Long-time fans of Marvel Comics and curious moviegoers are always looking ahead when it comes to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the success of The Avengers, speculation, rumors and questions consistently surround what other characters, teams and stories from the books will be adapted. Will some of the characters talked about for years finally get a chance on the big screen?

“Phase Two” of the movie franchise is mostly comprised of sequels for the core characters of The Avengers roster but a new set of characters are set to be introduced in Guardians of the Galaxy next August. Beyond that, Marvel Studios and Kevin Fiege are still finalizing plans for Phase Three which begins with Ant-Man shortly after The Avengers: Age of Ultron releases in May 2015.

We have to wait until next summer when Marvel Studios may begin unveiling their Phase Three schedule. In talking about the idea of shared cinematic universes with multiple franchises of films taking place in the same continuity at Comic-Con this summer, Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige explained:

“I love that our success has inspired people to do it, because the audience said, ‘we like that.  We want more of that, please.’  So, I love it, and I can’t wait to see those movies that come out.  We’re not thinking three years ahead, even five years ahead and 10 years ahead.  How do we keep it fresh?  And Guardians is our big answer to that.”

This was during Comic-Con and he continued, stating that while the focus of the studio is squarely on Phase Two, fans can expect more of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor in Phase Three. This was two months before Robert Downey Jr. signed for The Avengers sequels but not Iron Man 4, meaning Marvel Studios may now have one additional slot to fill. Feige has since gone on record explaining that they’ve got plans laid out up until 2021, when we expect a fourth Avengers could release. And he told Empire regarding how many movies would come after The Avengers 2:

“There are three or four slots. We’ve got six or seven things going. We’ve got to choose which four will go. It’s a Battle Royale!”

Assuming Ant-Man doesn’t count since it’s already greenlit with a release date, do the three-four remaining slots include three-quels for Captain America and Thor? Are those already given features Marvel plans to make or could those be pushed back or skipped all together in favor of including stars Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth in other features? Or could they be saved for further down the road due to the limited amount of options left on their contracts? Will that depend perhaps, on the performance of Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the box office?

Assuming Marvel does have four Phase Three slots left after Ant-Man for 2016 and 2017, based on Feige’s words alone we can assume these pictures are the safest bets for what’s on the slate:

  • Ant-Man (confirmed)
  • Captain America 3
  • Thor 3
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Inhumans

Doctor Strange is all but confirmed as a Phase Three film by Feige – another feature that’s “different” and one that lets them be creative. It’s also a chance to introduce another Avenger who could fill Tony Stark’s spot when Robert Downey Jr. checks out. As for The Inhumans, that’s the other commonly name-dropped property by Marvel execs – and again, it lets them do something different and play with both the history of Earth and the cosmic side of the Marvel universe that Guardians of the Galaxy will introduce us to next year. It could even serve as the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel. We also have a hunch that the”new IP” that will “merge brands” so to speak – the one that Vin Diesel is in talks for – is also The Inhumans, and we even believe that he could play their leader, a character known as Blackbolt.

 

According to Stan Lee however, executive producer on most Marvel movies and a creator of many of the characters they feature, seems to be partially in the know as well. He’s long talked about Guardians of the Galaxy and when interviewed or on panels at conventions, he often lists other popular characters he claims are in development at Marvel Studios. At Wizard World Comic Con NYC two months back, he again explained that Black Panther is a film Marvel is developing:

“The people at Marvel are spending hours trying to think ‘what’ll we do next.’ And there’s a damn good chance that they will think just what you mentioned because it would be a great idea, and little by little, everything you want to see will come along because they’re just like you. They’re fans of the stories and are trying to think ‘what will the fans like to see next? What would we like to see next?’ So they’re working on Ant-Man, working on Doctor Strange; they’re working on Guardians of the Galaxy; they’re working on god knows what. Did I say the Black Panther also? They’re the ones I know about.”

Speaking with TooFab earlier this week, Lee again named the King of Wakanda:

“Right now the people at Marvel are looking through our whole list of candidates and wondering which ones are we going to use now. They are going to do the Black Panther. They are going to use Doctor Strange. They are going to do Ant-Man. They are going to do the Guardians of the Galaxy, and they’ll probably do The Inhumans.

Is there room for Black Panther in Phase Three or is he a character further out? Will Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk get a chance a solo film or is he forever going to be a supporting character? Disney and Marvel Studios have already locked down a pair of summer release dates for 2016 with a third date for 2017.

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Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014The Avengers: Age of Ultron on May 1, 2015, Ant-Man on July 31, 2015, and unannounced films for May 6 2016, July 8 2016 and May 5 2017.

Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes for your Marvel movie news!

Sources: Empire, TooFab