Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe that is centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise has expanded to include comic books, short films, television series, and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Phil Coulson, portrayed by Clark Gregg, is an original character to the MCU and the only character to appear across all its different media.



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Marvel Cinematic Universe
Marvel Cinematic Universe intertitle from Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)
Created byMarvel Studios
Original workIron Man (2008)
Print publications
ComicsMarvel Cinematic Universe
tie-in comics
Films and television
Film(s)Marvel Cinematic Universe films
Short film(s)Marvel One-Shots
Television seriesMarvel Cinematic Universe television series
Web series
Original musicMusic of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Theme park attractions

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is an American media franchise and shared universe that is centered on a series of superhero films, independently produced by Marvel Studios and based on characters that appear in American comic books published by Marvel Comics. The franchise has expanded to include comic books, short films, television series, and digital series. The shared universe, much like the original Marvel Universe in comic books, was established by crossing over common plot elements, settings, cast, and characters. Phil Coulson, portrayed by Clark Gregg, is an original character to the MCU and the only character to appear across all its different media.

The first film released in the MCU was Iron Man (2008), which began the first phase of films culminating in the crossover film Marvel's The Avengers (2012). Phase Two began with Iron Man 3 (2013), and concluded with Ant-Man (2015). The MCU is currently in Phase Three, which began with the release of Captain America: Civil War (2016) and is set to conclude with Avengers: Endgame (2019). Phase Four will begin with the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). Marvel Television expanded the universe further, first to network television with Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC in the 2013–14 television season, followed by online streaming with Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix in 2015 and Marvel's Runaways on Hulu in 2017, and then to cable television with Marvel's Cloak & Dagger on Freeform in 2018. Marvel Television has also produced the digital series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, which is a supplement to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Soundtrack albums have been released for all of the films, along with many of the television series, as well as the release of compilation albums containing existing music heard in the films. The MCU also includes tie-in comics published by Marvel Comics, while Marvel Studios has also produced a series of direct-to-video short films and a viral marketing campaign for its films and the universe with the faux news program WHIH Newsfront.

The franchise has been commercially successful as a multimedia shared universe, though some critics have found that some of its films and television series have suffered in service of the wider universe. It has inspired other film and television studios with comic book character adaptation rights to attempt to create similar shared universes. The MCU has also been the focus of other media, outside of the shared universe, including attractions at various Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, an attraction at Discovery Times Square, a Queensland Gallery of Modern Art exhibit, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, multiple tie-in video games, and commercials.



"It's never been done before and that's kind of the spirit everybody's taking it in. The other filmmakers aren't used to getting actors from other movies that other filmmakers have cast, certain plot lines that are connected or certain locations that are connected, but I think ... everyone was on board for it and thinks that it's fun. Primarily because we've always remained consistent saying that the movie that we are making comes first. All of the connective tissue, all of that stuff is fun and is going to be very important if you want it to be. If the fans want to look further and find connections, then they're there. There are a few big ones obviously, that hopefully the mainstream audience will able to follow as well. But ... the reason that all the filmmakers are on board is that their movies need to stand on their own. They need to have a fresh vision, a unique tone, and the fact that they can interconnect if you want to follow those breadcrumbs is a bonus."

Kevin Feige, President of Production for Marvel Studios, on constructing a shared film universe.[1]

By 2005, Marvel Entertainment began planning to independently produce its own films and distribute them through Paramount Pictures.[2] Previously, Marvel had co-produced several superhero films with Columbia Pictures, New Line Cinema and others, including a seven-year development deal with 20th Century Fox.[3] Marvel made relatively little profit from its licensing deals with other studios and wanted to get more money out of its films while maintaining artistic control of the projects and distribution.[4] Avi Arad, head of Marvel's film division, was pleased with Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films at Sony, but was less pleased about others. As a result, they decided to form Marvel Studios, Hollywood's first major independent movie studio since DreamWorks.[5]

Arad's second-in-command,[5] Kevin Feige, realized that unlike Spider-Man and the X-Men, whose film rights were licensed to Sony and Fox, respectively, Marvel still owned the rights to the core members of the Avengers. Feige, a self-professed "fanboy", envisioned creating a shared universe just as creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with their comic books in the early 1960s.[6] To raise capital, the studio secured funding from a seven-year, $525 million revolving credit facility with Merrill Lynch.[4] Marvel's plan was to release individual films for their main characters and then merge them in a crossover film.[7] Arad, who doubted the strategy yet insisted that it was his reputation that helped secure the initial financing, resigned the following year.[5][8]

Kevin Feige helped conceive of a shared media universe of Marvel properties.

In 2007, at 33 years old, Feige was named studio chief. In order to preserve its artistic integrity, Marvel Studios formed a creative committee of six people familiar with its comic book lore: Feige, Marvel Studios co-president Louis D'Esposito, Marvel Comics' president of publishing Dan Buckley, Marvel's chief creative officer Joe Quesada, writer Brian Michael Bendis, and Marvel Entertainment president Alan Fine, who oversaw the committee.[5] Feige initially referred to the shared narrative continuity of these films as the "Marvel Cinema Universe",[9] but later used the term "Marvel Cinematic Universe".[10] Since the franchise expanded to other media, this phrase has been used by some to refer to the feature films only.[11] Marvel has designated the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Earth-199999 within the continuity of the company's multiverse, a collection of fictional alternate universes.[12]

In November 2013, Feige said that "in an ideal world" releases each year would include one film based on an existing character and one featuring a new character, saying it's "a nice rhythm" in that format. While not always the case, as evident by the 2013 releases of Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, he said it is "certainly something to aim for".[13] Feige expanded on this in July 2014, saying, "I don't know that we'll keep to [that model] every year, but we're doing that in 2014 and 2015, so I think it would be fun to continue that sort of thing".[14] In February 2014, Feige stated that Marvel Studios wants to mimic the "rhythm" that the comic books have developed, by having the characters appear in their own films, and then come together, much like "a big event or crossover series,"[15] with Avengers films acting as "big, giant linchpins".[16] After the reveal of multiple release dates for films through 2019 in July 2014,[17] Feige stated, "I think if you look at some of those dates that we've announced, we're going to three in a few of those years. Again, not because there's a number cruncher telling us to go to three, do more than two pictures a year, but because of the very reason just laid out: it is about managing [existing] franchises, film to film, and when we have a team ready to go, why tell them to go away for four years just because we don't have a slot? We'd rather find a way to keep that going."[18] After the titles were revealed in October 2014,[19] Feige said, "The studio's firing on all cylinders right now ... which made us comfortable for the first time ... to increase to three films a year [in 2017 and 2018] instead of just two, without changing our methods."[20]

On expanding the characters in the universe and letting individual films breathe and work on their own, as opposed to having Avenger team-ups outside of Avengers films, Feige stated, it's about "teaching the general movie-going audience about the notion of the characters existing separately, coming together for specific events and going away and existing separately in their own worlds again. Just like comic readers have been doing for decades and decades ... people sort of are accepting that there's just a time when they should be together and there's a time when they're not."[21] In April 2014, Feige revealed that Edgar Wright's pitch for Ant-Man in 2006 helped shape the early films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, saying, "We changed, frankly, some of the MCU to accommodate this version of Ant-Man. Knowing what we wanted to do with Edgar and with Ant-Man, going years and years back, helped to dictate what we did with the roster for Avengers the first time. It was a bit of both in terms of his idea for the Ant-Man story influencing the birth of the MCU in the early films leading up to Avengers."[22]

In October 2014, Marvel held a press event to announce the titles of their Phase Three films.[19] The event, which drew comparisons to Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference,[23] was done because all the information was ready. As Feige explained, "We wanted to do this at [San Diego] Comic-Con this year. Things were not set ... So the plan has been, since a few weeks before Comic-Con when we realized we weren't going to be able to do everything we wanted to do, is to decide 'let's do either something we haven't done in a long time, or something we've never done.' Which is a singular event, just to announce what we have when it's ready. I thought that might be early August or mid-September, it ended up being [at the end of October]."[20]

By September 2015, after Marvel Studios was integrated into The Walt Disney Studios with Feige reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn instead of Marvel Entertainment CEO Isaac Perlmutter,[24] the studios' creative committee had "nominal" input on the films moving forward, though they continued to consult on Marvel Television productions, which remained under Perlmutter's control.[25][26] All key film decisions going forward will be made by Feige, D'Esposito and Victoria Alonso.[25] At the end of the month, on how much story is developed for future films of the universe, Feige said there are "broad strokes" though sometime "super-specific things. But for the most part, in broad strokes that are broad enough and loose enough that, if through the development of four of five movies before we get to the culmination ... we still have room to sway and to move and to go and to surprise ourselves in places that we end up. So that all the movies, hopefully when they're finished, will feel like they're all interconnected and meant to be and planned far ahead, but really can live and breathe enough as individual movies to be satisfying each and of themselves." The studio also has various contingency plans for the direction of all of their films, in the event they are unable to secure a certain actor to reprise a role, or re-acquire the film rights to a character, such as was done in February 2015 with Spider-Man.[27]

In April 2016, on moving the universe to Phase Four and reflecting on the first three, Feige said, "I think there will be a finality to moments of Phase Three, as well as new beginnings that will mark a different, a very different, a distinctively different chapter in what will someday be a complete first saga made up of three phases." Joe Russo added, "You build things up and people enjoy the experiences you've built up. But then you kind of reach an apex or you reach a climax, a moment where you go, 'This structure is really going to start to be repetitious if we do this again, so what do we do now?' So now, you deconstruct it. We're in the deconstruction phase with [Captain America:] Civil War and leading into [Avengers:] Infinity War, which are the culmination films."[28] A year later, Feige felt after the conclusion of Phase Three, Marvel might abandon grouping the films by phases, saying, "it might be a new thing".[29] Feige also mentioned that Avengers: Endgame would provide "a definitive end" to the films and storylines preceding it, with the franchise having "two distinct periods. Everything before [Endgame] and everything after".[30]

On the potential for "superhero fatigue", Feige stated, "This year [2016], we've got Civil War and we've got Doctor Strange in November, two completely different movies. To me, and to all of Marvel Studios, that's what keeps it going. As long as we're surprising people, as long as we're not falling into things becoming too similar ... next year, [Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2], [Spider-Man: Homecoming], Thor: Ragnarok. Those are three totally different movies ... as long as the only shared thing is they come from the same source material and they've got our Marvel logo in front of the movies. Other than that they can be very distinct. What other studios do, what other properties, nothing we can do about it."[31]

In December 2017, The Walt Disney Company agreed to acquire assets from 21st Century Fox, including 20th Century Fox, for $52.4 billion.[32] The following June, after a counter offer from Comcast worth $65 billion, Disney increased its offer to $71.3 billion.[33] The acquisition would see the return of the film rights to Deadpool, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters to Marvel Studios, which would "create richer, more complex worlds of inter-related characters and stories".[32]


