An alternate ending for Thor almost introduced S.W.O.R.D. to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Created by Joss Whedon in the comics, S.W.O.R.D. - the Sentient World Observation and Response Department - deals with extraterrestrial threats to world security. As Whedon described it, they make S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the Girl Scouts.
There's long been a real sense of excitement about the idea of introducing S.W.O.R.D. into the MCU, but a complication in terms of film rights appears to have posed a problem. S.W.O.R.D. was introduced as part of Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run, and their most prominent leader - the green-haired Abigail Brand - is a mutant. Prominent members have included the X-Men's Beast and Kitty Pryde's pet dragon, Lockheed. Given this is the case, there have been reports that S.W.O.R.D.'s film rights may well sit with 20th Century Fox, with Marvel only set to regain them upon completion of the Disney/Fox acquisition.
An alternate ending for Thor would have introduced S.W.O.R.D. into the MCU all the way back in 2011. In this version, Thor ended with Erik Selvig now running a lab, excitedly briefing a team to run simulations; up on the roof of the building, Jane Foster and Darcy were attempting to send a signal to the Bifrost in order to bring Thor back to Earth. But the most interesting line of dialogue is when Selvig tells his team to "cross-reference... with the S.W.O.R.D. database."
It's only a throwaway reference, but it would have radically reshaped the MCU. If S.W.O.R.D. already existed, it would mean that the world's governments already knew about the existence of alien life, and had taken measures to protect the planet from potential invaders. Selvig seems to be running a scientific research team, so it's doubtful they were referring to a database of alien races; rather, it's more likely that it was some sort of record of cosmic anomalies that S.W.O.R.D. had detected, perhaps to try to identify other wormholes. Presumably this alternate ending was dropped because it would have meant S.W.O.R.D. would have really been expected to appear in The Avengers instead of, or as well as, S.H.I.E.L.D.; a full-scale alien invasion of New York would certainly be S.W.O.R.D.'s area of interest.
It's possible that the film rights for S.W.O.R.D. are a little more complex than has previously been reported. As with the Skrulls, it's conceivable that the rights for S.W.O.R.D. are currently shared between Marvel and Fox, with specific characters - such as Agent Brand - named as Fox properties; that would explain why Marvel came so close to referencing them in a movie. Regardless, the Disney/Fox acquisition is currently expected to be completed by June, which would mean all those rights would revert to Marvel. Given Captain Marvel is strongly associated with S.W.O.R.D. in the comics - she's actually taken over from Brand as S.W.O.R.D. Director - it wouldn't be a surprise to see S.W.O.R.D. appear in the (surely-inevitable) Captain Marvel 2.
- 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 05, 2019