It only took five days after The Avengers opened in North American theaters for Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger to announce that a sequel would be in development, but it took three months the secure Joss Whedon's return as the writer and director. As part of the deal, Joss Whedon will be working with Marvel Studios for the next three years where he will help oversee Phase Two of the Marvel cinematic universe.
The unexpected part of the agreement is that Whedon would also be developing a live-action Marvel TV series for ABC, one which we can now safely say will be based on the S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) organization.
After Disney released the official statement regarding Whedon's involvement with the future of the franchise, we put together a list of 10 Marvel Comics properties that Whedon could potentially develop for the small screen. Of the suggestions, only two really made sense, one more than the other.
There was Runaways, a series Whedon actually wrote several issues for and one that was about ready to begin shooting last spring for a theatrical release this year alongside The Avengers with Peter Sollett directing. And there was our number one choice, SHIELD, a show that would follow the secretive organization that helped rally the superheroes introduced in the films thus far. This is what I said at the time:
With Whedon's show taking place in the same continuity as the films, and SHIELD being a part of all of them in some way, there are plenty of opportunities to have the show and movies promote each other. Just think of the guest appearance possibilities. Better yet, if the Helicarrier were to be used, Marvel Studios already has the sets and digital assets constructed from The Avengers film production. Adding credence to this rumor is Deadline's scoop from a few weeks ago indicating that Marvel's TV division has a "a kernel of an idea" that they're talking with ABC about, one that would be set in the film universe but wouldn't star any of its characters. Its described as a "high-concept cop show" and was "referred to as Shield." Coincidence?
For more discussion and thoughts on the series, check out episode 52 of the Screen Rant Undeground podcast.
Deadline has the confirmation that their initial scoop was correct and SHIELD is on its way to becoming a reality. Production will begin right away with Whedon co-writing the project with his brother Jed Whedon and Jed's wife Maurissa Tancharoen (sister of Mortal Kombat savior Kevin Tancharoen), both of whom Joss worked with on Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and Dollhouse.
The plan is for Joss Whedon to direct the pilot of SHIELD as well for the series that has a safer bet of lasting more than his previous television endeavors simply due to the nature of his involvement in the bigger picture plans of the studio. The show will not star the core characters of The Avengers but cameo appearances are very likely, especially in positioning the series to be set in the same universe. What this means is that as each of the films leading up to The Avengers debut, we could potentially see the series dealing with the events taking place in each of the film's stories. Expect Disney to take full advantage of cross-promotional opportunities.
While the idea of basing a show around SHIELD allows the series to practically explore all facets of the Marvel Comics universe in terms of characters and stories, we're very curious as to what Whedon's specific plans are. By signing the three-year exclusivity deal with Marvel Studios to helm The Avengers 2, it seems that this TV show is Whedon's reward of sorts for climbing aboard and we are excited at the potential and curious as to how much the show will actually integrate with the films.
SHIELD beats out Guillermo del Toro's in-development The Incredible Hulk show for ABC as the first live-action Marvel series to get the official green light. The last we heard on the Hulk front, just prior to Whedon's signing, was that del Toro is waiting on a certain unnamed writer's schedule to free up before they revise the screenplay.
Iron Man 3 releases May 3, 2013, Thor: The Dark World on November 8, 2013, Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4, 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy on August 1, 2014 and The Avengers 2 on May 1, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.