Over time, the distribution rights to Marvel Studios' films changed hands on multiple occasions. In November 2006, Universal Pictures announced that it would distribute The Incredible Hulk,[34] in an arrangement separate from Marvel's 2005 deal with Paramount, which was distributing Marvel's other films.[2] In September 2008, after the international success of Iron Man, Paramount signed a deal to have worldwide distribution rights for Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Marvel's The Avengers.[35]

In late December 2009, The Walt Disney Company purchased Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Additionally, in October 2010, Walt Disney Studios bought the distribution rights for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 from Paramount Pictures,[36] with Paramount's logo remaining on the films, as well as for promotional material and merchandise,[37][38] although Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is the only studio credited at the end of these films.[39] Disney has distributed all subsequent Marvel Studios films.[40] In July 2013, Disney purchased the distribution rights to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger from Paramount.[41] The Incredible Hulk was not part of the deal, due to an agreement between Marvel and Universal, where Marvel owns the film rights and Universal owns the distribution rights, for this film as well as the right of first refusal to distribute future Hulk films.[42] According to The Hollywood Reporter, a potential reason why Marvel has not bought the film distribution rights to the Hulk as they did with Paramount for the Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America films is because Universal holds the theme park rights to several Marvel characters that Disney wants for its own theme parks.[43]

In February 2015, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Marvel Studios announced a licensing deal that would allow Spider-Man to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the character first appearing in Captain America: Civil War.[44][45] Marvel Studios also explored opportunities to integrate other characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into future Spider-Man films financed, distributed, and controlled by Sony Pictures,[44] with Robert Downey Jr. the first confirmed to reprise his role as Tony Stark / Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming.[46] In June 2015, Feige clarified that the initial Sony deal does not apply to the MCU television series, as it was "very specific ... with a certain amount of back and forth allowed".[47] Both studios have the ability to terminate the agreement at any point, and no money was exchanged with the deal. However, a small adjustment was made to a 2011 deal formed between the two studios (where Marvel gained full control of Spider-Man's merchandising rights, in exchange for making a one-time payment of $175 million to Sony and paying up to $35 million for each future Spider-Man film, and forgoing receiving their previous 5% of any Spider-Man film's revenue), with Marvel getting to reduce their $35 million payment to Sony if Spider-Man: Homecoming grossed more than $750 million.[48] Sony also paid Marvel Studios an undisclosed producer fee for Homecoming.[49]


Jeph Loeb sitting.
Head of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb serves as executive producer on every television series set in the universe.


In June 2010, Marvel Television was launched with Jeph Loeb as head.[50] By July 2012, the division had entered into discussions with ABC to create a show set in the MCU,[51] and in August, ABC ordered a pilot for a show called S.H.I.E.L.D., with The Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon involved;[52] it was later renamed Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[53] In January 2014, the series Marvel's Agent Carter was announced, joining Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at ABC,[54] while a put pilot order for the half-hour live-action comedy series, Marvel's Damage Control, was revealed in October 2015.[55] While talking about Marvel potentially making comedy series, Loeb said in January 2016 that Marvel always feels humor should be a part of anything they produce, despite possibly fitting more within a darker genre, as Daredevil and Jessica Jones do, while also staying "grounded and real". He added, "There are moments of levity that are in life that you need to bring to the table, or else it just becomes overwhelmingly oppressive ... If you're going to [explore comic book elements], it's always a good idea to make sure that the audience is aware that, yeah, it's funny [too]."[56]

In May 2016, after ABC had canceled Agent Carter and passed on Marvel's Most Wanted, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said that Marvel and ABC were working together, looking "at series that would be beneficial to both brands" moving forward.[57] In November 2016, Marvel and IMAX Corporation announced Marvel's Inhumans, based on the species of the same name, after a planned film based on the characters had been removed from Marvel Studios' slate.[58][59][60] The first two episodes of the series were set to premiere in IMAX theaters in September 2017 for two weeks, before airing on ABC with the remainder of the series.[58] Ben Sherwood, president of Disney–ABC Television Group, said, "We've worked very carefully with our friends at Marvel Studios—and this is a critical point—to make sure that calendar-wise and content-wise we are only enhancing" the MCU; the theatrical debut of the series was timed to not interfere with the release of any Marvel Studios films—the theatrical run of the series will take place between the releases of Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok.[61][62] The deal was initially suggested to Marvel by IMAX after they had held a successful IMAX event with Game of Thrones in 2015. Sherwood described it as "a quadruple win—a win for IMAX, a win for Marvel, a win for ABC Studios and a win for ABC to launch a show in an innovative way and get attention" in an increasingly crowded market. Sherwood hoped that this would be the first of "several innovative ways to launch [television] programming".[62]

Online streaming


By October 2013, Marvel was preparing four drama series and a miniseries, totaling 60 episodes, to present to video on demand services and cable providers, with Netflix, Amazon, and WGN America expressing interest.[63] In November 2013, Disney was set to provide Netflix with live-action series based on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage, leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders.[64] Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that Netflix was chosen to air the shows, "when Disney realized it could use the streaming service as a way to grow the popularity of the characters". He added that, if the characters prove popular, they could become feature films.[65] Loeb later stated that Marvel was not "interested in making four pilots and then hoping someday that they could all get together. Netflix really understood what it is we wanted to do. They're very open to directors that might not have that same opportunity in broadcast television. The notion of having all 13 episodes at one time, particularly in serialized storytelling, is very appealing."[66] Loeb also added that the four characters chosen "all had a previous existing relationship and all grew up on the same kind of stoop in New York [in the comics]. So it lent itself to a world. Does that mean these shows are going to be the same? No. They can't be. The characters have different issues, different problems, different feelings about them ... the example that I continually give is that I cannot think of two films that are more different in tone than The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy. And yet, if you watch them back to back, they feel very Marvel. They feel very much like, 'Oh, it is still the same universe that I'm in.'"[67]

Quesada confirmed in April 2014 that the Netflix series would be set within the MCU.[68] Loeb explained that "Within the Marvel universe there are thousands of heroes of all shapes and sizes, but the Avengers are here to save the universe and Daredevil is here to save the neighborhood ... It does take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's all connected. But that doesn't necessarily mean that we would look up in the sky and see [Iron Man]. It's just a different part of New York that we have not yet seen in the Marvel movies."[69] In January 2015, Netflix COO Ted Sarandos said Netflix planned to release a Marvel series approximately a year apart from each other after Daredevil's April 2015 release.[70] A year later, Sarandos noted that the release schedules of the Marvel Netflix series are dependent on the "long production times and long post times. In some cases, when we have characters crossover, it makes it more difficult to manage production. It's not the goal to put out more than one or two [each] year ... The complex one is really The Defenders. The Defenders' production schedule will determine a lot of the season 2 and 3 output of those shows." He also noted on potential spin-offs that "all the characters in the universe could also spin out" into their own series at some point,[71] with Netflix ordering Marvel's The Punisher, a spin-off from Daredevil, that April.[72] Sarandos later stated that Netflix was trying to close the gap between releases of Marvel seasons, but would always prioritize the quality of the series over higher numbers of releases per year. He also said that Netflix was open to exploring the MCU beyond the Defenders series, including potential crossovers with ABC's Marvel series.[73] In July 2016, Marvel and Netflix committed to complete production on 135 episodes by the end of 2017, making the deal the largest television production commitment in New York State. Production for the different series had engaged 500 local vendors and small businesses for various stages of development and had required over 14,000 production-related hires.[74]

In October 2018, Netflix canceled Iron Fist after two seasons, with Deadline Hollywood reporting that Disney was considering reviving the series on its streaming service Disney+.[75] Sarandos confirmed that the series were Netflix's to renew or cancel if they wished, and the company was "super happy with [the other series'] performance so far".[76] Despite this, Luke Cage was canceled by the streamer a week after Iron Fist was. Deadline Hollywood reported there were no plans to revive the series on Disney+ as with Iron Fist.[77] Shortly after, at the end of November 2018, Netflix canceled Daredevil after three seasons, with Deadline Hollywood again reporting there was the potential for the series to be revived on Disney+.[78] Conversely, The Hollywood Reporter felt it was unlikely the series would be revived on Disney+ and also noted the two other remaining series at the time (Jessica Jones and The Punisher) would remain on Netflix "until they run their course".[79] Variety added that, per the original deal between Marvel and Netflix for the series, the characters cannot appear in any non-Netflix series or films for at least two years following their cancellation.[80][81] Kevin A. Mayer, chairman of Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, noted that, while it had not yet been discussed, it was a possibility that Disney+ could revive the cancelled Netflix series.[82] Netflix canceled both Jessica Jones and The Punisher on February 18, 2019, after three seasons and two seasons, respectively.[83]


In August 2016, Marvel announced that Marvel's Runaways had received a pilot order from Hulu,[84] eventually receiving a 10 episode order the following May.[85] That July, Loeb confirmed the series would take place in the MCU saying, "It all lives in the same world, how it's connected and where it's connected and what it's going to be connected to remains to be seen." He added that the characters would not be concerned with the actions of others in the universe, instead focusing on their own issues. This allowed showrunners Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage to deal with concepts such as superheroics and fantasy without explaining them to the audience, since they are already well established in the MCU, while still focusing on their own characters, which they described as "liberating".[86]


By November 2017, Disney was looking to develop a new Marvel television series for their streaming service Disney+.[87] In July 2018, Feige noted discussions had begun with Disney regarding any potential involvement Marvel Studios could have with the streaming service, since Feige felt the service was "an important thing for the company".[88] In September 2018, it was reported that Marvel Studios was developing several limited series centered on "second-tier" characters from the MCU films who had not and were unlikely to star in their own films. Each series was expected to be six to eight episodes, and would be produced by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television, with Feige taking a "hands-on role" in each series' development.[89] Feige noted the series being developed for the streaming service would "tell stories... that we wouldn't be able to tell in a theatrical experience – a longer-form narrative".[90]


In April 2016, the ABC-owned cable network Freeform announced Marvel's Cloak & Dagger, based on the characters of the same name, with a straight-to-series order for 2018.[91][92] The network confirmed that the series would be "its first venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe", and described the show as a "superhero love story", a premise that Variety called "a seamless fit for Freeform" given the network's target audience of "Becomers" (the 14–34 age demographic).[91][93] This younger-skewing content was continued with the comedy series Marvel's New Warriors ordered in April 2017, with Freeform executive Karey Burke saying, Marvel "started to see our strength with young adults and together we could create a pipeline for content that was specific to our audience that felt younger than what they're doing at the other channels... It was important to both of us to find the right characters that felt like they would speak directly to Freeform's audience. The Avengers wouldn't work here but the about-to-be-Avengers works here."[94] Loeb noted that it was "exciting" to Marvel "to be able to explore the world of the hero and how it affects someone who is trying to figure out who they are as opposed to already knows who they are and now their whole life has to take a left. That's the journey we're going on with these kinds of characters" in Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors and Hulu's Runaways.[95] By November 2017, New Warriors was no longer set to air on Freeform and was being shopped to other networks.[96]

