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In the world of superhero franchises, continuity reigns supreme. That's why it was so odd to learn that DC intends to break away from the pack and start an entirely new brand of DC-inspired films with no connection to the DCEU. It's a bold decision for a comic book media giant to make, but it also raises another major question: could that also work for the folks at Marvel?
While we're definitely not going to deny the box office power of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there's an easy case to be made that some new standalone stories could resonate with fans. With that in mind, we have assembled a list of nine potential movie ideas for Marvel Studios to explore outside of the current MCU. On that note, let's dive in with a new take on the hero who launched the entire MCU.
Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle
The Iron Man franchise has flirted with the idea that Tony Stark drinks too much over the years (particularly in Iron Man 2), but the character generally seems to have moved on from the self-destructive tendencies that define much of his comic book persona. It does not seem likely that Robert Downey Jr. will ever go all in on a pure adaptation of Demon in a Bottle (which, as the name suggests, dives headfirst into Tony's alcoholism), so a move outside of the MCU could be in order to bring it to life. In a one-off story, we want to see a darker and even more self-loathing version of Tony reach absolute rock bottom.
World War Hulk
A lot would need to happen in the MCU for World War Hulk to occur, and given the fact that Planet Hulk is already receiving a loose adaptation during the events of Thor: Ragnarok, the odds of it happening seem unlikely. World War Hulk is a revenge event centering on the green monster's fury at the heroes of Earth (specifically The Illuminati) for shooting him into space and (in his mind) killing his pregnant wife on Sakaar when the spaceship they used to send him away from Earth explodes. It's a world-spanning showdown in which Hulk fights all of his former allies, but it wouldn't make sense for the current arc of Mark Ruffalo's Hulk in the MCU.
Punisher Kills The Marvel Universe
What if Frank Castle's anger was not aimed squarely at the villains and criminals of New York? In fact, what if he held superheroes responsible for the death of his family? That's an idea explored in Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe. Dark, violent and unflinchingly brutal (this is The Punisher that we're talking about, after all), Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe is one of those tales that brings a lot of characters together and proceeds to eliminate fan-favorites without mercy. There's no question that it will never receive an adaptation in the proper MCU, but an R-rated, "What if?" spinoff could provide serious exploration of Frank Castle's psyche and explore morality themes that we don't often see at the movies.
Captain America: WWII
In the same way that Iron Man's alcoholism has only been hinted at in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Captain America franchise never really gave us an up-close and personal look at Steve Rogers' time in World War II. Captain America: The First Avenger planted the titular patriot square in the middle of the war, but most of the story involved him running covert missions behind enemy lines against Hydra. There's a wealth of stories to choose from that put Cap at the front, and a more straightforward (yet much grittier) war movie showcasing his ability to lead armies of American troops could be unlike anything that we have seen from the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far.
The Winter Soldier
Although he is a relatively recent addition to the Marvel mythos, The Winter Soldier has proven himself as one of its most intriguing elements -- not to mention a fantastic reimagining of Bucky Barnes. He has a horribly grim past that's worthy of exploration, and as such, a non-MCU movie centering on his journey through the 20th Century could make for a fantastic standalone story. As one of the most tragic heroes in the entirety of Marvel Comics, we could watch the story open with his recovery in the captivity of Russian troops, and following him on his 70+ year journey to break himself free from the control of his captors, rather than simply meeting him during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
What If The Hulk Had Always Had Bruce Banner's Brain?
Over the course of his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Hulk's entire shtick has been predicated on the idea that humanity doesn't accept him. What If The Hulk Had Always Had Bruce Banner's Brain? is a story that attempts to explore how things would change if that weren't the case. Taking place in a world where Banner never loses intelligence during his Hulk state, the tale examines how the very landscape of the universe changes because he never became an enemy to unite The Avengers in the first place. It's a fascinating story that fleshes out the idea of a possible alternate outcome for the Marvel world, but it could never happen in the current MCU.
Seeing a group of superheroes live and breathe in a foreign environment or period is always one of the most interesting aspects. In the realm of DC Comics, Gotham by Gaslight is a perfect example of how to do that well for one specific character (we bet you can guess who). However, Marvel 1602 takes that idea to the next level by creating an entire recreation of the Marvel mythos a full four centuries before the arrival of true Marvel heroes. Filtering the comic book lore through an Elizabethan lens, Neil Gaiman's comic book arc plays its setting and characters (such as Daredevil, Stephen Strange and "Banner") completely straight -- and it could become the first legitimately great Marvel period piece.
Truth: Red, White & Black
From top to bottom, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's take on Captain America's origin story is generally considered optimistic and hopeful. But what if it wasn't? Using the Tuskegee Experiments as inspiration, Truth: Red, White, & Black tells the story of a group of African-American soldiers forced to serve as test subjects before Steve Rogers' arrival at Project Rebirth, all of whom die horribly -- except for one. Though the narrative might not fit in with the particular mythology that has already been established for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the genre has a history of success when edgy material such as this is handled well. Outside of the MCU, it could pay off in a major way.
Last, but not least, we come to one of the weirdest (and yet most beloved) standalone Marvel stories in recent memory: Marvel Zombies. As the name of the arc suggests, the narrative takes place on an alternate Earth in which a viral outbreak gradually consumes the planet, turning out favorite heroes into delightfully funny (yet equally scary) zombies in the process. Written by Robert Kirkman (of The Walking Dead fame), Marvel Zombies is frequently referenced by fans looking to see a live-action Marvel story with a hard-R edge, and as such, removing it from the core Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity could allow the story to play out in all of its gory glory.