This is How the X-Men Should be Brought into the MCU

And lo! The geek-gods finally heard our cry and allowed a Fox/Disney deal to happen. Cue jubilant celebration across the internet.

Although this makes the House of Mouse a multimedia goliath with increasingly little competition, the upside would be fans getting what they’ve wanted for years – X-Men and Fantastic Four in the Avengers universe. It’s just in time, too. Infinity War and its sequel end this chapter of a ten-year long saga, so there’s no better chance to introduce them. How do they pull it off, though?

If you’re not caught up on why this hasn’t happened before, here’s the short version: Marvel sold the film rights to their biggest characters in the 90s so they could avoid financial trouble. Spider-Man was bought by Sony, while Fox snapped up the X-Men and Fantastic Four. This meant that Marvel Studios couldn’t use them when they embarked on their own inter-connected movie series with Iron Man in 2008. Things have changed since then, of course – they cut a deal with Sony to include Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, etc – but mutants were still owned by Fox until very recently. Now everyone’s back under one roof. Well, mostly (here’s to you, Venom).

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Perhaps the X-Men have already been and gone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? (Concept art for X-Men: First Class by Matthew Savage)

Anyway, back to the question. How do we introduce X-Men and co.? One method would be to play with parallel dimensions. Doctor Strange has already floated the idea via a ‘multiverse’, so it wouldn’t be all that hard to engineer a threat that requires Professor X, Jean Grey, Magneto, Cyclops et al to hop over and team up with the Avengers. Indeed, the Fantastic Four/X-Men properties are rife with such intergalactic threats. Galactus, a godlike entity that consumes planets, would be a great place to start.

However, I’d prefer a straight reboot like we got with Spider-Man in Civil War. The reasoning is simple. Fox’s XMen movies are great, but their continuity is very tangled after almost 20 years with little oversight. It’d probably be easier to start over, even if this raises the question of where mutants have been for the last few years.

Perhaps the classic lineup of Professor X, Beast, Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, and Angel all existed in the 50s or 60s. As with Logan, something then curbed mutant birth rates until they were practically non-existent. It’s only now that the mutant gene is starting to manifest again, and this brings the team back together.

Maybe that could lead to a more up-to-date status quo from the comics. In that arc, Wolverine takes over the Xavier School as headmaster while Cyclops, embittered by years of loss and human bigotry, becomes something of a revolutionary. As a result, the old Professor X/Magneto rivalry begins again in the most unlikely of proteges.

This avoids rehashing what’s already been done but still offers a traditional struggle. It also allows Marvel to make a prequel with the old crew should they so wish.

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The Fantastic Four reboot also played with the idea of parallel dimensions (concept art by Steve Jung)

The same could be done with Fantastic Four. It’d make sense for their origin to occur sometime during the space race of the 20th century, and any movies set now could utilise the Future Foundation. This is a school for genius-level children who are taught to harness their gifts for the betterment of science and humanity, and they’re overseen by the Fantastic Four or (as in the Matt Fraction and Mike Allred comic) their replacements. It’d be a chance for them to buy Stark Tower as well after it was put up for sale in Spider-Man: Homecoming; this would weave the FF’s iconic ‘Baxter Building’ into continuity.

And finally, what about Deadpool? He breaks the fourth wall anyway, so there’s no reason he can’t be carted over as-is and make a joke about that fact. They even included an Avengers helicarrier in the background of his first movie, so it’s not too much of a stretch.

There are problems to contend with in all the above, sure, but this is too juicy an opportunity to miss. And hey; it’s just awesome to see the X-Men and Fantastic Four come home at last.

Check back each Friday for more on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

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Thor: Ragnarok Gives Infinity War a Handy Tip – Sod Tradition

According to the trailers, synopsis, production team, and basically everyone who’s ever been involved with Avengers: Infinity War, this is the bone-crunching end to the MCU.

Well, sort of. What they really mean is that this part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has come to a close; there are at least half a dozen films still on the docket. However, the old team? Well, they’re probably hanging up their capes for good. In my opinion, that can only be a good thing.

Thor: Ragnarok is a neon-hued case in point. This wickedly humorous end to the trilogy said goodbye to the god of thunder’s seven-year status-quo before offering something entirely different.

Quick, duck! Spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok are ahead.