Crossovers to feature films

After [running something by Jeph] Loeb we'll run it through New York, Joe Quesada, Dan Buckley, and those guys. [Then we] pitch our stuff to Kevin Feige and his movie group to see if there's something we can tie into, to see if they're okay about us using a character, or a weapon or some other cool thing. Everything is interconnected.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell in September 2014, explaining the process of working in with the MCU[97]

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell revealed at the show's 2014 PaleyFest panel that the producers and writers are able to read the screenplays for upcoming MCU films to know where the universe is heading.[98] He noted that since the films have to be "big" and move "quickly through a lot of huge pieces", it is beneficial for the films to have the television series fill in any "gaps" for them.[99] His fellow executive producer Jed Whedon explained that each Marvel project is intended to standalone first before there is any interweaving, and noted that the series has to be aware of the film division's plans so as not to interfere when introducing someone or something to the universe.[100] Bell said this was preferable so that people who do not watch the films can still follow the series, and vice versa.[99] Joss Whedon noted that this process "unfortunately just means the TV show gets, you know, leftovers". He stated that, for example, the series' creative team initially wanted to use Loki's scepter from The Avengers but were unable due to his plans for it in Avengers: Age of Ultron.[101]

In April 2014, Quesada stated that, beyond connecting to themselves, the Netflix series would connect with the films and other television series.[68] In October 2014, Feige said the opportunity "certainly" exists for characters in the Netflix series to appear in Avengers: Infinity War.[20] In March 2015, Loeb spoke on the ability for the Netflix series to crossover with the films and the ABC series, saying, "As it is now, in the same way that our films started out as self-contained and then by the time we got to The Avengers, it became more practical for Captain America to do a little crossover into Thor 2 and for Bruce Banner to appear at the end of Iron Man 3. We have to earn that. The audience needs to understand who all of these characters are and what the world is before you then start co-mingling".[102] In September 2015, Feige elaborated on the films referencing the television series, saying "I think that's inevitable at some point ... The schedules do not always quite match up to make that possible. It's easier for [the shows]. They're more nimble and faster and produce things quicker than we do, which is one of the main reasons you see the repercussions of Winter Soldier or [Avengers: Age of Ultron] in the show ... by the time we start doing a movie, they'd be mid-way through a season. By the time our movie comes out, they'd be [starting the next season]. So finding the timing on that is not always easy."[27]

Loeb talked further on the subject in July 2016, reiterating the issue of scheduling by saying "if I'm shooting a television series and that's going to go on over a six-month or eight-month period, how am I going to get [a television series actor] to be able to go be in a movie?" He noted that this would not be as much of an issue if characters were making very minor cameo appearances, but explained that Marvel was not interested in cameos and easter eggs just for the sake of fan service, which could detract from the story being told; "As I often get reported by you folks for saying #ItsAllConnected, our feeling is that the connection isn't just whether or not somebody is walking into a movie or walking out of a television show. It's connected in the way that the shows come from the same place, that they are real, that they are grounded."[103] Eric Carroll, producer on Spider-Man: Homecoming, felt with the introduction of Queens-based Spider-Man to the MCU it "would be really fun" to make mention of the Defenders based in Manhattan, adding, "it's definitely a card I would love to see played, if not sooner rather than later."[104]

In January 2017, Vincent D'Onofrio, who portrays Wilson Fisk in Daredevil, said he "would love to switch over to the movies, but I think it's pretty much been said it's not going to happen. Or at least not for a very, very long time." D'Onofrio cited Feige's previous reasoning as well as the fact that the films already had difficulty "bringing big characters in that they have to service in the writing" and adding characters from the television series would be "just too many characters" since the films were "trying to figure out already how to individualize more and at the same time keep The Avengers going".[105] In March 2017, Anthony Mackie, who portrays Sam Wilson / Falcon in the films, felt a crossover between the films and television series "wouldn't work at all" given they are "different universes, different worlds, different companies, different designs" and that "Kevin Feige is very specific about how he wants the Marvel Universe to be seen in the film world."[106] That May, Feige noted that a character appearing in a television series would not necessarily exclude them from appearing in a film, adding that "at some point, there's going to be a crossover. Crossover, repetition, or something."[107] Regarding the potential for the Avengers to learn in the films that Phil Coulson is alive, Loeb stated, "It's certainly something that will get resolved, and it may get resolved in a very surprising way."[108]

Loeb said in July 2017 that Marvel Television had no plans for series to crossover across networks. Specifically for the similarly themed Cloak & Dagger, New Warriors, and Runaways, which all deal with young heroes, Loeb noted, "You'll see things that comment on each other; we try to touch base wherever we can... things that are happening in L.A. [where Runaways is set] are not exactly going to be affecting what's happening in New Orleans [where Cloak & Dagger is set]... It's being aware of it and trying to find a way for it to be able to discuss in a way that makes sense."[95] He added in October that scheduling of each series factors into why crossovers between them are more difficult to pull off, and that network "feelings" need to be considered. He also spoke on why the television series do not show Avengers Tower as it appears in the films when they depict New York City, and stated that Marvel Television wanted to be "less specific" about the television characters' relationships to the tower because that "helps the audience understand that this could be on any street corner" and that the characters could be in an area of the city where you would not be able to see the tower, even though it exists.[109]

In June 2018, speaking to how the MCU television series would be affected by the events of Avengers: Infinity War, Loeb noted that "For the most part our stories will take place before Thanos clicked his fingers. A lot of that has to do with production and when we are telling our stories versus when the movies come out."[110] In September 2018, with the report of Marvel Studios developing limited series for Disney's streaming service, it was expected that the actors that portrayed the characters in the films would portray them again for the limited series.[89]

Other media

In 2008, the first official tie-in comic was released.[111] Quesada outlined his plan to expand the MCU into comic books, saying, "The MCU [comics] are going to be stories set within movie continuity. [They are] not necessarily direct adaptations of the movies, but maybe something that happened off screen and was mentioned in the movie ... Kevin Feige is involved with these and in some cases maybe the writers of the movies would be involved [as well.]"[112] Marvel Comics worked with Brad Winderbaum, Jeremy Latcham, and Will Corona Pilgrim at Marvel Studios to decide which concepts should be carried over from the Marvel Comics Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what to show in the tie-in comics, and what to leave for the films.[113] Marvel has clarified which of the tie-in comics are considered official canonical MCU stories, with the rest merely inspired by the MCU, "where we get to show off all the characters from the film in costume and in comic form".[114]

In August 2011, Marvel announced a series of direct-to-video short films called Marvel One-Shots,[115] the name derived from the label used by Marvel Comics for their one-shot comics.[116] Co-producer Brad Winderbaum said, "It's a fun way to experiment with new characters and ideas, but more importantly it's a way for us to expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe and tell stories that live outside the plot of our features."[115] Each short film is designed to be a self-contained story that provides more backstory for characters or events introduced in the films.[117] In July 2012, D'Esposito stated that Marvel was considering the idea of introducing established characters who may not yet be ready to carry their own feature films in future One-Shots, stating, "There's always a potential to introduce a character. We have 8,000 of them, and they can't all be at the same level. So maybe there are some that are not so popular, and we introduce them [with a short] – and they take off. I could see that happening."[118]

In March 2015, Marvel's Vice President of Animation Development and Production, Cort Lane, stated that animated tie-ins to the MCU were "in the works".[119] That July, Marvel Studios partnered with Google to produce the faux news program WHIH Newsfront with Christine Everhart, a series of in-universe YouTube videos serving as the center of a viral marketing campaign to promote the films and universe.[120] In December 2016, a six-part web series, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot, was revealed, which debuted on on December 13, 2016. It follows Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez on a secret mission, shortly before the start of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fourth season, with Natalia Cordova-Buckley reprising her role.[121]

Business practices

Joss Whedon was a large contributor to Phase Two, offering creative insight to all its films and launching the first MCU television series, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while writing and directing Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Marvel Studios developed specific business practices to create its shared universe, including choosing filmmakers that were considered "out-of-left-field", given their previous work. Feige remarked, "You don't have to have directed a big, giant visual-effects movie to do a big, giant visual-effects movie for us. You just have to have done something singularly sort of awesome,"[122] adding "It's worked out well for us when we've taken people [such as Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, Kenneth Branagh, and the Russo brothers,] that have done very, very good things. Very rarely are one of those good things a big giant blockbuster superhero movie."[123] The studio looks for filmmakers to hire who are able to guide a film.[124] When hiring directors, the studio usually has "a kernel of an idea of what we want", which is presented to potential directors over the course of several meetings to discuss and further expand. "And if over the course of three or four or five meetings they make it way better than what we initially were spewing to them, they usually get the job", according to Feige.[27] Later expanding on this process, Feige explained that before talking to any directors on a film, Marvel Studios often puts together a "lookbook" of influences from the comics and art by Marvel's visual development department, to create a visual template for the film. These are put together at company retreats, which the studio holds every "18 months or so" to plan out and develop the phases of the MCU. These lookbooks are not always shown to directors, though, with Marvel sometimes preferring to let the director offer their own ideas first.[125]

Scott Derrickson did not see a lookbook for Doctor Strange, instead putting together his own presentation, with concept art and storyboards by himself and professionals he hired, to sell himself and his vision of the film to Marvel. In contrast, Marvel shared several different ideas for what Thor: Ragnarok could be with prospective filmmakers, who then went away and developed what they thought the film should be from that. Taika Waititi created a sizzle reel using clips from other films to present his vision based on Marvel's ideas, a practice that Marvel discourages as they "oftentimes can be really terrible". However, Marvel thought Waititi's was "amazing". Derrickson and Waititi were both eventually hired for the films.[125] For Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo met with the studio four times over two months before they were hired, during which they "kept getting more and more specific about what our vision was", putting together "reference videos, storyboards, script pages, you name it. We did like a 30-page book that had everything that we'd do with the character, from the theme of the movie to the tone of the film to the fighting style to what we liked about the character and what we didn't like". This meant that by the time they were hired they had already "figured the movie out".[126]

When the studio hired Kenneth Branagh and Joe Johnston to direct Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, respectively, it made sure both directors were open to the idea of a shared universe and including Avengers set-up scenes in their films.[6] Joe Russo stated, "That's the exciting component of [incorporating references to the larger universe]. 'What can we set up for the future?' You're constantly pitching out ideas that not only affect your movie, but may have a ripple effect that affects other films ... It's a weird sort of tapestry of writers and directors working together to create this universe that's sort of organic."[21] Anthony added, "The great thing about the Marvel [Cinematic Universe], just like the publishing [arm], it's a very vast, inter-connected universe, where characters will have their rise and fall, so to speak, and hand off to other characters. As the cinematic universe moves forward, you may start to see the cinematic universe adopt that same pattern, as the publishing has, where there's closure with some characters and new beginnings with other characters."[127] He added that, for directors to "fit" in at Marvel, they must understand how to "take a larger story and wrangle it into a moment", yet keep it connected.[21]

The most simple way I could put it is Marvel doesn't come to the filmmakers and say, "Here's what the next movie is." They come to the filmmakers and say, "What is the next movie?" That's very much the process.

