Since its inception in 2008 with the release of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown exponentially. From top-tier Avengers like Captain America and Black Widow, to more obscure properties like the Guardians of the Galaxy, each film released with the Marvel Studios logo has been a worldwide hit. And while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. hasn’t fared as well as its film counterparts, Marvel’s three Netflix series have all been massive successes. All told, the MCU is currently comprised of 14 films and 5 TV shows, with a number of other movies and series currently in some form of production. Each batch of films are broken into 3–4 year blocks called “Phases,” with the studio currently in the middle of Phase 3.
On the cinematic side, Marvel has already mapped out their slate through 2019, which will wrap Phase 3 and have Phase 4 commencing in 2020. With the company starting to produce 3 movies a year in 2017, along with various TV shows, there’s a whole lot of content for the next phase of the shared universe. Still, there are only so many characters and stories they can tackle in that time—some will just have to wait. Here are 15 Things From The Comics We'll Never See In Marvel Phase 4.
15 The Kree-Skrull War
One of the most well-known and -loved arcs in the history of Marvel Comics is the Kree-Skrull War, and it’s a great place to start this list. When considering which plotlines and characters will or won’t appear during Phase 4, certain logistics have to be figured in, and the Kree-Skrull War has a number of red flags when it comes to possible inclusion. The biggest barrier is that the Skrulls, a race of shape-shifting aliens that never stop giving our heroes headaches, are owned by Fox. The studio also owns many of the superheroes involved in the story, like all of the X-Men and Fantastic Four.
Let’s say that somehow Marvel acquires the rights to all (or most) of these characters as a huge Christmas present this year. Even more realistically, let’s say they just get Fox to give up the Skrulls and they simply replace the characters they don’t have with the ones they do. Phase 3 is going to end with two massive, cosmic films in Avengers: Infinity War and a second, currently untitled Avengers film. Marvel Studios overlord Kevin Feige has already said Phase 4 will deal will smaller stories. You can’t just keep having massive space battles. With that in mind, Marvel is unlikely to spend all of Phase 4 building up another cosmic threat, even if they had all their toys to play with.
14 Danny Ketch
Sure, until a few months ago, there were a total of zero Ghost Riders in the MCU. Now, Robbie Reyes is a regular on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the show has teased Johnny Blaze’s existence (you know, by actually showing him). We’ve even had a bonus temporary Ghost Rider that doesn’t appear in the comics. At this rate, that T-Rex who rides on a fighter jet from Ghost Racers will be on the show in a couple of years. So why won’t Danny Ketch, the second (or third, if you count the Phantom Rider aka the OG Ghost Rider) show up in the MCU?
Part of the issue is that S.H.I.E.L.D.’s declining ratings mean it may not be long for this world. Even if they did stick around, they don’t want to repeat the Inhuman-filled season 3 and pack their series full of flaming skulls. And if those Ghost Rider spinoff rumors are true? They very well could be, but it’s likely to only focus on Reyes and Blaze for now. Plus, that’s assuming Marvel can find a network who isn’t swimming in MCU content already. With Iron Fist, The Defenders, and Punisher all on the horizon, Netflix is probably good, and every Disney-owned network has one series each in production at this point. The show could still happen, but Ketch is a few Phases away.
13 The X-Men
It seems that not a month goes by without some rumor that Marvel and Fox have made a deal to allow the X-Men to appear in the MCU. Sure, we recently learned that Ego the Living Planet was okayed for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 by Fox because Marvel let them alter Negasonic Teenage Warhead in Deadpool, but that's small potatoes. Despite an underwhelming box office return and reception for X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox is still generating a ton of money from their X-Men film (and soon, TV) properties.
New deals may continue to allow tertiary characters that Fox has no plans of using to pop up in a Marvel Studios film, but the mutants are their goldmine. Even if Deadpool turns into a lucrative franchise, he’s just one character. Plus, his supporting cast is almost entirely comprised of X-Men characters. While the idea of a shared production model like Marvel has with Sony for the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming could still be a possibility, Feige seems dead-set on shooting down almost every rumor that pops up by stating the obvious: Marvel Studios is busy as hell and the idea of introducing the concept of mutants and the X-Men would need to be a Phase of its own.
Lastly, despite the move from a movie to a TV series, next year’s The Inhumans seems like the final nail in the coffin, as the genetically altered team is likely going to fill Marvel’s mutant-sized hole.
