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Marvel Entertainment is smashing its way back to movie cinemas, spearheaded by Thor and X-Men: First Class, and how about the news that Captain America: The Last Avenger is coming up.
We can also expect a Spider Man 5, The Avengers, and Iron-Man 3 and Media Man spies have also been tipped by folks close to Marvel living legend Stan Lee and friends to expect a few surprises in the next 6 - 18 months.
Marvel Studios is bringing together many of their iconic characters for The Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk).
As you may have heard, Marvel Studios don't own all of the film rights to their characters, and its more complicated than that the Jack Kirby (the late artist) situation. Film rights were signed over to other studios years prior to Marvel electing to adapt its own material (the first flick being Iron Man in 2008).
The upshot of the situation likely means that in addition to Iron Man 3 and forecast sequels to Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger...they're going to have to snatch from the portfolio lesser-known heroes and villains.
This situation may be of concern for Marvel powers that be. Thor has performed well for a character not strongly marketed in the past, but will other lesser known heroes and villains from Marvel fame fare so well? Not so sure.
Let's have a look at some of the other characters in the Marvel portfolio...
S.H.I.E.L.D. Presumably Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury will be joined by Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye -- both of whom figure in The Avengers -- when this spy thriller inevitably happens. Making it attractive? That it would help the studio branch into other genres (something it's also done with the mythic Thor) and help insulate the company from superhero-movie fatigue.
Dr. Strange: If a S.H.I.E.L.D spin-off is essentially a secret agent movie, this magic-based character could explore the mystical side of the Marvel universe. Dr. Strange's name recognition is arguably equal to Thor's, making it a probable priority, post-Avengers.
Ant-Man: Long in the planning stages, at last report Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) was still set to direct a movie about the miniaturized hero.
Iron Fist: Created during the post-Bruce Lee boom of the 1970s, this kung-fu fighter could provide a twist on superhero lore, opening Marvel to the martial arts genre.
The Runaways: This relatively new creation is about a group of teenagers who discover their parents are super-villains. Joss Whedon, writer-director of The Avengers, is a fan and actually penned some issues a few years ago.
Black Panther: Let's face it: most superheroes are lily-white. Which would immediately distinguish this hero -- an African prince -- from the pack.
The Punisher: This grim vigilante, who emerged out of the shadow of Death Wish and Dirty Harry, has been adapted disastrously before (see sidebar). Now Marvel has the rights to the character back. But can a remorseless killer find a home at family-friendly Disney?
Luke Cage: A product of the Blaxploitation era of the 1970s -- i.e. Shaft -- Cage is a wrongly convicted prisoner who agrees to be experimented on, and as a result, becomes steel-skinned and super-strong. Like Black Panther, Cage has been circled by filmmakers for a number of years.
Nova: This character represents the cosmic, space-faring side of Marvel, but it's likely the studio will wait to see how Green Lantern - from rival DC Entertainment - performs this summer before committing to their own science-fiction opera.
Cloak and Dagger: Not quite ready for the big screen? No worries. Marvel has also launched its own television division. (And remember, Disney owns both Marvel and ABC). Among the characters bandied about for a small screen treatment is this duo: a pair of street kids with chemically enhanced abilities.
Who would you pick out of that selection to make a slash at box office? Write it down in your black book, or better still, write to Disney - Marvel, and give them your two cents. We're betting that a few of them will take off in box office, but Marvel Studios will do well to take calculated risks and make sure they get the market research right before committing large sums of money on a dark horse - unknown quantity.
As Marvel Entertainment legend Stan Lee says of the current crop of Marvel Studio flicks, games and other merchandise, Excelsior!
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