—Director Anthony Russo in April 2016[126]

On allowing directors and writers to work within Marvel's shared universe concept, Joe Russo said that Feige has "big pieces that he knows he wants to build towards, but the way that you get there is open to interpretation and improv a little bit". For the Russos in The Winter Soldier, they had to deal with the idea of S.H.I.E.L.D. being infiltrated by Hydra, with Joe saying, "how we get there is all up to us. And I think why Marvel has been so successful is because it's been such a clear plan, that everything is interconnected and they're building emotional capital with each movie that you can then trade off of in the next film."[128] Joe later elaborated that once each film's creative team "come up with conceptually what we want to do" for a film, then we will ask questions about whether this would interfere with a storyline in another movie. Or, what's going on in that film, can we pull some of that into this film? That's where you start looking for the interconnectedness, but it's very important early on that the concept be created in a bubble because you have to protect the idea, it has to be driven by storytelling. Kevin's ... always in the mindset of "let's just make this movie now and worry about the next movie when it comes."[126]

Loeb explained that Marvel Television sees "ourselves as producers who are working to support the vision of our showrunner. But we're involved in every aspect of the production—whether it's being in the writers' room, editing on set, casting—every step of the production goes through the Marvel team to tell the best story that we can." He added that the studio is able to work on so many series across different networks and platforms because "it just requires that we make sure that there's always someone from Marvel there to help guide the process."[129]

The thing about Marvel is ... they're looking for artists that are willing to take chances and are willing to create characters, even if that character has been around for years and years in comic books.

Vincent D'Onofrio (Wilson Fisk in Daredevil) in August 2014[130]

Marvel Studios also began contracting their actors for multiple films, including signing actor Samuel L. Jackson to a then "unprecedented" nine-movie contract.[131] In July 2014, Feige said that the studio has all actors sign contracts for multiples films, with the norm being for 3 or more, and the 9 or 12 film deals "more rare".[132] Actor's contracts also feature clauses that allows Marvel to use up to three minutes of an actor's performance from one film for another, which Marvel describes as "bridging material".[26] At Marvel Television, actors such as Charlie Cox (Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Daredevil) and Adrianne Palicki (Bobbi Morse / Mockingbird in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) are contractually obliged to appear in a Marvel film if asked.[133][134] In May 2015, after starring as Claire Temple in the first season of Daredevil, Rosario Dawson signed with Marvel to return for the second season of the series as part of an "exclusive TV deal" that also allows her to appear in any other Marvel Netflix series.[135] Dawson's character has been featured as well in all the other Netflix shows, except The Punisher, linking them together similarly to Jackson's Nick Fury in the films.[136] Dawson explained that she signs on with Marvel for a year at a time, for a certain amount of episodes, and finds out which series the episodes are for closer to the time of filming.[137]

In August 2012, Marvel signed Joss Whedon to an exclusive contract through June 2015 for film and television. With the deal, Whedon would "contribute creatively" on Phase Two of the MCU and develop the first television series set in the universe.[138] In March 2013, Whedon expanded on his consulting responsibilities, saying, "I understand what Kevin [Feige] is going for and where he's heading, and I read the scripts and watch cuts and talk to the directors and writers and give my opinion. Occasionally there could be some writing. But I'm not trying to get in anybody's soup, I'm just trying to be helpful."[139] Whedon later elaborated that "Since the story has already been approved and everybody knows what we're doing with Avengers 2, we can really lay it out. It's not like anyone's saying "well I don't know, what if I need that?" It's like "doing this is troublesome for us, whereas doing this will actually help us." ... You want to honor the events of the last movie but you don't want to be beholden to them, because some people will see Avengers[: Age of Ultron] who did not see any of the movies in between or even Avengers 1." He also found working in television and script doctoring to be "great training ground[s] for dealing with this ... because you're given a bunch of pieces and told to make them fit—even if they don't."[140]

For the Russo brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely working on Avengers: Infinity War and Phase Three, they saw "a through line from Winter Soldier, through Civil War, right to Infinity War", with films like Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok laying groundwork for the "culmination" in Infinity War. Subsequently, they talked "to the directors and writers of the other Phase 3 movies on an almost weekly basis, to make sure everything lines up right".[141] Peyton Reed, director of Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp, felt the relationship and collaboration between the Phase Three directors was "probably the closest thing that this generation will have to a '30s- or '40s-era studio system where you are all on the lot and you are all working on different things."[142] Similarly, when developing the crossover miniseries The Defenders, showrunner Marco Ramirez consulted with the creators of all the individual Marvel Netflix series, having them read each of the scripts for The Defenders and provide insight into the individual character's world.[143] In April 2017, along with his announcement that he was returning to write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, James Gunn revealed he would be working with Marvel "to help design where these stories go, and make sure the future of the Marvel Cosmic Universe is as special and authentic and magical as what we have created so far".[144] However, in July 2018, Disney and Marvel severed ties with Gunn following controversy surrounding several old jokes Gunn had made.[145][146]

Feature films

Film U.S. release date Director(s) Screenwriter(s) Producer(s) Status
Phase One[147]
Iron Man May 2, 2008 (2008-05-02) Jon Favreau[148] Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway[148][149] Avi Arad and Kevin Feige Released
The Incredible Hulk June 13, 2008 (2008-06-13) Louis Leterrier[150] Zak Penn[151] Avi Arad, Gale Anne Hurd
and Kevin Feige
Iron Man 2 May 7, 2010 (2010-05-07) Jon Favreau[152] Justin Theroux[153] Kevin Feige
Thor May 6, 2011 (2011-05-06) Kenneth Branagh[154] Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne[155]
Captain America: The First Avenger July 22, 2011 (2011-07-22) Joe Johnston[156] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[157]
Marvel's The Avengers May 4, 2012 (2012-05-04) Joss Whedon[158]
Phase Two[147]
Iron Man 3 May 3, 2013 (2013-05-03) Shane Black[159] Drew Pearce and Shane Black[159][160] Kevin Feige Released
Thor: The Dark World November 8, 2013 (2013-11-08) Alan Taylor[161] Christopher L. Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[162]
Captain America: The Winter Soldier April 4, 2014 (2014-04-04) Anthony and Joe Russo[163] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[164]
Guardians of the Galaxy August 1, 2014 (2014-08-01) James Gunn[165] James Gunn and Nicole Perlman[166]
Avengers: Age of Ultron May 1, 2015 (2015-05-01) Joss Whedon[167]
Ant-Man July 17, 2015 Peyton Reed[168] Edgar Wright & Joe Cornish and Adam McKay & Paul Rudd[169]
Phase Three[147]
Captain America: Civil War May 6, 2016 (2016-05-06) Anthony and Joe Russo[170] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[170] Kevin Feige Released
Doctor Strange November 4, 2016 (2016-11-04) Scott Derrickson[171] Jon Spaihts and Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill[172]
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 May 5, 2017 (2017-05-05) James Gunn[166]
Spider-Man: Homecoming July 7, 2017 (2017-07-07) Jon Watts[173] Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley and
Jon Watts & Christopher Ford and
Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers[174]
Kevin Feige
and Amy Pascal
Thor: Ragnarok November 3, 2017 (2017-11-03) Taika Waititi[175] Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost[176][177] Kevin Feige
Black Panther February 16, 2018 (2018-02-16) Ryan Coogler[178] Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole[179][180]
Avengers: Infinity War April 27, 2018 (2018-04-27) Anthony and Joe Russo[181] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[182]
Ant-Man and the Wasp July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06) Peyton Reed[183] Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and
Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari[184]
Kevin Feige and
Stephen Broussard
Captain Marvel March 8, 2019 (2019-03-08)[185] Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck[186] Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck and
Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Jac Schaeffer[187]
Kevin Feige Post-production
Avengers: Endgame April 26, 2019 (2019-04-26)[188] Anthony and Joe Russo[181] Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely[182]
Phase Four[189]
Spider-Man: Far From Home July 5, 2019 (2019-07-05)[190] Jon Watts[191] Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers[192] Kevin Feige
and Amy Pascal

Television series

Series Season Episodes Originally aired / released Showrunner(s) Status
First Last
ABC series
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1 22 September 24, 2013 (2013-09-24) May 13, 2014 (2014-05-13) Jed Whedon, Maurissa Tancharoen, and Jeffrey Bell[193] Released
2 22 September 23, 2014 (2014-09-23) May 12, 2015 (2015-05-12)
3 22 September 29, 2015 (2015-09-29) May 17, 2016 (2016-05-17)
4 22 September 20, 2016 (2016-09-20) May 16, 2017 (2017-05-16)
5 22 December 1, 2017 (2017-12-01) May 18, 2018 (2018-05-18)
6 13[194] May 2019 (2019-05)[195] TBA Preparing to air
7 13[196] TBA TBA Filming
Marvel's Agent Carter 1 8 January 6, 2015 (2015-01-06) February 24, 2015 (2015-02-24) Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, and Chris Dingess[197] Released
2 10 January 19, 2016 (2016-01-19) March 1, 2016 (2016-03-01)
Marvel's Inhumans 1 8 September 29, 2017 (2017-09-29)[lower-alpha 1] November 10, 2017 (2017-11-10) Scott Buck[199]
Netflix series
Marvel's Daredevil 1 13 April 10, 2015 (2015-04-10) Steven S. DeKnight[200] Released
2 13 March 18, 2016 (2016-03-18) Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez[201]
3 13 October 19, 2018 (2018-10-19) Erik Oleson[202]
Marvel's Jessica Jones 1 13 November 20, 2015 (2015-11-20) Melissa Rosenberg[203]
2 13 March 8, 2018 (2018-03-08)
3 13[204] 2019 (2019)[205] Filming
Marvel's Luke Cage 1 13 September 30, 2016 (2016-09-30) Cheo Hodari Coker[206] Released
2 13 June 22, 2018 (2018-06-22)
Marvel's Iron Fist 1 13 March 17, 2017 (2017-03-17) Scott Buck[207]
2 10 September 7, 2018 (2018-09-07) M. Raven Metzner[208]
Marvel's The Defenders 1 8 August 18, 2017 (2017-08-18) Marco Ramirez[143]
Marvel's The Punisher 1 13 November 17, 2017 (2017-11-17) Steve Lightfoot[72]
2 13 January 18, 2019 (2019-01-18)
Hulu series
Marvel's Runaways 1 10 November 21, 2017 (2017-11-21) January 9, 2018 (2018-01-09) Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage[209] Released
2 13 December 21, 2018 (2018-12-21)
Freeform series
Marvel's Cloak & Dagger 1 10 June 7, 2018 (2018-06-07) August 2, 2018 (2018-08-02) Joe Pokaski[92] Released
2 10[210] April 4, 2019 (2019-04-04)[211] TBA Preparing to air
Disney+ series
Loki 1[212] 6–8[89] TBA TBA Michael Waldron[213] In development
The Vision and Scarlet Witch 1[89] 6–8[89] 2019[214] TBA Jac Schaeffer[215]
Untitled Falcon/Winter Soldier series 1[89] 6–8[89] TBA TBA Malcolm Spellman[216]
Marvel's New Warriors 1 10[217] TBA TBA Kevin Biegel[217] Awaiting broadcaster[218]
Marvel's Most Wanted Jeffrey Bell and Paul Zbyszewski[219] Unaired pilot[220]
Marvel's Damage Control Ben Karlin[55] Put pilot ordered[55]
  1. A version of the first two episodes debuted in IMAX theaters on September 1, 2017, and ran for two weeks, before their television premiere on ABC on September 29.[198]