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Sun’s getting real low, big guy – concept art by Ryan Meinerding

Some may disagree, but I’d argue that the film was better for it: it wasn’t precious about the ‘classic’ elements of his mythos, and there’s a ton more the studio can do with the character now as a result. Asgard’s been razed to the ground. Odin’s dead. The Warriors Three were mercilessly impaled (*sob*). Jane Foster is a distant memory. And Thor himself? He’s king of an entire civilisation with no home to call their own. He’s also responsible for safeguarding their culture and very way of life. This naturally lends itself to a different kind of story, one that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Even those iconic props are gone; Ragnarok washed its hands of them too. His flying hammer’s a pile of rubble, and he lost an eye for his trouble as well. Yes, it’s sad to see all of the above ride into the sunset. Nevertheless, the franchise is free to pursue different avenues in the future rather than being chained to tradition.

This is a character who’s been on a journey of profound change, and I hope the same will be true of the Avengers when Thanos, MCU supervillain extraordinaire, blows their status-quo to kingdom come. Whatever’s left will be altered in a big way, and I hope there’s no going back. You can’t move forward if you’re clinging onto what’s already been done.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been a wonderful journey so far. But we’ll eventually reach a point where there’s nothing left to say, and perhaps the best way to keep things relevant is to throw a spanner in the works and see what happens. Iron Man benefitted from this when he turned over a new leaf at the end of Iron Man 3 and became a mentor to Spider-Man in Civil War/Homecoming. 

I hope Infinity War has the same effect on the likes of Captain America or Hulk. That’s if they survive, anyway…

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

The Gifted is a Prequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past, & Here’s Why

Unlike everyone else in movies right now, those at Fox seem a little leery about the idea of a connected universe. There was a lot of speculation that Logan might exist in its own continuity, whilst Legion and The Gifted are keen to go it alone judging by production comments. In fact, it’s been suggested via offhand remarks that the latter is part of its own X-Men universe. Think mutant continuity is complicated enough? Apparently not.

There are advantages to separate continuities (the ability to do whatever you fancy being one of them), but it’s also a missed opportunity. Firstly, it seems like a waste to ignore the world-building Fox’s movies have achieved through much blood, sweat, continuity errors, and tears. Second, there are sneaky ways of slotting it into established canon should they choose to do so. It would appear that Fox have left themselves an escape-hatch into the Singer movie-verse.

This probably isn’t going to end well – concept art for X-Men: Days of Future Past by Goran Bukvic

How? With the right spin, The Gifted could take place a few years before everything hits the fan in Days of Future Past. Quick, to the speculation-mobile!

WARNING – there are spoilers for The Gifted ahead.

In the Days of Future Past timeline, the X-Men are gone and killer robots have wiped out swathes of humanity by the year 2023. A handful of mutants still battle for survival, but defeat is now a foregone conclusion; it’s the end. How does this relate to The Gifted, though? Four years prior to that series, mutant riots caused a disaster known as ‘7/15’. Following this tragedy, the government enacted a crack-down on mutant rights. The X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood have long-since vanished as well, and now those with powers are being rounded up and/or turned into mindless flunkies known as ‘Hounds’ (using similar techniques to the ones in X2, no less).

This tracks with where we left Wolverine and co. in The Last Stand. The X-Men are basically over; Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor X are dead, leaving Storm to head up Xavier’s school before it’s shut down by the military a few years later (this is revealed via promotional material for Days of Future Past). Meanwhile, Logan’s bolted for the wilderness in The Wolverine. Even Magneto’s out of the picture; he’s lost his powers, any followers he gained were rounded up, and his right-hand woman Mystique has been stripped of her abilities too.

As such, what’s left of these teams (Iceman, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, etc.) are attempting to help mutants on the down-low despite being picked off one by one. The likes of Angel and Beast are killed by ‘human first’ activists, for instance. It’d therefore make sense for The Gifted’s 7/15 disaster to force the team into hiding at last. It’s the straw that breaks the superpowered camel’s back.

There’s plenty more to connect these stories, too. Blink – the teleporting mutant who appears in both – helped a group of mutants escape prison shortly before the present in Days of Future Past. This tallies with The Gifted’s premiere where she’s hiding after breaking out of jail. Similarly, The Gifted includes Thunderbird, the brother of Warpath in Days of Future Past, and Eclipse, a mutant with comparable powers to the movie’s Sunspot. Their presence – not to mention that of Sentinels, inhibitor collars, and Doctor Campbell (a character who goes on to become a renowned mutant-hunter in the comic book version of Days of Future Past) – only strengthens the relationship between the two.

