Jeremy Renner, the guy most rumored to be playing Hawkeye in The Avengers, told Superhero Hype that the movie version of the character would be a guy in sunglasses and a vest – essentially the Ultimate version of Hawkeye. I wouldn’t be suprised to see that Thor includes the Ultimate design of the God of Thunder. Even the Spider-Man films have essentially taken the lead from the Ultimate comics, giving Spidey organic web shooters (remember how controversial that was?) (oops, I guess Spidey didn’t have organic shooters in Ultimate Spider-Man. I thought he did!).
For those unfamiliar, Ultimate Marvel was supposed to be the fresh start for Marvel comics; taking the original characters and rebooting them in a new, modern continuity, Ultimate was supposed to be the way that kids could get into Spider-Man or the X-Men without 40 years of stories bogging them down. It was a way in on the ground floor. And the Ultimate line has heavily influenced the movies that have been made of Marvel comics.
But the Ultimate line went the way of most comic books – it became continuity heavy, lost its sense of fun and then inexplicably self-destructed in a line-wide crossover that killed a ton of characters. While the line is being relaunched as Ultimate Comics, the fact that the comics occur in this weird offshoot of the Marvel Universe with its own cataclysmic history has really killed the concept of making the books accessible to new readers. And with more Marvel movies coming down the pike, it seems like new readers could be there for the picking*.
Which is why Marvel should launch a Marvel Movieverse line of comics. Comics set in the Marvel Universe as seen in the films, using the likenesses of the actors playing the characters. Working closely with the filmmakers and the folks at Marvel Studios, these comics could fill in the gaps in the lives of the characters (ie, the spaces between the movies) and offer fun, movie-ized takes on characters and villains who will likely never get the big screen treatment. Each of the Marvel movie characters has a huge stable of supporting characters and bad guys who will just never make the transition to the silver screen, but it could be a blast re-envisioning Batroc the Leaper or The Grey Gargoyle through the prism of a movie adaptation. How would you do a Grey Gargoyle in a live action film, and how would he be different from the other comic book versions?
The idea of comics filling in the gaps between films is certainly not new to Marvel. They ran a successful Star Wars comic series that produced some really cool stories, and while some of those comics may not fit well with eventually established canon, they weren’t working as closely with Lucasfilm as they would be with Marvel Studios.
A Marvel Movieverse line would also give directors, writers and actors the chance to tell stories about these characters without wading into the regular Marvel Universe. Who wouldn’t be excited to read a four part Iron Man story with a plot by Robert Downey Jr (who is already essentially co-writing the movies)?
What would be nice is that the Marvel Movieverse line could, by definition, not get too continuity heavy; if the comics are meant to be in the same world as the movies, you can’t have the characters engaging in too many cosmos-changing crossovers without leaving the movie world in disarray. These would have to be simpler, more self-contained stories – exactly what has been missing from superhero comics for the last few decades. The emphasis would be on storytelling, not huge twists and canon-altering reveals.
For the movie fans these could be exciting, because a good working relationship between the Marvel Comics folks and the Marvel Studios folks could mean that the comics released in the months before a new movie might contain hints, cameos and other surprises that would get folks salivating. I remember the olden days, when my first look at many movies and character designs didn’t come from publicity photos but from serialized comic book adaptations.
And in the end these would be great entry point books for the millions of people who know Iron Man from the movies but don’t know what the Demon in a Bottle storyline is. The original premise of the Ultimate Marvel line remains a good one – stories featuring the classic Marvel characters that aren’t bogged down in decades of continuity. With a Marvel Movieverse comic line that premise could be fulfilled and reach a wider audience.
* maybe. Lots of people will tell you that comic book movies don’t really lead to major improvements in the sales of comic books, or at least not in any long term way.