Short films

Film U.S. release date Director Screenwriter Producer Home media release
The Consultant September 13, 2011 (2011-09-13) Leythum[115] Eric Pearson[118][221] Kevin Feige Thor
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer October 25, 2011 (2011-10-25) Captain America: The First Avenger
Item 47 September 25, 2012 (2012-09-25) Louis D'Esposito[118][221] Marvel's The Avengers
Agent Carter September 3, 2013 (2013-09-03) (Digital)
September 24, 2013 (Physical)
Iron Man 3
All Hail the King February 4, 2014 (2014-02-04) (Digital)
February 25, 2014 (Physical)
Drew Pearce[222] Thor: The Dark World

Digital series

Series Season Episodes Originally released Status
First released Last released
WHIH Newsfront[lower-alpha 1] 1 5 July 2, 2015 July 16, 2015 Released
2 5 April 22, 2016 May 3, 2016
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Slingshot 1 6 December 13, 2016
  1. WHIH Newsfront is an in-universe current affairs show that serves as a viral marketing campaign for some of the MCU films.[120][223] The campaign is an extension of the fictional news network WHIH World News, which is seen reporting on major events in many MCU films and television series.[224]

Comic books

Title Issue(s) Publication date(s) Writer(s) Artist(s)
First published Last published
Iron Man: I Am Iron Man! 2 January 27, 2010 (2010-01-27) February 24, 2010 (2010-02-24) Peter David[225] Sean Chen[225]
Iron Man 2: Public Identity 3 April 28, 2010 (2010-04-28) May 12, 2010 (2010-05-12) Joe Casey and Justin Theroux[226] Barry Kitson[226]
Iron Man 2: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 1 September 1, 2010 (2010-09-01) Joe Casey[226] Tim Green, Felix Ruiz, and Matt Camp[226]
Captain America: First Vengeance 4 May 4, 2011 (2011-05-04) June 29, 2011 (2011-06-29) Fred Van Lente[227] Neil Edwards[228] and Luke Ross[229]
Marvel's The Avengers Prelude: Fury's Big Week 4 March 7, 2012 (2012-03-07) April 18, 2012 (2012-04-18) Story by: Christopher Yost and Eric Pearson[230]
Scripts by: Eric Pearson[230]
Luke Ross[231]
Marvel's The Avengers: Black Widow Strikes 3 May 2, 2012 (2012-05-02) June 6, 2012 (2012-06-06) Fred Van Lente[232] Neil Edwards[233]
Marvel's Iron Man 2 2 November 7, 2012 (2012-11-07) December 5, 2012 (2012-12-05) Christos N. Gage[234][235][236] Ramon Rosanas[234]
Marvel's Iron Man 3 Prelude 2 January 2, 2013 (2013-01-02) February 6, 2013 (2013-02-06) Steve Kurth[236]
Marvel's Thor 2 January 16, 2013 (2013-01-16) February 20, 2013 (2013-02-20) Lan Medina[235]
Marvel's Thor: The Dark World Prelude 2 June 5, 2013 (2013-06-05) July 10, 2013 (2013-07-10) Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost[237] Scot Eaton[237] and Ron Lim[238]
Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger 2 November 6, 2013 (2013-11-06) December 11, 2013 (2013-12-11) Peter David[239][240] Wellinton Alves[239]
Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier Infinite Comic 1 January 28, 2014 (2014-01-28) Rock He-Kim[240]
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Infinite Comic – Dangerous Prey 1 April 1, 2014 (2014-04-01) Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning[241] Andrea Di Vito[241]
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Prelude 2 April 2, 2014 (2014-04-02) May 28, 2014 (2014-05-28) Wellinton Alves[242]
Marvel's The Avengers 2 December 24, 2014 (2014-12-24) January 7, 2015 (2015-01-07) Will Corona Pilgrim
Joe Bennett[243]
Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron Prelude – This Scepter'd Isle 1 February 3, 2015 (2015-02-03) Wellinton Alves[245]
Marvel's Ant-Man Prelude 2 February 4, 2015 (2015-02-04) March 4, 2015 (2015-03-04) Miguel Sepulveda[244]
Marvel's Ant-Man – Scott Lang: Small Time 1 March 3, 2015 (2015-03-03) Wellinton Alves and Daniel Govar[246]
Marvel's Jessica Jones 1 October 7, 2015 (2015-10-07) Brian Michael Bendis[247] Michael Gaydos[247]
Marvel's Captain America: Civil War Prelude 4 December 16, 2015 (2015-12-16) January 27, 2016 (2016-01-27) Will Corona Pilgrim
Szymon Kudranski[248] and Lee Ferguson[257][258]
Marvel's Captain America: Civil War Prelude Infinite Comic 1 February 10, 2016 (2016-02-10) Lee Ferguson, Goran Sudžuka,
and Guillermo Mogorron[249]
Marvel's Doctor Strange Prelude 2 July 6, 2016 (2016-07-06) August 24, 2016 (2016-08-24) Jorge Fornés[250]
Marvel's Doctor Strange Prelude Infinite Comic – The Zealot 1 September 7, 2016 (2016-09-07)
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Prelude 2 January 4, 2017 (2017-01-04) February 1, 2017 (2017-02-01) Christopher Allen[259]
Spider-Man: Homecoming Prelude 2 March 1, 2017 (2017-03-01) April 5, 2017 (2017-04-05) Todd Nauck[252]
Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok Prelude 4 July 5, 2017 (2017-07-05) August 16, 2017 (2017-08-16) J.L. Giles[253]
Marvel's Black Panther Prelude 2 October 18, 2017 (2017-10-18) November 15, 2017 (2017-11-15) Annapaola Martello[254]
Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War Prelude 2[255] January 24, 2018 (2018-01-24)[260] February 28, 2018 (2018-02-28)[261] Tigh Walker[260] and Jorge Fornés[261]
Marvel's Ant-Man and the Wasp Prelude 2[256] March 7, 2018 (2018-03-07) April 4, 2018 (2018-04-04) Chris Allen[256]
Marvel's Captain Marvel Prelude 1 November 14, 2018 (2018-11-14) Andrea Di Vito
Marvel's Avengers: Endgame Prelude 3 December 5, 2018 (2018-12-05) February 20, 2019 (2019-02-20) Paco Diaz[258]
Spider-Man: Far From Home Prelude 2 March 27, 2019 (2019-03-27) April 24, 2019 (2019-04-24) Luca Maresca

Recurring cast and characters

List indicator(s)

  • This table includes characters who have appeared in multiple MCU media.
  • A dark grey cell indicates the character has not appeared in that medium.
  • A P indicates a new appearance in onscreen photographs only.
Character Feature films Television series Short films Digital series
Felix Blake   Titus Welliver[118][262]  
Peggy Carter Hayley Atwell[54][263][264]  
Phil Coulson Clark Gregg[265][266]
Darren Cross
Corey Stoll[267]   Corey Stoll[267]
Timothy "Dum Dum" Dugan Neal McDonough[264][268][269]  
Matthew Ellis William Sadler[270][271]   William Sadler[272]
Christine Everhart Leslie Bibb[223]   Leslie Bibb[120]
Leo Fitz   Iain De Caestecker[273]   Iain De Caestecker[266]
Nick Fury Samuel L. Jackson[274][275]  
Justin Hammer Sam Rockwell[276]   Sam Rockwell[277]  
Maria Hill Cobie Smulders[278]  
Daisy "Skye" Johnson
  Chloe Bennet[279]   Chloe Bennet[266]
Scott Lang
Paul Rudd[267]   Paul Rudd[267]
List Henry Goodman[280]  
Jeffrey Mace
  Jason O'Mara[281]   Jason O'Mara[266]
Alphonso "Mack" MacKenzie   Henry Simmons[282]   Henry Simmons[266]
Gideon Malick Powers Boothe[283]  
Melinda May   Ming-Na Wen   Ming-Na Wen[266]
Tina Minoru Linda Louise Duan[284][285] Brittany Ishibashi[286]  
Jim Morita Kenneth Choi[268][269]  
Elena "Yo-Yo" Rodriguez   Natalia Cordova-Buckley[287]   Natalia Cordova-Buckley[266]
Sif Jaimie Alexander[288][289]  
Jemma Simmons   Elizabeth Henstridge[273]   Elizabeth Henstridge[266]
Jasper Sitwell Maximiliano Hernández[290] Maximiliano Hernández[291]
Adam Faison[292]
Maximiliano Hernández[290]  
Trevor Slattery Ben Kingsley[293]   Ben Kingsley[222]  
Howard Stark Gerard SandersP [294]
John Slattery[295]
Dominic Cooper[296]
Dominic Cooper[264][297]  
Anton Vanko Yevgeni Lazarev[298] Costa Ronin[299]  
Wolfgang von Strucker Thomas Kretschmann[300] Joey Defore[292]  
Arnim Zola Toby Jones[301][302]  

Additionally, Paul Bettany was the first actor to portray two main characters within the universe, voicing Tony Stark's artificial intelligence J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man and Avengers films, and portraying Vision in Avengers films and Captain America: Civil War.[303][304][305] Stan Lee, creator or co-creator of many of the characters seen in the MCU, has cameo appearances in all of the feature films and television series except Inhumans. In Iron Fist, it is revealed his on-set photograph cameo in the Marvel Netflix series is as NYPD Captain Irving Forbush.[306] His cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sees Lee appearing as an informant to the Watchers, discussing previous adventures that include Lee's cameos in other MCU films; he specifically mentions his time as a FedEx delivery man, referring to Lee's cameo in Captain America: Civil War.[307] This acknowledged the fan theory that Lee may be portraying the same character in all his cameos,[308] with writer and director James Gunn noting that "people thought Stan Lee is [Uatu the Watcher] and that all of these cameos are part of him being a Watcher. So, Stan Lee as a guy who is working for the Watchers was something that I thought was fun for the MCU."[307][308] Feige added that Lee "clearly exists, you know, above and apart from the reality of all the films. So the notion that he could be sitting there on a cosmic pit stop during the jump gate sequence in Guardians...really says, so wait a minute, he's this same character who's popped up in all these films?"[309]


