In case you hadn't noticed, Marvel is doing pretty damn well. They've got the highest-grossing movie of all time, have a slew of highly anticipated TV shows on the horizon, and they even produce a series of podcasts, presumably in which Wolverine interviews mid-level celebrities and shills for dodgy mattress companies. You might wonder what's going on over at Marvel HQ ... and we're picturing a lot of bell-bottoms and pet rocks. You see, we have a theory that Marvel Studios is living like it's the 1970s. Confused? Sit back, put on Funkadelic's "Hit It And Quit It," and let us explain.
We know that, barring some kind of freaky Matrix-like revelation, we're all living in the year 2019. But a lot of the creative decisions Marvel Studios has made recently are akin to the ones made by Marvel Comics during the '70s. Several of the big projects they've recently announced have their roots in the decade, such as Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings.
The Shang-Chi comic began as the result of '70s TV. Marvel writers Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin were big fans of the ABC show Kung-Fu, starring David Carradine as a Shaolin monk who unfortunately was in no way Bruce Lee. According to Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, they wanted to do an adaptation of the series. But since the show was owned by Warner Bros., home of rival comics publisher DC, instead they created their own similar yet legally dissimilar enough kung fu series. And because it was the '70s, the process for writing Shang-Chi: Master Of Kung-Fu involved routinely dropping acid and wandering around the streets of New York -- which, amazingly, led to some great story ideas and not a shitload of missing writers.
Another movie coming up is The Eternals, starring Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, and two members of the Stark family (as in Ned, not Tony). Also a bunch of other people who look way different in non-heroic street clothes.
After leaving Marvel for DC in 1970, comics legend Jack Kirby returned to create the Eternals in 1976. While he was working at Marvel's competitor, Kirby created the New Gods series, and it hasn't gone unnoticed that "the Eternals are a hell of a lot like the New Gods."
Meanwhile, She-Hulk is being turned into a series for the new streaming service Disney+, because women can be giant green rage monsters too, dammit. She-Hulk also originated in the '70s, thanks to Stan Lee -- and more importantly, Stan Lee's paranoia. He was worried that the success of The Incredible Hulk TV show would lead Universal to create a female version of the character for television and keep all the rights for themselves. His "preemptive solution" was to create She-Hulk, Bruce Banner's cousin who works as a defense attorney.
Other heroes who have already been introduced in the MCU heavily reflect the '70s. Black Panther has arguably become the most popular MCU character, ever since Iron Man did that thing we won't talk about because it makes us upset. In the comics, Black Panther made his first appearance in the '60s, but didn't star in a comic until 1973.
Similarly, we're finally getting a Black Widow movie in 2020, which mirrors what happened in comics. While the character of Black Widow had been around since 1964, in 1970 she became "Marvel's first female character to become a regular star in her own feature" with Amazing Adventures Vol. 2. Hopefully her movie won't see her being thrown off a rooftop to celebrate Jesus' birthday.
And one of the staples of the MCU has obviously been Lee's frequent cameos. Whether he was thumbing through the script for Mallrats or getting radiation poisoning thanks to a tainted bottle of Brazilian soda, it was always nice to see him pop up. What was his final cameo? In Endgame, we see him back in the '70s, literally playing '70s Stan Lee. Fans likely recognized the tinted glasses and plunging neckline the real Lee employed 40 years ago.
Walt Disney Studios
It's as if Endgame was signalling that this next phase would be spiritually guided by this incarnation of Lee. Or it was just an amusing gag created because big mustaches and wigs are innately funny. But when you think about it, the timing of this all makes sense. The first Iron Man movie came out in 2008, so we're over a decade into the MCU. Marvel Comics technically started in 1961 (evolving out of "Timely Comics"), so in the 1970s, their universe was about as old as the MCU is today.
The movies are seemingly following in the footsteps of the original publisher, with the known Avengers characters ceding the limelight to characters with no brand recognition outside of the ten people still using comic book message boards. Then again, everyone's hyped for a Star Wars movie and can't stop debating a presidential impeachment, so maybe this "reliving the '70s" thing has wider implications than we thought.
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