WHO's NEXT?

Here’s <i>another</i> thing Marvel Studios’ massive Phase 3 announcement Tuesday afternoon did - it rendered four of our entries on this countdown useless. <p>Yup, we had to remove <b>Black Panther</b>, <b>Doctor Strange</b>, <b>Captain Marvel</b> and the <b>Inhumans</b> from the previous incarnation of this list, <i>annnnnd</i> we had to change the title. <p>With Phase 3 now mostly set through 2019, it’s time to look even further into the future and give you our early first pass at 10 candidates for solo stardom during <i><b>Phase 4</i></b> of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

MARVEL/MIRACLEMAN

Let’s face it, Marvel is a multi-media entertainment company in the truest sense of the word now. Yes, no doubt the comic book division still operates with a certain amount of autonomy and we’re not suggesting <i>everything</i> is developed as a comic book with eyes toward a feature film, live-action, or animated TV series in mind.   <p>But Marvel has spent a looonnggg-time and undoubtedly some considerable legal fees to apparently finally iron out the rights issues surrounding Marvelman. So the question becomes, did they go through all that strictly for the comic book publishing rights?   <p>Maybe. But could there be a bigger play here?   <p>The Marvel Universe doesn’t really have a Superman archetype among its core stable of characters (though Hyperion, a direct Superman analogue, is now in the <i>Avengers</i> comic book cast and as a guest star on animated series <i>Avengers Assemble</i>), and no doubt Marvel Studios is probably feeling pretty good about what they could turn out if they had one.   <p>Marvel/Miracleman has an interesting enough back-story to fuel free press were Marvelman developed into a big screen property and Neil Gaiman potentially being in the mix offers some intriguing possibilities as well.   <p>A long-shot yes, but something to keep an eye on.

MS. MARVEL

Sticking with Marvel namesakes... <p>With Captain Marvel now officially on the way, what better time than early in Phase 4 to show her immediate impact on the world? With the Inhumans introduced, a new young Inhuman named Kamala Khan in Jersey City, inspired by the cosmic Avenger, takes up a similar mantle and costume, calling herself Ms. Marvel and giving super heroics a shot. <p>Kamala could give Marvel Studios something very special it <i>may</i> not get in pure form - a Peter Parker-type. She’s already drawn the comparison in the comics, with Peter himself saying they’re similar and mentoring her a bit in recent issues of <i>Amazing Spider-Man</i>. The fact that she’s a non-Christian woman of color really doesn’t hurt things, either, giving a three-pronged booster shot of diversity into the MCU.

Tie: MR. IMMORTAL OR SQUIRELL GIRL

Yeah, we could've went with safe bets like retreads of Ghost Rider, Blade or the Punisher, but given Phase 4 is so far in the future, we're going balls-to-the-wall with some out-of-the-box suggestions. <p>If Groot and Rocket Raccoon are arguably the two most popular new characters introduced in film in 2014 (sorry Elsa and Anna, you’re <i>sooo</i> 2013) then why shouldn’t Marvel embrace its inner irony and give Squirrel Girl a go? She <i>is</i> getting her own ongoing comic book series soon. <p>So pretty much most of what we said for Ms. Marvel last page … but SQUIRREL f-in GIRL! <p>As for Mr. Immortal, if you’re not thinking “who?” right now you’re probably thinking “oh, c’mon,” but the former Great Lake Avenger has one of the more interesting powers in comic books – he can’t be killed. Not matter what happens to him, he wakes up okay. <p>This power set not only offers unique opportunities for hard PG-13 action sequences, but fleshed out Mr. I could become one of the more unique personalities with one of the most unique worldviews in all of the Marvel catalog. <p>Yeah, Okay, maybe Marvel Comics should actually let the guy star in his own comic book series before making him a feature film star, but they have plenty of years to do that and plenty of candidates willing to help them do it [raises hand].

KILLRAVEN

Oh right, like <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> and <i>Ant-Man</i> were obvious, likely choices?   <p>This one would need some liberal adaptation of its comic book roots, however. Just think ‘gladiators and descendants of superheroes in a post-apocalyptic Marvel Universe.‘ Think <i>300</i> meets <b>The Avengers</b> meets any post-apocalyptic film ever, really.   <p>And the apocalypse could be from any number of events – aliens, robots, or how about zombies? The Marvel Cinematic Universe decades <i>after</i> <b>Marvel Zombies</b>. <p>Sign us up.

SPIDER-WOMAN

Many pundits wondered if Tuesday's Phase 3 event would announce a rumored deal to allow the Sony-controlled Spider-Man to appear in MCU films. <p>Didn't happen. Okay then, Plan B.   <p>Given the dueling Quicksilver appearances in this summer's <i>X-Men: Days of Future Past</i> and next summer's <b>Avengers: Age Ultron,</b> its been made clear there’s obviously some ambiguity in the margins of some of these licensed IP deals. Could a <b>Spider-Woman</b> feature make it through the legal gauntlet and onto the big screen?   <p>Spider-Woman was never a true Spider-Man family concept/character (i.e. <i>maybe</i> not included in the characters covered by Sony’s deal), and her and her alter ego Jessica Drew has been entrenched in the worlds of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers for decades now, the center of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.   <p>And it would offer Marvel Studios an opportunity to put another female hero front-and-center, with <i>some</i> brand recognition attached.   <p>Sure, that brand recognition would be the product of some slight-of-hand/misdirection on Marvel’s part, but it would certainly garner a fair amount of attention if they had the cajones to throw “Wo” into “Spider-Man“  and give it a spin; however, like <b>Marvelman</b>, this one goes down as another long-shot.