Film soundtracks

Title U.S. release date Length Composer(s) Label
Iron Man: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack May 6, 2008 (2008-05-06) 54:14 Ramin Djawadi Lionsgate Records
The Incredible Hulk: Original Motion Picture Score June 13, 2008 (2008-06-13) 110:55 Craig Armstrong Marvel Music
Iron Man 2: Original Motion Picture Score July 20, 2010 (2010-07-20) 72:01 John Debney Columbia Records
Thor May 3, 2011 (2011-05-03) 71:53 Patrick Doyle Buena Vista Records
Marvel Music
Captain America: The First Avenger—Original Motion Picture Soundtrack July 19, 2011 (2011-07-19) 71:53 Alan Silvestri
The Avengers (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) May 1, 2012 (2012-05-01) 64:25 Hollywood Records
Marvel Music
Iron Man 3 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) April 30, 2013 (2013-04-30) 75:53 Brian Tyler
Thor: The Dark World (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) November 12, 2013 (2013-11-12) 77:11
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) April 1, 2014 (2014-04-01) 74:32 Henry Jackman
Guardians of the Galaxy (Original Score) July 29, 2014 (2014-07-29) 64:34 Tyler Bates
Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) April 28, 2015 (2015-04-28) 77:26 Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman
Ant-Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) July 17, 2015 (2015-07-17) 65:20 Christophe Beck
Captain America: Civil War (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) May 6, 2016 (2016-05-06) 69:09 Henry Jackman
Doctor Strange (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) October 21, 2016 (2016-10-21) 66:28 Michael Giacchino
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Original Score) April 21, 2017 (2017-04-21) 43:34 Tyler Bates
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) July 7, 2017 (2017-07-07) 66:40 Michael Giacchino Sony Masterworks
Thor: Ragnarok (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) October 20, 2017 (2017-10-20) 72:52 Mark Mothersbaugh Hollywood Records
Marvel Music
Black Panther (Original Score) February 16, 2018 (2018-02-16) 95:07 Ludwig Göransson
Avengers: Infinity War (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) April 27, 2018 (2018-04-27) 71:36 Alan Silvestri
Ant-Man and the Wasp (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) July 6, 2018 (2018-07-06) 56:13 Christophe Beck

Television soundtracks

Title U.S. release date Length Composer(s) Label
Daredevil (Original Soundtrack Album) April 27, 2015 41:45 John Paesano Hollywood Records
Marvel Music
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Original Soundtrack Album) September 4, 2015 77:52 Bear McCreary
Marvel's Agent Carter: Season 1 (Original Television Soundtrack) December 11, 2015 65:31 Christopher Lennertz
Jessica Jones (Original Soundtrack) June 3, 2016 59:53 Sean Callery
Daredevil: Season 2 (Original Soundtrack Album) July 15, 2016 50:49 John Paesano
Luke Cage (Original Soundtrack Album) October 7, 2016 95:09 Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Iron Fist (Original Soundtrack) March 17, 2017 62:00 Trevor Morris
The Defenders (Original Soundtrack Album) August 17, 2017 49:15 John Paesano
The Punisher (Original Soundtrack) November 17, 2017 42:52 Tyler Bates
Runaways (Original Score) January 26, 2018 44:57 Siddhartha Khosla
Jessica Jones: Season 2 (Original Soundtrack) March 16, 2018 51:75 Sean Callery
Cloak & Dagger (Original Television Series Soundtrack) June 8, 2018 41:25 Mark Isham
Luke Cage: Season 2 (Original Soundtrack Album) June 22, 2018 90:21 Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Iron Fist: Season 2 (Original Soundtrack) September 7, 2018 39:12 Robert Lydecker
Daredevil: Season 3 (Original Soundtrack Album) October 19, 2018 75:03 John Paesano
The Punisher: Season 2 (Original Soundtrack) January 18, 2019 51:52 Tyler Bates


Title U.S. release date Length Artist(s) Label
"Live to Rise" April 17, 2012 4:40 Soundgarden Hollywood Records
Marvel Music
"Watcha Gonna Do (It's Up to You)" March 18, 2016 3:51 Enver Gjokaj and Hayley Atwell
"Bulletproof Love" September 30, 2016 2:12 Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Method Man
"All the Stars" January 4, 2018 3:56 Kendrick Lamar and SZA Interscope Records
Top Dawg Entertainment
Aftermath Entertainment
"King's Dead" January 11, 2018 3:50 Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, and James Blake
"Pray for Me" February 2, 2018 3:31 Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd


Jim Vorel of Herald & Review called the Marvel Cinematic Universe "complicated" and "impressive", but said, "As more and more heroes get their own film adaptations, the overall universe becomes increasingly confusing."[310] Kofi Outlaw of Screen Rant stated that while The Avengers was a success, "Marvel Studios still has room to improve their approach to building a shared movie universe".[311] Some reviewers criticized the fact that the desire to create a shared universe led to films that did not hold as well on their own. In his review of Thor: The Dark World, Forbes critic Scott Mendelson likened the MCU to "a glorified television series", with The Dark World being a "'stand-alone' episode that contains little long-range mythology".[312] Collider's Matt Goldberg considered that while Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were quality productions, "they have never really been their own movies", feeling that the plot detours to S.H.I.E.L.D. or lead-ups to The Avengers dragged down the films' narratives.[313]

The metaphor of the MCU as "the world's biggest TV show" was discussed again, after the release of Captain America: Civil War, by Todd VanDerWerff of Vox, who felt that film in particular highlighted Marvel's success with the model, saying, "Viewed in complete isolation, the plot of Captain America: Civil War makes little to no sense ... [but] when you think about where [Captain America] has been in earlier Marvel films ... his leeriness about being subject to oversight makes a lot more sense." VanDerWerff continued that when thinking about the MCU as a television series, many "common criticisms people tend to level at it take on a new context" such as complaints that the films are formulaic, lack "visual spark", or "shoehorn in story elements" that "are necessary to set up future films", all characteristics that "are fairly typical on television, where a director's influence is much lower than that of the showrunner", in this case, Feige. Comparing the films to the series Game of Thrones specifically, VanDerWerff noted that each solo film checks "in on various characters and their individual side stories, before bringing everyone together in the finale (or, rather, an Avengers film)", with Guardians of the Galaxy being equivalent to the character Daenerys Targaryen—"both separated by long distances from everybody else". He noted that this format was an extension of early "TV-like" film franchises such as Star Wars, as well as the format of the comics upon which the films are based. "I say all of this not to suggest that film franchises resembling TV series is necessarily a good trend", VanDerWerff concluded, "For as much as I generally enjoy the Marvel movies, I'm disheartened by the possibility that their particular form might take over the film industry ... But I also don't think it's the end of the world if Marvel continues on ... there's a reason TV has stolen so much of the cultural conversation over the past few decades. There's something legitimately exciting about the way the medium tells stories when it's good, and if nothing else, Marvel's success shows the film world could learn from that."[314]

Following the conclusion of season one of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mary McNamara at the Los Angeles Times praised the connections between that series and the films, stating that "never before has television been literally married to film, charged with filling in the back story and creating the connective tissue of an ongoing film franchise ... [Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.] is now not only a very good show in its own right, it's part of Marvel's multiplatform city-state. It faces a future of perpetual re-invention, and that puts it in the exhilarating first car of television's roller-coaster ride toward possible world domination."[315] Terri Schwartz of Zap2it agreed with this sentiment, stating that "the fact that [Captain America: The Winter Soldier] so influenced the show is game-changing in terms of how the mediums of film and television can be interwoven", though "the fault there seems to be that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to bide time until The Winter Soldier's release", which led to much criticism.[316]

In January 2015, Michael Doran of Newsarama and Graeme McMillian of The Hollywood Reporter had a "point-counterpoint" debate in response to the first Ant-Man trailer. Doran stated, "Marvel has raised the bar sooo high that as opposed to just allowing another film to finish under the [MCU] bar, we're all overly and perhaps even eager to overreact to the first thing that doesn't clear it". McMillian responded, "at this point, Marvel's brand is such that I'm not sure it can offer up something like [the trailer] without it seeming like a crushing disappointment ... part of Marvel's brand is that it doesn't offer the kind of run-of-the-mill superhero movie that you're talking about, that it's ... at least different enough to tweak and play with the genre somehow ... The fact that there's such upset about this trailer being ... well, okay ... suggests to me that the audience is expecting something to knock their socks off." Doran concluded, "That does seem to be the point here—the expectations fans now have for everything Marvel Studios ... [and] Marvel is going to eventually falter."[317]

After seeing the portrayal of Yellowjacket in Ant-Man, the antagonist of the film, McMillian noted,

It's hardly a secret that Marvel Studios has a bit of a problem when it comes to offering up exciting characters for their heroes to fight against ... [their] villains generally fall into one of two camps. There's the Unstoppable Monster ... or there's the Professional White Guy In A Suit With An Ego ... No matter which of the groups the above villains fall into, they share one common purpose: evil. The motivations for evil likely differ—although, invariably, they fall under the umbrella of 'misguided belief in a greater good that doesn't exist'—but that really doesn't matter, because without fail, there will be so little time in the movie to actually properly explore those motivations, meaning that to all intents and purposes, the villain is being evil for reasons of plot necessity and little else ... The strange thing about this is that Marvel's comic books offer a number of wonderful, colorful bad guys who could step outside the above parameters and offer an alternative to the formulaic villains audiences have gotten used to (and arguably bored with) ... In future movies, we can only hope [they are] treated in such a way that their freak flags are allowed to fly free.[318]

Following the release of Jessica Jones, David Priest at c|net wrote about how the series rescues "Marvel from itself ... Jessica Jones takes big steps forward in terms of theme, craft and diversity. It's a good story first, and a superhero show second. And for the first time, the MCU seems like it matters. Our culture needs stories like this. Here's hoping Marvel keeps them coming."[319] For Paul Tassi and Erik Kain of Forbes, watching the series made them question the MCU, with Kain feeling that the "morally complex, violent, dark world of Jessica Jones has no place in the MCU ... right now, the MCU is holding back shows like Jessica Jones and Daredevil, while those shows are contributing absolutely nothing to the MCU."[320] Tassi went so far as to wonder what "the point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe" is, lamenting the lack of major crossovers in the franchise since the Winter Soldier reveal on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and saying that Jessica Jones is "so far removed from the world of The Avengers, it might as well not be in the same universe at all ... [I] really don't understand the point of [the MCU] if they're going to keep everything within it separated off in these little boxes".[321] Conversely, Eric Francisco of Inverse called Jessica Jones's lack of overt connections to the MCU "the show's chief advantage. Besides demonstrating how physically wide open the MCU's scope really is, Jessica Jones also proves the MCU's thematic durability."[322]