12 Planet Hulk
This one is a bit of a gray area. Planet Hulk is a storyline that fans have long been clamoring for, especially since Mark Ruffalo has turned in such a powerful performance as the Jade Giant’s alterego. The idea of adapting the comic has been teased over the years, with many rumors swirling that the finale of Age of Ultron would segue directly into the potential film. We know now that all that smoke was merely signaling the appearance of the Hulk in next year’s Thor: Ragnarok. Since that time, Comic Con props and some potential promo art have teased the idea that Hulk’s gladiator arc would be worked into the upcoming cosmic buddy cop flick.
Regardless of how things shake out in November, Ragnarok will still be a Thor movie. Because of that, it’s got an Asgardian-centric story to tell and a number of characters to focus on and introduce. Plus, Feige has already said the events of the film will help set up Infinity War. Taking all of that into account, there’s only so much time the movie can spend on Hulk in the arena.
The potential for a Hulk solo film detailing what he gets up to before he and Thor join forces is definitely still out there, but we can’t forget about that pesky distribution deal that keeps Marvel Studios from fully owning any film led by the Other Guy. Barring a Sony-like deal with Universal, this one’s unlikely to get a slot anytime soon.
11 Silver Surfer
Though the Skrulls have plenty of fans bummed that they’re probably not joining the MCU anytime soon, the ownership of Silver Surfer has been even more heartbreaking for many Marvel diehards. Given the success of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange so far, the cosmic exploits of Norrin Radd could make for Marvel’s trippiest hit yet. If you factor in Mike Allred’s psychedelic run of the former Herald of Galactus, we’re talking about one of the most surreal blockbusters to ever grace screens. Sadly, he’s tied up in the same Fox deal that gives them many of Marvel’s space-faring characters. And even if the studio could secure the Surfer, he’s kind of a package deal with Galactus.
Again, let’s speculate that Marvel somehow gets the rights to both the World Eater and his envoy in the next few years. We’re still looking at a densely packed space epic featuring a metallic guy flying around on a surfboard and a giant purple dude in a futuristic Viking helmet who eats planets. Sure, Marvel’s sold plenty of weird to audiences, but following the events of Infinity War, they’re likely going to want to quiet things down a bit before they shoot for the moon again. The one possibility is that the Surfer pops up in a sequel to Guardians and merely teases his origin for a later date. Unfortunately, Fox is probably not going to give up this asset easily.
10 The Clone Saga
The Clone Saga is an arc that fans are very split on, but given Marvel’s recent resurrection of the story, it’s worth considering. We’ve known for a while, that despite the cooperation between Marvel Studios and Sony, the latter is still keen on expanded their own Spider-Man universe. Both a Venom and Sinister Six movie still seem to be on the table, and it looks as if they would operate separately from Marvel’s current schedule. While Feige and Co. will likely still produce and consult, Sony won’t necessarily be beholden to working around the MCU’s already packed schedule. Because of that, we have to assume that the production of new Spider-Man spinoffs aren’t limited by the 3 movies a year rule. In fact, the whole idea of Phases might not apply.
That said, the Clone Saga built on decades of Spider-Man lore and it's a dense concept that requires a huge number of supporting characters to be introduced first. Dealing with the villainous Jackal, the resurrection of Gwen Stacy (who has to be established and then killed), and the proliferation of Spidey clones, this one is a tall order. With the first part of the new Spider-Man trilogy beginning in 2017, we’ll probably get the third film right at the end of Phase 4. The next batch of films could certainly begin laying the seeds for this arc, but there’s absolutely no way it’ll pop up before then.
9 Red Hulk
Similar to Planet Hulk, the idea of the Red Hulk appearing in the MCU is a persistent one. There was even a possibility that he would appear in Civil War earlier this year, which seemed all the more likely as the film saw the return of General “Thunderbolt” Ross to the MCU. Aside from being Hulk’s most ardent critic, as established in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, in the comics Ross eventually becomes a monster himself when he’s transformed into the Red Hulk. Interestingly enough, the character debuted in the comics the same year the film hit theaters. While this seems a further indication that Marvel plans to introduce the similarly angry but much more tactically proficient Ruby Rampager into their movies, the issues with Universal still exist.
Sure, Infinity War could prove so devastating that Ross exposes himself to some experimental new form of gamma radiation to help the heroes of Earth, but the mystery of who the Red Hulk is, how he ties to the regular Hulk, and his key differences (retains his intellect, can transmute energy, releases huge heat waves as he gets angrier) are deserving of their own story in a movie purely dedicated to the idea of the Hulk. Even if the Hulk gets his much-awaited solo feature soon, Ross’ Red Hulk isn’t likely to be the first choice for an antagonist, meaning the 3–4 year run of Phases 4 would need to cram in at least 2 Hulk-centric films to allow him to appear.
