It seems somewhat odd that I am writing this, seeing as how the Captain America: Civil War trailer dropped yesterday and blew everyone’s minds (that retro Spidey costume!), and the fact I’m a Marvel fangirl, but this is something I’ve been mulling over for a while in regard to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not a criticism of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but more identifying a gap in content that Marvel has yet to fill.
To this point, Marvel has been flexible, moving quickly to address criticisms and concerns regarding its live-action universe and comics both, such as when it created the Netflix end of the MCU in response to the criticism that it was all popcorn fun and nothing of real substance and adult themes. It’s not a perfect system by any means. Like any studio, Marvel makes missteps; it’s natural. But for a structure as vast an unwieldy as the enormous cinematic universe it has built across various mediums, Marvel has done about as good a job of getting ahead of potential problems and addressing content holes as it can be expected to.
There is a gap in its content, however, that I think could make the MCU even stronger if it were filled, and it’s one that DC has had on lock for years now. The one area where DC absolutely smokes Marvel, aside from video games, is in its animated offerings, not because of the animation itself, but because it hits that demographic that Marvel has yet to really target: the teen/YA audience.
“But Alisha,” you’re saying, “That’s absurd. The entire MCU is made for teens.” And you’d be right, it is…but it also isn’t. The Marvel movies themselves are family-friendly with nothing over a PG-13 rating. All ages flock to the theaters for Marvel films, and while millennials tend to be the largest demographic, that’s the case for almost anything these days. It’s the same thing for the network shows. Netflix goes far darker – there is nothing family- or kid-friendly there. And the animated offerings on Disney XD go the opposite route, meant for young children. But Marvel has such a broad spectrum of content that it’s easy to overlook the fact there’s nothing that’s tailor-made for teenagers, not in terms of age-appropriate content, but in terms of story and character.
Of the current and upcoming characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man is the only character who is a teenager, with teenage problems, played by a teenage actor. The rest are fully-grown adults with adult problems, played by actors and actresses in their late 20s at the very youngest (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s 23-year-old Chloe Bennet being the lone exception). And that’s a real shame, because it’s teenagers who headline some of Marvel’s most popular comic book series at the moment: Miles Morales as Spider-Man (in the current Spider-Man comic book series; Peter Parker is still around as Spidey in various other ongoing titles, both as an adult Peter Parker and a teen version), Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, and Gwen Stacy as Spider-Gwen. The first two are even founding members of Marvel’s current All-New All-Different Avengers team, and the comic book sales of all tend to excel both critically and commercially in comparison to many of Marvel’s other titles. Even a character like Wiccan, though never having had his own series, has been embraced by fans and integral to building the modern Marvel comics universe for being an openly gay teenager in a relationship with fellow teammate, Hulkling.
There are three properties that Marvel could adapt into a live-action series that would easily address the lack of content addressing teen characters simultaneously dealing with teen issues and saving the world, and all three have enough of a pre-existing framework so that mining them for stories wouldn’t be an issue: Runaways, Young Avengers, or a modified version of the All-New All-Different Avengers – or even a Kamala Khan standalone series.
Runaways (courtesy Marvel)
Of those three, Runaways has come closer than any of them to being included in the MCU. Back in 2013, Iron Man 3 writer Drew Pearce revealed that he had already written a script for a Runaways movie and the project was ready to be made. Then The Avengers happened and changed the entire trajectory of the early Marvel Cinematic Universe. Runaways was scrapped and that was that. But somewhere, there is a script waiting to be picked up. Why not take that and revise it for a series? It would be a great addition to the MCU. Originally part of Marvel’s manga-inspired Tsunami imprint, Runaways tells the story of a group of kid with powers who, after discovering their parents are a group of supervillains called The Pride, run away from home and decide to thwart their parents’ evil plans. The characters are colorful, and the plot is a great balance of dealing with teen angst and growing pains, fearing the adult world (and mistrusting adults in general), and saving humanity. Plus, it would go a long way toward helping eradicate Marvel’s (slowly diminishing) diversity problem and represent real-life teenagers as they are. The team is a majority of girls, POC and LGBTQ are represented, and body image isn’t an issue here: everyone is represented, from the tall and lanky to the short and curvy. Plus, they’re all just badass. Who wouldn’t want to watch a show like that?
Young Avengers (courtesy Marvel)
The second property that would make for a great series is Young Avengers. DC’s animated Young Justice series is currently the source of a lot of buzz as rumors have swirled of it possibly being revived on Netflix, and it should be. It’s a great series that kids can watch, but that also appeals to an older demographic as it deals with issues like parental relationships, first love (and first breakups), the depth of friendship that exists between teenagers, and figuring out who you are. It dumbs nothing down, and a Marvel version with Young Avengers would take this a step further, whether animated or live action. Like Runaways, it has great characters, and their comics have directly tied into the larger events of the Marvel comic world, including Civil War and The Children’s Crusade. Many of the characters are well-loved by current readers, including Latina-American Miss America (America Chavez), the aforementioned Hulkling (Teddy Altman) and Wiccan (Billy Kaplan), and current Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. Despite their relative youth, the Young Avengers have dealt with some heavy stories, and the comics haven’t pulled any punches with them. Teenagers don’t need things dumbed down for them these days, and a Young Avengers series would reflect that.
All-New All-Different Avengers (courtesy Marvel)
Lastly, why not try adapting an iteration of the current All-New All-Different Avengers? Sorry to the rest of the Avengers, but Miles Morales (Spider-Man), Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), and Sam Alexander (Nova) are by far the most beloved characters on that team right now, and fans have been begging to see the first two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a while. But rather than shuffle them in to a movie universe where they’d get limited screen time and character development, why not give them their own series and let them flourish naturally? And, once again, that all-important diversity and inclusivity thing: Miles Morales is a half-Hispanic, half-black character and Kamala Khan is Pakastani-American Muslim. Given the current hostile climate toward them at the moment, imagine what it would do for so many Muslim teenagers and those of Middle Eastern descent to see a character they could relate to in the Marvel universe. Imagine what it would do for so many black teenagers to see Miles Morales, after far too many real-life stories of police shootings, of beatings, of racism. And beyond that, some of the best moments in the All-New All-Different Avengers series are when the three kids are left to their own devices, and stoked as hell to be part of the Avengers.
Essentially, while Marvel has done a fantastic job of addressing some real-world issues in both its theatrical and television universe, they could do so much more by simply adapting a few of their teen-centric titles into regular series. We’re ready for it, and so are the teenagers and young adults that make up the majority of the MCU’s fanbase.
Related Topics: Marvel