Then we come to Trask Industries, the smoking gun of this whole theory. They’re the company responsible for Sentinels in Days of Future Past, so their role in The Gifted suggests a connection. It may be a coincidence due to the brand’s iconic role in X-Men lore, of course, but their presence sets up a possible crossover should Fox want it. Equally, Reed (one of The Gifted’s protagonists) mentions that Trask was meant to have been shut down in 2006. Funnily enough, this is when The Last Stand’s set and a short-lived renaissance for mutant rights takes place. It feels as if Fox has left themselves room for to two to be married up somewhere down the line.

I’m more than game for this. How cool would it be to end The Gifted on the opening of Days of Future Past, or run concurrently with it? And anyway, isn’t the X-Men timeline confusing enough without another separate continuity/universe to get our heads around?

Check back each Friday for more as I go into the weeds on pop-culture story, lore, and settings.

The Defenders’ Biggest Problem? The Hand

I’d like to return the last 12 months, please; I think they’re faulty. Politics have been detonated in favour of unpredictable scandal, beloved stars were taken too soon, and – on a much less significant note – Netflix’s spotless Marvel run is blemished with misfires. Iron Fist wasn’t exactly flavour of the month, for instance. Although it’s a fun ride with many saving graces (including Jessica Henwick’s Colleen Wing), it didn’t live up to the standard Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage set. Similarly, pacing in The Defenders left many scratching their head. It found its feet before the finale, but there’s no escaping the fact that it took two or three episodes for the cast to even meet.

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I’m not sure the Hand were the foes these heroes deserved – concept art by Joe Quesada

It also pivoted away from some of Daredevil’s more interesting ideas. Because of this, I hope we’ve not seen the last of the Hand; there’s so much more that can be done with them.

Spoilers for The Defenders follow, so don’t read any more if you haven’t seen it – you crazy person, you.

Back when the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen pranced around in a bandana, the Hand were an enigmatic force we barely understood. Horrific taskmasters who blinded their servants to ensure compliance, they dabbled in supernatural goings-on that were never explained. What on earth was that little boy in the shipping crate? The showrunners wisely kept this a secret.

As such, revealing their leaders to be embittered K’un-Lun students who just want to go home is underwhelming. The reveal makes perfect sense and creates synergy with Iron Fist, but it always felt as if there was something more than human about the creepy (yet strangely likeable) Madam Gao. Something demonic, perhaps; she can punch grown men across the room, disappear at will, and move things with her mind. Those aren’t tricks you learn from monks in a martial-arts dojo.

Accordingly, leaving Gao with such a pedestrian backstory reduces her mystique. She’s abruptly less scary.

Equally, we never saw a resolution for that carriage of sand Daredevil stumbled across in his second season. This sent goose-bumps up my arms; in the comics, the Hand’s soldiers are undead ninjas who collapse into ash when destroyed. How chilling would it be for our heroes to see dust coalescing into demon-kin around them? Except that element was promptly forgotten for The Defenders in favour of normal grunts who were bizarrely averse to guns, so I hope we see it again in his third outing.

Finally, can we please do something with the man Stick reported to after his first appearance (the scarred one who seemed to lead the Chaste)? He’s disappeared into a gaping plot-hole, much like any explanation as to what a Black Sky is. We’re still none the wiser on that latter point despite The Defenders showering us in bluster about how they’re prophesised to lead the Hand to victory. It initially seemed like they were powerful vessels for a supernatural presence, but then we learned that they were just great at kung-fu. Or something. Fingers crossed we get a solid and more satisfying answer before long.

You see, there’s still so much that can be done with the Hand; pushing them off the table after The Defenders finale would therefore be a waste. Seriously, ask anyone who’s read a comic featuring them. Here’s hoping we go back to their creepy, inexplicable air from the first season Daredevil.

Are the Sinister Six Out There in Spider-Man: Homecoming? Nah, Probs Not

Please excuse me – I’m still quietly screaming over Spider-Man: Homecoming. Funny, heartfelt, and true to the character in a way the other movies didn’t quite manage, it was both familiar and deeply novel. What a cracker of a film.

Naturally, the internet’s already getting over-excited about what its sequel might feature.

Watch out! Spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming follow. Duck and run for cover if you’ve not seen it yet.

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Is Spidey’s rogue’s gallery about to get more… Sinister? Concept art by Ryan Meinerding

The most popular theory is based on a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it quote from the mid-credits sting. After winding up in prison for his high-flying antics, the Vulture is approached by petty crook Mac Gargan (a small-timer that Spider-Man stopped in the ferry scene) and is pressured to reveal the webhead’s identity. According to Gargan, there are some ‘interested parties’ who’d like to get their revenge on the teen superhero. Cue an evil get-together for the next film.