8 Devil Dinosaur
From a Red Hulk to a Red T-Rex, Devil Dinosaur is one of those small-time, absurd pieces of the Marvel Comics universe that unexpectedly rose to prominence in recent years. Like X-23, who’s gone from cartoons to comics to cinemas with the upcoming Logan, Devil Dinosaur has danced around the periphery for years. Though the beast originally appeared back in 1978 in an eponymous book written and drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby, he hasn’t had a ton of focus over the years.
That all changed when he costarred as Steve Roger’s companion in the Secret Wars book Planet Hulk. Not to be confused with our previous entry, the story saw Big Red team up with a gladiator Cap and the Doc Green version of Bruce Banner. Marvel upgraded him even more when they added him as a costar in this year’s Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. Though both characters and the comic have been a huge hit and will hopefully gain a place in the MCU eventually, the sheer absurdity of the character doesn’t fit outside of the Guardians side of things. Given the two heroes' lack of a cosmic connection, this one will have to wait until the Earth-based action gets a little nuttier. There’s also the question of whether the Savage Land, DD’s home, is owned by Fox as part of their X-Men deal, as the group and location are usually connected in the comics.
7 Secret Wars
Speaking of the pure insanity that is Secret Wars, both the original 1984–85 version of the story and the 2015 take that rebooted the Marvel Comics universe make The Clone Saga look like a two-hour movie by comparison. To make an extremely long story short, the first tale was part of a controversial effort by Marvel to increase toy sales. In the comics, a multiversal entity known as the Beyonder plucked most every Marvel hero and villain out of our reality and dumped them into Battleworld to duke it out. Surprisingly, last year’s version had a much better reception, as it was built up over years by writer Jonathan Hickman and served as a sort of meta tribute to the whole of Marvel Comics. Also it was a way for the publisher to clear house and start fresh.
Either version (or a combination of both) are bound to factor into the MCU eventually, but for them to truly work, we need years and years of stories for the films to be built on. While the first version could serve as the Infinity War-esque event that ends Phase 5 or 6, it would be amazing to see the company spend the next few decades fleshing out their cinematic universe before doing what Hickman and Co. did last year. No one’s crazy enough to argue this could possibly appear in Phase 4, but we do hope Marvel eventually works towards it.
The Deadpool movie that finally came out earlier this year seems to have been met with universal approval from fans and general audiences alike. The film already has a sequel lined up with the time-traveling Cable joining up, and the first film gave the studio one hell of a return on their investment. Though Marvel completists want every piece of the playset back under one roof, many are happy for now to have a series of Deadpool films that maintain the tone of the first film. After all, even if Fox partnered with Marvel, Wade Wilson would be stuck in the labyrinthine Marvel Studios production schedule.
For fans of the anti-hero, it’s actually better that he has his own world to play in for now. Not only does it let the nuttier side of the mutants come out, the success of the film has seen properties like X-Force pushed through the production pipeline. The only feasible way that Deadpool could join the MCU is if his next film completely bombs, and even then, that hasn’t stopped Fox in the past from retaining ownership (more on that later). The good news is that if he does go back to Marvel, his fourth-wall breaking and meta awareness would mean Reynolds could be seamlessly integrated into the MCU without any need to reboot or recast the character.
5 Dark Avengers
Based around the idea that Norman Osborn, aka the Once and Future Green Goblin, now controls S.H.I.E.L.D. and forms his own nefarious version of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, this arc has untold obstacles for inclusion in the MCU. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a super cool story and should definitely play out in the future of the films, but it’s a long way off at this point. Even if you discount the fact that it builds on the Skrull Invasion that can’t happen anytime soon, we still don’t have a new Norman Osborn. He’s bound to show up in the next few Spider-Man movies, but for this arc to work, we need to have known him for awhile.
What’s more, he has to break bad and then seemingly reform for the story to work. Once he does, he can don the Iron Patriot armor (in the comics, he wore it before Rhodey did) and assemble a bunch of villainous doppelgangers for a number of superheroes. Even if we exclude Logan’s son Daken as Dark Wolverine, this whole concept is built upon a deep history of Marvel supers switching places. Like Secret Wars, it’s hopefully inevitable, but we’re just not ready yet.
