Marvel Studios has a lot of future projects to balance and it's a good problem to have. With the success of the Iron Man franchise pushing the studio to launching solo projects for Captain America and Thor, leading to the team-up epic in The Avengers, everyone is wondering what comes next.
From the long-delayed Ant-Man film by Edgar Wright, to Dr. Strange and Runaways which already have writers attached, and a ton of secondary characters having their names dropped by folks at Marvel for potential feature film treatment, Marvel will soon need to decide which projects get the greenlight after The Avengers.
Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios President of Production, sat down with MTV to have a chat about exactly this and mentioned some titles we've heard before and one you might not have expected. Which lesser known properties does Feige think have realistic potential to become live-action features in the future?
"I think what Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction have done with 'Iron Fist' lately is exciting... I think 'Black Panther' and Wakanda has some amazing potential to be a feature film. 'Doctor Strange,' as you've mentioned. There are some obscure titles, too, like 'Guardians of the Galaxy.' I think they've been revamped recently in a fun way in the book."
This is the first we've heard about a possible Guardians of the Galaxy adaptation. We know Marvel is opening up the film series to non-Earthly places such as Asgard with Thor and a Guardians feature would let us meet some of the cosmic heroes of the Marvel Universe. For those unfamiliar with the series, Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced back in 1969 as part of the future of an alternate universe. More recently however - and what Feige is referring to - is the new series which began in 2008, written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. It features characters like Adam Warlock, Star-Lord and even appearances from Nova - these are the more well known characters to comic readers. In the series, they cross paths with the infamous Skrulls, the possible villains for The Avengers.
Iron Fist on the other hand was almost made into a feature film starring Ray Park (X-Men, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace) a decade ago when the property was owned by Artisan Entertainment, but that obviously didn't happen and Marvel got the rights back. Since then, his name has been mentioned as a property of interest for Marvel Studios and was even mentioned as part of a possible Heroes for Hire film which would co-star the fan-favorite character of Luke Cage aka Power Man. This would make for a very cool movie.
Another character I'm glad Feige mentioned was Black Panther, who's been subject to rumors of who could play the him for a long time. Black Panther and his homeland of Wakanda would make for a very unique action movie with a great story and I'd love to see the character join The Avengers if they make a sequel. Marvel has spoken with actors about the part, including dewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost, G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra) but there's been no official movement as of yet.
"I think the answer is yes... I think S.H.I.E.L.D. could be it's own franchise. I think, frankly, 'The Avengers' is going to be told from that point of view more so than any of the other films at that point, so we're going to get an inside look [at how S.H.I.E.L.D.] operates."
This seems like an obvious extension to The Avengers and it could feature a lot of superhero cameos, while giving more screen time to S.H.I.E.L.D. agents like Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.
We've long heard that Marvel was interested in introducing character unknown to mainstream audiences in lower budget projects and more recently we've heard that they could be first introduced through shorts attached to their big features as a way to test audience reaction.
With Disney now behind Marvel, Marvel Studios will hopefully ramp up production to four features a year, a target number mentioned as a goal for the studio. This would allow them to carry on with their current franchises with sequels for Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and The Avengers while keeping things fresh by introducing new franchises through other characters.
The short of it is that we have a lot to look forward to.
Thor opens May 5, 2011; The First Avenger: Captain America hits July 22, 2011 and The Avengers is scheduled to debut May 4, 2012. What comes next we don't yet know.