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Have you been keeping track of all the major changes coming out of Marvel this week? Later this year, Thor will become a female hero. Longtime Captain America icon Steve Roger will be replaced by Sam Wilson, who fights alongside him as The Falcon. And Iron Man is moving to San Francisco. They’ll all be part of a revamped team labeled Avengers Now initiative (in the comics, pictured below), featuring several names that have become popular as of late.
"But I don’t read the comics!" you tell me. Understood. But I’ll bet you watch the incredibly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe films, and I’m 95% confident that all of these changes are being made in the books so that they can alter the MCU down the line.
On the heels of these announcements that we will have a female Thor and a Black Captain America, Marvel revealed the roster for a planned "Avengers NOW" program – and the driving motive of the team appears to be diversity. Women and ethnic minorities populate the ensemble – but so, too, do faces that we have seen introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or on the radar to be revealed soon). Take a look at the names revealed to be part of this retooled Avengers lineup:
Medusa, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, The Winter Soldier, Angela, Thor, Captain America, Inferno and Deathlok are the members of the new team. Iron Man, Thor and Cap already have been established in the MCU. Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, was introduced back in April (played by Sebastian Stan and his nine-picture Marvel deal). Scarlet Witch will be a major part of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers: Age of Ultron. And Ant-Man and Doctor Strange are expected to be key cogs in Marvel’s Phase Three.
Could this "Avengers NOW" line up introduced in the comics later this year be the template Marvel wants to establish for future Avengers movies? I wouldn’t bet the house on it, but it sure sounds like it is shaping up to be a strong possibility.
Mapping out a new team in the comics that consists largely of characters we have seen (or will see) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe strikes me as synergy. The various avenues of Marvel, as a whole company, inform each other. And it’s evident that the comic side of the corporation – which can make changes much quicker than the film side, is beginning to lay the groundwork for shifts that could affect the MCU down the line. It’s clear that Marvel can’t retain actors forever (nor should they try). Chris Evans already has expressed a desire to move on from his blockbuster franchises. Robert Downey Jr. is 49. Will he still want to squeeze into the Iron Man suit beyond The Avengers 3?
These significant moves, these changes to the canon, strike me as deliberate moves to both shake up the status quo on the pages of the beloved comics AND lay a foundation for changes that could occur in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson), Sebastian Stan (the Winter Soldier) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch) might be the next wave of Marvel’s Phase Four, for all we know. Marvel feels like a fluid, and exciting, place to be right now… and for years to come.