Trust us, we want to be wrong about this. Carnage finally making his (its?) big screen debut, and in the MCU no less, is even more of an exciting prospect now that we know Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda wants the part. Still, the facts just don’t add up. Carnage can’t exist without Venom being established. Even with the possibility that a Venom movie could be on the docket for Sony, that’s probably not happening until the new Spidey world has a laid strong foundation.
Venom could sneak in right towards the end of Phase 4, but it’d be weird for Carnage to show up until at least the third movie featuring Venom. Carnage will come to cinemas eventually, but it’s gonna take some time. Plus, once all of the ducks are in a row, Carnage still presents a huge problem for Marvel and Fox.
Deadpool showed that Fox is willing to go R with their characters and that they can still make money doing so, but we don’t know if Marvel is committed to the same idea. Carnage is a murdering psychopathic alien symbiote attached to a serial killer, so the movie has to be bloody and dark. More challenging is that Deadpool buoyed the violence with the character’s natural humor, something Cletus Kasady isn’t as know for. Even in the best case scenario, this will be a tough sell if it eventually happens.
For a story that’s only 10 years old, the “Annihilation” arc has become a popular one among fans. Unfortunately, many of the reasons it’s such a hit are exactly the things keeping it from being adapted in the MCU. While participants like Thanos, Star-Lord, and Drax are all shoo-ins, and an Annihilation movie would be a great way to finally introduce Richard Rider’s Nova, most of the other key players in the storyline are owned by Fox. There’s the aforementioned Silver Surfer, Galactus, and the Skrull warrior Kl’rt, aka the Super-Skrull. There's also the villain which gives the event its name: Annihilus.
Hailing from the Negative Zone and controlling untold hordes of intergalactic insects, Annihilus could be a villain Fox was willing to part with. Still, without the other people mentioned also being part of the deal, fans would go absolutely mental if Marvel moved forward on the story without them. Plus, there’s the fact that Annihilus’ M.O. in battle would give us a repeat of the climaxes from both previous Avengers movies as the heroes would simply be attacking wave after wave of mindless drones. It should come someday, but this one requires Fox giving up or sharing a ton of their IPs.
2 Coulson Telling The Avengers He’s Alive
Okay, we cheated on this one a bit as this doesn’t have to do with the comics persay. Still, Coulson is highly active in Marvel Comics and regularly works with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Him admission to his former friends and allies that he’s not dead is also something we’re sadly unlikely to see happen in Phase 4 of the MCU. Ever since Coulson lost his life in the first Avengers and galvanized the team, Cap, Tony, and Thor have all been laboring under the illusion that the agent is dead. The rest of us, the entirety of S.H.I.E.L.D., most of the government, and multiple heads of state, however, know otherwise.
Though Peggy Carter was able to make the jump back to movies from TV when she popped up in Ant-Man, Coulson seems doomed to be forgotten. There was a tiny glimmer of hope that he’d appear in the climax of Age of Ultron, seeing as how he was the one who got Fury that Helicarrier, but alas. Fans are desperately hoping that the TV heroes of both ABC and Netflix will join the films when Thanos comes calling in 2018, but at this point we’re trying to not set ourselves up for more heartbreak. Despite what the producers insist, the TV and film sides of the MCU seem almost as separate as DC’s ventures at this point.
1 The Fantastic Four
Let’s say Fox returns Galactus et al to Marvel Studios. There’s still a final piece of the puzzle, much to the chagrin of many Marvel fans. The Fantastic Four looked to be a big part of Fox’s plans to develop their own superhero universe. Those plans, however, seem doomed to never truly succeed. Despite making decent money, the first two Fantastic Four films were critical flops. Then there was the reboot. While hardly as terrible as its dismal Rotten Tomatoes score would have you believe, the film was nevertheless panned by critics, fans, and the box office.
The failure seemed to be a sure sign that, like Sony, Fox would capitulate and at least partially hand over the reins of the First Family to Marvel. Unfortunately, the studio and producer Simon Kinberg seem dead set on keeping the characters around. Still, they’re likely to revert back sooner or later, as Fox won’t be keen on continuing to hemorrhage money due to the franchise. But even if Marvel got them back immediately, the question is whether they’d even want to make a film involving the Fantastic Four. Not only is the name tainted for general audiences, but they don't even sell well on the comics side. Plus, properties like Guardians and The Inhumans are similar enough that Marvel isn’t likely to rush the group into the MCU, even if they could. We’ll hopefully see them someday, but a Phase 4 appearance is a pipedream.
Which characters and storylines from the comics do you hope to see in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and which do you think are still a long way off? Let us know in the comments.
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