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Yesterday, New York City Comic-Con kicked off, and Marvel stole the show that evening when they announced their next big comic book event: Secret Wars! No, you’re not suddenly back in the 1980s. Marvel is naming its year-long 2015 project after the beloved 1985 miniseries, which saw many of Marvel’s heroes and villains engaged in a grand-scale cosmic battle. The New Secret Wars is described as "overwhelmingly huge," and Marvel Senior VP of Publishing Tom Brevoort said it is "the craziest thing that I've dealt with." Considering that most comic book events label itself as the biggest thing ever, we’ll have to wait until 2015 to see if Secret Wars measures up, but there are already clues that this cosmic scale event is more than it seems.
Before the event was revealed, many fans were expecting Marvel to announce something concerning the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so Secret Wars came as somewhat of a surprise. Granted, comic book companies often make a big deal about their crossovers and events, but to announce an event in such grandiose style at one of the world’s biggest comic book conventions in the world shows that Marvel considers this to be one of their biggest endeavors, and maybe we should believe them. Going off the information and teaser image they provided us, there are clues that Secret Wars may play a role in the future of the MCU.
The Storyline Has Been Hinted At BeforeJoe Russo, one half of the Captain America: The Winter Soldier directing team, mentioned that Secret Wars was one of his favorite comic books growing up, and would love to see those characters on screen together. Captain America 3 is set to keep the same grounded tone The Winter Soldier had, so other than a possible visit from Hawkeye, it’s unlikely other Marvel superheroes will show up (not including the post-credits scene). However, that’s not to say that the movie won’t set up something big for the movie. Kevin Feige has had a Cap 3 title in his head for years, and the story "is all part of a bigger plan." Perhaps Secret Wars will be the inspiration for the gigantic battle that the MCU is edging towards, and Cap 3 is the prologue to that story. Other movies will be released between Cap 3 and Avengers 3 (or whatever Marvel’s grand-scale movie will be called), but to grasp what sort of Secret Wars-style conflict we’re heading towards, Cap 3 is one of the crucial pieces of the puzzle.
There May Be Alternate Versions Of Our Favorite HeroesThe primary draw from the Secret Wars image is different versions of Marvel’s superheroes in a huge brawl. Female Thor fighting past Thor, Sam Wilson as Captain America fighting classic Steve Rogers Captain America, the list goes on. This may be a hint at the MCU heroes discovering alternate versions of themselves. While they’ve dealt with threats both cosmic and homegrown, the Avengers and other MCU heroes so far have not dealt with any incursions from parallel universes or alternate timelines. Imagine the Avengers' reactions to seeing medieval versions of themselves, or alternate Avengers from a world where the Nazis won World War II. Fighting cosmic threats is fun to watch, but parallel universe plots? Those make for interesting stories.
Of course, alternate heroes don’t need come from different universes. There’s speculation that Bucky Barnes or Sam Wilson will become Captain America if Steve Rogers hangs up his shield, and since Mjolnir can be wielded by "whoever is worthy," a new God of Thunder may hit the scene at some point. Maybe Rhodey becomes the new Iron Man, or someone else is bombarded with gamma radiation and turns an unnatural color. We may like the heroes we have now, but don’t be surprised if other individuals inherit their legacies in the future.
There’s No Room For Non-MCU Marvel CharactersStudy that teaser image closely. Aside from the Miles Morales Spider-Man, no X-Men, Fantastic Four or Spider-Man characters are present. Brevoort assures fans that the X-Men and Fantastic Four will be "well represented" in the comic book, but the promotional picture inadvertently reaffirms that Marvel wouldn’t be able to do a direct adaptation of either Secret Wars story on the big screen. Fox has the live-action rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and the relationship between them and Marvel is as antagonistic as we’re led to believe, there’s no way they’re ever crossing over into the MCU. The same goes for Spider-Man and Sony, although if the rumors of a future Sony/Marvel partnership are true, maybe Spider-Man could be involved to some degree. Maybe Peter Parker goes through a dimensional portal and finds himself in the middle of a fight between a hulking green giant and a purple alien wearing a bejeweled gauntlet. That would certainly work as an explanation for why he wasn’t hanging out with the Avengers when they were dealing with Loki and Ultron.
Merchandising Is A Bigger Deal Than You ThinkAs Comicbook.com points out, the company sees this as a big opportunity for merchandising, from toys to clothes to video games. Does that sound like a typical comic book event to you? Secret Wars will be told both on the printed page and on their digital platform in what USA Today called a "synergistic fashion." Comic book companies make a big deal out of every crossover event they publish, but it’s obvious that Marvel is putting a lot more effort into Secret Wars. You know what other type of medium uses merchandising? Movies! Production and distribution companies want their feature films to sell as many tickets as possible, but most of their profits come from the products and deals they bust out in the months beforehand.
This isn’t the first instance of comic book merchandising being kicked up a notch. Last year, Warner Bros and Target teamed up to release exclusive Justice League content in the stores, which will certainly help draw attention to DC’s live-action and animated movie and TV offerings. The Secret Wars merchandising next year may just be for the comic book, but it will draw these characters into the public eye more than they already are, subtlety telling people "Hey, Marvel’s planning something huge."
There’s More Avengers Than Who You See In The MoviesThe superhero craze may be at its peak right now, but only a small portion of the superhero movie audience are actually reading the comic books. Obviously without comic book fans we wouldn’t have these movies, but comic book companies haven’t drawn in as many new readers as they’ve been aiming for. Thanks to new merchandising deals, though, Marvel’s other superheroes are getting more opportunities to shine -- albeit plastered on different products.
Thanks to the Marvel movies, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye are the names that spring to mind when Avengers are mentioned. But the team is more than just those six, and a Secret Wars movie might soldify this. Plenty of heroes have fought as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. If the general audience isn’t interested in discovering these other characters in the comic books, then seeing them on different merchandise while shopping both online and in physical stores will as least somewhat get the job done. Who knows, when Avengers 3 comes out and one of those characters is finally represented in live-action, someone might think to themselves, "Hey, didn’t I see them on a keychain... or maybe it was a cup... a sweatshirt?"