Many have assumed that this refers to the Sinister Six, a classic team of villains who all want Spidey dead. It’d be an intimidating line-up for any cape-wearing do-gooder, never mind one who’s only 15; although their roster changes on a regular basis, the Sinister Six often count Doctor Octopus, Electro (last portrayed by Jamie Foxx), the Vulture, and Green Goblin amongst their number. The idea is clearly on rightsholder Sony’s mind, too. Prior to the current deal that allows Spider-Man to appear in MCU movies, it was a concept the Amazing Spider-Man series was setting up for a solo film. As such, some think that these baddies must have already crossed paths with the new version of Spidey.

I call bull on that one, however. Firstly, I’m not sure Marvel would want to repeat villains that have been handled before in other incarnations. We’ve seen three different Green Goblins in the last twelve years, for example.

It’s also implied in Captain America: Civil War that Peter’s never fought other superpowered people before – this is his first time. While that can be easily reversed, the period after his battle with Cap can’t; a big feature of Homecoming is Iron Man stopping him from fighting anything other than street muggings and theft. Because of this, the goons Mac Gargan is referring to are probably small-fry gang members or Spider-Man’s less powerful foes (Mysterio is just a bloke with clever gadgets, for instance). The theory is suddenly a bit less exciting. Look out, it’s the Big Wheel! Yes, they are exactly as stupid as they sound.

Not that this makes Gargan’s plan any less dangerous, of course; he’s well known in the comics as Scorpion, an insane killer with a suit designed specifically to take down the wallcrawler. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vulture’s tech expert (the Tinkerer) has something to do with that.

What’s more, he could always recruit some extra muscle if needed. Kraven the Hunter is another villain who wants the ultimate kill – Spider-Man – and Hugh Jackman was tweeting something about being ‘partners’ with Disney recently… Just sayin’.

Nebula’s a Better Fit Than Gamora for Guardians of the Galaxy – Come At Me, Bro

As the torrent of superhero movies gushing from Hollywood can attest, comics are a treasure-trove of inspiration to draw from. With hundreds of characters and a half-century of storylines to choose between, this isn’t a well in danger of drying up soon (whether that’s a good thing or not is rather more complicated). However, they can also clip a film’s wings. Despite their whimsical brilliance – and I’ll hear nothing else, dammit – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and its predecessor suffer from this a little thanks to resident badass Gamora.

Sibling rivalry. Concept art by Andy Park

She often feels like a third wheel, for instance; there’s a whiff of her only being there to kick-start the adventure and/or because she’s a corner-stone of the comic iteration. Although Gamora’s vital in saving the day, she often seems to be facilitating the plot of others rather than following her own arc. She’s arguably the team’s least-developed member because of this; where Star-Lord learns to let others into his life, she doesn’t really change from beginning to end. While Drax and Rocket must move on from their past by accepting a new family, Gamora’s moment of growth – turning on her adoptive father and rediscovering morality after all she’s done – happens before the story gets started. As a result, I wonder whether her vicious sister Nebula wouldn’t have been a better fit for this team. There’s so much potential for growth with the latter.

Menacing, tragic, and unhinged, she’s arguably more compelling than her straight-laced counterpart. Gamora always earned daddy’s praise for a job well-murdered, so Nebula was ripped apart and replaced with robotic bits to make her the former’s ‘equal’. That’s a significant knock to your ego. Moreover, being kidnapped and turned into Thanos’s right-hand killer has left Nebula a broken husk who refuses to let herself feel lest it hurt her. In comparison, Gamora doesn’t seem too weighed down by the guilt of what she’s done. While she’s trying to make up for it by stopping the film’s villain, it leads to a predictable (if acerbic) stoicism. I’m not sure she has a huge amount of depth. Meanwhile, Nebula is emotionally volatile and ready to blow. She’s every bit the killer we’re told Gamora is… yet rarely get a sense of. That redemptive path Nebula’s following is ripe for narrative conflict. I’m not not sure Gamora’s is.

Simply put, it feels like Nebula would have made for a more nuanced Guardian than Gamora (all the same, Zoe Saldana’s great in the role and the part is well-written… even if it leaves me cold). She’s a damaged young woman desperately trying to prove her worth, and that’s a hotbed of stories waiting to happen.

As such, I’m glad she got plenty of screen-time in the sequel. More for Avengers: Infinity War, please!