THE RUNAWAYS

Disney likes mining genres, they also like mining demos too. Young Adult genre fiction is one of Hollywood hottest categories as the major studios chase the audiences that still actually go to the movies.   <p><b>The Runaways</b> has often been mentioned as part of Marvel’s shortlist in the past, no doubt due to the teen (i.e. highly-desirable) demo it hits closest to home with. A cast of young, diverse teens, developing superpowers, rebelling against the adult establishment, who just so happens to be their own parents?   <p>Ding!   <p>If this wasn’t a Marvel property, this would probably <i>already</i> be on Summit Entertainment’s release list. And Brian Vaughan’s now-growing Hollywood cache can’t hurt the odds of this one getting more attention in the coming days.

NEW WARRIORS

Look, we thought about the Young Avengers, we really did, but the similarities might be a bit too much for moviegoers to take right off the bat. Rather than feeling like the fresh and exciting characters they are, it’d be too easy to marginalize them as mere clones (not actual clones, metaphorical clones - only in comics do we have to clarify that). <p>But we digress. When it comes to a young team of heroes with unique backgrounds and a decidedly different take than the Avengers, the New Warriors are perfect candidates. A whole team gives you the opportunity to introduce several characters at once, providing a whole new dimension to the MCU. The team can really <i>enjoy</i> being heroes, and can fight in a unique way, going out proactively, instead of reactively. Throw in a mentor in the form of one of the current (or Phase 3) Avengers, and you have yourselves not just one new franchise, but potentially several. <p>Oh, and all those demo things we said about The Runaways - they apply here too.

POWER PACK

And speaking of mining demos, let’s not forget with whom Disney’s bread and butter still lies.   <p>Kids like watching kids on the screen (notice how few Disney Channel and Nick Jr. hits feature adults in the lead role?) With the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s appeal among families/younger audiences on the upswing after <i>Avengers</i>, wouldn’t a team of superhero kids set firmly in the MCU and even more firmly in the pure-PG category be a good bet for the movie studio that both defined and is defined by family entertainment?   <p>Hell, there’s been four <i>Spy Kids</i> and a fifth on the way, and none of them can feature cameos by the Avengers.   <p>Even a high-end CGI-animated treatment could give Disney a cousin to Pixar’s <i>The Incredibles</i> and <i>Big Hero 6</i>. The possibilities here are endless.

NOVA

Out of the ashes of and the destruction of the Nova Corps in <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i>, the Nova Prime decides it’s time to try a new way of harnessing the Nova Force - through individuals, with the power coursing through their very veins. <p>Now, many fans would next say, “Okay, but it <i>has</i> to be Richard Rider!” Not so fast. We’d actually make the case for Sam Alexander. He’s made many inroads in other media the last couple of years, from animation to video games, so it’d be hard <i>not</i> to use him now. <p>Sam would give Marvel another MCU “Peter Parker” option, and someone else to spin either into or out of a <i>New Warriors</i> film, too. Sam, being not just well-known, but inexperienced, gives viewers something new, a kid with the powers of the very universe at his control. <p>Why a human? Well, after the <i>Infinity War</i>, we have a feeling the whole universe will know all about the power of the human race.

THE HULK

It wasn’t using Loki as a rag-doll and the “Puny God” line that signaled Marvel had finally gotten the Hulk right. It was a few minutes prior, when having crashed though Grand Central Terminal with Thor, the Hulk sucker-punched his ‘teammate’ in the side of head, with a nonchalant, but self-satisfied “hrrmmffff”.   <p>THAT’s the Hulk people would go to a solo movie to see. The tortured soul trying desperately to NOT be the Hulk for 2 and 1/2 movies was a war of attrition for audiences. They WANTED to see the Hulk 'smash', Bruce Banner didn’t, and the conflict between those dueling purposes caused the films to sputter. <p>If the trailer is any indication, <b>Age of Ultron</b> is seemingly taking a step back in terms of the Hulk being Banner's curse, but we're taking the long view here. <p>A Hulk let loose of his iconic but actually historically short-lived 'hunted-wounded animal' persona and allowed to heroically beat the tar out of the RIGHT foes (monsters, demons, aliens, machines) with <i>just enough intellect</i> to do it all with a self-aware hint of humor <i>is</i> the <b>Hulk</b> moviegoers would flock to the multiplexes to see. <p>Who can’t relate to rage these days?   <p>The Hulk <i>was</i> the star of the third act of one of the most successful movies of the modern cinematic era. While it might seem risky to try for a third time after two unsuccessful attempts, the audience reaction to the Hulk in <i>The Avengers</i> should provide enough evidence a third time will be the charm.   <p>We DO like the Hulk when he’s angry, is the point, and by the time Phase 4 rolls out, it'll be time to give him another go.

Top 10 PHASE 4 Movies Marvel Studios Should Make

Date: 29 October 2014 Time: 06:15 PM ET