In April 2016, Marvel Studios revealed that Alfre Woodard would appear in Captain America: Civil War, having already been cast as Mariah Dillard in Luke Cage the previous year.[323] This "raised hopes that Marvel could be uniting its film and Netflix universes",[324] with "one of the first and strongest connections" between the two.[323] However, Civil War writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely revealed that Woodard would instead be portraying Miriam Sharpe in the film, explaining that she had been cast on the suggestion of Robert Downey, Jr., and they had not learnt of her casting in Luke Cage until afterwards.[323] This was not the first instance of actors being cast in multiple roles in the MCU, but this casting was called more "significant", and seen by many as a "disappointing" indication of "the growing divide" and "lack of more satisfying cooperation" between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television following the September 2015 corporate reshuffling of Marvel Entertainment.[323][325]

Speaking to the 1990s setting of Captain Marvel, "the MCU's first full period piece since Phase One's Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011", Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter felt the return of younger versions of some characters introduced and killed in earlier films "open[ed] up the MCU in a whole new way and broaden[ed] the franchise's mantra of 'it's all connected'". Speaking specifically to Clark Gregg's appearance as Agent Phil Coulson in the film, Newby noted the appearance "doesn't exactly mend fences between Marvel's film and TV divisions, [but] it does strengthen the connective tissue and the sense that these characters still matter in the grand scheme of Marvel's film plans". He also hoped that continuity from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. would be maintained in Captain Marvel, especially since Coulson has dealt with the Kree in the series. Newby also added that shifting to different time periods would help Marvel Studios "sustain this cinematic universe for the next 10 years" by allowing them to repeat some of the genres previously used, as they could then feel "fresh" and have "different rules and different restraints," as well as allow them to build upon material established in the television series such as Agent Carter. He concluded, "Marvel Studios has an entire sandbox to play in, but, for necessary reasons, has largely chosen to remain in a small corner in order to ground audiences in these concepts. Now that the basis has been laid, the opportunity for exploration in both film and television lies ahead, with Captain Marvel leading the way. Wherever Marvel Studios plans to take the MCU in the future, it's refreshing to know that its past is expansive and filled with infinite possibilities."[326]

Cultural impact

Other studios

After the release of The Avengers in May 2012, Tom Russo of noted that aside from the occasional "novelty" such as Aliens vs. Predator (2004), the idea of a shared universe was virtually unheard of in Hollywood.[6] Since that time, the shared universe model created by Marvel Studios has begun to be replicated by other film studios that held rights to other comic book characters. In April 2014, Tuna Amobi, a media analyst for Standard & Poor's Equity Research Services, stated that in the previous three to five years, Hollywood studios began planning "megafranchises" for years to come, opposed to working one blockbuster at a time. Amobi added, "A lot of these superhero characters were just being left there to gather dust. Disney has proved that this [approach and genre] can be a gold mine."[327] However, with additional studios now "playing the megafranchise game", Doug Creutz, media analyst for Cowen and Company, feels the allure will eventually die for audiences: "If Marvel's going to make two or three films a year, and Warner Brothers is going to do at least a film every year, and Sony's going to do a film every year, and Fox [is] going to do a film every year, can everyone do well in that scenario? I'm not sure they can."[327] In March 2018, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter opined that "the key differences between a regular franchise, such as The Fast and the Furious or Pitch Perfect films, and a shared universe is the amount of planning and interweaving that goes into each individual film. Its all too easy to make a film that exists solely for the purpose of setting up future installments and expanding a world, rather than a film that stands on its own merits while deftly hinting or winking at its place in the larger mythos. In that, the MCU has flourished." He felt that Iron Man "itself was aimed at being an enjoyable stand-alone experience, not as an overall advertisement for 17 subsequent movies. That mentality has persisted through most of the MCU films over the past decade, which is all the more impressive as its roster of heroes now exceeds the two-dozen mark."[328]

DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

In October 2012, following its legal victory over Joe Shuster's estate for the rights to Superman, Warner Bros. Pictures announced that it planned to move ahead with its long-awaited Justice League film, uniting such DC Comics superheroes as Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The company was expected to take the opposite approach to Marvel, releasing individual films for the characters after they have appeared in a team-up film.[329] The release of Man of Steel in 2013 was intended to be the start of a new shared universe for DC, "laying the groundwork for the future slate of films based on DC Comics".[330] In 2014, Warner Bros. announced that slate of films, similarly to Disney and Marvel claiming dates for films years in advance.[331] That year, DC CCO Geoff Johns stated that the television series Arrow and The Flash were set in a separate universe from the new film one,[332] later clarifying that "We look at it as the multiverse. We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it's about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through ... It's just a different approach [to Marvel's]."[333]

Discussing the apparent failure of the cinematic universe's first team-up film, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, to establish a successful equivalent to the MCU, Todd VanDerWerff noted that where the MCU has a television-like "showrunner" in Feige, "the visionary behind Marvel's entire slate", the DCEU has director Zack Snyder, whose DC films "seemingly start from the assumption that people have come not to see an individual story but a long series of teases for other ones. It's like he knows what he needs to do but can't focus on the task at hand. TV certainly isn't immune to that problem, but shows that get caught up in high-concept premises and big-picture thinking before doing the necessary legwork to establish characters and their relationships tend to be canceled."[314] Subsequently, in May 2016, Warner Bros. gave oversight of the DCEU to Johns and executive Jon Berg in an attempt to "unify the disparate elements of the DC movies" and emulate Marvel's success. The two were made producers on the Justice League films, on top of Johns' involvement in several "solo" films, such as the post-production process of Suicide Squad or the writing process of a standalone Batman film.[334] After the successful release of Wonder Woman in June 2017, DC decided to begin deemphasizing the shared nature of their films, with DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson stating, "Our intention, certainly, moving forward is using the continuity to help make sure nothing is diverging in a way that doesn't make sense, but there's no insistence upon an overall story line or interconnectivity in that universe... Moving forward, you'll see the DC movie universe being a universe, but one that comes from the heart of the filmmaker who's creating them." Additionally, DC began focusing on films "completely separate from everything else, set entirely outside the" DCEU as part of a new label, with the first centered on the Joker.[335]

20th Century Fox

In November 2012, 20th Century Fox announced plans to create their own shared universe, consisting of Marvel properties that it holds the rights to including the Fantastic Four and X-Men, with the hiring of Mark Millar as supervising producer. Millar said, "Fox are thinking, 'We're sitting on some really awesome things here. There is another side of the Marvel Universe. Let's try and get some cohesiveness going.' So they brought me in to oversee that really. To meet with the writers and directors to suggest new ways we could take this stuff and new properties that could spin out of it."[336] X-Men: Days of Future Past, released in 2014, was Fox's first step towards expanding their stable of Marvel properties and creating this universe,[337] ahead of the release of a Fantastic Four reboot film the next year.[338] However, in May 2014, Days of Future Past and Fantastic Four screenwriter Simon Kinberg stated that the latter film would not take place in the same universe as the X-Men films, explaining that "none of the X-Men movies have acknowledged the notion of a sort of superhero team—the Fantastic Four. And the Fantastic Four acquire powers, so for them to live in a world where mutants are prevalent is kind of complicated, because you're like, 'Oh, you're just a mutant.' Like, 'What's so fantastic about you?' ... they live in discrete universes."[338] In July 2015, X-Men director Bryan Singer said that there was still potential for a crossover between the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises, if reaction to Fantastic Four and X-Men: Apocalypse warranted it.[339]

Feeling that Singer's efforts in Apocalypse to establish a larger world, similar to the MCU, did not meet the standards established by Marvel, VanDerWerff noted that unlike Feige's ability to serve as "pseudo-showrunner", Singer is instead "steeped in film and the way movie stories have always been told", so "when it comes time to have Apocalypse dovetail with story threads from the earlier X-Men: First Class (which was directed by Matthew Vaughn), both Singer's direction and Simon Kinberg's script rely on hackneyed devices and clumsy storytelling", indicating a lack of "the kind of big-picture thinking this sort of mega franchise requires".[314]

Sony Pictures

In November 2013, Sony Pictures Entertainment Co-Chairman Amy Pascal announced that the studio intended to expand their universe created within the Marc Webb Amazing Spider-Man series, with spin-off adventures for supporting characters, in an attempt to replicate Marvel and Disney's model.[337] The next month, Sony announced Venom and Sinister Six films, both set in the Amazing Spider-Man universe. With this announcement, IGN stated that the spin-offs are "the latest example of what we can refer to as "the Avengers effect" in Hollywood, as studios work to build interlocking movie universes."[340] Sony chose not to replicate the Marvel Studios model of introducing individual characters first before bringing them together in a team-up film, instead making the Spider-Man adversaries the stars of future films.[327] However, in February 2015, Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios announced that the Spider-Man franchise would be retooled, with a new film co-produced by Feige and Pascal being released in July 2017, and the character being integrated into the MCU. Sony Pictures would continue to finance, distribute, own, and have final creative control of the Spider-Man films.[44] With this announcement, sequels to The Amazing Spider-Man 2 were canceled,[341] and by November 2015 the Venom and Sinister Six films, as well as spin-offs based on female characters in the Spider-Man universe, were no longer moving forward.[341][342] By March 2016, the Venom film had itself been retooled, to start its own franchise unrelated to the MCU Spider-Man.[343] A year later, Sony officially announced the Venom film to be in development, for an October 5, 2018 release,[344] along with a film centered on the characters Silver Sable and Black Cat known as Silver & Black.[345] Both projects were not intended to be a part of the MCU nor spin-offs to Spider-Man: Homecoming, but rather part of an intended separate shared universe known as Sony's Marvel Universe.[345][346]

After Sony canceled their shared universe plans and started sharing the Spider-Man character with Marvel Studios, multiple critics discussed their failure at replicating the MCU. Scott Meslow of The Week noted the perceived flaws of the first Amazing Spider-Man film, outside of its lead performances, and how the sequel "doubles down on all the missteps of the original while adding a few of its own. …We now have a textbook example of how not to reboot a superhero franchise, and if Sony and Marvel are wise, they'll take virtually all those lessons to heart as they chart Spider-Man's next course."[347] Scott Mendelson noted that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 "was sold as less a sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man than a backdoor pilot for Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Six. …Had Sony stuck with the original plan of a scaled-down superhero franchise, one that really was rooted in romantic drama, they would have at least stuck out in a crowded field of superhero franchises. When every superhero film is now going bigger, Amazing Spider-Man could have distinguished itself by going small and intimate." This would have saved Sony "a boatload of money", and potentially reversed the film's relative financial failure.[348]


In September 2014, the University of Baltimore announced a course beginning in the 2015 spring semester revolving around the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to be taught by Arnold T. Blumberg. "Media Genres: Media Marvels" examines "how Marvel's series of interconnected films and television shows, plus related media and comic book sources and Joseph Campbell's monomyth of the 'hero's journey', offer important insights into modern culture" as well as Marvel's efforts "to establish a viable universe of plotlines, characters, and backstories."[349][350]

