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The MCU Keeps Avoiding New York City - And That's A Good Thing

Unlike Marvel Comics, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was never primarily set in New York City - and that's a good thing. The MCU began with Iron Man and the divergence was immediate: unlike in the comics, Tony Stark and his company Stark Industries were based in Los Angeles, and the billionaire genius owned an opulent cliffside home in Malibu. Marvel Studios' decision to stage Iron Man's production in California instead of mounting the expense to shoot in NYC (just to adhere to the comics) also helped open the door to the worldwide success the MCU would become.

From its inception, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby designed the comic book Marvel Universe partly as a response to how their rival DC Comics' superheroes lived in separate fictional cities. Marvel was meant to be "the world outside our window", a real-world city that happened to be inhabited by colorful costumed heroes and villains. By basing most of Marvel's characters in the Big Apple, it also allowed them to cross over into each other's titles. It isn't uncommon for Spider-Man to swing by the Fantastic Four's midtown Manhattan HQ, the Baxter Building, for example. Even as it evolved into a multiverse, New York City remains the home base of Marvel Comics and most of his characters. The movies, however, had other, bigger ideas from the get-go.

Related: The MCU Would Be Worse If Marvel Had The X-Men Rights From The Start

The MCU was also planned as a shared universe, but the realities of movie-making made basing all of the heroes in New York City logistically impossible. Just as the MCU only tangentially adapts the comics, the movies are their own thing and only pay lip service to NYC as Marvel's comic book home. After Iron Man already kicked off the MCU beyond NYC, Marvel Studios decided to never limit their characters to just one city. Besides, the superheroes have crossed over in many other ways, both within and outside the confines of Manhattan.

The Avengers Barely Spend Time In New York City

Though World War II-era Brooklyn was seen in Captain America: The First Avenger, the MCU's first foray into present-day New York City (specifically Harlem) was in The Incredible Hulk. Iron Man 2's Stark Expo then took place in Queens, but it wasn't until the Battle of New York in The Avengers that Earth's Mightiest Heroes would formally take Manhattan. With Stark Tower, which would later become Avengers Tower, based in midtown, the MCU seemed to be signaling a move to the Big Apple that would reflect the comics. However, fans who hoped to see the heroes walking the streets of Manhattan just like in the comics had to settle for the Avengers eating shwarma together in a post-credits scene. Afterward, the heroes were only seen in the luxurious upper floors of Stark Tower whenever they were in the city.

What's more, the Avengers as bonafide New Yorkers only lasted all of one movie (or roughly three years in the MCU timeline). After Ultron attacked Avengers Tower in Age of Ultron, Stark quickly vacated his ARC reactor-powered midtown skyscraper and relocated the team to a sprawling upstate facility by the end of the film. That was the last time the Avengers set foot in the Big Apple until Tony, Bruce Banner, Doctor Strange, Wong, and Spider-Man fought the Black Order in Greenwich Village during Avengers: Infinity War. True, Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum is Manhattan-based and much of Strange's film took place in NYC, but the Sorcerer Supreme is technically not (yet) an Avenger.

Even Spider-Man Skips NYC

Manhattan is really only a minor setting in Spider-Man: Homecoming. The opening scene, set in the days after the Battle of New York, established the reason why Adrian Toomes became the villainous Vulture. In addition, the vacating of Stark Tower is overseen by Happy Hogan. However, Spider-Man was never seen swinging amongst the skyscrapers of Manhattan in Homecoming. Peter Parker (mostly) listened to his mentor Tony Stark's demands that he remain a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Not that this stopped Peter from ditching his beat patrolling Queens; he fought the Shocker in the suburbs and took a field trip to Washington, D.C., the setting of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Spidey finally spun his web (briefly) in Manhattan in Avengers: Infinity War, but, amazingly, in the MCU, the wall-crawler has actually spent more screen time in Berlin than in NYC!

Related: Spider-Man: Far From Home Will Deliver On An Andrew Garfield Promise

Marvel Studios deliberately had Spider-Man skip NYC to avoid repeating tropes that fans had gotten tired of in the five previous Spidey films, all of which primarily took place in Manhattan. To offer something different that would firmly establish Tom Holland's webhead in the MCU, Marvel Studios instead turned Spider-Man into a world-traveling (and even outer space-traveling) teenage hero. Once he's resurrected in Avengers 4, Peter is even heading back to Europe in next year's Spider-Man: Far From Home. At this point, it's not clear if Holland's Peter will ever live in a dingy Manhattan apartment and become a photographer for the Daily Bugle, but the happy result of these changes is that Spider-Man's non-NYC adventures continue to be surprising and unexpected.

Page 2: Avoiding New York Makes The MCU a Better Universe

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Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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