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 is the Best MCU Movie (Drops Mic)

I’ve recently been smacked around the head by an epiphany. After seeing Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 and squeeing like a squeezy dog-toy, I now understand what everyone’s banging on about when they say that superhero movies should be fun. Although I’ve got a lot of time for grittier versions (a la Man of Steel or Logan), a film that goes for your sense of humour is arguably more… enjoyable? Is that the word I’m looking for? Anyway, you leave the cinema content that all is well with the world and practically bouncing along the pavement. You also get many, many quotable memes out of it. As such, I’d peg it as the best movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the original. Fight me.

Something good, something bad… a bit of both? Concept art by Andy Park

This is thanks to its refusal to take things too seriously. Volume 2 is wonderfully irreverent, poking fun at itself while bringing back 80s nostalgia with a raised middle-finger. The film isn’t afraid to get weird either – and I mean properly weird. When it’s not using daft locations from the comics (including a living planet, of all things), it’s diving into well-worn tropes that are given a self-deprecating twist. There’s the obligatory ‘follow your heart’/realisation-of-great-power moment that’s shunted off kilter by a certain videogame character, and this is preceded by a ridiculous father-son game of catch mid-way through the story. Guardians knows that it’s silly, so everything’s very tongue-in-cheek. I suppose this is only fair when you’ve got a film starring sentient trees and a talking racoon.

Another bullseye is its strong character-development, of course. Karen Gillen’s Nebula benefits from this in particular, as does Michael Rooker’s brilliant Yondu (out-of-context quote of the day: ‘I’m Mary Poppins, y’all’). The main cast’s arcs aren’t quite so strong this time around, but they still get a thumbs-up as well. The only other MCU franchise that can match it in this regard is Captain America, or – and I know I’ll get stick for this – Iron Man.

Basically, Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 hits all the right notes: it’d love nothing more than for you to just enjoy yourself. Seriously, go see it.

Logan: What Happened to the X-Men?

Days of Future Past was a great send-off for the X-Men, all things considered: although we’d watched them be systematically murdered over its two-hour run-time, the final scene (which showed the team alive and well) ended their story on a satisfying note. After six films of heartache, they’d finally gotten their happy ending. However, Logan shows us that we spoke too soon. The X-Men are gone a mere six years later, mutants are dying out and the gruff but heroic Wolverine is a battered shell of his former self. Even Professor X is a husk of what he once was, stuffed out of sight in an overturned water-tower and babbling incomprehensible Shakespeare. It makes you wonder where everything went wrong.

Discussing that takes us into spoiler territory, so be warned – come back later if you’ve not yet seen the movie. The reveal is handled brilliantly, so I wouldn’t want to ruin it for you here.

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No matter what, it’s a far cry from the X-Mansion – concept for Logan by Shae Shatz (via i09

Logan may not give us much to go on, but the scant information it does provide is nothing short of heartbreaking. We learn that several people (upwards of 600, in fact) were injured in an event the film calls the ‘Westchester incident’: as a news anchor points out after the climactic battle in a casino, the effects of this were eerily similar to those seen when Xavier has his seizures. More distressingly, seven mutants were killed in this disaster. Because Westchester is the location of Xavier’s famous school, the implication is clear.

The fact that Professor X’s illness left most of his students in danger is devastating, especially considering how many of them were children. Indeed, while most assume the mortalities were classic X-Men – and director James Mangold alludes to as much – it’s possible that some of those victims were children in the first place. It would certainly add more incentive for Wolverine to keep the truth from his ailing mentor. For a teacher whose pupils’ safety is their highest priority, this is more damaging than any supervillain could hope to be.

Either way, it’s a deeply tragic turn of events. The X-Men thought they’d escaped the end of days but it found them nonetheless. The horror of not knowing exactly what happened makes things infinitely worse, meanwhile: we’re left hanging when it comes to our favourite characters. Are the likes of Cyclops, Jean Grey and Storm still alive? We’ve got no idea. As Logan’s writer points out, those deaths may not even have been of characters we knew.

That said, we can do some reading between the lines here. Jean is almost certainly a casualty. As one of the most powerful mutants out there, I can’t imagine she’d drop off the radar. Her demise would also emotionally destroy Wolverine all over again, adding to the cynicism that oozes out of his every pore in this movie. He went through hell and back to change the X-Men’s past, so things still going wrong would utterly break him. It’s a similar argument where Storm and Beast are concerned. They’re much too influential not to leave a footprint on Logan’s world, yet there’s little sign of mutants beyond Wolverine’s friends or the children they’re trying to save.