Outside media

Disney theme park attractions

After the acquisition by Disney in 2009, Marvel films began to be marketed at the Innoventions attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. For Iron Man 3, the exhibit, entitled Iron Man Tech Presented by Stark Industries, features the same armor display that was shown at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con, with the Marks I-VII and the new Mark XLII. In addition, there is a simulator game, titled "Become Iron Man", that uses Kinect-like technology to allow the viewer to be encased in an animated Mark XLII armor and take part in a series of "tests," in which you fire repulsor rays and fly through Tony Stark's workshop. The game is guided by J.A.R.V.I.S., who is voiced again by Paul Bettany. The exhibit also has smaller displays that include helmets and chest pieces from the earlier films and the gauntlet and boot from an action sequence in Iron Man 3.[351] The exhibit for Thor: The Dark World is called Thor: Treasures of Asgard, and features displays of Asgardian relics and transports guests to Odin's throne room, where they are greeted by Thor.[352] Captain America: The Winter Soldier's exhibit, Captain America: The Living Legend and Symbol of Courage, features a meet and greet experience.[353]

From May to September 2017, Disneyland Resort featured the "Summer of Heroes", which sees members of the Guardians and Avengers making appearances throughout the Disneyland Resort. Additionally, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off event was featured, which involved Peter Quill / Star-Lord blasting music from his boombox, along with the Avengers Training Initiative, a limited experience where Black Widow and Hawkeye "assemble a group of young recruits to see if they have what it takes to be an Avenger." Marvel related food and merchandise was also available throughout Hollywood Land at Disney California Adventure during the "Summer of Heroes".[354]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced three new Marvel-themed areas inspired by the MCU to Disney California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The developments will be designed by Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with Marvel Studios and Marvel Themed Entertainment.[355]

Hong Kong Disneyland

In October 2013, the Iron Man Experience attraction was announced for Hong Kong Disneyland.[356] It is set in the Tomorrowland section of the park,[357] with the area built to look like a new Stark Expo created by Tony Stark after the 2010 one, as seen in Iron Man 2,[358] with various exhibit halls that include the Mark III armor from the films.[357][359] The area also has Iron Man and Marvel-themed merchandise items and memorabilia, plus an interactive game where guests can have the chance to try on Iron Man's armor.[360] Iron Man Experience sees guests assist Iron Man in defeating Hydra throughout Hong Kong,[357] and opened on January 11, 2017.[360]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Hong Kong Disneyland and a new attraction where guests team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp, to join Iron Man Experience.[355][361] Inspired by Ant-Man and the Wasp,[362] Ant Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! is an enclosed interactive dark ride that sees guests use laser powered weapons to team up with Ant-Man and the Wasp to defeat Arnim Zola and his army of Hydra swarm bots.[362][363] Ant Man and the Wasp: Nano Battle! replaces the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride,[362] and is scheduled to open in 2019.[363]

Disney California Adventure

By San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure was set to be replaced by a new attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Benicio del Toro all filmed exclusive footage for the attraction, reprising their roles as Peter Quill / Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Taneleer Tivan / The Collector, respectively.[364][365] James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, directed footage for the attraction and consulted on all aspects of it.[366] Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! sees visitors assisting Rocket to rescue the other Guardians from the Collector's fortress, while the attraction features randomized events during the experience and music inspired by the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 soundtrack. The attraction opened on May 27, 2017.[354] Despite having multiple references to the MCU, the attraction is not part of the MCU, rather the start of its own theme park universe that is inspired by the MCU.[367]

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Disney California Adventure, anchored by Mission: Breakout!, that will see characters from the MCU such as Iron Man and Spider-Man join the Guardians of the Galaxy in a "completely immersive superhero universe." The area will replace the "A Bug's Land" area, which closed in mid-2018 to start construction on the Marvel area.[355][361]

Walt Disney Studios Park

In March 2018, The Walt Disney Company announced a new Marvel-themed area inspired by the MCU to Disneyland Paris' Walt Disney Studios Park. The area will include a reimagined attraction where riders will team up with Iron Man and other Avengers on a "hyper-kinetic adventure" in 2020. The park will also host the "Summer of Super Heroes" live-action stage show from June–September 2018.[355][361]

Other live attractions

Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

In May 2014, the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) exhibit opened at the Discovery Times Square center. The exhibit features replica set pieces, as well as actual props from the films, mixed with interactive technology and information, crafted through a partnership with NASA and other scientists. Titus Welliver also provides a "debrief" to visitors, reprising his role as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Felix Blake. Created by Victory Hill Exhibits, Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. cost $7.5 million to create,[368][369] and ran through early September 2015.[370]

The exhibit also opened in South Korea at the War Memorial of Korea in April 2015,[371][372] in Paris, France, at Esplanade de La Défense a year later, and in Las Vegas at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in June 2016.[372] The Las Vegas version of the exhibit featured updated character details and corresponding science to incorporate the Marvel films that have released since the original exhibit in New York. Additionally, the Las Vegas version features Cobie Smulders reprising her role as Maria Hill to "debrief" visitors, replacing Welliver.[373]

GOMA exhibit

An art exhibit, titled "Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe", was displayed exclusively at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from May to September 2017. The exhibit, which included "300 plus objects, films, costumes, drawings and other ephemera", featured content "from the collection of Marvel Studios and Marvel Entertainment and private collections" with "significant focus [given] to the creative artists who translate the drawn narrative to the screen through production design and storyboarding, costume and prop design, and special effects and postproduction". "Marvel: Creating the Cinematic Universe" was also extended to GOMA's Australian Cinémathèque with a retrospective of the MCU films.[374]

Television specials

Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe (2014)

On March 18, 2014, ABC aired a one-hour television special titled Marvel Studios: Assembling a Universe, which documented the history of Marvel Studios and the development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and included exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from all of the films, One-Shots and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and sneak peeks of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, unaired episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,[375] and Ant-Man.[376] Brian Lowry of Variety felt the special, "contains a pretty interesting business and creative story. While it might all make sense in hindsight, there was appreciable audacity in Marvel's plan to release five loosely connected movies from the same hero-filled world, beginning with the cinematically unproven Iron Man and culminating with superhero team The Avengers. As such, this fast-moving hour qualifies as more than just a cut-and-paste job from electronic press kits, although there's an element of that, certainly."[377] The special was released on September 9, 2014 on the home media for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 1.[378]

Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop! (2014)

In September 2014, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive producer Jeffrey Bell stated that in order to meet production demands and avoid having to air repeat episodes, ABC would likely air a Marvel special in place of a regular installment at some point during the first ten episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s second season.[97] In October, the special was revealed to be Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, which was hosted by Emily VanCamp, who portrays Agent 13 in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and aired on November 4, 2014.[379] The special features behind the scenes footage from Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, as well as footage from the Agent Carter television series previously screened at New York Comic-Con.[380] Brian Lowry of Variety felt an hour for the special did not "do the topic justice" adding, "For anyone who has seen more than one Marvel movie but would shrug perplexedly at the mention of Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko, Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp To Pop! should probably be required viewing. Fun, fast-paced and encompassing many of the company's highlights along with a few lowlights, it's a solid primer on Marvel's history, while weaving in inevitable self-promotion and synergistic plugs."[381] Eric Goldman of IGN also wished the special had been longer, adding, "Understandably, the more you already know about Marvel, the less you'll be surprised by Marvel 75 Years: From Pulp to Pop!, but it's important to remember who this special is really made for – a mainstream audience who have embraced the Marvel characters, via the hugely successful movies, in a way no one could have imagined."[380]


In September 2015, Marvel announced the Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, named as a nod to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Each guidebook is compiled by Mike O'Sullivan and the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe team, with cover art from Mike del Mundo and Pascal Campion, and features facts about the MCU films, film-to-comic comparisons, and production stills. Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Iron Man, Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Incredible Hulk / Marvel's Iron Man 2,[382] Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Thor,[383] and Guidebook to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel's Captain America: The First Avenger[384] released each month from October 2015 to January 2016, respectively.

In November 2018, Marvel and Titan Publishing Group released Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years to celebrate the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which featured cast interviews, in-depth sections on each film, and an Easter egg guide.[385] In May 2019, in conjunction with the release of the fourth Avengers film, a two-volume book, also titled Marvel Studios: The First Ten Years, will be released, written by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry. This collection will feature a look at the evolution of Marvel Studios, personal stories from all 22 films released at the time, and interviews with cast and crew members.[386]

Video game tie-ins

Title U.S. release date Publisher Developer Platforms
Consoles Handhelds Mobile
Iron Man May 2, 2008[387] Sega[387] Secret Level[388] PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Artificial Mind and Movement[388] PlayStation 2, Wii, Microsoft Windows Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable
Hands-On Mobile[389] Various
The Incredible Hulk June 5, 2008[390] Sega[391] Edge of Reality[390][391] PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Wii
Amaze Entertainment[392] Nintendo DS
Hands-On Mobile[393] Various
Iron Man 2 May 4, 2010[394] Sega Sega Studios San Francisco[394] PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
High Voltage Software[395] Wii PlayStation Portable
Griptonite Games[396] Nintendo DS
Gameloft[397][398] iOS, BlackBerry
Thor: God of Thunder May 3, 2011[399] Sega[399] Liquid Entertainment PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Red Fly Studio Wii Nintendo 3DS
WayForward Technologies Nintendo DS
Captain America: Super Soldier July 19, 2011[400] Sega[400] Next Level Games PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
High Voltage Software Wii Nintendo 3DS
Graphite Games Nintendo DS
Iron Man 3: The Official Game April 25, 2013[401] Gameloft[401] iOS, Android
Thor: The Dark World – The Official Game October 31, 2013[402] Gameloft[402] iOS, Android
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The Official Game March 27, 2014[403] Gameloft[404] Windows Phone 8, iOS, Android
Other video games
Lego Marvel's Avengers January 26, 2016[405] Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment TT Games PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One,
Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows, Wii U
Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita

A Mini Marvel

In February 2016, a commercial for Coca-Cola mini cans aired during Super Bowl 50. A Mini Marvel was created by Wieden+Kennedy for Coca-Cola through a partnership with Marvel, and was directed by the Russo brothers.[406][407] In the ad, Ant-Man (voiced by Paul Rudd, reprising his role) and the Hulk first fight, and then bond, over a Coke mini can.[406] Luma Pictures provided visual effects for the spot, having worked previously with the two characters in MCU films. For the Hulk, Luma redefined its previous muscular system and simulation process to create and render the character, while Ant-Man received new motion capture.[407] The Super Bowl campaign extended to "limited-edition Coke mini cans [six packs] that are emblazoned with images of Marvel characters, including Hulk, Ant-Man, Black Widow, [Falcon, Iron Man] and Captain America." Consumers had the opportunity to purchase the cans by finding hidden clues in the commercial, though "if the program goes well, Coke will consider making the cans available in stores."[406] The ad had the third most social media activity of all the film-related trailers that aired during the game,[408] and was nominated for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Commercial at the 15th Visual Effects Society Awards.[409]

See also


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