captain Marvel 2:
  • Not much is know [known]. This topics have been talked about in the "room" multiple times, it would seemed the board is going to keep this [these] ideas.
  • What's left of Nova Corp after the planet's destruction at the hands of Thanos will be involve [involved] in the movie. There are some concepts not used in Infinity War that will be used at the beginning of this movie.
  • Richard Rider's daughter, Beth (Elizabeth) Rider will be NOVA [Nova] in the MCU and will be a sub-antagonist of Captain Marvel.
  • Beth Rider won't the only survivor of Xandar.
  • Talonar will be the villain of the movie. Robert Rider [who is] Beth's uncle.
  • Beth and Carol will develop a romantic relationship through out the movie.
  • Talos will gained [gain] the ability to copy other characters powers. [Ala Super-Skrull]
  • They want Jane Foster's Thor to make a cameo in the movie, Marvel wants to build A-Force with Carol Danvers as their leader. Talos won't be part of A-Force because it will be an all woman team.
I think the 4channer is guessing. While there is a precedent for using another iteration of an IP rather than the first, Guardians isn't comparable to Nova. We know Marvel has discussed A-Force (even if it's difficult to figure out where the men are in that instance), although I'm not sure how serious they are (the comics haven't been popular). I can't find a Beth Rider anywhere, so she seems to be an invention of the poster. I have no idea what benefit there would be in having Talos become the Super-Skrull, since the latter is a classic Fantastic Four villain.

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Mikey Sutton has put out a Fantastic Four scoop:
  • Marvel's plans for the team are FAR different than any previous interpretations. [Feige has said as much]
  • Rather than simply a team of superheroes, they are a family of explorers. This will be emphasized in the MCU.
  • Their first MCU solo movie will feature them traveling through strange lands, worlds and dimensions.
  • Their origin will also be tweaked, as they'll get their powers on a journey to the Negative Zone, which may or may not be a pocket dimension within the Quantum Realm. [This and the idea below come from a July Cosmic Book News post]
  • Their official introduction will come in the upcoming third Ant-Man film.
  • Marvel has huge plans for Doctor Doom, Silver Surfer and even Galactus. However, in order to maintain a sense of freshness with their interpretation, Marvel wants to make Mole Man the antagonist of the first film. [This idea comes from a 4chan post back in December]
  • Peter Parker will actually try to join the team, and eventually become Reed Richards' new protege. [This is an idea Sutton initially floated back in September]
  • John Krasinski and Emily Blunt are STILL at the top of Marvel's list for Reed and Sue Richards.
  • Development on the project is pretty early, but it is happening.
  • There are plans for the FF to meet the rebooted Inhumans in a sequel.
The idea of not using Doctor Doom right away goes back to the discredited WGTC in March (something Conrad echoed six months later without citing them), and the basic framework of the origin itself comes from a place of no reputation (Cosmic Book News). The idea of the group being  stuck in the Quantum Realm would permit them to having been born in the 60s, but I'm not sure how doing that would benefit them being thrust into the present.