The only hero I can see making it out alive is Kitty Pryde, mostly thanks to her ability to phase through matter. Could she be hurt if intangible? Who knows. I suppose the likes of Cyclops could have survived and faded into obscurity too because of his penchant for angst, but I say that mostly because I’d love to see a story that adapts recent comics where he’s a Magneto-like extremist.

I don’t suppose it matters. Life sucks anyway if you’re a mutant by the time we hit Logan, regardless of whether you were present for the Westchester incident or not. Disturbingly, the mutant race went out with a whimper rather than a bang this time: thanks to foodstuffs that attack mutant-genes in carriers, no more can be born. In a dark twist, the DNA of older mutants is also co-opted as for experiments like Laura. Judging by our protagonist’s desperation to reach the Canadian border, we should probably assume that it’s one of the few countries with any protection left for Wolverine’s kind. Things are truly grim.

That’s a recurring theme of the ­X-Men franchise since Days of Future Past – the more things change, the more they stay the same. We see this clearly in Logan. While the timeline’s been altered, the events of prior films seem to have happened in one way or another in spite of the change. Professor X references the Statue of Liberty from the original movie, Wolverine still has his X-Men Origins dog-tags and he’s held onto the samurai sword from The Wolverine. One of the only alterations is the revelation that Wolverine had a drug-problem, a virgin career in cage-fighting and a position as an assassin when he was found by Xavier in this new reality. It’s reminiscent of the Ultimate comics version of the character, a series where he was employed by Magneto to kill Professor X.

We’ll probably never see how things shook out, of course – it’s much more powerful it’s left to our imaginations. The upside, though? We’ll just have to watch it again and see if there’s anything we missed. What a shame.

Check back every Friday for a new blog celebrating the characters, worlds and craft of geeky pop-culture.

Here’s Why Sorcerers Didn’t Appear in the MCU Before Doctor Strange

Comics have some truly cracking catchphrases. “It’s clobberin’ time” and “great Caesar’s ghost” immediately spring to mind. However, the ever-iconic Spider-Man quote “with great power comes great responsibility” outdoes them all. Despite being over 40 years old, it arguably remains the best-known of all superhero quotes. That resilience probably has something to do with the fact it’s true; influence and ability can do a lot of good, but they also have the potential to be abused. This is a danger history makes very clear.

The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.
The world of magic is a strange place. Concept art by Marvel.

Bearing that in mind, it’s no wonder magicians are so secretive within the world of Doctor Strange. They’re some of the strongest players on the field. Namely, no manner of high-tech suit can match the ability to manipulate time or hurl your opponent into another dimension. Even thunder-god and painfully well-built Thor would struggle when combating a sorcerer who can travel across space at will. Consequently, it’s a talent that must be rigorously monitored and/or protected from those who’d abuse it. The film’s villain and its finale demonstrate just how devastating a wizard gone bad can get.

That’s my response to the question of where these magic-users were in prior movies. Besides being kept busy with mystical threats (up to and including demonic monsters Captain America simply isn’t equipped to handle) the risks of such an ability can’t be sniffed at. They also explain why those like Stephen Strange wouldn’t want it to become common knowledge. While every Tom, Dick and Harry would want to use it for petty gain, shady characters abusing magic is a scarier proposition. When criminals and generally nasty pieces of work can manipulate the weather or summon demons, I dread to think what’d be left of anyone caught in the middle. What could the average shmuck do against that? It’s David vs Goliath, except Goliath can summon weapons from thin air or fire portable bombs from their fingertips. As an example, political assassination would be a breeze when you can just warp into your victim’s office.

Accordingly, Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One must have the last word on ‘strict’. We see this through her harsh entry requirements. There’s little indication of sorcerers operating outside her order either, so I’m guessing she’s got a monopoly on the market. Why is another matter, though. I can’t imagine hers is the only school of magic out there. Do they scoop up any would-be magicians before they can make a mess or stamp out rival organisations? It’s a question that’s never really answered, and the resulting speculation heightens her menace.

It opens a fascinating can of worms too. Because Merlin, wizards and classical monsters are part of Marvel’s comic canon, we’re left to wonder if they exist in the film universe as well. Were the Salem witches ‘real’, for instance? Is Bigfoot an actual thing? What about vampires and werewolves? The possibilities are endless, and that’s an exciting prospect for this series going forward. Considering how crowded the superhero market is right now, a fresh twist can only be a good thing.