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The Twitter feed of a guy who writes comics that's claimed to be given credence by Murphy said he heard Jessica Drew was coming. This brings up a number of things I want to get into. I became aware of the Tweet because it was repeated on Reddit and the OP defined it as being specifically Jessica Drew and not Spider-Woman due to rights issues:
OP: I say "Jessica Drew" because the "Spider-Woman" name is technically webbed up at Sony, while Marvel have no such restrictions with the character outside of her costume. Meanwhile, there's no confirmation if it's SUMC or MCU, or if it's a movie or a show, so I'm not including it in the headline. Without Sony agreeing to anything, Marvel Studios can use the character of Jessica Drew, but they don't have a greenlight to use the name "Spider-Woman", or the character's Spider-based superpower set. Sony can use all of that, but they can't reference the character's ties to S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA (which Marvel can). Sony can also use the name "Spider-Woman" for other characters to which that name applies, like Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It's basically the same thing as what happened with Quicksilver, albeit more complicated. Or how Fox used a version of Madame Hydra in The Wolverine, sans the HYDRA ties and imagery. And if Sony and Marvel play nice with each other, then no restrictions should apply to either of them, and they can make full use of Jessica Drew, the Spider-Woman, with no creative limitations in either of their movies. (Although with the SUMC stuff, I doubt that they have any real plans to tie S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA into their stories.)
Other 1: From what I understand a lot of this is a mix between just a handshake agreement and courtroom-based mutually assured destruction. Like, if an MCU-set SWORD show wanted to use Jessica Drew, and Sony wanted to sue to stop them because they had plans to use her as Spider-Woman, Disney could use the excuse you laid out and feasibly defend their use, which would be an expensive loss for Sony, and vice-versa. Exactly like you said with the Maximoffs; they *are* Mutants, which was Fox's argument for owning them, but they were Avengers before they were X-Men, which was Marvel's argument. Instead of starting expensive courtroom battles without a guarantee of victory, they'd rather just work out a way that both parties will be happy. Throw in the fact that by all accounts Sony and Marvel are very happy with each other and this new agreement (even if Feige is annoyed that he doesn't get all his toys) and this seems reasonable.
Other 2: Aida was Madame Hydra in Agents of Shield season 4.
Other 1: Right, because Marvel Studios has the rights to that title. Fox, somehow, was able to use the basic character archetype (beautiful woman with poison makeup in charge of a shadowy organization), as long as they didn't reference the Hydra elements.
The Tweet comes just a few days after the discredited WGTC posted an article saying the character was coming to Sony (not making a distinction between the names). This story made the rounds, but there's no reason to take WGTC seriously, so do we have any solid evidence to help us?

Back in 2018 Deadline reported that an animated 'Spider-Women' film was being made, whose details Vanity Fair filled in a couple of months: it would include Spider-Gwen, Jessica Drew, and Cindy Moon (aka Silk). The project has a director (Lauren Montgomery) and screenwriter (Bek Smith), but no date and no further news has come out since--this is presumably irrelevant because the rights to animation are different than live action. All the live action films for Sony, thus far, have been under Palak Patel's guidance--his only plans for a female character are Madame Web (which has writers attached, but no director or date), who is a completely unrelated character.

As I went over last October, Sony has a track record of announcing projects for their Marvel IP and then simply abandoning them (Silk, Jackpot, Nightwatch, etc). There's reason to believe we get these announcements for two reasons: 1) to put pressure on Marvel to play ball, 2) to satiate the enormous egos of Pascal and Avid Arad (all their live action projects never go anywhere). Sony Pictures is struggling financially as films keep bombing or failing to meet expectations (the Zombieland sequel, the Jumanji sequel, Charlie's Angels, etc). Marvel IP helps stir up investment and announcing them and hiring writers is a cheap way to do so.

Back to the point: why are we theoretically getting a Madame Web film (a character no one has ever heard of) if Sony could produce a Spider-Woman film? I don't think Rothman is dumb enough to give the animated branch precedence (particularly when Venom outperformed Spider-Verse almost 3-to-1). We've never even had rumours of a Sony live-action version of Jessica Drew so we have to ask the question: why is that? I'm inclined to agree with the Redditor's breakdown of the rights, otherwise she should have been at the forefront of Sony's hypothetical lineup (particularly as, despite her name, she's not strongly associated with Peter Parker). That doesn't mean the specific rumour is correct, however.

Murphy reported last January that Jessica Drew was originally in Far From Home, but was replaced by Nick Fury and Maria Hill. That's a joint Sony production, but the version of the character we'd see is very much in line with the Marvel rights described above (without her costume or powers, but all the other elements Marvel is said to own). We don't know why she was removed (was it at someone's insistence, or did the story function better as is?), and because of the IP we don't know if she was only available because it was a Sony film.

Back to the scoop itself: my belief is that the Twitter user saw the WGTC rumour circulated elsewhere, or heard something about the animated project at Sony, and is referring to that. As-is, there's nothing to suggest it's MCU-related until we hear more, but it did serve as an interesting launching point for looking at the rights situation of the character.

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The New York Times reports that Disney+ has accumulated 28.6 million subscribers, exceeding Disney's largest expectations. There are reasons for Disney to trumpet any result it gets and the article doesn't offer any interpretation or larger context for the information, but it's something to be aware of.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)